Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wednesday Mouth Off

Thank you, so much, Steve Kerr, for completely fucking up my NBA team, leaving me with a month of nothing to watch on television. In what has to be the biggest demonstration of "eat me" ever witnessed by a General Manager toward his team's fan base, Kerr answered all the Sun's fans who had been clamoring for a real center for three decades by bringing in . . . . this.

Yes, what the fastest, quickest, most lively, most entertaining and fun team in the entire NBA needs is a 38-year old behemoth to grind things to a halt. Oh, and he can't shoot free throws, either. (And I just checked -- Kurt Rambis and Tom Chambers couldn't hit the bucket from a dead stop either, but at least they didn't get in the way.) So now that he's taken my team, which used to be a pretty, shiny fast sports car and turned it into a giant Escalade putzing in the right-hand lane, he's now about to part ways with the coach who turned them into a sports car in the first place. Which is all begging the question why we thought it was a good idea to entrust this team with a former Chicago Bull in the first place.

Anyone get Euro Cup soccer on Fox? Worth the money?

Jeremy Sisto on L&O -- worth the visit?


Thanks for all the comments on the last. I told Mr. ABF I feel like we're no longer at square zero, but have made the quantum leap to step one: conflicting information, half of which sounds somewhat reasonable. (Well, "reasonable" to those of us with a really demented view of "reasonable.") I'm weighing a lot of risk/reward options in my head, and contemplating shelling out of pocket (because my insurance doesn't cover IF) (in fact, in order to cover pregnancy, you need to tell them two months in advance of being so and start paying a premium then -- which I think pretty much discriminates against infertiles, the reckless, and Catholics, and well . . . ok, everyone except those who can time these things on a dime) to see an RE simply to see where things stand now. Which sounds like a colossal waste of money -- doesn't one see an RE you know, to get pregnant? Which I might want to do, but there are a lot of "it depends" still hanging out there. But I at least feel I may (may) be brave enough to make that phone call and answer some of those. And see what they tell me about things like clotting disorders (thank you) and so forth. Oh, and if I have any genetic material left to begin with. Which might put us back to the zero square again. But you know, one forward, two back -- right off the cliff. Will let you know. Simply dragging my ass in for an annual might be a good place to start, no?


Because Max was jealous of all the Buddy props, and because I'm an equal opportunity doggie mama who thinks BOTH her boys are photogenic lovelies, here's Max -- the border/golden mix (this is a bit old, this pic -- he's got a bit more sugar around the lips now. Same cute ears):

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Going Through It, Again

Because April has just been shot to hell already, we thought we might as well have breakfast with FIL/wife and attempt thaw, and call the Children's Doc who now thinks it was infection. Why not! Cram it all in one month and relax in May. Not like any heart-breaking holidays are coming up there! Hmm? What's that you say? Awwwww fuck . .


Because I now have the foresight of a swami, and I hate to say "I told you so," I'll only gloat mildly that I totally guessed there would be passive aggressive Valentine's presents. (Fist pumping while gyrating and sticking out my tongue. Hey, I'm so rarely right about these things!) I guess to make up for the completely ignored Christmas and the completely ignored one-year anniversary of our daughter's short life, the in-laws sent, um, I totally forget. Something Valentiney for Bella. And being the nice guy that he is, Mr. ABF picked up the phone YET AGAIN and dialed, and lo, someone picked up. He immediately put Bella on the phone (because one passive aggressive measure deserves another), and then spoke with the wife, and then, gasp, even a few bumpy words with his father. There have been a few more rocky phone calls, but the fact that the calls are being made and answered is really breakthrough. And Bella started proclaiming out of the blue that it had been a very long time, "since I was a baby," that we had seen them. And so plans were made to have breakfast with them on Saturday. Our first get-together since November.

It sucked. There was zero mention of why it had been five months since we last spoke, save for the frequent whistled pronouncements of how big Bella was and how she now talks like she's reading a novel. There was this really insulting, condescending and accusatory statement about how the wife "is really afraid of our dog."

(Before we get into the 8x10 color glossies with the circles and arrows, I pause to show alleged dog that strikes terror in the hearts of in-laws:


He now claims, in this rather threatening voice like he's about to call a lawyer, that our dog "jumped on her" when they were visiting at Halloween (completely likely; the dogs were going apeshit with the bell ringing every 20 seconds), and "bruised her, and she's really fragile right now" (she's in remission for lung cancer -- I'll return to this in the wrap-up) and "is reaaallllly afraid of him." READ: WE HAVE CREATED A LEGITIMATE EXCUSE NEVER TO VISIT YOU IN YOUR HOME AGAIN. I hate that this was NEVER brought up at the time of the visit (the entire night was so fun! Your neighbors are great! And bruised wife dragged herself, apparently screaming in pain, around the neighborhood for at least an hour with Bella to go trick or treating), and not discussed in some adult fashion ("By the way, your dog is still a bit jumpy -- you think when we come again you can put him away or tie him up until everyone's settled?"). It was delivered like an ace in the hole:

We may have stood you up at your daughter's memorial service, and ignored you and your family for five months -- including Christmas -- but we have our reasons for staying away from the likes of you.

Of course we were so aghast at this whole play (given that we've owned our other dog for 9 years now, and have pictures of him jumping into her lap while she giggles like a school girl) that words failed us entirely and we simply apologized. To be greeted with a grimaced, condescending nod.

But that wasn't the end of the it: last week FIL/wife had to put down their cat of about 20 years. It was sad for them, I understand, believe me. I'm the first to sympathize in these situations. But I swear. to. god. he spent more time lamenting his cat, ruing the final hours, genuflecting to the vet staff than he did his own granddaughter or any of our situation, ever. The real kicker was when he said when they got back from their trip in a few weeks, they'd have to decide whether or not to get another pet. "And I just don't know if we can go through that again."


"Yo, tell me about it," I should have said, but seriously, what gives here? Am I missing something? They're completely treating our grief like it's PMS. They're practically jamming these coded messages down our throats. Now, wife was diagnosed with lung cancer two years ago, and is in remission, but the recurrence rates are fairly grim. And while I understand (totally) shielding yourself, protecting yourself, I don't buy it as an excuse for hostility. Especially against your son and his family who just lost a daughter a year ago. If we're that hard to deal with given our respective situations, I say we each take a powder.


Segue to never doing THAT again: Doc from Children's, who's a metabolic specialist by the way, now believes the signs point to infection. He believes there was some placental abruption (due to infection) circa 25w that then corrected itself to some extent (back to this rather freaky caveat in a moment) that led to the damage. His evidence (in addition to a pile of metabolic and genetic testing that turned up negative): echogenic bowel around 28-30w. Certain organs/systems and physical features being completely unaffected. The smallest growth recorded (I believe in a gland function) was circa 25w, other growth measured around 34w.

Sounds convincing, but here's where the rarity kicks in: usually when there's placental abruption, you go into labor. I did not. Somehow things kept chugging along keeping her alive (according to his theory), but with some now stunted growth that would become severe. Apparently this never ever happens, ergo there's no evidence medically speaking to compare this to. (Apparently the pathology report even accounts for some "healing" in certain areas -- I forget this totally, and really need to sit down and reread the damn thing when I get a free five seconds.) They've never seen anything like it.

The other questionable aspect of this theory is the glaucoma. Apparently there are diseases that cause glaucoma, but she tested negative for those. Glaucoma usually doesn't arise from the lack of oxygen. And while he can point to some of the metabolic mess and claim that the struggle to correct herself led to some energy problems, he's hard pressed to explain the presence of an odd protein circling around in her system.

And finally, there's no evidence of infection, and usually one is able to track down something. Could be it had cleared out by that point, he says.

This never ever happens.

Oh, and what about my placenta, you ask? They threw it out -- because we all thought she was fine, remember? Yeah. The irony is blinding. Perhaps the big clue here was present and available and thrown in the trash because she looked lovely and her Apgars were decent and she was just taken for observation. When the wheels really started coming off the bus 24-36 hours later, I remember some heated words between the NICU doc and the delivery floor wondering if there was any way in hell they could FIND it.

I understand from a few of you who were given this cause of death that your OB's noted that the placenta "looked off" -- so I'm gathering there's some obvious visible problems evident to the naked eye, and my OB said nothing, recorded nothing.

So. Not sure what to think here. Genetics (with whom Metabolism respectfully disagrees) also makes really valid arguments that include problems like glaucoma and odd proteins, and certain organ systems being blown to hell while others are not, but again, this has never happened. Lots of negative tests. We've never seen anything like this.

I'm not sure whether to hang my hat on placental abruption "which never happens like this" or genetics "which has never happened like this." Either way, lightning struck, I lost, Maddy paid the price. My odds are apparently "not likely to happen again" up to "a 1:4 chance of delivering a terminal baby." Either way, no way of knowing during the process. Aaaauuuuggggh.

I of course went off to check out placental abruption on doctor google, and noted that if I kick my coke habit the next time around my chances for a live baby go up considerably. Good to know. Also good to know that I don't meet any criteria on the risk list save for being over 35. Nothing I can do, no way I can tell.

Don't know if I can do this again.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Tree Grows. At least half of it does.

So many have waxed poetic about the coming and arrival of spring. (Or the serious lack thereof.) And I thought I'd just throw some confetti into the discussion about the scourge of spring -- the ugly underbelly, if you will. Because I'm cynical and contrarian like that. Muawhahahahaha. Let's get started.

Back in March, Bella and I spent a chilly Saturday indoors making newspaper seed pots, backhoeing them them with dirt, violently poking in seeds, and then drowning them in water. (I'm discovering the late three's are nothing if not subtle.) But, you know, just about every pot took off, and suddenly I became rather nervous wondering where on earth -- or IN earth, as it may be -- I would put all this eggplant, pepper, cucumber, and floral varieties.

And then April happened. It was not a good month, filled with recuperating dogs, barfy kids, sleep deprivation, thrown schedules, police reports, insurance adjusters, foot appointments, last minute parties for 50, awkward conversations. Oh, and multiple visits by architects, engineers and contractors, which necessitated moving around our boxes of seeds from room to room until I finally lost track of where they last were, and they wound up in a place not on my daily path, and then the porch needed cleaning for a party, and suddenly I realized a few days had gone by without water, and when I finally located the boxes (the ones my cat hadn't upset on the floor) they looked like this:

I am a vegetable killer. A flower murderer. The good news I suppose is that I don't need to find a place in the yard for all of this. How to explain it to the kid . . .

Spring is also a time for weeds. We have an interesting one around here:

Pretty, no? It's a weed. Onion grass. And it can't be killed by normal weed killer, only by pulling up the entire thing, bulb and all. Most people just kinda embrace them (if you can't beat it and all that), but they only look good for a bit when they're in bloom (Read: daylight hours, for about a week). The other times (weeks prior, and when the sun isn't out) they look like someone forked your lawn but with chives, and the lawn mower claims those aren't in the job description. Gotta just wait for the whole shabang to dry up and die.

And then there's the magnolia. So pretty in bloom. But the aftermath decidedly not so much:

Brown, rotting masses floating on scraggly branches while we all wait for the leaves to open and fill this thing in. Right now it just looks, well, hung over.

And then there's the volunteer maple that a neighbor gave us. No worries, he said, it's free, I don't want it, no pressure if it doesn't work out.

Clearly a case of one hand not communicating with the other.


Spring is also the time for animal babies, if the bedtime stories are to be believed. And indeed, a number of weeks ago, a neighbor emailed me that her horse (kept out in a stable by my aunt's, coincidentally) was pregnant. And you know what my first reaction was? Jealousy. Of a FUCKING HORSE! REALLY! (I'M SHOUTING!) But here's why just so you don't think I maybe need to check the meds: I was really struck by just how purely natural this all was. Animals mate, animals have babies. Duh! Just like in the storybooks. Just like PEOPLE are supposed to do. That's how we continue as a species, yes? The mating and getting pregnant and having babies sequence? Then why in holy fuck is it so difficult and convoluted and expensive and sad? And then there's the awwwww factor that just kills me. Of course my neighbor tells me all this about her pregnant horse because she wants Bella to see the future offspring. And Bella these days is ALL about mommies and babies -- one must have the other, or else there's a lot of plaintive calling, and cooing, "where are youuuuuu?" until the correct configuration of stuffed animals (or trains, or any object worthy of anthropomorphization) is achieved. (Woe to she who cannot summon baby panda at bedtime.)

But of course, assisted reproduction and death are all part of the current animal kingdom, too. My equestrian aunt informs me that most horse matings are fixed (that is to say, planned -- mating a certain stallion with a certain mare for a certain genetic mix), and many these days are done via artificial insemination to prevent any injuries during mating (hubba hubba). (not.) Ditto for many animals in captivity whose reproductive highlights and woes are splashed around the metro sections when crime dips and editors need stories. The birds around here for some reason that escapes me chose not to make nests in any number of trees on my property, but make them behind the shutters on my three story stone house. So it's rather a common spring time occurrence to walk the perimeter of said house and collect dead baby birds (and of course, hold funerals for them). And how many of us know of a litter of puppies or kittens that didn't entirely make it? (Top this: my high school boyfriend's cat had kittens, one of which died when a ceremonial mask that hung on the basement wall freakishly fell down and crushed it. I KNOW.)

Last Friday morning, completely sleep deprived, with a day of party prep ahead of me, I opened an email from my neighbor time-stamped from the middle of the night: the mare delivered her filly. The mare did not survive the birth.

I won't lie, I wept. I whipped off a consolation email, got on the phone with my aunt, and within hours had sorted out all sorts of numbers of people who knew people who helped motherless foals. I've only received a short message from my neighbor (who was also dealing with Passover that weekend) but it sounds as though so far everything is ok, and some of my cobbled-together information helped.

Spring is like this, I suppose. Full of promise, most of which works out just fine and fills our photos with buds and little fuzzy creatures, nuzzling their mamas. I'm not nearly as checked-out as last spring, but I'm not really enamored by the beauty, either. Instead, I find myself gravitating toward the missteps that -- lo and behold -- happen in nature all the time. The weeds. The ugly. The assistance. The lack of assistance. The inconceivable deaths. The inevitable deaths. I'm too cynical to find beauty in any of this, but I am finding that I'm not alone in my reproductive mishap, and perhaps feeling a little less statistically challenged. Not that I'll do it again, mind you, but that I have a bit of company in the "it shouldn't happen that way" department.

Monday, April 21, 2008


I appreciate the feedback, really I do. I have not had a whole lot of quality, awake time to process what happened, and so my reaction was perhaps a bit muted given how I feel about things today. Generally this discussion reminded me of watching "Titanic." The first 2/3 of the movie were single-handedly some of the worst cinematic minutes I have endured in a theater. The acting and lines were so poor that I sank into my seat, alternately peeking through my hands as if watching some poor high school students earnestly try and make their way through "Grease" but really scarring themselves deeply for life, and looking at my watch. "When is this fucking boat gonna sink already?" And finally, reward: people shut up, and the movie switched into a true special effects masterpiece (where sadly, I was so emotionally detached from the poor people, that it was far more spectacular than horrific. Extremely cool how they make the bodies float like that with floes).

Friday's discussion was similar. The first 2/3 were an awkward nightmare that I was wishing I could teleport out of, with a bit of redemption at the end, but by that point I was pretty checked out emotionally and didn't care much about what was said beyond a pure analytical level.

What I'm now realizing about this discussion with mom up the block:

1) I'm increasingly annoyed that it didn't happen on my terms. That she wasn't patient enough to allow me to initiate this. I like the term anon commenter made: ambush. I was no where remotely near a good place to have that discussion, and I don't think it was fair that the time was chosen for me. But none of this is "fair," is it.

2) You're all right, she unloaded HER stuff. HER woe. HER fears. HER version. Looking back I realize that 15 seconds into this discussion, the air left me like a balloon, and I didn't care. I just flat out didn't care. I'm tired of this. It's happened before you know, people usurping my grief into their own angst, just never right in front of my face like this. I feel like taking out a billboard not just for me but for all deadbaby mamas to the effect of:


I just don't. I spend a morning every two weeks loading my trunk with luggage and unpacking it at my therapist's office, and while I no longer drag along steamer trunks, there are still plenty of hat boxes left to pick apart. To be "angry at you for the loss of my daughter" requires some manipulation and mental gymnastics that my poor wee brain simply can't envision. I have a whole lot of other shit to wade through before I decide to direct my anger elsewhere. Like, what exactly to be angry about for starts.

3) As to point (2), I'm tired of worrying, caring, and being put in the position to recognize, validate, and apologize for other people's feelings towards me and my personal tragedy. My mom is one of those people that needs a fair amount of, how to say this, emotional reassurance that she's doing something meaningful. My wedding day, for instance, entailed me having to make sure SHE was ok when frankly I thought everyone was supposed to be worried about me. Good thing I don't care much about weddings to begin with. And I caught some glimpses of this in the days right after Maddy died, and it was a big reason I didn't speak to her for three months following because I couldn't handle that, too. I needed to deal with me, and I did not have enough emotional energy left over to prop her up too.

But you know? When I finally ventured out there, eyes rolling, "here we go," she was fine. She's been nothing short of terrific. The REST of the family has gone up in flames and stupid people abound. I don't want to hug you because you feel ignored or neglected or because I didn't ask you for help. Get over it.

4) As to the technical genius part of the conversation: after the tears had dissipated (perhaps she saw no forgiveness was forthcoming? who knows), she asked some very interesting (to me) and pointed questions that no one -- not family, and certainly not casual neighbors -- have asked about me. About how I felt about what happened. Whether I had a religious framework to place what happened in. (Whether my lack thereof made me think any differently.) What exactly had happened. If they knew what went wrong. And it was here, in this line of thought, that in my exhaustion I thought maybe someday, over piping hot COFFEE, she would be a nice ear to bend on some things I don't ever really talk about outside the computer. Maybe.


5) Because I'm not sure the inaugural G&T has ever happened quite so early, and it went down so badly, and yesterday was in the 50s again, I've decided I get a Mulligan.

I'll let you know what if anything transpires with Mom down the block. Could be she's already forgotten the whole thing.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Gin and Tonic

I really appreciated this piece in the Times a few weeks ago. My parents raised me in this fashion, allowing me a sip of wine or cocktail here and there, which in my personal framework worked like a charm. I did not run and get drunk at my first opportunity (nor ever, really), and I believe I have this to thank for. May I also interject that I don't think this is necessarily a good Family plan; I'll go out on a limb here and say I don't think this sip-here-and-there philosophy worked horribly well with my brother. I believe it's a child-specific prescription, as most disciplinary measures are. And frankly, I don't know how you handle this particular subject within a family where children can be remarkably different. Subject for another post, I guess.

My parents, living in Arizona, were big G&T drinkers. It was a year-round thing there, and I loved these sips. It was so crisp, fizzy, refreshing, and sophisticated (they had these tall thin glasses they'd prepare them in with tacky tropical (undoubtedly leaded) designs down the sides). It was always consumed outdoors, in the stifling heat, usually with the smell of cut grass, and the whirring of a sprinkler. It was a drink I really grew to love as an adult, but had to have the right environment. This isn't a cocktail I gravitate toward in winter, or at a generic reception. Moving as I did from the East coast to the Midwest and back East again, the G&T became my way to inaugurate summer. I'd wait for the first really (really) warm day, and decide around 5 p.m. , this was it. This was the day. And prepare one, and savor the fresh lime contrasting with my own salty sweat. It took me back to my porch, my parents, and held the promise of warm days ahead.

I know I wrote that we only host the December monthly neighborhood cocktail party, but no one wanted April, so impulsively with little time to spare, we decided to host Friday night's get-together rather than see it die on the vine. After a stressful few weeks, followed by a frantic 48 hours preparing for this thing, I was set. It was 80 degrees out, I was sweating. The party would be outside on my long porch next to the magnolias, directly over the blooming yellow iris. And I started anticipating that lovely bubbly fizz under my nose. I was upstairs doing something, and heard the arrival of a few guests in the yard, when I heard someone call my name from the first floor of my empty house and came down to find . . . her. The cool neighbor down the street with the baby. The mother of the bellwether. And she had clearly already put a few back in order to steel herself to speak with me for the first time in 15 months, and I was stone cold sober. She wanted to talk. I told her I probably needed a drink for this, and went out and without thinking, fixed myself my inaugural '08 G&T.

I wrote in the comments last post that I had often thought I should take a tray of martinis down to her house, and sob it out. But never got the courage. I had no expectations for this conversation, I had never played it out in my head, because in my head I never made it to her doorbell. I will say, though: in my mind's eye, both the cocktail and the conversation were on my terms. This was decidedly not.

It was not a pretty conversation. She sobbed, she yelled, she practically wailed. I did not. She vacillated between extremely upset, extremely sympathetic, and extremely ignorant. She asked me a thousand times, with tears streaming down her face, "What can I do?" and I kept answering, stone-faced, "nothing." There is nothing anyone can do in this particular situation. Not her, not my husband, not my therapist even. What is left to do is up to me. This is simply an issue where I need to work out my own comfort level, and I haven't, yet. She was convinced I was mad at her, I emphatically told her I wasn't. (I really wanted to show her my blog post, and stress the words "cool" and the part about fantasizing hanging with her, but couldn't find my laptop.) I reiterated multiple times I wasn't ignoring her because I was angry at her, I was avoiding her because the whole thing made me very sad. She said she lost her mother last fall, I told her I was sorry, but it wasn't the same thing. Not better or worse, perhaps, but definitely not the same. She told me she can't go through life being mad at everyone who still has a mom. This was the point where my hand started shaking so violently that the lime about committed suicide and leaped over the rim onto the floor below, and the only time I raised my voice: One, not mad. Two, how dare you judge me. How dare you tell me how to grieve. How dare you tell me that it's wrong to be hurt -- or even resentful and angry -- if I lost a child and you did not. If one of your children dies, I will continue this line of conversation with you, but losing a child is different than losing a parent. But I was older when I was pregnant, she moaned, I was so worried I would lose my daughter. But you didn't, I reprimanded her sternly, you didn't. And so you don't get to be here, you don't get to empathize, you don't have a scintilla of a clue.

But what can I do.

We looped through religion (my lack thereof), Maddy's life (she never really got the particulars), what I'm doing for my grief. It was here that I glimpsed the cool neighbor, the sarcasm, the one that was such a cool mom -- the one I missed. I'm not sure if she heard me, but she at least pretended to listen. And I told her if she wanted to get together, just the two of us, I was up for that, but I was not ready to face her daughter. She is a dagger in my heart, and I can't. It's self defense, it's not anger.

I never apologized for ignoring her all this time, and I never cried. We hugged repeatedly, and left on -- I think -- good terms, wandering out to the porch together to check on our toddlers, who are enamored of each other, running around the freshly mowed lawn while the incoming crowd of neighbors chatted in the cool evening breeze. Last year, I couldn't taste anything. My much-anticipated inaugural tonic last year was bubbly water that couldn't bring back memories of my Arizona back yard, or tie me to more comfortable place, and got tossed down the sink. I had such high hopes for this year's tonic. It tasted like

Nonfulfillment. Broken promises. Involuntary Resolve.

I guess there's always next year.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Gut Check

I've spoken occasionally of the cool woman who lives down the street behind my house. We were pregnant at the same time, and she also had a toddler, although her son was a bit younger than Bella. I had gauzy daydreams of the two of us, sitting outside in the sun with our babies, watching the toddlers fall over the dog. The last time I spoke to her was a week after Maddy died; her family appeared at the back door to inquire about "the baby" and I simply said "she died" as I fell in her hugely-pregnant arms, sobbing. We finally disentangled, and I closed the door, and her family filed out my back gate.

I have since spoken to her husband, and Mr. ABF can speak with both of them, but I cannot speak with her. I cannot look at her. I can hardly stand to think of her. Because I know the child, her daughter is always with her. I knew exactly when her baby was born, because I noticed strangers walking her son around the block. I looked out the window in disbelief on the first warm day when I saw her out pushing a double stroller by my back fence. I cross the street if I see her coming because I cannot bear to see her daughter, the being who parallels my ghost.

My neighbor often walks down to the corner and back, cup of tea or baby in her hand, as her son meanders along examining the plants, sidewalk, weather, dogs. The baby is always in the stroller, on her hip, over her shoulder. Today I was in the yard with Bella and the dogs when I saw her out of my peripheral vision, slowly making her way down the walk with a toddler.

But it wasn't her son. It was a small, blond girl, holding her mother's hand, testing out her feet.

This girl is my bellwether, gauge, yardstick, my internal barometer of all things Maddy -- where she would be, if things went as planned, and where I am now in my missing. I averted my gaze, walked under my enormous magnolia tree, looked up at the fragrant pink blossoms, and sobbed.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


We live in -- how to say this politely -- a transitional neighborhood. All signs point to the trend of transitioning up. (And may I interrupt here: I do not equate "up" with "whitening": my neighborhood, was and continues to be, racially diverse -- it's actually a big part of why I moved here in the first place.) But those who have lived here 10-20 years have all sorts of stories: the house down the street where the old woman died, and her young granddaughter continued to live there doing drugs, until she was arrested and evicted. The new owner speaks of cleaning rooms wearing hazmat outfits, but it is now an entirely charming colonial with wood floors, cheerful paint, french doors overlooking balconies, two dogs roaming around an impeccably landscaped yard with a barbecue. The woman down the street who remembers, a decade ago, watching in shock when her front door was flung open and a man (who turned out to be a mugger in pursuit) ran through her shotgun single and out the back door. Stories like this have dissipated greatly as people with families moved in, cleaned up their yards, and began walking their dogs and letting their children play outside. I love this neighborhood with all of my heart, but I know full well that urban is presently decaying a few short miles away. There is still the occasional attempted break in of home or car, petty vandalism, and horribly enough near the main street or the train station, a random mugging. It's part of living in a city this balance of everything at your fingertips, and danger lurking around the corner. I've lived in a city before, and am glad to do it again.

The blight that is in the process of being removed ever so gently from my immediate neighborhood still exists in the larger region. One in four people live under the poverty line. Last year's homicide rate broke records. It is ridiculously easy to obtain handguns. The public schools are atrocious, both in terms of facility and general usefulness not to mention safety. Jobs, like the famous Navy Yard, keep shutting down and or moving away. For decades the city's administration has been identified with blowing up residences, widespread corruption, and cronyism.

So it was with some acceptance, and a heavy sigh that I discovered my car had been keyed overnight. Things like this are bound to happen I suppose, and it's the price I pay for living in a dreamhouse amid the best neighbors ever within walking distance of mad-good coffee shops and homemade pastry. But the words in my 5-month old door cut me short: BICTH. I'm assuming, from the crime and the vocabulary, that this was a child, out after dark, on a school night when s/he should have been at home, who seized this crime of opportunity. (Had it been an older person with more criminal experience, they would've gone right through the window in search of my GPS system.) But instead of articulating an anger -- toward me, or toward this city which for decades has neglected it's children -- the perpetrator came off sounding like Sylvester the Cat reaching for a handful of pens.

Mayor Michael Nutter, if you're reading this, please know that I support you and your administration, that I love this city, and will do whatever lies in my power to better this situation before it gets worse. Because it could very well get worse. This is a city on the precipice, with a recession looming in front of it. And what happened to my car doesn't strike me with fear, and doesn't make my neighborhood look bad, it makes the city look ridiculous. We have kids hanging on by their toenails, who are herded into decrepit schools, matriculated without skills, with no where to go afterwards, and no jobs on their horizon. And before we get in their parents' grills, let's remember that many of them are working two jobs, and can't afford child care. Kids are this city's future, and we're letting them down -- we're laughing off their bouts of rage, and I for one am about to pay a couple grand to obliterate it as if it was never heard. In short, the problems of this city are writ large, three times, over two metallic blue car panels: we need to teach kids to spell before any of this gets better.

Because to-do lists seem the rage, here's mine for today:

1) Get Police Report.

2) Get estimate on repair (scheduled for this afternoon) before

3) calling insurance company.

4) Find local literacy campaign to donate books to.

5) Donate money to local after-school program.

6) Email architect, who is coming with a contractor for a meeting on Monday to discuss our kitchen reno, about the possibility of off-street parking structure.

7) Swill coffee, look out window at beautiful Blue Atlas Cedar, exhale, and repeat 10 times: There are worse things this. There are worse things than this. There are worse things than this.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Best-Laid Plans

This morning was to be my first morning to myself in three weeks. Two weeks ago was spring break, and suffice it to say, Mommy did not get to the gym. Last week was a plethora of appointments, including the scheduled surgery of my nine-year old dog. Max had a grapefruit-sized fatty tumor on his side that we opted to remove while he was still in good health and before it got any larger and his gait any more lopsided. What is normally a routine surgery turned a bit when they discovered an infected mass behind the tumor. Max was, and will be, fine. The incision is quite longer than they expected, and included a plastic tube to drain infection. Which sounds perfectly agreeable, especially since it was all covered up with a dog-sized band-aid.

Which, at Friday's follow-up appointment, everyone discovered had impeded the flow of infectious goo, which now flowed freely onto the vet's floor in a widening puddle. Max was left at the vet's for the afternoon to muck up their floor, not mine, and returned home that evening with no covering and instructions to apply a warm compress three times a day. Somewhere in the chaos, Bella announced she didn't feel well (really, who would), and her sniffle and cough sounded a bit more pronounced and she acted a bit more groggy. Saturday, while shuttling a dripping Franken-dog between the confines of my tiled kitchen and the confines of his crate, Bella projectile vomited all over her floor.

My life, it seems, has been a series of cleaning foul looking and smelling stuff of my floors, and rotating dirty rags through my laundry, keeping and eye out here and there to make sure animals and children are respectively quartered in places to minimize mess. Plans for dinners were scuttled, trips to the grocery store waylaid. (No, I'm not a single parent, but Mr. ABF had scheduled work into this series of set backs, and Saturday we were all to report to community service, but I was trapped indoors and he was left to represent the Awfuls, who really were.) Yesterday, I finally freed myself from the quarantine for a lovely trip to the library. This morning, after a good night's sleep, and a usual brief kiss goodbye at school, I finally drove myself to the gym wondering if I could remember how to work the program on the stationary cycle. No sooner had I set myself up, than "The Politics of Dancing" was interrupted with a phone call from Bella's teacher: She was crying over inane things, and asking for her mother. This is NOT her, not even remotely. She must be sick. Please come and get her.

And so here I type, from the floor of my daughter's room, where she putzes around sans fever, slight runny nose, no redness in her throat, glands seemingly unswollen, appetite up, me wondering what signs I'm missing and when in hell I can get out of this house and have a good few hours to myself. I started writing a post last week on a beautiful quote from a beautiful book, but have picked it up and put it down so many times now, it's starting to feel like that term paper that you keep putting off until you finally have to turn it in and hope the teacher doesn't notice that you phoned in a good deal of it. It will have to wait.

I'd like to say I see a break of daylight on my horizon, but tomorrow morning, after a scheduled visit to physical therapy at the asscrack of dawn, Max is to get the tube and staples removed. I have a slightly queasy feeling that more floor cleaning and dog herding is in my future, probably with a runny-nosed toddler by my side.

But how are you?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Uterus'z Connected to the . . . Foot Bone

(circa 2006) We're calling to confirm your appointment with Dr. X who will be doing an ultrasound to check for fetal sac/heartbeat/cause of bleeding/size of baby/soft markers/placenta previa/whateverthehell.

(circa 2008) We're calling to confirm your appointment with Dr. Y who will be examining your foot regarding your plantar fasciitis.

Please drink a gallon of water within 5 minutes of your appointment, and don't you dare pee an hour before coming to our office. Oh, and leave at least 20 minutes early, 'cause there's this construction outside that's just a bitch with the traffic.

Please bring a pair of running shorts and your running shoes with you to your appointment.

I should probably shave my legs for this.

I should probably shave my legs for this.


I played soccer from age 10-30. Somewhere around age 18 I got a whiff of maturity, and thought it would behoove me and my game if I did some extra-practice running. And a funny thing happened: I loved it. I looked forward to late afternoon, around 4:00, when I'd drop whatever it was that I was starting to slow down on anyway, lace up my shoes, and get outside for 45 minutes, regardless of the season. I started running in NYC and decided at the time it was probably unwise to run with a walkperson, so I ran sans soundtrack and reveled in it: No phone. Turning off my brain from whatever historical paradigm I was trying to wrap my head around. Letting my mind float. Listening instead to traffic, birds, footsteps, dogs, airplanes, snippets of passing conversation. It became a life habit and my own little daily intra-personal therapy session. It also kept my slow metabolism in check. Eventually I got brave enough to run a few 10Ks and a marathon.

And then in early '02 I had a miscarriage. I began charting shortly thereafter, and noticed my luteal phases were an average of 10 days or so, frequently less. And when I went to the RE, he wagged his finger: no running. He threw me a bunch of articles about women who overexercise and how it diminishes their progesterone. (May I just clarify that "overexercise" is relative; if you are in wicked shape, and have a "normal" body, training for the iron man while attempting to get pregnant counts as overexercise. If you are me, and your body already has some issues, 20-30 miles/week can mess you up even more.) So I slowed down to less than 10 miles per week which made me feel like I might as well bring a vacuum to push along or something, so insignificant was it, but it worked. When I got pregnant with Bella I swam the miles instead of running them. When Bella was born, I counted days to getting back outside, strapping on the shoes and pushing her in the jog stroller. I remember my first run without her, a rare weekend when Mr. ABF could spare 45 minutes so I could run solo and I thought I'd fall flat on my nose with nothing in front of me to push.

It made sense, then, when we started trying to get pregnant again that I'd slow down. Which wasn't hard, because we were insanely busy now. My "job" was caring for an active 1.5 year old, and we were selling our house in a quickly sinking market and buying a big old house that demanded a lot of attention. There was no swimming during Maddy's pregnancy; not only did I not have the time, but my instructions were to lie around as much as possible. I settled for the occasional long dog walk.

After Maddy died, I holed up in the house for three months. But the first thing I did that made me feel "better"? Was go for a run. I cried the whole way through one mile. It felt terrific, in that "crap this is lousy" way that things feel terrific during that initial period, when just going through the shower feels like an excessive expenditure of energy stores. Over the summer I ran on the occasional weekend, exploring paths around my new house. And when Bella finally (finally!) started school in the fall, I made it a routine to drop her off, drive around the corner to the lot, and run in the woods. I loved the endorphins. The sounds of leaves. The quiet. I thought about Maddy. I especially loved getting this old piece of my old self back. And before I knew it, I had worked my way back up to 4-mile runs, three to four times a week. Perhaps most importantly, the weight finally started coming off.

And then the pain started. In October I noticed a dull ache in my heel. Before long, I couldn't make it through a run. And then I'd wake up in the middle of the night, step on my foot, and it felt as if every bone in my foot was broken and it couldn't support my weight, and I'd grip the doorknob and stifle a scream. I knew exactly what it was; I had hurt my plantar fascia when I overtrained for the marathon, stupidly thinking I might qualify for the Olympics or something on my first pass. Back then, when I was young and considerably lighter, I simply rested my foot for a month and wore arch supports around the clock and it went away. This time it did not. I took my self-diagnosed foot to physical therapy where they assign me endless amounts of stretches and exercises, and massage away the scar tissue. I went to see a highfalutin orthopedic sports doctor who recommended surgery. One of my therapists, who has the same problem, took me under his wing and asked me, in one last ditch attempt, to try a podiatrist-of-the-stars before agreeing to having needles stuck in my heel.

What the heck? Might as well. So off I went, hoping someone could give me something to do to make the pain go away so I could run again. I desperately want this piece of my old identity back, and no amount of stationary biking, weights, and sit-ups is taking this weight off. I need it gone too. I'm tired of it, tired of being heavy, tired of my gut, tired of not being able to move like I used to. All because of a child I no longer have.

When I go through my history for these kind guys who ask me up front, "so, what happened?" I give them the condensed version of this -- how long I've been running, injuries I've had in my past, my mileage,

and then I took a year off

and the mileage when I started again, and the lousy shoes I was wearing, and the onset of pain. I tell them all this so I don't present myself as some dilettante who ate too many donuts and decided to take up running in a fit of pique. Not that it matters.

No one has ever asked why I took a year off. I guess runners take time off for different reasons -- kids, jobs, relocation, "personal reasons." No one notices the catch in my breath, or how I sigh my way through that phrase or bothers to question that I'm clearly a bit heavier than a runner of my past should be.

But today, the doctor seemed personable, and when trying to get a sense of my hip to ankle alignment, he asked, "I'm sorry, did you say one child or two?" And out it came. I didn't. Two, but the latter did not end well.

I'm sorry, we had one that ended that way too. Stillbirth at seven months.

I'm so sorry. Ours died when she was six days old.

It was terrible; we had a dead baby in the maternity wing . . .

We don't know; could be infection, could be genetics.

It was so hard on the marriage . . .

Not sure; 1/4 chance this will happen again with no way of knowing and I'm 39 . .

And we had to tell the little guys at home . . .

And you have to tell everyone else . . .

(knowing look)

(knowing look)

So you know how badly I need to run again and lose this weight, right?


There have been a few points in my life, where, based on the way a person asked a question, my miscarriage radar has gone off and we wound up commiserating. I'm sure there are other deadbaby parents out there, but this was the first time that I knew -- perhaps my guard is finally down far enough? -- that this was a person I could somehow trust with this information. At least trust to handle it well, if nothing else. I did not expect to find a fellow mourner. But he asked me what my short and long term running goals were (4 miles a day, at least four times a week; and before I die I'd like to do a 10 miler and a triathlon), and he treated me with the respect and seriousness that I expect he reserves for the well-paid athletes who adorn his walls.

Maybe it was the promise of custom orthotics that will arrive in two weeks, or the cortisone patches for my heel, or the chance meeting of another deadbaby parent, but when I left, there was a definite spring in my step.