Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lights out

I lit this candle the night of the day the big wave overtook me. By the time it was ready to go out, shortly after some of you lit your candles on the second Sunday in December, I was through the worst of that particular round.

The last of the last candle of the last Shabbat of the year. And if you are quick on the uptake, you realize that the fact that I took this picture proves that I am decidedly not Orthodox.

Hanukkah is also finished. Sigh. I love the candles every night.

A's name means "the father of the candle (or of the light)." Honestly not until I submitted my portrait for the Glow contributors page did I make the connection with how much comfort I drew from the candles I have lit in the last 23 months. I am slow like that. But I also don't think it's any kind of a sign-- we picked the name after he died, but it was the name at the top of a very short list. And I have always loved watching candles. And bonfires.

Today is 23 months. It's a Wednesday again, only the second time this has happened so far. And in an hour it will be a new year where we are.

2008 was good to us, even if it was hard. But I will take good and hard over terrible and hard, any day. And now it must end. Just like every candle ever lit must go out.

I wish you all a good year, a better year than you dare wish for yourself. See you on the other side.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ebb and flow

When I first started this post, some two and a half weeks ago now, its title was "Fuuuuuuuck." It was an apt description of the wave of grief that had slammed into me, unexpected in its full-throttled intensity. Those days the missing was intense. Physical. Heavy.

I don't really know why. It came on just as Monkey and the Cub were each recovering from a major case of non-overlapping sickies (though I think it started for each of them with a common, in both senses of the word, cold) and JD slightly more than half way through his business trip to half a word away.

While they were sick, clingy and miserable I hugged, comforted, took temperatures, dispensed medications, and even ran to work for a couple of hours each of the three days the nanny was at our house. My work suffered, but I regarded the ever-growing pile of brick wall deadlines being bulldozed towards the winter break with resigned calm. I had zen.

I was also acutely aware that one of my children was missing. Is missing. Will always be missing. But that is sort of an everyday background hum kind of awareness. It's there, and it colors, but it does not encroach, it does not overwhelm. It is an awareness of sitting on the couch, holding the baby to me with one arm, and the first grader with another, both of them sick and in need of the mommy fix, knowing that as a result that coffee fix I need is a long way off, and yet feeling decidedly uncrowded. Feeling in my bones the outline of the one I never did, never will get to comfort, feeling, with my body and my soul, exactly where he would fit.

I learned to swim when I was little. I remember going to my swim class at six, and I was pretty good by then, so the lessons must've started at five or so. Before that I know that my dad taught me. I have pieces here and there, but no coherent memories of learning piece by piece. But I also watched and helped him teach my sister a couple of years later, and that is why I know that it had to be him who taught me to lie on the water. I remember him telling Adelynne to trust it, telling her that the ocean will support her body if she just relaxes and nixes the flailing. I remember him explaining to me why this is such an important thing to learn.

If I may be so bold as to speak for my sister, it has served us well, that skill. Once you learn how to make like a starfish and float, among other things, you have a resting place on any beach. It even comes with built in earmuffs (natch). And if you can do that face down and are not opposed to the feel of snorkel in your mouth, many an underwater wonder are yours for the looking. Relax, don't fight it, it will carry you. It works great even with a mild wave going-- you just get rocked a little and carried gently.

That's what that everyday feeling is like-- the ocean under me. I am aware of, but not generally bothered by it. And it's a long way from the rather opposite one that overtook me just as it became clear that both sickies were in retreat-- the feeling of being picked up by a wave only to be violently thrown against a seawall. Complete, of course, with a rinse and a repeat. I felt like I was drowning in grief.

I don't know why it happened just then. I am wondering if it wasn't that doing as much as they needed for the two children who are here underscored just how little, nothing really, I get to do for the one who is not. But ultimately it doesn't matter why. It happened, like it has happened a number of times before, like I am sure it will happen time and time again in the future.

[I hasten to add here that of course my life with the Cub is better than it was before him. Of course. Richer, more colorful, more joyous, more tender, filled once more with wonder. But he is not a bandaid, nor a fancy laser surgery even. This is not about him.]

This fall has been full of subtle and not very much reminders of two years ago. The trapeze. When I first saw it, it looked both intimidating and enticing in its otherness. I wanted to try it, but I couldn't-- I was pregnant with A. JD talking about a conference he was forgoing this year causing me to remember going there with him two years before, right after the big ultrasound, trying to get used to the idea that the baby was a boy, trying not to freak out about it.

This year I wore flip flops on December 1st, just as I did two years before. Then it was because my feet had swelled, and it was very warm out. This year it was because it wasn't terribly cold, and because due to thyroid weirdshit (it's a term of art-- look it up) I can tolerate cold even better than my normal abnormally high tolerance. Last year on December 1st we were pretty well snowed under, and I was reminding JD where we were the year before.

I wonder if the slowroll of memories isn't because last fall was all about being stuck, waiting, waiting some more, and a whole lot of RE trouble. But it doesn't matter, does it? It just is.

The December we are having is some kind of a weird mix of the two before it-- less snowed under than last year, and with a thorough thaw following the storms that left our deck buried, but much better endowed in the snow department than two years back. Monkey remembers that, by the way-- she remembers that it didn't snow much the winter her brother died.

My December, too, has been mixed. By the time JD was back from his trip I was doing better. I could breathe, for one. I've had a bad day or three since, and more bad hours thrown into otherwise fine days. I know that part of it is about today and tomorrow marking not just the end of the calendar year, but also our 23 monthaversary, the gateway into the final month of the second year. The second anniversary is looming. Not as intimidating as the first, but clearly not a day at the park. I can already feel the kind of hard that January will be. I will have a lot to say, if the words don't get stuck in my throat.

Monday, December 22, 2008

What's your poison?

Today over at Glow in the woods I spin a long tale of whence my latte habit comes from. And I ask for your personal get through the day without losing your mind techniques. Please share with the class-- I for one am always on the lookout for more and better vices ways to deal.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Hanukkah

We've had three straight days of snow.

The deep fryer has fried its first batch of latkes for the season. And there is new light in this house.

I wish much the same to all of you, with types and levels of precipitation, as well as identities and methods of preparation of season-specific goodies set to your individual desired values.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


A year ago it was my grandmother's 80th birthday. The day before, I flew to see her and my parents, sitting on tarmac for hours on end, one of the last planes to make it out of my city before the airport closed. The next day, a year ago today, I got up at insane o'clock in the morning, showered, grabbed the keys to mom's car, and drove two hours kinda-north. I stopped at a plaza to make phone calls and grab a tote of bagels to share with the people I was going to see.

A year ago today, in the early hours of the morning, on my grandmother's 80th birthday, my friend Beruriah had her second son. I met Baby Man on his birthday, his actual honest to goodness birth day. I met him before any of his grandparents. A big, lovely, gorgeous, living baby. I also met Kate and got to hang with her boys, M and T that day.

It felt good to be there, to drink from the well of happy conclusions to some journeys. The new baby did not take away the pain of his brother's death, nor did anyone there expect him to. But it was a glorious thing to celebrate-- a child who made it, for dear friends, for one of us. So today I want to say Happy Birthday, my dear Baby Man! And many-many more!

We here all know that, sadly, our best days are bound to be someone's worst. We've thought and written about it an awful lot. We've learned to make room in our happiness for the pain of others, as we would hope others would do for us. The day I drank from the well, the day Baby Man entered the world was also the day CLC's world came crashing down. Beautiful Hannah was born as I made my way two hours south-ish, back to my parents' house. Please stop by to remember and celebrate Hannah with her loving parents.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fit-ness: a sob story and a shameless plea

Raise your hand if way back in school you were the kind to get to work on a given piece of graded material at the last possible minute? I certainly was. And tonight I am again. The incomparable Magpie is giving away a Wii Fit literally for a song. Ok, not so much a song as a story. About fitness. And sweet dreams featuring a Wii Fit. Told to her no later than 11:59pm tonight (see above re: last minute). Terms and restrictions apply.

The genre is left wide open. I choose sob story. The kind that usually ends with a shameless plug, plea, or good old fashioned begging. I won't disappoint.

So once upon a time there lived a little girl. Well, before that, the Earth cooled and then the dinosaurs came, but that's not important right now. Point is, I used to be fit. I used to be a competitive swimmer, even. Last summer I surprised myself with what I could still do.

But at some point (puberty, ok, it was puberty), PCOS, though I didn't then know this evil being's proper name, showed up, kicked off its shoes and decided to stay. The fucker even moved across continents with us. Couldn't shake that bastard. I kicked its ass a few times. Got my weight down, some, a time or three. Two years into a big giant fight got my body to ovulate. But the fucker loves to have the last laugh. I carry, now, the weight of all my pregnancies. I started the one with Monkey 40+lbs less than where I sit tonight. I started the one before her, the one that ended in a miscarriage at more like 45 or more less.

I didn't realize just how bad it had gotten until I was standing in line for the trapeze, and realized that people are looking at me funny. Kinda the I can't believe she is gonna do this kind of a look. I looked around, and realized that everyone else was in much better shape. Much better. I didn't care. I was there to do something CAAAAAREYZZZZZZEEEEEEEEE. But damn if that ladder didn't kinda shake under me. And damn if my poor arms didn't feel the entire weight of the giant sac of potatoes that is me when I stepped off that platform. And tripple damn if the pictures didn't all look kinda sad. I posted the best one here, and you can still tell my ass is lobbying for its own zipcode.

I denied things for a while, wearing maternity and rationalizing it as soon to be replaced by my regular clothing. But recently I broke down and bought, in two installments of 2 pairs each, 4 pairs of pants in size humongous. I'd like to give them away someday, and not because I need something bigger.

It's not a vanity issue with me. Believe me, I have very little vanity left. But my knee hurts from carrying the extra weight. It stinking hurts every time I go down the stairs, and every other time when I go up. Bending over to wash the tub so kids could take a bath? Ginormous effort. Not to mention I kinda want to see that old hag AF again some day, and last year's experience shows that the traitor runs and hides at weight fifteen pounds below where I am now.

I am not dumping on my body. I know it's doing the best it can given PCOS, and my new friend thyroid issues (which may have just become more complicated than anyone expected-- back onto beta blockers with me, but that is a story for another day). But it needs help. Industrial strength help. Shiny new Fit type of help would be just what the doctor ordered, methinks. PCOS isn't fighting fair, so why should I?

And if my sob story doesn't convince, think of the children. One child in particular-- Monkey. Scoring a Fit (as opposed to pitching one) might just be what I need to pull out a win in that coveted coolest mom in the house category. And because I am good at paranoia, I can also tell myself that the Fit would serve as an insurance policy against that fucker PCOS grabbing the bottom bunk in her room. Because, you know, her three hours of gymnastics a week is clearly not enough. Think of the childrens!!!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Life after: the short version

Outfits thoroughly soaked in curdling milk are Cub's specialty. As I was changing him out of one of those tonight he looked at me with a bit of mischief in his giant blue eyes, and a thought, a question, a wondering entered my mind. It had to do with his sister who still adores formerly-her-and-now-his nanny, and who finds it bearable to be sick and out of school on the days the nanny is here because duh-- she gets to spend time with her. So the wondering, it was about how he might feel about the nanny five years hence, whether he might be as open about his adoration as his sister is, or whether he might play it cool.

"You will grow up" I said, starting to trail mid way through grow, my brain putting the brakes on before I got to articulating what might happen at that time. And then "Will you grow up? Will you grow up?"*

*I was actually speaking the Old Country language, which happens to have one word that means all of "will grow up," meaning the difference between the first part and the second was only the inflection. But this is a close enough translation.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Family Circus


The first time Monkey saw this thing, erected on the lawn in front of the entrance to the apple-picking-train-and-pony-riding-goat-petting-hay-climbing-llama-camel-ostrich-andwhothehellrememberswhatelse-watching-ridiculously-overpriced farm she was four and a half and fierce. She said she wanted to fly, and we paid for the lesson. She went on the little practice trapeze, and decided the big one was too scary. Then, after watching for a while, and, admittedly not without some gentle maternal nudging (because I can never pass up an opportunity to help her plow through another risk aversion block), she undecided about the scary and started climbing the ladder.

Ever since she was a tiny baby, with every stage of her development she seemed to me so grown, and very soon so independent. So mature. Grown up. At four and a half she seemed big, you know? Grown kid. She still seems that way to me, again and again with every milestone. You'd think I'd learn sometime, but I just don't seem to. Except once in a while, when the world stops for a second and I see just how little she is. Her climbing that long-long ladder was one of those times. The ladder illustrated to me, with the help of physical distance and laws of geometry how tiny she was, and how high she had to climb.

It was all perfectly safe-- harnessed from A to Z, even on the ladder, someone holding a safety line. I watched, so proud of my little girl, holding my breath just a little. I think they had to hold her up to the trapeze, I don't think she had the height then to stand on the platform and hold on to the trapeze at the same time. And then they let her go, and she flew.

We had to go back week after week that year. Before too long, maybe even the very next time, thanks to her love of gymnastics, she was doing knee hangs. Soon after it was upside down splits, and then all kinds of combinations. The girl was in love. She vowed to be back next fall.

(pst.. this pic is from this year, but you get the idea)

Between the vow and next fall her brother died. By the time fall rolled around I was somewhat functional, sometimes. We went back to the farm, but the contraption wasn't there. Eventually we heard where it was hanging out, and we tried to go, once, but it was closed just then, and I never got my act together to try again.

So this year, literally the day before the Cub was born, a friend forwarded an email about how the very people who taught Monkey to fly had a camp in a new location near us. And because the camp was undersubscribed, they were letting in first and second graders. So one thing to another, and Monkey and one of her classmates spent a week learning circus arts. At the end there was a concert. And because we are not right now talking about the concert, all I will say about it is that next year Monkey is going to this camp for two weeks, and the thing is worth every penny.

After the concert there was a trapeze demonstration. And Monkey said she wanted to try a catch. What's a catch, you ask? Well, let's start with the other side of the trapeze thingie, shall we? It looks like this:


See those swing-looking thing there, and no ladder to get to them? Yeah. So a catcher sits there, and swings at the same time as the trapeze flyer, who lets go of the bar completely, and aims for the hands of the catcher. Like so:


I caught my breath, and JD caught the shot. The Cub slept through the whole thing, being two weeks old and all.

We went back for lessons a few more times before the trapeze people packed up and went home to warmer climes, promising to come back when our average daily temperature was back to reliable short sleeves range.

Sometime in there I realized that my body hasn't been mine in too long. It wasn't still, but I could do some things now. Swim was my first thought, but seeing as I was still at the time a public health hazard, that was out of the question. But more to the point, I wanted to do something completely and utterly crazy. Something I absolutely positively couldn't do as a pregnant woman. You know where that's going, don't you? Yup.


This post is my return to Mel's weekly Show and Tell. For more showing and telling, click right over.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

You know you are too tired when... hold it together the whole day by promising yourself a good long cry when you have done everything you need to do, only to fall asleep half way into the second sob of that cry.

And, of course, the way you figure that out is by waking up with a distinctly dissatisfied feeling, and working your way back to only remembering winding up for the second sob of your long-awaited cry. Which, of course, means that you have no choice but to start a new day with the same promise to self. Who wants to guess how that's going to go?

Feel free to add your own concluding sentiments for the title of this post. I have a feeling this time of year everyone's got a few.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I did it. The number of unread posts in my reader as I start writing this is 0. Down from damn near a thousand only two weeks ago.

I know exactly when my reader exploded. The evening of August 14th I was reading and commenting as I watched my TiVoed Olympic swimming, anticipating following it with my women's all-around Olympic gymnastics. I think I had that reader down to single digits, or teens at the most. And then the Cub was born. And then I got swallowed by the new baby tired craziness. And the reader exploded.

89. I remember 89. I thought it was a lot, and I hoped to get some time over the weekend to read and comment. Then it was 200+. 500+. 800+.

I felt horrid. You all have been there for me. And now there I was, having snagged the biggest lucky break ever, a real live take home baby, there I was not being there for you. I wanted to be. I wanted to read, to witness your every word. Because how could I not? Because how would I have survived to where I was if you, collective you, flowing and changing you, weren't there for me through it all? Not well, that's how.

I made a concerted push in early October, and got down to like 400-some-odd. And then I got swamped again. Work (I am working half time this term, which is a lot harder than it was in my imagination; back to full time in January) and life, and just some overwhelming craziness interfered, and I was back to 800+. So two weeks ago I decided that I can't have this hanging over my head anymore. And so I read, and read, and read. Drinking your words like water, pretty much every word I missed. Which means that I read a lot more than 800 posts, because for some I was catching up starting from that night when I didn't get to see women's all around (and the reader only counts the last calendar month of posts as new). I started at the top of the list in my reader and worked my way down, but making sure to keep reading new posts from those I have caught up on. That was my mistake in October-- allowing the new posts to accumulate again, until it was all a jungle again.

So now I am all caught up on everyone in my reader. And I can finally add the new blogs I have been meaning to add. Yay, hallelujah!

But here's the thing-- I read all your words, I witnessed them all. But in large part I was too late. I wasn't there when you really needed support. I wasn't there when maybe an experience I could've shared might've actually been of use. I understand now that I should've declared bankruptcy at some point, marked all as read, and started over. I would've missed things, sure. But I would've been present from then on, instead of the ghost I was in the last two weeks, catching up. The funny thing is that I realized this somewhere around a half way through the exercise, but felt bad doing an all clear then. It wouldn't have been fair to the bloggers whose digs are listed in the bottom half of my reader. Stupid, I know.

So I did it. But I did it wrong.


An odd request perhaps, after that confession, but please help the girl out. If I am not reading you but I should, or if I left comments some time ago but not in a long while (probably because I didn't add you to the reader right then, and then, you know, see above), please leave me a comment so I can remedy the situation. My blogroll on the right is but a fraction of my reader, so don't go by that. Someday I might get a free second to update the blogroll, but not soon, I think.

I know better now. I will use the mark all as read button if I have to. But when I can, whenever I can, I will be here, reading and commenting in real time. Present, in real time.

P.S. I have a lot of posts that need to come out. On some level I didn't feel entitled to write so much while my reader overflowed, but I was also swamped. I am still swamped, but I also feel the need to write. So, you know... maybe...more posts soon.