joe rybicki dot com

Main menu:

search this site



September 28, 2021

On Shots, and the Throwing Away Thereof

Hi. So, as many of you probably know, I come from a very large family. With such a large group, there is a correspondingly large diversity of sociopolitical opinions, approaches, positions, beliefs—I dunno what you want to call it, I am SO TIRED. Long story short, it became pretty clear to me pretty quickly that a significant percentage of my loved ones might not be fully on board with the whole treating-COVID-as-a-real-and-serious-thing… thing. So in a fit of optimism and a need to feel like I was doing SOMEthing about *gestures wildly*, I sent the following e-mail to all 43 people on my sister’s family reunion mailing list. I tried to write it as simply, clearly, and non-confrontationally as I could, and I know it could be better but I feel like I got pretty close to where I wanted to get. That being the case, I thought I’d share it here in case someone else might find it useful. Feel free to crib from it if you feel driven to write a similar e-mail. And stay safe out there.

Hello family!

Sorry for piggy-backing on the [reunion] email but I have something I want to share with everyone, because you’re my family and I love you. It’s this:

Covid is extremely serious. But vaccines are extremely helpful. Please get your shots. 

Look, I know there’s a lot of weird baggage around this issue. And before I go any further I want to clarify that the absurdly long message that follows is not, like, copy-pasted from somewhere else. This is all me — your brother, your brother-in-law, your cousin, your nephew, your uncle — and what I’ve learned by reading things by people whose job it is to know about this stuff. I am not one of those people! I don’t claim to know everything about these issues! (I will include sources so you can see where I’m getting my info from, though.) But among people who do actually know about this stuff, these things are very, very clear:

1. Covid is extremely serious. Early on in…all this…some folks tried to downplay the severity of the disease, saying it’s no worse than the flu (or worse, that it was a total hoax) and that the seriousness of the pandemic was being exaggerated for reasons I’m still not totally clear on. By now I hope we can all see that this approach was pretty misguided. As of this writing 4.7 million people have died of it. 

I know none of us finds it easy to wrap our heads around numbers that big, so to add some context: That’s a bit more than the population of all of Northeast Ohio. Imagine literally everyone in your hometown just…gone — empty houses, shops, schools, for miles in every direction. 

Of course, the flu is serious too! In the roughly 1.5 years since Covid hit, we could have averaged as many as 750,000 deaths from the flu. Still really bad! But Covid is six times worse. And that’s not taking into consideration “long Covid,” where some folks lucky enough to survive the initial onset of the disease continue to experience some of the symptoms for months afterward (and maybe even longer; it’s not fully understood yet). (Also, side note: I say “could have averaged” because this past flu season had dramatically fewer flu cases than average — like around one fiftieth —for reasons I’ll get to in a bit.)

So, yeah. Covid: It’s real bad! Which makes us really, really lucky that…

2. Vaccines are extremely effective. We currently have three Covid vaccines approved for use in the U.S.: Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. The first two (those are the ones that require two doses) are currently shown to be at least 80 percent effective at preventing infection by Covid — even the more infectious “Delta variant” — and at least 85 percent effective at preventing getting sick from that infection. The single-dose J&J doesn’t seem quite as effective, but it still more than halves your chance of getting infected or getting sick. (All stats as of August 9, from here.) 

(For more about effectiveness, here’s a good primer from the WHO, but basically “80 percent effective” means that the infection will only sneak through the vaccine’s defenses in about one out of every five people — when considering the group of all vaccinated people. So that apparent effectiveness can vary pretty significantly depending on specific situations; like, places where people are in closer contact might see more people getting sick because they’re more likely to be exposed to more people who are already sick.) 

But the really great thing is that even if you get it after being vaccinated, you’re way less likely to get seriously ill from it than unvaccinated people. The effectiveness there gets into the high 90th percentile. (And the effectiveness against death from Covid is very close to 100 percent!) We hear about “breakthrough infections” a lot right now, and I personally know four vaccinated people who have tested positive. Of those four, though, one had no symptoms, two had what felt like bad colds, and one had to spend a day or two in bed. Compare that to a week of misery (at minimum) that Covid brings to unvaccinated people. If you ask me, that’s a pretty fair tradeoff, especially since…

3. Vaccines are extremely safe. I know this is a sticking point for some people. Here’s what we know: Aside from the kind of side effects you might get after a flu shot — slight fever, muscle aches, fatigue, etc. — there have been two issues that have shown any significant link to vaccines. First, a treatable blood-clotting issue called TTS showed up after some folks (mostly women) got the J&J vaccine, at the rate of no more than seven in a million. Three people who did not get the condition treated have died (page 26) — out of 8.73 million doses. The other thing is myocarditis that has shown up in a small number of (mostly minor-aged) recipients of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. That’s a potentially bad issue if it lasts, but these cases seem to clear up quickly. 

So why might we have heard stories about other illnesses or deaths from the vaccines? That’s probably because of how the CDC collects data. They have a database called the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS, where anyone can submit details about conditions that arise after getting vaccinated. There’s two really important details in that previous sentence: 1. Anyone can contribute, and it’s not curated by the CDC. That is, it’s intended to be for collecting information, not for spreading information; the claims are evaluated and investigated, and when the scientists and statisticians see a legitimate connection, that then gets shared with the public. (That’s how we learned about TTS and myocarditis.) And 2. The system asks for any symptoms or events that happen after being vaccinated — but “after” doesn’t mean “caused by.” To use a kind of extreme example, if someone got hit by a car walking out of their vaccine appointment, this could technically be submitted to VAERS as a death following vaccination. 

So there’s some statistics for you. I think it’s also useful, though, to consider a more personal side of vaccinations. Like, every living president (and their wives) have been vaccinated; every governor has been vaccinated; at least 80 percent of Congress has been vaccinated… These are people for whom death or debilitating illness would be a very big problem for a very large number of people. But they, their families, their staffs or administrations — they’ve all agreed it’s safe enough. (Source here.) I feel like that says something.

All that said, though…

4. Vaccines can’t do everything. This has been another source of contention, so let’s talk about what vaccines can’t do. So, we know that vaccines are very effective at preventing infection. What we don’t know at this point is whether it’s possible to carry and transmit covid virus without being technically infected. What we do know is that Covid is a sneaky little bugger that doesn’t like to let you know you have it for a few days. That’s one of the big reasons we’ve been in this pandemic for so long: You can have Covid for several days — and be infectious! — without showing a single symptom. And since no vaccine is perfect, that means that it’s entirely possible to be vaccinated, get a Covid infection, and spread it around to everyone closest to you without having a clue. 

So how do we combat that? Well, first of all, it helps a lot if anyone who can be vaccinated, is vaccinated. Think of it like this (though I don’t think this math is perfect): If you have a 20-percent chance of getting infected while vaccinated, your vaccinated loved ones have a 20-percent-of-20-percent-chance of getting infected by you — that’s 4 percent. And their vaccinated loved ones who you don’t see have a 20-percent-of-20-percent-of-20-percent chance of getting infected by you. Thats less than one percent! 

But because nothing is perfect, and we can have Covid without knowing it, it’s also really important to wear a mask and keep your distance when around unvaccinated people. I’ve seen a meme saying something like “If vaccines work, why do we have to wear masks? If masks work, why do we need vaccines?” The truth is, prevention methods complement each other. One virologist I follow calls it the “Swiss cheese method”: Each slice of Swiss cheese has holes, but if you layer a few slices from different blocks on top of each other, the holes are unlikely to line up. The vaccines are a slice of Swiss with very few, very small holes. Even something as “holey” as a bandanna can block a lot of them. 

And if you worry that these methods don’t do anything, remember from like fifty-seven paragraphs ago when I mentioned the flu being practically nonexistent this past season? That’s because we were masking regularly, keeping our distance, and washing our hands. We have proof that taking these simple steps is effective!

To put it another way…

5. Your choices matter. We’re currently dealing with this more serious Delta variant of Covid because the virus has had time and opportunity to reproduce a lot, which means it’s had time and opportunity for mutations to appear that have made the current vaccines slightly less effective. A bad enough mutation could put us right back where we were early last year. The more chance the virus has to spread, the worse off we’re all likely to be.

But that means the flip side is true, too: Everything you do to make things harder for this virus helps everyone. Like, in the world. Getting vaccinated protects you, yes, but it protects your community too — and it also, even if just a tiny bit, helps protect literally everyone else on earth, by taking one potential host out of the pool, giving the virus one fewer opportunity to reproduce and potentially mutate. You’re especially helping those of us with kids who aren’t old enough to be vaccinated yet (and those with loved ones who are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons). 

I would be so grateful if you could help Eleanor in this way. 

So that’s what I wanted to say. If you’ve read this far, I really appreciate it. I appreciate you taking my thoughts under consideration. If you find this helpful, please feel free to share it. If you have questions, I’d be happy to do my best to answer. (That’s why I’m sending this via BCC, so we don’t have a reply-all tsunami.) Please, whatever you do, stay safe. This pandemic will be over eventually. I’d really like to see you on the other side of it.

With love and optimism,

April 10, 2017

On Grief

or, What to Expect When You’re Expecting to Never Feel Okay Again, Ever

I’m no stranger to loss. My dad died in 2003, my mom in 2006. One of my four brothers passed in 2012, another in 2013. And one of my dearest friends offed himself like an idiot in 2012. 

But this past week has been hard. 

Last Tuesday, after a freakishly quick sequence of unlikely health events, my nephew Dan died at the age of 33. There was no time to prepare, no feeling of reluctant relief at a cessation of suffering. He was fine…then he was sick…then he was gone. He left behind a wife of four years, who moved from South Africa to be with him, to join our vast family. (They met in World of Warcraft—a fairy-tale relationship in many senses of the term.)

Today was his funeral, and I couldn’t be there. (Work obligations, you know; when you’re self-employed you can’t always get bereavement time.) But I went to visitation yesterday, hugged his parents and three siblings as hard as I could, and told them that it will get easier. In time. 

That’s a hard thing to believe in the moment. In the moment it feels like things can never get easier. And maybe, as my wife pointed out, on some level you maybe don’t want things to get easier. Maybe it feels like a small betrayal to let yourself heal. But like it or not, we heal. Things do get better. In time. 

With that in mind, I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned about that process, from my experience going through it—as well as from being raised in the family business of funeral service.

1. However you grieve is the right way to grieve.

This may be the most important thing I’ve learned from my experiences with death. Everyone grieves in different ways; some may get angry, some may get goofy, some may make inappropriate jokes, some may go silent. It takes different forms even in the same person, over time—and no, it doesn’t always follow a handy five-step process. So grieve in the way that you grieve, and don’t give yourself grief over it! The important thing is to let it happen; the only “wrong way to grieve” is to not grieve at all. Don’t suppress it, and by all that is holy don’t be embarrassed by it! Allow yourself to feel what you feel. 

And a corollary: Allow your loved ones to feel what they feel, too. There will be situations when your grieving process conflicts with someone else’s. Recognize that both are valid, and try to be respectful of each other: If it’s a problem for you, communicate that you don’t feel comfortable with that approach, and ideally you can find ways to do your own grieving out of each other’s way. But try not to judge. And try to forgive.

2. Take care of yourself.

In this country we have this odd relationship with death, where you’re supposed to be sad but not express your sadness too loudly. Where you’re supposed to put on a brave face but not experience any strain from doing so. Where you’re supposed to look out for every other person in the deceased’s life…except, sometimes, yourself. 

Fuck that. 

You’ve just suffered one of the most horrible, stressful experiences a person will ever have to experience. I hereby give you permission to be selfish for once. That can mean stepping out from the services whenever you feel like it; it can mean taking that vacation you had planned; it can mean unashamedly walking away if you don’t like what the person you’re talking to is saying about your loved one. You do you. It’s what your loved one would have wanted, isn’t it?

3. It will get easier.

I know it’s virtually impossible to picture right now. So I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about it. But I just ask that you trust me: There will come a time—and no one knows when—that you discover that when you think of the person you’ve lost, the good memories have, improbably, started to outweigh the bad. Just a little. I wish I could tell you when that will happen. 

4. But it might get harder first. 

I hate to have to be the one to tell you, but I want you to be prepared. Right now, you’re probably in shock. And you’re definitely in an unusual life situation: You’re planning or participating in or have just participated in a funeral ceremony, which is weird and totally out of the norm. At some point, though, you have to try to go back to “normal” life. And that’s hard.

At first, you will feel that person’s absence always. You’ll feel it everywhere and in everything you do, like a missing tooth that you can’t stop touching. And that’s hard. You will carry this absence with you, like dark matter: invisible, defined only by negatives, and unbearably heavy. But in my experience, that’s not all that different from what you’ve already been doing.

No, in my experience, when things get hardest is when you’ve just started to heal. Your brain will have begun to block off the pain, and so eventually it’ll turn out that you don’t think about that person’s absence for minutes, even hours at a time. 

And then you remember. 

Please realize that grief doesn’t have an expiration date. You get to grieve however you want to grieve; you get to take care of yourself; you get to trust that it will get easier—for as long as it takes. Only you will know when you’ve healed enough to feel that you’re “done” grieving. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. And if you find yourself in this situation…

5. Ask for help.

By now you’ve probably lost track of the people who have told you “if there’s anything we can do…” That’s a great sentiment, but you’ve probably realized by now it’s not terribly helpful on the surface. People say that because they don’t know what specifically to offer to do, but if you’re like me you’re not about to just call someone up and say, “Hey, remember when you asked what you can do for me? Listen up.”

But what you need to realize is that people actually mean this. They genuinely want to help, they’re just not sure how. So try as hard as you can to put any awkwardness aside and take them up on it. Here are some phrases to get you started:

“Hey, so, it turns out I actually could use some help…”

“I didn’t think of it at the time, but would you be able to…?”

“Hey, I’m not quite on top of things yet, could you possibly do me a favor?”

I promise you that everyone who cares about you will be delighted to be able to help. 

6. Get mushy.

Finally, I want to formally give you permission to be as expressive to your surviving loved ones as your heart can stand. If there’s one good thing about death, it’s that it reminds us that life is finite—but love is not. So hug your loved ones tight, tell them how much they mean to you. Cherish the opportunity to love and be loved. And know that, no matter what happens, that love will always be there.


November 21, 2016

Dear Diary

I’m scared. That’s what it is, I guess. I’m just damn scared.

I’m disappointed, sure. I’m disappointed that almost half of the voting public doesn’t place a high value on decency. I’m disappointed that a significant portion of that near-half seems to have been suckered in by innuendoes and flat-out lies, sharing and re-sharing a narrative that can be disproven with the slightest research and/or the slightest critical thinking skills. I’m disappointed that anyone trusted a man who has given us exactly zero reason to trust anything except the fact that he is entirely unworthy of trust.

And I’m angry. Oh so very much yes, am I angry. I’m angry at the half of the voting-age adults who stayed home rather than participate in the future of our country. I’m angry at the subhuman mouth-breathers who took the result of this election as license to trot their racism out into the open. I’m angry at the cozy suburban enablers who are downplaying that behavior—or worse, defending it. I’m angry at the protesters who are letting themselves get violent, who are making us all look bad.

And I’m sad. I’m sad for the credulous voters who believed anything this vile man said; I’m sad that their hopes are already being squashed. I’m sad that it appears we were more right than we knew, those of us who predicted that he would disappoint his supporters early and often. I’m sad that this bumbling conman appears to be “draining the swamp” right into his own gaping, feculent maw.

But mostly, I’m scared. I’m scared for every single one of my non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual friends, family, and colleagues. I’m scared for my Asian, immigrant daughter, and what she might have to face in the coming years if these trends continue. I’m scared by the possibility of a return to the roaring, Red-hunting ’50s, when government nurtured suspicion of one’s neighbor. (Was this when America was “great”?) I’m scared that internment camps are being touted as “precedent” for elements of the incoming administration’s policy platform. (How about then?) I’m scared that a petulant man-child will have control of America’s nukes, its military, its intelligence apparatus. I’m scared by the many, many parallels between that small, mewling man and the worst leaders of history.

But you know what? I’m hopeful, too. I’m hopeful that this election has been a wakeup call to the complacent, to the political abstainers, to the press. I’m hopeful that at least some few in the Congressional majority will take a stand for what’s right rather than only what’s right-wing. I’m hopeful because a greater number of those who did vote actually voted against the race-baiting demagogue—a number that seems to be growing every day. I’m hopeful because the racist fuckheads aren’t the only ones who’ve been mobilized and emboldened by this election.

So yeah, I’m scared. I’m disappointed, angry, and sad. But I’m also hopeful. And that’s no small thing.

November 20, 2016

Purple Nation, Revisited

If you follow any conservatives on social media (and if you’re a liberal you really, really should) you may have come across one of the current talking points relating to the ongoing discussion about the Electoral College: maps. Such blazing red maps! Like this one:


I saw that on Facebook, linking to an article called “What Elections Would Look Like WITHOUT Electoral College” [sic], from a site called The Federalist Papers Project. Oddly—one might even say suspiciously—that article doesn’t actually include that map, though it does include this one:


That’s a map of population density; the most populated counties are in blue. “Now, if the Electoral College did not exist, what would happen to the grey counties?” the author asks. “They would be forgotten, they would not matter. Only the most heavily populated areas would be courted for votes.”

The implication, of course, is that the Electoral College is in place to protect the gray/red counties (read: Real Americans) from the decisions made by those in the blue counties (read: Kale-Munching Freedom-Haters). And there’s really only one problem with this idea:

It’s complete, unadulterated, one-hundred-percent-free-range horseshit.

Continue reading “Purple Nation, Revisited” »

May 26, 2014

An Uninvited Guest

I woke up last night to the sound of scratching.

Still mostly asleep, I squinted at the clock. 4:15. Ugh.

The sound was like a deep scraping. And then I realized it was coming from inside my ear.

Here’s the thing: In the summer we put a fan in our window; sometimes it sucks tiny flying bugs through the screen. Sometimes they get in your ear a little. Is not a big deal. But this one seemed deeper than usual—it was clearly pressing right against my eardrum. So I sighed and dragged myself out of bed to get a Q-Tip.

Yes, I know you’re not supposed to stick them in your ears. I’m careful.

So I did what I normally do in such situations: very gently and slowly work the Q-Tip into my ear until it touches the eardrum, just barely. Stickiness and such is usually enough to get anything out. And I did see a couple tiny specks. But the scraping sound continued.

I tried again, fluffing up the end of the Q-Tip and swirling it around a bit. The scraping sound continued.

I was starting to get a little worried, but I tried again. A little more fluffing, a little more swirling. The scraping sound continued.

I was getting desperate. I was thinking about jumping in the shower to get some water in there, but checked the medicine cabinet first, for saline. I found something even better: an alcohol-based solution used for drying out stubborn water after swimming or whatnot. So I squirted a few drops in there.

Immediately I felt liquid running out, which was weird as I didn’t think I’d put that much in there. I reached up quickly and brushed the liquid away.

This is when I discovered it wasn’t liquid at all. It was in fact the thing that had been making the scraping sound:

It was a spider.

A spider about half an inch in diameter, including legs. A pale brown spider. In my ear. Scraping at my ear drum.

I did not sleep any more after that. I’m not sure I’m going to.

Maybe ever.

August 8, 2013

The Good Old Days (of Games Media)

I just shared this on Reddit and thought it was worth reposting here since I often get asked about crazy stories from work. Every detail can be corroborated.

All right, buckle up because this is a long and strange story.

The year was 1999. I think. It might have been 2000. At the time I was writing for a video game magazine. This was in the heyday of the crazy video game press junkets; around this time I’d taken the Skip Barber Racing Course at Laguna Seca twice in a month. Colleagues had flown fighter jets and scuba dived in Hawaii.

Anyway, this wasn’t like that. This was an event for Konami’s Nightmare Creatures 2 (or was it Activision? It’s hazy). We were flown out to San Francisco and put up in a swank hotel. We had no idea what we were in for.

The night started with drinks at the Top of the Mark, a fancy-ass bar at the top of a tall hotel located on one of the hills of SF. I walk in and notice this little guy hanging out in a small group over by the window, admiring the view. It can’t be? It is. Gary fucking Coleman. At the time he was doing a column or something for UGO so he had a semi-legitimate reason for being there. Anyway.

A few drinks in, the PR reps tell us it’s time to go. Go where? It’s a surprise. So we troop downstairs and they put us in limos, maybe four to a car and probably something like six cars. We slide into ours, and waiting for us is this very, very hot lady who identifies herself as, I shit you not, “Roxy.” She is apparently there for conversation? She seems very interested in everything we have to say.

The limos drive us around the city in a weirdly circuitous route, before we finally find ourselves deep in the woods of what I later assumed to be Golden Gate Park, or perhaps the Presidio. We exit the limos in a parking lot. They all drive away.

We’re standing there, looking at each other, wondering what the hell is happening, when suddenly headlights turn on in the woods. Out drives a school bus. Its windows are blacked out. The doors open, and five or six little people come out, dressed as executioners complete with hoods and axes. Without saying anything, they herd us onto the bus.

The bus starts up and drives us out of the woods, following another circuitous route through the city.

So let’s pause here for a second. Here I am, winding through the streets of San Francisco, in a school bus with blacked-out windows, with a small troupe of midgets and Gary Coleman. Everybody with me so far? Good. It gets weirder.

The bus finally stops at a nightclub. The little people escort us in and into the back. In the back is a smattering of TVs and systems running the game, a lavish buffet featuring, among other things, all the sushi you can eat, and four or five cages in which are dancing scantily clad women…with, for some reason, twigs arrayed around their heads like antlers and on the backs of their hands like claws.

It takes me a few moments before I recognize Roxy.

Seeing all this, my colleagues and I (and Gary Coleman) proceed to get very, very drunk. Because, really, what else are you going to do? In the course of this noble endeavor, it becomes clear that Gary Coleman is seriously into my friend Zoe. So much so that he gives her his number. Which she, in her drunken state, proceeds to write on the hand of everyone she knows.

I don’t remember much that happened for a few hours after that, but the night’s weirdness wasn’t over. A hardy group of us went to yet another club after this odd ordeal. After a few minutes there I looked up at the bar and saw a guy that looked eerily familiar. So I walked up to him.

“You know, you look an awful lot like Kirk Hammett from Metallica.”

He laughed. “My mom tells me that all the time.”

So I proceeded to shoot the shit with Kirk Hammett for the next hour or so, until my eyes wouldn’t stay open and my colleagues were all leaving.

Woke up the next morning wondering if any of it had actually happened. Then I looked at Gary Coleman’s phone number on my hand and realized I hadn’t dreamed it.

TL;DR: Strange shit happened when video game companies had more money than sense.

February 26, 2013

1UPpers: Here’s an Easy Way to Save Your Stuff

I would say that I’m surprised 1UP is in the process of being abandoned, but, well. I’m not. As soon as they were (re)bought by Ziff, I was pretty certain the writing was on the wall. I may go into greater detail about that at a later time, but right now I want to help all y’all who have a bunch of stuff on 1UP archive it before the site disappears.

If you’re on a Mac, I found this just wonderful method of saving pages as PDFs. First, download OmniWeb here. Open it and go to your page. Hit Cmd+Option+Shift+S. Pick a destination. And you’re done. I went into my System Prefs and remapped “Save As PDF…” (caps and dots necessary) to Command+Shift+S so I could do it easier with one hand, and just numbered the PDFs as I went along. I just plowed through 76 pages of my blog in about 15 minutes. Better still, it saves the whole page as a single-page PDF rather than inserting unnecessary page breaks. Credit for this discovery goes to term at the Ars forum.

On Windows or other OS? Grab Firefox and the Print Pages to PDF extension. This one might even be easier, because it can save all open tabs as PDFs. Alas, it’s not available on Mac.

Now I’m going to go see if there’s an easy way to batch-crop PDFs.

UPDATE: Thanks to dakwar on the MacRumors forum for this easy batch-cropping step-by-step. Works great. Only caveat: It requires Acrobat Pro. No Acrobat Pro? Sorry, you’re on your own.

November 15, 2012

Home at Last

Don’t have much time to write as we’re still settling in, but I wanted to let everyone know that we’re home and all is well.

Yesterday took a dramatic turn for the better when someone (we still don’t know who) made the decision to transfer us down the hall from our four-bed, semi-private “pod” to a two-bed room, where the other bed was vacant and exceptionally unlikely to be filled. So basically, we got what was essentially a private room. With a door. And a bathroom. And densely engineered, cushioned chairs that folded out into not-very-comfortable-but-at-least-mostly-horizontal beds.

El still refused to consider the crib, but she was much calmer overall and would sleep if being held. So we took turns walking her around, sitting down when she fell asleep for as long as she’d let us, and then crashing while the other did the same. It’s not a routine I’d recommend for fun, but it was a hell of a lot better than the night before.

Now she’s asleep upstairs, probably on the rocking chair in Mommy’s arms, who I most fervently hope is also asleep. She’s still in some pain, and very unhappy about the restraints she has to wear to prevent her from digging in her mouth, but overall just immeasurably better.

Me, I’ve got a dishwasher to unload. But I wanted to say thanks to you all for your thoughts and prayers and offers of help. The next few weeks are going to continue to be tough, so we may take you up on your offers. (Who wants to rake our leaves? Don’t all speak at once.) But for now we’re just ecstatic to be home.

Who am I kidding? “Ecstatic” doesn’t even cover it. I showered today after being awake and unwashed for most of the previous 52 hours. I may have cried a little.

November 14, 2012

Hospital Update

Not brain power to write. Still at hospital. El hasn’t really slept because her pain is being insufficiently managed. So of course that means we haven’t really slept either, except in bits and pieces here and there.

Very frustrated with facilities and staff here. Even after half a night of El’s screaming, none of the nursing assistants made any effort to figure out what was going on; we had to push them repeatedly to revise pain meds. We also had to make a special request to get a chair that wasn’t hard wood even though they knew she was refusing to be in the crib, forcing us to hold her.

It’s also a ridiculous pain to just get off the floor, thanks to some administrative genius’s decision to make the elevator that leads right to this ward off limits to anyone but staff.

Just lots of short-sightedness going around, which of course is twice as irritating when we haven’t slept.

I’m sure at some point we’ll be getting out of here.

I just have no idea when.

November 13, 2012

Portrait of Parents Waiting

As I write this, Kim is sitting next to me, sewing bits of felt into the shape of food, because it’s something to do with her hands and because she is addicted. We’re sitting in an out-of-the-way waiting area in the children’s hospital of the Cleveland Clinic. Our daughter is an hour into surgery to close up her cleft palate. She has half an hour or an hour to go.

This is, as you might imagine, rather stressful for us.

The surgery itself is no big deal. The only part of the palate that’s open is the soft palate, toward the back of her mouth, so it’s a pretty simple procedure as these things go. And the guy performing the surgery is the head of the plastic surgery department so, you know, he’s qualified.

But she’s our kid, you know? And right now she’s completely in someone else’s hands, in a situation that, while routine, still has room for mishap. She’s completely under, and has a breathing tube taking care of that respiration thing for her. I have a beeper in my pocket (a beeper!) but no other connection to her or what’s going on. So forgive me for being a little tense.

I need to go distract myself now, because I don’t have felt food to do it for me. Will update when I can.