Wednesday, December 9, 2009


It's that time of the year again. Holiday season and the beginning of my anniversary season. My season of whole numbers and visceral memories. My season of longing.

Today I am over at Glow in the Woods, offering a place to sit for a while and asking how everyone is. Tell me, if you would.

Some images from last season (and my first attempt at a virtual collage-- whatdayathink?).

And yes, if you looked on Glow, these are the same images in a different layout.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Where the pink elephants roam

The last week has been such whirlwind that it's hard to believe it's been only the one week since we said our goodbyes by the ocean shore and Niobe and I headed back from whence we came scant 37 hours earlier. I sit now by a different, much warmer, shore of the same ocean, marvelling still at all that we packed into those 37 hours.

Back in college I spent some of my now-fondly-remembered time, and a good deal of brainpower too, trying to figure out just where that treasure was buried or who was really a well-disguised alien. Or, in other, more mundane, words playing live action role playing games. (And just so I am not left feeling like the dweebiest dweeb in the house all alone, let me hear a "hell, yeah" in the comments if part of your misspent youth was misspent doing the same thing.) The way this admission becomes relevant here is that frequently email announcements of these games came with a rating of the particular game's weirdshit factor. So a straight up Babylon 5 game would likely be fairly low weirdshit (though high on technology mechanics), whereas an Earth is under alien siege and there's a UN meeting to figure out what to do game is more likely to turn up high weirdshit, what with aliens masquerading as humans, and obligatory secret wizard societies coming out of the woodwork.

So last weekend? It was a little high on weirdshit.

I am not even sure that the monkey here is the strangest creature on the boardwalk. Though I have to admit to thinking that they have a rather strange sense of what it means for a shop to be open.

I also have to admit a failure of imagination in figuring out why there is a go-kart place under a ship.

Or a ship over a go kart place. Or why the latter (both?) have a one-eyed fisherman and his oddly out of proportion surroundings on the side.

Also, if you are tired and would like to rest a bit apparently you are out of luck unless you are curly. Or a fry.

Their pirates (and parrots) are larger than life.

And make interesting choices in weaponry.

Their mannequins, on the other hand, are freakishly life-like.

They also inhibit abandoned shops and make one wonder what they do when no-one is watching.

And if all of this is making you want a good strong drink, may I suggest a few Old Country-style chasers? And yes, apparently you are meant to put these on your tree.

I attribute the fact that it took me this long to write about the weekend mostly to a thoroughly uncharacteristic inability to find words to describe what it was like. I've met bloggers before. Mostly babylost bloggers. A time or two even in small groups. But there were ten of us there (Angie, the creative force behind the whole thing, Lani, Tash, Tracy, m, Sarah, Molly, and Laura, plus Niobe and me), and somehow I didn't have a good way to explain how naturally the conversation flowed from sharing recipes to the many facets of the life after, or how we laughed until we couldn't breathe (or was that just me?) at each other's black humor. Reflecting back, it seemed impossible to have packed this much into the paltry 37 hours. I didn't have words for any of it.

And then Tash wrote about the weekend, and suddenly I had it. Pink elephants. A convention of them. Yup, that's it.

Which, if you think about it, makes perfect sense. Where else should we hold a convention of florescent pink elephants if not among the above-pictured weirdshit? Why, they fit right in. As did we, is all I am trying to say.

Our freak flag. Yes, it's tattered. Got a problem with that?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Long time


So... ahem... it's been a while. A long while, in fact. Three months and three days.

Do I have an excuse? A boatload of them, actually. Not that anyone cares, of course, but it was mostly about working a whole lot, being sick, rinsing and repeating. The point, though? I've missed this place, a lot. I've promised myself that I would write already more times than I can remember.

I've been reading, trying to keep up with at least some blogs. I've been mostly failing. We had the flu. We are all better now, even me-- I've had my voice back for a whole three days now, yo. And yesterday I filed or unemployment. My contract technically ended last week, but I have been trying to finish up the things I didn't finish because of the flu. It's a weird, weird feeling-- I am supposedly unemployed, but I am still chugging along.

Come to think of it, it might've been good that I couldn't find time to blog for a while-- saved you from reading boring job search angst. Not that I am altogether done with it, I don't think. But for now I seem to be back to grimly determined (from, you know, flattened).

I was going to write this post (ha-ha) about five times in the last week. I was going to title it "Winding Down, Wound Up." Because, see, I am winding down my job, and I am, OMFG, wound up. Except I am not, anymore. And all it took is a seven hour drive. Which, to be fair, was only seven hours because of some serious traffic. I am away, at the retreat. Eating, drinking, walking among the kitsch that seems endearing this time of year, taking pictures, talking. Breathing.

It's nice. Really nice. So nice I'll have to write about it more. Plus, there are these crazy mannequins I just have to share... But, you know, later. Because right now there's conversation and laughter coming from the kitchen. So if you excuse me, I'm gonna go open a bottle of wine and join the fun.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


The Cub is one. A full year. JD thinks it flew by. I don't think it did so much as the birthday snuck up on us. Either way, he is beautiful and gorgeous, and more expressive and able every day.

I tried to explain to a friend what I was feeling on Cub's birthday, and it all seemed a strange mess. I am, apparently, still wondering whether he is here to stay, as betrayed by relief-like feelings on the cuff of the day. Which, you know, make so very little sense. Since, of course, there's never a line getting to which guarantees continued sunshine and ponies of various sizes and colors.

And then there's also the part where I am not anywhere near being done processing the pregnancy. Which, I have to say, is annoyiiiiiiing-- would've made for a much nicer rhetorical device had I cleaned, sorted and aired out all that stuff by now. For one, I would've been able to perhaps speak intelligently on this momentous occasion. For another, headspace is at a premium around these parts, and I really do need it back-- I have a job to find, and my current one to finish up in a spectacularly competent manner assuring me glowing letters of recommendation for years to come.

The celebration on the actual day was very low key-- a couple of babies for the ultra-social Cub to share germs with, plus their parents to share chips and hamburgers with us. My parents arrive Thursday, and there will be a family celebration Sunday. To mark the year since his homecoming from NICU, as I said to my mom who would've preferred to have come this past weekend, but had to change plans to also accommodate my FIL's big round birthday party.

So we are now in the anniversary of the week the Cub spent in NICU last year. As transient as that experience was, it's also apparently indelible, at least so far. I don't know whether it will get better in future years. But for now, out to dinner with friends Sunday, drinking a toast to the Cub, JD and I both knew exactly where we were that time a year before-- in the kid's NICU room, me asking the neonatalogist what else they had in their arsenal, should things keep going in the wrong direction, as they had been all day, and JD pacing the room or crouching in the chair, hearing not a word of what was being said around him.

It's something that we in DBL learn early, and notice often-- a good day for one is sure to be a disaster for someone else. When he was born, the Cub wasn't due for another three plus weeks, and short of his scheduled induction date by more than two weeks. It wasn't supposed to be his birthday. But it was supposed to be another baby girl's, half a world away. Had things gone to plan for them, that beautiful girl's mother would've spent this past weekend fussing over the details of the most perfect birthday ever. But they didn't. And so instead over the past year Sally and Simon have been learning to live without their first-born daughter, Hope. Please stop by and remember with them.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Show and Tell: Self-portraits in shadows and water

It's been a while since last I participated in Mel's Show and Tell. So long, in fact, that in the meantime it has moved from Sundays to Thursdays. So we now rejoin this lovely community tradition, already way the hell in progress.

The Cub is turning one this Saturday. Still a bit surreal. A lot surreal, actually. It's blatantly obvious that the only thing keeping him from trading in his baby designation, which looks on him like nothing so much as one of those onesies, overstretched from use and fitting, still, only because of the use and attendant overstretching, that the thing keeping him from trading it in for the otherwise way more appropriate toddler one is that he, you know, refuses to actually toddle unassisted. Even in just the last week, sudden and impressive development of hand-to-mouth coordination, and now-- desire to eat with a spoon. So to look at him, yes, a year is about right. But in the abstract spaces of my head it's a lot more like a year? already? really? wow... All adult and complete-sentence-like of me, I know.

I know what I was doing a year ago. I know, too, that in my head, I am not yet done processing that pregnancy. I am working on it, though. There are things yet to say. But today seems like a good day to look at pictures.

I took these, with a friend's point and shoot, last year at the shore. 55 weeks ago, days before ending up in PTL and on bedrest.

I got a chance to download these from that friend's camera only recently. They are all electrons, from start to finish-- from being taken with a digital camera to being, now, stored on a hard drive. And yet to me they have the feel of those old black and white family photos, of events and people long ago.

If you want to see what the other kids are showing, summer break be damned, please stop by Mel's place for the master list.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I actually figured all of this out a while ago (though, as is usual these days, didn't so much post), but a post today at Beruriah's brought it up again. It's about timing. People with babies the Cub's age, plus/minus a few months in either direction are pregnant again. Not overwhelming numbers of them, but enough for me do a gut check.

I've never made a secret on this here blog of the fact that I want to raise three children. In my before life, I was going to aim for a rather short age gap between the younger two-- two and a half years or so, give or take. In my after life, I was considering an even shorter gap, mostly because I didn't want Monkey to be too terribly older than the youngest. I am eight years older than my sister-- it works and has worked for the duration. I wasn't so sure about longer gaps. By the time I'd had the Cub, though, I was pretty clear I needed a break from this pregnancy thing. Told my MFM I won't be back for at least a year, probably more.

At some point I started to push my mental target for the "next time" ever further out. Factoring in things like the job market (blows; also on academic calendar-- matters both for being able to interview and for being able to start and finish at least my first year at whatever my next job might end up being), and talking to adults who've had longer age gaps with their siblings, and to parents of kids with longer gaps. Monkey, by the by, has started asking a few months ago. And really? The nerve on that kid! Oh, she also thinks eight is a good number. Ha! Told her that ain't happening.

But all of this was happening sort of on low boil in the background, with the occasional eruptions of "I am so not ready yet!" here and there. Until, that is, Christina found herself somewhat unexpectedly pregnant again. You see, Christina was due last year a day after me. The Cub was born shy of 37 weeks, but the lovely miss Cate went almost all the way to the due date. So, you know, when it's Christina who turns up pregnant now, it really rocks my world. I think I even told her in my comment that I can't imagine being there myself right now.

And then. Then I thought about it. The Cub was 11 months old when Christina found out. Which just happens to be three days longer than the interval between when A was born and when we found ourselves in possession of a piece of plastic with two lines in a window. So... ahem... right.

It seems that the actual operative idea here is that I can't imagine, am not ready to do that again. And I really think it's not about the distinction of doing it with or without a baby already at home-- I think for me it's much more about the stress of the pregnancy itself.

My pregnancy with the Cub was hard. Emotionally hard (DUH) but also objectively complicated. (There are things to say about that, and I will say them, hopefully soon.) I am also still incredibly overweight-- weight of two pregnancies (on top of extra ten still hanging around since Monkey), less a few pounds now, thanks to my friend metformin. And I need to lose a hell of a lot more before it's not insane to start piling fresh new pounds on.

I am finding comfort in that again above. It's like I forget that before A died and was born, I was actually pregnant with him. Not forget forget-- I can tell you all kinds of dates and facts about that pregnancy, but sort of dissociate from it, as if it too lives in the before. The again is soothing, a reminder that my body has been through a whole lot in the past little over three years, and that there is nothing wrong with acknowledging that fact.

So that's my new internal refrain, whenever I learn of someone else going another round with only a short break: "I did that last time. And right now I am just not ready to do it again." Somehow this feels both more honest and more reassuring to me than my old tune of "wow-- I can't even imagine doing that now."

ETA: It just occurred to me that even though I certainly don't assume a good outcome when I think of a future pregnancy (either in attaining one in the first place or in maintaining it to the point of a take home baby), talking about it in terms of "doing" might be read by someone as if I in fact assume. I think "attempt" would've been more precise. As in "I did that last time. And right now I am just not ready to attempt it again."

Monday, August 10, 2009


I remember reading bereaved bloggers whose tragedy came before my own talk about how people forget, how friends say inconsiderate things, how time comes, sooner for some, later for others, when people grow tired of accommodating your new self, the one still (or permanently?) sensitive and raw in many places, when they want you to have gotten "over it" already.

And what I thought about that was "not MY friends." Not the friends who dropped everything and came to stand by us. Not the friends who called, and brought food, and asked to see the pictures, and let me talk about how beautiful A was. Not my friends, who, when pregnancy came up as a topic, always and deliberately included my pregnancy with A in these conversations. Surely these people wouldn't forget, or displace, or expect me to revert to my unaffected, my "before" self.

Um... yeah. I am still processing not so much the careless remark from this year's shore trip (it has been apologized for), as the aftershocks of finding out what some of our friends really think. Processing and thinking. Thinking about duty over at Glow, about what we owe others, and what others owe us. Please feel free to stop by and add to the conversation.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Free your goat Friday: wet and tired

The goats of today, they are connected. I got soaking wet because it was pouring when I needed to move the car. I needed to move the car because coming into work this morning I was cutting it too close for an important meeting, and had to grab the first parking spot I could see-- a 2hr meter. I was cutting it close because I just couldn't get up this morning, which, in turn, is due to one very lovely baby boy whose nighttime antics have lately been less than lovely. Oh, and for the second day in a row weather predictions have been wrong wrong wrong, with rain arriving much earlier in the day and coming down much harder than predicted. Hence, me not grabbing the umbrella from the car when I got to work. Hence, me getting wet on the way to the car, but not on the way back. Though I must've cut a puzzling picture on the way back from moving the car-- a clearly completely soaked person under an umbrella.

Ok, so now that my poor goats are off to dry themselves and get some rest in the pastures, won't you let yours go and join them?

Bling borrows the image from this story.

Monday, July 27, 2009


It's been an interesting, in the sense of that famous, but apparently fake Chinese curse, couple of weeks inside my head.

It seems strange, incongruous, that the baby I feed sweet potato to, the boy who flings himself at me, laughing and squealing, off the side of the pool, and who doesn't mind getting a face full of water from the shower head or from a wave in the ocean, the baby who really likes his boob juice, the boy who is, I swear, at once the sneakiest and the sweetest thing there is, that he is the same baby whose health, quality of life, and, possibly, the very life, hung in the balance* a year ago. A whole year ago. Just a year ago. Exactly a year ago. I am having trouble processing this.

Last year I ended up in the hospital at the tail end of the first of two weeks we were supposed to have been at the shore. It's a tradition now-- our large and noisy group of friends rent a bunch of condos in a development by the shore, some for a week, some for two. It functions a bit like a commune-- we cook and eat in subgroups or all together, we keep track of each other's kids, feed them, run sleepovers.

It is a great place. And I have a complicated relationship with it, revolving around my reproductive status. The first year we rented there, I was just pregnant with A, first trimester and shoving progesterone up my hoo-ha. The next year I wished I was pregnant, and the year after that was last year. With contractions and the hospital.

This year's week at the shore worked out to be the same week on the calendar as last year. I realized that well ahead of time, and I knew it would make things tough for me. I was right. Packing for the shore was anxiety-inducing. Actually being there was uneven-- at times relaxing and nourishing, hanging with the usual suspects or with friends who flew in from out of town just for the weekend, and at times difficult, inherently, or because of a friend's careless remark.

Last year we were sharing a condo with the family whose youngest son, M, was supposed to be A's best friend, due as he was mere four weeks after A. This year they have the whole place to themselves-- they had an extra person stay with them most of the week, and needed the bedroom. But that person left Saturday, and they offered us her bedroom so we could stay through the weekend (unlike these friends, we were only staying one week this year, and were supposed to have left Saturday too). That is how come we ended up staying an extra night in the very same unit where we spent the week last year, from where I drove to my appointment the morning of the day that ended with me hooked up to the magnesium pump.

That morning I was up early thanks to some painful contractions. I didn't know if I would get to come back after the appointment. I thought there was a nontrivial probability that I wouldn't. Because of that, I wanted to get a few things done, to make things easier for JD and Monkey in case I end up in the hospital for monitoring. Coming up the stairs from the basement after throwing in a load of laundry, I saw JD in the big chair reading to Monkey and M, the two of them nestled on either side of him. I stood there for a while, taking that picture in, the would've been picture of my family. Yesterday coming up the same stairs after throwing in another load of laundry, I happened onto Monkey playing on the carpet with the Cub and M. She was very good at corralling the over two and the not yet one, and oh, but the scene echoed.

A year ago now things were already looking up-- I had made it through the 48 hours needed for steroids to do their thang, and my contractions were behaving. Earlier that day Monkey came for a visit. She'd had nightmares after JD left the shore to join me at the hospital. Not really surprising-- nearly eighteen months before that week her mom left for a check with the doctors, then her dad left to be with mom, and when they came back, they told her her baby brother had died. When her small face appeared in the doorway, her eyes were wide with fear and desperate need to have that fear be unsubstantiated. She was so tentative walking into the room. Suddenly I could see just how small six years old really is. JD had told her about the machines in the room, and the IV bags, and that I would be in bed, and she eyed all that. But it was the belly that held her hope, and, unlike that last time, it was still big and round. And there was a sound in the room-- baby's heart rate monitor, which I had asked the nurse to leave on pretty loud. A bit later, when she got comfortable with her surroundings, and JD went to the bathroom, she danced to that sound. That was one of the sweetest things I've ever seen.

*Then I didn't think his actual life was in any real danger due to the onset of labor any more (as opposed to the possibility of him dying inside of me, of which I was scared up until he was actually born), since he was past 33 weeks at that point. Now I think it was. I mean to write about that sometime soon.

P.S. Free your goat Friday was on vacation this past week, along with us. It will return in only a few short days. Get your goats ready, people!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Free your goat Friday: 4-letter word

I've got a whole herd of tiny little goats running around. They may yet grow up to be featured on this very blog one of these Fridays. But not today. Today I've got precisely one goat that has been got. One big fat, practically obese, goat. Hey, look at that-- goat is a four letter word. So is work. Which is what got my goat this week. What a coincidence.

This week work's been like gas-- expanding to take over all available volume... err, time. Boo hoo. Things it ate? Two big blog posts. Important ones, at least to me. A ton of little things too. Like family time. Who the hell needs family time? Grrrrrrr...

Oh, well. Meeting with boss in the am. Hopefully, the crazy ends then, at least for a bit.

And how are your goats this fine day?

P.S. Oh, I seem to have lied. Oooops. Another goat. Well, a fly. An annoying one, that doesn't take a hint. It's been buzzing around my kitchen (where I sit at the table working on my laptop) for well beyond what could possibly be considered not worth a mention. Where's POTUS when you need him?

Bling borrows the image from this story.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Free your goat Friday: Bright and early

I am going on fumes and four hours of sleep. Oh, and coffee. Of course. Been up since 5am, working on the bloody stupid important report for work I've been trying to finish for too depressingly long to think about. And I went to sleep around 1. Fun times. So this is to be short and sour. I'll tell you my goats, you tell me yours, and they walk off into the sunset together. Or, to pasture. You know, whatever metaphor works for you.

Goat-getter the First, or Not cool, public policy people, not cool

The Cub had H1N1 this week. Well, he got it Sunday afternoon, as we were packing up to leave the lovely and wonderful place where we spent the most relaxing weekend I've had in a long, long while. And we didn't know that's what it was until our pediatrician came to see him (that's right, our pedi does house calls, jealous?) Monday, although I began to worry about it fleetingly on the drive home and then for real when I realized just how hot the kid was early Monday morning. The high fever was not fun, and the coincidental pink eye added a layer of wonderful. (The Cub, he doesn't appreciate anyone putting drops into his eyes. And four times a day? Oh, the betrayal!) But, he broke the fever in a day and a half, instead of the worst case three to four, and none of the rest of us got sick. So good deal.

Where this becomes a goat-getter, though, is that according to our pediatrician, about 90% of what they are seeing now is it. 90 bloody percent. And do we hear about that on the radio? Do we read about that in newspapers? Of course not. Because ooooooh, big, bad, scary virus, with big bad scary farm animal name. The reasons I worried about whether the Cub had it were that (1)I knew it can carry very high fevers for a number of days and I didn't want him to be so miserable for long and (2) because I thought we'd have to quarantine, causing Monkey to miss her beloved gymnastics practices (three mornings a week at 4 hours a pop, and she'd love to do more, if she was allowed; I know-- insane). But I didn't for a second worry that the diagnosis might mean a particularly dangerous illness or a bad prognosis. This is because of my education and what I do for work-- I am used to analyzing scientific information. JD on the other hand? Flipped out. Until, that is, he spoke to the doctor and learned both how common it is these days and what the typical prognosis, oh, and that the Cub looked like not a bad case at all. And my mom didn't get much sleep Monday night, staying up thinking bad thoughts about her youngest grandson.

So this is what gets my goat-- that we are not being talked to like adults about this by our government OR our scientists. We hear on the radio that WHO has called the thing a pandemic, but that the course is mild. If we perk our ears up a whole lot, we can hear stories here and there about how official figures are such and such, but unofficially they are probably a lot higher. And yet, no story that comes straight out and lays the facts out. For our own protection, I am sure. Harrumph. I do enjoy being treated like I am three years old. Don't you?

Goat-getter the Second, or Oh, Academia, the bastion of civility

I applied for one job this fall. I received an email saying that if they needed any other materials, they would contact me. The closing date for the search was end of last month. I finally called this week to see where things stood, so I could plan my fall. Oh, the search has been completed. I can deal with the place two miles from my house not wanting me, even for an interview, I really can. But seriously, people, how hard would it have been to send out rejection letters, even by email? Let me break it down for you-- you are looking for a person to be a colleague of yours, your equal. The person you pick comes from a pool of applicants. You don't think people in that pool deserve the respect of being told they didn't make it? And don't you remember when you yourselves were swimming in the pool? C'mon! It's a form letter, how hard could it be?

Ok, my goats are free. Where are yours?

P.S. I am also at Glow this week, talking about telling people about one's dead baby. And screwing up.

Bling borrows the image from this story.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Free your goat Friday: Lazy

If you are looking for me, I am in a hammock on the porch. Mind you, not my porch or my hammock-- my BIL's parents were nice enough to invite the whole clan over for the long weekend (featuring my sister's birthday today-- Happy Birthday, sister! :)), and we are all having a ball. There's a lake on the other side of the house, and the sunny weather was only interrupted by one short thunderstorm today. And did I mention that it's been years since I've been in a hammock?

And yet, I have goats.

Goat-getter the First, or Now I know what the f in aperture designation stands for

My precious, my birthday present, my macro lens! Sigh, but it seems to be too much woman complicated for my camera's tiny little brein processor. It's not happy with me changing aperture, insisting, by way of locking out my ability to take pictures any other way, that I set it to the maximal setting of 32. Not to mention that the camera can't bring itself to operate the lens in automatic mode-- something about lack of motor power directed to the right spot. But I can live without the autofocus-- this thing is a sports car, and those are way more fun with stick shift. But aperture? This is like making me drive said sports car with half the air let out of the tires. Sniffle...

Goat-getter the Second, or Careful with the mirror-- your (reflected) brilliance might blind you.

Some days I can't help myself, and I get into internet discussions with people who are not listening. (Important: this is NOT about here or anyone reading here-- this is about an Old Country language corner of the internets.) Worse, some of these people seem to be writing for the purposes of showing off how brilliant they are. They wave hands, using words such as clearly, obviously, for the most part, and in general. When you try to challenge their assumptions, or correct facts they simply have wrong, they respond with more hand waiving and side-stepping, failing to acknowledge your points. Worse, their pseudo intellectual drivel is supposedly about the plight of this group or that, which does not stop them from dehumanizing either the group they purport to defend, or some other societal group interacting with the group being defended by ascribing some rather unattractive qualities to all members of a group. If you are asking why I engage with this crap, you are not alone-- I am wondering that myself. Oh, right, I remember-- because people about whom they are talking smack are my friends. And I seem constitutionally unable to walk away and let the maligning of my friends (even if as members of a groups) go unchallenged. I need a drink.

And what has been getting your goats lately? Tell us and set them free. Let them celebrate their own Independence Day. I know-- corny. Very. Sorry. Anyway, share your goats. And if you are looking for me, try the hammock.

Bling borrows the image from this story.

Monday, June 29, 2009


So the weather didn't screw us too badly, the food and the booze were good and plentiful, there was occasional dancing, and my husband conspired with my sister to produce sinfully gorgeous deserts from our favorite place in the general area, including a cake decorated with a nod to his and mine ancient history together. We even had an unexpected, wasn't-on-the-guest-list guest drop by.

I am officially a year older. 35. The age that gets one that coveted designation at the OB's, the kind all the cool girls are after. Advanced maternal age. Yeah, baby.

I am actually mostly joshing there. I sort of expected that I would feel the birthday as a threshold, that it would inspire some kind of contemplation from me, a reflection. That I would feel it deeper than I seem to be feeling it, I guess. So far, though, not so much. I think I like it this way.

Of course, the fact that my grandmother had a minor heart attack in the early hours of Saturday probably contributed to the lack of idle contemplation, brain cells being busy with actual things to worry about and all. She was airlifted to a big hospital, where they got the stent in. She's occasionally cognitively better, recognizing people and inquiring after others (like me), and occasionally worse, as the last of the anesthesia leaves the system and as they are trying to get her new medications right. Overall, not a bad way to have a heart attack, and a definite proof that it's a good thing she's not at home anymore-- we collectively shudder to think of what the same scenario would've looked like had her home health care aids not recognized the signs and hadn't acted quickly enough.

As for the celebration itself, it was just right in tone. The big deal meter hovered comfortably in my safe zone-- well short of either pompous or overly sentimental, but unmistakably in the we're here because of you range. Like I said, just right.

Tell you what, though. I may be older now, but I also have better toys. You know, as a direct result of telling husband exactly what I wanted getting older. Waaay nice toys. My precious.

Sadly, operating my precious seems to require actual skillz, or, at the very least, time invested into reading the crammed little multi-lingual booklet that came with. But since I wasn't bloody likely to read it at the party, I just went ahead and played with it a bit. Here's what I managed to get, in the presentable category:

I'd say that while the subject needs improvement, I really like the resolution and the detail. And this is just fooling around. I can't wait to figure out how to actually drive this here fancy sports car.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Free Your Goat Fridays: Hectic

  It's been that kind of week. It's not over yet. But I did attempt bling, using the image that came with this quaint little British tidbit. Whatdayathink? And be honest, I can take it.

So I will be back with my own tales of goats gotten and freed, later. My goats:

Goat-getter the First, or You would cry too...

My birthday party is tomorrow. Because, you know, it's my birthday tomorrow. One of those big deal ones, divisible by five. I didn't get a birthday party last year (because of all the fun with PTL). Two years ago I cleverly attached JD's and another friend's birthdays to mine, thereby escaping being the subject of celebration/center of attention five short months after my baby died. So this year I wanted a fun party, something easy for us to do, with adult company and dancing (don't ask why, I have no idea. It's not like I look or feel hot. Perhaps I just don't care). We have a nice new wrap around deck that my dad built us last fall (separate story I must tell one day). So the plan was to have a party on the deck, with catered food and dancing by DJ IPod. So did I mention it's been raining here for weeks now? And did I mention the forecast had the rains clearing the hell out of here by Thursday? And did I mention forecast changing gradually to include scattered showers? And then full on rainy forecast? Pretend like I did. And say it with me: ARRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Goat-getter the Second, or Oh, for the love of the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

I am generally a fan of Air America Radio, if for no other reason than that Rachel Maddow was a host there before she scored what is now my absolutely favorite news/commentary hour on TV. This is why it upset me so much to see it highlighted in their daily email that one of their hosts had a leading proponent of Intelligent Design (ID) as a guest. It upset me even more to listen to the clip and hear the guest essentially riding roughshod over the genial host, name- and title-dropping, driving home the essential message of the water's fine over here, even people who are not religious fanatics are with us.

Intelligent Design is not science. It's the worst kind of pseudoscience. I say the worst kind because by actively mascaraing as science, it confuses and misleads the public (and children/students in particular-- making my job that much harder) about what science actually is and how science is properly done. The clip of that conversation is 14+ minutes long. Somewhere at minute 12.5, the host finally gets around to offering substantial criticism to the ID proponent, and then not nearly assertively enough. Personally, I would prefer that we not legitimize ID movement by giving its proponents a media stage. At the very least, though, let's not give them an unchallenged stage. Let's not let them pretend that their collection of logical fallacies is a scientifically legitimate viewpoint. I understand that radio hosts may not be knowledgeable enough for a debate like this, but there are scientists (an overwhelming majority of whom accept the multidisciplinary and consistent evidence for evolution and do not begin to see ID as even approaching scientific legitimacy), and there are even journalists experienced and skilled in this debate. So if you find yourself giving in to an irresistible urge to talk to an ID proponent on the air, no matter how charming the proponent, please-please-please call for backup, will ya?

In the mean time, And the floor is yours. What all had your goats this week?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Devil's Dozen

In the Old Country, baker's dozen, 13, is known as devil's dozen, in keeping with the number's status as bad luck of course. I have to say I was never on board with castigating 13. In fact, I am rather a fan.

A devil's dozen years ago, the party was still going pretty good. The ceremony was supposed to be at 3 (invitations said 2:30, to account for Jewish Standard Time), but ended up being slightly later. With the pictures and the cocktail hour, the party didn't get started until close to 6, but six hours later there was our band, playing way past the hour of contractual obligation. The band leader is my aunt and uncle's friend, but still it was way nice of them to stick with us. Particularly considering the discount we got courtesy of the friendship. I've never known time so packed to move so quickly.

A dozen years ago, on our first anniversary, I was supposed to be in another city, at a conference, by myself. In fact giving my talk the very day of the anniversary, so not so much with the skipping possibilities. The first is the paper anniversary. So I left JD a paper gift, in a dresser drawer-- a plane ticket to the Conference City. Before I bought it, I talked to his employer to make sure he could have the day (he worked in a small office, and they were swamped). I told him where to find his gift that morning. We were broke then, so I got the cheapest ticket I could find. It had JD flying in very small planes, very very slowly. It turns out that he ordered flowers for me, to be delivered to the hotel. He ended up delivering them himself. We went downtown to a nice restaurant I remember only vaguely now. The food was good, I remember that. I think it was French.

Five years ago late afternoon-ish I was coming back from a workshop in yet another city. JD picked me up at the airport in a car the lease for which he signed that very day. I was told that Monkey had taken a test drive in it, and that she approved. We had dinner that night in a restaurant we keep meaning to go back to. (Damn, this means we haven't made it back to a place in FIVE years. Exciting lives we lead. On the plus side, though, since I saw the place out the car window not two months ago, it also means the restaurant, which was a new business at the time, has survived for over five years. Good on them.) The next morning I had to be at a hospital by 6am. My friend Natalie was having a C-section, and her husband, a big, tough guy, wasn't sure he could do the delivery room thing without moral support. He did fine, though he forgot his camera in the before-and-after room. Hence, I was the one to take the first pictures of the little guy.

Four years ago it was JD's turn to start the day elsewhere. He was in the City Where I Hate to Drive. I was driving up to meet him after his conference session for dinner and a play. I had a nice dress with me, and I was driving my shiny new five week old car. With a stick shift. Which feature was half the point of getting that car-- I've had it with the tyranny of the automatic transmission, aka my otherwise exceptionally beloved previous car. I left home in what was supposed to be plenty of time, and for a while it looked like I was even going to be early. But then there was traffic, and I was getting nervous and pissy. And trying to change lanes at the traffic light, I scratched another car, one that, it seems, was sitting much farther to the left than I estimated. Yup, with my own, barely five week old car. When I finally made it to the hotel, I got ready faster than I remember ever getting ready for a fancy evening out. Record time, I tell you. We still made it to dinner (cab), though I think we skipped appetizers. That was so we could make the show. Which we liked. Though not as much as the show we saw the next day, having bought the tickets based on nothing more than "this sounds interesting" and the fact that they still had tickets the day of. We sat in the first row for that one.

Tonight, now that my sister and BIL, themselves married a year and a day and gracefully sharing their anniversary cake (gotten from whence their actual wedding cake came from-- sneaky, I know, and a hell of a lot smarter than keeping a cake in the freezer for a year, no?), have left for their own humble abode, I am the only adult in the house. The first time in thirteen years we are for real not together on our anniversary. JD is coming back tomorrow, and a make-up celebration is in the works. I thought I was going to be fine. I told him I was going to be fine. And I am completely and totally fine. But I have to admit that it feels weird not to have JD here today. What do you think-- a force of habit? ;)

It's past midnight now, as I finish writing. So happy day-after-anniversary to us! (And I am off to catch some Zzzzzs.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Free Your Goat Fridays: Still Blingless

Yes, it's that day of the week again, the day, I know, you've all been waiting for. We'll let the uninitiated think that the excitement is all about the weekend ahead, the laundry piling up in anticipation of all the copious free time you think you will have during said weekend, or all of your planned outside activities, that, if you live in my city, are sure to be rained out. Unlike the uninitiated, though, we know the truth-- the excitement is all about the impending arrival of the second installment of Free Your Goat Fridays. And what do you know-- it's not impending anymore-- it has arrived. Feel free to cheer now.

Yes, we are still blingless, but let not that deter you from setting your goats free. Tell us what got your individual goats this week, and let them roam free!

Here are mine.

Goat-getter the First, or No shit, are you syndicated?

This one's short and sour. I purchased some toys over these here interwebs. Bath toys, to be exact. The kind Monkey loved to pieces all those many years ago. It seems they are not as popular now, and I could only find a couple of online retailers that carry them, no physical store in my area. So what was I rewarded with for my trouble? As is customary, retailer sent me a confirmation email. As is less customary (I hope), this particular retailer distinguished its email with this gem:

Thank You for your purchase and enjoy. Please visit us again as we will be adding new products. Cherish your children as Life's Greatest Gift.

No, really, faceless online retailer? You think I don't? Cherish my children? Or maybe I do, but not enough to fit the Life's Greatest Gift (note capitalization-- all that's missing is the TM symbol) criterion? Or do you think that all that stands between me and cherishing my children as prescribed is your aptly placed advice in imperative mood? Grrrrrr.....

Oh, and ETA: And, is it, dear retailer, mandatory for one to have living children, to, you know, cherish as prescribed, in order to buy bath toys? What if, and stop me if you've never considered this, the one making the purchase is a battle-weary infertile or a bereaved parent, buying yet another gift for yet another baby shower? You think maybe, if you feel entitled to dispense this particular flavor of unsolicited advice, you might also be so kind as to ship, by way of a free gift with purchase, a child or three, to, you know, cherish?

Goat-getter the Second, or Oh, we find it cozy

My office, the one we moved into. The furniture is still not there. The shelves are there, but not secured, and we can't unpack our boxes because we can't be sure at what height to place the shelves without seeing them in relation to our desks. Which, we heard today, are not going to be arriving until Tuesday. Which will make it just over two weeks since we moved. So we are working on some tables that we dragged in, barricaded among the many boxes the three of us own. Yiiiihaa! Yes, that was one of the reasons why I decided to go visit my parents this week.

So? Your goats? Will you share? Mine are free, but oh, so lonely.

P.S. The lack of bling is the situation I hope to remedy by next Friday. Provided, of course, I am not just talking to myself here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Bodies in Motion

This was Sunday-- Monkey's end of year gymnastics show. Her last year as a "civilian."

It's Level 4 in the fall, complete with team leotards, matching warm-up suits, and, and this is the key, actual trophy-awarding competitions. It also comes with nine hours of practice a week, starting in September, and twelve a week July and August.

She couldn't be more thrilled. JD couldn't be more ambivalent-- it's a lifestyle, admittedly, and he's not looking forward to being sucked into it. I am deeply philosophical. She's been waiting for this, working for this, for years now. She's having a ball, and she is learning all kinds of things any kid, and more so a risk-averse by nature kid, could really use in life. And did I mention that she's loving it? If she ever stops loving it, if it becomes a chore, we'll walk away, grateful for all she's learned and all she's become. In the meantime, my feeling is you go, girl!

Right now, though, we have half a week of no school, no camp, and JD out of the country again. So tonight we are leaving on the jet plane too. Destination: half (ok, more like a third) way across the country, my parents' house. I was promised some alone time, by which I mean time with my computer. I hope to put it to productive use, both work- and reader-wise.

P.S. The Cub began making his acquaintance with gym equipment this weekend, and so far he seems to like. Since he might find himself spending a good bit of time there, I am declaring it a good thing.

Reminder: if you are inexplicably missing some goats already this week, remember that Friday, and your opportunity to set your personal oppressed animals free, is just around the corner.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Introducing: Free Your Goat Fridays

Friends! Readers! Passers By!

I come today to offer freedom to your goats. Yes, goats. Those hard-working, self-sacrificing and nearly always under-appreciated guardians of your mental well-being. Think about it-- how often does someone or something get your goat? You are on the internet, so likely not infrequently. And the goat? It goes to be gotten, never even a bleat of complaint. Because that's the way they roll, these noble animals-- taking one for the team. Because you know, it's either "this really gets my goat" or "this really gets me," and the goats? They bear the brunt.

And I know what you'll say-- seemingly every time you get your goat back, or give up and purchase a new goat, someone new comes along to get it. I feel your pain, I do. But think of the poor animal!

So isn't it time we started treating our goats more humanely? A small start, perhaps, say giving them at least an hour or two off a week?

How? Glad you asked.

It is my contention that by sharing what it is that got your goat, you will set him free. Until, of course, the next round. But perhaps the goat can relax in the meantime, no?

So, c'mon, it's Friday, which must mean you have some excellent goat stories from the week just wrapping up. Big stories, little stories, doesn't much matter. Share them here, and set your goat free. Go into the weekend with less poundage on your chest and your bearded four-legged companion trudging peacefully by your side.

I'll start.

I have for you not one, but two goat-getting tales. One a small annoyance that got my professional and parenting goats in one strategically-aimed sentence, and the other-- a repeat auditory offender that has had my IF goat tied up in the corner for days now.

Goat-getter the First, or Ignorance Club Presents

We do not often go to fast food places. But last year Monkey discovered that ZOMG, they give out TOYS there. With, you know, kids meals. So now when we travel by car, she asks to stop at a fast food joint to get chicken nuggets and whatever plastic crap comes with. Last time we did this, she got an actually kinda-cute remote-controlled Wii character. Not bad, thought I, until, that is, I read the product insert.

My poor goat-- it didn't have a chance.

Do you see it? There, right above Boo's head, the part that talks about magically propelling him forward. Because, of course, magnets work by magic, don't you know?

All that observable phenomena thing, explained by physics and described by equations? That's all for N-E-R-D-S, nerds. And it won't do filling our children's heads with that kinda nonsense. Especially the girls, our precious princesses. Perish the thought!

Whew, I feel better already.

Goat-getter the Second, or From the We Didn't Even Get to Try Files

There's a commercial for a charitable event running on the progressive radio station in my area. Performance to benefit a good cause. So the commercial is read by the local semi-famous comedian, who will be MCing the thing. He tells us all the good reasons to go, and the good causes the thing will benefit. So far, so good. And then-- perhaps to fill the 30 second slot, I don't know,-- he goes on about how this is a great Father's Day gift, and how we should all bring notable fathers in our lives. Already thin ice for the fatherless and the infertile, sure, but the man's got a few more seconds, and, I hasten to add, not a clue. Because what does he say next but... drumroll.....

"Not a father? Conceive before Father's Day, and come to the show!"

Because, clearly, all the infertile couples you know, they are not conceiving for shits and giggles.

So there-- my goats are off to pasture. Please don't leave me here all alone with them. I mean, I like them and all, but they are not very chatty. So, your turn-- what has gotten your goats lately?

(P.S. If this works, I will make this a regular feature. And might even make a snazzy bling thing for it. No pressure, of course... :))

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A day

Around here, today was a day like any other day. Well, not exactly, as it wandered a bit into both the wow (Monkey's class project presentation fair-- damn, but those first graders are impressive; and major credit to the teachers-- DUH!) and the absurd (office move at work going not entirely smoothly). But what of it wasn't either good or usual was all manageable, and we managed. It was just a day.

My thoughts wandered today, more than a few times and clear across the continent, to where I knew the day was anything but ordinary. And from there to a year ago, and also to 28 months ago.

After A died, JD spent some time at Monkey's piano, learning to play Hatikva, the national anthem of Israel. He doesn't usually play the piano-- he's a guitar man. Plus, the left hand part on that is not at all easy. So he learned the right hand part, slowly and deliberately, repetitively, filling the house with melancholy sounds of the notes, one at a time, twisting together, falling in place to make the familiar melody.

Ha in Hebrew is the definite article, which makes the title be The Hope, meaning not exactly congruous with the melody. The melody is plaintive, sorrowful even, moving into something like defiant. Not exactly your standard issue triumphant or even assertive, it's really yearning mixed with determination, made manifest in notes. It takes a particular type of life experience, or a particular type of historical identity, to call that hope.

I didn't really understand why JD was so thoroughly stuck on Hatikva then. It seemed to me that the words (the meaning of which I learned many years before, and which are about the longing of a people for the land of its long-ago history) were not relevant. In fact, I rather thought they made it an odd choice of a song to be stuck on just then. I think I get it now. I think the common thread connecting the words of the song and our life in the immediate aftermath is the yearning for a way of life, geopolitical or personal, whatever the case may be.

A year ago it was T-12 days to my sister's wedding. I was happy to have the AC in the house working again, allowing me to institute the sub-polar temperatures regime that kept me just this side of human for the rest of the summer. I was also talking about how emotionally taxing the subsequent pregnancy gig had turned out to be.

Across the country, that same day saw the birth of a beautiful baby girl. Tikva, whose name, of course, means hope, entered the world already loved beyond measure, and was welcomed by her family, and by the doctors who were waiting to try to help her. Today Tikva would've been one. Sadly, she is not here today to smear cake and make faces. Instead, today her family marks her birthday, and begins to walk through the days and weeks of Tikva's life, one year on. They could likely use support along the way, so please stop by and listen.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Some weeks fly by like a bullet train. Some drag on while simultaneously not leaving me any room to breathe, kinda like what I imagine quicksand might be like, in a slow version. And some weeks, insanely, are some fucked up superimposition of the two. Those are decidedly least fun of all.

How is it possible that this

was already a full week ago?

That was the day after the evening of Monkey working very hard to keep the secrets of the card she'd already made for JD and of the challah I had stashed in the garage for making french toast in the morning. She pulled that off, and hooray for her. But that was only the beginning-- there was still the matter of the cake we were planning to bake between her early dismissal (most conveniently coinciding Jewish holiday EVAH) and her gymnastics practice.

Cake that involved melting chocolate, separating eggs, beating them separately, and then folding.

Which technique not only makes for pretty pictures, but also works to impress the hell out of a seven year old.

And then... THEN she had to keep the secret of the cake between when JD picked her up after practice and when they got home. Which she did. Can I have some props for my girl?

It turned out incredibly yummy, by the by. We used Splenda baking mix instead of straight sugar, and for the glaze sugar-free (Splenda-sweetened) fake maple syrup, only because I couldn't talk myself into actually voluntarily using corn syrup.

The week before the actual day of the birthday was doing the sand thing. It wasn't just the prep, though that was headache enough, what with Birthday, Extended Edition looming seemingly without end-- family thing, featuring cake, day of; friends over for BBQ next day; hike the day after; and yet-to-happen coming-up-this-Saturday official party (during a camping trip, natch) together with the other Gemini in our close group of friends.

Anyway, the week since has also featured the train, for my favorite superimposed effect. Each day seems long, full of this, that, and a whole bunch of other things, half of which I don't even manage to get to. But the week seems to have sped by, leaving me now staring at yet another weekend.

We did go for a day hike last Saturday, though. Including this guy.

And we found this guy

right in the middle of the trail.

We didn't make it all the way to the top, but we did achieve about a 600ft change in elevation, and made it to where we could see this.

And on the way back down the mountain I tricked Monkey into talking about fractions. Yes, I am a nerd, but in my defense she started it with her talk about how many months have passed since her birthday and how old that makes her, exactly.

I haven't hiked in forever, but I kept up. Which, given my current weight (ridiculously high) and my current shape (round, duh!) is impressive, even if JD was carrying a whole lotta baby there. Oh, and my shoes don't exactly fit like a dream anymore. Though, ironically, I did much more damage to my feet the next day, going for a nice long walk in my flip flops. Trust me-- you don't want to know what they looked like after or what we had to do that evening or the next to improve the situation.

This concludes excuse to post pretty pictures the world's most boring post. I intended to talk about how and why I've been so unsettled the last couple of weeks, but I am thinking it will have to wait-- my pillow is telling me it's feeling lonely and neglected.

Oh, wait-- one last thing. My sister and I saw the man of Bon's dreams in concert last weekend. ZOMFG! That's all.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Quad B strikes again: The Red Tent

The Baren Bitches Book Brigade is at it again, this time reading The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.

The Red Tent is a novel that gives voices to the voiceless and nearly so. It alters the stories of Genesis, or gives them subtext, or, for nearly all of the second half of the book, ventures into entirely separate territory. I found it really interesting that all the questions submitted for the book club this round dealt with the first part of the book, the one that re-tells a Bible story.

I have a connection to this story that seems to go beyond the story itself. It's not just that two of the very important people in my life (one now estranged and one still very much in it) have names that are derivatives of the main character's name, though I am sure that plays a role. I think it's also that I like women's stories, women's voices. I read voraciously as a child, but now that I think about it, most of the stories I read had a very male point of view. Unsurprising, really. And at the time it suited me fine. I was a tomboy anyway, climbing trees and building slingshots. Playing chess. I had good girl friends growing up, but for the longest time a lot (most?) of my friends were guys.

These days I claim friends of both persuasions, but I have to admit to being closer to women friends. More than that, though, women's stories and voices are something I seek out. Not just on the internets, mind you. The two discs in my CD changer in the car that are not Old Country or kid music are Dar Williams and the Dixie Chicks. I am still not a girly girl, and I find that the stories I gravitate to have markedly little in the way of pink fluff. But they are decidedly women's stories, with decidedly woman perspective. Whether the blogs I read only reflect this transformation or actually contributed to it I can't say, and in the end I think it doesn't matter all that much. This is just where I am.

I was struck by the idea that awareness of the moon controlled women's cycles. I always knew that the moon could MARK women's cycles, but controlling them was a new notion. I first read The Red Tent while going through IF and had some magical thinking that if I just paid attention to the moon each night, that I could regulate my cycles. Have you had any magical thinking about returning to Nature, even as you turned to Science to pursue your baby dreams (assuming you did)?

I actually first read the book when pregnant with Monkey. It was the first English language book to obviously invade my dreams. I had this vivid first trimester dream, where I was either in or watching (couldn't remember when I woke up) the famous meeting of Jacob and Rachel at the well. Can we say hot? And I don't mean the temperature in the desert.

The idea of synchronized cycles didn't entirely freak me out, as I saw it happen on a small scale in my dorm. But I didn't think the moon was involved.

So I was reading this in something like the third months of my second pregnancy, achieved after two years of infertility and a miscarriage. I was 27. I was just shy of 25 when we started. The first half a year was just a giant WTF moment, as following bidding adieu to the pill my body hastily returned to my old pattern of period? What period? We don't need no stinking period. And then I got the diagnosis of PCOS, and read up on it. I read about low carbing, and how it has helped some people restart their cycles. I was 25, and I thought I had time.

Had my life been different, had I only been starting to try now, only getting my diagnosis now, I know I wouldn't feel like that. I know I would be pounding down an RE's door (just as I did when we were trying this last time), and lining up vials on the bathroom counter. But then, then I thought I had time. And more will power than a tank. No, really. I went low carb. And stuck to it. It took about two years from the diagnosis, plus gym, plus some other things, but in the end there it was-- I started ovulating, and eventually I got pregnant, twice by the time I was reading the book.

Had I been less lucky, I think I would've found my way to an RE. Though how long that would've taken, who knows. However, one thing I definitely don't remember engaging in at all was magical thinking. I'm a science girl. First thing I did after getting the diagnosis was read up on the whole hormonal axis involved. When I stumbled on low carb, I read up on why and how that could connect to the hormones in question. It made sense. I gave it a try. I stuck with it because it made me feel better, a lot better, and because of that whole tank thing. So it wasn't about magical thinking, though there was a whole lot of listening to my body going on. In the end, the approach I took then was all about the time I thought I had.

For a time uber-fertile Leah and barren Rachel did not speak to each other. "She could not smile at her sister while her own body remained fruitless." Was there a time in your experience with infertility when you ceased communicating with your fertile friends/relatives. Did something finally bring you together or did you drift apart?

I have been thinking about that time in my life lately, the time of primary infertility. I have no idea how I survived that with virtually no support structure. I think, though, that one big factor was that most of our friends were our age, give or take, and very few were engaged in reproduction. So we weren't constantly slapped in the face with successful and glowing friends and relatives. The one time I had to attend a baby shower, shortly after the diagnosis, I held back until I was needled directly. And then I replied honestly. Compared to what many others have had to deal with, this was a very mild episode, and the one asking the offending question learned from the experience. All very lucky, and probably sanity-saving.

"The Red Tent" vividly describes the ritual Dinah's mother & aunts perform to celebrate her coming of age. Lately, I've been hearing about young girls being presented with cakes & gifts when they get their first periods. This was definitely NOT done when I was growing up! Describe your first period & your family's reaction (if any) -- how old were you, & how was the occasion marked (if at all)?

Originally I wasn't going to answer this question, as my own memory of the event is not exactly great. My mother, whom I told when I found the blood, reacted as it was custom in the Old Country. A strange little custom laced with superstition. She thought I knew that's what it was supposed to be, but I didn't. I was horribly confused and hurt. I remember sitting on the toilet, having no idea what to do and crying. When my mom returned, having gotten some supplies for me (it must've been minutes, but it felt like hours), I was sobbing, and I asked her what did I do that she would react like that? How was this my fault? She hugged me and apologized. She thought I knew. I wonder now what happened when it was my sister's turn. (Adelynne, care to tell the class?)

But the reason I decided to take this question after all is that this is a great reminder that I don't have all that much time until it's Monkey's turn. Very likely we are more than half way there. Funny that when I read the book the first time, I remember being mesmerized by those scenes-- when first Rachel and then Dinah herself are welcomed into womanhood. But I didn't make a connection to our lives today. Even this time around it didn't ring that particular bell. Methinks time to consider a new family tradition...

Dinah is awaited and welcomed by all of Jacob's wives. The one daughter, the one to carry all their stories, all their voices. In the context of the book it is a literary device that allows the author to tell us stories of Jacob's wives from their own perspectives. But what does it speak of to you? In your own life, have you felt, as Dinah does, a carrier of living memory? Do you feel your own voice to be better protected in the age of the blog, or do you see an enduring need for connection across generations?

This is one of my questions. I think the reason it bubbled up for me is that I have been thinking about my own family. My grandmother, her voice now almost entirely unrecognizable, warped by disease. In the last couple of years I tried to get her to write up some of her family history, but it seems I was too late. Or too busy/too overwhelmed by grief-- I considered at one point calling her up every so often with questions and writing down what she said, but I never found the time. What I do have of my grandmother's voice, though, are the recipes I managed to learn over the years. Just like women in the novel, there are recipes in my family that almost define us, define the taste of my lineage, if you will. Some of them have skipped a generation, because my mother and aunt never asked for those recipes, content to consume the finished product at grandma's, but I did. And have now taught my sister. But there are also those that none of us got, and those are likely gone forever. Just like most stories of the generations gone before. That makes me very sad.

And at the same time I wonder about these blogs of ours. Will our children and grandchildren treasure these, or will this be an expected detritus of their lives, generations growing up with cheap electronic storage space as their birthright?

In the book, women's relationships to higher power(s) are complicated. Jacob brings with him the one God, but that is not any of the gods of their childhoods. And it is to the gods of her family that Rachel calls with her simple and desperate ultimatum: "Give me children or I will die." In the context of your own relationship (or lack thereof) to a higher power, do you feel entitled to the same kind of an ultimatum?

And this is my other question. This scene, and the description of Rachel's barren life, unsurprisingly struck a chord both times that I was reading. The role of prayer and relationship to the higher power is something I have been thinking of a lot, particularly since A's death. Though I have to say that my theological foundation was firmly established before, and possibly because of that, it didn't crumble. My personal foundation is that the age of miracles is long behind us.

My feelings as I read that scene are mixed. Wonder is big, for this scene is almost breathtaking to me. The boldness of it. I would never utter a prayer like this, mostly because in my theology it doesn't work like that. Personal requests are not granted. There's no divine intervention. If there was, if I believed that prayer actually works as a means of procuring one's heart's desire, it would be devastating to consider the implications. But, as the rabbi in Monkey's school says, in my theology God doesn't work as a vending machine-- insert prayer, receive outcome. I don't feel singled out for blessings or curses, and I don't feel entitled to think that I am so special (or that I can pray hard enough) that my prayers would be answered.

And yet I don't read this scene as arrogant. I read it as a window into the time of miracles (or the time when people believed was the time of miracles). Rachel asked because she believed she could. After all, her husband's grandfather talked to his God personally. He damn near killed his own son because El told him to (ummm... yeah, ask me some other time what I think of the binding of Isaac, ok? It's a separate discussion, and not a short one either). And, I think, Rachel asked not because she was posing, or overdramatizing, or threatening even. It doesn't mean that had she not had Joseph, she would've died. She might have, as some remarkable women we all know (and sort of like Dinah towards the end of the book), after a lot of hard emotional work found a new way and a new purpose to her life. But at that time, I think, that was her truth, simple and, therefore, devastatingly powerful.

More book club posts can be found at Mel's place. Please go over to follow the links, and to sign up for the next installment of the book club, Mel's own book-- Navigating the Land of IF.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Fashion show

This post of comic relief is brought to you by the department of "I was dressed by my father."

Do you like the stylish "back" pocket there? And how about the lovely and fashionable bodysuit closure over the pants?

Personally, I think the man should actually get credit for the fact that in seven plus years of parenting this is only the second piece of photographic evidence of his misadventures in child couture.

Your turn-- fess up to some of the more colorful ensembles you've perpetrated (on self or others) or that have been perpetrated on you.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Almost by definition you can't get the whole story at a cemetery. All we get is fragments, snapshots. A skewed view. And yet...

Because from her own gravestone I know when she died, and how old she was just then, I also know when the future Mrs. Lucy Willson was born. But not much else, for a while. Because of what else I see on the surrounding stones, I want it to have been that the first 35 years of her life were blissfully happy. I surmise that sometime, presumably prior to 1791, she married one Mr. Solomon Willson. And again, I want the marriage to have been happy and warm.

Because some things I do know. I know that the turn of the century was not kind to Mrs. Willson. Whatever it was that came through her small New England town in late spring of 1800, or maybe something cruelly particular to her household, something in the water maybe, whatever it was though, it took her eight year old at the very end of May. And a week later it, or something else-- who knows,-- took her baby, only months old.

1801 was the year she buried the two infants whose stone caught my eye in the first place. And in January of 1803, another infant. Though perhaps she didn't literally bury that one, since only three days later Mrs. Lucy Willson herself passed from this world. Presumably from complications of childbirth. She was 38.

I wonder whether she knew she was dying. I wonder if at that point it seemed like a welcome relief. Or not. Because I also wonder how many other children was she leaving behind. I want it to have been not zero. Not because I want those children to have been left motherless, or because I want it to have been that she spent years and years of her life pregnant or breastfeeding, or both. And not because I think the ones she would've been leaving behind in that scenario would've made lovely consolation prizes. But because, even two hundred plus years later, I just don't want the five buried next to her to have been it.

Mr. Solomon Willson, by the way? He lived a long and, judging by the thickness and the width of his eventual tombstone-- both significantly greater than Lucy's and the children's,-- and made of a more substantial material too, prosperous life. He remarried, and his second wife is buried with him, having lived a long life herself. Whether the second Mrs. Willson was luckier or unluckier than the first in the childbearing department, that I do not know-- none of her children are buried anywhere nearby. Though maybe all it means is that she didn't ever have any. Either way, if Lucy's surviving children did exist, I want the second Mrs. Willson to have been a good step mother to them.

Glimpses and shadows.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Paaaarty, paaarty, paaarty!

We have martinis, we have bellinis, and, of course, the ever popular appletinis. Come one, come all-- it's party time. Why party, you ask? Well, it's because the tenacious Tertia of So Close finally has her book (conveniently also titled So Close) out and available for purchase in the US, and Mel, the queen of stirrups, support, and organization is throwing her a book shower. Which reminds me-- we should really have wine, since that's Tertia's poison of choice. There-- white and red, all better. Now-- what can I get you?

And while you are enjoying your beverage of choice (oh, have you tried the cheese?), let me tell you a story. I've had a few of these virtual cocktails myself already (what?-- I had to make sure they were properly mixed; the things I do for you), so if I get weepy and sentimental, blame it on the booze, k?

The story is most on point-- it's about this very book. The one that's only available in the US now, but one that I've owned for over two years. See, just before A died, we had a visiting scholar from South Africa come for a month. Most of which month I was at home licking my physical wounds. I went back to work about three weeks post partum, just in time for a farewell reception for the visiting scholar. Who very sweetly said that if anyone wanted anything from South Africa, she would be happy to find a way to get it to us. Can you say light bulb? I hesitated for maybe two minutes before deciding that even though I wouldn't normally have the guts to ask for a book unrelated to my professional life, this wasn't normally. At all. This was as far away from normally as I was likely to get. So I asked for the book. In fact, I had to ask my boss, who was the one putting together the list of things people were asking about. And I even did that. Woohoo.

A few weeks later an envelope showed up at work. I still remember it-- covered all over with stamps to make up international postage. As I recall it, my hands were shaking as I opened it, and there was a definite knot in my stomach pulling the book from its padded traveling enclosure. I can't tell you how many days it took me to read the book. Time didn't mean a whole lot then. It felt like I devoured it, but I also remember stopping for the day in a place or two. I cried, yes, but I also laughed. Because Tertia also brings teh funny. Most of all, she brings her heart. Completely open, completely exposed. Fully, consciously vulnerable. Breathtaking, really.

One of the things Melissa asked us to do at this shower is to answer one of the questions she posed in preparation, all conversation-like. I am going with a softball-- where do you draw your support?

Duh, say I, conversationally. Here. On the great wide internets. Well, I also have very good friends who started out IRL, you know, off line, and some who started out as electrons, but are now very corporeal. But the thing that popped into my mind when I first read the question was that way back in the prehistoric times, before Monkey, when I was going through primary infertility, I really didn't have anyone except JD. From where I sit now it just sounds strange. For two years we slogged through by ourselves, and a lot of the time it was really just me, by my lonesome. It sounds frankly insane. How did we, how did I, make it? In fact, I think that had we not gotten pregnant so soon after the miscarriage, it might have well done my unsupported head right in. I was in a pretty bad shape back then.

A darkly funny anecdote from that time. About half way through the two year slog, the first of my friends were having a baby. They had been living together for a while, but weren't yet married. In fact at the time, we were the only ones of our friends who were married. So sometime during that shower another friend decided to rib me to the tune of why is it that the only properly married couple is not the one having a baby, relinquishing the honor to one of the in-sin-living people instead. As I was using all I had in me to just be there, I didn't have the energy to laugh it off. So out came something to the effect of "we would if we could, it's not going so great." Hm... more dark than funny, ha? But the good part of this is that the friend in question turned out to be a one-trial learner, and has later told me that that conversation taught her to never ask that kind of question of anyone lest she step where it hurts.

Mmmm... Let's turn back to the subject of the shower. I may be three virtual sheets to the wind, but I still remember my hosting manners. So let me get you talking, dear guests. Tell me, won't you, what are you drinking? And also, have you ever thought of writing a book? Based on your blog? Or who of the as yet unpublished bloggers would you like to see write a book?

And finally, what do you think of the blogging anonymity and its unavoidable end if a blogger writes that book? I was thinking of this one because Tertia never was anonymous, even in the early days of her blog. But Miss Mel, who is also a published author now (everyone-- do a shot in honor of The Land of IF) was, prior to gaining fame and fortune, a semi-anonymous blogger. So tell me, is anonymity important to you? Would you give it up to write a book? Would you give it up for any other reason (like, say, being interviewed in a newspaper)? Would giving it up change the nature of your blog?

And please, don't forget to stop by the party central for more stops on the shower tour.

Now, who wants another drink?

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Not literally. Literally it has drizzled here and there, but mostly it's been hot-hot-hot-hot. I just mean everything's been happening, and all at once.

I feel kinda like I've run a marathon, and right as I was about to collapse past the finish line, it turns out there's another half-marathon to go. Which I did know about, but decided to kinda ignore in the interest of finishing the first marathon. Being less cryptic, this means that while JD was away for all but five days of a calendar month, I successfully disregarded the fact that mere days after he was finally home, our nanny (who is the best nanny in the world, and normally watches the Cub four days a week while I am at work) was taking off for three weeks. OUCH!!!!! We are managing, and it's only another week to go, but man, I am flat out exhausted.

Though I think what I need most is a somewhat prolonged period of time, like oh, let's dream big, a whole day, during which I am not the one in charge of Cub's well-being. And I am sure the fact that both he and I were sick last weekend and for the early part of last week, and that I am still not fully recovered, and that he is still coughing all have something to do with this. I've had less work hours, yes, but more than that, I've had like no hours for myself. Well, not entirely true-- this week, including the weekend so far, he's been out of my care for something like five hours during which I wasn't also working. Another week this might've been plenty. But given how long it's been since things were "normal" around here, and how long my to-do list is, I'm feeling about ready to snap.

My mom's surgery went well, and she's now recovering at home. My sister was there for the surgery and a couple of days before and after, which was good for everyone. Mom's still on restricted movement and such, but she's made it up the stairs to sleep in her own bed the night before last-- a major accomplishment. And before that, the milestones, in reverse chronological order, were going home (and, you know, mastery of the number two that is generally one's ticket out), walking, sitting, and talking in own voice. The last one was kinda funny, but more unnerving-- mom couldn't talk on the phone till the day after, and then she sounded nothing like herself. It was the pain relief meds, sure, but it was also her discomfort with how her throat felt after she was intubated for the surgery. I think it was day three or even day four before she had her regular voice back.

And just because major surgery is clearly not enough of a challenge, the degree of difficulty was upped when the one nursing home that my mom and aunt liked offered them a spot for my grandmother. To move in less than a week later. Which was this past Wednesday. So my aunt got to be the one to drive grandma over and to sit there with her all of that first day. My dad and uncle have been dealing with the apartment. In the meantime, it became apparent that grandma's home care workers weren't always giving her all her meds. And by became apparent I mean that the night person told mom on the phone that "somedays she's better if I don't give her all those pills in the morning." Yeah, thanks, lady.

The nursing home adjustment is going in fits and starts. The pharmacist from the pharmacy where all of grandma's meds used to come from faxed over his records without indicating that some dosages of some meds were discontinued in favor of bigger dosages. So the nursing home gave her waaay too much of those particular meds, her blood pressure fell, and so did she. They had to take her to the hospital to get checked out. Her PCP took it from there, both on the looking after her front, and figuring out the dosages with the nursing home front, and she was back at the facility that night. She's had a couple of better days, cognitively. But she's also been wanting to go home. We don't know what she means by home at this point, except that with these better days comes recognition that this place isn't it. Maybe, maybe, maybe, if the good days thing keeps up, she will learn that this is where she is supposed to be. Maybe.

I feel this just about summs things up: the other day I looked up and it was May 1st. WTF? When did this happen? Where did my April go? I remember April 1st. After that-- blurs. I clearly need a time machine. Or at least waaaaaaaay more coffee.

Also, if you want a good laugh at my expense, check out the opening paragraph of my latest piece on GITW. It's about self-care, and caps off our body shop month. (And if after reading that you want Vicky's number, I may be inclined to share. Particularly if you are inclined to share dark chocolate.)