Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Look Behind

2010, you were not the banner year I had hoped you would be.

But hey, you certainly didn't suck as bad as 2009. So that's something.

This morning, I thought I would dig up my resolutions for this year and see where they stand. This could be affirming, or simply a masochistic exercise. Let's see, shall we?

I started 2010 with the admission that:
there are things that have nothing to do with will, will power or even desire. There are some things that are completely out of one's control. And for a classic type A, honor student, overachiever, that lesson is a damn hard one to learn.
And a lesson that 2010 has continued to pound into my thick skull. You see, this time last year, I was secretly giddy with the idea that a baby just might be a possibility in 2010. As you know, that just wasn't so.

In 2010 we explored gestational carriers, set off on another FET cycle (which we canceled) and came to the realization that we were tired, really tired of spending 100% of our emotional and physical energy on baby-making.

I can sense that some people (mostly those who have no clue as to what any of this entails) are disappointed that it seems like our family building is on hold. But you would make such GREAT parents.....

Uh, yeah. No fucking shit.

Others (employers) seem relieved.

Here's the thing: I am just not in a baby-at-any-cost frame of mind. I am not there. And I don't think M is either. I think there are some things we each need to do to get our heads right before we can jump into all of this again.

I know this because someone (who I love) asked me at a cocktail party recently if I wanted to meet her gynecologist who also happened to be there "because he knows some people who want to be surrogates." And I wanted to scream. Up until that moment, I was feeling fabulous, sexy even, sipping on a carefully made dirty martini, shmoozing, making small talk, laughing, you know, acting HUMAN. And in that flash of an instant, everything I didn't have and everything I would have to do to get it came flooding into my mind and just wouldn't go away. So much for the party. So much for me as functional conversationalist.


If we are to be parents, there are now 2 options that are left for us: using a gestational carrier, or adoption. We aren't there with adoption yet. We are more connected to the idea of a GC. Because we have some gorgeous blastocysts on ice and we may have a potential GC who is a family member. But there are still hurdles (note the several conditionals in that previous sentence). Still obstacles to face. Still many, many things that could go awry. I'm not sure if 2011 will be the year for all of this. I'm not holding my breath. But knowing there is a shred of hope in the air, well, sometimes that's enough to keep from losing it altogether.


So, back to the resolutions. In 2010 I said my goals were:

To have a body I am proud of.
I mentioned 30 lbs as an ideal shed, but recognized that wasn't a terribly realistic goal. Well, how about 16? That's not so shabby, hey? 2010 was the year I emerged as oh my gosh, do I say it? a Runner? This was verified by the fact that I received a subscription to Runners World from my in laws for Xmas. I now have 5 race tags hanging from my bulletin board, a PR of 30:52 for a 5K and my sights set on a half marathon in June. M and I have been doing the vegan thing for almost 2 months now...I'm giving myself a +1 for this resolution.

To continue the process of healing.
We started seeing a therapist late in 2009 and while that was helpful for a while, after a few sessions it felt like she had helped us as much as she could. We chose to say farewell and for a while, swam through our sea of grief solo. We didn't drown, but we weren't going anywhere either. A few months ago, actually before we set off on the canceled cycle, we started to see a new acupuncturist. First me, then M. Now we are hooked. She fits us well.

Somehow, acupuncture feels more proactive than therapy. You bitch, you cry, then someone feels your pulses and pokes you with pointy things. It is cathartic. And the fact that we had some cash in my FSA that we had to use or lose has meant that we have each been getting our acu fix almost weekly. Those glory days are counting down, but we will definitely continue this process and this practice into 2011.

I don't think healing ever stops, just as missing Isobel and Jovita will never not be a part of our days, but looking back on my blog for this year, I think I can see some progression. As our acupuncturist would say, these pulses are not the same as the ones that arrived here months ago. I don't know what that means but I think it is sufficient to get another +1 for this resolution.

To be happy with the thing I do to make money and
To start acting like the director I know I should be.
I am definitely feeling better about things than I had been. After months of studying, I took my CAE (certified association executive) exam earlier this month. After months of thinking about it, I put my name in for a pretty significant political position in my field. I doubt I will get this specific job, but I like the fact that just putting my name out there has been met with first surprise and then support by my peers. I think it might help them see me a little differently in the future - not as a second-in-command-who-might-be-in-charge-someday, but as a someone-who-could-do-this-and-do-this-well-right-now. I'm pretty jazzed that I actually did some pro-active and scary things to get a +1 here.

Now for the hard ones....

To show more patience and compassion - to hear the words that were meant, not necessarily the ones that were said.
Ok, I think I have gotten much better at this, but I still have a ways to go. Case in point: the person who asked us if we were ever going to "try again" the other night almost got a tongue lashing from me. What the @#$# do you think we've been doing, @#$#@#?!?! Strong thigh squeezes from M. were the only things that saved that dude. Another case in point: the martini/surro instance I referenced above - I am sure what was meant was, there is someone here that I know that I think could help you. What I heard was, let me interrupt your awesome night to make you feel like shit. And both of these instances took me at least a few days to pull out of the funk so....hmmm. Can we call this one even?

To pay attention to friends and their needs, not just how they respond to mine.
This is hard to self-judge. I shall await feedback from IRL pals. No need to leave it in the comments section if its scathing.

To minimize envy.
Well, we can't be perfect, can we? I've been struggling a LOT with this one. Note Thanksgiving, Xmas, M's boss who is being induced right now....I am having a very, very hard time stopping the ouch in my heart with the new pregnancies, birth announcements, babies everywhere. I am fairly certain M is there too. Everything is theoretical until the belly is in your face, the cries in your ears. Mostly it is the happy anticipation, the wonder, the joy, and the fact that we missed out on all of that. Sigh. I'm sounding bitter so I'll stop.

Clearly, a -1 here.


So, all in all. 2010, I shall not curse you. You helped us move a little closer to functional human beings, took us a little further down our career paths. Hopefully, you are putting in a good word for us with your pal 2011.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Because that's what winter's for, right?

I'm a little envious of you who are knee-deep in snow right now. Despite all the hoo-haa, we in my little burg got a whole lot of nothing. Just cold. And wind. What fun is that without snow?

We've been laying low. not as low as Thanksgiving where we dodged any and all stressy family scenarios claiming mental wellness needs, but pretty low nonetheless. Xmas was good - as good as it could get. Which means, despite my days of anxiety leading up to it, it wasn't that bad at all.

it could be better
but it's good enough

That's a fortune cookie fortune that I received ages ago. I can't remember where or when. I'm not even sure if it was pre or post I and J. But something about it struck me. It's stuck on the bulletin board in my home office. I look at it a lot, and depending on the day, I love it. I hate it. Sometimes both. Today it just feels like the truth.


Xmas Eve was with my side of the family: mom, dad, aunt, (very pregnant) cousin, her new husband, brother, brother's girlfriend, yippy dog and me and dutiful M. I feared I wouldn't be able to manage the unwrapping of what I was sure to be mountains of adorable baby girl things. If those things were in the house, they were graciously kept under the tree to be unwrapped in the am. (thank you)

Most of the evening was actually spent with me and M explaining that yes, there are many, many things that vegans can eat, just not a single thing on the butter-drenched table. (don't cry for us - M and I expected as much and feasted on nice wine, gourmet gnocchi and some homemade sauce before we got there.) So, with a fresh bottle of red in hand, we got through dinner just fine.

M. was annoyed at presents from my parents. My brother and I were unsympathetic since, well, this is our lives. To expect that what you unwrap has anything remotely to do with you or that there was any thought put into whether or not you might like/use/know what it is - those are luxuries for other families, not ours. So, I took over unwrapping duties and smiled widely at our snuggie blanket and flannel pj bottom M would never ever EVER be caught dead in, said thank you, moved on. And to be frank, we received far more than I ever expected. My brother and I concur, it was one of the better gift-getting years. M doesn't know what he's talking about.

I was pleasantly surprised by my dad's humor, aggravated by mom's pained silence. She seems to be pissed at all of us (meaning, me, bro, M and dad) but none of us can figure out why. Can't be bothered to waste my font on this right now.

Xmas day was spent at our place. M's parents showed up with the poodles and surprise delights from a new vegan-friendly restaurant down the road. I made pierogi, tried some new recipes (roasted yellow split pea and rosemary dip? stuffed cherry peppers with pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes? damn. good.) and we ate, and ate and ate all day.

Gift giving. Gift receiving: I am not sure which stresses M out the most. They could be equal. But the moment of unwrapping - that moment so many of us enjoy - he absolutely dreads. And doesn't do a terribly good job of faking it. But he tries. He worries if people will like what he's got them. He stresses over how much someone has spent on him, especially if its something he isn't sure he will you can see, its all pretty stressful. So, the day was good, but I was fairly certain he would unravel at some point.

And....he did. right after he tripped and took a nasty fall taking and armful of presents and puppies out to his parents' car. It just takes an event, one bruise, one loose thread to set the Sad in motion.

But it wasn't so bad. We stopped. We talked. We admitted, presents be damned, who wants any of it when what you want isn't here? Surrounded by so much excess, the absence, man, it hurt. It hurts.

So, we did a shot, grabbed a blanket, went to the couch and hugged. He found a new game on the PS3 to numb his mind. I busied myself with new cookbooks. But mostly, we just sat quietly in each others' presence, because we didn't want to be apart.

And really, that's not so bad.

Yesterday was the final round of our Xmas weekend. Closing off festivities with my brother, his girlfriend and their cast of characters at his house. Gifts ranged from ridiculous (shake weights!) to ridiculous-er (blow-up doll!) and dear sweet baby Jesus please do not let me tagged in any of those photos in FB. I am merely an observer. I swear.

So, we made it. Xmas 2010. Over. In the books. Done! Now to the real goodness, a few days of sleeping in, working from home when the mood strikes, catching up on emails and other pieces of life that are hard to fit into normal days, like um, blogging.

I hope you all had a peaceful holiday, can enjoy some days off and are looking forward to 2011. I so am.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Right Now In This Moment

Two years ago they were here. Today, they are not.

I've written several blog posts for today in my head. Some while walking quietly, others in the dead of night when rage and helplessness overcame me and kept me from sleeping. None really fit where I am right now. Right now as in "right now this moment." Because I've learned that's all you can really count on.

Right now this moment, I am missing I. and J. but that is really no different than any other day. I can't find a way to memorialize this day in a way that is significant to us, because their births and deaths are on constant rotation in my brain. That is a film that never stops. I am trying to train my brain not to get upset when my parents don't remember. Like our new acupuncturist says, "you cannot demand apples from an orange tree." But I can be humbled by the emails, texts and notes we continue to get from friends who do. Thank you. For everything.

We have nothing specific planned for today. Other than being together in quiet remembrance. Like we are just about every other day. I may take a solo run to the trees. I will decorate the live Xmas tree we picked out last night. M. actually just left the apartment to go to a four-hour training for his new volunteer gig. At the ER. He's scared sh*tless. I am amazingly proud. There's more to this than this. But that's a post for another day.

Right now in this moment, I am not sure where we are in our quest to make a family. As you know, plans for a gestational carrier fell through (twice) for reasons well beyond the control of us or the two women who graciously offered. There may be a possibility for the future. But it is just that. A possibility. In the future. No time soon.

But that's ok.

Right now in this moment, I am feeling ok with my life. I think M. is feeling better about his. I was able to lose sleep this week for reasons other than replaying the 72 hours in the hospital in my head. Although, of course, when stress and anxiety hit you from other angles, those images seem to seep in seamlessly to keep it going.

Since our last canceled cycle, the one that we canceled in October, it feels like we've regained just a little bit of control over our own lives. We've each lost about a dozen pounds. I've ran in two 5K's - including one on Thanksgiving day in the sleet (what?!?!). Friday, I sat for a four-hour exam that may give me a little more cred in my profession and some capital letters after my name. This week, I was asked to join two Boards of Directors - one for a professional society that I belong to, another for a political cause that I am passionate about. One invitation I was kind of hoping for, the other came as a complete surprise. M just finished an online refresher course and is putting things in place for some applications of his own.

So what am I trying to say? Right now in this moment, this one right here, I am feeling like we are finally at a point where the Sad is not all-consuming. Where the memory of Isa and Jovi doesn't feel like a hairshirt. Where our inability to conceive now on our own doesn't feel like the end of the world. There is more to the world than this. We are human beings. We have suffered tremendous loss. But what now. What now? It's up to us to ensure that our loss is not the end of the story.

Right now in this moment, I am feeling hopeful, and that hope doesn't center around whether or not there will be a child in our near future. Maybe it will. But maybe it won't. I am a little melancholy. Pretty wistful. I'm only human, right? I wish my daughters were here. But I am I am feeling love, and feeling loved. And I am hoping that gets us through the day.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

And See?

now I am fine.

See, I told you. I guess I am lucky in that I cannot sustain the Sad for longer than 24 or so hours. I just get sick of myself.

Thanks to A. for sharing an evening run. (did you see the autumn sky last night?) Thanks to M. for putting up with my slouchy, self-pitying self and pushing me out the door to run. And for reminding me that there are many, many people around us who love us and who get us and who will be here for us this season - they just aren't members of my immediate family (brother excluded. He tries hard.) And as I mentioned in the comments of the last post, this doesn't make them bad people. And it doesn't make me love them less. What it does mean is that I need to reconfigure my expectations, and not take for granted the overlapping circles of support that M and I both have around us.

And if any of you are in the area, you are more than welcome to stop by tomorrow afternoon to try out some chickpea gravy. I think its gonna rock.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Days and Days

....that I am behind in the whole MEME thing. I keep envisioning a lightning round where I just stuff you full of everything and anything you wanted to know about me in one fell swoop. Maybe that will happen.

Right now I am holding steady. Steady through the days.

Wondering who that delusional idiot was the other evening that said to her husband, you know, I think I'm going to be OK this holiday season. I think I may even be looking forward to it.

And I am - some pieces. Like our first vegan Thanksgiving feast. (hint: if you ever want to minimize your numbers for dinner, say the word "vegan") And the impromptu trip up north that we just might make to see friends and family. Getting a live tree. Seeing lights. Plotting trips down south to avoid Xmas day....All of that - that sounds nice.

The anxiety that crept up on me last night and hasn't left....the anger rising inside of me when people asking things of me, wanting me to function like I did yesterday or the day before when now my mind is squarely stuck on other moments (don't they know? can't they see? isn't it obvious that the eve of my daughters' deaths is soon upon us?)....the simple injustice of all of the "this time last year"s....Those things = Not So Nice.

And the answer to all of the previous questions is, of course, no. They don't know. They can't see. It isn't obvious. Why would it be? And even if it were, newsflash, we all have an ache to bear. This is something I keep trying to remind myself.

We all have an ache to bear.

I am not the only one with a gaping hole in my heart and a truth that makes me gasp if I allow myself to think about it. I am not the only person who walks into the holidays feeling anything but thankful. I am not the only one who is trying to get through.

And, as M put it so eloquently: even if you were, you will die holding your breath waiting for people to think about anything other than themselves.

Well, yeah. In some cases, yes. (in some cases, no. We'll get to that in a minute)

I guess I was just empowered, strengthened, encouraged by this great letter that My Infertility Woes wrote to her family and shared on her blog yesterday. I thought, oh my gosh, this is so gentle and so true and states so clearly what she and her husband could use to get them through the season. Wow. Wow.

And I thought, hmmm.....I wonder what would happen if I asked for some help, some understanding? Because as the sage M also pointed out last night when I was freaking out about an exam I will soon take, it is rarely evident when I need an extra hand. He was clueless that I was at panic point, and readily lent a hand (literally, to hold cue cards and quiz me) when he realized I needed help. He simply had no idea.

Along that line of logic and spurred on by the responses M.I.W. received from her letter, I tried the asking thing out this morning with a little text:
"Dear family: asking for your patience over the winter holidays. This is a hard, hard time of year for us. Thanks."
I thought that handful of words might minimize the fuss when M and I stop by to say hi but don't sit down or linger at the other Thanksgiving feast. Would alleviate the need to feign happiness and delight upon seeing my pregnant cousin's belly move. Would grant us at least a little repreive from faking our way through the holidays. Might help explain the unpredictability of us - honest to pete, 24 hours ago I was FINE. This morning, I had to brace myself and de-tear before a morning meeting around people that I do NOT want to appear teary around. Right now, a break in the clouds is appearing. I bet by evening I will be fully present again.

Still waiting for the full results from the morning text to come in. One has been disappointing but predictable. The other kind. A 50/50 split isn't terrible. But in the mood I am in right now at this moment, these words bring me up to a steady seethe:

I understand
beautiful lives and memories
a place far better and safer than this world
continue fighting
don't give up

I find comfort in none of this. None of these concepts work for me. And the fact that they were tossed out, one after the other, like sprinkling holy water, confirmed for me where I do NOT want to be for more than 5 minutes this Thursday.

So then what, exactly, was I anticipating? What did I WANT from that family missive?

I think I would like quiet. And an understanding for when we are quiet. I would like some room to breathe and grieve if those feelings come up on us as they seem to be. I would like the ability to be angry without someone rushing to comfort. I would like to be alone with my thoughts and not have someone else define them for me. I would like the ability to switch gears and not have to explain it. I would like a quiet acceptance of the idea that I can be sad in the morning and happy at night. And vice versa.

But, as I look at this wish list, I am thinking this is not mutually exclusive to the loss or infertility communities. This is what most of us want from our families, isn't it? And not just over the holidays.

Tell me, peeps: in a perfect world, how would YOUR family support you over the holiday season? What are the things you want/don't want?

Let's build our wish list together.

Monday, November 8, 2010

It is so rare

That someone writes thoughtfully about children with disabilities, the struggles of being a parent to someone with special needs, Peter Singer, academia, valuing intellect while still valuing people with intellectual disabilities....that I just have to share this:

There is so much I like about this article, but mostly I applaud its balance. And I especially appreciate when someone takes a sentiment that is familiar to me and makes it coherent and even poetic:
August's disability does not form a part of "God's plan" and does not serve as a tool for God to teach me or anyone else wisdom. What kind of a God would it be, anyway, to deprive my boy of speech and movement just to instruct me? A cruel and arbitrary God. August's disabilities are not a blessing; but neither are they a divine curse. To traffic in a cosmic economy of blessings and curses is to revert to an ancient prejudice. Indeed, even though August's disabilities offer ample opportunity for public interpretation, they do not mean anything at all in and of themselves—they have no intrinsic significance. They simply are what they are.
Some things simply are what they are.

Day 23 - Trust Me. It's Funny

Day 23 - a youtube video that makes you laugh.


Day 22 - Blog

Day 22 - a website that has been meaningful since your loss.

There can't be only one. That's just not fair.

The "L" part of the adoption/loss/infertility online community is one I tried to avoid before sliding into that category myself. There were blogs I would stumble upon, read, cry, and then say to myself, "I have to look away. That won't be me. That can't be me."

Pre and even during pregnancy I was hellbent on puppy dogs and rainbows and "thinking only positive thoughts" and I couldn't let the possibility of loss even enter my thoughts for more than a few moments.

But guess what, kids? Completely isolating yourself from anything remotely negative or painful and thinking only good thoughts while putting flowers in your hair and blowing kisses at the world - That doesn't always work. **

And for the longest time I blamed myself for our loss. I wasn't positive enough. I didn't want it bad enough. There was something I did (or didn't do) to make this happen. And you know you're being irrational and yet there is nothing anyone can say to make you not feel those thoughts.

And those thoughts are sucky enough. Believe me. It sucks even more to have them reaffirmed in allegedly feminist writing. In fact, that still makes me seethe. So much so, I won't reference the tome.

But once I found myself a part of the "L" I started scratching and clawing and hunting for all of the other loss blogs I could find. I forged bonds with those whose losses were still recent, like mine. I found strength from those who were a little further along the grief road. I realized I wasn't alone in my thoughts or my self-blame or any of the other crazed things that come out of your head when you are trying to comprehend an absolutely incomprehensible event.

And I will be forever grateful to those bloggers who reached out in my early days and said to me, kindly, softly, knowingly, "You will keep living. I promise. I did."

So this is a shout out to the entire ALI community. All three letters of it. I wouldn't feel right pointing to one blog over another. Because I would inevitably forget one. And, like life, I gravitate towards some on some days, others at other times. I am just so thankful there is a realm that exists where I can float among similar beings, each one unique, but connected.

** this, in no means is a diss on thinking positive. You know I loves me some Perfect Moment Mondays, and let's be honest, being bitter and negative 24/7 is totally draining. And gives you wrinkles. Positive thinking - it can do some amazing things. But there are times when the body is a tad more forceful in the mind/body connection. And that does not equate to a shortcoming in your mind, or your control over it. There are just some things you cannot control.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Day 21 - Recipe

I'm not trying to be a downer. Honest. I'm just following the MEME! But yes, it does seem that the blog's taken a bit of a somber turn of late. Here's how I'll make it up to you:

Day 21 - A Recipe

I can't really recall the original source for this recipe. I think it was actually the Frugal Gourmet - that guy on public TV that could be the doppelganger for my high school humanities teacher. I have added some elements from my mom/grandma's practices, but not a lot, because they are waaaaay too heavy on the butter and sour cream for me. And I've added some healthier and vegan options as well since we're toying with this lifestyle (and kind of digging it.) So, without further ado....


[note: if I'm going through the trouble of mixing, mashing, flouring up my counter tops, I want to make it worth our while. I usually double, triple or quadruple this recipe and freeze a batch to boil up later]


3 cups flour (I usually mix 1 c. whole wheat with 2 flour. I wouldn't recommend using all wheat flour - it's not as maleable when you need it to be)
1.5 tsp salt
1 egg (your favorite egg substitute works fine here. Or just increase the amount of vegetable oil you use by about a tablespoon)
3/4 cup water
4 tsp vegetable oil

1 tablespoon butter (or earth balance spread)
1/3 cup onion finely chopped
1 cup potatoes - cold, mashed
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or sauerkraut)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

For the dough:
Combine the flour with the salt. Beat together the egg (or egg sub), water and oil and stir into the flour mixture to make a soft, but not sticky dough, that holds together in a ball. If necessary, add 1 tbs more of water at a time, being careful not to make the dough sticky.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead about ten times or until smooth. Half the dough. Cover the halves with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and let rest for 20 minutes.

For the filling:
Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Cook the onions for 3-5 minutes or until tender. Transfer to a bowl and add the potatoes, cheese (or sauerkraut), salt and pepper.

Working with one portion of the dough at a time and keeping the remaining dough covered, roll out on to a lightly floured surface to 1/16" thickness. Using a 3" cutter (or the floured top of a drinking glass) cut the dough in rounds.

Place 1 tsp of filling (heck, shove all you can, I say) on each round. Lightly moisten the edge of 1/ the dough with water, pinch edges together to seal and crimp. Place on a cloth and cover with a damp cloth to prevent them from drying out. Repeat with the remaining portions of the dough.

[now, you can choose to place the pierogi on a floured cookie sheet and freeze them - you can toss them into a freezer bag or container once they are frozen and you're sure they won't stick together. Or you can enjoy them right now. I usually do a combo of both]

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pierogi in batches for about 2 minutes or until they float to the top, stirring gently to prevent sticking. Remove to a collander to drain.

In a large heavy skillet (cast iron rocks here), or just reuse the one you used to fry the onions in the first place, melt some oil and butter over medium heat, cook a few slices of onions for about 5 minutes until golden. Add a few pierogi at a time and toss to coat and warm through. (I like to brown the outside of the pierogi just a little here. personal preference.)

This recipe makes about 30.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day 20 - Hobby

Day 20 - a hobby of yours and how it changed since your loss.

Once upon a time, M, M's mom and I would meet every Thursday night at a local chain restaurant for "mom's night out." A tradition that began as a morale boost in bad times (that weren't even related to baby-making) and carried well into my pregnancy. A weekly event that lasted at least 3 years with seldom a skipped week.

We would order discounted beers, half-priced apps and beat the shit out of the entire bar playing NTN Trivia. You know, those little blue box things? Yeah, we kicked ass. Seriously. We would play individually and one of us could guarantee a top 10 spot on just about any game. I'm not trying to brag. But we were unstoppable. We won T-shirts, a weekend to Atlantic City. We ruled.

But the last time we were there, right after I finally confessed why I had been sipping on cranberry seltzers for months and months, I went into labor.

Only I didn't know it.

I remember calling the person on call and explaining my symptoms, being told to "just relax" and "go home and take a bath." Call in the am if it got worse. I remember M silent on the drive home, already freaking, already jumping to conclusions while I tried to convince myself and him that this was just braxton-hicks. All would be well. We called his mom and said I was taking a bath. We'll be fine. She was relieved.

The next time we talked to her was to tell her our daughters, her grandchildren, were dead.

She went back to the chain restaurant a few weeks later to let our favorite staff and regulars know.

We've never been back.

Day 19 - Talent

Day 19 - a talent of yours


Day 18 - Wedding

Day 18 - My Wedding

Our wedding was small. Somewhat by design. Mostly by laziness.

Once upon a time, I wanted to be a Foreign Service Officer. You know, one of those folks that get to sit in embassies and dream of being appointed an ambassador someday or worse-case scenario at least pushing papers in a semi-exotic or interesting location. Well, back when I was serious about it, I studied and studied and took the exam and holy shit got an invitation to sit through the next steps down in the Belly of the Beast (aka DC).

So I studied some more and filled out the piles of paperwork, realized I had lived (at that point) in over a dozen separate addresses (and do I have a reference for each?) Among the rules and regs and orientation packets it said that yes, the U.S. Govt was a strong supporter of families and would do everything possible to make the relocation of you and your spouse as seamless as possible. Spouse. Not soulmate. Not best friend. Not fiance. Not boyfriend. Spouse.

So that's when we decided to get married. A couple of months before my big exam so my name would be officially changed when I took it.

We talked about eloping. We talked about going down to Mexico and inviting everyone to meet us there. But then realized we would be semi-pissed if someone threw that invite to us with less than a month to plan. So, scratch that.

We decided upon a pretty awesome (and free) park very close to our apartment at the time. With rose gardens and a reflective pool. We would have the reception catered at our apartment which we dug almost as much as the one we have now and then family and a few select friends would feast down the road at a swanky restaurant. My dress was not a wedding dress per se, but looked close enough to one. Think lacy, flapper-y, whitish. I tried the gown shops and would just about break into hives everytime the cadre of made-up clerks would dash towards me with forms to complete (free mailing lists!) and harnesses and corsets to take with me into the dressing rooms. Every time I would head towards the discount racks or simpler styles at least a few would nod knowingly,

Oh this is your second wedding.....

No bitches! Step off! You don't know me!

So one evening, M's dad (master shopper) and I went to a plain old dress store and found something we thought would work just fine. M was fitted for a suit. And we were good to go.

The guest list went from tiny to big to small to big again to wait a minute, we don't really know that many people around here, do we? We had just moved back to our hometown from Chile and most of our friends were scattered - teaching and living abroard or just settling back themselves in various parts of the states. We felt a tad hypocritical sending invites off to cousins and aunties and other family folk who's own weddings and important events we had missed because of our travels. And well, we just didn't have our heads screwed on very tight those days either.

If I had to do it again, I would be far more inclusive. Far more far reaching (and timely) in our invites and welcoming of people to celebrate with us. I would have planned for folks to have something to do once they arrived after the "rehearsal dinner" and would have realized that weddings are really not about the bride and groom. I was just so hung up on giving my mom as minimal a role as possible and controlling all aspects of this tiny little party so that it would be "ours" that I am certain I hurt feelings unnecessarily. And caused a still-unrepaired rift with one of my former friends but that is not a story for today.

All in all, the party went pretty well. It was 90+ degrees. So the elaborate speech the minister had prepared turned into a "you?" yeah. "you cool with this too?" yep. And that was it. My mom clapped at the wrong time. My aunt got the great idea to bring my grandmother out of the nursing home for the day and she freaked the F out - that nearly sidetracked some things. My mom got my husband's name wrong (she claims she was joking. He claims she was heavily medicated). The food was awesome. People are still talking about the cake. The bill was astoundingly affordable.

And then we were off for three weeks to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. Complete with a journey via golf cart to the place where they filmed the first season of Temptation Island.

So romantic, us.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day 17 - Art

Day 17 - an art piece (drawing, sculpture, painting, etc) that moves you.

Oh, this one is easy.

Angie painted this.

When I saw this on her blog, I realized that I was not the only one who cringed at the thought of my children as winged seraphs flitting from cloud to cloud or as my mom put it one day, "like two little bumblebees or butterflies sitting on flowers giggling and and looking over us."

Barf. Barf. Fucking barf.

Because that pretties things up, doesn't it? Removes the horrific imagery of your babies dying in your helpless arms. And sanitizes the truly awful things I wish upon the people I think failed them. Failed us.

I don't want pretty little angels. I want two little girls tearing my house apart, giving me sleepless nights, filling my heart with worry and love. I don't want angels. I want the mess, the chaos, the mischief that is life. I'll take life over angels any day.

And for the longest time, I thought I was the only one.

So when I saw this beautiful painting, I immediate wrote to the artist, who then became my friend, who then made me one of my very own paintings. All of this I cherish.

This is the art that moves me. The art that speaks to me and tells me I am not alone.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day 16 - More Crying? Songs and Such

The official month of remembrance and awareness is over. But life without goes on. And on. That's my rationale for dragging out the 30 day MEME that will most likely span 40+ days for me. How's about a lightning round today? Ah, we'll see. Let's take it one meme-day at a time...

Day 16 - a song that makes you cry (or nearly)

Flash back to Day 1 for some sobs all of those slay me. I want to approach today's theme a little differently.

Have you ever found yourself listening to a song and have your eyes well up for no reason? Not because it makes you sad, not because you even particularly resonate with the lyrics, it just makes you feel Alive with happy AND sad and sometimes all at once. Alive with remembering some hurt and reveling in getting over it (or not). Remembering certain times and scents and people and equally thankful they are not in your life right now, but that your life has been indelibly stamped by them. Gah, I love that feeling. That feeling of remembering what it is to be ME, not just a childless mother, not just a wife, or a businesswoman or whatever, but me.

Here are just a few songs that make me feel this way:

My Curse, Afghan Whigs - if I ever sing in a punk rock back, this shall be my encore. I promise. I had a secret hope that Greg Dulli just might pull this one out (even though he doesn't sing on the original) last week. But he didn't. Probably for the best. This is one of my secret beloved songs.

Jennifer She Said, Lloyd Cole - Aww, forever she said, yeah forever she said, yeah for EHH EHHH EEEHHH ever. Ba ba DAH da da da. Ba ba DAH da da da.... This song will always be me playing hooky, driving in a vintage convertible, with someone I once loved, singing at the top of our lungs. Fearless.

The Bends, Radiohead - Chills the first time I heard the opening chords of this song. I think I had forgotten music could do that.

Best of You, Foo Fighters - M thinks the Foo Fighters are pure pop. I am really ok with that. And I love this song. Aside: A few years ago, Prince was the half time Super Bowl show and he played his ass off in the rainy muck. Doo rag and all. He pulled out a Foo Fighters song and killed it. M. says as payback for them covering Darling Nicki at one of their live shows. Whatever. I swooned. I can't even remember what teams were playing. All I remember is Prince reminding everyone that he can take any song and make it his own. Somehow, when I hear this song in my ears, I dream of Prince singing it. And making it even hotter. Hey purple one, can you make that happen?

Polar Bear, Ride - Actually, just take any song off this album and put it here. Ethereal. Shoe gazing at its BEST. I am STILL kicking myself for not seeing them my very first day in London. My provincial brain just could not grasp the fact that they were actually playing down the road from my dorm. Silly, silly little girl.

She’s not Dead, Suede - Another one from the London days. Overwrought. Angsty. Sometimes that feels like me on a good day. And I need someone to sing with.

And as of Oct. 24th, add this one to the list:

Hyperballad, Bjork, covered by Greg Dulli - picture this: 3rd encore. Way past midnight. Rabid crowd. Can't get enough of this pudgy, cleft-chin dude on stage who somehow has managed to sing over his adorers who have known every word of every Whigs song he has shared. Soft, soft drums, first words....some puzzlement. Wait a minute. I know this song. I know these words. Is it....OMG its Bjork. Greg Dulli is softly singing Bjork, the Bjork that I no longer listen to because its on the album that utters one of my beloved's names and breaks my heart. But this, oh wait, the cresendo...

I go through all this, before I wake up, so I can feel happy and to be safe again...

Tears. Tears! But not necessarily sad. And I've been singing it ever since. And feeling alive.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 15 - house, well, home

Day 15 - what you like about your house?


Only its not a house.

And its not "ours."

Not ours in the sense we don't own it. We rent. And damn, I love renting. My fridge is broke. Someone come fix it. Ooh, look at all those leaves out there. Someone (else, not me) should really rake them so no one slips and falls. Oh, you're here to clean out my air filters so we'll be nice and cozy this winter? I heart you really nice maintenance dude that remembers my name.

M and I have both had the moving bug lately. But if there is one thing that gives us pause, its that we know. We are certain. We could most likely never afford a place this great in any other city that we would want to live in. I am looking out the window in my office, past the turning leaves, straight into the river where I kayak. If I walk the length of the place - and it is looooong - I end up on my little balcony, which overlooks the state capitol. Dome and all.

I live across the street from my Office. As in, the place where I go where most of my other co-workers are. We park there too. Bonus. We can walk to just about all of the eating/drinking/playing establishments in town (and stumble home). The only thing missing is a decent supermarket that's walkable. Hence my madwoman adventure in search of ranch dressing when I was pregnant.

Our place is huge. Far more space than 2 people should occupy. If I were still in Poland this would be a squat for at least a dozen students. M and I each have an office. Each have quiet space. Although we've both taken to the (usually unused) dining room table to do any hard core studying (me for my CAE, M for, well, we'll get into that later).

I love our home. I hated coming back to it from the hospital. I hated the long, empty hallway, esp. when I heard other people's kids running down it. But we are back to a peaceful coexistence again: Me and this space. Despite the size, we ALWAYS end up trying to fit into tiny spaces together - the kitchen (which, admittedly, is the one thing I would gut and redo if we had that option), the broken couch, the floor in front of the couch behind the coffee table we got from the office basement and have proceeded to ruin with our negligent coffee and tea mugs (sorry), M's office (it's the warmest room in the house come winter).

I love the yellow walls of my office, the dark, dark blue in my quiet room. I love that the kitchen is so far away from our living space - so if I'm nonstop munching I at least get some exercise. I love where we live.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

See? I Wasn't Even Kidding - Day 14

Day 14 - a non-fictional book that is meaningful to you since your loss.

Elizabeth McCracken is the easy answer here. An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination is the "OMG. Holy shit. I am NOT crazy!" book. The "what happened to us WAS/IS and forever will be fucked up and it is OK that I was not in my right mind every moment of the way" story. As beautifully written as any horrible story could be, McCracken, man. She speaks to me.

So, how's about a not-so-expected answer now?

There was one book that I read, cover to cover, when I still couldn't see straight. One that I picked up throughout the day and then used to pummel M with facts and information that I had gleaned from it every night when he came home from work.

"Hey, M! Guess what? Did you know the Hardy Boyz made their own trampoline wrestling ring in their back yard when they were kids?"

"Hey, M! Did you know their mom died when they were young? That's sad."

"Hey, sweetie..." [WHAAAAAAAT? Tell me, m. just what did you learn about Matt and Jeff today? I'm just dying to know.]

I can't explain it. I went for a walk most days. One day found me at the library. I saw this book. I picked it up. And good goddess, it became my security blanket. I couldn't get enough of the Hardy Boyz and their trials and tribulations in the WWE. It was simple. It was straightforward. It probably dropped my reading level down several grades. But whatever. It entertained me and g*ddammit I wanted to be entertained.

It did the trick.

Unlike me, trying to replicate a super-sweet wrestling move on M. a few months ago. Yep. Scar is still there.

Two-A-Days - Back on Track with the Meme. Day 13

I started late. I'm a slacker. And much like Audrey, I get defiant when I feel obligated. Regardless of whether or not I imposed that obligation on myself.

All of this to explain why you are reading a "day 13" post on the 26th day of the month.

Day 13 - a fictional book that is meaningful to you since your loss

The short answer to this is: none. Sure I've read a few books that I've liked, some that I've set aside. I just haven't been drawn to a fictional piece since our loss. Haven't found that book that's made me go, OMG, how did I miss this one?

I do, however, have immense gratitude for Carl Hiaasen. You know, the dude that wrote Striptease, and dozens of other books, all set in south or central Florida, all having more or less the same plot (corrupt land developer or business owner, quirky middle-aged characters with family issues but good hearts, hijinks, good guys winning). Hiaasen is what I read this year and the year before on our summer vacations down to the Gulf Coast of Florida. Both times felt like a reprieve, like a pause in life where M and I could just grab a trashy novel, a beach towel and enjoy each other's company for a while. And Hiassen was our go-to guy. Nothing too taxing. Nothing too stressful. Just a decent story and a couple of laughs and lots of down on their luck souls getting some breaks here and there.

Hiaasen makes me think of Bonita Springs which makes me think of happy.


And so many thanks, by the way, for your comments and emails yesterday. The storm seems to have faded. Life resumes, as it always does, after some tense moments, a shaky day, some hugs, some tears and some love. Thank you for giving me the strength to walk in the door with a smile on my face to try to shift the scene. It eventually worked.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Up and Then Down

Plans for this morning were to post my perfect moments from the week, which consisted of a great weekend topped off with a concert by a beloved icon from my past. I was going to count the ways which the evening rocked and then bang out some more 30-days MEME posts since I am, yet, again, falling behind. That was the plan.

But M. woke this morning when my pilates alarm went off (I chose snooze. sorry. legs still sore) and continued to toss and turn until he finally got up, sighing the whole way in and out of the shower. Somber morning, the kind where I quietly can't wait for him to leave since the weight of the air is oppressive. Is it about work? Was it the alarm? Did I say something last night to start this funk? what was the trigger? How can I make it better? Can I make it better?

On the way out it felt like he was trying to pick a fight over some earphones and finally I was like, dude. What? What is this about?

"I just can't find a reason to get up in the morning. That's all. I just don't see the point."

And with that he leaves. And here I sit. Reminded that no matter how fine things appear on the surface, That is always there.


Sometimes I wonder how different things would be if I just never got pregnant. If nothing worked and the grieving was for something else. Not two real, actual little girls that never got a chance to get mad as us, make us crazy, make us proud. I wonder if the sting would be any less if we knew there was NO chance, as opposed to one chance, and oh you blew it, and now you have none. That feels terribly cruel, don't you think?

But where does the anger go? Who to be mad at? Sure there are the usual suspects, but inevitably it turns inward or to each other, or to The World in general, and leads to mornings like this. Ones where I text until he answers me so I am sure he at least made it to work safely (he is). One were all my best laid plans are shot to hell and I still have a day of work ahead of me. Of other obligations, other expectations that have nothing to do with this.

This dead babies/infertility/sad husband/crazy family business (which I am not even getting into here)...It's really doing a job on me this morning. And the rest of the day awaits.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Race Results

30:47 (unofficial time) for this morning's 5k.


Super big shout out to my running mate A.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.2

Friday, October 22, 2010


My day began at 4 am today when I got up to catch my 4:30 cab to get my 5 am train to an 8 am event in Philadelphia.

And it’s been worth every lost minute of sleep. And you know my deep affection for sleep.

Spent the morning commute catching up on blogs and personal emails, treated myself to a caramel macchiato when I arrived at my destination, found myself seated with some of my favorite colleagues, listened to some amazing poetry courtesy of the Philly Youth Poetry Movement and remembered that spoken word isn’t just for intellectual blowhards at indie coffee joints. It can be real. It can be powerful. It can break your heart with its truths.

Not that intellectual blowhards don’t have their own truths.

Next up was Anne Mahlum who founded an organization called Back on My Feet which engages the homeless population in running. Yes, running. Why?
“Running is one of the most empowering activities there is because there is no end. There is always another mile, another road, another right turn. There is no buzzer and there is no referee. It has taught me so much about life, especially the simple notion that to get anywhere, you have to take it one step at a time."
Go check out their website and blog to read Anne’s story and the events that led her to lace up her shoes, and then get others to join her on the journey. She’s a terrific speaker. I hung on her every word. Probably because I felt like she was speaking to me. Directly to me. Especially when she said running made her “feel like [she] could fly” and that starting the nonprofit “made her life make sense.” She talked about how running doesn’t discriminate, and is so easy to start – “all you have to do is show up.” And for just showing up, folks that participate in her program earn points towards grants they can use to get themselves back on their feet.

And she’s so young! And has great hair. Tangent. Sorry.

Of course I found her after the event and thanked her personally, told her just a smidge about me – My babies died. I started to run. I kept running. It changed me. It heals me. It forces me to rely on my body again. And focus my mind. It has nothing to do with being physically fit, but everything mentally. I am pretty sure it saved me. Thank you. Thank you for everything you said and for what you do, and for encouraging others down this path.

How’s that for an elevator speech?

So, yeah, I basically spent the whole morning hugging people, tearing up, hoping no one turned the lights back on while my eyeballs were full, and wondering to myself, what is MY life mission? What is the thing that is going to make my life make sense? Make me feel like I am in love?

I don’t know yet.

But I do feel like there are some pieces that are coming together and some people coming back into my life that are reawakening some long-dormant urges. Urges to, you know, like help people and shit.

For the longest time, the very notion of volunteering made me cringe, because working for a nonprofit often makes one feel like you’re donating time all day. Especially when you see your paycheck. This, after years of pre-adolescent and teen years being a pretty vocal and active spokeskid for various charities and events, had been my prevalent train of thought. What I do during the day is enough. I don’t need to cut into my happy hours and Gossip Girl watching time. The concept appealed to me even less after our loss. When the therapist suggested we do something to help other people, both M and I held back snorts. Why the fuck would we want to do THAT? Aren’t we here to talk about US? C’mon lady. Focus.

But, hmm, I don’t know. I feel like there’s something brewing. Something ready to maybe make itself known. I’m not withholding information or burying the lede on you here. I honestly don’t know what that something is. But…

Side note: is there anything cooler than Galaxie 500 covering Joy Division? Wow, Pandora. You know me. You really know me.

Can my day getting any better?

Day 12 - Obsessions

Day 12 - something you are OCD about

I'm kind of with Angie on this one. I don't like to drop terms like OCD around too lightly. But that's the title of today's topic, so let's talk about some habits, perhaps some repetitious habits that I may feel a little silly admitting.

Reading through the other ladies playing along, its pretty clear we're all a little hung up on lists of all shapes and sizes. I prefer mine with little empty boxes drawn next to my to dos that I can fill in when they're done. Silly, yes. Satisfying, yes. But I also seem to find a bizarre comfort/discomfort in stacks.

Like when my dear pal S. came into my dorm room in the midst of mid-terms freshman year to find me quietly crying and stacking my books and notes in piles around me.

“Dude, I think if you just opened one and started studying, you might feel a little less stressed.”

Well, yes. Probably. But I just have this desire to physically see a representation of the tasks ahead of me. That stack – manageable. That one – no way. That one over there – I’m going to pretend it’s not really there but I will keep it there so I don’t completely forget that there is something big that I am avoiding.

15+ years later (dammit!) I look around my desk and I see these same patterns. This stack – personal. That stack – work-related. That stack – stuff I should get to sooner than later. It’s all stacks and piles that would probably be thinner if I spent less time stacking and more time doing.

I can’t tell if this is how I get my head around things, or how I unnecessarily add to my anxieties. The stacking helps compartmentalize but it’s not like I create one and stop. Ok, here are tasks I can reasonably address today. One step at a time. No. That would be sensible. I need to know I am in the weeds. In over my head and I need the piles as evidence.

My penchant for stacking is not unnoticed. It is M’s scapegoat for all things missing (aka things he’s misplaced) in the apartment. Sometimes it is the culprit (have you seen the last New Yorker magazine? What about my library book?) Oftentimes not. (honey, where’s my toothbrush?) But anyone who has lived with me for a time can attest that when I talk about piling it on, it’s not even figurative.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day 11 - Recent Photo

Day 11 - a photo of you recently and how it makes you feel seeing it now.

Is a year ago recent? I think it should be. What if I look exactly the same? That should count, right?

This is me, and two other gorgeous women, who also had children that aren't with us today. Bonus points if you can guess who they are.

I look at this photo and remember the kind older gentlemen who took it for it when he saw us struggling to get that outstretched arm, aim and hope for the best self-portrait. He said, "look at those smiles. You must be really good friends."

And the truth was, it had only been hours since we met. It was, but it wasn't. We had been writing and reading and consoling and grieving with each other for months and months.

It is true that real hugs feel even better than virtual ones.

I look at this photo and I know there is life after loss. Because we are living it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 10 - An Old Photo

Day 10 - a photo taken over 10 years ago of you and how it makes you feel seeing it now.

This post was a little fun. Because it forced me to dig through an old box of photos. The hard part was trying to decide what to share here - a pic of me and my old friend A? Me and the original J*vi? The original Isa? Most of these photos made me smile. In fact, there's one lingering on my face right now. I couldn't find the photo I had in mind, the one from my own house of bad vibes, which is most likely for the best, particularly if I ever plan on running for office.

So I give you this one:

Summer 1998. Lithuania, or maybe Latvia. Just a few weeks after M and I first met, moved in together, and pretty much understood we would be spending the rest of our lives together. I can't explain it - I knew this as a fact before I actually liked him. Let alone loved. I think he might say the same thing. I am wearing his shirt. We are sleepless, probably haven't eaten in a day, and simply, blissfully happy. Hopping on trains, wandering cities, spending a lot of time in parks. Because, well, they're free.

Sure my hair is ridiculous. Whatever. 1998. I bet yours was too.

How does this photo make me feel now? Like it was yesterday. Like sometimes following your heart pays off. Like I am the luckiest girl in the world.

A Little Hike Down Memory Lane

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (and you know how I feel about awareness without action), I thought I'd pull this old post from another (now neglected) blog out of the pile. Funny how I reference the Inca Trail thing. It really was my benchmark. For the longest time. I thought nothing I would ever do would be harder. Oh to be young....

This post takes me back. Way. Back. But I still remember the overwhelming emotions I felt on this trail when this moment occurred. I was thinking about this when my pal A. had to crawl out of bed to meet her Race for the Cure team after a late, late night out with me (sorry A., but I still blame you), and when my boss told me about her own experience with her daughter at the Race and how inspired they both felt. I knew what she meant. It truly can be a pretty overwhelming experience to be surrounded by women (and men!) who have overcome some pretty tough stuff and found themselves on the other side. Not the same, but ok.

Kind of like...

Ok, without further ado, here's some old shit. And more pics! OMG she's an exhibitionist now.

Cottonwood to Indian Gardens, Grand Canyon

End of a Great DayI am a cancer survivor. I know that at least one out of ten Americans can (fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you look at it) can say the same thing. I don’t think I am anything special. I don’t necessarily feel good when people say that I “beat” or “conquered” the disease because to me that implies that all of my friends who didn’t somehow fell short, or maybe didn’t fight as hard as they could. I know that’s not the case.

Having cancer has shaped who I am. It is a part of my identity. But it is not My Identity. There are people that have known me for years that had (have?) no idea that I was once really sick. It’s not that I avoided the issue. I just never thought to mention it.

There are times when I am reminded, sometimes gently, sometimes like a punch to the gut, that being in remission from cancer does make you different. One of those times was climbing the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu where oxygen is already scarce because of the high altitude. Scar tissue over my lungs and diminished lung capacity, two leftovers from cancer days, combined with the physical exertion to make me feel like I was going to die. Seriously die. Thank God for my patient husband who climbed ¼ mile back down the trail to retrieve the blubbering, shuffling mess that I let myself become.

That entire day I was feeling sorry for myself, constantly reminding myself that I had serious disadvantages over the rest of the people on the trail. That may or may not have been true. I used my cancer as a crutch and clearly it wasn’t a very good one because it didn’t get me very far. M’s perfect walking stick ™ would have worked much better.

That was four years ago. I am much stronger, physically and mentally now. I know that there is probably nothing I will do that will be more physically challenging than the Inca Trail. It is my benchmark. As in, “Is this as hard as the Inca Trail? No? Then keep moving!” That’s my toughy inner voice, which shares space with my not-so-tough inner voice and the virtual jukebox in my head when I hike.

My not-so-tough voice was getting ready to note her objections to the switchbacks that steadily lead the way up to Indian Gardens, our next camp, when I had to step aside and make way for a mule train that was coming down the trail. I glanced up from my boot-gazing stance to say hello and found myself looking at at least twenty women wearing Race for the Cure t-shirts astride the mules. Some had short spiky hair. Are you a survivor?? I couldn’t help wondering. Are you a survivor? My heart started racing. Because I am a survivor, too! Hey! I’m a survivor!! I was so excited I think I was trembling. I kept smiling and trying to speak but I couldn’t. The words were caught in my throat. I am a survivor, too!!!

SunsetThe mule train passed, probably wondering what the heck was wrong with this teary mute on the side of the trail, and I continued on my way. As usual, M. was distances ahead of me. I was alone with my thoughts, which were no longer mundane. I felt alive, elated, proud of myself, proud of those women. I felt grateful. I felt thankful. My steps had new purpose. I am hiking the Grand Canyon. I can hike the Grand Canyon. I am a survivor! Darn it if that darn Destiny’s Child song wasn’t stuck on continuous loop on Gabby’s virtual jukebox.

I made it to camp in record time. I don’t think I stopped once. M was shocked and amazed. He had barely put down his pack and filled his water bottle when I turned the corner. I didn’t need him to come to my rescue this time. I did it on my own. My cancer wasn’t my crutch; it was my motivation and my reason. I don’t think I am anything special for being a cancer survivor, but boy do I feel lucky.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Day 9 - A Photo You Took Since Your Loss

Here's one for ya:

I distinctly recall pulling out my camera and feeling kinda artsy this weekend. This amazing, restorative weekend spent with some other baby lost moms. I think Niobe was rubbing off on me.

Nothing fancy, but I like it. I'm a little partial to the beach off season. And wonderlands.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day 8 - a photo that makes you angry/sad.

Day 8 - a photo that makes you angry/sad

And, just like that, I'm days behind on the MEME. Don't worry, I've already received some tsk tsks from IRL friends. And I'll do my best to catch up.

But can I just skip over the rest of the picture posts? Please?

My relationship with photography could be one of the most striking changes since the birth and loss of our daughters.

Because on the one day, in the few moments that we needed a camera, we had none. For some reason, the woman that carries a little point-and-shoot with her everywhere had a an empty purse. The man who takes hundreds of photos weekly had nothing in his hands.

But its worse than that. Its not like we trekked hours to get to the hospital. We could walk there from our apartment. One phone call to M's parents or my brother would have sent them and any photo-taking apparatus we wanted dashing to the room where we were weeping.

But we didn't call.

In fact, we sent both of them away when they appeared at the hospital that night. Because I couldn't bear to let anyone else into the grief that overwhelmed us. Didn't want to try to explain the events leading up to the delivery. I couldn't get my head around anything that had occurred within the last 24 hours and trying to bring anyone up to speed while hanging on to the final seconds of our daughters was more than my heart and head could bear.

And if I could undo all of that, I would. If I could give the people we love just a few minutes with our daughters while they were alive, I would.

But I didn't. And that is one of the most shameful admissions I can make. I didn't. I didn't let anyone in.


We have just a handful of photos of Isa and Jovi - one from a camera that a nurse let us borrow and a few taken on my cell phone that are far too fuzzy to do anything with. Trying to transfer the photos from the nurse's camera to something we could use was a fiasco, an absolute breaking point for M, who insisted the prints she handed us were lovely but there HAD to be a way to get them off the memory card and on to one of our computers - he ran home to get a computer and any other USB apparatus he could grab. He opted not to grab a camera because at that point the girls had already passed away and it felt, I don't know, it didn't feel right snapping photos. Frankly, I am surprised he didn't hurl all of our cameras into the river. Because that was his state when he returned to the hospital. Shaking. In shock. Realizing that the apartment he entered looked exactly like it did just a day earlier when all was well. The understanding that everything in our lives had completely shifted, but nothing else had.

So, its not a particular photo that makes me angry/sad/ashamed - it is the lack of them, and the remembrance of my own selfishness that makes me cringe.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

We Interrupt this MEME....

For just a little bit of real life news.

M. and I have quietly been prepping for an FET with me.

And last night, after learning that after almost a full month of heavy increases of estrace that my lining is still only 4.7 mm, we decided together to call it off.

We still have time to try a few more days of estrace before another ultrasound on Friday, but really, what would that show us? That it's grown to 5.1? 5.5? Still well below the 6.0 that would usually mark the canceling of a cycle. Far below the preferred 8.0 mm.

It's not about the numbers. It's about feeling like this is grasping at straws, like this is desperate. And that's not a place M or I want to be.

I don't want to put everything on hold only to have someone else make this decision for us. I don't want to spend my mental energy trying to reschedule meetings, juggling more days off work, longing for my morning runs and thinking about all of the things I could be doing if I wasn't cycling....and truly, this is where my head has been lately. After the first ultrasound showed us pretty much exactly what I expected, my heart wasn't in it. And neither is M's. All the more reason to say, hey, you know what? I don't think this is the time.

This isn't bad news. Disappointing, hell yes. But the fact that we could rationally sit down and make this call - this decision that these were not the terms we wanted to accept - felt like a pretty big milestone.

"For the first time in a long time, I am actually happy with our life. I'm ok with where we are, with what we have planned."

"Me too. And I'm afraid going into a cycle where the odds of success are well below normal could throw us back to a place I don't want to be."

"Me too."

"So then...."

"So then."


We're not hanging up our baby-making hats. We haven't given up our hope for a family. In fact, I know it will happen. Somehow.

But probably not like this. Not right now.

And that's ok.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day 7 - Photo

Day 7 - a photo that makes you happy

This is me. Circa 2000. After a day-long ascent up the Inca Trail en route to Macchu Picchu. At that point in my life, the hardest thing (mentally and physically) I had ever done. Because it was all me. It wasn't about dealing with something someone else did to you (chemo, a bad break up, etc.) It was a situation I put myself in and the only way I was getting out was by my own legs.

There were moments where I seriously was not quite sure I would make it to the top. Even gnawing furiously on coca leaves, the altitude was draining. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't feel my feet. And I couldn't understand why everyone else was doing ok and I wasn't and that was beyond discouraging (later M. reminded me that one cannot have a chestful of scar tissue and bleomycin and assume their lungs are fully functional. That helped the sting a little, but not enough) I found it harder and harder to resist the urge to fling myself over the side of the cliff. I remember thinking through an existence in Peru and how I could sustain myself if I had to linger there.

Even with the crest of the mountain in sight, I could not put one foot in front of the other for more than a few steps. I was immobilized. I just can't explain it.

And then M. who had been hanging out at our destination for at least an hour. Who had already done this gruel of a hike and was (rightfully so) resting his own sore legs and waiting patiently for me, realized that his shouts of encouragement just weren't working. And neither were his prods.

So he ran back down the trail, dried my tears, held my hand, took my pack and walked the rest of the way with me.

And then it was over. And then I realized I had done it. We had done it. And OMG the relief, the joy, the pride. It was overwhelming.

This could be my favorite picture of me ever. I keep this photo on my desk at home, which is why you're getting a sun-faded, crooked, photo of a photo kind of shot here.

And yes. This is the very first photo of me that has appeared on this here blog.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Day 6 - 20 Things

Day 6 - twenty things that calm you.
  1. Exile in Guyville
  2. Cooking when I’m not hungry
  3. Knitting when there’s no urgency to finish
  4. Kayaking when I’m not busy drowning
  5. Poodles on my lap
  6. Galaxie 500
  7. Laps in the pool
  8. The sauna when I don’t have to share it
  9. M’s laugh – not his snort, not his guffaw, not the nervous chuckle that everyone else in the world adores, but his full-bellied, rarely heard, eyes tearing laugh
  10. Running along the river
  11. Walking along the river
  12. Staring at the river
  13. Mogwai
  14. Putting the kettle on for tea
  15. Fresh sheets on the bed
  16. A new notebook (for my lists, see day 12) and a nice pen
  17. Reading Lucky “the magazine about shopping”
  18. Riding the train by myself
  19. Sunday afternoons at my in-laws’ house, watching football on the oversized couch eating bbq chips with poodles on my lap
  20. M’s embrace

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Day 5 - Quote

Day 5 - your favorite quote

Is Dying
By Loving

-author unknown (at least to me)

I came across this my freshman year in an impossibly difficult seminar on the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Poets. JFC it sounded so cool in the course catalog, but I can't think of a class that made me feel more like a fish out of water. In fact, I just shuddered when I saw some of the writer's names in the wiki post. Scars, dudes. Scars. I left the class every single day thinking to myself "what the fuck am I doing here?" meaning the school in general. It was a dive face first into pretension - one I wasn't ready for. It is only now that I understand that every single other person in that class was talking as much shit as I was. That is a wonderful revelation, an ah ha! moment that I think only comes with age.

But back to the quote. The one cool thing about the class was that it gave us a reason to request access to the cool library on campus, the one where you had to wear gloves to touch shit, the one that was rumoured to house a book bound in human flesh!!! And pretty much the only place in North America I am guessing found a reason to hang on to the zines and self-published works of these "poets."

So there I am, locked in the reading room trying to find something ANYTHING accessible in the stack of stuff that prided itself on being inaccessible to mere mortals like me. And I came across this quote. And it hit my young impressionable mind like a brick. A ha. Now there's something. I can't even tell you I understood what it meant. It just....spoke to me.

And still does.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A 30 Days Cheat Sheet - UPDATED

Here's a quick-and-clean list of all the ladies in my Reader who are baring bits and pieces of themselves in the next 30 days or so. Did I miss you? Please tell me!

The Road Less Traveled - I blame (love) loribeth for planting the seed.
Still Life with Circles - altered the idea slightly to fit the lens through which I see most of the world

Some faves: (I almost said "old faves" but I didn't want you to get mad at me)
Between the Snow and the Huge Roses
Epic Fail
Glutton Button

And some blogs and ladies I look forward to getting to know this month:
Angel Baby Alexandra
Butterflies for Alexandra
Chaos Multiplied
Fly Away Home
Lazy Seamstress
Love love
My Insides, Out
Naptime Confessional
Only a Whisper
The Nature of Balloons
The Radar of Chance
Valentina in the Sky

Day 4 - Book(s)

Day 4 - your favorite book. has it changed since your loss?

Hard to say, since my book consumption post loss is pretty sporadic.

(Ok, ok, my book consumption before loss was pretty sporadic too.)

That's something and English and American Lit major and former English teacher probably should not admit.

But here's how I justify it - I spend all day every day ingesting enormous amounts of information and attempting to break it down into comprehensible forms. I read a LOT, just not the subject matter of my choice.

So when I get home, my eyes go straight to Lucky, "the magazine about shopping" (TM), or ReadyMADE, Bust, or the New Yorker (which kinda counts, no?) or any of the many, many mags we get along with our charitable donations to birds and nature and parks an'nat. but mostly Lucky. I want shiny pictures and stickers I can use to tag pages and things I can rip out and stick in an ideas book I have yet to put together. You get the picture.

But once upon a time, particularly those times living in countries where books in English were precious and a library card to the American or British Library in town was worth its weight in gold, I devoured books. Books I still love, still think about, books I am hesitant to read again because reading them the first time was such an emotional investment. Hesitant to read them again because I don't want my feelings about them to change.

And now, as I sit and type with this short stack next to me, I realize that most of them deal with loss, particularly, finding one's identity after loss and reshaping your life and your definition of love around this space that someone once filled. That's an insight I am fairly certain I didn't have the first time around.

So, without further ado, here are the books that almost always in my head:

The Bone People by Keri Hulme. I love this book so much I forced it upon one of my accelerated International Baccalaureate English classes in Poland, who dug it too, by the way.

Another Country by James Baldwin. This book is gorgeous. Read it.

Mating: A Novel by Norman Rush. This book is still a tease-point for M. since I had to renew it 3 times from the British Library, reached my maximum allowance, then had to ask M to check it out for me on his card. Its not that difficult a read, I was simply savoring it. What struck me the most about this book was how Rush so convincingly captured the voice of a young American female expat brazenly trying to define herself while assimilating (but not) into the foreign culture around her. My description isn't even coming close to explaining my full immersion into this novel.

The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker. I'm not saying that I liked this book. But it is one that I can't, to this day, get out of my head. It made me contemplate vegetarianism, question my thoughts on marriage and love and simply challenged me on a number of levels. This one I might just need to pick up again for a re-read, simply to see if it is a groundbreaking as I once thought it was.

And lastly, the granddaddy of all novels Infinite Jest by the late David Foster Wallace. I think the selection of this book pretty much solidifies the fact that being Gen X is my master status, the way I define myself above all other identifiers. I was crushed and angry when I heard of Foster Wallace's suicide. What did you do, man? Don't know you were writing for us?

This book is dense and some may say pretentious. I say genius. Some dismiss it as being too sarcastic, too insincere. I say it is so sincere it hurts. M read this first and then handed it off to me after saying he was "never going to read another book" because this one was the best he had ever read (he lied). This book was the prime suspect of the "infamous laughing incident** that took place when we still lived with M's parents. This book is the source of phrases and turns of words I have built into my daily existence (do I confess I sometimes refer to some of the more hardcore advocates in my field as "wheelchair assassins"?) This book is a bear to read without multiple bookmarks and heavy as shit but I don't know what my bookshelf would be without it.

**The infamous laughing incident took place sometime after midnight on a weekday at M's parents' house. I was reading a section of the book which had me choking down my laughter. My snorts woke M up who started to reread the section over my shoulder. Snorts turned into howls turned into M's mom furiously banging on the wall telling us the SHUT THE F UP. And yes, she did drop the F bomb. Which shocked us into even more uncontrollable laughter. The following morning, M found a copy of a decree from some country that I forget prohibiting a number of actions that could be performed in public. M whited out words a la mad lib style and turned it into the "NO LAUGHING DECREE" and hung it on the fridge. It was there for months.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Day 3 - TV

Day 3 - a television program that helped you either get through hard times or that moves you.

One summer when I was a camp counselor at the Best. Camp. Ever, my recently divorced co-counselor dropped this knowledge onto my young heart and brain:

"Don't ever, EVER think you can change a man, m. What you see is what you get. It's just like buying a pair of pants on sale with the intention of taking them to the tailor later to make them fit. It never happens. Off the rack, m! That's my motto! Off the rack!"

And we laughed and laughed until we realized we were missing campers and went our separate ways to retrieve them from the shadows of the campfire and out buildings.

Twentysome years later and I have heeded that lesson, and probably fared much better in love and life because of it. M. is complex in some ways, transparent in others. He's a Gemini so that keeps things interesting. While we are so alike it is scary in some aspects, there will always be matters where we diverge. He will never convince me his brief stint as a Britney Spears fan was not ironic. I will never be able to explain to him the sex appeal of the Afghan Whigs. He hates sour cream. I love it. Potato. Potahto. It's all good. There are some things I love I assume M will never "get".

But wait! What's this? My hip hop husband singing Galaxie 500 with me????? Gasp. The water-averse landlocked man pulling my ass out of the river as he kayaks along with me??? Shudder. And hang the same man, the one that once proclaimed, "why are you watching this shit? These people are assholes. Is this funny for you?" now coming home with the first four seasons on DVD of....wait for it....

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia

This show is my shit. And now it's M's too. I'm not sure when it happened, but somewhere between loathing it and being baffled at my chuckles, M started to see the magic too. Here's the premise: 5 friends own a dive bar down an alley in Philadelphia. They are assholes. They do asshole-y things. To each other and to other people. And it never ends well. And it is always hilarious. And I love it. Because I, dear friends, am an asshole, and sometimes I do asshole-y things. And the show, as its name implies, embodies all things Philadelphia which is, in essence, our second home and a place we hold great, great affection for. Pennsy! My residency! I can't recall a show that spoke to me more. And I am thrilled that rather than sneaking episodes off of the DVR while M is working, he now howls right there with me. Even better.

Off the rack? Not so much. I mean, shit's gotta fit. But there's always room for a little hem.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day 2 - Movie

Day 2 - a movie that helped you get through the hard times, or one that jumps out at you after your loss.

Oh now, this one's easy. You already know how I feel about Pineapple Express because I've told you here.

Full disclosure: I have an enormous soft spot for stoner comedies. Half Baked and Dude, Where's My Car will always sit safely in my top ten movies of all time. I will never say no to a Cheech and Chong flick. But this, this right here, made us laugh when I didn't think it was humanly possible. And for that, I will be forever grateful.