The Nature of Probability.

When you read that text at the bottom of a poll or survey, which says “19 times out of 20, with a margin of error of 5%, this poll is correct”, it has meaning. If I tell you that 50% of people prefer green beans to brussel sprouts, what I am really saying is that 19 times out of 20, if you re-ran this poll, somewhere between 45% and 55% of people would prefer green beans. It could be 47%, it could be 53%.

And the 20th time? Oh, it could be 12% or 98.2%. In the 20th time, all bets are off. That’s the very nature of probability.

I am seeing so many people offer prayers for my nephew. I have offered many of my own. Unsure if anyone was listening, but offered up all the same. The prayers, they are ascending.

And so many of them I see, they seem to ask for a miracle.

At some point, maybe a long time ago, maybe only a few short months ago, cells began to grow in Andy’s brain. Grow where they should not have. They are there now. They will be there when the biopsy is done on Thursday at 1. They will be there when a pathologist affixes them to a slide and stares at them under a microscope. When they are examined and graded. When the cytology report is written. When a diagnosis is made, when a course of treatment is prescribed. Those cells are immutable fact.

I believe in Genesis, after a fashion when it tells me that God (or the universe or just physics) created light. When the earth, which was formless was made into sea and land and sky. And I believe in the first chapter of the Gospel of John. When we are told that a light has been made to shine in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

I don’t believe that there are miracles. I believe at the start of time God (or the universe or just plain physics) created rules. The macro rules which give us gravity and plate tectonics, and the micro rules, which cover the division of cells. I don’t believe that God will suspend those rules, however much I’d like him to. At least in this se, for a little bit. That wasn’t what he promised. The earth began. The rules were set. The clock started. And then he gave us a light and he promised us nothing would put it out.

I don’t ask for a miracle. I’m willing to hold out hope that maybe, just maybe, this could be the 20th time. Not a miracle, just a mystery deep in the heart of probability.

Posted in Untegorized | 2 Comments

You n Have Me

In the middle of contract negotiations last February, I got a ll. The people in the room were asking me a question. I pointed at my phone, sort of shrugged and walked out into the break out room. .

My brother in law had died. It started last August. Radiation would buy him Christmas with his sons and grand children. By spring, he would be gone. In the late February they moved him to hospice. And then my phone rang. I finished the ll, took a couple of shaky breaths and went back into the pitched battle.

I flew to Chigo. Took the train to Crystal Lake. Woke up early and drove my SIL’s r to the funeral home. Arranged the flowers. Handed out the bulletins. Organized the receiving line. Checked on my ex husband. Helped dish out food. I put one foot in front of the other, did what had to be done. Was the woman my mother raised me to be.

A few weeks later, laying in bed next to someone and talking about my trip, I began to cry.

The night of the funeral, my great niece Emma started weeping during her story. Now that the funeral was over, she had to stop loving Poppa beuse he was gone. She didn’t think she could. I explained that the world didn’t work that way. God doesn’t work that way. We don’t stop loving those who have died. We tuck them in the space between our hearts and our lungs to keep them safe. The hurt, it fades. But our love? Oh no. That never ends. We rry that with us, as close as our breath. You keep loving Poppa, little girl.


This time, the ll me in the Costco line up. It’s my quarterly trip. Garbage bags. Toilet paper. Furnace Filters. The prosaic, the mundane.

My nephew in law, Emma’s father, has a mass in his brain. They’ve lled it a tumor, although they don’t know if it’s ncerous.

It’s a mass. In his brain. He n’t see.

I’m not sure if the distinction matters.

I finished up at Costco. Paid for the furnace filters and the batteries and the saran wrap and the hallowe’en ndy and whatever the hell else made up four hundred dollars.

I drove home. Put things away. Stashing the furnace filters, which may or may not be the right size, next to the furnace, I looked up. Spoke to an empty basement.

“You n have me.”

If there is some great karmic debt, if the lord of the universe has decided there is one inhabitant too many on this planet, fine. You n have me. I’m not good for much. I’m a drain on the health re system, I’m foul mouthed and I smoke too much. I admit that. Honestly, given that my estate goes to a charitable foundation for dead babies, and given that I’m worth more dead than alive, we could argue I’m a great ndidate.

Someone will sell the house. Find new homes for the animals. The contract will find another project manager. You n give my ex-husband my scotch collection.

I will hold my son. That child I have held in between my heart and my lungs. The love that made me promise Emma that she didn’t have to let go at all.

I will go. In whatever way the universe would like. Quickly, slowly. So very willingly. I’d prefer non painfully, but we n negotiate. So, hey. Universe. For the sake of a little girl who had to learn too much about death too soon.

You n have me.

Posted in The language of families, the nieces and nephews | 5 Comments


They wanted to sit outside in the sunshine, so as we walked around the corner I heard myself saying “There are tables around . . . .” Well, there were tables around that corner.

22 years ago.

On Tuesday I walked through a door to a building I had never been in. I had no real idea what went on in that building. I knew it was old, I knew that it had offices. I knew it was one of the most beautiful buildings on mpus. It’s where my new department is loted.

You see, when I stepped on to the mpus in 1997, I thought I had life figured out. I thought I knew at the ripe old age of 18 that I knew where life would take me. And here I am 22 years later, and nothing is like what I thought it would be.

My final assignment in this week of grad school introduction was to make a map. Not just a place that plots latitude and longitude in space. Something that evokes the idea of time and memory, that which jolts us out of the commonplace and makes us thing differently.

That’s been my entire week.

You asked how my week was. Exhilarating. Hard, balancing school and work. Challenging to write a python which scrapped twitter and build a new set of visualizations in Tableau in just a few hours. Amazing.

One of the things my team added into the map was a photo of me in front of the very first lecture hall I walked into 22 years ago. In 1997, I was dripping wet from rain, 10 minutes late beuse I was lost and utterly overwhelmed.

For the edifition of my readers, I’ve given you a photo that was taken in late June of 1997. And the photo from today. You’d think I’d like the photo of younger me. It turns on I like the one of me now better. On Tuesday, she walked through a door and me home.

Posted in Grad Student, It's a Wonderful Day in the Neighbourhood, Life After Children | 3 Comments

All the Things

I start my next grad degree tomorrow. 17 years after the first time I went to University, I’m going back. It’s a bit strange – they give you the same student ID and I am surprised at how little effort it took to dredge up that 8 digit number.

Everyone keeps asking if I am excited, and I suppose I am, but mostly I’m terrified.

I’m worried I won’t be able to balance class work and a part time Research Assistant job and a very full time job. I’m worried that I won’t be able to manage the ademic rigour.

I’m worried, like my first MBA team, they will hate me. I will be 19 years older than many of my classmates. That’s a world of difference right there.

I’m worried about all the things.

Exactly like every other kid going to school.

Posted in Grad Student | 3 Comments


I put Missy down on Thursday, on Friday I woke up and there was no dog. For the first time in 20 years, I didn’t have a dog.

Gracie does not replace Missy. Missy did not replace Delta, who did not replace Maggie, who did not replace MacDuff. That isn’t how this goes.

But, Gracie needed a person and I needed a dog and here we are.

I’m glad we found each other.

Posted in Dogs | 6 Comments

Living Small

I have no problem with the Buddhist assertion that life is suffering. I say this not in a cynil world weary sort of way. It’s just a statement of fact. Life involves suffering. What I struggled with is the idea that wants use suffering. The want of power or money? Sure. That uses untold suffering. But the want of human connection? Human connection is part of our DNA. We are wired to want to be in a community. We are 60% water – cucumbers with anxiety. Humans n die of loneliness. Human connection is not just a want, it is a real and true need.

Perhaps this is a good time for a diversion.

On the shelf in my home office is a wish jar, a small clay pot holding one very tiny rolled up piece of paper. The rolled up piece of paper was blank. It wasn’t that I had no wishes, rather that I didn’t know how to be concise enough to write them down on a very small piece of paper. In February, I finally found my wish.

:: Deep Breath ::

I want to be the face that someone wants to come home to.

I haven’t ever been this. I’ve been convenient, I’ve been a habit, I’ve been an obligation. I’ve never been the thing that someone wanted. I’m the next best alternative. The fill in until something else comes along. A useful object, not a real person.

I want someone to take re of – to buy silly little gifts and make specials meals for. I want someone who remembers what I say, who asks me how that meeting I was worried about went. I want someone to help me figure out how to plate the electricity gremlins (they are angry again.) I want someone to curl up next to at night, to grow old with.

I want to be more than the next best alternative, the useful object, the thing you settle for.

It won’t happen. I realized after the last time, there is no person for me. There’s just me. I have some forms of human connection with friends, with colleagues, with volunteer work. I have enough resilience to solve my own problems, I have sufficient resources that I will not freeze to death or starve.

I just won’t be the face that someone ever wants to come home to.

And I keep thinking, if I could just let go of this want – even though it’s hard wired in me – it would be easier.

(Please, could I ask something? It’s a bit like when I realized that I wasn’t ever going to have children and people would tell me about their neighbour’s third cousin twice removed who miraculously got pregnant with triplets at the age of 44. I don’t want to hear stories about people who found someone. I’m glad for them, but it doesn’t help me. I need to figure out what happens now that I’ve realized I won’t find someone.)

Posted in irrelevant reverence, Learning Life | 3 Comments

Not ok and still ok.

It isn’t ok. It will never be ok.

And somehow, it will have to be ok.

I’m making my way through the idea that some people find their person quickly. For some, it takes longer. And some of us? We don’t have a person. We have pets and books and volunteer things.

Rather like abusive parents, a dead child, recurrent misrriages, and a chronic disease, I could spend the rest of my life focusing on how not ok it is.

That would be fair.

I didn’t ask for parents who hated me. I didn’t do anything to use my son to die. I did everything I could do to stay pregnant. MS was dumb luck.

I could hold up all the good and kind and nice things I do. I could try and point out the good in me outweighs the bad. I could make some sort of karmic balancing equation.

Which takes me back to life not being fair. And that’s not ok. But somehow, it will have to be.

I’m trying to live small.

Hope for less.

Expect as little as possible and be pleasantly surprised if more happens to come my way.

I’m trying to live in the here and now.

I’m trying not to be cynil and bitter.

Life isn’t fair, but I n be kind.

Posted in Adult Dating | 4 Comments

Princess of Magic

I have come to believe that our pets have their own form of magic. It’s a magic so total, so complete, and so seemingly ordinary that it explains everything.

Life is simple to a pet. There are sunbeams, there are pigs ears, there are balls to chase, and there is a human. A human they do not see as a frail and imperfect being – no, for them, their human is the best and most goodness filled thing in the world.

And so we try and live up to that. We live in the moment with them. We watch sunbeams, we throw balls and we rub ears and bellies. We ll them by silly names and laugh.

That’s magic.

It is Missy’s time. Tonight at 4 I will take her to the vet and say goodbye. My voice, telling her that she was good and true and loved will be the last thing she hears. I will walk with her to the very end. And it will break me, like it has every time.

She didn’t need fourscore and 10 to be perfect. She me perfect. And like all magic things in this dull and sorry world of ours, she could never stay for long. She stayed for as long as she could. It is time to let her go. We must be mindful of magic, we must not keep it past its time.

And when I bring her no longer needed collar and lead home, when I wash out her food bowl and put it away, I will think that if I am very good, if I try very hard, when my much longer life ends, then I will have picked up a bit of her magic.

Posted in Dogs, Feats of Wonder | 8 Comments


The day Owen moved out, I me home from helping him move and Coda was sitting on the newel post, meowing at me. I told him it was just us now. I had to keep going beuse he still needed his breathtakingly expensive t food. The litter still had to be changed.

We had this routine around breakfast. Coda beme a slow and picky eater. I would feed his brothers and then he and I would head into the living room. He would eat a bit, he would go to the bathroom, he might come and visit, then he would eat some more, then he would come and sit with me a bit longer. He would stretch out on my leg and purr.

And I would sing to him.

“In the morning when I rise, you bring a tear of joy to my eyes and tell me everything’s gonna be all right”.

Which is what I sang him as the vet put him to sleep. With my voice breaking, tears falling on his fur. I was the last voice he heard.

Which is as it should be. This is the last gift of fealty I give my pets, this moment where I walk with them to the very end, my voice telling them they are loved. Not were loved, but are.

Somewhere in this great universe of ours, there is a place where our animals go. Filled with sunshine and soft blankets and cocktail shrimp.

And if I am very good, at the end of my life I will go there too.

Posted in Furry Slugs, Untegorized | 5 Comments

Piano Lessons

I had a classmate who was really good at math. It me easily to her, like breathing. Math was . . . incomprehensible to me. I’ve learned since it isn’t that it’s incomprehensible, it’s just hard. I pass math by judicious applition of ass to seat and pen to paper. I struggle and struggle and do problem after problem. I Math is blood and tears. I earn every B in math.

I took my ball of frustration and heartbreak. My rage. I took them to Lori. My classmate, she had this gift and she didn’t understand it as such. She solved the hardest math problem with ease. Nothing seemed to bother her and everything bothered me.

Lori had me listen to this classmate play the piano. She was technilly perfect. Never missed a note, kept perfect time. It was technilly perfect and that was all. There was nothing to rry you away. Everything was numbers to this classmate. Everything could be solved. Everything was black and white.

Lori told me that the way I was, it was harder. It would hurt more. But it would be better in the long run. I would live a richer life with the odd missed note and an inability to understand theoretil math. Messy life, real life, true life, it was found in muddy puddles of grey.

I me home from doing a difficult thing today and curled up on my bed with Sammy the Sea Otter, and I cried.

I cried beuse tonight I don’t want to be warm and kind and empathetic. I don’t want to understand that there are many human situations which are deep muddy puddles of grey.

I want to be hard and cold and unyielding. I could live with playing the piano with technil precision and no passion, if it meant hurting less. I could live without the highs, if it meant missing out on the crashes. Missed notes and passion are not worth the moments when it hurts like this.

In 22 years I’ve learned this: however much I wish I could be hard as iron, it isn’t in me. It’s not an option. Let me play the piano, I will miss notes, I will lose time. And I will let passion rry me away.

And sometimes, it will hurt. Pain that comes hard and fast and it sears.

It’s ok to curl up and cry when it hurts like this. Those moments too are missed notes and lost tempo.

Posted in Learning Life, Untegorized | 1 Comment