Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Getting Back on That Horse

Every once in a while, out of the blue, I feel sucker punched by the loss of my pregnancy.  November has been a real turning point for me, and while I remember the baby I should be carrying every day I no longer feel like I’m drowning in unrelenting sadness all the time.  There might be a week or two in between moments when the loss comes right back to the surface and completely overwhelms me.  Our Thanksgiving was lovely, and I do have so much to be thankful for, but the loss was so powerful that day I had a full blown anxiety attack at the exact time the bird needed to move from the brine to the oven.  Z and my mom completely rescued me.   OK, to be honest it was Z, my mom, and good old Lorazepam.  But they helped in the kitchen, I rallied, and the meal went off without a hitch. 

I think part of the reason I am feeling raw is we are officially trying to get pregnant again.  And I’m freaking out.  I worry my obsessing will prevent my body from relaxing enough to get pregnant.  If we do conceive quickly I’m worried about staying pregnant.  I’m worried about telling people or not telling people when it happens.  And I can tell that Z is worried that all my worrying is going to take the joy out of the whole thing. 

Last summer it was all so easy.  My period came back, we decided not to use birth control and then we decided we really wanted kids close together in age.  I didn’t take my temperature or track my ovulation; we just had tons of sex.  And within 2 months I was knocked up.  It was a pretty stress free and frankly very enjoyable route to the next kid.  Until it wasn’t. 

I have no idea when T was conceived.  We didn’t even know how pregnant I was until the first ultrasound.  I don’t know exactly when the baby I lost was conceived either, but it was during a period of fun and ease and love and happiness.  I want to conceive again under those circumstances, but getting pregnant and staying pregnant feels so damn charged. 

Before we started a family I rolled my eyes at the women who would try to get pregnant on a schedule, or who would know their ovulation day and make the whole thing so clinical.  Where’s the joy in that?  I don’t want getting pregnant to feel like another responsibility.  But, of course, now I do understand those women. I understand that we are lucky to be able to conceive quickly and I feel grateful for that. 

Now that it is time to try again I want to let go of all the anxiety that will always surround pregnancy for me moving forward.  I want to have fun with my husband, I want to be cool with it if we don’t conceive in December, I want to not have a little voice in my head telling me it is the perfect time, the babies will be two years apart.  I want the same little voice in my head telling me my eggs aren’t getting any younger to take a hike. 

What I really want is to never have lost the pregnancy.   Or at least I want to know why I lost the pregnancy.  What did I do wrong?  Was it the cold I got?  The anxiety?  The time I asked my friend to help with my alignment during downward facing dog and it hurt?  The huge box of cat littler I lifted?  The fact I was still breastfeeding?  Why did this happen?  How can I prevent it from happening again?  Can I magically turn back time and make it not have happened?  

Being completely happy at T's first birthday party.  I was still pregnant and I had two incredible boys on my lap, life was good.  

Monday, November 29, 2010

Excitement and Melancholy

Yesterday T started walking exclusively.  Walking has come slow to him.  He’s been taking steps for almost two months, but he's been pretty tentative and he clearly preferred crawling.  He was quite the speed crawler, it worked for him, he just didn’t care to concentrate on the walking no matter how much I encouraged him.  Over the last few weeks he’s been walking more and more, taking 7 or 8 steps frequently, rather than 2 or 3 steps a few times a day.  But yesterday afternoon he suddenly decided crawling was no longer for him, end of story, he’s a walker. 

My sister and her family began the post holiday exodus from my parent’s home in Georgia yesterday morning and drove back to Charlotte.   In the afternoon my father got on a plane for Barcelona, and early this morning Z left for Syracuse.  Mom and I got on the road to Charlotte later in the morning because my flight is out of here on Wednesday.  When we arrived my sister greeted us at the door and although she had seen him the day before she was astounded by T’s walking. 

The funny thing was even though we were barely 24 hours into his newfound skill and I was very blasé about the whole thing.  I’d simply gotten used to it.   In fact, the idea of him only crawling seemed foreign.  That is how this parenting thing goes.  The changes are fast and furious and we adapt to what is suddenly normal with lightning speed. 

The thing is I have been dying for him to walk.  The average for walking is 13 months, my guy is over 15.  His cousin is six weeks younger, yet he has been walking since just before his first birthday back in September.  My sister and I have worked really hard not to make our boy’s developmental milestones into a competition, and I think we have been successful.  I’m honestly not jealous or resentful that Gabe has been exclusively walking; I just wanted T to join him.  And now he has, and of course, it rocks. 

So I’m thrilled he is walking.  Yet that joy is not perfect, it is marred by a touch of melancholy.  And this time I don’t think the emotion has anything to do with my crazy.  I suspect that all mothers, all parents really, feel it when their child makes a great developmental leap.  I'm cringing as I write it, but it's true, everything does go so damn fast when you are a parent.  My sweet baby really isn’t a baby anymore.  His face is losing that wonderful chub and roundness, he has 17 teeth for Christ’s sake, he’s even started growing a bit of hair at long last.  I am delighted by my toddler and I wouldn’t want him any other way, but I miss my baby.  And next year when he is doing all sorts of fabulous things I’ll be excited, but I’m sure I’ll miss so much about who he is right now.  

Last night Z and I were looking at old videos of T and I came across this one.
Watching it again has only added to my sense of melancholy, yet I've been playing it over and over.  I know it's dull and annoying when parents say how cute their kid is, but I can't help it.  He is fucking adorable.  I can't believe I got to hold him and love him back in April when he was that tiny little person.  I still can't believe I get to hold him and love him now, not to get all mushy but he makes my life better every day.  But I can't help mourn the loss of his babyhood as I celebrate and revel in his toddlerhood. 

And here is my sweet boy two days ago.  Still fucking adorable, if I do say so myself.  

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Routine is necessary for my mental health.  It makes predictability possible; it provides me with a sense of calm.  Whenever I am faced with a change in my daily pattern my anxiety skyrockets.  A few days before my big November trip to the south I became convinced it was a terrible idea.  I experienced severe separation anxiety from Z, and I am ashamed to say I was pretty unpleasant to him.  I had been excited about the trip for months.  Who in Syracuse doesn’t want to skip town in November?  After the miscarriage I looked forward to it even more.  It seemed like a convenient way to escape the sadness in our house.  But as the travel day approached I knew in my gut that I wouldn’t be able to handle such a huge change in my routine. 

Of course, my gut was wrong.  The trip has been wonderful.  I wouldn’t have missed the Simonson family reunion or the look on my Grandmother’s face when she was surrounded by her kids and grandkids and great grandkids for anything.  T and his cousin have both benefited tremendously from time spent with each other over the last month.  T now walks everywhere and Gabe is more verbal.  Maybe those developments would have happened without the two guys being together almost every day, but I think the changes were expedited by each other’s influence.  I got to see my Aunt and Uncle, my cousin and his family, and old friends.  We spent a day with Z’s parents, and I got several days with my awesome sister-in-law and family.  I was able to be at my parent’s new home on their move in day, and we had a wonderful Thanksgiving complete with my sister's best friend. 

But the day after that wonderful Thanksgiving dread started creeping into my body.  I could feel it in the back of my throat, in my belly, in my lower back.  Since then it has been a constant presence tainting every bit of fun I’ve had with my family.  I don’t want to go back home.  I’ve gotten used to being down here.  Traveling has become my routine.  Z has been with us for almost a week, so the huge hole that his absence created has been filled.  This is my reality now, and home seems completely foreign and frankly frightening.  Z is going home tomorrow morning and my sadness at saying goodbye to him, even for just over 48 hours is making things worse.  Because of course I’m going to be happy to be home on Wednesday.  Of course I’ll quickly slip back into our routine there.  Of course I can’t wait to see my friends and our newly renovated bathroom and my two bat shit crazy cats. 

But for some reason I can’t imagine that happiness right now as I sit in Georgia.  We only are going to be home for a few weeks before we head back down south for Christmas in Winston-Salem followed by another trip down to my parent’s house in Georgia.  A month from this moment I will be back in this house surrounded by family.  And I’ll surely be dreading going home again.  That dread will not be completely irrational, though.  I learned last winter that January through March is the hardest part of the year in Syracuse.  My sister will be having her baby in May, and that will probably be what I use to get me through those months, the thought of visiting her when the baby arrives. 

And then I’ll dread that trip down south when I am days away from it.  Like always, the hope is that by seeing the pattern I’ll be able to break it at some point, but I don’t feel close to escaping the cycle right now.  

 Dad heated up the hot tube a bit so Z and T could take a dip.  It is unbelievably beautiful here.

The cousins took a boat ride on the lake.

Mom and Dad enjoying their lovely new home.   

T hasn't had a favorite stuffed toy yet.  My dad got this one as swag somewhere and handed it to T while unpacking.  T hasn't wanted to let it go since.  Of course he would choose to love an orange toy.  He rubbed it on my face today and I had shivers running down my spine, but I didn't visibly freak out.  Motherhood has make me very strong...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

In Which I Write About Diarrhea...Oh Yes, I Am Going There

One more HP thing and I’ll stop…it drove me nuts that Harry started saying You Know Who without an explanation.  Even in the movies it has been clear that he doesn’t fear saying the name.  I think it was a bad detail to skip.  Or did it happen and I missed it?  Will have to watch carefully the next time to find out…

Now if you don’t care to read about my bathroom habits this post is not for you.  Please consider yourself warned. 

An acquaintance from high school who has turned into a friend all these years later and I have been on a similar wavelength lately.  She wrote this a couple of days ago and it cracked me up, but it was a cool surprise because it is similar in bathroom theme to the post I have been trying to screw up the courage to write. 

Recently I wrote about not being completely comfortable at my sister-in-law’s house.  Why shouldn’t I be comfortable there?  I love her and my brother-in-law very much, and I like them to boot.  She is a lot of fun, and we can be snarky together.  He really has a good heart and I wish I was more like him in terms of how kind he can be.  The problem is the location of their guest bathroom.  It just isn’t far enough from their living room for my comfort. (And to my dear sister-in-law: this is my problem not yours.  You have a lovely home and I love visiting.)

Because the number one way my anxiety manifests itself is…just bite the bullet and do it, Karen…diarrhea.  Or, fear of diarrhea.  Or, fear I will not be able to control my bowels in front of others.   Um, I laughed as I wrote that sentence so please feel free to laugh yourselves.  I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, like officially diagnosed and everything.  But my IBS is completely brought on by my anxiety, there isn’t any physical thing like eating dairy that triggers it.  Just good old fashion stress and fear.  It started about 20 years ago and there are periods that are much worse than others.  I feel I have single handedly kept Imodium AD in business.  I never leave the house without some on me, it is more important than having a chill pill close by.  

This is my deepest shame.    As someone who struggles with self loathing it is interesting to me that my body would choose the most humiliating way to manifest my anxiety.  I even hate myself subconsciously. 

I’ve been better since my first pregnancy, which is great.  And by better I mean it hasn’t been an every day issue like is often is.   After T was born I was sure it would come back, but then I developed the anal fissures.  And I believe my body recognized that it simply could not deal with the pain of anal fissures and diarrhea, it was literally impossible.  Taking a regular crap was torture enough.  It was fascinating how the anxiety was able to shift to nausea.  As much as I don’t love being nauseous, for once my body was kind to me.    

But when I travel it gets bad again.  I always need to know where the nearest bathroom is.  I am at my best when I feel like I’m in a “safe” place, which often means one filled with people who know about my issue along with a very private bathroom I can use.  Over the years I’ve had to miss many events because of this problem.  I am thinking of a wedding ceremony I continue to regret missing.  I’ve left many functions early.  And if I had a bad experience at a location I have one hell of a time rallying to get myself there again.  I have prayed that people never figure out what is going on.  So why write about it now?  Well, it’s pretty damn uncomfortable and completely honest.  And as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized a couple of things.  First, everyone shits.  Everyone.  OK. Maybe most people don’t have alarming diarrhea regularly, but everyone does, in fact poop.  And, maybe if I put it out there publicly I’ll stop being anxious about it.  A stretch, I know.  But Z pointed out to me once that I never actually have shit myself. 

OK, I did shit myself once.  But it was back in the late 70s.  The electricity went off one night, and I was a scaredy cat to begin with.  It was the one time in my life post potty training that I had the shit scared out of me. I was 3.

I remember having one of the people who is closest to me in the world call me and tell me she was sick with a stomach bug and had diarrhea.  “Karen,” she said, “I have no idea how you do this every single day.”  I laughed my ass off, but later I thought about it.  I really think you can get used to anything.  And it has made me develop a huge appreciation for bathroom humor.  Because if you can’t laugh at this shit (pun intended) it really would be unbearable.  That scene in American Pie where the kid is tricked into having diarrhea in the girl’s bathroom?  I literally laughed for hours.  Z thought there was something wrong with me.  But if you’d spent hours in the filthy girl’s room in high school trying to quietly have diarrhea as you were burning with shame you’d have laughed for hours, too. 

Tonight we went to a tree lighting ceremony in the town my parents just moved to.  I was anxious because we were going to a new place, I was anxious because we would be out past T’s bedtime, I was anxious because I was in the middle of writing this.  I’m really nervous to post such a personal thing that I’ve been tortured by and kept hidden for so long.    My stomach cramps were terrible and I warned the family I might have to be rushed home.  But once we got there I really started to enjoy myself.  And T was enjoying himself, which is always a pleasure to watch.  Z is now with us, my folks and sister and her boy where there and we were all having a great time together.  There wasn’t anything to worry about.  Small victory. 

This is what I woke up to this morning.  T was so excited to see his dad.  Pure bliss.

Monday, November 22, 2010

HP Recap

Finally we have internet at my parent’s new abode in Georgia.  And now that I can post something I find I’ve got a case of writer’s block.  Well, that isn’t quite right.  I know what I want to write about, but it’s almost 11pm, we have been unpacking boxes for the last 4 days, I took NyQuil a few minutes ago, I’m just too overwhelmed. 

So I’ll save what I want to write about for another time (maybe tomorrow?  Probably not because I’m going to be cooking my father’s birthday meal for most of the day and planning Thanksgiving dinner for the rest of it).  A friend asked for a Harry Potter review, and while I can’t write a proper review because I’m so in love with the series I cannot be dispassionate, I can write a jumble of sleep deprived, non-sequential impressions.    

If you haven’t seen the movie don’t read on.  Spoilers ahead!

Going to the midnight showing was completely worth it.  The next day the moving van arrived, so there was no sleeping the morning away.  I got 3.5 hours of sleep, and I don’t do well without a full 8 hours.  I mean, all through college I never pulled an all nighter.  The two times I had to spend the night working in a bakery I was able to sleep through the next day, so it does mean something when I say it was worth it. 

In my mind the HP movies and books are two different entities and it doesn’t kill me that all the detail of the books are lost in the movies. 

I started crying when Hermione modified her parent’s memories.  I thought it summed up the feeling of the scene in the book where she and Ron explain to Harry that they will be accompanying him on his quest beautifully.  I cried on and off for the whole movie.  Usually the subpar acting doesn’t bug me that much in the series, but when Bill announced Mad Eye was dead I was squirming in my seat.  I thought Daniel Radcliff did a great job playing the 7 Harrys.  I particularly loved the way he rested his head on Bill’s back after mounting the thestral.  The casting of Xenophilius Lovegood was inspired.  I didn’t like that Snape betrayed sympathy in his gaze toward Charity Burbage before Voldemort killed her.  The kid that plays Draco really is terrific.  When he told his Aunt he didn’t know if Harry was Harry my heart was full of sympathy for him.  And of course, the Doby stuff made my heart break into a million pieces.  As did the horribly awkward dance between Harry and Hermione.  It was so bad it was good for me.  Ron was outstanding.  His dangerous anger was perfect.  It was quite a bit more graphic than any of the others.  George covered in blood, and later Ron’s unfortunate splinching kind of turned my stomach.  I was sad that Kreacher’s stuff was cut.  I was looking forward to seeing him in a gleaming white towel, happily caring for the trio.  Neville’s one sentence made me love him even more.  I can’t wait to see him in the battle in part two.  The Bathilda scene was beyond creepy.  I could say a million more things.  I can’t wait to see it again.  But right now I really need to get in bed. 

In other news Z is coming tomorrow night.  I am so excited I don’t know what to do with myself.  

This may be a repeat, but I'm too tired to check.  It's my phone wallpaper.  Back when T didn't have any hair at all.  I can't wait to hug my wonderful husband tomorrow. 

My sweet boy helping his Grandma unpack in the kitchen.  

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Safe Places

A couple things about agoraphobia: First, although I wrote a post about it I technically am not an agoraphobic, rather I have agoraphobic tenancies.  Second, I’ve learned from my shrinks the proper pronunciation is more like ag-ra-foh-bee-uh.  There’s my annoying little lesson for the day.  The way my current shrink explained it to me was the true agoraphobic experiences anxiety because of the location rather than any social component.  Here is another really terrific explanation.  Clearly, my anxiety attached to my agoraphobic tendencies can be accounted for by social anxiety and generalized anxiety, which are my current diagnoses.  And here’s something truly spectacular about mental illness, after a shitload of hard work your diagnosis can change.  I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder by the psychiatrist who I feel saved my life.  My current shrink was surprised that was my diagnosis, she told me it just doesn’t fit anymore.  Which made me so happy I didn’t know what to do with myself.  The description is that of a person so broken that no one would want to know them.  I feel sorry for everyone who was in my life at that time, and I can’t believe it used to be me.  It also scares the piss out of me to remember that time.  I want to do everything I can to never ever go back to that place.  But here’s something truly shitty about mental illness: those who have experienced it have a much higher chance of recurring episodes down the line. 

A comment from the last post prompted this one.  The mystery person (it’s so weird to me when I can’t identify a commenter) was noting I’d been out and about a lot.  Which is absolutely true, and I’m very happy about it.  But it got me thinking about the different ways I view the world outside my home.  Places are either safe or they are not.  The safe places feel like extensions of my home.  When I see it in my head it is like looking at a map.  My home has sort of a glow to it and there are tentacles that also softly glow extending from it to the safe places which are like little glowing satellites.  As soon as a location is deemed safe by me it is added to the map.  Occasionally safe places are removed from the map if something really bad happens while I am visiting one. 

In Syracuse the safe places are Wegmans, Target, the Pediatrician’s office, the magic office building that houses my shrink, my Ob-Gyn, and the place I get blood drawn, my GP’s office, and that is about it.  Down south the places include my sister’s house which is like home base, my in law’s house, the Whole Foods in Winston Salem, and the mall I visited and wrote about in the last post.  When I visit the safe places it is definitely a good thing, but it feels like much less of a victory than say visiting Charlottesville overnight where there isn’t a safe place in sight and I won’t be able to get back to one until the next day. 

There is a third category of places, those that are becoming safe.  On this visit they include my Gram’s place and my sister in law’s place.  Within a visit or two I’m hoping both will be added to the completely safe list, I just need a little more time in them.  It is strange to me that the mall by my sister’s house was so easily added to the safe list.  I visited it for the first time last December.  It was a particularly successful shopping trip-I was able to score some great presents for my family.  Christmas is my favorite holiday because picking out presents for people I love is one of my favorite things ever.  When I pick out a gift that someone clearly adores it creates a high for me like nothing else.  Even though I usually take longer to warm up to a place the success of the single trip made the mall safe in one go. 

So there it is, a little peek into the inner workings of my crazy.  I think I’ll write about how going to the unsafe places makes me feel soon.  Yesterday we went to see my in laws.  Unfortunately my mother in law was really ill, so she didn’t even get to give T a hug.  I was really bummed for her.  But my father in law got some good playing time in.  And we will be at their home for a week in December, so they will get plenty of time with T then.  My wonderful sister in law was visiting with her two girls.  She made us a terrific lunch, how she juggled the newborn, the toddler, and cooking I still don’t totally understand.  She is a better woman than I am.

T playing with his Granddad. 

  My wonderful sister in law and her brand new baby.  As we were getting ready to leave I mentioned to her that when we first met I had no idea we would get so close.  Man, am I grateful that we have.  She is a terrific friend and I couldn't have picked out a better sister in law.  


Sunday, November 14, 2010


Last week I dragged my sister to the mall to get her some new clothes.  She may be the worst shopper in the history of the universe.  I’ve mentioned before that she is slender.  And I mean super slender, like size 0-2 slender.  Though only a fraction of the population has a body like hers, her figure is exactly what clothing manufacturers design for.  She should be the best shopper in the world.  But she won’t buy anything unless it is just like something she already owns.  Yet she constantly complains about how much she hates her wardrobe.  Therefore, I have very little sympathy for her.  On this shopping trip I used the tough love approach.  I picked out everything she tried on and I told her what she was going to buy.  It was rather refreshing to be the in charge person, and I have a pretty good eye for fashion, if I do say so myself.  I don’t really use that eye on myself, my wardrobe is pretty much the same as it was in high school.  But it was fun for me to have a victim to dress.

I found some really great stuff for my sister.  We were shopping for things that would get her through her pregnancy, she is already showing.  When you are super skinny you start showing faster because there isn’t anywhere for that growing uterus to go except out.  Most of the stuff came from regular stores; we only hit one maternity location.  Looking through that store was the only part of the excursion that was difficult for me.  I found a maternity dress that I really loved and it made me think about how far along I should be.  If I hadn’t lost the baby I’d know what sex it was by now.  I’d almost be half way through the pregnancy and I’d probably be past the morning sickness.  I’d certainly be showing.  My heart absolutely ached with the loss.

But it actually felt pretty good to feel so bad.  It made me realize that in the last almost two weeks since I got the all clear from the doctor’s I have let go of so much of my bitterness.  I feel genuinely happy for my sister.  I’ve been able to show an interest in other people’s pregnancies.  A couple of former colleagues from Whole Foods have become parents in the last few weeks and I have felt real joy for them that wasn’t tarnished by my jealousy.  A few weeks ago I believed the only way the ugly feelings that were eating me alive would disappear was to get pregnant again.  But it turns out that wasn’t the case, I just needed to be physically done with the whole business.  Crazy as it sounds, I was the one that initiated the shopping trip, I knew exactly what I was doing and it didn’t bother me in the least.

In fact the harder part of the trip was dealing with my jealousy over her size.  When we started the trip I wasn’t thinking that much about my physicality, but even though I wasn’t trying on stuff myself after a few minutes in the dressing room with her I felt more and more awkward.  I had to stop looking in the mirror because I was ballooning to morbidly obese proportions every time I caught sight of myself.  I told her a little about how I was feeling, and in the next breath I suggested we head to Chick-fil-a for lunch.  It’s so easy to complain about how I look, but doing something constructive about it?  No way.  I think part of the reason I talk about how gross I am physically so much is because I don’t want people to think I’m stupid.  I don’t want them to look at me and feel sorry for how I look and think I’m not in on the secret.  I’m in on it.  I get that I’m heavy.  I get that I’m not pretty.  And I want you to know that I know so you don’t feel so sorry for me. 

Hmm, that tangent about my size was not part of the original plan for this post.  Sometimes the writing gets away from me a little.  Bringing it back around to the positive...I TOOK MY PREGNANT SISTER MATERNITY CLOTHS SHOPPING!  ON PURPOSE!  NOT TO TOURTURE MYSELF, BUT BECAUSE I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE FUN!  AND IT MOSTLY WAS!  Oh progress, you really are a wonderful thing. 

The boys playing in the super awesome playroom at my sister's house.  A second after this photo T sadly ran Gabe over.  But Gabe quickly rebounded and pushed the car off causing T to fall under the car himself.  

 And a moment after this shot they managed to go down the slide at the same time.  

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Good Day

Mom, T, and I traveled to Charlottesville, VA yesterday to visit my Aunt who is convalescing in a hospital there.  My cousin and his wife and two adorable daughters live in town, and they were kind enough to watch T while Mom and I were with my Aunt.  Later in the evening we went back to their home for dinner.  A million years ago my cousin and his wife lived in the East Village.  Z and I developed a friendship with them that moved well beyond family obligations.  We loved hanging out with them and their friends because they were so different from our circle.  They both graduated from the engineering program at UVA and they had real jobs in offices.  The closest we got to that was when I was temping.   Our friends were all in theater at that point, because Z was still doing the set design thing and I was still doing the pretending I was going to try and be an actress thing.  So they seemed impossibly together and responsible and grown up to us.  But they were also a hell of a lot of fun.  We were really crushed when they moved to Charlottesville several years before we left the city ourselves. 

I haven’t seen them in years and I don’t think I’m overreaching to say we were all excited for the opportunity to hang out and catch up.  But this whole parenting gig can really put a cramp in our style.  Their girls were sick.  The baby had an ear infection and the toddler developed a stomach bug when we sat down to dinner.  The yummy meal my cousin’s wife prepared (she went to culinary school in NYC, she can really cook) became a comedy of sick kiddo errors.  She and I exchanged maybe 20 words before circumstances beyond anyone’s control took over and we decamped to my Uncle’s house.  I doubt she got to enjoy any of the meal she made last night.  I was really sad to miss the opportunity to catch up, but the cool thing about becoming a mom is you just get that stuff is out of your control sometimes.  Hopefully we won’t wait so long to see each other again, and the good news is the girls were right as rain this morning. 

And this morning was magical.  Two Robinson Rams from the good old Class of 95 live in the area.  Two gals who were fellow “drama fags” (yes, that is what they called us...not only offensive, but as most of us were girls it didn’t even make sense!) met up with this old drama fag at the Charlottesville Farmers Market.  After yummy donuts we headed to a playground and watched our kids play while we tried to catch up on the last 15 years.  My cousin, his wife, and the girls came by and I had a chance to up the word exchange count with both of them.  It went too fast, I wanted to talk to all of them more, but it was amazing.  I’d been looking forward to it all week, but during the drive to the market my mom asked me what was wrong.  I’d been rendered mute by the unavoidable anxiety that accompanies any social interaction, especially one where the stakes seemed so high-I only had a few short hours with friends I haven’t seen in years.   It was such a victory, though.  I didn’t give in to the anxiety and had a wonderful time.  Hopefully it will help me remember next time that social interactions are worth the effort. 

So a good day.  A happy post.  The end.  

My beautiful boy actually napping on the way back to my sister's house.  He isn't a good car sleeper, so this was big.  He is 15 months old today. 

This is exactly how I felt today.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


This is a story about my underwear.  A newish pair of black boy cut thingies with lace on the edges.  The lace is what I like; they make ‘em sort of fancy.  And since I got tubby I am not a fancy underwear gal, so they feel really special to me.  This is also a story about my crazy.  Something bad happened when I wore the underwear earlier this summer shortly after I got them.  I don’t even remember what the bad thing was, but it was enough to make me pause every time I was just about to grab them on the way to my morning shower.  And not pick them up.  But I really do like them, and I’ve regretted that they have become a bearer of bad tidings to me.  I like them enough that I used precious suitcase space to pack them for my trip down here.  And this morning I screwed up my courage and wore them. 

All day I was waiting for something terrible to happen.  In my head when something bad happens I attach it to an object and that object is pretty much ruined for me.  Or if I mess up any of my rituals, like the order of using bath products in the shower something bad will happen and I don’t have the opportunity to set it right until I shower the next day.  The rituals soothe me and make me feel safe.  Knowing what objects are good and what objects are bad does the same thing.  Sometimes a good object becomes bad.  More rarely a bad object can become benign or even lucky, which is what I was going for today. 

Knowingly opening myself up to the opportunity for something bad to happen goes against every fiber of my crazy being.  It is me standing up to myself and I always feel rather proud when I am able to do it.  I got pretty damn far into the day and I was thinking that this was going to be a victory post of sorts.  I vanquished the evil from my underwear!  The only pair I have that has lace on them!  WooHoo!

Um yeah, and then at about 8pm I talked to Z.  And he told me we got a multi page letter from the IRS explaining that they want the $8,200 that they refunded us last year for the First Time Homebuyer’s Tax Credit back.  He is going to fax the letter off to the accountant tomorrow and hopefully this is just some huge misunderstanding.  But holy fucking shit.  My underwear did this.  I can never wear them again. 

My little puppy dog tore around my sister's house this morning with toy keys dangling from his mouth.

  He was scared of the piano at first, but now he loves banging on it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Trying to Swallow the Crazy

So I’m nauseous.  And the other night I was up for more than an hour with severe stomach cramps.  I just don’t feel right.  And when I don’t feel right, especially when I’m experiencing non-specific unwell symptoms I start to get nervous.  Am I just letting the crazy too close to the surface?  Is it taking over my body?  Because I want to get pregnant again soon I’m trying to keep the chill pills to a minimum.  I can’t take them at all when I do get pregnant, so I’d like to not be relying on them in the meantime.  The pills are a major safety net, and just having them close by when I’m doing stressful stuff like traveling helps and sometimes it is enough and I don't have to actually take one.  When we were at the beach last weekend I’d notice my dad and my sister would get antsy about getting out of the condo and doing something, anything.  Sometimes I feel like I do a pretty great job of blending in and acting normal and then I realize things like I would do anything to come up with an excuse not to leave wherever I feel safe.  My weekend would have been perfect if I had never had to leave the condo.

Our family’s reunion was last Friday night.  Since we were a big group going to see an even bigger group we needed to take two cars.  T and I ended up riding with my parents.  When we were almost there I told them I needed to say something, “Mom and Dad, I am really excited about seeing everyone, but large groups traditionally make me very anxious.  I really want to be able to do this, but I need to know if I start freaking out one of you can drive me back to the condo and then return to the party.”  That speech never gets less embarrassing, but at least I’m able to verbalize the terror I feel before entering social situations now.  Before the fear would build and build until I’d bail in the middle of gatherings.  If I’m able to tell people I’m scared there seems to be less of a chance of a full blown panic attack developing. 

Currently I’d say I have an enviably excellent relationship with my family, but this doesn’t prevent me from going into anxiety overdrive when I’m around them.  My sister is very successful, I’ve mentioned she is Type A, she is also downright skinny, she takes after my slender mother.  Dad has been gaining and losing the same 25 lbs for 40 years.  I take after him.  When I was young I was slender, but as my mental health deteriorated I started packing on the pounds.  And Zoloft really turned me into a porker.  My family hasn’t been critical of my larger size, but I grew up in a house where there were major issues surrounding food and size and because I am bigger I feel like a bad person.  It is just another way my black sheepiness announces itself. 

I’d like to reiterate that my family doesn’t do anything to make me feel ashamed of myself, in fact quite the opposite; they are amazingly supportive and kind to me.  We took a lot of pictures this weekend and as I looked through them with my dad I asked him when he saw pictures of me if he thought, “There’s an overweight person.”  He looked at me like I had two heads.  I hated myself for asking the question, but I just couldn’t stop myself.  Because when I see a picture of myself I see an obese person.  And after a few days around family I catch myself thinking I’m physically repulsive, I’m disgusting, I’m an embarrassment.  And it scares me.  If I try and separate myself from my crazy I can do a decent job of evaluating myself physically.  I’m an extremely average looking gal with a below average body.   But when I start feeling anxious I can’t remember that.  I feel like everyone who looks at me feels repulsion and pity.  It starts, or it is part of (I’m not sure which) a spiral wherein I have trouble leaving the house I’m staying at, I wake with the nausea and lightheadedness, there is often a pain in my left arm which makes me sure I’m on the verge of having a heart attack, I am fatigued, I constantly apologize for the stupidest things because I am sure people around me can’t stand to be in my presence. 

And all this stuff has been going on since I left my parent’s home when I was 18.  As I’ve been in therapy I’ve become more aware of it, but now that I have T I really feel like I need to examine it and figure out where it is coming from so I can try and get over it.  I don’t want the person I am now, with massive self esteem issues, to raise him.  I hate how it affects every part of me.  I hate that friends and family down here are waiting to hear from me with solid plans about when I’m going to see them (Hi Tracy, Sara, Cynthia, Monty, and many others!) and I’m not making the phone calls or sending the emails because I am paralyzed with anxiety.  I hate that I live in constant fear that people I love will not understand the paralysis and think I am lazy or that I don’t care about them.  Most of all I hate me.  And I know that won’t do.  It’s how I almost lost my marriage; I believed I was so unlovable that I became unlovable.  I never want to alienate T like that.

And again I feel like I need to reiterate that I am not fishing for compliments here.  When I feel bad about myself the worse thing in the world for me it to receive a compliment because I think the person paying the compliment is flat out lying and thinks I’m stupid enough to buy the lies.  I know it isn’t fun to read stuff like this, so why write about my self esteem issues yet again?   Maybe it will help people who haven’t suffered from mental illness to get a glimpse of how it can feel, and selfishly it certainly helps me to clarify how I’m feeling.  There is also the part of me that wants to shame myself with my honesty.  I feel like I should be punished for my obsession with my appearance.  It is its own kind of vanity or narcissism.  

The video from yesterday didn't seem to upload properly, so here is a photo from the cuteness I was trying to share.

More Gram and T.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Vacation Interrupts Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

First a correction: My sister, who is a stickler for truth, was very agitated when she read I referred to Gram’s place of residence as an Assisted Living Facility.  It is an “Independent Senior Living Facility” and if you need assistance you are out of there.  Gram likes to talk to us about the really old ladies (those in their mid 90s) who are still kicking, and I think that all the residents are very proud of the fact that they don’t need daily assistance.  So to Gram and to Barb-I am sorry I got my terminology wrong. 

As a last minute surprise Z made a whirlwind 15 hour trip to SC to see his new niece and some of my extended family.  It took him 12 hours to get down to SC on Saturday, and he left at 7:30 Sunday morning and finally got home at around 6pm in the evening.  He chose the best day of the entire year to make the trip because he got a bonus hour of sleep with Daylight Saving Time.  I don’t want to wish the next few weeks with family away, but I also can’t wait to see him again.  And T was so delighted to see his father he didn’t know what to do with himself. 

T and I have had a really crazy week.  After the flight down here on Tuesday we didn’t get him to sleep until after 9pm.   The next day he was in the car for many hours driving to the Isle of Palms, and after visiting with my brand new niece he was late to bed again.  His nap times were messed up or nonexistent, he didn’t even stick to his regular eating schedule.  He didn’t make it to bed until 8:30 on Friday because of the big reunion party.  The bottom line is his schedule has been blown to bits for 5 days.

Before I became a mom I was pretty sure I’d be relaxed when it came to my kid’s schedule (as I type this I can hear Z laughing from many states away, I am a total control freak).  I didn’t want to hover or cater to weird unnecessary routines.  My little guy needed it, though.  I know this is well covered territory on the blog, but when he was 5 months old he didn’t nap at all during the day and he didn’t sleep well at night.  In order to emotionally get myself through the difficulties of sleep training  I would tell myself that I was teaching him a skill by facilitating a sleep schedule, that I was giving him a gift rather than being a horrible ogre as I listened to him cry it out.  And now he is a terrific sleeper.  He can handle a little bit of variation to his schedule, but as I learned on Saturday night 5 days of not knowing what end is up equals an epic multi-hour meltdown in the middle of the night.

We traveled back to my sister’s house yesterday and when we got here in the evening I told her for the next few days I was going to be pretty rigid about his schedule to get him back on track, so he might be doing things at a different time than my nephew.  It is endlessly interesting to have two babies in the family only 6 weeks apart.  It is fun to watch them develop at their own pace and see their very distinct personalities emerge.  Her sweet son never really struggled with sleeping.  My sister is a classic Type A personality.  In her opinion there is no situation that a good spreadsheet can’t fix.  But she has completely followed her son’s lead when it comes to his schedule and his easy going nature has led to much flexibility in their daily life.  He naps when he’s tired.  He eats when he’s hungry.  They have a ballpark bedtime, but if there is some variation it isn’t the end of the world for anyone. 

Although I’m a control freak in a lot of ways, before we had kids both she and I would have assumed I’d be the loosey gooesy one when it came to schedules, and she would follow a strict routine.  But the biggest factor, the one we never would have thought to consider, is the personality of our kids.  I am a big believer in the effect nurture can have on an upbringing, but being a mother has taught me how much nature has to do with it.  Our boys already have so much personality, and it is our responsibility to respond to their needs, rather than pigeonhole them into our life. 

It was fun to keep him up until 9.  I’m certainly glad we stayed up past his bedtime the night of the family reunion.  When we go on family vacations with 10 other people his needs can’t dictate our every move.  But he was clearly terrified, confused, and beyond exhausted in the middle of Saturday night.  I’m glad we were flexible for a few days, but I’m also glad we can get him back on a schedule.  The results are quick and I love seeing him become his sunshiny self again.

A very exhausted Z happy to be with T and the newest addition to our family. 

Our boys amusing the group. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Today I got to sit with my Gram and start to record some of the tales from when she was young.  She gets worn out pretty easily these days, so she was done with the exercise well before I was.  I wish I’d started trying to get these stories down a few years earlier, we just hit the tip of the iceberg today.  But I was able to find out I got a few of the details wrong on her and my grandfather’s love story.  They got engaged before they found out about the draft; they were told he was to be drafted when they went to talk to my Gram’s minister (who was on the draft board, not the head of it) about getting married.  My Grampy first spied Gram from the porch of the store his friend’s parent’s owned, not their house.  And the church was not her regular one.  Gram was going to the Welsh Baptist Church, not Westminster Presbyterian for a time because it was closer to her home and her younger brother was very ill so it was easier for their mother to send them close by.  But the heart of the story and most of the details were correct.  And I think that is what matters. 

Last night the whole family was together for a bit of a reunion and my Gram was on Cloud 9.  I wish my Grampy could have seen everyone together.  He loved kids and would have adored knowing all 12 of his great grandkids.  And it was a hell of a good time to see my cousins.  I’m grateful to be in touch with my extended family. 

Earlier this week mom and I picked up Gram from her place in the assisted living facility.  She was telling everyone about her big trip to the beach to see all her family.  Traveling is hard for her, even just 20 minutes away.  She doesn’t like to spend the night away from her home and we were surprised and thrilled she had agreed to come stay with us.  So Mom and I felt relieved she was clearly so excited.  On the way out we ran into a fellow resident and my mom asked how he was.  He said he wasn’t doing well because his wife was not recovering properly from a surgery.  I had a hard time not crying.  My mom knew him and his wife because she visits gram frequently.  Later she said that he and his wife were inseparable and he was really looking bad compared to the last time she saw him. 

Before I had T it felt like Z and I had forever before we started to get old.  And of course, we are still young although I regularly remind Z he is pushing 40.  But since T has been born life has been moving in fast forward.  There were 23 years between the oldest and youngest great grandchild last night but when I considered the age difference between T and the next oldest, and the next oldest after that, and the next oldest after that it just didn’t seem that significant.  I know he’ll be 24 before I take a breath.  When I talked to my cousin’s daughter who is a sophomore in college it feels like I was her age just a minute ago, not 13 years.  So while old age isn’t just around the corner, it is clearly lurking in the distance. 

Last night was fantastic, but when I consider Gram I can’t help but feel some melancholy.  Her husband died 17 years ago, and caring for him really kept her young.  She is lonely and frustrated with her failing body.  When we visited in June she got down on the floor with Thomas and she couldn’t get back up without help.  No big deal, but she was so frustrated.  She told me she used to be so disgusted with her mother when her mom was older and struggled to get around, but now she is in the same boat.  She was settled in a big leather chair at my sister-in-law’s house at a different point in the trip.  I helped her to her feet, which turned into an embrace and she murmured to me, “This is terrible.”  I told her “No, no it isn’t.”  But she repeated herself and I repeated myself and told her I loved her.  And I tried really hard to not cry.  I understood in that moment of vulnerability and honesty that she was saying the aging was awful and I desperately want to make it not terrible for her.

I tried to write about my feelings concerning her during that trip in June, but I didn’t get very far, it was just too hard.  Z and I talked about how hard it is for me to come to terms with how old Gram is getting.   During that trip we asked her how things were going in her community she sort of shrugged.  When we pressed her she said “People keep dying.”  We expressed our condolences to her, but didn’t know what else to say.  Later Z said we didn’t know what to say because of the way death and aging are dealt with in our culture.  I asked if he meant that as a culture we act like death will never happen and fight aging with all our power.  He said, “Yup.”  I also think we don’t have enough time for the aging.  I know when my Gram dies I will regret not calling her more, not seeing her more, or listening to what she had to say.

This trip she said the crew at the Assisted Living Facility say to each other over breakfast, “Well I made it through another night.”  My heart aches for her, for the man I saw whose wife is not getting better, for my parents as they get older, for Z and me if we get to be that age, and for us if we have to be that age alone.  God it’s old fashioned, but us young folks who are in the middle of raising families and living life need to do a better job remembering and respecting our elders.  Every time I am down here I vow to be a better granddaughter to her.  I hope this time I’ll follow through.  

The grandkids.

T and his Great Grandma.

The great grands and Gram.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Good News

For those of you keeping score the results of the last blood test are in and drum roll please…they are a 2!  So not perfect, but nothing about me is.  But they are definitely good enough for government work.  And T and I made it safe and sound down south.   This morning* my mom, T, and I left my sister’s house and came down to SC.  Today I met my lovely and very tiny niece, tomorrow I see my Gram, my dad, and my sister and her family get down here.  So life is feeling pretty damn good. 

Back to my sister.  She is pregnant.  She found out the morning of September 3rd, Z and my 10th wedding anniversary.  Later that afternoon we found out about the miscarriage.  Talk about shitty timing.  For all of us.  If I hadn’t lost the baby we would have been due 6 weeks apart which is the age difference between T and his cousin.  When I found out she was pregnant it just felt perfect.  She is a planner and though she is my younger sister since we have become adults our roles have slowly reversed and she has become much more "take charge".  She instructed me when I was supposed to get pregnant and even though I told her to go jump in a lake I totally complied. 

So I felt like a royal fuckup when I lost the baby.  The family made plans.  We both got pregnant according to the dictated schedule.  And I screwed it up.  I also felt like a terrible person for not being able to share in her happiness, and for overshadowing her good news within our family by having a tragedy that just wouldn’t quit.  I mean, who has a miscarriage and doesn’t get the all clear health wise until 9 ½ weeks later?  What a spotlight hog! 

I’m basically spending the month of November with her and I was worried about how I’d handle it.  Would I be able to even look her in the face?  Or would my jealousy just eat me alive?  We got to her house yesterday and to my complete delight I was nothing but happy to see her.  This morning we had a few minutes alone together and I remembered that she had an ultrasound on Monday.  I asked her how it was and she said it went well.  I asked her how the baby looked and she said good.  I asked her when she finds out the sex and she said in 6 weeks.  I asked if she told her boss and she said yes.  

And during this conversation I realized something.  During the almost 10 weeks I’ve known she was pregnant she has never brought it up to me.  She answers my questions when I ask and never offers more information.  To be honest, I haven't asked many questions, it has just hurt too much.  We talk every day and she has been so considerate of my feelings that she has never mentioned her morning sickness, or how her doctor appointments went, or how excited she is.  I mean, this is the biggest thing in her life right now.  And I thought about what would have happened if the roles were reversed.  I’m so completely self absorbed I’m sure I’d have told her if I was feeling like complete crap.  But every day she felt ill she just kept it to herself.  She and I are extremely close and she has not been able to share this huge part of herself with me.  She has been kind and compassionate and truly decent about this whole business.  I am lucky to have her as my sister. 

And I’m happy for her.  I’m happy I’m going to be an Aunt again.  I’m happy her pregnancy is working out so she can have her second baby exactly when she wanted to.  And I am ready to celebrate with her and actively be a part of the next two trimesters.  That feels better than my pregnancy hormone levels being down to 2.  

*I wrote this yesterday, and frankly I'm too lazy to go back and change all the todays, yesterdays, and tomorrows.  

Our bathroom reno has finally started.  Before we left home T was having a blast playing in our new sink. 

T at the beach today.  The real today, not yesterday pretending to be today.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Love Story

This weekend T and I will be joining my mother’s side of the family in Isle of Palms, SC for the annual golf tournament in honor of my grandfather.  My uncle devised the tournament and obtained the prize-a trophy with a base of anthracite coal.  Mom’s family hails from Wilkes Barre, PA, an old mining town.  Eastern PA and South Wales are the only places anthracite, a harder and more valuable coal is found.

My grandfather had the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever known.  He suffered a massive stroke in 1980 and was partially paralyzed with the vocabulary of a toddler until his death in 1993.  But his mind was not affected.  Pretty tough way to spend the last decade plus of your life, and he did have epic temper tantrums, but for the most part he played the hand he was dealt with grace.  I thought he was the best Grandpa in the world. 

My grandparents were married for more than 50 years when he died. Grandpa was Irish Catholic and stubborn as hell his whole life.  When he was about 12 his priest caught him smoking in the basement of the church.  The priest told him to get out and never come back, and grandpa took him at his word.  When he and his siblings were sent to Mass he’d ditch them and go hang out with his “Syrian friends” (it was the 30s everyone was labeled by their ethnicity and/or religion) on their front stoop.  His friends lived across from the Presbyterian Church.  A few years later he was on the stoop when he spotted Gram, also of Irish stock, going into the church.   Evidently she had a pretty nice pair of legs and Grandpa told his friends that he was going to marry her. 

They started dating in high school, although that fact was kept from both sets of their parents.  Their many siblings were in on the secret and helped cover for them when they went on dates.  There were near misses, like the time Grandpa arrived early to pick up Grandma for a date and her parents got in the back seat of his borrowed car.  They mistook him for the brother of their daughter in law who was picking them up to take them to their son and daughter in law’s home for the evening.  My Grandpa had no idea what was happening, thankfully my Gram’s little sister was in the car and able to give him pointed cues until he figured out what the deal was. 

Then in 1942 my Grandmother’s minister, who was also the head of the draft board, informed my grandparents Grandpa was to be drafted.  Grandpa’s own maternal grandmother had just died.  His mother died when he was a toddler and he called his grandmother “mommy”.  His father had remarried, and he had many younger siblings, but he and his stepmother never got along and he felt completely alone in the world.  So he told my grandmother that he wanted to marry her.  They were both 21 and Gram thought that was too young, but he said if she wouldn’t do it he was going to join the Air Corps, which was tantamount to suicide.  So she gave in. 

Her minister performed the wedding, they sent telegrams to their parents, and they hopped on a bus to New York City for a weekend honeymoon.  They saw Frank Sinatra perform. 

There was fallout.  Gram’s father told her he never thought she would do anything like this to him and he said he would never forgive her.  I don't know exactly what Grandpa's family said.  I think things got better after they had their first son.  Grandkids heal a lot of hurt.  But their story has always completely amazed me.  Back then dating someone outside your faith was a big enough deal, but the fact they were both Irish?  It was about the worse thing they could do in they eyes of their parents.  But they loved each other and that was enough for them to risk alienation from their families.  Grandpa already felt like he wasn’t a real part of his family because he was the only child with a different mother, I’m guessing he had no problem rebelling by pursuing my Gram.  

But the balls on my Grandma!  She was born in 1921 and she was never told she could be anything she wanted to be.  I don't know if she thought she had a choice beyond becoming a wife and mother.  She knew she was lucky to graduate from high school, and that she never would have the chance to go to college.  But she found it in herself to take a chance without knowing if her parents would ever speak to her again.  Even though I've been raised to believe I can do anything I set my mind to and been given every privilege imaginable I've been scared my entire life, especially of what my parents think.  I admire the hell out of her for throwing caution to the wind and marrying the love of her life.  She is a firecracker, this year she turned 89.  I can't wait to see her with her family surrounding her.  It's going to be one hell of a weekend.  

 Gram and Gramp

Gramp at basic training 

Gramp in France 1945.  The only time in his life he was downright skinny.

In front of the Iwo Jima monument in 1982. 

My lovely Gram a few years ago.