Monday, December 19, 2011

Part 2, What I Would Have Included

This year, more than any year, I think Christmas is about families. And not just family parties and matching pajamas, but the creation and maintenance of families, and the way God meets us as we participate in the wild, thrilling, sometimes heart-wrenching events involved in building them. I can't seem to get enough of thinking about this, so, as promised, I'm posting the quotes I would have included, had I but world enough and time. (If you don't know what I'm talking about ... see my last post.) As I mentioned, there were dozens of beautiful, meaningful, deep deep quotes I wanted to include, but just didn't have time or space. And since I want to hold onto them, and since I think they're beautiful and you might too, I'm posting them here. This is a long post, but I've resisted the urge to split it into two. I think the stream of them is important. Thank you, many many thank yous, to those who sent these thoughts to me. I hope they deepen your sense of this season, as they have mine. 


“When Garret was born, […] I remember looking at [Terry] holding Garret and looking into his eyes, while Garret stared fiercely into his.  Not crying, just staring.  His father was glowing.  I remember looking at them both and feeling how right everything was, in spite of the fact that [the doctors] were trying to repair the damage they inflicted on me at his birth.  I felt at that moment that [Heavenly Father] was in charge, in spite of the injury, and that everything would be all right.”


“When we brought Tia home, I was so nervous. It felt like she was so special and important and I was worried I'd mess up or she wouldn't like our home.” 


“[Ada] did not settle peacefully into my arms or open her eyes to look lovingly up at her mother. No, she squirmed and grunted, and then the nurse took her away from me (because the grunting indicated respiratory distress). And I [confess I] was relieved to have her gone. All I wanted to do was sleep. For the next several weeks, I barely slept or ate since I had to spend all my spare time attempting to sleep. Often I lied down to bed thinking, "If I spend all my time and energy taking care of that baby, who will take care of me?" Time and again, the answer to my question was that the Lord would take care of me. Each time I found myself at the point where I could not function from exhaustion, Ada would miraculously take an extra-long nap, and I could sleep for two, maybe three hours at a time. I knew the Lord blessed that baby that she would sleep so I could sleep.”


[When I had my miscarriage, I wrote in my journal:] “I haven't wanted my husband to leave me. At night I reach out just to touch him, and he reaches for me too.”


“Lee and I have been agonizing over if we are done having children or not. […] I went to the Temple Saturday [to pray]. As I was leaving I stepped into the atrium and prayed, waiting for an answer. I heard a voice. It was a women's voice and […] and it was a familiar voice […]. She told me I was done. I cried out that I did not want to be done (which was a surprise to me). She told me that it did not mean there would not be more babies for me to love or lives that I would influence but that my body was done.  […] I felt the partnership with God in planning my family. She told me to love, enjoy, and adore the children I had.”


“A few hours later, when the epidural wore off and he was stabilized, I went in to the NICU to meet [Nicholas]. I remember thinking, as I walked into the room and they brought me to his bassinet. "This is surreal. Did I really do this? Is he really mine?" I felt like I was pretending, and any minute the nurse would tell me to hand him over and go home. Nicholas, on the other hand, knew exactly what to do. When they gave him to me, all wrapped up in white blankets, he snuggled into my arms and then he looked deeply into my eyes. I watched his pupils focus and as he held my gaze, I felt a thousand things. I knew he was a gift from God and I had a huge responsibility to protect and nurture him, but I wasn't alone; my heart pounded with a love that I could feel swelling so big, I literally felt my world tilt. I felt I had already known Nicholas for a while, and though he is mine for now, he's on loan from his Father.” 


“I am still amazed by the helplessness of a newborn. Wes is over a year old, and refuses most food, insisting on nursing regularly. His entire body exists and subsists because mine provides. And it stuns me that our Savior humbled himself, condescended to come to us, to rely on some of us, to sustain His life so He could save ours. And I also consider it a demonstration of His trust in us. That He loved the world enough to come as a defenseless child to follow through on the plan. I guess it's easier for me to understand this sort of trust and love and sacrifice. The atonement is so vast. I've never seen a perfect man. But I've seen perfect and defenseless little children, [so thinking of Christ as a baby at Christmastime helps me understand him as our Savior]. […] I have to say that I have thought often of Mary. Of the careful, wise woman she must have been to be entrusted with the baby Jesus. And how short I fall with my own children.”  

“Even though my struggle to get pregnant was not unique, God met me there anyway—in those moments, once a month, when I curled up under the covers and cried. He never told me when the baby would come. He just sent me the same message over and over: I hear you. Those are the same words I tell my little girl whenever she starts to cry.”


“It was crucial to me in both the births of my children that I get to hold them right away.  […] Especially with my first, it seemed hard to believe that a baby was really coming.  It amazed me when the baby did come, that the pain was gone—emotional pain as well as the physical.  I felt that instead of the doctor being there, that it really was Heavenly Father handing those babies to me.  They're really not ours—they're His, but what a privilege He gives us.”


“[The nurse] held my hand […] while Adam held the other and she coached me through the pushing. This nurse stayed right by my head and told me when to breathe, when to push, what to do. All my training and Bradley method stuff that had gotten me through the contractions went out the window. But she kept me grounded. Her voice cut through the haze and the fear and the pain. And I listened. After it was over and I was holding Elizabeth and just bursting with love and gratitude, she came to check on me. I'm sure I was high on hormones and maybe she thought as much. But I remember taking her hand and tears falling as I thanked her. I think my exact words were, ‘You were like an angel.’”


“Our ward had their Christmas party last Friday. We had a night in Bethlehem; the cultural hall was made to look just like Bethlehem, complete with life-size papier-mâché palm trees and camels. And Joel, Tennyson and I were Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus. And Tennyson just cooed and waved his arms even though he was so hungry. And I couldn't stop looking at my beautiful boy. It didn't matter that there were hundreds of people watching--it was just the three of us. It must have been that way for Mary, though she had strangers coming to adore, it must have been so personal as well. And I can't help but think that dirty as that stable may have been, I would far prefer it to a crowded, bustling inn for giving birth to my baby.”


“Looking at [Kershisnik’s painting Nativity] made me think of how alone Mary was. I wonder if Joseph knew anything at all about childbirth. I wonder if anyone came to help Mary. […] I wonder how scared she was, a young woman far from home.  My Mississippi hospital doesn't let you touch the baby right after it is born. […] I was able to hold her for less than two minutes before they took her to the nursery. I'm not smiling in those first pictures. She was wrapped up and I barely got to touch her skin. Kevin went with her to the nursery. The doctor and nurses finished cleaning me up, and they all left. I've never felt so very alone.”


“Becoming a new parent is remarkable in so many ways, but what has stood out to me over the last three and half years is that parenthood is an exercise in love and sacrifice. In blessing us with responsibility for some of His beloved spirit children, God gives us the opportunity to be more like Him and to know our Heavenly Father and Savior better. Before Lucy and Elise were born, I was a little concerned. I couldn't imagine loving anybody as much as I loved Annika, and yet I had not one, but two new spirits coming to our family. How would I have enough love to share with three children? Of course I loved them immediately, but in the following two weeks as I trudged back and forth in the snow at all hours of day and night to visit them and feed them in the NICU, my love grew and deepened until I felt that my heart would overflow. I had prayed and prayed that I would be able to show two new, demanding babies enough love and those trips from my hotel to the hospital in the snow were the answer to my prayers. By allowing me the opportunity to sacrifice for my new baby girls, the Lord taught me how to love them.” 


“I have been thinking about this a lot, because we found out two weeks ago that I am having a boy.  His name is Jack, my little hero.  It somehow seems like a private, sweet miracle that I am pregnant with a boy during Christmastime.  All the lullabies I want to sing Jack are Christmas lullabies, and I hope Jesus doesn't think it's sacrilegious that I think about my little boy when I am singing Christmas songs that are actually about Him.

I think one of the reasons I love Christmas so much is that it's an entire season where the holy, unearthly, and mystical parts of the Gospel manifest themselves in the most humble and universal stories -- of a baby's birth.  As Jack's parents we are already pouring all of our love and hope into this tiny doll-child that has started nudging my innards.  At night I lie in bed, hoping to feel a reassuring squirm or two from him before I fall asleep, and I think how there's nothing I would not do for him.  I mean, he's not even out of the womb yet.  I will be a crazy mama.

But it humanizes Mary, and Jesus, in a way that is still so sacred.  In recent years I have thought a lot about Mary and Joseph's faith and bravery.  Why should anyone have believed her story?  Since when does a woman actually conceive a baby, if not by a man?  Probably no one did believe her, and probably one of the purest and best of women put up with being ridiculed and cruelly judged by her own people.  I think however, of how much she must have loved the little boy growing inside her, not just because he would be her Savior, but because he would be her baby.  Undoubtedly her bravery came not just from her faith and goodness, but from a mother's love.”

Thursday, December 15, 2011

And Pondered Them in Her Heart

I was asked (or did I volunteer?) to do the script for a church Christmas activity for the Relief Society (the women's organization). I thought and thought, and couldn't get the idea out of my head that I was to ask women I know about their experiences with birth and family, that the words I would get would illuminate the spirit of Christmas in a way I needed to learn, and ultimately share.

Writing it wasn't exactly as neat and tidy a process as I had hoped/planned. Firstly, every single email I got back on my request made me weep. Seriously. Every.Single.One. And not just because just about everything baby-related tugs on my sad little heart lately. But also, and mostly, because they were all so deeply, astonishingly beautiful to me. I could have never guessed what a flood of beauty and spiritual reality I was opening gates for. I think God wanted that flood for me. But there was nearly a week where I was just sort of swimming in these words, riding them up and down, praying in gratitude, aching for aches and joying for joys. 

I couldn't include everything I received, and believe me, I tried. So I'll do another follow-up post to this one with the quotes I would have included had I but world enough and time. But I thought I'd share the script. I've sought permission for everything I've used here, and I even got permission to use the Kershisnik painting on our programs and display it at the front of the church.(He didn't technically give me permission to use it here, but hopefully he won't mind .... I mention it in the script.)

Anyway, enjoy.

And Pondered Them in Her Heart: Wreath Making Program
December 2011

Congregational Hymn: “O Little Town of Bethlehem”


Reader 1: Across the world at this time of year, people are unpacking their nativity sets. They pull out boxes from closets and garages and basements, brush off dust from a long year in storage, and unwrap last year’s January newspapers from three little figures: Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus Christ. Other figures follow—angels and camels and shepherds and wisemen and sheep. But tonight we’ll focus on these three figures, this Holy Family, this trio of players in one of the central events in human history.

Reader 2: Luke 2 tells us of this family’s experience: “And so it was, that while they were [in Bethlehem], the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Musical Number: “I Saw Three Ships”

Reader 3: When the angel announced to the shepherds the birth of the Savior, “they came with haste,” and we get our glimpse of the holy family through the eyes of the shepherds: “[they] found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.”

Reader 4: The shepherds went off to tell of the Christ child’s arrival, and we are told that while everyone wondered at the story, “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”

Reader 1: It’s easy to understand Mary’s impulse to keep her sacred feelings to herself, but what might she have told us? What more might we know of the angelic annunciation, the long days of her pregnancy, the journey to Bethlehem, the search for lodging, her laboring, the delivery, and the quiet moments after when it was just her and the baby and Joseph in the stable, perhaps a few animals, a brightly shining star, and likely some manifestation of a heavenly presence?

Reader 2: Prophet Gordon B Hinckley said, “Christmas is more than trees and twinkling lights, more than toys and gifts and baubles of a hundred varieties. It is love. It is the love of the Son of God for all mankind. It reaches out beyond our power to comprehend. It is magnificent and beautiful. It is peace. It is the peace which comforts, which sustains, which blesses all who accept it.”

Reader 3: We may not have all the details, but we do know that on that night, in the humblest of circumstances, to a family who already loved Him and anticipated his arrival with joy and hope, the Savior Jesus Christ came. It was a silent, holy night.

Musical Number:  “Silent Night”

Reader 4: While we don’t have the direct story of Mary’s birth of Jesus, our world is full of stories of births, and what we learn in our own collective experience informs our understanding of the Christmas story: it seems that when a baby arrives—in whatever circumstance—that God meets the family in that arrival. Creating our own families, or even preparing or longing to create our families, changes the Christmas story, deepens it, makes the birth real.

Reader 1: Perhaps we can feel a little of what Mary felt on that sacred night as we listen to these personal accounts, which we’ve collected in hopes that they will help us feel the spirit of Christmas, the spirit of physical service and sacrifice, of new and fierce and earthshaking love.

Reader 2: “It’s difficult to describe the moment of that first breath of life for my babies. They have been the most sacred moments that I have experienced. Nate's entrance was the most vivid. I thought he would come out a girl so when he [arrived] with a little scowl on his face, the emotions were so powerful. I was entranced with him and I wouldn't let him sleep in the bassinet, only next to me in the bed no matter what the nurses said.”

Reader 3: “When Paul was born, only Chuck and I were in the house. The midwife was on the way—[we hadn’t realized how short the labor would be]. So in that moment it was still and quiet. […]This new babe looked at us and we looked at him and the whole experience seemed to transcend any worldly care. We were just family. Two links in an eternal chain that had somehow managed to add another link all by ourselves. We created him. It was amazing.”

Reader 4: “Josh was born one month before Christmas.  It was our first Christmas in our first home.  We bought a tree and some ornaments and a star for the top which we used [until] last year—44 years from when we bought it—when it no longer would light.  Even so I didn't discard it, thinking that I might be able to fix it sometime. […] I think Mary and Joseph came to know that their Son would go out and be sacrificed to save the world.  Sometimes I think that parents feel that they are sacrificing their children just so that they can go out into the world and be good and productive human beings.  It is never an easy thing to do […].”

Reader 1:  “After my daughter was born, I wrote [in my journal]: ‘Joy. Joy. Joy.’”

Special Musical Number: “Christ Child, Christ Child”

Reader 2: “When Ari came, I had the strongest feeling that I knew her [... ] It was like I recognized her.  I think I needed that witness for what [the two of us would go through together]. “

Reader 3: “I remember lying in the hospital bed thinking that I now knew how Mary felt when Jesus was born.  Relieved , a little frightened of what the future held, and so honored to be the child's mother.”

Reader 4: “After years of visits with doctors and tests, and what I thought was a successful IVF attempt, I had a miscarriage. […] As my body worked to heal from this loss I would wake up in the middle of the night, [feeling] sad and alone. It was in one of these moments that I thought about Mary, and I started to feel better. I am sure Mary felt alone and isolated, even distant from the people that loved her the most. At times she must have been overwhelmed by Heavenly Father’s plan for her. She surely wondered why she had been chosen. My situation could not be more different from hers, and I don’t pretend that I could ever be as good and faithful as she. Yet, in my saddest moment, thinking of her strength and bravery helped me to be strong and brave and helped me to continue following God’s plan for me, even when I didn’t understand it.”

Reader 1: “There is this holy moment when you first hold your child, when the sweat is still on your brow and your hands tremble with adrenaline, and your entire body aches and feels drained of life, and you hold your child and brush your finger over his soft cheek. It is holiness. It's God's gift of meeting.”

Reader 2: “For me, the true difficulty and trauma of childbirth came as a surprise. I've thought about Mary delivering a baby almost alone, in a dank, probably dirty place and I realize that it was such a humble circumstance for the Savior to have been born into. Humble for his parents—maybe scary and traumatic for them, humble for Him as a tiny newborn to have his first little bed be a place where animals eat. So lowly. And yet it was the greatest birth ever to have taken place, presided over by angels.”

Musical Number: “Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella”

Reader 3: In Brian Kershisnik’s painting, which is on display at the front of the chapel, an eager and steady stream of angels flows above the intimate moment just after Christ is born. Mary is recovering, nursing her baby. Joseph seems overwhelmed, holding his hand to his face. A pair of midwives wash out stained rags, their eyes on the baby.

Reader 4: The original painting measures 17 by 7 feet, fills an entire wall, and Brian Kershisnik says that he painted it after his son was born. He says, "In my experience with the birth of my children … those felt like very heavily attended and witnessed events on a spiritual level. The room felt very occupied and full," he said. Those experiences make him wonder at how many spirits must have been present at Christ's birth, at "how many unnumbered people were all depending on this going through." 

Musical Number: “What Child is This?”

Reader 1: “What Child is This?” is the question we all ask of our Savior. Do we believe that he was who he said he was, that he came to rescue us from sin and sorrow and death? We ask it of our children—as we get to know them, as we bear and love and long for and lose them. We ask it of ourselves, as we seek to understand our place in the world.

Reader 2: And if we find the answer: that we are children of God, that Christ did indeed come in great love and power to sacrifice his life for us, then we begin to understand Christmas. We understand the meaning of the humble stable, and in part it means this: that God loved us enough to send his son—not to a grand royal court, or a wealthy estate, but right here with us, simply, the way we all came, to enter our hearts, to heal us. Christmas, the spirit of the season, is about God reaching down to us, as we, in turn, reach up to Him, and reach out to each other.

Reader 3: The current prophet of the LDS Church, Thomas S. Monson said, “There would be no Christmas if there had not been Easter. The babe Jesus of Bethlehem would be but another baby without the redeeming Christ of Gethsemane and Calvary, and the triumphant fact of the Resurrection.  [The Christmas Spirit] is the spirit each true Christian seeks. This is the spirit I pray each may find. This is the Christ spirit. No quest is so universal, no undertaking so richly rewarding, no effort so ennobling, no purpose so divine. The Christmas season seems to prompt anew that yearning, that seeking to emulate the Savior of the world.”

Reader 4: May we seek to bless one another and remember our Savior this Christmas season. May we keep in our hearts the humility and power of the simple birth in the stable and babe in the manger. May we, like the shepherds, spread the love evidenced by His birth.  

Congregational Hymn: “O Come All Ye Faithful”


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thrifted Autumn Outfit

Do I wear a lot of this orange sweater in outfit posts? Possibly yes. I think this might be because I'm not your typical orange wearer, so when I wear orange I think, "Heyyyy, I'm wearing an OUTFIT." Does that make sense?

Anyway, I thrifted this dress sometime back. It went like this: it was a half-off sale, and it was a frenzy in Savers. I mean, people were excited. People were filling cartfulls upon cartfulls. And I filled my cart with shockingly (and I mean shockingly) lovely dress shirts for Sam that came out to $2.50 a piece, and that was filling my heart (and cart--ha!) with joy. And then I thought, hey, shall we check out the dresses? And this was my strategy: if I love the fabric, it goes in the cart. My sewing skillz extend to cutting off the bottom and making a skirt out of it. And this one, oh, isn't that a nice fabric? Look. Up close. See how it looks like a psychedlic wonderland? It does to me anyway.

Someone homemade this dress. And it was barely worn. And I imagine they thought it was a sewing fail. Because without the sweater and belt it is ... not so good. But when I got home and washed it and tried it on again to cut off the bottom for the skirt action, I thought, now wait just a minute. And then I put on the belt and sweater and boots and showed it to Sam and said, "Esta bien?" because that's always what I say when I want Sam to say I am beautiful beyond compare. He usually just says, "Yes, esta bien." But at least we're all learning Spanish, right? I mean, if nothing else, I'm teaching him that.  

[[P.S. Isn't my look priceless here? Really, how do people not look like idiots when they pose in outfits? I can only ask Sam to take so many pictures before he's done and I'm done and it's time for breakfast, you know? And at first I cropped this one, and cut my head off, because that's the offensive portion here, but headless wasn't so good either, and I thought, whatever. You get to see my awkward face. Hello, awkward face.]]

[[Obligatory cat picture. Obligatory because he's my cat. And because he was posing like this when I was posing as you see above, and I like his better. I should have tried this perhaps ... I think he looks like Adam in Michaelangelo's The Creation of Adam. This is what we pay him to do.]]

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Apple Picking, Yellow Leaves, Little Brown Bear

When I wear this hat, I somehow feel like a little brown bear. It changes my personality, makes me milder. (I guess I'm thinking teddy bear, not actual bear.) Is it silly? I don't even care if it's silly. It pleases me. I once got a compliment on this hat, shouted out at me by a hipster Harvard student. "Excellent hat!" he said, as I crossed the street, headed for the giant Anthropologie. That was a pretty good moment.

As was apple picking last weekend. Simple little orchard about an hour away from our house. And the day was just right for it--a bit crisp. And the yellow of these trees is just what I love about a New England fall. We came home with two enormous bags full, and we're making steady progress. Apples with every meal! Baked apples! Crisped apples! Apples! Apples! Apples!   

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Promotional Device

Sometime earlier this year, I got an email from Tyler Chadwick, who asked if he could include several of my poems in Fire in the Pasture: Twenty-first Century Mormon Poets, to which I said, um, yes yes you may. The book is out now, and I just got my contributor's copy this week, and I have to say that it's beautiful.  I don't mean that my poems are beautiful, I mean the book itself, as an object, is gorgeous.  If you're so inclined to see what's going on in contemporary Mormon poetry (and how could you not be?! ;), I recommend this book. 

On a related note, if you're more interested in seeing what Mormon fiction is up to (and again, how could you not be?! I hope it's clear I'm kidding ...mostly), Dispensation: Latter-day Fiction was a great read. 

In all seriousness, I can say that Mormon Literature goes well beyond Jack Weyland.  There's some really good stuff out there.  If you're interested in recommendations, shoot me an email.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Thank you.

Thank you, really, to all of you who commented and wrote me emails.  They really mean a lot to me.  And mostly I'm just checking in to say I'm feeling better.  The way I came to feel better seems important, so I thought I'd record it:

*I prayed, and it wasn't pretty.  This was flat on my face, weeping aching praying, saying, over and over again, "You have to fix me.  You have to heal my heart."  (Yes, precisely in those words.  I can get a bit sassy and demanding in my praying.)  I felt broken and I felt like I spent all day trying to fix it and everyone else was trying to help me fix it, and no one could do it.  I wasn't asking to stop grieving, just to be functional and believe in good things again.  I felt deeply then, more than perhaps ever in my life, that there was this gaping hole in me that I needed God to fill. And, after many days of praying like that, and a turning point conversation with Sam (up next!), something lifted, shifted, filled, opened, re-blossomed--pick your metaphor--in me.  It was a subtle shift, and things haven't been perfect by any means since then, but I felt like my prayer was answered. 

*Conversation with Sam.  We were back in his office, which is a sort of windowed sun porch and it was night time and we were talking about something (details would be boring, trust me) and I was very upset, and he was very upset, and he said, not in these exact words (much gentler than this, I promise), "I sort of need to you pull yourself together now."  And I was more upset, and I was saying, "I'm trying, I'm trying," but there was a sort of something in me that knew he was right, that it was time, that it was okay to put myself back together and proceed.  This feels important, I think, because if you would have asked me if this event--someone close to me saying, "Okay, but buck up now."--would ever have a healing effect, I would have thought you were absurd.  I don't cheer up on command, and my sadness is very precious and meaningful and personal, and it's on a very particular little internal timer, I would have thought.  But Sam's comment must have come at the right time, when my prayers had piled up enough and my heart had grown weary of precious sadness, and was ready for regular old sadness, please. 

And somehow, between those two ingredients, I woke up the next morning and felt okay.  And slowly since then I've started doing things I love again, which is, for me, the real sign of "better."  I've been running, and reading poetry, and writing in my journal, and answering the phone when people call (sometimes ... I'm terrible at that.), and enjoying my meals, and noticing beauty, and listening to podcasts, and making meaningful decisions, and having deep thoughts about my life and the world, and so on. 

I'm thinking now about a few days after the miscarriage, when Sam and I walked to a Thai place a few blocks away for lunch.  I was wearing a maternity t-shirt I had thrifted earlier in the week (because, let's face it, they're more comfortable and I may never stop wearing them), and Sam was holding my hand, and we passed this little speckley bird, and I said, "Look, it's a speckley bird."  And Sam said, "There you are. There's Deja."  Meaning that was the real me, the one to notice a speckley bird.  And it did feel, for a minute, like I was back, and I would come back more permanently soon.  Hopefully, I have.   

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Great Hope

Since I last posted here, we found out I was pregnant, and then, about thirteen weeks later, we lost the baby. 

While I was pregnant, I was very very sick.  I mean, so sick that the smell of my own hair made me gag.  My doctors ultimately gave me an anti-nausea medication which they also give to chemotherapy patients. This made it possible to eat without feeling like I wanted to cut my toes off, but didn't exactly bring back my energy and liveliness.  So mostly, while I was briefly pregnant, I didn't do much besides sleep and feel ill, and stare sort of dumbfoundedly at the idea of my being a mother, of all things.  We wanted the baby, had planned it, as much as one plans such things, and slowly, slowly, we picked names and I talked with my mother-in-law about what color to paint the nursery, and I bought a moon-shaped lamp from the thrift store.  Somehow I was nervous we'd lose the pregnancy from the beginning, in the way I worry everything good will be taken from me, so I was cautious, and didn't tell many people until we saw an ultrasound at about ten weeks.

I think a lot about that ultrasound.  We had it in the first place because I was worried I'd miscarried--some symptoms manifesting--and there, in the basement of the hospital, all the lights in the room out except for the glow of the monitor, we saw a very wee baby, kicking its wee legs and pumping its wee arms.  Its heartbeat fluttered at us, and I held Sam's ear (which felt like the thing to do) and we giggled, and I felt so much relief that I wept.

And then, a few weeks later, in the matter of a couple hours (which I'll spare you the details of), it was over.  This happened a little over two weeks ago, and I confess I'm still not sure how to proceed.  I started back at work today, and it was surprisingly good to dig into the fat manuscript on my desk and put earbuds in my ears and pretend, for a little while, that I knew what was what and who was who and how to do what needed to be done.  But now I'm home, and my house is quiet before Sam returns home, and I confess I don't know.  I confess that when I passed a little girl on my way to the bus stop, I felt like I might could wail.

We found out it was a little girl, and I spend so much of my time thinking about her, about what she might have looked like or been like, and wondering if she even was a someone, a soul, a spirit, a being with a personality.  Some people are comfortable thinking of the baby who leaves them as already a son or a daughter, and while I absolutely get that, I can't say I can think of her that way.

This is how I think of what happened, the only two ways, in all of my thinking and thinking and asking wise people, that have resonated with me:  A friend said it was a "death of a great hope" and gosh that's accurate.  It feels like there was some great hope budding in me, and with the death of it, all of the hope I've pieced together about the universe seems to have vanished.  I can intellectualize hope; I can intellectualize trying again; I can intellectualize a belief in beauty and goodness and human connection, but damn if I can feel any of it, these days.

Here's what another wise friend said, over Thai food, which is where I'm sure many wise things are said: I was asking what our good friends thought of this idea of the soul, of when the baby is a someone, and whether a miscarried baby has an identity, and what to make of it all, and one of them said that he thinks of it a bit like blood, that for awhile we share blood with our babies, theirs is comingled with ours, but eventually they develop their own circulatory system, and it's their own blood that circulates their veins.  He says he thinks the same is true of a developing soul/spirit/identity.  That at first it's comingled, that we sort of share it, and eventually, as the baby grows, it becomes more its own.  This isn't official doctrine, mind you, but it makes such sense to me.  This explains why it's such deep grief: a piece of me, an extension of myself, was literally lost.  And it's taking longer than I might have expected to feel whole again.

People have been so kind.  I've had flowers and emails and cards from across the country.  But I've been mostly quiet, weathering it solo, as I tend to do when something is quite hard.  I think of the first twenty-four hours after it happened, of how carefully Sam held me, of how much the two of us slept, of how we felt sort of suspended above the reality of it, the two of us trying to take it in.  Those were difficult hours, but they were ours.  And if I have to go through this with anyone, I'm sure glad it's been with Sam.     


Monday, July 11, 2011

At the Dentist

I had a dentist appointment today, which I wasn't exactly dreading but also wasn't excited about.  Mostly I wanted to call in sick for the whole universe, so the dentist was no exception.  And although it's a nice place and my chair of doom was facing a set of windows looking out on ivy-covered red brick buildings, and although they had cheery music on, I could feel, as soon as sat down, that I wanted nothing to do with the foolishness that would ensue.  I suddenly felt like all of this fuss about our teeth must be absurd, since my teeth are working just fine, thank you very much, and what if I just suddenly tore the little bib off and in an instant became one of those people that simply does not do the dentist thing?  What then?

But I stayed, dreading and dreading it, as the faces began hovering over me, and a pina colada flavored stick of numbing gel met my gums, and then the sting of a shot, and strange orange glasses they made me wear over mine, I assume to prevent tooth dust (!) from getting in my eyes.  And I thought, see, okay, I'm dealing, but when they start to drill I very much might scream and leap from the chair and karate-chop that tray of shiny instruments.  I wasn't feeling very calm, is what I'm trying to say.

And then they began to drill, and suction as they went, and instead of feeling like leaping, it became sort of lovely, like there was this storm in my mouth with rain and a high-pitched squealing sort of thunder, and somehow in the middle of that I felt safe, in a way I haven't felt in the last couple of days.  This big thing was happening inside of my own head, this physical--even violent--happening, and I tried to breathe very carefully and unflex my feet and unclench my hands and will my quivering chin to cease quivering and find a quiet place.  I thought of a beach in Mexico I walked on once with my family where we saw a lot of dolphins, which is my go-to happy place, and there, in snatches, everything was okay.

Do you have a go-to happy place?  When do you "get to" practice it?  


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Simple Meal: Fish Tacos

Sam and I bring home fresh flounder, a small head of green cabbage, fresh salsa, a perfect avocado, red red tomatoes.

While he sautes the fish, I cut up the veggies on a bamboo cutting board.  I like the way they look once I've cut them--little piles of color--the red of the tomato, deep green of the avocado, light green of the shaved cabbage, black of the olives, the whites of a few hearts of palm and of diced, sweet vidalia onions.

I mix a little mayo with the salsa, which sounds disturbing, but is actually the loveliest fish taco sauce.  Sam has me squeeze a lime on the fish, since his hands are covered in fish juice.  He inadvertently squeezes a paper towel full of fish juice onto the floor and there is some panic about our house smelling like that forever. He adds a bit of chili powder and sea salt.  I heat the corn tortillas in a little pan, spraying pam first, and adding salt as it heats.

I fill my tacos so full I can't begin to close them, planning to eat what spills with a fork.  We sit in the living room, since it's slightly cooler there, and we exclaim profusely about how good these taste.  Or I do at least, though Sam is not unpleased.  Fish tacos are a childhood meal for me; I have memories of waiting at a roadside taco stand with all six kids and both my parents, all of us eagerly waiting for our turn to have another.

Sam and I finish the meal with an ear of corn, so rich on its own that we add nothing to it. 

Do tell: what simple meals have you enjoyed lately?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Oh, that's self reliance?

I got an iPad some time back, and I am loving it.  But I needed some kind of cover for it.  There's a little special cover that they sell with them, but it flops open if it's in your bag, and I can't have that, so I was using a plastic gallon-size ziploc, and thinking I would have to buy another cover and thinking it was going to cost me 40 bucks or something to get a decent one, and then it hit me: I sew!  I know how to do that thing.  And I have fabric that I fell in love with sometime back and haven't put to use.  And 30 minutes later, I had an iPad case.  I can't describe how happy this made me.  To have a problem, and to have made my own solution and carried it out and had it be pretty to boot.  I kept walking around my house saying, "I made a thing!  I made a thing!" and Sam kept saying, "Yep, you sure did."  It was a happy evening.

I took pictures.  And Sprouty insisted on modeling.  She is the queen.  We must obey her every whim. 

(A note on the button closure: I taught myself to make button holes!  But that's not what I wanted to say.  I wanted to say that at the time it was important for me to make the thing, to be done and have it be free, so I cut a button off an old shirt and sewed it on.  I have since purchased a much snazzier button.)

(Also, have you seen these iPad games for kitties?  I've tried it, and I don't think my cats are smart enough, but maybe some day they'll get it ... )

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

On Cleaning

I'm not good at cleaning.  I mean to be.  I want to be.  In my daydreams I am.  I often spend time mentally cleaning my house, imagining putting things away, moving through the rooms like a whirling, order-insisting robot, arranging everything in its pristine position.   

But that's not actual what I'm like.  At all.  Chaos and entropy reign in my house, especially when I'm working full-time. Occasionally I pretend to be that robot and I spend hours upon hours and more hours cleaning everything, and by the end I'm exhausted and cranky. 

And here's the problem with not being the robot, with having a messy house: it makes me sad.  Not like in a literal sense.  I don't look at the messiness and sorrow for it, though a little of that might be involved.  I mean that I've noticed that if I come home on Friday and everything is a dadgum disaster, I feel hopeless and overwhelmed, and I won't even realize it has to do with the messiness.  I think the world actually IS that hopeless and overwhelming.  Does that make sense?  Anyway, so I figured this out, this triggering response, and how ugly it was, and how much I'd rather not feel that way, and I thought and thought of what to do about it.  I found that one thing, the Flylady or whatever her name is, who gives you a list of tasks to do every single day of the year, and that's super cool, don't get me wrong, but I sort of tried to do it for a week or so and it made me even more depressed.  I need my cleaning strategy to be more, well, in and out, get it done, and don't do anything that isn't absolutely necessary.  Then I read some cool blog posts (on this blog and this blog) that seem to approach cleaning in a sassy-pants, practical, no-nonsense, this is real life and let's get on with it approach.  This was totally what I needed. 

I still liked the idea of a cleaning rotation, or certain things that I just do every day and other things I do on a set schedule, and after some more thought and some real time evaluating what I cared about, here's what I came up with.  I hope you're not appalled that I'm only doing these things once a week, or judging me because such-and-such doesn't even make the list.  I'm still fine-tuning, and I tackle other things as they become pressing, but if I seriously just do this, which doesn't take long at all, I am a much happier camper.  I do it in the morning, and then when I come home from work, I feel like things are okay, and I don't spend four hours of my weekend cleaning, either.  Friday nights are less depressing.  I want to play with Sam on the weekend.  I want to spend most of my time writing and reading and sewing pretty skirts.  Cleaning doesn't fulfill me, though maybe it does for some people.  For me, it's just baseline.  I gotta get there or I can't get anywhere else.

Anyway, here it is:

Daily realities: the kitchen (it just has to be done. every day.  there's no getting around this. i've tried.).  cat litter. General chaos/clutter avoidance.

Monday: Swiffer/sweep the whole universe
Tuesday: Laundry
Wednesday: Take out all of the garbagesssss
Thursday: A real de-cluttering, vaccuum
Friday: Bathroom

What about you?  Have you developed a cleaning strategy?  Are you still working on it?  Do tell.

Friday, July 1, 2011

My Inner Style Appears to be 1950s Housewife

I've been thrifting lately, too.  If you come to visit me (and well you should!) I will take you to some gems.  A friend took me once and I am hooked.  Absolutely hooked.  If I could, I would go every stinking day.  I feel my insides get sort of restless and look around and say, isn't it thrift-o-clock yet?  Don't we need more vintage skirts?  Don't we don't we?

I mean, I found Prada shoes, my friends.  Prada.  And a long wool bright fushia pink skirt that will be my best friend come winter.  And and and.  Lots of stuff.  When you get rid of your entire wardrobe because of its too-big-ish-ness, you need some new threads.  And buying all those new threads, even on the cheap at my usual cheap joints, is pricey.  Which is why I'm into four dollar shirts.  And seven dollar dresses.  (If those prices seem high for thrifted stuff, remember we are in Boston, after all. Those prices are miracles around here.) A bit of dry-cleaning or throwing it in the washer/dryer to get the old lady smell out, and we're good to go, folks.  Good to go.

Some days I look down at myself and realize that everything I'm wearing is thrifted.  (At least the outside layer ...)  Those are fun days.  I walk around feeling all sneaky and happy.  Here's one of those outfits.

 The shoes are Born ($4!), the shirt is Ann Taylor (5$!?) (loving the little ruffles on the ends of the sleeves), the skirt is your mom's (It might be. You never know ...).  The necklace is H&M, which always serves me well with cheap cheap accessories. 

I threw on a bright orange cardigan (not thrifted), and was ready to roll.  There were two mishaps later in the day: I put my hand in the pocket of the skirt (why did we stop putting roomy happy pockets in skirts? why?), and the seam tore.  Dang skirt.  I held it together with office supplies, namely one of those fierce little binder clips attached to the inside, and I'll have to sew it up before I wear again. 

The other mishap came when I passed my company's president in the hall, who is generally super cool and nice and lovely, and she pointed at the flower clip in my hair (can you see even see it?) and laughed.  She pointed and laughed at me!  She then said, "That's really cute!" but she had already pointed and laughed.  Harumph. 

Here's one more little peek at a thrifted outfit.  Sam was out of town so you'll pardon the mirror picture attempt.  I've been hunting and hunting for fancy shoes in a bright color and had no luck finding them, even in "real" stores.  I've also been hunting for a bright yellow necklace.  And I'm always hunting for a pretty summery dress.  I found all three in one trip!  The necklace might be hard to see, but it's there.  And the shoes are perfect.  I couldn't have dreamed them up if I tried.  I love this part of it, the hunt of it.  And the feeling, when you find the perfect thing, that you've somehow beat the system, like you win more than the clothes themselves, like the universe surely loves you and longs to fulfill your every wish. 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Outfit+Adventures in Sewing

There once was a shirt.  It looked like this:

It grew too big for me.  Much too big.  But I liked the pattern so much--look at those delightful, firework-y bursts of white!--that I saved and saved it, thinking I must someday do something with it.

Yesterday, I did something.  Before work I took that gathered bottom of the shirt and turned it into the top of a skirt.  This was very exciting.  I used the sleeves to give it a bit more length, at which point I had the following: 

[I'm shy about the pictures, so I'm posting the awkward ones ...]

Not too bad, eh?  I rather liked how it turned out.  I may have gone a bit crazy adding color, but I'm having way too much fun to tone things down.  The skirt is actually just the top piece.  I also made the little lacey petticoat type skirt over the weekend, which is what's underneath here.  I've been wearing it under skirts and dresses that are just a bit on the short side.  I wish I had one in every color.  Might have to make more ...

I also figured out how to take in my own t-shirts that are too big.  That was an exciting moment as well. 

Here's a close-up of the bursting firework-y coral-y pattern:

And here, if you'll forgive the extreme close-up, is the waistband.  See how nicely that shirt bottom turned into a skirt top?  Also, the colorssssss. Oh man, I'm in love.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dear Man Who Stole my iPod

Dear man who stole my iPod:

I was getting off the train in Central Square, enjoying a podcast on my iPod, trying to slide it into one of the pockets of my bag, and down it went between the train door and the platform, into The Pit, as I learned it was called. There was that abrupt cease of sound and the tug on my ears that meant it was gone.  

A girl just outside the train door looked worried but annoyed, since I was standing with one foot on the train and one foot on the platform, flustered.  “What was that?” she said.  “My iPod,” I said.  And I think then you turned around.  “Your iPod?” you said. The train doors closed and those inside watched me, their faces framed by the windows.  I stepped back for the train to leave, and then found it, just under the overhanging edge, in The Pit.

This is what I was thinking: all of those songs.  You don’t get your music back, even if you get a new one.  They tell you to back up your music, but who does that?  Maybe you do.

The three of us—your girlfriend was there then—stood on the lip of the platform, looking down.  I could see it, under the overhanging edge, safe from trains.  I had to point it out to you three times before you could see it, too.  You were both so nice and concerned.  You offered to jump down, but I’ve heard too many stories about how dangerous that is so I said no, no way, don’t do it.  You suggested we put gum on a long stick and bring it up that way, which was a really dumb idea, sort of a Winnie the Pooh approach.  And the thing is, I don’t remember what you looked like.  I know your girlfriend was shorter than you, and that, if I remember right, you were wearing blues and reds.  But see, I don’t look at people.   I don’t really make eye contact, especially with strangers; I don’t even really see them if I can avoid it.  Maybe this is a problem.

I had an appointment I was late for, and, frankly, I had to find a restroom, and I couldn’t find anyone in that station to help me, so I left the iPod there, that little flat pink square, my earbuds playing a Mormon Matters podcast to the sooty surface.  On our way up, your girlfriend harassed you: “You could have been a hero,” she said.  “You could have, but you were too scared.  I’m so disappointed. So so disappointed.”

When I came back after my appointment, when Sam dropped me off while he found a place to park, I met Vivian, who had lipstick the same color as my iPod, as it turned out—a frosty pink—and she wore a tight MBTA uniform.  Vivian said it was probably gone.  It had been an hour, and if kids see something they want down there, they don’t hesitate, she said, they just jump down and get it.  She called an inspector, who was on her way, and in the meantime she told me to look for it, so between trains I knelt down and hung my head over the edge, trying to find it.  “It’s not there,” I said.  “Be careful,” she said.  

I stood on the edge of the platform, in the yellow stripe, and told her, “It’s okay.  It doesn’t matter.”  Trying to maintain the stiff upper lip, you know.  She said: “Yes. It does.”

We left Vivian my number and said to call if it turned up, no reason to wait for the inspector when there seemed nothing to retrieve, and Sam and I took the escalator up to the surface again.  It was deceptively cold, the wind wiping around the intersection, people flying by on bikes in coats, in May.  When we passed a group of homeless people, I looked for my shiny iPod in their hands.  What would I have done if they’d had it?

Once we’d crossed the street, a bald man stopped us, said, “The train lady, she wants to talk to you,” and there Vivian was, with the inspector this time, waiting for us next to a little glass hut that leads down to the trains.

“She got your iPod for you,” said Vivian, when we got back.

“She did? Oh wow, thank you so much.” I went to take it, but realized no one was offering it.

“What color is it?” asked the inspector, a woman who looked a lot like Vivian. 
“It’s pink and square, like a frosty pink.”

“That kid had her come and fish it out,” said Vivian, pointing to her.

“Oh! So you really have it?  That’s so great.”  I didn’t reach out to take it this time. 

“No, actually, I don’t have it.  He had me fish it out, but he told me it was his, and so I let him take it,” said the inspector.  

“You probably shoulda known it wasn’t true.  What man would want a pink iPod?” said Vivian.  She looked disgusted.

“It sounds like it must have been the same kid though, right?  The one who said he’d help you?  He knew right where it was,” said the inspector, dropping a clipboard to her side.

“She’s got a lot of religious podcasts on there, so I hope he listens to one for at least a second and feels guilty,” said Sam.

“Oh, it’s wiped clean by now.  Wiped clear clean.  But I’m a Christian too.  I’m so sorry,” said the inspector.

“This is just too sneaky for me.  He went to a lot of effort to make sure he got your stuff,” said Vivian.  She pointed at me.

Sam and I walked away then, after thanking them, and somehow walking away was so much worse the second time.  It was gone then, safe with you, not possibly going to turn up, just gone.  And this felt bigger than an accident, it felt like a plot.  You watched me leave and spent time, spent energy and a lie, and then took it home, my black earbuds still attached, all of it curled in the pocket of your coat. 

“We’ll get another one, Babe.  No problem.”  Sam held my hand on our way to the car. “We’ll go tomorrow after you get off work.  We’ll go now, if you want.  Or I’ll clear out space on mine so you can add some of your stuff and use it on your commute.  We’ll work it out, and you’ll get a new one, a shiny one, in whatever color you want.  No problem.  Don’t worry about it.  Please don’t cry.  Don’t cry.”