Thursday, September 6, 2012

A brief journey

Tomorrow evening I fly down to Nashville to visit my brother. Right now, he is in a nursing care facility, having been moved there from a hospital rehab unit a month or so ago. The neurological damage he suffered as a result of his last brain tumor surgery earlier this summer is, apparently, irreversible. Months of intensive physical therapy have produced no improvements. He is in many ways now incapacitated.

Soon, he will have to be moved back home, as his insurance will no longer pay for this kind of care.

The day after I returned home from California, my sister called. The girls were already in bed and I was chatting with David when the phone rang. She was calling to tell me that she and my sister-in-law had taken Jon to the oncologist that day, and during the meeting it was decided that they would discontinue the treatment for Jon's cancer. The damage that would likely result from further chemo and/or radiation would almost certainly incapacitate him further, and thus would not improve his quality of life, but most likely erode it more. So they all made the very difficult decision to let the disease take its course.

I knew this was coming. I had some warning in conversations with my sister a couple months ago, and I thought I was steeling myself for the final decision. But you can't steel yourself for something like that. You just can't.

The thing about this cancer is it moves fast. Insidiously, viciously fast. I know my brother is strong, and I know he's already made it far, far longer than most people with this disease do. But I can't continue to count on that. And, oh God the weight of that is almost more than I can take.

I wish so many things. I wish I lived closer so I could do something, anything, so I could be of some use. I wish health insurance wasn't such a fucked up mess. I wish my brother could walk and get on a motorcycle and take his boys to sports practice. I wish that someone I love with all my heart wasn't being ripped from me, from us, because its wrong. It's taking the wrong person. I want to beat my fists against something and have it give way but there's nothing.

There's not a single bloody thing I can do but fly to Tennessee and kiss my brother's sweet face and tell him again what I know he already knows: that I love him, that I will always, always love him. And then I'll fly back home and try to hold my shattered pieces together as best I can.


I keep saying this a lot, but I do want to thank you all again. So many of you have sent emails or Facebook messages, letting me know you have been thinking of me and my family as we go through this. I will never have the eloquence to express what your kindness and support has meant to me over the last couple of years.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Vision Statements

Last night I went to my kids' school for the annual Back to School Night. I'm sure everybody has this at their school in one form or another. The beginning of the evening was all the perky little PTA moms and one upsettingly perky PTA dad (I'm sorry, but men should not be perky. Men who are younger than me, and are wearing sportcoats and have that old man, parted on the side haircut and talk about PTA budgets like they're selling me vinyl flooring cannot keep my attention for longer than two minutes, tops.) shaming us into taking out a second mortgage to donate to the annual giving program. They have changed the name of this program, by the way. It used to be called the Direct Donation Campaign, but now it's called Invest In Your Child, and the vinyl flooring salesman was SO PROUD of this. You could tell he thought this was the key that would open the wallets of every person in the room. Because we are all too dumb to understand that you are still asking for the same $100 bucks you ask for every year. Oh, so now you are asking me to INVEST my money? IN MY CHILD? Well, let me go sell some plasma, because that's TOTALLY DIFFERENT.

Next we heard from the project manager who is overseeing the building of the new kindergarten wing, and that would have been great because, hey, actual information, but he was one of those people not used to speaking with a microphone and he kept gesturing with his microphone hand. So his whole presentation was "mumblemumblemumblemumblemumblemumblemumble THE RETAINING WALL HAS BEEN COMPLETED mumblemumblemumblemumblemumble SEPARATED BY A FENCE mumblemumblemumblemumblemumblemumble HEY AT LEAST I'M NOT WEARING A SPORTCOATmumblemumblemumble..."

The best part of the evening was, and is always, the presentation by the principal herself. I have no doubt that this woman is a sterling educator, with years of experience and a proven track record, but she has clearly been to way too many business motivation seminars. Her presentation this year was all about the Vision Statement for our school. For our public elementary school. It's not a special school with a unique focus that might need to be clarified for the benefit of parents and other educators. It's a basic K-5 elementary school. It has, despite the complexities inherent in the task, a pretty clear job. I seriously doubt that there are any teachers roaming the halls going, "But what's our vision? I cannot competently educate without a clear vision."

The Vision Statement she finally revealed was, as you can imagine, a masterpiece.

It is the mission of our Elementary School to provide a positive and challenging environment where all students will achieve academic, social, emotional and physical success. School staff, students, parents, and community working together will achieve and maintain an atmosphere of respect, support, and high expectations.

And that's fine. There's nothing at all wrong with this and I'm sure it does no harm, but I can't help but wonder if the effort that goes into writing and refining and then presenting these kinds of mission statements and vision statements makes any bit of discernible difference in how teachers do their jobs or kids do theirs. At one point she emphasized that she would be working very hard this year to make sure that everyone understands the Vision Statement. So, is somebody gonna go, "Um, I'm okay with most of it, I think, but I'm a little unclear on the concept of physical success. That means I get to beat them into submission, right? With big sticks?"

I think I just have a general problem with having the obvious spelled out for me as though there was no way I could have come to that extremely self-evident conclusion on my own, or that I will somehow be subconsciously compelled to do something more or better because I read some touchy feely words. Now, the magazine I work for has a need for a statement of purpose, because we are hoping to reach a certain type of quilter. Being able to clarify that makes it easier for us to communicate with potential buyers, advertisers, and contributors and to keep our own focus when we consider projects and articles for inclusion. Because it isn't immediately obvious what part of the niche we are trying to reach. But, if that statement were somehow just all about how excellently we are going to excellent our excellence, I would have a hard time reading it what with all the eye rolling. OF COURSE we want to do our work well. Success - yes. Excellence - yepperoonie. THAT GOES WITHOUT SAYING. Or at least it should. If you're doing a job and not intending to kick ass at it, ain't no vision statement in the world gonna make you start putting in an effort.

But, you know, maybe I'm just naive and that's how the world works. Maybe people really do give more money to the exact same program if it's called Invest In Your Child instead of The Direct Donation Program. Maybe people really do need to be told what their job is and that they're supposed to try to succeed at it in order to, you know, succeed at it. Otherwise, why would seemingly reasonable people spend so much energy creating Vision Statements?

So, I figure maybe I need some more Vision Statements in my life. I'm probably not being excellent enough because my vision is unclear and ill-defined. I decided to start with my family:

The mission of the Dougherty Family is to provide the matriarch, Megan Dougherty, with enough snacks, fabric, and solitude to enable her to make a damn quilt once in a while. In return, she will clean some things occasionally, and cook some stuff, and will provide hugs on demand for all the shorties in the house. She will, if asked in JUST THE RIGHT WAY, also provide more adult-type hugs to the family patriarch as long as he is not in the doghouse for a birthday infraction or because he didn't take any Beano with that big bowl of chili and is now crop dusting every room he occupies. Everyone will do all of this excellently, with success and dynamic thriving growth and stuff.

And so, naturally, I figure this blog needs one too:

The mission of The Bitchy Stitcher blog is to enlighten, entertain, and inspire my readers through blog posts and Facebook status updates, which will only occasionally be about quilting. Oh, and there will be penis jokes. Excellent, excellent penis jokes. With success and dynamic thriving growth and stuff.

That's pretty fucking excellent.