Wednesday, December 27, 2006


This blog is the #1 result on Google for the search string "how did leslie harpold die?"

Every time I see that I want to throw up. But if I take the relevant post(s) down I'll break the Internet. Sigh.

Lots of people get here by searching for Vicki McCarty Iovine, whose asinine Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy I ranted about here. (Do not buy this book. Do not give it to your friends. Track down a copy of Spiritual Midwifery instead, and while you're at it, throw in Nine Months Strong and The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth as well. Harrumph.)

Others get here by following links to Titland. Still others stumble here by looking up home birth or breastfeeding. One person wondered whether Toronto's Mt. Sinai Hospital was a good place to give birth. (I'd say only if your pregnancy is very high-risk. If it's low-risk, as the vast majority are, I've heard good things about Toronto East General; I can also strongly recommend home birth with midwives. This from someone who used to be terrified of the idea of not going to the hospital.)

Some searches just break my heart. A few months ago there was one about no fetal movement at 37 weeks. (I hope, hope, hope everything turned out okay. No way to know, I guess.) There was one earlier today that brought me to tears: "I just feel so sad my baby has died."

I am so, so sorry. What a difficult thing to be poking around on the web for over Christmas. Whoever and wherever you are, you have my empathy.

Clara's first Christmas was full and busy, with stockings, breakfast, presents, lunch at the Holiday Inn in downtown Kingston overlooking Lake Ontario, more presents, a visit from Edna's brother and one of his daughters, snacking, and finally more presents. She got toys, books, and clothes, and a 2006 set of Canadian coins, which she deemed appropriately shiny. She has learned how to use her hand to pull a soother out of her mouth, but not how to put it back in. This leads to crankiness. Next up on the development chart: learning about cause and effect.

Hope everyone has had a peaceful few days so far, and that 2007 will bring happiness. I hardly dared dream a year ago that by now there would be a baby here, but here she is, dozing on my lap. Sweet, sweet girl.

All the best for the new year.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas notes

1) I'd been feeling fairly benevolent toward Paul McCartney lately; he's always struck me as a decent guy, and it's sad to watch a decent guy go through such an ugly divorce from a psycho. But then the other day when I was wrangling Clara through the Eaton Centre, I heard his song "Wonderful Christmastime."

I try not to be a violent person, so I don't wish him harm, exactly... oh, what the hell. Yes I do. Augh. Nothing life-threatening or permanently disfiguring, just enough to convince him to pull all copies everywhere of that song and destroy them. He's a rich man, isn't he? He can do that, right?

(And if I've earwormed you, sorry. No, wait. No I'm not. Misery loves company.)

2) I still hate shopping malls, and evidently Clara does too. There was a huge (HUGE) screaming meltdown in the washroom of the Indigo Books and Music because she was simultaneously hungry and dirty-diapered. One thing about parenthood is that it often leaves you doing things you've sworn not to do, like feeding your child in a bathroom. There I was standing there with my tit in my daughter's mouth, shopping bags all over the floor, diaper bag open and spilling its contents everywhere, while the cleaning lady worked around us.

I'm learning to tell who has kids and who doesn't: the parents look upon screaming infants kindly and sympathetically. The non-parents give dirty looks. I was a non-parent for so long that I often find their reactions in me as well. Shut up shut up shut UP you're bothering everyone everyone is going to think I'm a bad mother. But then the experienced parents say soothing things, and I think, Oh. Oh yeah. She's a baby. Babies cry. She'll stop soon. And sure enough, she does.

So, thank you nice cleaning lady in the Indigo washroom, and nice security guard gentleman at the Sunrise Records at Yonge and Dundas. You helped a lot. I bet you have good kids.

3) I've seen more movies in the theatre since October than I think I had in the previous five years combined. Thank you, thank you Movies for Mommies. I've seen Hollywoodland, The Queen, Casino Royale, Borat, Little Miss Sunshine, and The Prestige, and today K. and I are off to see The Pursuit of Happyness. I've liked all of them, especially Little Miss Sunshine, which had me laughing so loudly I was a little embarrassed.

The theatre where we're going today is walking distance from here. I love living in the city.

3) The yap dog across the hall is still going. You'd think he'd get tired. Sigh. Perhaps the Christmas gift to the neighbours can be a giant Milk Bone soaked in Valium.

4) We're going to Mr. K's parents' house for the holiday. His sister will be there too -- she came home from Japan last summer after living there for ten years -- and this is Clara's first Christmas, so Mr. K's mother should by all rights be happy as a clam to have her clan around her. I love the in-laws dearly and they're very, very good to us; I'm afraid the differences in childrearing philosophies will continue to make for some tension. (Yes, I am going to feed her now, even though she just finished eating half an hour ago. Last time we checked, she was in the 95th percentile for height and the 3rd for weight. She's a skinny little thing. Damn straight she eats whenever she wants. And no, we never just let her cry. Sigh.)

5) Huge congrats to Esquiver, who's coming home. E: what are you doing for St. Patrick's Day?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

My heart grows three sizes every day

"Is that so?"
Originally uploaded by Spamily.
Clara seems to like her dad an awful lot.

I do too.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

How I knew her

Leslie Harpold was part of a great big community of people ten or twelve years ago who all met on the Usenet newsgroup alt.society.generation-x. (Remember Usenet? Back before the Web? When all we had was plain text and 14.4k dialup, and we liked it?) Other old asg-xers who have posted remembrances: John Scalzi, Amber, David B., Mig, Joe, Nicole, Robert, Kerry, B, Twonk, Steve. (If I've missed you, kick my ass in comments.)

I met her in person three times, all in the mid-nineties: once in New York, once in DC, once in Boston. I didn't get to see her as much in NY as I'd have liked: after dinner, we gathered at the townhouse of one friend to hang out for an evening, and she got there much, much later than the rest of us. Later we got a terse explanation that on the way over she'd run into some people who had known her fiancé. All anyone seemed to know was that he'd died -- how recently wasn't clear, but now that I look back, it couldn't have been more than a few months. I don't think any of us knew then about her incredible grief. All we saw was the brash, brassy, hilarious, warm, loving yet catty woman so thoroughly eulogized all over the 'net in the past few days. By the time she arrived we were all pretty well toasted; she and Kerry were upstairs watching Godzilla vs. Mothra long after the rest of us were near catatonic on the downstairs floor.

In DC... well, there's Miguelito's story about the hotel rooms. And I remember her at Sunday brunch, on the back patio of a nice restaurant, coming completely unglued at Mr. K's deadpan remark about one of the other people who had come for the gathering. (It was just like any other group of people anywhere: not everyone got along with everyone else. But those of us who did have cleaved to each other for more than a decade now.) She had the most contagious laugh.

In Boston (to be accurate, its suburbs), she, as Jason Kottke put it so well, "did me a favor I didn't know I needed precisely when I needed it." She and some of our other best friends from the Internets were going to be in town for the Columbus Day-slash-Remembrance Day weekend, and Dave and I, having been together for five and a half years already, had suddenly decided to get married there. We were engaged for a month; the City Hall wedding was one step up from an elopement.

She offered to be the official photographer, and the night before the wedding she and Kathleen took me out to a dive of a bar. We drank Bud out of bottles and smoked cigarettes and joyously belted along with the Journey tunes on the jukebox. As the night wore on, Leslie started talking more and more openly, finally telling us the story of how her fiancé had died and how she'd found out. They had bought a house in the south, and the move was imminent. She waited for him to pick her up one night, and he never came.

The details aren't really mine to share -- not in public, anyway -- but they were so heartbreaking. She never got over his loss. Hearing that story in that place, at that time, added so many layers of meaning to David's and my union the next day. She was there to document it, and her presence, her story, and her love were visceral reminders of how fleeting everything is and how critical it is to grapple our tried friends to our souls with hoops of steel.

This from the woman whose favourite phrase in the English language was "Look, bitch."

Last night I said to Dave, "God damn it, why did Leslie have to go and die?"

He replied, "I know. It was so selfish of her. She's totally off our Christmas list."

She'd have thought that was hilarious.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

More about Leslie

I spent a lot of last night wide awake, clutching Clara to me and thinking about Leslie, or dreaming about her when I finally did fall asleep.

She was fiercely private, and had one of the most difficult lives of anyone I've ever known. Deaths of people close to her (including her fiancé, who was buried cremated before she knew he was dead), a fire in her apartment in which she lost nearly everything (including her novel), a routine surgery whose post-op care was botched so badly it sent her to a rehab facility for five months and left her partially disabled and in searing pain for the rest of her life (for her account of what happened, start here and read the next few entries), a burglary that robbed her of the diamond earrings that her fiancé had bought for her in Paris, the premature deaths of both of her beloved cats, the loss of an unexpected pregnancy. I never knew how one person stood it all.

In the face of it she showed astonishing self-awareness, optimism, generosity, righteousness, grace, wisdom, and yes, fierceness. Even after all this, she was the one that others went to for advice and comfort. She was fearsome and beloved. She was so beloved that when her apartment burned, a large online community came together for her and did everything they could to get her back on her feet.When she was burgled, she found the guy in her apartment and scared him out of taking some of what he'd planned to steal. She dealt with her chronic pain by focusing on small moments with people she loved, and being grateful for them. Recently she had moved back to Michigan, buying a house there to be near her mother, whom she loved so very much.

On Thursday, the date of her last post to this year's always remarkable Advent calendar, she IM'd a friend that she was dealing with her annual bout of bronchitis by sleeping sitting up. On Friday she was supposed to contact her mother and didn't. On Sunday her mother, concerned, went to her house and found her.

Leslie didn't want a memorial service. On one of her sites she endorsed the charity Modest Needs; I think donations to them would be a fitting way to remember her.

Bless your soul, Leslie Harpold. Life is too damned short. I miss you.

Update: read this.

Update redux: and this, which has links to some of her writing at the bottom. Thanks to prairie for pointing it out.

Update #3, December 13: this is a roundup of links, assembled by Kevin Fanning, to tributes to Leslie. Miguelito's has a great story about her.

Traffic to this blog is up nearly 1,700% in the last two days. I hope she understood the scale of the love for her. She moved so quickly through so many people's lives, and left just about all of them better for having known her. What an incredible life.

Update #4, December 15: Shauna's post about Leslie is beautiful, hilarious, and heartbreaking.

Monday, December 11, 2006


The richly talented writer, designer, and photographer Leslie Harpold took this picture of us on our wedding day, November 10, 1997. I've always loved it. It's the first thing you see when you walk into our home.

Leslie died alone at home sometime late last week; her mother found her on Sunday. She would have turned 41 on January 8.

Bless you, Leslie, and thank you. Next time I see Kathleen, she and I will go to a biker bar and hoist longnecked Budweisers, as we did the night before my wedding, that night when you told us so many of your stories of heartbreak and showed us your still endless capacity for optimism and love. The next day was the last day I saw you, and now it'll be the last time ever. Godspeed. You are already terribly missed.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


I keep coming up with ideas for entries but am still too sleep-deprived and small of brain to remember what they were.

The most notable news is that Clara now fits into sleepers that were too big TWO DAYS AGO. She ate like crazy on Thursday and had three (count 'em) thermonuclear meltdowns; yesterday she passed out on the way home from fitness class and slept like a log all afternoon. When she woke up, she was bigger. This infant development is pretty wild stuff.

Moxie says that it's important to find one's tribe when one is a new mother. Other than in the immediate small circle of friends from before the pregnancy, I have not managed to do so yet. I seem to have very little in common with the moms at the midtown fitness class, who pull up in their Volvos and pull their carseats out of the cars and snap them into strollers, and then spend the whole class chatting about cribs and Diaper Genies and afternoons in shopping malls, as the impossibly perky drill sergeant of an instructor demands 25 more leg lifts to the tune of "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and I fantasize about doing unspeakable things with a 45-pound Olympic bar.

Our carseat stays in the car (we had to pay someone to install it), we don't have a stroller or a crib, Clara has never worn a single disposable diaper, I hate shopping malls, I go almost everywhere on public transit with Clara strapped to my belly, and I fucking loathe leg lifts. Loathe them. I am craving the gym, with the squats and the deadlifts and the bench pressing and the weights that aren't covered with coloured vinyl, and even the reminders of how much ground I've lost since I was able to hoist 225 pounds as high as my knees. I've told myself I'll go back in the New Year, when Clara's a bit older and I can leave her with her dad for a couple of hours as he works from home on Mondays and putters around the house or goes geocaching on Saturdays. Twitch. Twitch.

I'm going out this afternoon to the apartment of some friends so a bunch of us chyx can knit and kvetch about the upcoming holidays. The host is childless (so far) but more than child-friendly; she and her husband looked after Clara last weekend for a few hours while Mr. K and I went to a wedding. I need to spend time with the friends that we do have, and not take them for granted.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Clara's day

Another milestone
Originally uploaded by Spamily.
She bounced back very quickly from getting her first round of vaccinations yesterday, and today she and I have spent a quiet day at home hanging out with each other. This morning she spent some time having breakfast, and then lay on her play mat for a while reaching for and eventually grabbing one of the toys dangling above her. She held it for quite a while, pulling it toward her mouth. She's figuring things out, yup.

Later she grabbed her pacifier by the handle and pulled it out of her mouth. Then she promptly shat herself. It's hard work being a baby.

She is cuter and more interactive every day. Lots more pictures on the Flickr stream. I love this baby so much.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Our lives are so sedate now

Joe.My.God asked for bad neighbour stories, so I told ours. It's a doozy. He said I won the thread. Made my day. Yay! Thanks, Joe!

These days our neighbours are retired couples and the family across the hall with the new yap dog. Other than the dog, we hear nothing because the walls are solid concrete. We're such grownups now.

There is still a baby here. She is cuter every day, but still not gaining weight as quickly as the new pediatrician would like. But hey, someone has to be at the bottom of the growth curve. She's otherwise healthy as anything: bright-eyed, alert, attentive, able to fill diapers in a single blam. She spent yesterday sleeping and eating her way through the new Bond movie (which I liked) and then through about two thirds of the One of a Kind Craft Show and Sale. We're going back this afternoon, after fitness class, to see the rest of it. Who knew it took hours and hours to see 800 artisans?