Probably not. But it was all so melodramatic in my mind that I’m going to tell you anyway.
On Friday I went to Madison for another round of IUI (undefined acronym, I know, you can look it up if you really want to know). TMI, I know. And sad in it’s own right. But here’s the really sad part… afterward, as I was laying there on the table for the requisite 10 minutes (nothing romantic about baby making this way, let me tell you), tears just started rolling down my cheeks and, because of the angle my head was at, they welled right up in my ears until my stupid ears were full of stupid tears which made me cry even harder because it felt bad.
The whole thing was, as I said, very melodramatic.
Fortunately, I had not worn mascara that morning. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I forgot to bring it with me and we had stayed the night at my sister- and brother-in-law’s in Madison (super grateful for their hospitality despite their absence– Sister Doctor is busy criss-crossing the country in search of a surgery residency… everybody wants a piece of her, so proud!).
I was in full on self-pity mode pretty much the rest of the day (confession: kind of still am) and I decided in all of my upset that makeup was super stupid and that I just wasn’t going to wear it anymore. So I didn’t on Saturday, despite going to a lovely Christmas party Saturday evening. And I didn’t on Sunday, even though we went to church and out to dinner. Even on Monday, today, I managed to head to work sans makeup.
But I think that as of today, this experiment is going to be over.
(If only all of my experiments in grad school could have failed this quickly…)
Not so much because I feel like I need makeup for anyone else, necessarily, but because I feel ugly and tired. How is that mascara can make a person feel untired as opposed to just looking untired, I don’t know. But I’m pretty sure that is the case.
And I’m pretty sure that tomorrow, I will wear mascara. At least.
It’s such a struggle though. I don’t want to need to wear makeup, for myself or anybody else. I don’t enjoy putting on makeup like a lot of people do, I just don’t. But I honestly feel better when I’m wearing it… better… prettier… more put together… I don’t know what.
Am I conceited or just insecure? Am I wearing makeup because of societal pressure or am I not just to prove a point? I don’t know what the answer is.
Maybe it doesn’t really matter either way.
Maybe mascara really isn’t the point at all.
I may be stretching this analogy… I am definitely stretching this analogy… but I feel like that mascara is the family I want so badly. I don’t know what I’ll look like with a family, but I’m pretty sure I want to put it on and wear it forever and ever. And in this case I am certain, it’s not societal pressure that’s fueling my desire. It’s legit. And I’m sad. Sad enough that some days I can’t even wear mascara because then that, too, would be pooled up in my ears.
Christmas is feeling especially tough. I want to be pretty in photos… by wearing makeup. But I also want to emulate the beautiful photos of happy families lining my cupboard fronts, a new one each day, beautiful moms and dads with their beautiful and happy babies. I love seeing them, I’m so happy for them. But it also makes me want (to be pretty) and not want (because I feel like crying) another coat of mascara all over again, every day.
On Thursday evening, Seth and I are heading to my sister’s house in Michigan. We’re going to celebrate my niece’s third birthday and Christmas with my mom’s side of the family. We’re going to have a blast and there will be a whole lot of love, but the nagging feeling inside me won’t go away until after the Christmas holiday when I find out whether the IUI worked or not.
This experiment, the one where I try to start a family, is turning out a lot more like grad school– long, protracted, painful. While the results were equivocal, at least the mascara experiment was quick.
Always with the patience. The best things in life are worth waiting for, or so I hear.
Of all the months on the calendar, April, May, and June seem to be the biggest months for birthdays and such in my year– my sister, my dad, my mom, my husband, my sister-in-law, several friends plus Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and I feel like I’m constantly falling behind on cards and calls and celebrating. (Also, I’m bad at mail and phone calls and such. Real bad.) Fortunately, all those people know how much I love them (so so much!) so I don’t think it’s a problem.
October was kind of like that this year too… not the norm, but when you turn 90, it calls for a big celebration. And a big celebration turns HUGE and relatively difficult to coordinate when it’s a Stankowski-style celebration, so my grandmother-in-law’s birthday party was moved up from December 17th to a weekend in October. We celebrated in Halder, Wisconsin, the same day my Grandma Rita celebrated her fourth annual 73rd birthday (how nice that she stopped aging at 73 years gorgeous!) in Lansing, Michigan, and my friend Krystal and Aunt Susan had some celebrating to do shortly after that.
So, as you can imagine, October became a month for celebrating some seriously amazing women… although, I’ve got to admit, that first party in a church basement in Halder was mildly panic attack inducing (yes, it’s an oxymoron and I know it) because I looked around at 90 years worth of a life well lived and thought “wow” followed shortly by “crap! I am so behind!”
Rational me: “Behind at what?!”
Crazy me: “Ummm… life! Obviously!! I should have at least” [pause for mental math…] “four kids by now if I want any hope of my 90th looking anything like this!”
Rational me: “Good point.”
And it was all over from there. Crazy is always more convincing.
You see, my father-in-law is one of 12 children, 10 boys and 2 girls. Not to take anything away from any of the boys because they are very talented at many things, but the two girls are absolutely reee-dic-u-lous at throwing meaningful and gorgeous parties. (Also they both try to give the other all the credit, but I have a sister of my own and I know that they are synergistic as a pair. That’s how sisters work. Btw, did you know that the term synergy was originally coined based on combining the words “sister” and “energy” into something even greater?! Seems reasonable, right? Maybe it’s even true…)
So Nancy (left of center) and Margie (right of center) did their thing and when I walked into that church basement I was absolutely floored.
Each table was decorated with a centerpiece carefully selected to represent some part of Lucille’s life.
A childhood photograph of each and every one of Lucille’s nearly 30 grandkids was made into a flower.
Handmade Happy Birthday bunting.
Streamers, balloons, photos, food…
So much good going on!
Except, amidst all that good, I got a little sad, because like my crazy brain said, what on earth would my 90th look like? I’m (sniffle) not going to have any of that. It’s hard to have grandkids and great-grandkids if I can’t even manage to have kids. And spiral.
(Please note that I completely recognize the self-centeredness of the above. For real, my husband’s grandmother is amazing and she is the matriarch of an incredible crew– I’m super lucky to have been welcomed into the clan and I was really happy to spend the day celebrating Lucille. Unfortunately, my own truth has to be based in self-centeredness (see this post) so it’s going to sound that way for a little while… but I think we’ll get to a happy (and delicious) point and you’ll forgive me for the pity party, k? k.)
Later that month, Seth and I dropped our crazy fur baby off at my in-laws and headed to Green Bay for the weekend to celebrate our friend Krystal’s birthday and to meet their sweet new baby girl Amelia Mae and see her sister Charlotte Jean (I use their full names here mostly just to brag about what pretty baby girl names my friend Krystal picked). We had a blast with our friends basically doing nothing, as per usual. Their girls are incredible and so so so much fun and we always have a super relaxing and generally hilarious time when we hang out with the Kussows here, there, or wherever. But I have to say, and self-centeredly so (see disclaimer paragraph above), that the highlight of that weekend for me was the puppy chow.
Me, Seth, Krystal, and Justin… we have a problem with puppy chow. A delicious problem. Justin had made a big batch for us to munch on when we got there and when we finally got around to singing to Krystal and cutting the cake, here’s what she found:
A puppy chow pinata! Yessss!!!
So we ate and we laughed and we drank and snuggled Amelia and played with Charlotte and her puppy (and some of us got mani/pedis and went shoe shopping because it was Krystal’s birthday, after all) and basically just had a good time.
And that’s when this blog post started writing itself. Because I’m pretty sure that Justin and Krystal (they’re younger than me) and Charlotte and Amelia and Charlotte’s and Amelia’s someday babies will all come to my 90th birthday party!
They may not be blood, but family often isn’t. It’s nice when it is, of course, but family can be so much more. I blurred the lines between family and friendship just the other day, albeit in the other direction, but today I want to point out that the opposite can also be true. It’s what happens with in-laws, and you know I wouldn’t trade my bro-in-law Stuey or Uncle Ed for anything, so what’s the difference here? Not a thing.
On my Grandma’s previous 73rd birthday, I told you about how amazing she is and how welcoming a place her house always is, even on big “family” holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving. There were always friends and neighbors and other people amongst the crowd. I always thought of them as other people though. I imagine that my Grandma probably does not. To her, they’re probably just more family. Because family is a choice and can be built and blended in any which way.
So, when I turn 90, I want tables decorated with mason jars full of things that remind you of me (oh look, I’ve already got one full of rocks to get you started)… you’ve got 60 years to be my friend and make more babies for me to love and then let’s celebrate just like the Stankowskis did one recent weekend in October.
Isn’t that just like me? Bootstrapping my way up out of a pity party day after day? (And she’s humble, too…) You should consider filling a mason jar with bootstraps at my party. What are bootstraps anyway? I’ve always imagined them as boot laces, but then why bootstraps? And why is boostrapping suddenly a genomics/bioinformatics term too? I really don’t even get the concept. I ought to stop using the word. Maybe wiki can instruct me… huh… that is enlightening… the intro is worth a read if you’re interested. Idioms are hard.
A couple stories to get us pointed in the right direction.
My little Marshfield-based book club took a recent turn for the non-existent with the start of the most recent academic year. I suppose that’s bound to happen when you base a book club too heavily on transient people like med students and residents and young marrieds, but determined to begin anew, I started recruiting again.
After begging my friend Kristen to join (over and over and over again over oh so many coffees) she finally agreed to participate so long as she wasn’t the oldest person there.
Ugh. Not a good caveat given the people I had been focusing my recruitment efforts on. But we’re working around it. My invite went a little something like this:
“Also, rest assured that you will neither be the oldest nor the youngest there, should that be an issue for you. I am both–youngest in capacity to be socially un-awkward, oldest in nerdiness, trust me, I cannot be outdone. So just come.”
How can anyone argue with that? Also I sent everyone a copy of the book with an invitation book mark– nothing more powerful than a guilt trip!
Maybe a year or so ago, my friend Melissa told me about how her daughter, Emily, had discounted me as a “friend” because in her mind, I was actually just Melissa’s friend. Melissa assured Emily that I was indeed her friend and I confirmed Melissa’s assertion. I am indeed Emily’s friend. She’s nine (today!!! happy birthday, little friend!) and I’m thirty, but I think if you’ve been reading along for a while, you know without a doubt that Emily is one of my nearest and dearest on account of me talking about her here and here and here and here.
Also, my therapist knows her by name. Not joking.
And third story, because three always seems like the appropriate number:
Just last week, I had a big grant due and my sister sent me a text message (filled to the brim with excellent emoji) that I showed you back here. What I didn’t show you, because it would have destroyed a surprise I had been carefully crafting for months was my response to her:
The part about my dad and my two besties over 50. That’s the part I’d like to bring to your attention today.
Because age, as big of a thing it is in popular culture, in the media, in our minds, is really of very little consequence when it comes to friendship, and I’d like to chat about that very much.
I recently went to a talk given by a woman who described herself as vintage and she said, “I see you out there in the audience– some of you have a little vintage on you!”
Vintage. I loved that.
I went to the talk with three of my friends: my dad, Marie, and Margaret.
Yes, I include my dad in the friend category and that’s kind of the point of this whole post. In adulthood, my dad is still my dad, the man I’ve loved since I was an itty bitty baby and the man who responds instantly and instinctively to the word “daddy,” but also he is my friend– he turned me on to Call To Action, a progressive Catholic organization, and we talk about the church and about social justice and kindness and generosity and love and faith and all those things like friends. Because we are friends.
My friend Marie is in her 50s and has a daughter my age. We work together and hang out besides and the 20 something years between us really makes no difference. (In fact, I suspect we’re basically married to the same man one generation apart, it’s bizarre!)
My friend Margaret is in her 70s and started off as someone my dad was friends with… but I think I can legitimately call her my friend now too. We’ve spent Christmases together, after all! I just adore Margaret and her honesty and her joy and her clearly innate ability to recognize good in people.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I made another new friend on Wednesday. Her name is Lola and she’s 11. She’s the daughter of a physician I work and he suspected that she and I would hit it off– correct! We’ve started our own little mini book club. She’s reading West of the Moon for an enrichment program at school. I picked it up at the library yesterday and we’re going to chat about it. So there’s 20 some years between us the other way… I’m super lucky to know how little that actually matters.
Why doesn’t it matter though? I mean, it always seemed like it did… growing up, when friendships were based primarily on life stage and experience, I suppose age did matter. And some of the friends I met because of life stage and/or experience are still some of my nearest and dearest even today. But that’s partly because it wasn’t always so ok with me to have friends across the continuum of age. At the age of 23 or so, I remember going out with a friend and a friend of hers, both of whom were in their 40s, for a belly dancing class and drinks afterward and despite having an absolute blast, some of my same-age-friends thought it was a little odd. I may be odd, but I’m also crazy insecure and I don’t love people knowing about it… so, you know…
Then I met people like Kristen I. and Emily W. (book club book ends, age wise), Melissa and her daughter Emily (one a little older than me, one much younger, both my friends), Michele and Marie F (co-workers sent from heaven, my two besties greater than or equal to 50), Margaret and Marie K from Call To Action (Marie was 95 when we met!), and Lola (my newest young friend). I also recently recognized my dad and my mom and my Aunt Susan and my little sister and little brother as friends. And none of it was weird. Because when friendship is based on attraction between two souls, age has absolutely nothing to do with it.
Age matters, of course, in other ways. It affects the container that houses our soul and it changes the lenses in the glasses through which our soul sees. Time puts a little vintage on them. But the soul, I believe, remains unchanged– no matter the vintage. And that’s why, now, at the age of 30, I can happily say that my friends, my dearest most amazing friends, range in age from 8 to 80. (Eighty because, sadly, Marie Kennedy passed away a few years ago. She was so incredible though, even at 95!)
If I’m honest, it’s the vintage I’ve picked up myself that has allowed me to see this fact. And to recognize that maybe, even as a little girl, I had some adult friends that I ought to be a little more grateful for– Grandma Roz and CJ and Janet and Joy. As un-vintaged as I may have been at the time, my soul recognized another like it in them.
I don’t want to discount all of the time- and place- and life stage- and experience-based friendships I have made over the years– in high school, in college, in grad school. Those friendships are crazy important too. Interestingly, though, sometimes I didn’t even fully recognize the impact of the people I met in those places until later– I told you about Nicole and Dawn. But also my friend Sarah, who was my roommate at the 2001 Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference (another nerd camp for political nerds… I’ve been to a lot of nerd camps, for real), and who I still find to be absolutely, completely, and totally fascinating, inspiring, gorgeous, amazing, etc, via social media… I feel like our souls just clicked and I’ll never ever forget the girl who introduced me to what this Midwestern girl can only describe as urban A-MAZ-ING.
And perhaps that’s what it really is– Nicole embraced her curls and her intelligence and her otherness in a way I never dared in college, but I recognized her anyway. Dawn was Army-style intimidating in her camouflage fatigues and combat boots, but I recognized her anyway. And Sarah owned a bright blue wig at a fancy inaugural ball and proudly voted for Ralph Nader (and I was, gasp, a wannabe Republican at the time– silly girl, thankfully only 17 at the time), but I recognized her anyway. And the older I get, the more vintage I accumulate, the easier it is for me to recognize the lovely soul underneath the otherness, the camo, the blue wig, and that’s what attracts me now, every time.
No matter the age, the place, the time, the person.
So, thankfully, at 30, I can see Lola at 11 and know that we’ll probably talking about books until the end of my days and I can make plans to push Marie’s wheelchair around when I’m in my 70s and she’s in her 90s.
Except who am I kidding? Marie will probably be 90 pushing my wheelchair around when I’m 70. It’s much more likely to happen that way. She’s tough like that. And I’m not. Either way, we’ll still be friends.
Lllamas are cool, and with the exception of donkeys (of course) they are my favorite state fair animal in a tie with alpacas (because I’m not talented or patient enough to tell the difference). But L isn’t for llamas, so I really need to stop belaboring it. L is for a certain Lema I know and love.
It’s funny that this post was in the works because last night, I invented something completely new with Melissa Lema. You’ve heard of butt-dialing, right? Well, I managed to arm band FaceTime dial my dear friend Melissa. I made it to Michigan yesterday evening and felt the need to stretch my legs a bit with a jog after all that time in the car. It was lovely, except I got totally lost in my sister’s neighborhood and while fumbling with my arm band to look at my map (my magic smap, if you will, Tom? Ab?) I managed to arm band dial Melissa. On FaceTime. Super weird. Especially since I thought she was calling me…
Totally worked out though, she didn’t pick up right away and texted me after I’d arrived back at Abby and Stu’s that she was available and she got to see baby Claire and give Ab some tips on how to keep Claire from falling asleep “on the boob”… speaking of boobs, Ab’s are out right now and she says that I should title this post “Interlude for a triple X”… HA!
Anyway… L is for a very special Lema. Melissa Lema.
I’ve mentioned the Lemas like a thousand times, I know, but they are definitely worthy of the obsession, I promise– all of them. The Lemas seem to truly embody the perfect American nuclear family and they seem so normal– mom, dad, daughter, son, and pup– except they’re not normal at all. They are extraordinary and I am crazy lucky to not only know them, but to love them like they’re my own family!
I met the Lemas (including the youngest, Christian, in utero) back in 2007. I told you about that already though– it was the first time I tried to destroy their daughter Emily (the baby, the broken glass, you remember the story, I’m sure). I’d heard good things, of course, Seth was already a big fan of the boss man, Chris, his main squeeze, Melissa, and their little girl, but I had no idea how much I was going to come to love them.
And how incredibly little time it would take to become completely smitten!
Because, you guys, it was pretty much instant.
Oh, that’s Melissa? Excellent. I’m in love.
I’ve told you before that I become overly familiar overly quick. For me, when it’s right, it’s right. And Melissa was it for me– my soul friend. I am so thankful for her every day. And for Chris for bringing her to me. And Emily for making her understand me. And Christian for being his momma’s sweet little boy. But truly, it’s all about Melissa Lema.
I am completely serious when I say that you have not known true beauty in your life until you’ve known someone like Melissa. (And yet… is there really anyone else like her? Perhaps not. Perhaps everyone just needs to know Melissa…) Melissa is beauty– inside, outside, and upside down side. In every way, no matter how you look at her, you see abs-o-lute beauty. You know that Roald Dahl quotation that I love so much? “If you think good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely…” that’s about Melissa. She’s friendly, she’s kind, she’s brilliant, she’s passionate and compassionate, thoughtful and musical, gifted and well-read, understanding and tolerant, interested and interesting, and 100% genuine. Plus, she’s beautiful in the physical way, too– perky blonde curls, happy smile, and all! What a bonus, right? (Also, she’s humble so she’s about to be super embarrassed… but too bad, because it’s all true.)
Never in my life have I felt so naturally comfortable around someone. I talked to you about grace before, but I didn’t know grace until I knew Melissa (and her little girl). Because she gives it– in spades. I know that no matter what I have done, where I have been, who I have been, Melissa loves me anyway.
(And it’s reciprocal! I love her SO so SOOO much!!)
And as disturbing and blasphemous as this is going to sound: by knowing Melissa and knowing what it feels like to be loved unconditionally by someone who doesn’t have to, I feel like I get the whole idea of God a little better. I’ve always thought abstractly of God as the manifestation of unconditional love without purpose or reason– Melissa made that a concrete notion.
… As much as the rest of this post has made Melissa sound totally other-worldly and ethereal, I want you to know this: she’s just as human as you and me. Get her in a card game late at night in Mexico and you will see just how weird a person can be– even sans booze! But doesn’t that just make it all so much better? If Melissa can be so amazing, maybe it’s something I can aspire to too! Maybe we all can! I definitely think we all should, because seriously, this is an amazing woman I’m talking about here!
Many of you have seen and even complimented me on this awesome decoupaged book purse… made by hand from a real book.
All compliments belong to my friend Marie. She conceived of and made it for me as a wedding gift. I’m in love with it! It’s so clever, so thoughtful, so beautiful. Even the lining is gorgeous, but you’ll have to take my word for it.
Fewer of you are likely to have seen the cover of the journal Marie made me, though. That’s personal, after all. But it’s just as beautiful. (Marie is seriously talented.)
The quotations on the front are where I’m going with this. They constantly remind me of the importance of telling your story, even when you feel like you may not have the most important story to tell. Even if you are worried that you may not be the most eloquent at telling it. Regardless, story is powerful and I really believe that it’s important to put what’s in your heart out there if you feel you might benefit from sharing it or someone else might benefit from hearing it.
Trista and I talked a lot about honest story telling and shared experience last week. And this weekend I saw this great little image while scrolling through Pinterest:
Tell your stories! Yes! Your experience is your story… and it is meaningful.
You know how important story telling is to me; honesty is right up there. The thing that I want to talk about now, though, the stories I want to share, are taboo. (Like that’s ever stopped me before? Except, I would venture to say that this is even more taboo than poo. Dang, right?) They’re things we don’t regularly say and I find that unfortunate. I think that makes this topic all the more important.
The thing I want to talk about is pregnancy. If you’re between the ages of 20 and 45 you’re probably groaning right now at the thought of more of the ultrasounds and ultra-posed newborn pictures that have been gracing your Facebook news feed for years now. But it’s not that. Not for me, anyway.
My husband and I have been trying to have children since August of 2012. Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened for us. In October of 2013, having finally met the “year of trying” requirement, we saw a doctor about it. Good news: it’s not Seth! Bad news: it’s totally me. Got to admit, that feels pretty crappy.
So, since October, I’ve gone through a series of unpleasant measures to try for the thing I want most– both psychologically, and clearly, biologically. A baby.
Intravaginal ultrasounds are invasive and embarrassing. The drug clomid causes hot flashes (mom! I’m so sorry for not being more sympathetic before– now I’m empathetic, and dang!) and a slew of other unpleasant side effects including literal pitting edema in my ankles. Also, it has lengthened my cycle time so that each passing cycle starts later and later… giving me more and more hope that maybe this month will be different. Maybe this month, the stick will be positive! And it’s not. At least it never has been for me.
Having reached the halfway point for ovulation stimulating drugs (they start to lose their efficacy after about 6 cycles) I had to go in for a sit down and re-evaluation with the infertility doctor again on Friday. What I didn’t mention yesterday was that in the midst of the intestinal virus and the eczema flare, I was 5 days late for my period. I was so hopeful. Until I wasn’t. I tried to be cool about it. I tried really hard. But I couldn’t keep it together during the appointment ( why, why, why did I say yes to a resident being in the room?! dumb girl!) and I spent pretty much the whole thing stifling sobs and wiping away my rapidly melting mascara. I wasn’t as ok as I had hoped. I mean 5 days late? Nausea? Really, body? This is how we’re gonna roll???
Fortunately for me, I really do have a good support system. My sister, my sisters-in-law, my friends from work, my friends from elsewhere, my husband, my parents an in-laws… I’m incredibly fortunate in the number of people I can force to listen to my sobbing, my ranting, my raving. Some seriously supportive, seriously patient people.
Trista and I talked a lot about all of that while we were in Phoenix and as we talked around and around and around the issue, we kept coming back to the notion that the bad parts (the miscarriages, the stillbirths) and the not parts (the struggle to get pregnant, the label of infertility) of pregnancy are too rarely talked about openly and with compassion. They may be whispered about, shared when we’re certain we are in a situation in which we’ll remain free from judgement either as a result of shared experience or familiarity and intimacy.
As a society, we have many deeply ingrained ideas about what pregnancy, and lack thereof, means. Pregnancy is good, it’s beautiful. If you can’t get pregnant, if you do but you miscarry, or, heaven forbid, you don’t want kids… suddenly it’s grounds for moral judgement. Every step you take will be selfish, foolish, whatever. Miscarriage? Told people too soon. Can’t get pregnant? Oh, there’s lots of suggestions for that– it’s your diet, your weight, your stress level, your sex position. Don’t want kids? Well, how sad for you, how selfish of you.
According to public opinion, the only way to win appears to be get pregnant (without talking about any trial or tribulation on the way there), to have a perfect pregnancy (and unless you’re the Duchess of Wales, try not to mention hospitalization for hyperemesis or any other unpleasant complication, if you don’t mind), to post 3D ultrasounds and pictures of your bump tied with a bow, followed by a perfect delivery and a blissful home. A little bit of motherhood difficulty is considered acceptable– so long as it deals with the delivery and/or raising of an actual human child.
So what about the people who don’t experience it that way? What are they to do? Personally, I think they should talk about it. Share their experience far and wide. Remind others that everyone’s experience is different and that judgement, no matter the case, is not warranted. Not fair. Not ok. Not necessary.
My personal experience is from within the trenches of infertility, with no success yet to speak of. But this experience has opened my eyes to a world full of infertility, miscarriage, still birth, extreme morning sickness and other crazy pregnancy complications, and other stories whispered, messaged, emailed, sobbed to me… always in private… always out of ear shot of anyone else. And all because I try, for the most part, to be honest about my own experience. Including here now.
I have a lot more to say, as always, and plan to tackle several issues in several posts. This is merely an introduction. But my big hope is this: will you share your story too? How do you feel about a little bit of catharsis? Writing is that for me, perhaps you too? Maybe just reading something honest… something real. A story from my heart to yours.
I’m a-o-k with anonymity if you’d like to share, just let me know and we’ll do this thing. It’s time to talk about what it means to not be pregnant, for any reason. And I’d really like to do that here.
Now, if you’ll excuse me please, I’m off to a hysterosalpingogram to check on my fallopian tubes. No better way to start the day!
I’m feeling ridiculously down-and-out this morning. Valentine’s Day was lovely and everything (Seth says Curls learned how to use the phone just to send me flowers– she let Seth put his name on the card, too… very sweet), so it’s not a post-Valentine’s Day let-down or anything.
It’s personal, really. But suffice it to say: I feel like a loser. An idiot. Etc.
I was sad last night and spent the morning eating pancakes and lounging around with my pup… still sad. Still feeling completely stupid. Fortunately, Little Miss Sunshine came on tv and it’s on my list of movies-I-can’t-resist-anytime-they-are-on-tv-no-matter-how-many-times-I-have-seen-them.
I just love this movie, it’s so great– it’s about family and struggle and perseverance and love and the sweetest, most interesting little girl ever. One of my favorite scenes is so happy-sad I can barely stand it. Olive, the little girl, is getting ready to go to sleep and asks her Grandpa, “Am I pretty?” and then explains that she’s afraid of being a loser because her daddy hates losers (he’s a motivational speaker) and here’s what her grandpa says to her:
“Do you know what a loser is? A real loser is someone who’s so afraid of not winning, they don’t even try. Now you’re trying, right?… Well, then you’re not a loser!”
And I thought– yeah. I did try. I try to put myself out there over and over and over again, even though it’s scary to get close to people, to make new friends and grow new family. Fortunately, I have a sweet, sweet sister, Abby, who also serves as my very best friend, and she reminds me that trying to get close to people is totally worth it for those occasions when it works. It’s sad when it doesn’t of course, but you’re only a loser if you don’t try. And I always have my sister to console me when it doesn’t. Thank goodness for that!
So I guess that’s all I can really be responsible for– trying. And that alone is enough to guarantee that I’m not a loser, just a girl putting herself out there, doing the best she can.
Ummm… also this just happened. Hard to be bummed at all in the face of such ridiculous cuteness!!!
Hi friends! Happy Valentine’s Day! I LOVE YOU! (Really! I do! I love you all!)
I used to be something of a gloomy gus every Valentine’s day as I lamented my single-dom and whatnot (the drama, I was like 16)… but then I met Seth, fell in love, and every February the 14th is now roses and kisses and rainbows and…
I kid… if you’ve met Seth before, you knew that long ago. And if you know me, and most of you do pretty well by now, I’m not actually a super touchy feely kind of person. (My singular contribution to my fourth grade class suggestion box was a note asking the teacher not to call me “honey”… because I hated that.)
So what was it then that reversed my Valentine’s Day attitude, you may wonder…
It was my Grandma! What else???
I’m not sure when exactly she started doing it, but it’s been many years now. Every year, a couple weeks before Valentine’s Day, my Grandma sends me several homemade baggies with ribbon ties– hand sewn in a different Valentine-themed pattern every year. She sends the bags to me empty, she and I both fill our sets with candy, and then we hand them out to our friends. It’s so fun!
My husband and I love each other every single day– it’s a given. It’s an expectation. Sometimes it goes unsaid; most of the time it’s said. We’re a family, every single day, flowers or no, chocolate or… well, we like chocolate… Our pupster (who is not having surgery today, fyi… sigh) is our biggest Valentine this year and we’re headed out to dinner at the Belvedere (our favorite!) to celebrate the evening with Seth’s mom and dad. It’ll be lovely and perfect for us– love all around; love that’s a given.
So for me, Valentine’s Day isn’t really about me and Seth. Rather, it’s about telling the people that may not just know it that I love them, too! I do that with a handmade Valentine bag filled with chocolates and tied with a ribbon. And as an added bonus this year, I also made some Harry Potter-themed, totally nerdtastic Valentines to hand out to a couple people… nothing says I love you quite like a heart with wings and the phrase “wingardium leviosa” on the front. Nothing!
Except maybe a heart with a key hole and the phrase “alohomora”, a flame and “incendio”, or a light and “lumos”…
(Am I unreasonably thrilled with my cleverness right now? Yes. Yes I am.)
I hope you enjoy your Valentine’s Day and that you know that somebody, somewhere loves you– because I do! And even just me must be better than nobody, right?
In other news: no surgery for my Curls today. We went down to Madison yesterday for an ultrasound of the patellar tendon (and there was some promising tissue on imaging that looked like tendon material that even if not usable, may provide some scaffolding for repair) and a joint tap to make sure there was no infection in the fluid pocket in her knee (the doctor really didn’t think there would be). But there was infection in that fluid pocket and we went back to Madison to pick our girl up and bring her home with antibiotics. In two weeks, we’ll try again. At least our sweet girl is home with us this weekend– everyone in our house is happy about that 🙂
(Dang! That’s what the back of my Lymphomaniacs softball jersey said… I suppose there’s a reason for that.)
Nothing quite like a birthday to make you feel L-O-V-E-D loved! And that is how I felt every second of the entire day yesterday!
There were cards, balloons, flowers, texts, emails, Facebook messages, phone calls, chocolates, a stuffed purple monkey (!), cookies, Tweets, songs, and more!!
And it just keeps coming! I got a message from my brother, who is the worstbest this afternoon…
My niece sang to me in her absolutely, ridiculously, so-cute-I-can-barely-stand-it words…
And on Saturday, my mother- and father-in-law are coming over for dinner and CAKE! (cake! cake! cake!)
Thirty?! Kind of awesome!
But the really cool thing about yesterday (and today and the rest of this week not to mention probably the rest of my life) is that I truly have AWESOME (awesome, awesome, awesome!) people in my life! And that makes me want to ask some serious, reporter-style questions!
The who, what, where, and when– that’s not quite so tough.
WHO You guys! My family, my friends, my family’s friends, my co-workers, my husband’s coworkers and their families, my friends’ friends and their families, internet-only (so far!) friends, and everyone in between!
WHAT A crazy amount of love and support! Well wishes, happy memories, good times… LOVE!
WHERE EVERYWHERE! Literally, everywhere I have ever been… from infancy to now, and even people I only really “know” in the virtual world. Truly, ev-er-y-where!
WHEN Obviously on my birthday, but also every other day. I had a happy thought about every single person that wished me a happy day yesterday– a specific moment in time, imprinted in a neuron (have you read about what scientists at MIT found about how memories are stored? so fascinating!) and recalled upon contact to bring a smile to my face and to make 30 that much better!
But then the tougher ones…
WHY Seriously, you guys, why?! I mean, I’m a nerd. I’ve always been a nerd. And there are so many things about myself that I’ve always disliked and struggled with. I’ve been made fun of, teased, picked on, dumped, and basically broken in so many ways… and I carry all of those things around with me, in a metaphorical hump on my back that some days makes me feel completely, 100%, Quasimodo-style unlovable. But then again, even the Q-man had himself an Esmeralda. And like Esmeralda, there you are! Loving me anyway. Why indeed? Emily had heard my tantrums from down the street since I was 2 and she was 3… but she texted me yesterday, 28 years later. Kelly watched me eat myself sick every day after school from like sixth through eighth grade… but she remembered an inside joke from high school and used it to wish me a happy “brithday” on FB yesterday, nearly 20 years after all of that. Aimee got escorted out of the Ojibwa Casino in Baraga on my 18th birthday… but she sent me an awesome email yesterday, 12 birthdays later. Jess had front row seats to six years worth of spectacular grad school meltdowns… but she sent me a message first thing yesterday morning. And my co-workers survived a complete disaster that I managed to bring down on all of their heads… and they still decorated my office and brought me balloons. Dang. Truly, why?
HOW So, yeah… how did I do it? How did I get Emily to look past the tantrums, Kelly the food, Aimee the security guards, Jess the tears (and mouse poop), my co-workers the drama? I have a feeling it has a lot more to do with all of themand their amazing, incredible, hearts of pure gold (or fat hearts, maybe???) than it does with any spectacularly redeeming quality I possess. (This isn’t about my square jaw, is it???) So how do you guys even? I don’t know… but I certainly hope that I have the “how” part down of being a good friend like you do!
So anyway, thanks a ton for all of the happy birthday wishes! It was a good one! (And you’re welcome for the hard hitting investigative journalism.) Now that I have prepared for 30, turned 30, and thanked people for the well wishes, we can certainly talk about something else for a while. No sense beating a 30-year-old horse, you know?
PS: Do you remember reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle? Tell me you read it, pretty please! It’s just so good! But so are all of Madeleine L’Engle’s books. I recently re-read many of them as an adult… still so good!! Anyway, in A Wrinkle in Time there are three women– Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit. This post reminded me of them. And reminded me of sweet Charles Wallace and his sister Meg, who always hit so close to home. And of the twins, Sandy and Dennys, who got themselves into such biblical-style trouble in another of the books. Seems like it may be time for another L’Engle binge!
Have you guys seen the movie Crazy, Stupid, Love? Emma Stone, Julianne Moore, and Melissa Tomei opposite Ryan Gossling (of “hey, girl…” Pinterest fame), Steve Carell, and Kevin Bacon. Seriously– what’s. not. to. love?!
(I read something recently that it’s not cool to say “feels” instead of feelings anymore. But I still think it’s funny, so I’m about to use it. You were warned. And, to be honest, you kind of knew I was prone to use of lame words and phrases. It’s what I do.)
I loved this movie because it made me feel ALL the FEELS! All of them– the good ones and the bad ones, the happy ones and the sad ones, the victorious and the defeated, etc, etc, etc. Surprisingly, deliciously, hilarious and delightful! Highly recommend the watch.
Anyway, all of that just to say: I ripped off the title to title my Advent for Thirty post about l-o-v-e love! As promised! And I (almost) always keep my word!
The nice this about these Advent for Thirty posts is that I made some pretty lofty promises without a very concrete plan… incidentally, it ended up being a better advent that way because I actually had to reflect on all those things I promised. Good deal.
So love. Twuuuuu wuv. Thirty years of it, and lots more to come. And because of that… lots to think about. I have to admit, I’m kind of excited about the palindromic nature of my discovery! Who doesn’t like palindromes?!
Go hang a salami, I’m a lasagna hog! Never forget!
But my palindrome… kind of different.
Icky – Scary – Bliss – Scary – Icky
Of course there was lots and lots of love in my life right from the get go. I was my parents’ first child, which means that they’ll always love me best and in the most special way, but that’s not important to discuss right now. (Don’t worry Ab and Tom, I love you enough to make up for mom and dad’s inability to love you as much as they love me… there there.) But seriously, based on how much we all dote on my sweet and perfect niece Emma, I’m pretty certain that I was a very, very well-loved little girl. So that’s cool. But being pre-conscious memory at that point, I was pretty much unaware. (Lame baby…)
Once I finally did become aware of love, I knew I had it for my family. That was a given. I loved them, they loved me, and we always said it (and still do). We never end a phone conversation, walk out the door, or board a plane without saying we love each other. It’s just a thing we do. The end.
But love of other people? Ummmm… no. It was icky. K-i-s-s-i-n-g in trees and cooties and all of that. Icky.
As I got older, boys became interesting and friends were important. But love? Still scary. When I was in high school, for example, there was a guy from the band (I know, right? Very American Pie… band is like that. Stereotypes happen for a reason…) that I dated every year during football season. Pretty much every September through December, without fail. My freshman year, my sophomore year, and my junior year (then he graduated). I always broke up with him around New Years… it suddenly got too scary. The last time, he told me he loved me. I broke up with him the next day. I just couldn’t. Too much… too much! It was all Forrest Gump-like– “you don’t know what love is!” and I had to run and run and run. Whew. Close call. Scary.
But then I went to college. And in 2002, I met Seth. And that… that was not in the least bit scary. That was bliss. Bliss! That was the butterflies of a first date (you guys, he sang in the car while we drove to Watersmeet to see the Paulding Light– humoring my ghost obsession from day one!). That was watching the Northern Lights flicker and fade over Misery Bay and star gazing at Boston Pond. It was young, it was yooper-style (dang I love the UP!), and it was love… Bliss.
And then, things got kind of scary again. Because I really loved this guy. And slowly I realized: this was the man I was going to marry. This was the person I was going to spend my life with, that I was going to build my family around. His was the heart to which my heart would be tethered always. That’s kind of big. Kind of scary.
And that was in like 2004. So fast forward to 2010, we’d been dating for over 8 years, and the fear hit all over again as I thought that maybe, just maybe, grad school had broken me past the point of repair or redemption and Seth wanted out. That was also scary.
Turns out– Seth just gets weird when he has to keep a secret and he was bursting about the engagement ring he had picked out and worried that I suspected something. He always gives me too much credit… I’m oblivious more often than not. So we got engaged. We got married. We went on a honeymoon.
Because I told you this is a palindrome and you’re good at deducing patterns, I’m sure you know what’s coming back now: ICKY.
As lovely as our honeymoon was, it was also very, very icky. My poor new husband, man of my bliss, man of my fear, man of my heart, was sick. Oh so very, very sick. The kind of explosive sick that leaves you desperate for relief, but not sure which end to leave over the toilet. Highly un-romantic. Extraordinarily icky.
But as icky as it was, my heart was broken and I took care of my poor husband as best I could. (We were so lucky that our villa had a washer/dryer!) In sickness and in health, right? Love, real grown-up not scary love, means in sickness, too. This was sickness.
We’ve been home from our honeymoon for a while. We bought a house, we got ourselves a puppy, and now I have a little fur baby to love as though she were human (because yes, I’m one of those people), and love is still kind of icky. Have you ever seen a dog projectile vomit? It’s something spectacular– and I got to clean it up as Seth retched in the background. There’s no way I was going to clean up his vomit too at that point, one pile (pile, smear, disastrous explosion of sick all over my dog, her e-collar, the floor, the kennel, the wall, the closet door) is quite enough, thankyouverymuch. So I asked him to back away.
(Ok, don’t get me wrong– Seth is totally a trooper about cleaning up after Curls vomits– it’s usually not quite so horrifying as it was that night. Can’t really fault him for that.)
And what of love after 30? I imagine it’ll continue to be icky, scary, and blissful, all in turn. It will be shared with my husband, family, friends, co-workers, and pets. And despite any ick or fear, it will undoubtedly be sweet.
And now you know the truth: I am influenced far too much by movies and TV. I’ve confessed to you before that romantic comedies are my absolute favorite and that I refuse to apologize for it. I’m the girl the big movie execs add a love story for (even in Jurassic Park). Sorry about that if you’re not a fan– it was meeeeeeeee!!!
PS: I’m suddenly second guessing myself… this is not really a palindrome, just symmetry. And yet, I’ve gone too far with the palindrome theme to change it now. I’d rather be wrong than go back and change anything. Forgive me, please.
I wasn’t really sure what to write about joy. But I got home from work one day last week and had a package waiting for me on the counter. It came all the way from Alaska and this is what was inside:
My friend Aimee (yes, that Aimee!) sent me a treat yo self cross stitch! I’m so in love with it! It’s just genius! And it brought me a ridiculous amount of joy! Such an awesome and unexpected surprise!
I sent my sister a picture right away (she was super impressed and super jealous, as anticipated) and then set about deciding where to hang it. I wanted to see it pretty much all the time and to be awake while near it… so I settled on my office. Right by my monitor.
I hung it there. It made me smile– and does so again every time I look at it. And then I realized, in my office, I’ve surrounded myself with little items that bring me joy!
You can see my treat yo self cross stitch to the left of my monitor. Above that is a line from the Mumford and Sons song Roll Away your stone about grace. The best picture ever of my niece and my puppy makes up the background of my desktop. Other family photos (including one of four generations including me, my mom, my grandma, and my great-grandma) are above. To the right is the super clever science clock my brother made me when he was in high school… apparently my sister picked up on my love of science at some point too and the stuff gonococcus (the bacteria that causes gonorrhea– do STDs bring me joy? Yeah, little bit…) on the left is from her. I’ve also got a Michigan Tech husky pup and lots and lots of pictures from the UP (also taken by Aimee). What you can’t see are all the other microbiology and squirrel jokes I’ve got tacked up, the hand drawn pictures made by another Aimie’s kids, the framed fall leaves from my grandma’s house, or the quilted pine tree with an inspirational message sewn on the back (I can’t even talk about it– it makes me cry every time) that my friend Jess’s mom made for me that hangs by the door.
(I’m suddenly noticing a severe lack of dinosaurs and Harry Potter… will have to do something about that.)
Work can, of course, be tough at times. But the environment I have created for myself is one that is jam packed with joy. And when I thought about that, the more I realized that my house is the same way. So many reminders of the things that bring me joy in my life!
Things like my family. All of it!
There has been no greater joy in my life thus far than the day I married Seth and got to celebrate with all of our family and friends! All in one place! So much happiness! It was perfection!
And books, so very, very many books. I love books and they are everywhere in my house.
Apparently, some things never change. When I was really little, I didn’t sleep with a stuffed animal or a blankie– I slept with a book under my arm. For me, reading books is a huge source of joy!
And of course, these two, they bring me joy every single day!
The way my husband and my pup snuggle just kills me– it’s the sweetest!!
And there are a million other little things that bring me joy…beautiful dishes (especially Polish pottery), when it snows so lightly that you can see each individual flake perfectly formed on your mitten or your windshield, when my puppy tries to catch leaves in her mouth, connecting with other Michigan Tech grads, tinsel, making someone else laugh, and I could go on and on of course, because the list of things that bring you joy should be a long one!
Despite my long list, there are definitely times when I simply cannot find joy… in anything. In fact, it happened most recently at the end of September– we talked about that here. Intellectually, I know that there are a lot of things that should and usually do bring me joy. But I’m not always capable of feeling it.
I am doing well right now as I approach 30. Joy comes easily and I’m feeling pretty good. But I can hear the voice of depression inside me. It’s suggesting we perhaps try to go drug-free… which at this point in my life I know is as ridiculous as a type 1 diabetic listening to their pancreas tell them that they need to go without insulin. Nice try, brain. It’s just not going to work for me.
I was trained in chemistry, then in microbiology, and now I work in medicine. I know better than to think I can outsmart my brain chemistry… and yet those insidious thoughts sneak in, hell bent on robbing me of my joy. But at 30, I’ve finally learned that I cannot let that happen– because what’s life without joy?!
Thanks to Advent for Thirty for convincing me to reflect on that! Advent for the win!!