Warrior status

There is nothing like adrenaline. It moves you forward without the bother of thought. It is pure in-the-moment and it’s been my life for the past two weeks. Just starting to come down a bit, dabbling in some ‘processing’ — playing out just how close to the worst it was. Maygan, my seventeen-year-old daughter, who was bound the following weekend for her freshman year of college, was in an accident with a bonfire. She tripped over a log, iphone at her ear, and fell backward into the flames. She tried to get herself out, but fell back in. Her friends quickly pulled her out, clothes on fire, she stopped, dropped, rolled.

I didn’t get a call until 1:44 a.m. from the emergency room at VCU Medical Center in Richmond, VA. To date, it was the worst phone call of my life. It was Maygan, sobbing, screaming, telling me she had made a mistake with her clumsy feet, and would pay for it the rest of her life. She was badly burned. Third degree all over her lower back, entire left arm and backs of both legs. A touch on her face, ‘just first degree or maybe some second degree there, mom, they think.’ I found myself in what I’m pretty sure qualifies as utter shock. I was at least two hours away by car, I was terrified and I was home alone — my husband and younger daughter were in New Orleans visiting family. I had to go right then. I made coffee and put a million things in the car. I had no idea what I was walking in to or when I’d be back.

I called my mom when I was on the interstate. I called my husband for the second time when I had a blow out on that same interstate. I got there about 5:30 in the morning. I would have crawled into that hospital bed with her if her body wasn’t in such pain. I mourned the fact that I couldn’t hold on to her tightly and rock her grown-up body to comfort. I did sleep right next to her for the next 14 nights. A stay in a trauma unit will change you forever. Your own personal tragedies are relative to the 82-year-old lady screaming in agony as they change her bandages and assure her her family will be there soon. When Maygan wasn’t crying in pain or sleeping it off, she was talking about how grateful she was. Crazy. Day two her eye was so swollen I was sure she’d go blind. They told me it’s happened to people. Push through. Just push. After three successful surgeries and the unbelievable plot twist that her skin was healing itself — that the large third degree burns were gaining feeling and the xenografting had worked — that she did not need skin grafting from her own body — we still could not believe it had even happened to begin with.

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(Photo after her second surgery — yes, she told me I could post this) 

Fast forward to today, to right now, and I’m sitting on my sofa and she’s sleeping in her bed. Lots of Oxycodone is helping with that. It’s our first 24 hours back in our house. It’s two weeks later and I still don’t believe it. My laundry is still here, my debit card still lets my buy groceries. Maygan is going to be okay. She’s going to be great. She’s a warrior. And if I could wish anything for my girls, it’s that. Because life is fragile and random. Those are the words that keep coming back to me about the entire incident. No matter how much you try to control things, set up the right path, the Earth spins and things just happen.

I finished reading ‘The Goldfinch’ this morning — the Pulitzer Prize winner this year for fiction by Donna Tartt. Truly a brilliant book. There is a quote in there I can’t get out of my head: ‘Sometimes it’s about playing a poor hand well’ — I stumbled on that line during her stay in the hospital. I read it over and over. In life I would hardly say I’ve been dealt a poor hand. Neither her. But in this particular case, well, let’s call it not the best of luck. She’ll miss her freshman semester. She may have serious scaring the rest of her life. She’ll likely never go to another bonfire. Warrior status is all you can do. You have to fight through.

I’ve seen my mom do it driving back and forth in her crappy car from New Orleans to Birmingham, AL to visit my dad who was stuck in a hospital for eight months awaiting a heart transplant that never came. He was in Birmingham because that’s where the insurance company sent him. She was in New Orleans because she had to keep going to work to pay for gas to drive to Birmingham. I’ve seen my brother do it. Cerebral Palsy, falling down steps over and over again and picking himself back up as the kids on the playground snickered. I’ve seen Maygan do it from the start. She once ran a footrace in 3rd grade, the kids Crescent City Classic, where she took a hard spill and was pulled off the course into first aid. Unknowing, I waited and waited at the finish line while the last kid came across. I panicked and ran back to the beginning to no her. Yelling for Maygan and looking in the crowd I still couldn’t find her. My heart was pounding. And then I saw her running with a bandaged knee toward the finish. That girl, she’s a mess on wheels.

I have never seen anyone in so much pain up close as I did during her time in the hospital. Screaming, crying, begging for something to be done. Apparently your skin is still actually burning 24 hours after the incident. There was no way out, but through it. At one point, I, myself fighting tears, told her if I could do anything it would be to trade places. I just wanted to take the pain away. And certainly the prospect of permanently damaged skin. Someone please let me pay the price for my own vanity! She stopped crying for a moment. She looked me right in the eye and told me she didn’t wish that at all. She seemed sort of scared and I thought even angry. Maybe I was making this too much about me? I asked her why not trade places and let me take away the pain. She sort of laughed and then teared up again, said she just didn’t think I could handle it. ‘I don’t think you could take the pain, mom.’ I knew right then she’d be fine.

—-

Maygan will heal at home the next couple of weeks and continue treatment at the Burn Center at Washington Hospital Center. Starting in October she will take some classes at Northern Virginia Community College. In January she’ll move to Richmond to begin her studies at Virginia Commonwealth University where she’ll also likely get tattoo.

My Tinyletter updates on Maygan that friends and family have been following.

Something I wrote a few weeks ago, that I can’t even stand to think about, about her going off to college.

 

College prep

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I took my kid to her college orientation this past week. Was hella weird, but not. That’s mostly how it goes with us. 

We’re so close. Writing that actually sounds trite. But it’s true. I had Maygan when I was 19. That was a different lifetime ago for me. In fact, a lot of lives ago. But 17 years later I live on a different planet from Southeast Louisiana, where she was born. Thibodaux, LA to be exact — not where I’m from, but where I ended up then. The teeniest, tiniest bayou town one can image. Fifty miles south of New Orleans, where I would quickly move after college.

Maygan and me. We made a life. But I grew up with that kid. I’m still growing up with that kid. And to find myself walking her into her college orientation, huh. Neither of us were weepy or nostalgic or freaked out. We just walked in, ready / not ready. Our plan, in general. They handed out copies of ‘The Circle’ to new students. Maygan looked at me knowing I’d finished that book in a weekend and had a lot to say about it. I Tweeted the cover right away. She knew I’d want to, so held it up for me. Apparently Dave Eggers is speaking at their opening convocation. I mean, I’m not jealous or anything. Sigh.

She officially leaves for college in three weeks. I don’t even believe it. I slept in a twin bed with her for years. Me and little Maygan. She was with me when my dad died, the first semester I went back to school after having her. She was three and always around when I met Jason, my husband, who has been her stepdad and champion from the second they met. She went to my college graduation. I started grad school the same week she started kindergarten.

I think now about all the choices I made that I didn’t really even think about because I couldn’t have possibly REALLY thought about them. I didn’t understand enough. I just knew I had big dreams and I never thought for a minute that having a baby made it any harder, really. The irony of being so young and just doing what was required to make it all work is that you don’t dwell on picking the wrongs things so much. You just move forward and it’s exciting. New apartments, new jobs, no savings, lots of going out and cool road trips and big ideas.

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At her orientation I was mistaken for a student a few times. Which isn’t entirely uncommon. We’ve dealt with the ‘are you two sisters?’ thing a lot (even made a short film about it — screen grab above!). She generally hates it, and generally speaking, I don’t. Mostly it’s just an LOL. Whatever, judge me, people. Looking around at the other parents in the orientation, there easily wasn’t a single person within 10 plus years of my age. On either side. That’s the nowheresville weirdness for me. I don’t know who my peer set is. Not that it’s a tragedy of any sort, but it’s a strange thing to be out at sea that way when a lot people look at you as if you’ve figured something out.

Right now two of my best girlfriends are pregnant with their first child. I have no idea what to say to them. I don’t coo over babies, really. I can’t relate to anyone trying to get pregnant — which happens to be everyone my age. My stories back to them sound like old people talking. Back in the stone ages when I was pregnant and didn’t know people tried to get ..  Anyway. I have a second daughter, Anna Corrine. She’s nine now. And she’s the cat’s meow, that girl. Jason and I are still some of the youngest parents in her school. And no one our age has a kid going into college. Crazytown. Nowheresville. Granted, there is likely a delta between the median childbearing age in Southeast Louisiana and the DC region. But whatever, it’s still weird. I’ve spent the last decade generally trying to come off older — hey, I had a baby, I was going hard on my career. Not that I ever lied about my age, but from the time I was 25ish I began to be squirmy about my actual age. Now when people realize I have a 17-year-old, I just get over the awkwardness for them and say I had a baby when I was in college. And they say, ‘oh.’ And we try to move on.

Jason and I will still have over $30K in student loan debt when Maygan starts school. Somehow this feels bad, but not. Because whatever, we’ll pay it off. I was sitting in that auditorium staring at the moms in, err, mom jeans and thinking that I bet they didn’t have $30K in student loan debt. But maybe they do? There was one dad who kept asking a million questions about the safety of the dorm and the ‘protection of the children.’ All fair questions. But then he got so specific and wanted to know what the university was going to do if his ‘straight arrow’ daughter ended up with a roommate who made ‘bad choices’ and drank alcohol or smoked pot. And the woman giving the presentation could not hear him so he repeated himself and actually held his fingers up to his mouth and made the worst pretend-to-be-smoking pot impression I’ve ever seen. It was so bad I visibly cringed and then actually laughed out loud on accident. Everyone turned to look at me. I stared down at my phone and wanted to die. I felt like a student. I have no idea how the woman answered him but I’m sure it was some version of a zero-tolerance policy. And I’m sure that half the parents in the presentation asked to make sure their kid is not in my kid’s room. Sorry.

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Last December was a cool time for haircuts in our house. Anna Corrine was rocking the full Miley — as in, shaved head exactly like the ‘Wrecking Ball’ video (see photo above). My gorgeous AC was a sight. And Maygan and I both had an undercut — a full shave on the side of our head — think Skrillex, but for girls (photo at the top of this post). A guy named Nate from Immortal Beloved salon on 14th Street in DC did all of our hair. It was fun. It felt pretty cool going out and folks noticing. I wasn’t thinking at the time that in less than a year Maygan would be off on her own, and it would just be AC and me deciding the next nowness in hair styling (this spring / summer it’s been the ‘high fashion girl mullet’). I’m going to cry buckets.

I know I am not the first woman to have a kid at 19 and go to college, launch a fast-moving career, move across the country, participate in big journalism honors, travel the world, geek out and go hard on what’s next — all at the same time keeping my girls right there with me. So if there is someone in my situation, would be really cool to hear from you. Because I’m terrified of being alone. She’s not just my kid, she’s my best friend; she’s the reason I’ve fought and in the most counterintuitive way, the reason it’s been easy enough.

The craziest thing is when people ask if I am going to have another kid. The worst part is THINKING about that. Because when you think about it, you start worrying about the time and the money and getting older and all these things that never crossed my mind 19 years ago. Or even 9 years ago. 

Maygan applied to few schools before settling on Virginia Commonwealth University. She really wanted to go to the University of Washington. She loves Seattle and it loves her back. But it didn’t happen. I felt horrible. I’ve managed to win big awards in my work, but I have no real idea how to get her in one of them there top tier schools. We moved across the country, suddenly, and for the second time, right when she was starting high school. It was hard, we were all adjusting to life in the east coast fast lane, where everyone’s GPA is higher than yours and college prep begins when you learn your ABCs. Not really her jam, she’s an art kid. I didn’t push it. I just wanted her to be happy and get through to the otherside. There were tough times, really tough ones, but she got there. I beat myself up a bit for not making her high school and college process my number one job. It was a priority of course, but it wasn’t my full time job. Pretty sure some of those parents (not-$30K-student-loan-debt lady and straight-arrow, not-actual-pot-smoker dad) did that in some way.

I don’t have regrets about my life, I just keep moving forward and try to do the best I can with what’s right there at the time. Right now that’s getting her ready to ship off by going to Target and buying every single kind of face wash she wants. And eating at Chipotle as much as we can / want. And venti iced coffees and shopping sprees at American Apparel and getting our hair cut by Nate one last time. I’m gonna miss that girl. I owe her everything. 

Touchable video, Google Glass and Twitter Mirroring during tonight’s #WHCD events

Tonight the Washington Post beta crew is going to do a little live R&D around the White House Correspondents Dinner. Because let’s be real, it’s a great spectacle that gives us an easy place to point and shoot and play with some tools. Here are three:

1) We’re excited that Twitter is playing with us tonight; partnering to bring a custom @TwitterMirror to our Washington Post pre-party. Hollywood celebs and DC boldface can take a selfie at our event — the Mirror pics will go live on the Post homepage and out on the internets! Props to Mark Luckie from Twitter and Marie Elizabeth Oliver from the Post for working on this cool integration.

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2) Google Glass. Happening. Post Senior social editor TJ Ortenzi will be donning the specs live from the red carpet and all the pre-party festivities. We’ll post the best of his stream to our site and @postpolitics. Big ups to Julia Beizer and Sean Soper for hooking it up (literally, and well, figuratively ;). 

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3) Touchable video has to be the coolest thing I’ve discovered recently. (Try it here! Best on a smartphone browser). Using the new Android app Kilo, we’ll shoot short video clips (think of celebs spinning in fancy gowns) and create a touchable vectoring of sorts through Kilo’s simple tool. Users can find them in our live blog and also on our social accounts. Kudos to Post producer Sara Carothers for turning me on to the app and running our production tonight.

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'Direct Social' is the nowness, possibly serving up a side of realness

I’ve been throwing out the concept ‘palm-to-palm’ and ‘direct social’ — peeps eye-roll or fake go along with it because it sounds like it could be partially real (and also everyone has read The Circle or wants to understand what the hell is happening with those there Millennials). In my mind there is no question what’s happening in social, or under social, or around social. I would argue this is the new social.… here goes:

People are producing on their phones, for sharing on their phones, to people on their phones. Duh.

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BUT when I say people, I mean, a person is creating something in the moment, to be sent directly to an audience of one (or a few). This is a shift.

Choire Sicha, founder of The Awl, gets at it a bit here, in a Q and A

I would say the most fascinating and challenging writing is happening on GroupMe, Hipchat, IRC, Campfire, maybe Snapchat and Whisper, and then on the more conversational corners of Tumblr and maybe sometimes Twitter, but not that often, because Twitter is for the olds, and it calcifies really fast.

AGREE X 5000000.

Let me see if I can break down a bit of what Sicha asserts in the context of a few platforms and ‘direct social’ etc, blah blah:

Social that is ‘produced’ and that is a stage for the masses to see you / the brand of you (!). (By ‘produced’ I mean, artificially staged or created to look as if your life is the coolest or the worst, etc. — effectively, not reflecting the reality of what you are really doing). 

  • Facebook (and now your mom is all up on it using weird strings of words as hashtags)
  • Instagram (the new Facebook)
  • Twitter (now with inline media, ‘produced’ more than ever) 

Direct social that is less produced, and err, direct to a select person, or few: 

  • Snapchat 
  • Line 
  • GroupMe

How ‘produced’ social for the masses enables direct social 

You see an Instagram —> you take a screen grab —> you text it directly to a friend with your thoughts —> They go to Instagram and like it —> You then Snapchat your friend in response to them liking the Instagram —> You text some more and then decide to make a sub Tweet about the entire thing and you both follow the stream of who is liking the Instagram —> Someone picks up on the sub Tweet and sends you an anonymous message on Tumblr, asks you to add them on Snapchat —> You add that person and they send you a snap —> Next you see a Whisper and wonder if it is in response to your sub Tweet (you are searching Whisper by location and tags) —> Your new Snapchat friend direct Whispers to the person who Whispered and then messages you to say yes it’s probably in response to your sub Tweet —> You then respond to the Whisper with a Whisper response that is public —> Your friend screen grabs the Whisper and asks if you did the response —> You Snapchat her a picture of your car to say you’re on your way over to her house —> You get there and make a Vine that has nothing to do with any of this. 

Most of what just happened was only seen by a handful of people, 100 percent of it was through or enabled by social. Direct social, if you will. 

The other thing that is happening is a possible return to realness. And by realness, I mean, a backlash against producing for the masses with phony statuses. Anonymous sharing is on the up —> then people can connect behind that something more authentic (?!) . .. a few apps that enable that:

  • Whisper
  • Secret 
  • Lulu 

Where all this will go is to be seen. Just like the infinite stream on the Web has crested, social for the masses is getting there. 

Hollering direct is happening. 

'The Web is Dead. Long live the Internet' — The debate is back (and maybe a little settled?)

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As much as we love the open, unfettered Web, we’re abandoning it for simpler, sleeker services that just work. 

The Web is Dead. Long live the Internet. Remember this story from 2010? We all read it, shared it, debated it, believed it. And then we stepped back from it, believe HTML5 and responsive design to be the savior across the board. In fact, we wanted to have it both ways, so we started wrapping HTML5 with native and throwing it in the app store. We were sloppy, but desperate for a platform solution across the board. Then more and more mobile devices / applications rolled out. We all yearned for native, how we could take advantage of the device. And experience started to really win (again). Adaptive storytelling. Device first. What I am saying is re-read this article: The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet.