Friday, May 25, 2007

A metaphor, if you will.

(As an old friend would say, "And I know you will.")

The final instructions in almost any knitting pattern are: "Weave in all ends. Block." After finishing the knitting, you go back and essentially erase any evidence that you were there. The strings from color changes, the ends from new balls of yarn, all gone. Blocking involves wetting or washing the item, coaxing it into the shape, size, even the texture it's supposed to be, then letting it dry. Only then is the item "finished."

My confessions: I have never blocked anything. Ever. Additionally, until last night, I had three mostly-finished items that couldn't be used because I couldn't be bothered to weave in the ends.

The list of things in my life that needs ends woven and/or a good blocking include, but are not limited to: the book WonderGirl's class is making for an end-of-the-year present for their teachers, my diet (not the losing-weight kind, the "Hmm, might be a good idea to eat like an adult" kind), an analysis project I'm doing for my advisor, our summer travel plans, my paper, and my proposal. (To be fair, there's a lot of knitting that needs to happen with those last two, but it's my metaphor. I can do what I want with it.)

Previously, I've never thought of myself as someone who has a hard time finishing things, so maybe this is a new habit for me, but I doubt it. It's hard to shorten up your to-do list when you can never fully check anything off, and my to-do list has felt unwieldy and long for, well, years.

Last night, though, I checked off three things: my Saturday market bag, a stepping stones dishcloth (very different colors than the one linked), and a pair of clogs for Rocco (although they still need to be felted). Onward.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Thank you and screw you

My morning blog roundup left me with two wonderful, and completely different, gems this morning that I'm going to pass on to you:

First, the thank you. PeaceBang has a post up about saying thank you, and what I think of as the theology of gratitude. I do think saying thank you, and meaning thank you, is an important spiritual practice.

Then, the screw you, courtesy of the Stirrup Queens. Uterinus's Law, which I've experienced but never knew had a made-up name, includes these provisions, among others:

  • Sperm lives in a woman's body for 3--5 days ONLY if you are a terrified teenager who has no clue (1) when she ovulates and (2) if she took her birth control pill. Sperm lives in an infertile woman's body for 3--5 hours, therefore making lining up timing with ovulation nearly impossible. ... Doctors do not believe this fact and therefore often repeat the idea that sperm lives in all women's bodies for 3--5 days.
  • The more hand-holding and the more awkward the relationship is with your inlaws, the more likely they will schedule their visit to fall during retrieval or transfer. If they are the type who need a gourmet meal cooked nightly and a spotless house, they will arrive one day before your beta.

The second is especially funny to me. The cycle that became Rocco included overlapping visits from DT's parents and my dad, and DT actually gave me a trigger shot with my dad standing 10 feet away. Thank goodness it went well.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Find a stillness

This morning, it struck me full-force that WonderGirl will be out of school in two more weeks. All year, I've meant to make more of an effort to attend her weekly all-school silent meeting, and now it's crunch time. (Can you cram silence? Just my style to try.)

Silent meeting is a hard thing to describe. Since WonderGirl is in the youngest classroom, they go into meeting last, I imagine in order to minimize the inevitable fidgeting time. Their 8th grade "buddies" come to pick them up and walk them into the meeting room, and typically the younger kids sit in their buddies' laps. It blows my mind a little that WonderGirl and her friends are so comfortable with the routine of walking in silently and sitting silently for 30 minutes, a time only occasionally punctuated by expressed thoughts from kids or teachers. But of course, these younger kids don't even realize that this isn't the norm, and that there are schools where the entire community doesn't have the time to sit, in silence, together.

Today, WonderGirl sat in my lap and we sat beside her buddy, an 8th grader who will be graduating in just two weeks and moving on to high school. One of WG's good friends sat on the other side, and the two of them held hands in silence for nearly the entire meeting. An 8th grader in the school, who has cerebral palsy and takes great effort to communicate, spoke about how frightened she had been of the concept of silent meeting when she started at the school, and how, now, it was a place of refuge for her and one of her favorite parts of the school. I say she spoke, but truly she made guttural noises and shook -- until her helper started translating for the group, I had no idea she had been moved to speak, and had no idea how eloquently she was expressing her reflections. WonderGirl and her friends didn't think the scene was unusual at all. Later, one of the teachers, a 40-something man, was moved to talk about some of his reflections on the end of the year, and he was weeping as he spoke. None of the kids even seemed to notice. Somehow, these kids, who look just like any other batch of urban kids, think it's normal to sit in a room with the whole school, listening to raw thoughts and not really having any expectations about what might happen next. Is it because they've already seen it so many times? Is it because they're not paying attention? Is it because this is, in fact, a way that humans are meant to interact?

I felt like a tourist. I had to remind myself not to gape, not to react too strongly, to act like I also thought this was normal.

At the end, many of the children began to share, and for the most part it followed the patterns I would have expected: "I'm happy because it's almost summer," or "I'm sad because my brother is going camping and I can't," or "I'm happy because I just got this new game with two lightsabers and one is green and one is gold or maybe it's yellow and..." Then one little girl, who's 6 or 7, said this, "I'm sad because my grandfather is in the hospital. His temperatures are high and I don't know why. I don't know if he's going to be okay. I think maybe he has these high temperatures because he's getting older. Or... maybe it's because he's getting younger. [very long pause] I think he's going to die."

I lost my ability to be cool. At that point, I was crying along with the teachers. It's going to be a long summer. Next year, I will go to silent meeting more.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


It feels like I've been obsessed with mortality lately. April does that to me, since it's the month in which all females in my family seem to die. My own health weirdness has been prolonging that general funk this year, and the book I'm currently reading (Eat, Pray, Love) is playing into it somewhat as well. I would say that overall, I'm acutely aware that we're not guaranteed anything past this moment. Sometimes that inspires me to be the best person I can be. Sometimes it inspires me to curl up in a corner and hide, along with everyone I love.

I think there's a part of me that thinks that if I just don't take the future for granted, I'll somehow, cosmically, be allowed to live through more of it. I bargain that because I lost my own mother on the early side, and because I've lost two desperately-wanted babies, my living children should somehow be granted health and life, and I should be allowed to watch them grow up. I know this doesn't make any sense, and that in this country, we have a bizarre relationship with death. We pretend that we're in charge of it, and that it's not part of life. I know that as a rule, we experience fewer tragic deaths than non-industrialized countries, so while I may have had a higher toll than most people I know here, I'm still barely acquainted with death.

This morning, DT found out that a medical student he knows well, who was about to graduate and start residency here, died yesterday in an accident. She was married, she had a small child. Her family was about to come celebrate her graduation and now they're coming for a different reason. Some asshole cut her off and killed her, then kept going. She didn't get to bargain. It's over, just like that.

Processing this is impossible.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Yesterday was graduation day at my university. I've become disturbingly familiar with the day's routine: there are horror stories passed around of traffic and parking on graduation day, so many faculty and staff take the day off to avoid the mess. As a result, traffic is always surprisingly light, unless you're arriving at the ungodly-early hour required for graduates. I arrive, I park easily (shh! don't tell!), I walk in past the school employees who are eager to direct graduates and families to the places they need to go in order to experience the maximum pomp and circumstance. I'm holding a vinyl lunchbox and computer bag; clearly, I'm not in need of direction. Often, an acquaintance will ask when I'm going to graduate. Often, I want to start throwing punches. This year, one of the administrative types that I know told me that she hopes I don't graduate anytime soon, because she'd miss my smile. It was a nice change to give someone a hug instead of a grimace.

Typically, I go inside the building, sit at my desk, and pretend that it's just like any other day. Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be invited to a graduation luncheon for a friend who finished her degree last summer and has spent the last year on the faculty at another school. I'm not sure how to describe the celebration except to say that it was, in fact, celebratory. My friend was surrounded by family, by the close friends who helped her through school, by the faculty in our department, and by those of us who couldn't do much to help her along, but instead got to be helped by her. It reminded me of why ceremonies do matter. When DT and I got married, we'd been together for over six years, we'd lived together for a substantial part of that, and we thought that actually being married wouldn't change anything. Honestly, we were wrong -- our practical lives didn't change, but there was something about being surrounded by our people, about creating our own ceremony, about throwing a big party for the express purpose of announcing that we were for real, that really did matter. It was a wonderful surprise when it happened, and yesterday reminded me of that. In practical terms, my friend finished almost a year ago, but yesterday was still her graduation day and I'm grateful to have been there to be part of her celebration.

Being a selfish human-type animal, it made my mind wander to my own graduation someday. I hope that next year, I won't be carrying a vinyl lunchbox or computer case. I've always had a fantasy of walking with WonderGirl in my cap and gown, and now that fantasy has extended to Rocco, too. I hope I have the same sense of closure and commencement that my friend had this year.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Enter the Block

Writer's block, that is.

I'm at the lovely point of being ready to write another paper. Unlike my first paper topic, which grew and multiplied, hydra-like, for years, this project has been relatively easy. There have been bumps and setbacks, but I've always been able to make progress over a course of weeks instead of drifting for months at a time. I hope this is how research is supposed to be, and that my first project was the exception instead of this one.

Unfortunately, now that this project is winding up, I have to write about it. I can't just pat myself on the back, have a margarita, and move on to something as-yet-unexplored. Now begins the part that I dread. I don't have a good process in place for writing; I don't have the mental discipline to just keep plugging away and trust that I'll edit myself into coherence later. I don't have a practice that works for me, and I have a dangerous tendency to spend a lot of time reading blogs or looking for knitting patterns or checking the weather or going to Google School of Medicine when I'm supposed to be writing. This might be the biggest downside of the advent of the personal-computer-as-word-processing-device: the very tool which makes dissertation and paper writing so much easier in this generation can also suck all of your time away. I'd head to a wireless-free zone (since those still exist), but that would preclude any ability to look up references on the fly while I write. Or so I tell myself.

Meanwhile, I'm going to knit this top in this yarn (orchid) using these needles soon. I've got my fingers crossed for Julia's current cycle, and we still don't have any rain in the forecast. More later.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

It's May, it's May, the lusty month of May!

Sorry, this post has nothing to do with lust, I just always think of that song from Camelot in May. For some reason my mother always sang it, yet I was probably 14 before I realized what it was about.

I have a distinct memory of writing a post last year about May, about the amazing number of things that happen in May once you have kids in school, and how difficult it is to keep everything together and how my dad, who I love dearly but who has wisely blocked many of the details of his own early parenting experiences, even remembers how draining May could be with children. Now, that post isn't showing up in my archives. Did I just think I wrote it? Was it one more thing that I meant to do in May and never got around to?

It's starting again - we've entered our busy time. Yesterday was a teacher workday at WonderGirl's school, so I was home with her all day (and we even started a craft project, so help me God). Tomorrow she has an all-day field trip, and I wasn't planning to drive, but now am having the typical flexible-parent internal conversation: on the one hand, I could definitely use the day to work, but on the other hand, I know she'd love for me to go, and I'll remember that experience more than whatever meager amount of work I'd get done. So, of course, I've left a note for her teachers that I can drive and chaperone if needed. She has her ballet recital coming up, her choir is singing at church this weekend, and in the next few days we have our anniversary, WonderGirl's half-birthday and Mother's Day. WonderGirl's school has a potluck picnic later this month; Rocco's class has one the day before. Then, there's the 8th-grade graduation at WG's school, which is apparently a wonderful ceremony that I won't want to miss, as the 4- and 5-year-olds get to present flowers to their 8th-grade buddies. WonderGirl's buddy has been such a positive part of her first year in school, and I'd really like to be there. Of course, it's at 11am on her last day of school, but it's not like I'd be working anyway, since Rocco's daycare is closed the whole week. Plus, her end-of-the-year party is that afternoon, so I'd need to be there to help with that, which is not to be confused with the class party one of the other families is throwing at their lake house (lake house?) later this month. ACK. Breathe.

I'm in such denial about the end of the school year, too. One of the members of our quartet is moving back to China in June, and we've realized that we can literally only find one day between now and then when we might get together for one last round of music. At first, I wasn't sure I could even make it that one day, because I needed to make sure that DT could pick up WonderGirl from school, but now it's struck me that she'll be out of school and in camp. Out of school.

This is our new life; school years and summers and ballet recitals. A daughter who reads her own books, a son who can string words into sentences and enthusiastically parrots each "I love you!" we throw his way. I'm not used to any of this yet.

(Because I didn't mean to leave anyone hanging: my professor was in the country, and I am, thankfully, off the hook with that incomplete and have hopefully learned my lesson. My echocardiogram was mostly normal, a little thickening at one valve that doesn't seem to be affecting heart function at all. I have my follow-up appointment today and am planning on hearing that everything is fine and needing to accept that I have some psychosomatic symptoms. I went to a yoga class this weekend for the first time in two years and hope that I can start focusing on wellness instead of sickness, which sounds corny but I think might help.)

Friday, May 04, 2007

What, it's not National A Question of Degree Month?

Break out your party hats -- apparently, May is National Asparagus Month! After hearing a rumor this today, I went looking for a link and confirmed that yes, it is the month for our stalky, pee-smell-altering friends, but it's also:

  • National Salad Month
  • National Strawberry Month
  • National Beef Month
  • National Egg Month
  • National Barbecue Month
  • National Salsa Month
So, I'm thinking that perhaps this isn't as big a deal as I'd hoped. In fact, herbs only get a week (May 13-19), as does women's health (May 14-20, coinciding with Mother's Day because, you know, only mothers need to think about their health???). Sadly, garlic only gets a single day, which we apparently missed in April, even though egg salad gets an entire week, separate from the month it celebrates in its eggy wholeness.

Continuing on the food trend, I just found a knitting pattern for the digestive system, and I am sooo tempted... Any pattern that starts:


With size 6 dpns and Angry Pink, cast on 10 sts using a temporary cast-on, join. (If you don't know how to do a temporary cast-on, just cast on normally using waste yarn then knit 1 row with Angry Pink).
Knit 8 rows.

just has to be worth it.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


A few notes:

- Clicking on a family member's shared online photo album, only to find 164 pictures in the album, is a daunting experience. Cute pictures, all, but...

- I've tried to lower my already moderate caffeine intake the last couple of days. I was rewarded, of course, with a monster headache that woke me up this morning. I just caved and decided to pop open my last hoarded can of Coke Zero, only to find that my department's kitchen is being mopped and I can't access the ice cubes. Gnashing of teeth has commenced.

- I have 42 minutes left with the Hellter, I mean Holter, monitor. Not that I'm counting.

- After bragging about WonderGirl's powerful sensitivity, I feel duty-bound to report the other side of the coin. Last night, after DT and I spent a long time (too long, it's true) explaining to her why it might be a good idea for her to start using her own brain to make decisions instead of following her friends as they jump off bridges, I said, "Okay, enough talking about that." To which our angel replied, "Yeah, if you talk about it any more I might throw up." She's five, folks. Five.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The (n+1)th installment in my occasional series of free advice

If you are wearing a Holter monitor and going to the airport, it would probably help you get through security if you look relatively young and innocent and are assisting a grandmotherly-type woman who limps a little.

I'm just guessing.

I took DT's mom to her flight today and the airline rep agreed that I could take her back to the gate because he said I "looked nice." We got almost all the way to the front of the security line before I realized I had five electrodes taped to my torso, each connected to a small rectangular box. The TSA rep directed us to the "special considerations" line, where the woman who was screening me was clearly fighting internal voices: one side of her head obviously thought this was a security test, the other side was saying, "LOOK at her. She's harmless, she's wearing the dorkiest jumper ever made (thanks, Anne, for the recommendation!) and she's with an old Chinese lady." In the end, they patted me down extensively (and were duly alarmed at every electrode), swabbed the monitor for explosives, and let me through.

On the way back from the gate, I called DT from the terminal escalator to tell him I'd been able to take his mom all the way to the gate, so we could rest easy that she didn't get lost, then I started to tell him about the security episode. I got as far as, "So I'm standing there with all of these electrodes..." and suddenly, I was the most interesting person on the escalator. I wonder if anyone was tempted to call the police or if, once again, my dorky jumper worked its magical power.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

This post brought to you by my cyborg alter ego:

Robotic Ultimate Troubleshooting Humanoid

Get Your Cyborg Name

I mentioned that I haven't been feeling well for the last few weeks. Like most households with small kids (not to mention pediatrician parents), ours is inhabited by a stream of bugs, of both the insect and germ varieties. I finally called for a doctor's appointment, after being encouraged by DT to please ask someone other than him for medical advice sometime. (Sample conversation:
Me: Oh, my heart is doing that weird thing again.
Him: Racing? Pounding? Palpitations?
Me: I don't know how to describe it. Do you think I'm going to die?)

Yesterday, I saw the doctor, a nice internist, probably five years younger than me. I'd seen her once before, when she suggested that my elbow might be hurting and my hand tingling because it was just about damn time that I made Rocco walk somewhere instead of carrying him, for the love of God, woman! She also offended me by telling me to come back if it wasn't better in a couple of weeks, and she "could tell" I would call if it didn't improve. I literally haven't seen a non-OB physician in over five years, yet she made me feel like a doctor-abusing hypochondriac. I probably am a hypochondriac, I just usually rely on DT to keep me in check. Anyway, she's in the clinic directly across the street from my office, so she's convenient, which is of course the number one priority for physicians of working parents.

I arrived for the appointment armed with advice from DT on how not to seem like a flake ("Say 'fluttering' and she'll have to take you seriously") and promptly felt like a flake anyway, because young-ish women like me are not supposed to complain about heart issues. The nurse did an EKG before the doctor even came in the room. (Note to self: don't pre-read the EKG sheet without knowing what you're looking at, because the words "cannot rule out anterior infarct" will not seem like good news.) The doctor was thorough, said my EKG looked fine but she ordered further cardiac testing. (Another note to self: don't take the EKG printout home for DT to look at and say, "Hmmm...." over.) She also ordered a bunch of blood tests, thyroid, is-this-vegetarian-eating-healthily, etc. (Another note to self: just because you had 16 tubes of blood drawn that one time at the RE and lived to brag about it does not mean you won't feel funky when you have five tubes drawn.) The good news: the nice doctor called me herself last night to tell me my blood work all looked fine, although my red cells were a little high and she thought I should be conscious of drinking enough water. (Last note to self, I promise: do not tell DT this and listen to him say, "Hmmm....")

Today, I went to the cardiologist's office for follow-up testing. I had an echocardiogram, with no immediate feedback from the tech on whether everything looked okay. She didn't call a cardiologist in to actually look at anything, so I'm assuming there wasn't anything obviously worrisome. (Coping mechanism alert!) Also, I get to wear a Holter monitor for 48 hours, which is like a continuous EKG. Here's a picture:

Only, it's more obtrusive than that. I have wires all over, this machine stuck in an attractive black velcro waist case that has been used by I don't even want to think of who, and itchy tape all over. For 2 days. I can't shower, which would have been nice to know. I'm not even sure I'll be able to dress myself because really, what can you wear in 85-degree weather that's going to cover that? And if all of this is stress and sleep-deprivation related, which I'm starting to think is likely, then it's only going to get better by being hooked up like this until Thursday.

So, I'm trying to embrace it. I'm a cyborg. Life is weird.