And . . . . We're back to the abortion debate

I did promise that I'd post the Boundless Editor's response, and Matt Kaufman's response, so they are below.

I guess I get to editorialize a tiny bit, since this is my blog. I was perplexed that they seemed to be granting me permission to have an abortion.

I have to confess, it seems funny that we could both be Christian's, and feel so differently. It's not that I don't think Mr. Kaufman has a right to his opinion, or even that he is entirely wrong, it's just that I'm perplexed by Christians who use such destructive language to pursue their opinions. Abortion matters. I'm just not willing to rip and tear people to get a point across.

I think, in the end, they both missed my point. (Or maybe I didn't make it)Abortion is large and complex. There are no single answers. We need to accept that there is a multitude of experiences and reasons why women choose to end a pregnancy. And really, words have power. We should choose them very wisely.

I also don't read the partial birth legislation the same way as Mr. Slater, and I have become acquainted with a few women who were unable to be induced before term at the hospital of their choice. I don't know who's right.

So, without further ado, here is Ted Slater's Response.

Mrs. Spit

Please know that I'm very sorry for your loss. I can't imagine how painful it is to have lost a child, and to have been put in the difficult position you were in.

Also please know that we believe "self-defense" is a legitimate reason to have an abortion. A woman who is expected to die as a result of an ongoing pregnancy is free to either continue with the pregnancy or bring it to an end. An excruciating decision, but biblically defensible. Neither we at Boundless nor our author Matt Kaufman condemn you for your very difficult decision. I'm sorry the article was written in such a way as to imply otherwise, and I understand how you could thereby find it offensive.

I do need to correct something you wrote. You said that:

... the current partial birth abortion legislation contains no exception for the health of the mother. I suspect you support this legislation sir, and you need to know that you would have killed me.

You should be relieved that that's factually incorrect, a misconception promoted by those who favor abortion for any reason throughout the entire pregnancy. The wording in the legislation is clear:

This subsection does not apply to a partial-birth abortion that is necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.

See this article -- -- for more information.

Again, my heart goes out to you, Cheryl. May the Lord grant you peace and instill in your a joy that one day you will see your son again, a child who's been dancing with Jesus and experiencing glory, and who holds no grudges against his mommy.

Ted Slater
Editor, Boundless

And here's Matt Kaufmans' response:

Dear Mrs. Spit,
Ted Slater relayed your message, and I want to add my sympathies to his. Please know, too, that I never intended any condemnation toward your decision. Ted said it already, but I feel I need to say it for myself: In those rare cases when your very life is at risk, and when the terrible choice is between one life or another, there's no iron law to say which life must be chosen. There's only prayer to do what's best and to come through it with healing.

I could say a great many things to explain what I intended with my column. But suffice it to say that it was addressed toward attitudes about situations very different from yours. It was responding to attitudes holding that a pregnancy itself--a (for want of a better word) normal pregnancy--is not blessing but affliction, and that the infant be seen not as having precious worth in his or her own right, but as having worth (positive or negative) conditional on other people.

Perhaps I should say something, too, about the language I used in my desert-island analogy. I was talking about the case of a basically strong, healthy person faced with a case of caring for a weak, totally dependent infant. That person--knowing full well that he or she was caring for an infant (as McDonagh et al's argument is willing to grant), not a "potential" human being--would have to become someone truly awful to justify abandoning the infant, much less to assert that abandonment as a "right." In our society, there are many factors that can confuse people (men as well as women) about just what abortion is. I intended the desert-island example as a means of dramatically illuminating what's wrong with counting the preciousness of life as conditional, much less as "the enemy." Absent that example, I fear, it's easier to fall into a habit of philosophy-class rationalization, fed by the general relativism of our time. ("You have your truth, I have my truth, everyone has their own truth" ... that sort of thing.)

I regret that reading my column brought up such pain for you. And I pray that you and your family are comforted through all these years, secure in the knowledge that your Gabriel is in the arms of the loving God, and that in faith in Him we will all one day join in the land where there are no more tears, only everlasting joy.

God's blessings to you,
Matt Kaufman

They shall not grow old

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon
for the fallen

I'm sure she didn't mean to rip my heart out and stomp on it when she said "Oh Cheryl, you're a mum too." I'm sure that she didn't mean to cause me pain. I think she thought she was comforting me. I may have a son, I may have given birth, but to call me a mother: that's the cruelest thing.

I didn't change my son's diaper
I didn't nurse him
I didn't rock him to sleep
I sang him 1 lullaby
I didn't smell his amazing baby smell after a bath
I didn't stand over his cradle and wonder at the miracle that is a baby
I never even saw his eyes open

There are an entire lifetime of things I will never do with Gabriel. A life time of not being his mum. I'm not sure what the "mother" of a dead baby is, but it doesn't seem to be a real thing. How do you fit an entire lifetime into just 30 minutes? I can remember almost every moment. I have trained myself to. To hold onto every single thing. It's all I'll ever have. Don't forget a moment. At the going down of the sun, and it's rising, remember his face, feel his body in my arms. Don't forget. It's all you'll have.

I hadn't expected to find myself taken aback by baptism Sunday yesterday. It's not like I didn't know it was coming - I'm on Altar Guild. We did all the preparations for the baptism on Saturday. Our church only has 2 baptisms a year. After Christmas and after Easter. The one in December was fine.

There were 7 babies yesterday. And it's not like I didn't know that, either. I have heard every announcement. Every time a dad has come to the front of the church and announced the arrival of a happy, healthy baby. I remember every single one. I remember seeing women who were pregnant at the same time as I was. And then not. But they had babies. And I have memories. They have living experience of what happened last week, yesterday, five minutes ago. I have 30 minutes.

Their babies were baptized in a carved wooden font with a marble bowl. I polished the brass pitcher to pour the consecrated water over their heads. I put out the white linen towels, lovingly embroidered. Carefully laundered, ironed so perfectly. I put the holy oil in the shell. I know the words, an entire service, careful promises to raise a child in the family of God, to teach him Christ's ways. I saw baptismal candles, lit from the paschal candle, given to the candidates. The exhortation to let our light shine before men, so that they would see our Father in heaven. Everything carefully, thoughtfully done. Baptism is important in the life of the church. We must get it perfectly right.

Gabriel's font was a kidney basin, his pitcher a plastic cup. There were no promises to raise him in the Christian faith, no God Parents to promise help. There was no white dress, lovingly handed down. His towel was a bleached out peach face cloth. There were no words, no liturgy, just three quick drips of water "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit". There was no parade around the church, no applause at the end, no welcome into the church, recognition as a member of God's family. Just a somber reminder that we were rushed, that our Parish Priest came quickly, before he was gone.

Perhaps the angels applauded when Gabriel joined them, maybe Jesus carried our wee one around heaven, maybe he wears white, maybe the light of God is so bright that Gabe's humble baptismal candle would have been eclipsed.

But yesterday, yesterday was about what wasn't and what never could be. It was about the hole the size of the universe in my heart, and the baby who will never grow large enough to fill it. Because he shall never grow old.

Mr. Spit Spouts Off

As promised, a post from Mr. Spit. Back to the abortion debate tomorrow.

On sexism and infant loss

A few weeks ago, on reading my darling wife’s blog regarding the reactions (good, bad, and unfortunate) upon her return to the office, I was forced to consider the reaction of my own co-workers on my return to work. In doing so, I am coming to understand that we live with a distinct cultural duplicity in how we deal with men and women when they have lost an infant.

After the loss of my son, I was able to take some time off work. I actually got extra time off work because my office basically shuts down over the week of Christmas to New Year’s Day. It’s a nice element of working for an engineering firm; we generally have nothing super urgent at that time of year. As a result, I was able to stay with my wife while she was at the hospital after we lost Gabe. I was able to take her home and to generally do everything that I could to stand beside her and grieve with her in our loss.

A couple of days after I took her home, several co-workers of mine dropped by our house with a gift basket to offer some consolation. But it wasn’t the usual sort of thing. We hardly talked of Gabriel, or the fact that he was gone. They came to support me, but in the way of men in a woman’s world – i.e. pregnancy – they didn’t know what to say or how to offer their support. “Awkward” would begin to describe it! So we put on a brave face and had some smiles, explained what had happened, and tried to be good hosts in our own kitchen less than a week after Gabe died.

I don’t blame my co-workers, it’s just that they were all men, mostly younger than me. This sort of experience is outside the realm of most people’s lives, so I can understand the obvious feelings of unease that these guys felt. At the same time, I was disappointed that they didn’t know how to offer heartfelt support to a co-worker and friend who had just lost his son.

After I returned to work in the new year, I was further disappointed. I came back to the office with everyone else. The normal banter of office life ensued, yet nobody talked about the elephant in the corner. I had a couple of quiet conversations with a couple of the guys about losing Gabe. That’s it. Since then, with a couple of exceptions, nothing has been said. Nobody seems to care how I am coping, how I am feeling, how I am reintegrating myself with normal life.

Through the grapevine I heard of a horridly insensitive comment made by a guy that I work with. He commented to another that bereavement leave is five days, so how is it that I was allowed to take the ten days between Gabe’s death and the Christmas shutdown off from the office? To put it mildly, this surprised and offended me. Five days? I can see five days being a reasonable amount of time if an elderly aunt who isn’t that close to a person died. But give me a break here. Not only am I suffering from the debilitating loss of my hopes and dreams for my incredibly anticipated son, but I am the primary supporting figure to my wife who just lost the baby that was the center of her universe for the last six months. And for this guy to then have the unmitigated gall to complain about it to another of my co-workers? I could go on, so let’s just finish by saying that my personal opinion of this individual was negatively influenced by this incident.

This leads me to the goal of this journey, the blatant sexism that is exhibited by our civilized society towards the victims of infant loss. My wife was given every resource to help her in her grief. Not only was she required to take time off for maternal leave – a phrase that is ever so bitter in this case – but she was encouraged to take extra time to make sure that she was ready to return to work. As for me, the sperm donor? Why didn’t I make it back to work before Christmas? Truly, the way that some people reacted and interacted with me, you’d think that my sole purpose was the provision of genetic material. Since my wife carried the baby, how could I be attached to the baby that I only felt for less than an hour? While this was never voiced, it’s not hard to read the undercurrents.

The dichotomy of the situation is remarkable. Countless times well-meaning people would ask me “How is your wife doing?” or “How is your wife getting on?” or “We’re thinking of your wife.” Worse were the people who told me that I had to be strong for my wife in this difficult time or that I should support her like a good husband. The number of people who actually appeared to care how I was getting on was minuscule in comparison.

It’s like people just carried over the idea that a man has the easy part of a pregnancy – knock the girl up and then it’s all on her shoulders from then on. This rolled over to how we should be affected by perinatal loss – since I never knew my son, how can I be as affected by his death? Sure, she is in massive amounts of emotional pain at the loss of the son that she felt growing in her – that’s to be expected. It’s a sad fact of our culture that the man is expected to buck up, be strong, and not cry for the premature loss of a child. Is this different for those men who lose children who are 12 months old, 5 years old, 25 years old? I don’t know, as I’ve never been there. But I sure feel sympathy for those men a lot more than I ever used to.

When you look at the literature that is available to parents who have had an infant loss, the stark contrast is even more obvious. The hospital provided a list of publications to assist families who had been through infant loss. We looked into the list. It was horribly out of date and even the magicians at our favourite local book store couldn’t find most of the titles in print. We ended up buying a large selection of books about coping with baby loss. It was frustrating, because of lot of them were poorly done – so says my wife, as I didn’t read a lot of them as they all focused on how the mother in this situation can deal with the loss of her baby. Yes, they ALL focused on the female perspective. There were a couple of chapters sprinkled into the mix for the father’s point of view, but more often than not the effect of the loss on the father was neglected.

My darling wife, knowing that I was hurting as badly as her, went looking for books that dealt with baby loss that were aimed at the father. She was actually successful in the hunt – she found two books. Two. Says something doesn’t it? In my cynical moments, it says to me that in the eyes of society, I don’t matter as much as my wife. To be fair though, it also says that since women are generally much better at verbalizing their emotions and their feelings, people have a much better body of knowledge about how women are affected by the loss of an infant – because they have been much better at putting into words the grief, the sorrow, the heart-wrenching loss that they have undergone.

As men, we have been sold on and have bought into the concept of what men are like as embodied in countless cultural examples such as Clint Eastwood in the early westerns, playing the quiet drifter who doesn’t say much except with his pistols. So when it comes to expressing our grief, we are really bad at verbalizing how we feel. This is a knife that cuts in multiple directions as well. By not my talking about how I felt, my wife didn’t know that I was grieving in a powerful way. When she looked at the behaviours I displayed, I didn’t grieve the same way as her either. So not only am I trying to function in a world that doesn’t think I should be grieving, my wife has taken a long time to realize that I was in pain similar to her own, but that it came out in different ways.

Outside the home, when I was at work, I could see a real change in my productivity. Though I have understanding supervisors, they still don’t see that I’m not the same guy who was employed there a year ago. They expect me to be the same guy who sat at that desk and did that job. They don’t see that I still haven’t clawed my way back to that level of effectiveness yet. Being a conscientious guy, this really bothers me as well. I want to be as productive, I want to contribute as much, and it frustrates me deeply when I am not. All that the world sees is that I haven’t been up to my normal level of performance of late. Being a man means that I am not given the same latitude to come back to speed in my work life. Maybe because I’m not talking about Gabe anymore, they think I’m over it?

Yeah, I’m over it. I’m over it in the same way as a soldier who steps on a mine and loses his leg. As the pain fades, he has to learn to live with the disability. He has to learn how to walk with a prosthesis. After time, he can live a normal life. If he is good, when he wears pants nobody is the wiser that he lost his leg. The thing is, he knows, he mourns, his still wishes that instead of having the $50,000 artificial leg that he could be a whole person. I wish that, instead of taking a trip financed by life insurance, that I could hold my son when he cries and look forward to a life raising him to be the best man that he can be. I don’t know when I’ll feel whole again now that he is gone.

Can we Interrupt the Abortion Debate for just a moment?

I have an email from both Mr. Slater (Boundless Editor) and Mr. Kaufman (the Writer). I'll publish those on Monday. (Mr.Spit has the blog for tomorrow - Stay Tuned!).

But today, today there is something more important!

The 27th was Anna Banana's birthday. She probably doesn't want me to tell you all how old she is, so I'll tell you she turned a number with a 3 and a 5 in it. Anna is grand. She's smart, she's funny, she's kind, she's compassionate, she's got good hair. She's one of my favourite people at work. (Ok. let's be honest, she's one of the only people I work with that I like!). I like her even if she lives in the only place in the universe where you can wear a string tie and cowboy boots with your tux. She's also the mother of the cutest child in the universe!

Today, you will notice, is the 29th. That's two days past the start of her birthday. So, both you and Anna would be reasonable in asking: "Will Anna be getting her birthday gift soon". Yep, that'd be a reasonable question.

Umm, here, look at these pictures. Yeah, that's a beach off highway one in California. It was really, really pretty.

And this one. Those are elephant seals. They are really cute. We stood and watched them for a good half an hour. They were so cute. Especially when they scratched their chins with their flippers, or rolled over and stretched. They must be the laziest things in all creation.

Oh, and this one? That's me about to get really wet in the surf, at Carmel by the Sea. Unfortunately Mr. Spit was so busy taking pictures he didn't have time to warn me I was going to get very wet. He had time to laugh at me though.

So these images, they are my pitiful, wretched, humble attempt to explain why . . .

Anna's birthday gift, well, it looks like this. That's a sock cuff. Haven't quite started the heel portion yet. But I'm close - about 5 more rows!

Yeah, the other one, it looks even worse.
So, everyone join with me:

I am a bad friend. I was supposed to be knitting on the drive to San Francisco, not watching the scenery, admiring the sea lions or getting wet. (hanging head in shame)

I have to go now, I need to be knitting.

Soon Anna, I promise.

Violin Players, Kidney's and a woman's right to choose

Ann threw down the gauntlet (in the nicest of ways) She asked me to comment on her comments. So, for reference, here are her comments:

"That said, I read the article differently than you did. Did I miss something? The writer didn't specifically say his logic applies in cases where the mother's life is in danger (incidentally, your situation is generally considered to be higher on the "socially acceptable" level than mine is, and I've found that even mine is more socially acceptable than I thought it would be--because while my life wasn't in danger, my son could never live on his own). He seems to be talking about the women who view the pregnancy as an inconvenience, not a "my life vs. his" debate. "

There's a lot to unpack here. In my typical over organized fashion, I'm going to break the responses down.

Firstly, Ann notes that Mr. Kaufman was talking about what we might call general abortion. I think the definition is problematic. Abortion is abortion is abortion. As in my first post, I make reference to the young high school girl pregnant out of wedlock by her foot ball playing boyfriend. (Now, out of strict intellectual honesty, I'm compelled to tell you, most women who have abortions are in college, they are between 20 and 25, and they are in longer term, stable relationships. Having said that, I seem to recall that a statistically significant number of women from ethnic minorities have abortions. I found my info here. You may not agree with the aims, but the research is well done)

So, people look at my circumstances and say "Mrs. Spit, You didn't have an abortion". Well, yes, I did. When I look at a dictionary I see:

Termination of pregnancy and expulsion of an embryo or of a fetus that is incapable of survival
Induced termination of pregnancy, involving destruction of the embryo or fetus.
The ending of pregnancy and expulsion of the embryo or fetus, generally before the embryo or fetus is capable of surviving on its own.
the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus

But, invariably someone says to me, "you were going to die". Yes, I was. But I still signed the consent to induction. The perinatologist told me exactly what was going to happen to Gabriel. I knew that induction and delivery were going to save my life, and kill my son. I suppose you could call Gabriel and inconvenience. I'd be inclined to call him a wanted, loved baby, who was going to kill me, but the underlying idea is the same. In the purest sense, I didn't want to be pregnant any more, if being pregnant meant that I was going to die. I'm not sure how I can call what I did anything other than an abortion.

Mr. Kaufman, I suspect unintentionally, willfully calls all persons who would make this decision evil, a monster. He makes no distinction about why one might choose to end a child's life, only that if you do, you are a monster. My argument yesterday was that he was way out of line to use words like that, particularly when things relating to abortion are anything but black and white, in spite of his assertion that he can clearly determine what's at stake in any abortions.

Mr. Kaufman didn't say that if you are pregnant out of wedlock, you are regarding a foetus as an inconvenience, no he said that any woman who would have an abortion should be aware that things are very black and white:

The principle is very basic: If you are a baby's only hope to survive — if there's no one else who can do the job — you could never walk away, much less invoke your "right" to do so. Period, exclamation point.

I was my son's only hope to live. I was the only one who could do the job of carrying him. I invoked my "right" not do so. I'd call that an abortion by any terms, and particularly by the words Mr. Kaufman chose in his article.

Invariably someone brings up the next issue, mitigating circumstances - "Mrs. Spit, you were going to die". Well, yes. If I did not deliver my baby, I was going to die. There was, as our perinatologist suggested, the faint hope of a miracle. Maybe, it was possible that God would suddenly avert the course of pre-eclampsia, Gabriel would have suddenly gained 200 grams in a few days. Maybe. Seems to me that expecting this is like jumping off a cliff and expecting God's Angels to catch you. That's not about trusting God, it's about testing him. As a Christian, I believe that the instructions on testing God are really quite clear.

The discussion highlights another an interesting part of Ann's comments - the notion of the socially acceptable abortion. So, you can have an abortion if you are going to die. If your baby has a diagnosis incompatible with life, if you are raped, if you are a victim of incest. Many of us "get" this. No woman should be held accountable for something she didn't plan. I got pregnant, I expected to have a happy, healthy baby. Ann got pregnant, she expected to have a baby that could live outside her womb. Ms. X. walked down the street, she didn't expect to be raped by a complete stranger. She didn't expect to be pregnant. So, we get to this idea about abortion, sometimes it's acceptable - if we decide it's not your "fault" you are excused. That doesn't work for me.

There's a really big problem with this sort of thinking. The idea of a socially acceptable abortion isn't clear. Just what is it? I have become particularly aware that there are many who felt that I should have let God/Nature/the Universe take their course, and if both Gabriel and I died, well, that would be God's will. There are some who would suggest that Ann should have carried her son, at whatever personal pain that would cost (which I am quite sure would have been beyond my ability to comprehend) and deliver in God's time. Socially acceptable varies from person to person, and from time to time. It can be explicit - "our society permits no abortions, under any circumstances), it can be implicit "If you were truly allowing God to be in control of your life, you would have trusted him in all circumstances, and accepted his perfect will for your life, even if that meant dying, or undergoing this pain, or being pregnant as a result of rape, and becoming a single mother, or giving up your baby)

For the rape victim, some Christians can be particularly galling. I have heard more than a few suggest that no child should suffer for the sins of their father. This is likely true, but probably the most horrific thing about this sentence is what is *not* said - if you are truly a Christian you will pursue this path. It's the implicit idea of "See, there's no real reason to allow abortion. We've dealt with that particularly pesky problem of rape, we can make it all better, so let's just outlaw abortion once and for all."

And that's why I have become pro-life. On December 8th, I didn't want to have to beg for a doctor, a lawyer, a judge, a priest, my peers, to decide that my circumstances met whatever test one used to be socially acceptable. Let's be quite clear - that would have required me to quite literally beg for my life. I can't think of anything that would have been more de-humanizing than to have to beg to be able to live. I am ever aware that if I had get permission from some Christians, or Pope Benedict XVI, they would have denied it. And I would have died.

That's the danger of limiting abortions to what we believe is socially or morally acceptable - there is no universal definition of what is socially or morally acceptable, even on what we might consider to be the ideal test case. If we allow abortions based on the feelings, inclinations, moral judgement of society, women are entirely dependant upon varied and changeable emotions to decide what should be done with their lives. If, in my case, I should have died in one person's mind, and I should have ended my pregnancy in my mind, we can see that there are no clear answers. And honestly, given Mr. Kaufman's assertion that I'm a monster on her way to hell, I really don't see how we can possibly reach any universal conclusion about any sort of abortion.

And this is where we step away from Mr. Kaufman's certain universe.

As far as I'm concerned, there were three people to ask in the decision about giving birth to my son, me, my husband and God. I had their permission. I'm a Christian, that's who's opinion I think matters. I believe in Truth, with a capital T. I believe I can know it, but after Gabriel, I'm sure a lot more willing to accept that I can't know it for everyone. Sometimes, women have to search out what God is saying to them. It's not always clear what the answer is. I'm not God. I have no idea what all the answers are. I know what the answer was on December 10th.
For the record, I think as a society, we could do a lot better of a job about valuing children. I think they are a gift. But I'm humble enough to admit that six months ago I would have told you that I would never have an abortion. Not for any reason. Can't tell you that now, can I?

So, here's my problem. I ethically believe that I had to ask the wishes of my husband and search out God's will. How can I require that any other woman needs to justify her circumstances to me? Or to her doctor? Or her priest? Or a judge?

Either she has a right to ask and search, and possibly receive different answers, or she doesn't. If this is an issue of God, God will tell her what he wants her to do. She can listen or not. Her choice. Either the right to decide what to do with my body is mine, or it belongs to society. We can't both have the right to decide what to do about my body. I don't want to be the person telling a woman what she can and can't do with her body. I might urge her to a particular choice. If she is a Christian, she's likely to search scripture, seek pastoral counselling - but really, not all decisions about abortion are universal, they aren't black and white, they aren't two plus two, however much Mr. Kaufman tried to make them so.

And there's a bigger problem. I hold a particular set of ethics about my pregnancy, my son's life, his death and what happened to me because I believe in Christ. I believe that He died for my sins. I believe in the bodily Resurrection. (Somehow I don't think this is going to come as a surprise to all of you out in blog land) But what about those who don't believe what I do? Those who don't believe in God at all? Can I use my faith to tell them what happens to their body? It seems to me that I use my faith to tell me what to do with my body. That's my Christian obligation. The rest, well, that's up to them and God. Seems to me that my job is to proclaim the Gospel. His job is to do the rest.

What I want more than anything is that we let women make their own choices, even when we don't agree with their choices. That we acknowledge the sad and private tragedy of a fallen world, and that we treat them with love and compassion, and we choose our words to them carefully. That we accept each of us make different decisions, and what is right for you isn't always right for another. Finding right and wrong isn't always like flipping a coin. Circumstances alter cases, as my father used to say.

And Kuri, if Mr. Kaufman still insists on sending us to hell, I'll bring the chocolate if you bring the beer! I'm sure we can find a warm corner to knit in!

As an update: I received a thoughtful, really well written email back from both the Boundless Editor (Ted Slater) and Mr. Kaufman. Both suggested that the article was never meant to imply that I was evil, a monster, or anything else of the sort, instead, as Ann suggested the article referred to what I called "general abortions" above. I have asked their permission to publish their email, if they are comfortable. For the rest, we are going to have to agree to disagree.

Kuri, we may have to meet in some place other than hell to knit now.

An Open Letter to Matt Kaufman

Dear Mr. Kaufman:

Some months ago, I was listening to CBC radio, and I was struck by something. CBC was doing a year in review article. One part was a follow up interview with one of two lesbian partners who had appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada, so that they could both be listed as their child's mother.

The interviewer asked how their child had been affected by the case and the decision. Mum one pointed out that up until the decision was made by the Supreme
Court, their son had been completely unaware of his parent's court case, of the controversy surrounding his two mums. When the radio announced the court's decision, the family was in the car coming home from a vacation. They were listening to the radio.

One of the mum's attempted to turn the radio down, before the son realized that the radio was talking about him. The young boy insisted on listening. I remember CBC played some of the comments from Christian groups in the story. I remember the horrific vitriol spewed out by one of the Catholic commentators. She suggested that these parents were monsters, that they were evil, that this young boy must be badly damaged.

And suddenly I wondered, if this commentator knew that this young boy was listening, would she have said what she did? Something in me changed that day. I began to understand, when we have debates about the profound moral issues of our day, we need to do so assuming that the other side can hear us. We need to watch our words, be kind and humble.

So today I read your article. And I saw red. Really red. Not pink, light orange, but sheer blood red. Because I am so tired. Tired of those who reduce profoundly complex and painful debates to simple fairy tale stories. Who suggest, either implicitly or explicitly that every single woman who has an abortion is a terrible, awful person. Who deserves no mercy, who is right up there with the scribes and the pharisee's. (Oh, wait, isn't that all of us?)

Your post was based on a reader question about a "new" way of defending abortion - looking at abortion as requiring a woman to carry a baby to term, that she may not want to carry. In short, the state can't require us to donate our kidney's to someone, so why should it require us to keep a baby alive? Actually, the argument isn't at all new - It's Judith Jarvis Thompson's argument, from A Defense of Abortion, which she published in 1971. Indeed, the organ donation reference is directly taken from her thought experiment associated with the article. I wish you were able to identify the source of the argument from this book, rather than the much more controversial book Eileen McDonagh published in 1996. In highlighting one "thought experiment" that of rape, I think you quickly managed to polarize the debate on abortion, yet again. Both articles contain some interesting philosophical ideas, and while you might disagree with the authors, both are well credentialed author's, who put significant thought into their arguments. They deserved rather more respect and consideration than you gave them.

I think the language that you used was deliberately explosive, and I think that you shifted the ground of the argument to make your point, but what I'd really like to talk about is how we have debates about abortion in our society.

For me, the problem is intensely personal. My very beloved son was, quite literally, killing me. In my case, Gabriel was "the enemy". He was loved, adored, and very much wanted, but the fact that I was pregnant was killing me. Such is the very nature of Pre-eclampsia. Trust me, the irony that the baby my husband and I longed and prayed for was going to kill me, has not escaped me. It suddenly became the will of my husband and I, that I should no longer be pregnant, lest I die. In making the decision to end my pregnancy, I gave birth to my son 15 weeks early, at a time in his gestation that he could not hope to survive. I had an abortion. Sure, I wasn't a 20 year old unwed mother in a planned parenthood clinic, pregnant by her football playing boyfriend, but I had an abortion. I ended my child's life, when I chose to give birth.

And suddenly, after having to choose my life over my unborn son's, I find myself a champion for a woman's right to choose. I am suddenly aware that in many times and places in history, I would have had no choice. That the current partial birth abortion legislation contains no exception for the health of the mother. I suspect you support this legislation sir, and you need to know that you would have killed me.

Mr. Kaufman, you have blindly suggested that pregnancy is never the enemy, that "The preborn are seen chiefly as afflictions" by people who advocate for abortions, and that anyone who holds the view that the state should not be permitted to force you to carry a baby against your will is "a monster". Matters are quite clear in your world "The principle is very basic: If you are a baby's only hope to survive — if there's no one else who can do the job — you could never walk away, much less invoke your "right" to do so. Period, exclamation point".

Mr. Kaufman, you suggested some very awful things about women who choose their life over their child's. You said:
You'd have to become a monster to do something like that. If you even found yourself thinking seriously about it, you'd be horrified. You'd feel your own humanity, your very soul, slipping away. You'd be flirting with pure evil, and you'd know it.

Wow. Those are brutal things to say to anyone. And I'd like you to know, I heard you. So that you know where I'm coming from, I'd like to post this response. It comes from another debate on abortion, where yet another person tried to make abortion look black and white. I'm quite willing, Mr. Kaufman, to bring you into the most painful and horrific time of my life, to ask, are you still so willing to call me a monster? Are you still willing to tell me my soul slipped away? Are you still willing to suggest that I'm pure evil?

I'd like to bring you to my hospital room on December 2, 2007, if you are willing to come with me. Please imagine that you are in a major teaching hospital here in Alberta, Canada the best of its kind for this situation, there’s you, a perinatologist, your husband and your mother. It’s a Saturday, in the evening, you have been waiting for hours. The window looks out on a concrete wall, you can’t concentrate on the hat you are knitting. The perinatologist comes in, she runs another ultrasound. The resident wasn’t pleased about the results of the first. Wanted a second opinion. You hear the words "you are dying and the baby is not doing well". There's an ultrasound machine, the floor is littered with strips of fetal monitoring paper. The room is cold and cramped, and you are frightened beyond where you have ever been. They can't give you any guarantees. Is there a few days? Maybe, but your kidneys are starting to fail. They will start giving you aggressive drugs but you could seize any moment, you could die of a stroke. If left untreated, you will die. There is no doubt. The baby is underweight for gestation, the odds of survival for a baby this size are very slim.

Would you like a c-section, that's the best way to get the baby out? Yes, you will always have to have a c-section now, because the incision will have to be so low. No, the baby is very likely to have significant neurological defects, not just blindness. Spina Bifida, Cerebral Palsy, possibly no brain function. That means that the baby will likely never come home, would have to be in a place that could handle the care of a baby with a feeding tube, a tracheotomy, could perform almost constant manipulation of muscles to try and stave off atrophy, can't give pain killers to those kids, that depresses respiration. Well, 6 weeks after a delivery, when babies make it that long, we do an ultrasound, most of the time there are no brain waves. We ask parents if they want to remove the respirator, hold their baby, often for the first time, while they die. No, you wouldn't see your baby right after it was born, Mom would have to be anesthetized for a c-section. No, an epidural isn't an option with your blood pressure. Well, we would bring the baby back to you if it died. You can see it in NICU otherwise. Well, chances of survival, if I have to give a number, are about 10%.

Let me tell you what we did:
We laboured to give birth to our son. His midwife caught him. I rocked him, and sang a lullaby, told him how much he was loved. His father rocked him, carried him around, we phoned our families’ who spoke to him, and told him they loved him, and told him they would see him in Heaven. Our parish priest drove like the wind to be at the hospital before he died, so that she could baptize him. He died in his daddy's arms. His grandmother bathed him and dressed him in the smallest clothes she could find and tucked in a newborn cap that I had sewn. Everything was far, far too large for him. We prayed as a family, thanked God for the life that had been Gabriel, for the gift of 30 minutes, for the prayers and compassion of others. My husband and I kissed him goodbye, told him that we loved him and that we would see him at the Last Day. His grandmother walked him down to the morgue. We gave him back to the Creator that gave him to us.We choose a funeral home, tucked white roses in with him, brought his tiny urn of ashes to his funeral, with the book his father read to him in utero, the stuffed bunny I bought him, a small vase of roses from mummy and daddy. Our family, our friends, our church community, our co-workers gathered together to mourn the short, sweet life that God gave us. We gave him back to the creator that gave him to us, proclaiming the bodily resurrection and that our Redeemer lives.

Say you don't agree with my choices, say that would have tried any and all measures to save your child, say that you would have died to try and give him the faint hope the last days might have given him. Make that decision with your family, I respect your right to do that. Know that I would have sat with you and your wife in that room and allowed you to make the choice that you felt God meant you to make, that you felt was the best path for your family. Know that I would weep for you, for the tragedy that has taken over your life. Know that whatever choice you make, I would believe that you made the choice with thought and care, and made the best choice you could.

I have tried to bring you, a complete stranger, into the most painful, raw time of my life. I hold this pain in two hands to try and show you, there are no easy answers, life isn't a quick fix, there are no test cases in real life. It's not always so clear about what our moral imperitive is, is it?

We can have a dialogue, and we should talk about abortion, about euthanasia, about welfare, about genocide, about poverty. But please know this, there are words that are so cruel, so cutting, so mean spirited, that they shouldn't be used. That they rip, and tear and mutilate and destroy. Please, choose your words wisely. Acknowledge that others bear burdens and pain that are so deep, and so vast there are no words to describe it. Deal kindly with the broken. There but for the Grace of God go all of us.

And please Mr. Kaufman, remember, I can hear you.

Update: I can't find an address for Matt Kaufman at Boundless. I have forwarded the letter to their editor, and received an automatic reply indicating that they read every letter personally, "but regret they are rarely able to reply personally".

The Things I Don't Say

I have a nasty tendency to have expectations of people. I expect them to behave in a particular way, to do certain (polite, gracious) things, to be companionable and well behaved, to eat appropriately.

I expect people to "make nice". The problem is that this expects them to have the same values as I do. To place the same premium on important things that I do. And people are different. So, we can choose our friends, but not always our church family, our neighbours, our work colleagues, everyone we volunteer with, and most certainly not our family.

Sometimes we have to interact with people we wouldn't choose as friends. They may be rude, thoughtless, inconsiderate, or some combination of all 3, but I don't say anything. I grit my teeth, I may choose to limit my interaction with them, I may not want to be with them, I may even avoid them, but I don't tell them what I think of them.

I won't tell these people what I think of them. There's really no point. It would hurt them, they won't change their behaviour. In fact, I doubt that they are even aware that they caused offence, or that we see them out of duty only.

My mother had a rule, "Is it nice, is it true, and last but not least, does it need to be said?" And it's a good rule. So, while it might be true, and you might even argue that it would be nice to tell them how revolting I find their behaviour.

Ann had an interesting post on this - it was awfully different circumstances, but I wonder: when is it ok to blog about something that you wouldn't say to someone. Because talking about the issue helps release pressure, gives me a better perspective. Talking to the person involved; however, doesn't get us anywhere. Other than maybe starting family arguments.

So, I wonder. Is the best rule to always not say in a blog what I wouldn't say in person?

God of the Clothing Universe

Dear God of the Clothing Universe:

I'd like to say, I'm not so sure about the underwear thing. I try to be frugal, so I wore my non-pregnant underwear into my pregnancy. I'd like you to know, maternity underwear is ugly, and uncomfortable, and not at all made of natural fibers. So, I didn't purchase it. I wore what I had. And I wasn't that pregnant. We aren't talking watermelon here - maybe large cantaloupe. So, it would seem unreasonable that the elastic should fail.

It would seem particularly unreasonable that it should fail while I am walking to get a latte in a shopping mall. And it would seem that it is completely unfair to be walking and thinking, oh God, my underwear is falling down. Crap. I can't grab it. I'm in public. I can't do anything. Great, it's still falling, Ok, it is now at the same level as my crotch. Uh huh. My but is not small, so why couldn't it hold it up. For that matter, my hips? They are curvy. Are you really telling me that they aren't large enough to hold up elastic? So, the only thing holding my underwear in place, as it has fallen down, and has long since said "arrividerci", "sayonara", "adios" to my waist, is my pants. Which are a size 18. And I'm not a size 18 any longer. I'm smaller, but I couldn't find a belt this morning, and my belt loop broke. So, I'm not so sure about those either.

Why are these people talking to me? Don't they know I'm in a crisis. I am praying here. Oh, when are we going to get back to the office. Can anyone see that there is a bunch around my nether regions? Are they wondering - "What is up with her ass?". This is uncomfortable, and feels strange, and I am. Not. Happy. And I'm wondering, those dreams, where you are naked in public, is it really so bad? It is, isn't it. We won't talk about the stretch marks. Or the need to shave.

So, God of the Clothing Universe - the only reason I am talking to you at all any more - this morning, when I looked out the window, and was thinking of wearing a skirt, you said "Wear the Pants".

This is a bit of re post, if only because the underwear that fell down, I forgot to throw them out, so here I am again.


So, someone from White Guys with Blue Ties, Inc. called me shortly after Gabriel's birth, telling me that I was eligible for dependant life insurance for Gabe, because he was born alive. And I was pleased that they called. My number one thought at that moment was not insurance. It was something else. I thought it was nice that they made sure I got what I was entitled to. I was pleasantly surprised, it's not like White Guys with Blue Ties, Inc. is known for its stellar HR procedures.

Then I wasn't eligible.
Then I was. After I called to follow up on why.
Then I had to fill out these forms, and provide a death certificate.
Then I had to provide a birth certificate.
Now I have to provide a certificate of live birth, or a doctor's statement of live birth.
I don't have one of those. I remember, there were forms. I signed them. I have no idea what I signed. Mr. Spit gently handed them to me. He said, sign here. And here. And maybe some other place.

As it happens, OB the wonderful's amazing nurse called, and OB wasn't there when Gabriel was born, but from the delivery record, he can fill out the insurance companies' really stupid form. We hope. Cause I know that the OB who came into the room after Midwife the Amazing caught Gabriel was an @#%hole of the biggest order. (Why no sir, I'm not going to hand you my baby, and I really don't appreciate you screaming at me. Go away. You can come back when he's dead. It will be all too soon). I actually never want to see him or talk to him again.

So, I'm frustrated. I've provided evidence that Gabriel was born alive (can't get a birth certificate if he wasn't). I've provided his death certificate. I've detailed the circumstances. I've explained. It's not even like I went looking for the money.

So, I wonder. How many other parents do they put through this? Does Insurance Company the Really Stupid not understand, to have to talk about Gabriel's delivery is to re-live it? I start to wonder, is that their intent? To make is so difficult to claim the money that I will back off? Do they have no compassion? Can't they just say at the outset - here's what we require, submit it all at once? Would that not be easier? I had assumed this would have been as simple as Mr. Spit's insurance company, who wanted the Funeral Director's statement of death, and a one page form. A cheque arrived 3 weeks later.

Do they honestly think, having suffered the loss of my son, I'm trying to scam them for a measly 10K? It wouldn't matter if it was 100 million, do they not understand, we really just want Gabriel here? I'm frugal. I'll take the money, use it. But it's poor recompense. And I'm angry.

One Perfect Day

Arise very late (in spite of the fact it's Easter, and you really should go to the Anglican Cathedral that is very close to your hotel, and has five services). Crack open the Easter Chocolate that your friends sent along with you. MMMMM. Lindt Eggs. Meander down to the Concierge, checking that it's not the same one as the Fish and Farm Fiasco last night. Take her suggestion to to to Cafe De La Presse. Order the eggs Benedict with salmon and the regular eggs Benedict. Drink Cafe Au Lait out of a bowl, like you should. Joke with the charming waiter about the "french" names on the menu (lost bread = french toast), and tell him that Dames just isn't french. Exchange stories about your dogs, sit and just be.

Take the cable car down to the wharf - standing on the back, watching the scenery go by. Meander through tiny shops at the wharf, score a very good deal on SFO rain jackets, find the last of the gifts for everyone on your list, watch the sea lions, cruise on the bay, wander through some more shops, find a coffee place that roasts its own beans, drink another latte. Sit and people watch. Go to Ghiardelli square. Have a chocolate accident (honest, no idea how I bought that much. Really, none. Honey, just pay the man. We'll eat it.)

Meander some more. Show up at the crab house. Know it's a good seafood place. What does the crab come with? Well, crab. They throw some butter in as well. Eat 1 pound of shrimp, 3 pounds of crab. Wear a bib. Eat with your hands. A platter piled high. Great lashings of butter. Walk back to the coffee place, get another amazing latter. Go through the Aquarium of the bay. Touch a tiger shark. Wander more. Take the cable car back up the hills. Stop in at Cafe de la presse again. Have une pot du chocolate and chocolate mousse. Share bites, watch the others in the restaurant. Trade scotch stories with the bar tender. (His wins. He opened his dad's 25 year scotch. He wasn't supposed to. I think you get written out of the will for that.) Walk home.

A perfect day. There are big miracles, and small ones. Thanks be to God, Alleluia.

If you're going to San Francisco,

Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair. Or, just show up with a rash. Honestly. At first I thought it was the sunscreen, the salsa, the car, but no, it's the sun. Yes, that's right, I have an awful, nasty rash on my legs and hands and chest, and it's from the sun. Which is more of a problem than you might think in California. Us pale northerners just don't do so well at making vitamin D. So, I'm splotchy. But not so splotchy that I'm going to risk my life the American Medical system.

So, we showed up at the Concierge, and asked for an eccentric restaurant for dinner. I'm a big fan of concierges. Back when I was an EA, I sent people all over the world, to restaurants and theatre events and in cabs, solely on the advice of the concierge in a local Hilton Hotel. We are at a Hyatt, but I'm still willing to place myself in a concierge's confident hands. She suggested a place called Fish and Farm - they do local cooking, a variant of the 100 mile diet. It sounded exciting, so we duly made our reservation and carried on, walking down there. Mr. Spit refused to let me anywhere near the front door of Saks, Macy's, Luis Vuitton, or even
this guy. So, we arrived at the restaurant a scant 10 mins early, and were shuttled off to the bar. We got the last 2 seats, in the corner. I ordered a mint julep with small batch Bourbon, organic sugar and organic tarragon. Mr. Spit rather sensibly ordered the 12 year Talisker. His was the better choice. We sat the 10 mins to our reservation. We sat 15 mins past. Then another 30. Then another 5, while they set our table. They finally seated us. We entertained ourselves by asking the front desk where the washroom was.

Me: Excuse me, could you tell me where your washroom is?
Confused Front Desk Guy: We don't have a washroom.
Me: No, really, I'm in the restaurant. How can you not have a washroom?
Confused Front Desk Guy: You mean the bathroom?
Me: Yes, the washroom.

I sent Mr. Spit to ask for the lavatory, just because.

So, back to our meal, now that we are finally seated. The Chef sent out cream of artichoke soup. Which you would think would be good. You'd be wrong. But, because I am polite, and Canadian, I made Mr. Spit drink mine too. You know, so the chef wouldn't be offended. Then our meals arrived. I had the gnocchi. Now, I must confess, I'm a bit of a gnocchi connoisseur. I love gnocchi, so when I saw that it was homemade, I was excited. Mr. Spit had the salmon, and we ordered a side of fava beans. The salmon was really, really rare. Like, sushi rare. Which is fine, if you are ordering sushi. When you've ordered the poached salmon, well you expect it to have seen enough water after it's demise, that you aren't wondering if it's still going to swim.

Now, about the much awaited gnocchi. Good gnocchi is plump, firm, slightly chewy to the taste. Not rubber, but a bit of a resistance when you bite into it. There shouldn't be much flavour to the gnocchi, it's mostly potato and flour, so the sauce should have some good flavour to it. Note, I said flavour. So, when I took a bite of the odd, limp broccoli and spinach mixture, very artfully arranged underneath, and my mouth burned, that would be a signal that we were past flavour, and into wallop. I made Mr. Spit have a bite, and he choked on his water, trying to cool his mouth down. So, I ate my 12 gnocchi, and left the green bits behind. I ate one of the fava beans, which are generally served out of the pod. Unfortunately, they were an heirloom variety, so they still had the string attached to the pod, which makes them like eating beans with a side of dental floss. I carefully pulled the beans out, and tried to eat them, but they were crunchy, and stuck in my teeth.

They brought us the dessert menu, but dessert is one of my favourite parts of any meal, and I just couldn't bear any more disappointment.

Cost of the drinks - free, the bar paid for them during the 50 minutes we were waiting for our reservation.
Cost of the gnocchi - free, after Mr. Spit horrified the waitress when water came out his nose while he choked.
Cost of the beans - 8.00. Approximately $4.00 a bean.
Cost of the Sushi Salmon - $22.00, but they didn't provide any rice, kelp, or wasabi to make sushi.
Cost of the Tip - $10.00, because we tipped on the entire meal's price, cause we are Canadians, and we are like that. We would have apologized, if we could have found someone to listen.
Cost of confusing the front desk guy over bathrooms - worth the entire price of the meal.

I have to go now, I'm waiting for my nachos from room service to arrive, so that we don't starve to death. The Moral of the Story: we are making our own reservation for dinner tomorrow. Mr. Spit has drawn my attention to the in-room guide about SFO's restaurants.

Moonlight on Oceans

We left Los Angeles at 12:00pm, after driving for 2 hours. People here are crazy. They move randomly. They don't signal. They are going 70 miles an hour, then they slam on the brakes. Mr. Spit did great - except for the one time I screamed at him, when he turned his head to look at the map, I seemed unable to figure out. (I am convinced than San Francisco is south of Los Angeles, in spite of all evidence to the contrary)

We arrived at the mission at San Luis Obispo, in time for the Good Friday Service - in Spanish. Given that our Spanish is limited to such helpful things as Senor, Gracias, and Cervecas, we genuflected at the front, and scuttled out the side door, looking like we meant to do that. We went shopping down the street, and I had another latte.

We continued down Highway one. I contributed to the conversation by pointing out the cows, and telling Mr. Spit which kind they were. He didn't seem to fully appreciate my knowledge, but I digress. We arrived at the Ollalieberry Inn (It's a berry, a hybrid, with blackberry and blueberry. I'll tell you how it tastes after breakie tomorrow). I looked at the garden, and wished the owner were around. I identified the nasturtiums, they were the large things growing like weeds. We had Mexican at a hole in the wall place, which was incredible. I ate the salsa (I"m allergic to tomatoes, salsa and I don't get along). It was incredible. I wanted to take the cook home with me.

We drove off to the Hearst Castle, for the evening tour. It was enchanted. Glorious, magical, uplifting and wondrous. WE left behind today and went back to the 1930's, and enjoyed every moment of it. We drove down and stood by the ocean in the moonlight.

My life has been so much like the rocks on the beach, almost drowning as the ocean washes over me each time. It has been an exhausting struggle to put one foot in front of the other. Tonight, I stood above the ocean, and saw the waves not just wash over the rocks, but play and dance on the shore as well. I saw the beauty of the moon on the water, and the size of the ocean, and realized that I am not the only rock on the shore, and the ocean is much bigger, and much more beautiful than I ever realized. I looked at the stars above me, and realized that I am surrounded by a million tiny points of light. I understood a bit, that a human heart, a mother's heart is so much larger and deeper than I will ever know, and it heals in ways I do not fully understand. Joy is so much more than sorrow.

In the midst of winter, I discovered within me that there was an eternal spring. Albert Camus.


Today, our baby boy, was the day you were due. We hadn't invested much in this date, indeed only 5 people knew about it. But today, we remember. We remember the life that was, and then just as suddenly was not. We remember what was supposed to be. We joyfully announced your conception and we sorrowfully announced your birth. People will remember your birthday next December, but today: today is a day that only your daddy and I will mark, a day of wishes and dreams. In the here and now, we remember what was and is, and what should have been.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."
He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

Revelation 21: 1-7

Until heaven little one, and then forever

Mummy and Daddy.

Disney Land - Day 1

My feet hurt. Space Mountain was great, at least the part I had my eyes open for. Did I mention my feet hurt. Loved, loved, loved the Matterhorn. Wow, my feet are aching. Autopia was grand. Ouch, my feet. Took the train, loved the train. My heart did a back flip when we walked out on to main street this am. Owie, my feet. Dinner at the House of Blues was great. Whew, it felt good to sit down, did I mention how much my feet hurt.

Disney = sore feet.

Did you catch that?

San Diego, we hardly knew you

Left sunny San Diego for sunny Anaheim today.

Drove down the interstate with the top down, and loved every moment of it. Sea world was incredible - well kept, well laid out, impeccably clean, with flowers everywhere. I saw birds of paradise, in a bush, as opposed to lowly singletons, in my florists' cooler, for $15.00 a stem. C'est Incroyable. Really liked the Zoo, although some more time would have been nice. We felt kind of rushed.

Shamu was magical, and feeding the sea lions reminded me of feeding the dogs. Especially the guy who sat on his rock and waved his flipper at you. Obviously he had this down pat. Kind of reminded me of two mutts at home . . . Waiting for dinner.

I am a big fan of this stuff, courtesy of Patti, my supplier, err, dealer, err beauty consultant, and I thought she had a lot of beauty stuff, then I set foot into the wonder that is Sephora, in downtown disney, and wow. Wow, who knew that eye shadow came in yellow, or lime green, or hot pink (no, not me either. I'm not so sure about wearing it either). I only bought body butter for my very dry legs. (No Patti, I didn't buy lipstick. Honest, I didn't. You can even ask Owen. I don't trust these people, they sell yellow eye shadow). We had dinner with Owen's brother and sister in law, at a lovely Mediterranian place called Catal. Go with the Salmon, and the gelato for dessert. Very nummy.

Tomorrow is the Mouse, and more mouse, and International House of Pancakes for breakfast. Time to go to bed.
Oh, and Cheryl S-R - 20 degrees and sunny - driving down the interstate with the top down. But you wouldn't have enjoyed it . . . . .

California Dreaming

So, when Mr. Spit and I lost Gabriel, the Social Worker at the hospital suggested that we try to go away for my due date. We were supposed to have gone to Denver for Christmas. We had Gabe's funeral instead.

So, today we are in San Diego, as part of the Spit California Tour, 2008. We thought about having T-Shirts made, but as it turns out we were barely organized enough to get all the hotel reservations organized.

We are in the 2 days of San Diego portion of the tour. We are madly in love with the Red Mustang Convertible that is ours until we leave (but, perhaps less in love with the hour spent waiting in line to get her).

We like our hotel, quite like In-N-Out burgers and fries, and the prices were astounding. 10.95 - for two people, for a 2 x cheeseburgers, 2 x milkshakes and 2 x fries - holy crow!

And I just wondered - did anyone else notice that San Diego drivers are a wee, tiny bit crazy? They move randomly. And they honk when stuck in traffic. Canadian drivers just wait patiently.

If you were the black car behind us, we're really sorry we cut you off. It's a really un-Canadian thing to do, I know - but you see, our lane just ran out. No sign, no warning, no nuthing!

And to the lady on the Hertz bus, who will almost certainly never read this, who gave me her daughter-in-law's red dress button, so I could give it to my mother, because I can't find them in Canada, and mom had a stroke a year ago, I thank you. You have probably done more for my good opinion of American's than any other person I have ever met. I was starting to get a bit weepy, thinking about how I would much rather be pregnant, and you created a wonderful tiny point of light, and I didn't really get a chance to say the "thank-you" you deserved.

No pictures, just snow in windy prairie city, the Denver airport (Very Cool) and palm trees. Sea World tomorrow.

Her Name is Noel

And she was a gift from a dear friend, after Gabriel's death. The Same friend who sent a baby card and a sympathy card, separately, because she wanted to to acknowledge the baby that was and the joy he brought us all. Noel was hers first, given to her when she was given a particularly hard medical diagnosis. As she struggled to come to terms with it, she would hold Noel and cry.

She wanted me to have something to hold. And I do. Often.

I have read the struggles of others in the last few days, and I have wanted to comfort them. I can't send the Noel, but I can give them words. I'm an Anglican, and the words that comfort me are often from our liturgy, they are words to bound and limit and describe my circumstances, when I can't think of any on my own. They are humble words, offered out of the bedrock of my own faith and hurt, when my words for all of us are so few, so far apart and so failing. I know that not everyone shares my faith, but I hope the language of running a race, and belief that we will see our loved ones again, brings comfort, no matter how you dream of the after life.

"Who in the multitude of the thy saints has compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses, that we, rejoicing in their fellowship, may run with patience the race that is set before us, and together with them may receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away. Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious name, evermore praising thee and saying:

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts, heaven and earth are full of thy glory. Glory be to thee, O Lord Most High.

Book of Common Prayer
Anglican Church of Canada


Oh, the things people say

I have to confess, DH and I were surrounded by people who cared. Our friends, family and church community treated Gabriel's loss as the painful and profound loss that it was. They reached out to us with flowers and visits and food, cards, messages left on our phone. They helped with the funeral, held us up. The support was both visible and invisible. The Anglican tradition (which I worship in) refers to something as the Communion of Saints. Understood at different times, and in different ways, the Communion of Saints refers to the body of believers, here and in heaven. So often I felt their prayers, felt their care and concern reach out and envelop us.

I speak to people, and I realize this care and concern is not universal. The kind words people said, that came from deep within their hearts are not the same words that everyone experiences. And I realized how fortunate we were. In a way that was utterly undeserved, people held their hands out to us, and walked for a while in our pain. They told us from the bottom of their hearts how sorry they were. When they couldn't find words to say, they told us honestly" I don't know what to say", or "I"m sorry seems so small". Some who couldn't find words sent flowers or food. I remember a friend who sent "Love in the form of a chicken pot pie". A collection of friends phoned me daily, just to see how I was doing. One sent me a joke or a nice message or something by email every day. I can't for a moment say that I deserved this enormous care and compassion. I'd like to think I'm a nice person, I'd like to think I demonstrate my care for those around me, but the outpouring of love we saw was utterly undeserved, it was nothing more than shear grace to us. We continue to see it when people stop by and ask how I am doing. That I am embarrassed to answer "good days and bad" or to be honest about the days when I am sad is to my debit, not theirs.

And so, when I am asked about the people who say things that are, well, less than graceful, I am not quite sure what to say. Yes, people have said foolish, painful, silly things to us. They have negated our pain, told us to get on with life. I came back to work 7 days after Gabriel's birth (only to turn my out of office e-mail notice on) and a co-worker ran away from me. People hurried back to their desks. I had organized Christmas presents for a lower income family before I became sick. My manager caught me on the elevator and guilted me in to delivering them. My supervisor brought the gifts to the funeral, told me in the middle of the receiving line, with 75 people behind her, that they were in her car. Would I come and get them? I'm still not sure what she was thinking. When I returned back to work, another co-worker asked if I had a nice break. Silly, stupid things, but they stung all the same.

And that's just it. I think there are five kinds of people in the world, when it comes to tragedy. There are those who are a part of the communion of saints - they show love, care and concern. They entered into the tragedy that was Gabriel's life and death with us. They walked along side and our tears mingled. They didn't try to mitigate the tragedy, they didn't try to minimize it, they acknowledged that this was a horrible thing, and that there was nothing for it, but to be horrified. They held out hope on the goodness of God, but acknowledged the depth of evil and injustice and unfairness that had been inflicted upon us.

And then there are the communion of the pious - the "I should say something to show how strong of a Christian I am. I will issue some absurd platitude like "Gabriel is in Heaven now. You shouldn't cry". (I know my son is in heaven, and I'm glad for heaven, but I want him here, in my arms! Where he belongs.) or "It's for the best" (I'm not sure what the hell kind of world you live in, that the best thing that could happen to a tiny baby is to die and not be with his parents who desperately love and miss him. ) I suspect these people are so unable to handle a world that contains so much tragedy, and so they must reduce my pain and grief into manageable explanations and cute bumper stickers. I am saddened that their life is so emotionally small and shallow.

And then there is the communion of the unthinking - the "just open your mouth and say whatever pops out" crowd. I'm not talking about the person who accidentally says death in a conversation with me, or the person who asks how I'm doing (Hint: I buried my son today. There's no way I'm going to answer with 'just great'. Let's move on). Sometimes we just say things without thinking. Our tongue gets going faster than our brain. I'll never forget telling palliative care patients to have a good day and I'd see them next week. I had friends do and say things that weren't quite what they intended. We are human. We aren't perfect.

No, I"m talking about something quite different. Perhaps these people utterly lack the gift of empathy. They show up at funerals with gifts for the Christmas family, because they know you'll be there. Work for the bereaved parent to do. They complain about their teenage children and wonder why I have a pained look on my face (Hint: telling me how rotten your children are will not make me want my son with me any less). Their comments and actions are not intended to wound, they really aren't intended for much. They are there to fill a space filled with pain and fear. I have realized how others look at my circumstances, and in being thankful and afraid, thankful that they have never experienced this pain, and afraid it might be catching, they just want to get to the matter at hand, and stay far, far way from the pain.

There is the communion of the hidden - You only see them one by one, and you only see their back as they run away from you. They don't say something stupid, or thoughtless, they don't say anything at all. They don't talk to you. If I mention Gabriel's death, or my pregnancy, or my labour, they get silent. They look anywhere but at me. I am a pariah. Baby death is possibly catching.

Lastly, there is the communion of the self-absorbed. Not always completely selfish. These are the people who assure me that their pain/ their mother's pain/their sister's pain is much greater. I have no reason to complain. Sometimes they are just driven by a need to compete, perhaps their own private tragedies were never validated by those around them. I don't know. There's another class, those who are so consumed by their own tragedies, they assume that my pain must be like theirs, that they understand how I feel. A person with early miscarriages told me she understood my pain. No, she can't. And it's not that early miscarriages aren't pain. There is no Richter scale of pain, rather there is different sorts of pain, experienced differently by different people. It is cruelty to tell a grieving person what shape and form and limit her pain must take.

And so, when people ask me what they should say in these kinds of circumstances, I say honestly. "I"m so sorry" is always appropriate. If you can't say anything, or you aren't sure, please default to this. No one will fault you. We have lost so much about "the rules" in modern etiquette that we don't know what to do or say in horrible situations. Trust me, "I'm so sorry" is the little black dress of modern etiquette. Goes everywhere, you can say it with anything.

But what matters is not the words. What matters, in spite of the words you say, is an attempt to walk into the tragedy that is the death of a baby, and to be with me in it. What matters is your willingness to walk along side me, if only for a moment or two. That isn't about pretty words, or pious platitudes, or unthinking, it's about allowing the depth of the situation to direct your words. It's about being my friend. Showing your feelings. Being Authentic.

Want an example? A classmate said "Oh F#^*. That really sucks. And it's not fair. I'm sorry. You wanted your baby so much". Not words ever on the front of a hallmark card, but words from deep within his heart. And they resonated with my heart, and I felt the communion of saints around me.

Tiny Points of Light

Some days there are a few, some days there are many, and some days there are none. I think about the warmth and the green of California and I can feel my face turn to reach the sun.

That's all tiny points of light are, a reason to look ahead.

Today's -

1. The low altar of caffeine Second Cup returned my knitting book to me, with the pattern inside. The first Cara baby sweater is back on track.

2. Time spent knitting with a friendly new-ish knitter. I have spread the addiction, disease, obsession, wonder of handcrafting! We made plans for 2 weeks from now, so I couldn't have frightened her that badly. Yarn Harlot's world domination plan abounds.

Today was a good day.

Eliot Spitzer Resigned

Anyone else followed this story?

Mr. Spitzer was involved in prostitution. Interestingly, he hasn't been charged, and the information wasn't publicly released. Spitzer willingly acknowledged his failings, and has now resigned. Now, don't get me wrong. You don't have to know much about me to know how passionate I am about prostitution. I'm appalled that anyone would purchase another human being.

And, I wonder. Newt Gingrich, who is not the most stellar of role models, in spite of his time "dedicated to calling America back to our Christian Heritage", has managed to divorce 2 women, discuss details of his divorce settlement with number 1, while she had cancer and was in the hospital, and then had an affair with a woman young enough to be his daughter. . . He tries to run for presidency. And Christians support him. George Bush got the US into a war they had no business to be in, their young minorities are dying and they can't get out, but we'll crucify and try to impeach Bill Clinton.

I don't get Americans. I don't get their tawdry fascination with the private/sexual/religious/family lives of their politicians. I don't get why they expect their politicians to be perfect and without sin, but aren't like that in their own lives. I don't get why Eliot Spitzer is nailed to the wall, in spite of the tremendous good he has done, and the American public looks on, applauding, in between wallowing in the morass that is the Desperate Housewives/CSI/Grey's Anatomy - which glorify anything but the "christian' values that they expect their politicians to hold. I don't get why they call their fellow citizens hypocritical, but assume that as individuals they are right with God. C'mon USA today says that desperate housewives is the second most popular show - 22.8 million people watch it. Surely some of them are sitting in church nodding their heads and shouting AMEN as they go home to wallow in affairs, half naked pool boys and consumption crazy suburbia.

Newsflash: Politicians are people. They fall down. I'll let Mr. Spitzer say it best: "Our greatest glory consists not in never falling but in rising every time we fall."

Seems to me, if he's honest enough to admit he fell, admit he was wrong and is willing to try better the next time, that's the kind of politician you would want running your state.

Maybe it's just me though. I'm not sure what religion any of my elected officials are. I don't much care either. I expect spiritual counselling from my priest and my bible. I expect good public policy from my elected officials. The two aren't always one and the same. Seems to me that you can "fall down" and still pursue truth.

People always ask how Americans and Canadians are different. There's way number one.

Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down

Well, it's not Monday, but it was raining a bit when I came back from lunch today. Today would appear to be a sad day. I walked into the public library, on my way to the altar of caffeine the Second Cup, and the Sculptors Guild of Alberta has a new exhibit. Called Form Unfolding, it features a life sized, very pregnant woman. She's really quite lovely. (And for $4,200 she could be mine, but I digress). She's holding her very pregnant belly, and I don't know why, but that's the thing that hurts the most.

I remember how much I touched my stomach while Gabriel lived there. DH did too, he touched, he talked, he read stories. I remember not even thinking about my hand resting there. I remember feeling him kick while I waited for the labour to start. I remember. Perhaps there is that horrific pang because we hold our bellies to hold our child - to keep them safe, and I was utterly unable to do this. Is some very real sense, I failed to keep my child safe, in spite of everything.

I heard this play while I sat at Second Cup, and I made another adjustment from what was supposed to be, to what is.

I probably wouldn't be this way
I probably wouldn't hurt so bad
I never pictured every minute without you in it
Oh You left so fast
Sometimes I see you standing there
Sometimes it's like I'm losing touch
Sometimes I feel that I'm so lucky to have had the chance to love this much
God gave me a moment's grace'
Cause if I'd never seen your face
I probably wouldn't be this way
Leann Rimes, Probably wouldn't be this way

Getting back to nature

I'm a city girl - I like being close to restaurants (which I eat at a lot). I like being close to shopping malls (shoes!) I like being able to walk to most places in my neighbourhood, and I love that my work commute is only 7 minutes.

But sometimes, I'd like to bring the country to the city. I don't want an entire flock of chickens, just three to give me eggs. (and make a good roast chicken with). I don't want a cow, but I wouldn't mind a small goat to cut the grass for me. Honestly I'm not completely out to lunch with this plan. Seattle and Victoria permit you to have these sorts of things.

And then I read this article, and I think, I'd like to do this too. I could grow wheat. It would make great bread. Along with the vegetables and the chickens. And the Alpaca for spinning wool that the knitting pal and I are going to get. I could be somewhat self sufficient - and lower my carbon foot print, all at the same time. Get on the bandwagon windy prairie city that I live in!

And please, don't tell DH about this. He gets, well, anxious about the whole livestock issue.

Wow, those federal conservatives

Can apparently resurrect people from the dead. That's a real skill. No wonder the Liberals keep bowing down to them.

Depending on who you believe, Chuck Cadman was offered some amount of money as a bribe an inducement to vote with the Conservatives to bring down the Liberals over a budget vote in 2005.

Today the conservatives have announced that the inducement was nothing more than an offer of campaign funding (for a person who sat as an independent after getting screwed out of the Conservative Nomination), given to a man with only weeks left to live. Interesting, no one admits that they offered Chuck the Conservative nomination, only that they were willing to pay for his campaign.

Which makes me wonder, was any portion of the money allocated to perform a resurrection? If that was possible, it would be money well spent. Stephen Harper described Chuck Cadman as "good and decent man". I wonder what Chuck Cadman would say about Stephen Harper?

Knitting in Public

I skived out on church pursued an alternate worship strategy this morning. I was sitting in the nice brown leather chair, next to the fireplace. I partook of communion a non fat latte and a banana walnut muffin and sat knitting and people watching. (Hey don't look at me like that - the Carrot was closed. )

These two women walked in - hot and sweaty, in their spiffy running tights, and sat drinking their ice water and tea with green crumbly bits - not even coffee. Honestly. Made me tired just looking at them.

So, the one looks at the other, and says "I went to University with this girl. She knit. All. The. Time. I took her to a hockey game, and she brought her knitting".

I thought about all the places I have engaged in public knitting, and thought about speaking up. I realized I knitted through my entire class yesterday. I have brought my knitting to restaurants, on car rides, to support group, to bible study. I smiled to myself, and I just kept knitting. I have to confess, I also thought - "I can hear you. I'm knitting, not deaf".

I'm knitting this:

Then they started talking about running sprints. I packed up and went home then.