1111_flower_table1 Here are some of the things I have to do this week:

  1. Last minute food shopping
  2. Last minute goodie shopping
  3. Grandparent Day parent preview
  4. Grandparent Day performance
  5. Make sure Callum has a clean white shirt and khakis for Grandparent's Day
  6. Finish the blog redesign... We're almost there, baby!
  7. Edit photos
  8. Take photos
  9. Charge batteries
  10. Figure out new laptop
  11. Work!
  12. Last minute booze shopping
  13. Pack me
  14. Pack Neel
  15. Pack Callum
  16. Not take Callum to Taco Bell
  17. Coffee...I'm not missing coffee...
  18. Check in on all my bloggy peeps
  19. A wee bit o' Christmas shopping (I know, I know)
  20. Figure out what to wear to Grandparents Day and the Grandparents Day preview
  21. Send about a gazillion emails
  22. Clean the car
  23. Laundry
  24. Move the rug
  25. Write Friday's blog post
  26. Take pictures for Friday's blog post
  27. Buy file folders (I know, random)
  28. Clean off my desk in the office
  29. Decide if I'm going to bring something pumpkin-y for Thanksgiving
  30. Can I fit in a pedicure?

I'm sure there's more. I know there is. I just can't think of it right now. As if this isn't enough to finish by first thing Wednesday morning. Dear friends, I'm signing off for the week. Check back in for Five Things, the Gratitude Edition on Friday, and unless something goes terribly amiss, the new and improved still + life will launch next Monday! I can't wait to show it to you.

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she who hesitates

I just love this fortune that Neel got in his cookie Friday night! How wonderful is that?

Unfortunately, on Saturday, that fortune felt like it was meant for me. Last week I came across an opportunity to take a photography workshop with two women whose work I very much admire. It was a dream-come-true kind of thing, really.

But a lot of money. Especially to spend on something that doesn't generate any real income for our family.

Neel was incredibly supportive, and I had friends and other family who were too. Everyone I told about the workshop said that it was a chance I should reach for with both hands. I could feel myself getting excited, but I wanted to sit with the idea for just a bit. While an incredible deal and an incredible, indescribable opportunity, for our family, it was still a lot of money. I needed to think about it.

On Saturday afternoon, I got word that the workshop sold out. In 36 hours. It was a bitter blow.

I was devastated. She who hesitates is lost.

In some ways, I don't have regrets. I am not a professional photographer, so I can't regret taking some time to think about spending money like that on myself. We are not in a position to shell some major coin on a whim. But I had the support of my husband, both emotional and financial. I had the support of family and friends and the knowledge that I could earn the money for the workshop. The devastating truth is that part of my hesitation, while it had its roots in dollars and cents, was also born of doubt of my own self worth here. Do I deserve to go? Am I good enough to go? So yeah, the biggest part of my hesitation was fear.

I am so not happy about that. I'm not happy about a lot of things right now, but I know that I never want to be in this place again. I never want to miss an opportunity like this because I think I'm not good enough or I don't deserve it. Because I'm afraid to take the leap.

Other chances will come along (although Neel, to his chagrin has learned that that is not what I want to hear just yet!), and we've talked about how important it's become to me to hone this craft of mine. Not just here, but to travel and to mingle with new people and to be out in the world on my own. Next time, I can only hope that when the chance comes along, my arms and heart are open wide to grab it.

In the meantime, there are some exciting changes behind the scenes here at still+life. I'm busy. For the rest of the week, I'll just be posting a photo a day, but my hope is to have us up and running again near Thanksgiving. Either before or after. Depending on how things go. Changes are afoot! I'll be back for reals on Friday with my Five Things. Thanks for stopping by.

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and so it goes

Northam_tableWe went to a victory party last night!

1111_northam_party2Oh joy! Neel and I have always been passively political (and don't worry – especially you, Mark – I won't get all ranty here). We care, we vote, sometimes we give money. We've never been active beyond that. Well beyond yelling at the TV during debates, maybe. This time was different. I won't go into all the reasons why. Politics are as personal as religion, and while I believe in things passionately, I don't necessarily feel those beliefs belong here in this space. Make sense?

What I'll talk about instead is how compelling and gratifying it was to be so much more engaged in the process than we ever have been before. I think voting is both a duty and a privilege, but this time we did more. We showed up at events. We volunteered our time, we were way more "out there" in our beliefs than we ever had been. We wanted Callum to see how important it was to participate in the process. He loved it.

I spent most of the day yesterday at the polls. Saw a lot of neighbors and friends come to cast their vote. Thank goodness it didn't rain! The other guy was there too. Not just his staff, but the candidate himself. I have to admire that, even though I cringed at some of his tactics. (Our guy showed up too, but not until after my shift, of course!)

Macaroon_cupcakeSenator Northam is from the Eastern Shore of Virginia...aren't the crabs on the cupcakes awesome? Still I had to go for the macaroons!

When we were invited to the Victory Party, we told Callum that if he finished his homework we'd go. My good kid worked hard at school yesterday. When he finished a quiz, he pulled out his social studies to work on. When he finished some make-up work, he grabbed his English to finish up. Two chapters of And Then There Were None when we got home, off to the polls to vote with Neel, and then we headed to the party!

1111_northam_party3Rebecca's husband Evans was a precinct captain, and he texted her the results from our district. In our neighborhood, we won!

The room slowly filled up.

1111_northam_party12The news was there!

Close to nine, a local delegate and our sheriff got up to speak. The room felt alive with excitement and anticipation as everyone gathered around the speakers. Precinct by precinct the news coming in seemed good. Suddenly we could hear some cheers from a back room, and Senator Northam's campaign manager darted in, giving the local delegate with the microphone a thumbs up, saying, "It's done!"

1111_northam_party9 We all cheered wildly as Senator Northam walked in. It was a great moment, and I was so proud to be part of it. So moved. Before he took the microphone, Senator Northam caught sight of Callum and gave him a special wave (did I mention that he's a pediatrician?). I can't believe I got a photo of that!

Northam_hugThe hug he gave his wife was really, really nice.

His thank yous were particularly moving, I felt, and at the end he said the thing I found to be the most compelling. He said that when he decided to run for re-election, he told his team and the consultants that he would only run a positive campaign. When told it would be risky, he said he didn't care. And he did. His campaign was aboveboard and positive and never once dipped into the mud. With a pretty near landslide win, Senator Northam proves that it can be done. He wants his campaign to be a model for other campaigns, and I for one, hope others from every party take note.

Well done, Senator. I'm proud to have you working for us for the next four years.



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1011_trees1 The wind is blowing fiercely today. It started around Callum's bedtime last night (It always seems to start around Callum's bedtime, rattling his shutters and making for restless sleep.) and seemed to pick up as the night went on. Each fall the acorns hit the house and sound (quite literally) like gunshots. Last night that sound woke us up over and over.

We're all feeling a bit fractious today.

Unexpectedly, I had the chance to catch up with two dear, but far away friends yesterday. (Look at me, all phone-talkey and social.) Despite the delightful conversations, they are both hemmed in by worry and sadness. And late last night, an email from my mom about her sister, my only aunt, dealing with her own health worries. (I'll email you later today, Mom.)

It's a lot. All around us. I had been thinking a good bit, even before a class started making me more reflective, about changes I've been wanting to make for our family. I'm not going to lie. It's been a rocky autumn around here. Windy and fractious. Those changes, mostly little but for a greater good, seem terribly necessary. But what days like yesterday remind me is that the most important work I can do is to be still and listen. To try to hold the worry lightly, both for myself and others. And to pay attention. Both inside my house and out.

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sneak peak :: alberto parada @ simply selma's

1011_alberto_selmas2 You know, I really put my camera down this summer. I guess I needed to. It chafed at me though. My camera bag, sitting on the shelf, staring me down. I was equal parts need to breathe without its weight in my hand and restless agitation without it. It's not the best of places to be. It's hard to remember that there's much to learn in the in-between spaces. It's easy to be revved up. Teaming with thoughts and ideas and filled with abundant creativity. Learning in leaps and reveling in bounds. Those are the thoughtless, easy times. When the ideas fly in and the work flies out. But there's value in that space between. And it's easier to remember that value, when you're feeling good, I suppose. Not so much when you're in it. I'm realizing now, that I learned a lot this summer when my camera fell silent.

Things are clearer now for me that weren't before.

1011_alberto_selmas1 My friend Marianne has asked me to come in and take some more pictures of her store. I can't tell you how excited I am about this. You may remember when we did this before. Simply Selma's is a wonderful place, and I love being there. They need photos for a new website, and I'm beyond thrilled that they've asked me to take them. One of the things I realized this summer is that this kind of photography, still life, is among my favorite.


1011_alberto_selmas4 One of the things that Marianne asked me to photograph was a trunk show of Alberto Parada Jewelry they were having this weekend (before she was one of the owners, she was the jewelry buyer for the store...let me just say, you feel good knowing your jewelry options are in her hands!). Alberto Parada's work is stunning, and it's sustainable, which is pretty important in my book. I got to meet this special man, and see a lot of his jewelry. Not bad for a Saturday morning.

Bliss, actually.

I don't get out much. That's not a slam on Marianne or Meg and April (the other owners) and especially not Alberto and his wife Ashley, who were absolutely delightful. It's just that my work is mainly solitary, and I do it from home. So to spend the day with these lovely people surrounded by their laughter and their vibrant personalities was pretty much heaven to me. Oh, all that jewelry. And take pictures of it all? For me, it just doesn't get much better.

1011_alberto_selmas6 Here they all are; you can see how special they are.

I'm still editing like crazy, and the photos are really Selma's to share once the web site launches. I may post a few more here though, if they let me.

1011_alberto_selmas5 I left feeling like I still have so much to learn, you know? But that's okay. I also left feeling a lot of gratitude for such an amazing opportunity. And with the feeling that I really could do this thing. I know Alberto is the one smiling in the photo here, but there I am in the reflection. Can you tell how happy I am?

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fall surprises

Hydrangeas Surprise #1: The hydrangea is offering up one last bloom.

0911_fall surprises1 Surprise #2 (that's not me): We were asked to help film a political commercial.

0911_fall surprises6 Surprise #3 (not): It stormed again this weekend. That's Neel standing there watching the clouds.

Patio Surprise #4: The patio is almost, almost done. The dogs like it.

1011_fall surprises3 Surprise #5: Well, I'll have more to say about that tomorrow.

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dispatch from the tropics

0911_rain2 No wonder the bananas like it here. It's hot and muggy, and all it does is rain.

Yesterday afternoon as Callum and I sat in the carpool line waiting to leave school, we watched wisps of clouds drop down from an ominous-looking wall cloud and pull back up again. They seemed to be trying to form funnels. Gulp.

0911_rain1 My favorite weather guy says that drier and cooler air is moving in tomorrow, but until then, even when the sun is shining, it rains.

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I'm okay

0911_k1 Some of you have asked, which is really nice, and I'm fine. I really do have a lot on my mind, from the simple (like: Where has my photography mojo gone?) to the sublime (like: If I can't find curtains that I just love, why don't I make some?), and everywhere in between. I'm not going to lie. There's some hard stuff in between, but for the most part, it's adjusting to new routines and trying to make decisions and just a general overwhelmed-ness. August and September are always hard on me, it seems.

This blog has always been meant as a gift for my family, and when I say that, I mean primarily Neel and Callum. I don't mean that the rest of my family doesn't count (!), it's just that when I think about this space, I think it terms of capturing our lives and honoring the things we do together and hold dear. Sometimes it's hard to know how much (or even what) to say. I know that other people check in here, and I appreciate that more than I have words for. But I also sometimes get caught in wondering what I want this space to be. What it means to me versus what I want it to mean to others. And should I even care? Should I try to move us forward or just keep on keeping on?

All that to say simply, it's okay. I'm okay. Everything's okay.

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goodbye old paint

0911_zeph2 We become so attached to our cars. In this family at least, we have them for ten years and give them names. Everything is anthropomorphized around here.

We had to say goodbye to the Red Zephyr this week.

Our last connection to our lives in California, this was the car that made me feel like a mom. Does that make sense? I mean Callum was two when we got it, so I felt like a mom in lots of ways, little and big, before we got this car, but a station wagon? Nothing says mom like a station wagon, right?

The Red Zephyr brought us here from California. Our dog Phoebe watched the moving vans take all our things away (again...she'd moved out to California with us too) and was so nervous she'd be left behind that she would jump into the back seat and refuse to come out. She was old by the time we made the trip and slept in the backseat next to Callum most of the way, but when we hit the mountains of western Virginia she must have smelled the East Coast because she sat up eagerly. She wanted to ride on the center console between us the rest of the way to our new home.

0911_zeph1 Oh, it's hard to say goodbye. She was ready to retire though. I won't detail the many indignities of old age that she suffered, but I think it's time she got some rest. Goodbye old paint. Safe travels.

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Come on, Irene

0811_irene_prep1 We were ready. She came, and we survived. We started to get a little nervous when those mandatory evacuation orders were issued late on Thursday, but the flood and surge reports for our city are pretty darn good. Lots of discussion in the front yard with various neighbors on Friday morning, and most folks opted to stay. I told Neel that I'd feel a lot less vulnerable if we boarded up the French doors, and he readily obliged. He scrambled at work on Friday, and Callum and I scrambled around the house. Cleaning, finishing laundry, cooking pizzas and bacon. Food we could eat as leftovers and in sandwiches once the power went out.

Friday was easily one of the hottest, muggiest days of the summer. We helped some neighbors who'd been out of town pull their stuff into the garage, got the doors boarded up, and the car pulled deep into the driveway (the other car we left at Neel's work). Friday night was eerily calm. We watched the Italian Job, and by 11 p.m. the wind was just beginning to dust the treetops. By 11:30 it started to rain. We had squally rain and wind all night, but Saturday almost started out like any other stormy day. We started a Harry Potter, and the weather started going downhill. The lights flickered and went out at 10 a.m., seemingly for good. Already? This thing wasn't supposed to really hit us until late evening. But, as one neighbor put it, "If someone farts on this street, the power goes out." True dat.

By 11 the power was back on, and miraculously it stayed on. The street flooded. This is normal.


The bad weather would come in bands, with lulls in between. This is pretty normal too. After each band, the wind would get stronger and the rain heavier, but we took advantage of the lulls to walk the dogs (ha!), and during one, we took a longer walk ourselves, down the street to the river.

For some perspective, here's a before shot for you:

And here we are on Saturday:
0811_irenephone3 If you look closely at the center of the photo, you can see the ship yard cranes in the background, but the spot where Callum is standing in the first photo is underwater. This actually isn't so bad. It's early in the day. That spot in the first photo will go under water during high tide. The spot where I'm standing to take the picture would be under water in a few hours. We weren't down there then.


0811_irenephone2 that guardrail is now gone, by the way...

The wind was merciless. Whipping the trees all day long. But the power stayed on. We had wraps for lunch (using that bacon!) and watched another Harry Potter. Come dinnertime, I wasn't sure what to do. I wasn't ready to cook dinner with power. We weren't hungry at 5, but when the lights flickered, we quickly made some burgers on the griddle, kept them warm and ate them a few hours later, in front of another Harry Potter.

By bedtime, things were feeling pretty dicey. The rain and wind were both at their worst, and the center of the storm had passed just south of us.  I remembered from Isabel that the worst of the winds came from what my friend Marianne called the "tail whipping us after the storm has passed." The same was true Saturday night. We moved the dogs' crates up to my office, our interior-most room (they usually sleep on a sunporch which is pretty exposed), and Callum slept on a mattress on the floor with them. That room opens into our bedroom so we were all together. And of course, as soon as we were all tucked in the power went out. Callum and I both saw the transformer flash. All night we could see the tree tops whipping (of particular concern was a giant old gumball at the edge of our yard) and hear the wind howling (and the transformers blowing). We could also hear the balcony off our bedroom creaking in the wind as well. We'd been talking about it before, but this storm pretty much decided it: the balcony is coming down, and the doors out to it are becoming windows. Soon.

Callum was up all night. I was up all night. I took migraine meds in the middle of the night. Neel slept pretty well. By morning, it was still windy, but the sun was starting to peek through the clouds.

We took another walk. Back to the river.





0811_irene_debris1 That "rock garden" is made up of rocks tossed from the bottom of the Elizabeth River.

Last winter I took some pictures of the docks along the water nearest our house (we're about three blocks from this spot). Here's the before shot:

And here's the after:

Part of that dock landed here:

Just this morning (we got power back on late last night, 24 hours after it went out) I went back and read that post I'd mentioned on Friday about Hurricane Isabel. It's been inevitable that we compare these storms, I suppose. That was such a different time for us. We barely knew this place, but it was our home. So Isabel was scarier in a lot of ways. Similar in others. We know so much more, and each storm, be it snow or Nor'easter or hurricane, teaches more about living here. I'm still learning. How do you food shop to have food for the storm and a power outage? Do we need a generator, given the fact that we tend to lose power several times a year? And there are things I do know: I lovelovelove my full-size water heater for the hot shower I got yesterday, even though it was in the dark! It will take a pretty large storm to flood my house. I still find hurricanes fascinating, perhaps even more so now that I'm somewhat in the path.

So, it's all good. Power's on for most of us. And for those who are saying that this storm was over-hyped, let's remember that there were people who were killed due to Irene this weekend. And people who lost their homes or who are dealing with serious damage. Just because my clean up was easy and Manhattan didn't get an It Could Happen Tomorrow-type scenario like you see on The Weather Channel doesn't mean that those government officials weren't smart to take this storm seriously. One thing I do know about hurricanes is that the track is easier to forecast than intensity. Better to over-prepare and be inconvenienced than not to prepare and risk your life. I'm just sayin'. It was certainly an adventure, but thankfully not (in my neck of the woods) as bad as it could have been. Time to look ahead. School starts tomorrow.

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rattle and roll

  Ikeadoor What happens when I get here for the first time in three years?

The earth moves.

My friend Rebecca and I drove three hours to an Ikea in Northern Virginia yesterday filled with lists and plans and excitement. It was, as you probably know about Ikea, overwhelming. We'd been there about three more hours and had just decided to have lunch and make some informed decisions about our purchases when the earthquake hit. I lived on the West Coast for a number of years so I pretty much knew right away what was happening. Still, it was a pretty sharp jolt. My first thought (you know what a maze Ikea can be) was "Where the heck are we? Are we above ground or underground?" And as another nod to my years in San Diego, as soon as the ground stopped shaking, I was ready to go back to shopping.

Not so Ikea. They evacuated us for the next three hours (longer, might I add, than the White House or the Pentagon), but there was no way that Rebecca and I were leaving without our stuff! When they let us back in at 5 p.m., we hightailed it through the warehouse to finish shopping and make the long trek home.

Right after it happened, we stood outside Ikea and tried to make contact with the rest of our family who was spending the day together at Busch Gardens. Guess where Callum and Rebecca's husband were when the earthquake hit?


They never felt a thing.

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Ov_pier I've been feeling a little blue lately. Nothing major, just sensing summer's end, I think. No matter how ready I am for autumn, I grieve the passing of the lazy days and worry that we've wasted them some how. Just under two weeks until school starts up again. Callum doesn't want to be reminded. Time speeds up, doesn't it?

So we'll try to make the most of it and head to the pool and the beach and the amusement park and also gear up for birthdays and sixth grade, and I'll try not to get too sniffly over it all. I know I haven't been around much lately, and honestly, in these next weeks I can't promise much more. I'll get some photos downloaded, and we'll see how it goes. xo

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Selma's_Shop-13-1 I'm in a bit of a funk this week, I think. Nothing terrible. But my head hurts, and we're in a parenting rough patch, and it seems like there's a lot to do. And it's hot. Death by 1,000 paper cuts. August is hard every year, and this year is no different.

I have two card's full of pictures to download and a ton of others to edit. I should get cracking.

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cooking with grandma

We started cleaning out our attic yesterday. Backbreaking work. You should have seen the place. And you will, pretty soonish. Before and afters. We have big plans for that room. We cranked the AC, and moved and sorted, and Neel used the shop-vac on the dirtiest bits. There were a lot of those. It was a perfect day to get into a project like that, gray and rainy, and cool in the deep dark of the house. We ordered in for lunch. There's still a lot to do, but when we got to a stopping place and looked around it was already five.

In my infinite wisdom, I decided that I wanted lettuce wraps and hot and sour soup for dinner. Why, oh why did I not just throw something on the grill? Why didn't we order out again? Why didn't we have breakfast for dinner, which I can make blindfolded and standing on my head? No. I wanted Asian and labor intensive. The soup takes a bajillion ingredients and a million steps. The lettuce wraps take 100,000 ingredients and 10,000 steps. All at once. What was I thinking? Boiling soup makes the kitchen hot. Boiling rice makes the kitchen hot. A hot wok makes the kitchen hot.

The funny thing, and I'm not sure why it's funny, is that the whole time I was cooking, I thought about my Grandma Mercedes. My mom's mom. I wrote about her here, a long time ago. As I mentioned then, Grandma was an amazing cook and baker, the kind of intuitive in the kitchen who could taste a dish and list its ingredients for you. She made simple foods, good basic cooking. Corn pudding. Hot chicken salad. Pie crust to die for. Even though she loved Chinese food, she didn't really make it, so it seemed funny to think about her while stirring my hot and sour soup. But when I tasted the special sauce for my lettuce wraps and I wasn't quite right, I thought about her. When I tasted the filling for the lettuce wraps and felt like they needed more...something, well, I thought about her then too. The soup was a surprise. I hadn't made it before, and while it wasn't quite what we'd order at Number Seven down the street, or even PF Changs, it was still hot and sour soup. I think she would have liked it.

We watched A Few Good Men (the clean TV version -  Callum's been in to courtroom drama since he hung out with the judge a few weeks back) while we ate dinner, and I was too tired to go find my camera to take a picture for this post. I just reached behind me for my phone where it sat on the sofa. That's all I could handle. We're all still tired today, but yesterday was good.

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time out

IMG_7904 Isn't this a pretty picture. And funny too, considering that the heat index on Friday was 125! My dad is visiting this weekend, and last night as we were watching a movie and I could see the lightening flashing all around us, I remembered that the last time he was here that happened. Yeah, that snowfall. I looked out the same windows and saw flakes swirling instead of flashes of purple and blue. Funny how that works.

In the meantime we're staying busy cooking and eating and shopping waiting for the lockout to end and maybe shopping for a new car which is both yay and ugh, but I think I need to take a couple days. I'll be back before the end of the week.

And this picture notwithstanding, I am thinking about fall. Lots of italics in the post today.

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not on the list

I did not put "getting a concussion" on our list of things to do this summer. Turns out I should have. Yesterday, in our familiar flurry to get out the door (Callum has tennis camp at his school this week), I slipped on some water on a tile floor and hit my head on a brick wall going down. As you can see, I hit some other things too. (That's an ice pack on the huge lump on my shin, by the way.)

Everything went dark for a second, and Callum tells me I said, "whoa." My immediate thought when I realized what happened was that somehow I needed to get Callum to camp. It was time to leave right now. Funny how your mind shifts to the important stuff, hmm? Poor Callum called Neel and helped me get upstairs to change clothes (I'd landed in the dogs' water dish) before cleaning up the mess, and I learned yet again that sometimes what is planned is not what is meant to be.

Neel got Callum off to camp, and I spent the day hunkered down, feeling queasy and sore. And still it was a good day. I was well tended to. My friend Jean, who had been outside when Neel came to get Callum, called to check in on me and brought me Tylenol for all my aches and pains. (Apparently ibuprofin, which my scientist husband had suggested I take, could cause bleeding in my brain...) I checked in with Catherine, whose baby I was supposed to watch for a bit yesterday, and she promptly hugged me and sent me back to bed. I called my friend Beck to ask the favor which we'd jovially declared we'd never need. Could she pick Callum up from camp for me? Sure enough, even though she wasn't feeling great herself, she was right there. Later that afternoon, at Callum's request, Nurse Rebecca came by with the diagnosis, advice and sweet concern.

So really, what more could a woman ask for (besides not to have a big lump on her head or the lingering headache)? When I needed it, everyone around me, all my dear dear loved ones stepped in...all I had to do was ask. I'm not good at the asking part. I don't like to do it one bit. But any and all of these things I'd do ten million times over for any of these guys, and there's no greater gift than knowing that they'd do and have done the same for me.

    In the car to get Callum (I rode along; I just didn't want to drive.), I said to Beck, "Thank you SO much for helping me out today."
    "It's no problem," she told me.
    "I know it's not," I said, "but that doesn't mean I'm not grateful."

So here we are, sore as all heck, but not as queasy. Neel woke me (per Rebecca's instruction) a few times last night, and I think I'll live. Feeling luckier than before.

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