Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I am an [Oxy] Moron

It seems I haven’t heard the last of my pelvic pain. I gritted my teeth through the first round of acute pain. It was not nearly as bad as ectopic pain, but bad enough that I went looking for some Percocet and spent some time with Dr. Google. Then the sharp pain went away, and was replaced with a gentle throb. Throbs, I can ignore, deny, give the cold shoulder. After a brief but welcomed hiatus, blood returned. Now this is an entity that demands attention. No matter how many ways I attempt to explain it away, I can’t.

So I have an appointment for an ultrasound this Thursday, made after calling different places for almost an hour to find someone, anyone who would take me. I am prepared for the stoic sonogram technician and know that s/he is not allowed to offer up any info. They can go ahead and probe my most private of parts but they can’t offer a sliver of information? I know, I know, it’s the law blah blah blah. Luckily I have gotten pretty good at reading scans. At the very least, I am good at knowing when the technicians are measuring something. Plus, as long as I can see the screen I can get an idea of what is going on. And, I have been know to gently extract some information “off the record” from technicians in the past. I guess they see the panic in my eyes. That, or they just want me to stop talking.

Of course it will take a while for the scans to make their way to my doctor and my doctor to get back to me with an Official Diagnosis. My head has always gone to the worst case scenario. Nicole says I do that all the time. I think “all” is a bit of a stretch, as I did, for example, walk through an ectopic pregnancy that was excruciatingly painful without thinking I was dying, but I will agree that this is a coping mechanism I do indeed employ. I need to walk myself through, say, cancer, so everything is will be a cakewalk. If I can figure out what to do if the worst of the worst happens, then surgery to remove cysts? No problem.

I have four reasons why I am extra Cancer-worried:

1. I took so much fertility medication and, well, studies show that those meds have lead to cancer. On the other hand, studies show that those meds do not lead to cancer. Let’s just say I am not happen that there are studies, period. Where there are studies, there is justification. Somewhere, there is justification. Somewhere someone’s inside exploded from too many rounds of injectibles.

2. My mother had surgery to remove some cancerous growths form her uterus when she was about 40, two years older than I am now. I was in ninth grade I think. Let’s just say I have had a hard time finding out EXACTLY what it was and what the diagnosis was. But I do remember, clear as day, a lovely diagram she drew for me and when she had surgery and that the word pre-cancer at the very least was used. I also had to skip a field trip to see a Frederico Garcia Lorca play in the city on surgery day.

3. My c-section was so not smooth. They had a hard time stuffing my uterus back in. And then there was the whole kidneys shutting down thing. Not sure how I get from botched c-section to cancer, but there you go. Maybe that is what Nicole is talking about.

4. I am from Long Island, which is basically a 90-mile-long cancer cluster.

My back-from-Italy friend Jen is convinced that all will be fine based on her very scientific reasoning that horrific things only turn up in random appointments. Like a routine physical that turns up skin cancer. I guess I should believe her because her husband is a surgeon, so she is one heartbeat away from a medical degree and first-hand knowledge of these things.

I’m not going to lie. I am a little worried and am more than ready to have this over and done with. I could use some distraction right about now. Not the distraction that the aforementioned Jen offered today, which included a horrific story about a friend’s husband who is battling cancer. (I had to cut her short on that one!) But some sort of distraction would be good.

And I’m not going to lie about this either: There is a small part of me that wants to just blow off the entire sonogram. Just ignore the appointment. I have never done that before. I have become a person who wants medical information immediately, more so than ever before, now that the girls are here, but I am strangely, bizarrely and uncharacteristically willing to pretend that everything is fine, even when I know something is wrong. The real question is, big wrong or little wrong? Chances are very much in my favor that it is little wrong. And here I am, caring and not. An oxymoron.

Pictured above: Maddie, in Leif’s and-me-down orange sweater. It still has his Leif scent on it! Below that, a weird tree thing. And Avery holding an inchworm. This child of mine is so ready for a pet! And last but not least, my most joyous hide-and-go-seeker. Maddie looooooves this game, even though she only hides in two spots (the closet and the under a coushin in the couch).

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I'd Like A Sad Sandwich with a Side Order of Angry, Please. No Mayo.

I woke up this morning feeling the sharp pang of one week since my niece and nephew moved away. I had horrible, vivid, lucid dreams the night before, so that didn’t help my state of mind. I was just sad. Sad that this could be the beginning of a very slow separation process brought on by diverse geographical locations and opposite time zones, which could ultimately drive a very large wedge in my relationships with my niece and nephew. Or it could make it stronger. To recap: Hoping for the later, scared of the former. In the meantime, just happy for the phone call we had, and looking forward to more. Like now. Now is a good time. Is now a good time for you?

I love the care package idea and am already planning the October one. This involved buying black spray glitter to make bat cards. Black spray is, apparently, a rare commodity both in real stores and online. Back to the drawing board. And I better keep things light: It costs a ridiculous amount of money to send packages to China. Maybe I can just send one of the bats from near our house? They are light as a feather and can fly far. And they make great pets, if they don't carry that deadly rabies thing.

We were up in Northampton this weekend. Saturday was beautiful and almost a perfect day. We got work done around the house; I bought a new cozy sweater and pajamas; we discovered a farm five minutes from our house that sells fresh veggies and eggs and fruit and has chickens, which the girls loved. We had our favorite arugula pizza at night. Sunday, it was rainy, but there is something about rain in the woods that is awesome. I could fall asleep listening to it, if it weren’t for the fact that I have two kids running around narrating every thought that enters their little heads, thus making it quite difficult to hear anything other than their toddler drone. Avery, in particular, does not stop talking. She has hit the “why?” phase and follows up each sentence with “But why?” or “But how?” and “What’s that?” I find this quirk adorable and charming, but it can get frustrating when, say, I am trying to explain the elements of the Quaker religion to her. But why? She asks. I don’t know, I say. Ad infinitum…

Lest I seem ungrateful, I should point out that I love this stage in the girls’ lives. And now, especially after Leif and Skye left, I am even more grateful for them.

But now I need distractions. A great one will be released on Tuesday. And for tonight, I downloaded a movie to watch. But after an hour it was only halfway downloaded, so I gave up. That will be tomorrow’s distraction. This post was tonight’s uninspired distraction.

Pictured above, holding hands at the apple orchard. And Avery and Nicole trying to pinpoint, via an Owl app, which owl I just heard hooting in our woods. I am so excited to get an owl to roost in our woods!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

It’s My Heart You’re Taking As You Go

When I was about eleven years old, my grandparents had a garage sale. Somehow I ended up there and somehow I ended up the proprietor of my very own card table and in possession of a silver money box packed with singles and loose change. While my grandmother was selling dusty crystal and no-longer-loved knick-knacks, I was selling boxes of brand new Made in China digital clocks and pen watches. Who doesn’t love a pen with a digital clock imbedded in it? It was the 80s, after all. I think there were also phones, the kind with cords and clock radios attached to them. The assorted electronic goods came from my very own garage, some sort of surplus from my dad’s import business. I was raking in the dough, which I was most likely going to promptly deposit into my savings account, because even way back that I was a good pleasure delayer.

What stands out from this otherwise lackluster memory is a random comment from a random woman. She was browsing my wares while I stood proudly and importantly behind my table with my grandmother next to me. Random woman looks up at me and then turns to my grandmother and (speaking as if I wasn’t there) said “My, my, someday that one is going to be a heartbreaker.” She might have clucked too, but I don’t trust my memory.

To this day, I do not understand what that woman saw or why she said that. Maybe it is something she says to people to make them feel good about themselves, though that is kind of creepy, considering my age. Or maybe it is something that neighborly people say to their neighbor’s not super cute grandchildren. Because there was nothing about my appearance that would suggest “heartbreaker.” Nothing. I had buck-ish teeth with a giant space between the front two. I was in that awkward space of not thin and not fat, but “husky.” I bit my nails to the quick and I was probably wearing glasses, and since it was probably sunny, I was probably squinting in a not flattering way, with my mouth open and nose scrunched, like a rapid dog baring its teeth. Yes, I just compared myself to a rabid dog. And my sense of style at that age was very, very undeveloped. Very. And let’s remember that I was standing behind a table stacked with leftover electronics, which did nothing to enhance not-very-cool status.

The things we remember. This always stuck in my head. Something about how she said it, like it was a compliment, like it was a good thing that maybe some day I would break some hearts. We all need goals, I guess, but that one hadn’t popped up on my radar. I get that it is an expression and I get that I shouldn’t take it so literally but I did. It stuck out, probably because it was so absurd.

The thing is, I don’t think hearts break. And I don’t think I broke any. I may have trampled a few in my stampede of figuring out who I was and what I wanted out of life, but I am fairly certain no one is crouching in a dark corner, clawing at their face, screaming my name. Hearts, I think, get carved up and stolen. Janice Joplin had it right with that whole take a piece of my heart song. Broken things can be fixed, but little pieces can’t be replaced. A little piece of my heart disappeared when my niece and nephew left for China. I know it sounds so dramatic, but it’s true. I love those little people for who they are and I love that they are mine and I especially loved that they were near me. I am trying to figure out how this new dynamic will work. I spoke with them last night and it was great to hear their voices. To hear their little stories about finding a gecko and the mundane happenings in their day. It occurred to me that this story may even have an ironic twist: We may perhaps speak more and see each other more than we would if we still lived a few miles apart. Only time will tell, but I am working on manifesting that. Thank god for the internet and the postal system and digital cameras. So I will make the calls and send the emails and craft the Halloween cards and demand the pictures and hope for the best.

Pictured above, my brother (I blacked out his face....) and nephew shopping at the Chinese version of Costco. My sister in law said that people stare at them wherever they go, and follow them around. You can see that here, with all of the store workers clustered around them. It made me laugh. Also pictured, their new skyline.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Checking In, Dialing In, Ordering In,

How do I deal with situations I can’t deal with? I asked my therapist this the other day and she didn’t have an answer. I want my money back. I mean, if she can’t answer every question and magically make everything better, then what good is she? $150 to anyone who can give me an answer to that question.

On my mind lately is the big C word: China. And there is another C word on my mind, but let’s start with China.

My niece and nephew are leaving for China on Sunday and I am just not dealing with it well. I knew this week would be hard, but I am finding it little more arduous than anticipated. Sort of a sucker punch, even though I knew it was coming. My mind can’t stop racing. There is no stopping point, no safe thought process that doesn’t meander right . Every thought leads to They Are Leaving. And I just feel like I am splashing around, trying to get anyone’s attention and looking for life rings, for land, for a freeking sand bar at least. And then I get angry with myself because God knows I can never deal with any emotional trauma on my own, which makes me feel weak.

I may not be dealing with some current turmoil well, but at least I can deal with historical issues much better than I did before the girls were born. It’s not like strands of my tangled, awful, bad, sad and painful memories were just plucked out of our head for all of time, in some sort of a science fiction way. I just think I have gotten a tad better with accepting things that have happened. Making peace with things I can’t change. Accepting things for how they are, or were, as the case may be. So I can look back, analyze something and pick it apart and try to pull out the lesson, and leave the rest of the mess there. Emotional evolution. And while I am sometimes guilty of the whole Woe Is Me attitude or getting lost in some negative thoughts, I think in general I am embracing the concept that it is okay to look back, but not to stare. It’s like staring at the sun: Nothing good can come from it and you may burn your retina.

So I know I will be better when this is in my rear view mirror. I just need Sunday to come, and go, the plane to land safely halfway around the world, and then look around and pick up the pieces. But right now I am stuck in a fugue. I worry how it will be possible to maintain a relationship with a five-year-old and seven-year-old from so far away. Skype with a 12-hour time difference will have its challenges. I worry that they will forget me. I worry that we won’t have the chance to create new memories. When I stop thinking about myself, I worry about how my pint-size family members will deal with such a culture shock. And then I think about my girls, who will be missing out on growing up with cousins around them. Worry worry worry. There is no peace in my mind or heart right now.

And then when my brain is saturated with all this, I start thinking about the fact that I have most of the symptoms of uterine cancer. Bombshell! At least two of the three most common symptoms. And here I am thinking dealing with this move was gonna be hard. Yes, good times over here. I feel like I am being tested, because I am always quick to say to others that old chestnut about as long as you and the people you know are healthy, then everything will be okay. Well, life might be serving up a different and difficult lesson for me. Of course, most of these health-scare situations turn out just fine, but right now my overtaxed brain is thinking the worse. I told Nicole if I die, I changed my mind and I want to have a huge funeral/memorial. I want people wailing in corners, shaking their fists at the sky and screaming how it is not fair. People giving speeches about how much I will be missed. I will make everyone wear orange, because it is sometimes my favorite color. And I like thinking about how everyone would be running around looking for orange clothes. And then I’ll look at the room from above (below?) and it will be like staring at the sun again.

So that is my current state of mind. When I stop thinking about China, I think about cancer. When I stop thinking about cancer, I think about China. Then I take a couple Advil and start the cycle all over again. I hope my next post isn’t so doom and gloom.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Motorcycles, Missing Mommy and Celebrity Blogger Guests

Did I mention I was in a motorcycle accident? On the highway? Well, technically, we were on the off ramp to the LIE. I glanced in my rear view and noticed a motorcycle starting to skid out. Everything after that happened in slow motion. My instinct was to hit the brakes, but luckily I realized if I did that then the motorcycle rider would hit me faster. So I hit the accelator, and tried to swerve to the side. The rider hit us, but his bike was almost horizontal to the ground at that time, so when he hit us, he felt flying to the side, instead of through it or over it. It was awful. I pulled over and got out, just as several other cars did. Another motorcycle rider parked near me and helped too. Within two minutes there were two firetrucks and an ambulance. He was ok, thank God, and this was evidenced by the fact that he was concerned that I was waiting around to harass him about damage to my car. I wasn’t: There was no damage to my car. But it seemed poor form to ride off and leave the scene of an accident. And I did want t make sure he was okay.

The whole experience was horrifying. I was really shaken up, which, apparently, was noticed by the fire department, because kept sending strapping firemen over to me. I mean, my hands were shaking, but I thought I was quite calm, all things considered. This rider could have died. If he wasn’t wearing a helmet, I think he would have. And while it wasn’t my fault (he hit an oil slick, which the FDNY immediately covered with sand) it still is scary to think that people could die like that, so quickly and randomly, and not because of me, technically, but in a way because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Thank goodness this incident had a happy ending for all.

Another happy ending: Nicole is home after a four-day birthday adventure with some friends. The girls missed her so much this time. Well, Avery did. I must say that this trip made me feel a little better about myself. When Nicole goes away, I miss her. Not just a little; a lot. Perhaps in a pathetic way. Who misses people that much? It’s not just her, it’s other people too. Like my friend Jen, who is in Italy still. But I always felt just this enormous Missing You theme was, well, pathetic. But now, now I see my daughter is afflicted with this as well. And when I see it in her, I don’t think of it as pathetic at all. It makes me feel a little better about myself.

Avery missed Nicole, and went through a range of emotions, which mirror mine in a way. But her’s played out in an adorable toddler way:

1. Denial: “Mommy is at work. Mommy is coming home soon.”
2. Anger: “Mommy is gonna be in so much trouble!”
3. Sadness: “Mommy left me. Mommy isn’t coming back!”
4. Despondence: “I need Mommy back. I want Mommy to come home now.”
5. Practical Thinking: “I want to call Mommy and say hi.”
6. Magical Thinking: “I need to take my fly boat and see Mommy now. She is going to be so excited.”

The thing is, I don’t show these emotion to the girls, necessarily. It’s not like I run around, tearing my hair out, clawing my face, screaming why why why. I suffer quietly. Not as quiet as Maddie; she misses Nicole in her own quiet way. Quite the opposite of Avery’s loud, messy, tangled Missing You emotions. But it is reassuring to realize that this is all genetic.

Of course, having an adorable houseguest and his mom staying with us helped distract all of us from the missing Mommy. Calliope was here while she was in town for the BlogHer conference. We were honored to host such a big blogging celebrity! Perhaps I will become famous by association. Time will tell.

Pictured above, scene of the accident. And the tee shirt that Nicole brought home for the girls. They each have one. I had at least ten people comment to me on the street about them.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Attention, Passenger: This Is Your Final Boarding Call

There are a few things I need to remind myself over and over again these next couple of weeks:

The First: When a little hand pats my back or little arms are thrown around my neck and little voices say things like “It’s okay Momma,” I need to take a step out of my own big world of sadness and calm the eff down. I need to make my children think they are comforting me and making me feel better. Nothing sucks more than to be a child and see your mom cry or be upset and feel powerless to make her feel better. To be young and marginalized by pain, yeah, that shit sticks with you, believe you me. So even if I have to fake it (and yes, my cover will be blown when the girls get older and read this) I need to smile, wipe the tears and say thank you, momma feels much better. A little white lie like that can’t really hurt them, and may help them to grow up to be confident and to feel powerful.

The Second: Dealing with an upcoming Giant Change sucks. Having a date on the calendar makes it suck even more. Every moment feels important, huge, precious, fleeting and not well spent. Once upon a time my “Three more sleeps till…” was used to count down to happy occasions. Now I am using it to count down the days till a little part of me goes away.

The Third: This is not just happening to me. This is happening to my children, to my niece and nephew, to Nicole. Yet somehow I have the starring role in this drama.

The Fourth: Doing things with my kids does not always qualify as quality time. Yes, I have been taking them places and to the playground and to play with frousins and cousins and to swim in pools, but I feel like I haven’t had quality face-to-face time with them. Avery isn’t helping me in the kitchen. I am not sprawling out on their bedroom floor and turning myself into the human toddler jungle gym. We are so go go go that we are not snuggling on the couch to read books or taking time out of our day to play ridiculous, made-up toddler games (hallmarks include rapidly changing rules; no clear start point or end point; constantly changing props and accoutrements; easily stopped at a moment’s notice.) I miss them, and I am around them all the time.

The Fifth: A package of Zoo Pal paper plates provide more enjoyment for my children than any toy they own right now. Yes, paper plates. They get so excited when I “split” them, which basically means when I divide them evenly between the two of them.

The Sixth: I don’t need to deal with this emotional turmoil in a messy way. As soon as any conflict or negative thing, for lack of a better word, enters my world, I tend to instantly become sad, needy, unconfident. My self-esteem plummets. I feel like a bad mother/wife/friend/aunt/whatever. My mind immediately goes to “I can’t get through this.” Maybe that’s me being selfish or me being human or me being whatever, but it is really helping me to remind myself that I get to have my bad/needy days too. And that this shit doesn’t need to seep into areas of confidence and esteem. I need to put that in Al Gore’s lock box and throw away the key.

The Seventh: Yes, I am cursing more. I’m also a tad more sarcastic and pointed (barbed?) with my humor. That is usually a solid indication that my emotional tank is full. And, I am more calendar-obsessed. That makes me feel like I have a little control in situations when I clearly have none. Smoke and mirrors. All smoke and mirrors.

The Eighth: If you are taking a hearing test, make sure you turn your earphones on first. Otherwise you will spend 15 minutes convinced you are deaf because you cannot hear the sounds you are supposed to hear. Or, in my case, any sounds at all. It wasn’t till I, in a panic, made Nicole try that I realized I hadn’t turned the earphones on.

The Ninth: My hearing is indeed feeling a little worse. I notice I am employing way more coping mechanisms to hear. Guess it’s time to see the audiologist. Nicole said the worst that could happen is I need hearing aids. I said the worst that could happen is the fact that a bill for 5K will show up because insurance doesn’t cover hearing aids.

The Tenth: Life is at times hard, challenging, difficult, perplexing. Pick your own adjective. It just isn’t sunshine and roses all the time. And really, that sucks. But life is also amazing in so many different ways, and, for the record, I will state that I am beyond grateful for the children/people/advantages/spouse that I DO have. We all have checks in the Good column. The challenge is remembering in times like these that the good/sublime outweighs the bad.

Okay, now for some spinach and hummus.

Pictured above, Avery will eat anything with a little chocolate on it. And the sun, breaking through, a.k.a., the world’s first metaphor. And I think I know where I will be on Thursday. Basil custard? Veeeery intriguing.