Search

postmodernfamilyblog

Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

Our Postmodern Family

Our Real Modern Family

I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for a while now… I guess ever since we decided to bake up a couple of twins from scratch using borrowed eggs and my forty-seven- year-old oven.  My daughter once called us the “Real Modern Family” – and you know, she’s right.  I’m a Southern woman married to a half-Korean, half-Italian/Slovenian Yankee man twelve years my junior; I have two beautiful twenty-something daughters, an arthritic dappled dachshund and a morbidly obese cat.  And now, after much thought and consideration — and then funding and injections, vaginal suppositories, and appointments — I have started motherhood all over again.  This will be the story of us: our real modern family. Or maybe, more appropriately, our postmodern family.  Postmodern, as in “radical reappraisal.” And our story is, indeed, a radical reappraisal of how to make and nurture a family.

Many things have changed since that summer almost three years ago when we began our in-vitro journey… I will do my best to record current happenings, as well as flashbacks to those glory days of post-modern fertilization, pregnancy pillows, and preeclampsia.  I’m hoping our story will be an inspiration to those battling the frustrations of infertility, to those navigating the beautiful and rugged territory of twindom, and to those who decide to either start a family or do it all over again at a rather ripe age.

Even as I try to type this, I question why I’m doing it. I have nothing special to say. I’m nothing special. I nearly stop before I’ve begun, but then I think… I’m nothing special, true… but I do have something different to offer. I can’t imagine there are too many forty-nine year olds out there lactating. Not too many women out there with twenty-three years difference between their last baby girl and their most recent baby boys, not too many women who, as my father says, “ran the engine and the caboose when it comes to supplying grandchildren.” Not too many women out there who just suffered through a sixteen-month stint of extreme sleep deprivation. If nothing else, I can be a freak show for people to point at and ridicule. Still, I hope I can inspire a few to give postmodern family planning a go.

Family X-Mas 2014

 

 

Featured post

A Wish is a Prayer Your Soul Makes

I love wishes. I’m a big believer. They are my favorite form of prayer — tiny little heart’s desires in a single sentence — sent out into the universe. They’re like a mantra. I wish the same one over and over until it is granted. And it very nearly always is.

And the universe gives so many occasions to speak our dreams and desires: on birthday candles and shooting stars, on eyelashes lost and pennies found, on coins in fountains, and wishbones in hand. They ride dandelion fluff and ladybug wings.

I learned their power and value way back when, on Sunday nights in front of the television while watching “The Wonderful World of Disney.” Tinkerbell would wave her wand and Cinderella’s castle would erupt in festive fireworks and Disney’s tinkling instrumental theme song would whisper the power of wishes… Jiminy Cricket’s “When You Wish Upon a Star,” Snow White’s “I’m Wishing,” and Cinderella’s “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.”

I was indoctrinated at an early age. And then my wishes merged with the evangelical movement of my childhood, and I latched onto the promise of “ask and ye shall receive,” “seek and ye shall find.” And I found myself a believer.

And I decided, if a dream is a wish your heart makes, then a wish is a prayer your soul makes…

And ever since, I’ve sent so many wishes out into the universe – a series of one-sentence mantras repeated until they come true.

And they usually do.

Mike and I came true. And so did the boys. And my girls. And their blessings. So many blessings. So many wonderful wishes have come, and are coming, true.

Yes, my track record is solid… but not undefeated.

There have been wishes I’ve repeated like mantras for months. For years. And they never seem to materialize.

Sometimes I think wishes are only granted for the Disney-type-desires. The tiara and taffeta kinds of wishes, the happily-ever-after, against-all-odds-imprisonment-and-sorcery kinds of dreams. Things that end in freedom and love. In new lives and sweet loves and new babies and fresh starts.

But the ones reserved for sickness… or, more specifically, cancer… those seem not to take as well. Those seem not to get answered. And I don’t really understand why.

Cancer sucks. That’s the meme; that’s the hashtag; that’s the absolute truth.

It sucks.

And its cells keep stubbornly replicating harder and faster than my wishes on lashes and ladybugs can fly. And it sucks the joy and the freedom and the energy out of my friends.

Cancer is an angry, aggressive, harsh vacuum. A black hole that targets the gentlest and most generous amongst us. And so very often in my life, it’s targeted women. Women who have nurtured and loved and saved and sacrificed. Grandmothers, mothers, teachers, and friends. My grandmother, my best friend’s mother, my two dear teacher friends. They’ve all battled or are battling cancer.

And my wishes all seem to fall flat. And make me question my faith.

Even my more traditional prayers –long and devout and completely dedicated to destroying the wide, gaping mouth-of-a-black-hole-on-Satan’s-backside that IS cancer — seem not to have the stamina to soar and succeed against this vile foe.

But there’s got to be a way to defeat it. There just has to be.

My physician daughter is currently doing cancer research. She is AIKA-deep in clinical trials and focus groups and data pulls and cross-discipline conferences. She is a part of an army of physicians all over the world who are currently spelunking Satan’s arsehole, searching for ways to destroy its ability to suck.

And I know this war has been waged for decades. But I know that we’ve got to be getting closer. We just have to be.

And then I think about all those wishes I’ve made. All the ones that HAVE come true. They’ve been positive ones. Focused on love and goals and abilities. They haven’t had any negative words, no Defeat or Destroy or Kill words. They house words like Help and Grow and Love and Learn.

And my evangelical childhood taught me that God helps those who help themselves.  And mankind is working hard to help themselves, my daughter included amongst them. We just need a little more time. Just a little more time to deactivate Satan’s anus, to ratchet down his rectum, to strip mine his sigmoid. To render his sphincter suction-less. The doctors are on this.

So I will refocus my prayers to positivity and light. If a dream is a wish your heart makes, and a wish is a prayer your soul makes, then I wish for Happily-Ever-Afters. No more “Defeat cancer” and “Destroy cancer.” Leave that to the doctors. Now my dandelion mantras and pennies-found prayers will be: “Help us find the way and the truth and the light. Help us find the cure.”

Over and over. And over. Amen.

 

The Metaphysical Majesty and Miracle of Mother’s Love

Last weekend, I attended a wedding full to overflowing with beauty and light and joy and love.

The ceremony was at the top of a rolling Georgia hill just west of Atlanta. Below us, a sweeping expanse of warm wheat fields and rough gravel drives. Above us, a decoupaged sky of chipped gray flakes and tissue paper clouds.  To the side, a small, serene lake. Behind and to the right, a riotous bank of hot pink azaleas. If they’d been gold – and sunflowers – I would’ve sworn we’d been painted into a Van Gogh landscape.

The wedding guests were a celebration of all ethnicities and ages, vocations, and persuasions. Smiles rode faces of chocolate and cream, honey and peach, almond, and espresso.

We were delicious.

And colorful.

And so was our clothing.

We women wore bold patterns and vibrant hues, shoulders bare or swathed in netting or lace or even a random fur stole. Legs were hidden or revealed beneath hemlines full and frothy or sequined and straight.

The men sported less color, wearing standard suits and the occasional tux – save their ties of jewel-toned silk, glittering festively at their necks and chests.

We perched ourselves on the traditional white folding chairs of an outdoor wedding, beneath the swirling pewter sky, and waited for the procession to begin. But then the rain set in.

Rain on your wedding day is good luck — and as the forecast had called for no rain until way after midnight, this was a welcome harbinger, as far as I was concerned. It was only the first (and smallest of signs) that this was a marriage approved of in heaven.

Back in the lodge where the reception would take place — inside the room reserved for the bride and her attendants — Itoro was unphased. She was the calmest bride imaginable. No bridezilla, she. As a matter of fact, I’ve never seen her ruffled. Ever.

She’s a med-peds physician who handles life-and-death emergencies with deftness and aplomb. Her smile is sheer sunshine. Her skin is warm gingerbread. And this day was fused with her sweetness and light. A little rain could never dampen it or her spirits. Besides, she reasoned, there was a perfectly good indoor alternative not thirty feet away…

But just as we were prepared to switch locations, the showers ended, the harpist rolled out her harp, and my sister and I pointed our camera phones to the clouds, where a brilliant diamond solitaire had burned through the metallic skies.

It was spectacular. It was magical. And (Good Lord!), it was so, so much more than that! And although we wouldn’t know it for a few minutes more, we were pointing our cameras at the metaphysical majesty and miracle of love. We discovered just how phenomenal as I was fumbling with my iPhone, inspecting the picture for Instagram.

That’s when I noticed it — a spec gleaming just right of center on the groom’s side of the lawn. I looked up and glanced in that direction. Was there foil or metal or something else reflecting the light?

Nothing. Was it dust on my lens maybe?

I wiped the lens clean and turned to my sister, “Look at this,” I pointed. “Is there one in your picture?”

There was. Even rounder and more luminescent than the image I had captured.

“What is that?” we both said at once.

Before describing what exactly it was we saw, let me move back in time for just a moment… to a point nearly nine years ago when the bride was a senior at UGA and lost her mother to breast cancer. They had been close. Closer than close. As you can imagine, it was a time of heartbreak, a time of tremendous difficulty. Yet, Itoro persevered.

Her mother had a doctorate in social work, and she became Itoro’s spiritual mentor. She inherited her desire to serve others, to touch their hearts and souls with wisdom and tenderness.

Itoro talked about that period of loss during her reception toast. She testified how God has never forsaken her, even in her darkest days. There, in her time of need, she explained, God sent her a series of mothers – not to replace her own (that could never happen), but to bring love and help soothe the empty ache she felt inside. She called the names of seven women in attendance, my sister and I among them, and asked us to stand.

I’m here to tell you — I may have cried. You know the kind of cry – the surprised, nose-clasped-in-your-hands, jaw-quivering type of cry. Itoro couldn’t have blessed me more. There’s no way.  And it was then I understood the magnitude of what Jo Jo and I had seen. And why.

So back to the lawn and the iPhones and the metaphysical majesty I referenced a bit back…

I have uploaded the image because you all need to see this to believe it. And even then, I will have Naysayers and Doubting Thomases.  But, please — Believe.

IMG_9224

Take a look at the beams of God-Love spilling out of the clouds and bathing the ceremony site in blessings. Note the light pooling on the surface of the lake. Note the shafts and pillars of peace flaring from the newly-parted heavens. See the glory of the fuzzy, new growth backlit on the lanky trees. And finally, there to the left of center in the mossy-brown nap of the lawn, note the orb. The shimmering, blue-green roundness of an angel orb. The metaphysical majesty and miracle of love. And not just any love. Maternal Love.

Don’t be ridiculous, you say. It is nothing more than burnished dust, pollen caught in sunlight, a spec on the lens.

And I say, look again. And hear me. That spec of dust on my lens, as you call it, is on TWO separate photos taken from TWO different cameras in TWO different locations taken at the exact same time. And those two different cameras were being held by two different women — women who love Itoro like one of their own. And I believe that her mother knows and understands our love for her daughter. And that is why she showed herself to us.

That is no dust spec. That is Itoro’s mother — arriving just in time for the ceremony to commence.

I explained that Jo Jo and I didn’t understand just how spectacular a phenomenon we had captured on camera until later, and that is quite true. We knew and understood at once what we had in our pics. But it wasn’t until I showed my husband and he suggested I scroll my Live Photo back to see for sure if what we were seeing was something more than simply refracted light that we truly understood.

And so, I did — but not until our drive home from the wedding. It was then that I opened my photos and revisited the shot.

And there, in the enclosed cabin of a Ford F150, as the forecasted rain finally had its way with us, tapping on the rooftop and the hood, that we finally witnessed the metaphysical majesty of maternal love in flight. She floats – and at times, jets – from the celestial window there in the clouds. We watch her hover, taking stock of the surroundings, the wedding guests, the rugged cross at the altar where her daughter will soon marry her love. And then we watch as she takes her rightful place as Mother of the Bride, settling on the top rung of the first chair of the first row of the bride’s side of the ceremony.

Behold, the metaphysical majesty of maternal love. I have uploaded the video — on a loop. Watch it over and over and over again. May this beautiful angel orb visiting her daughter on her Big Day bless you as much as it has blessed us.

 

 

The Travesty and Tragedy of IVF Clinic Negligence: The Impossibility of Justice

Babies. I don’t know that there is a subject that tweaks the heartstrings and fuzzes up the solar plexus quite like babies. Just the thought of tiny wriggling newborns gets us all giddy with promise and potential. We thrill to the touch of their tiny fingers and toes, their tufted, downy crowns, their milk-mottled necks. We cradle them in our arms; they cradle our legacy in their limbs.

Four years ago, this past week, Mike and I brought our own downy-crowned, milk-mottled newborns home from the NICU. And we’ve been caring for and corralling our twin bundles of rollicking, unequivocal energy and joy ever since.

We owe it all to the generosity of the universe — and a top-notch IVF team.

Because it was five years ago, this month, that Mike and I sat down to meet with our newly- acquired fertility specialist to learn all the ins and outs of “test tube” baby making: the belly and booty shots, the ovary stimulation, the egg extraction, the cup deposits, the petri dish insemination, the embryo transfer. All of it.

Talk about exciting.

And daunting.

Daunting because I was about to do from-scratch motherhood all over again at forty-seven. I’d already raised two daughters successfully into adulthood (no small task); yet here I was again, preparing myself mentally – and physically (hence the fertility specialist) — to bake up a couple more.

And daunting because the odds were not necessarily in our favor.

Now the first thing I recall about that initial meeting is the vast, heavy, wooden desktop in the doctor’s office. The surface of that desk seemed to me a small-scale representative of the hard, formidable expanse that must be crossed to make Mike’s and my dream of parenthood together come true.

But luckily, there on the other side sat Dr. Perloe himself – frothy white curls, cropped close, and eyes twinkling behind clear lenses. He instantly put us at ease.

But he didn’t mince words either, when he gave us the facts. The fact that my eggs were too old to consider for our IVF procedure. The fact that using a donor’s eggs could cost us as much as a compact car or a midsize sedan, depending. The fact that the procedure was no guarantee, but the odds were greatly increased if we followed his protocol precisely: multiple medical and psychological exams; donor candidate selection; numerous supplemental vitamins and hormones using ingestions, injections and suppositories; and time and patience — lots and lots of time and patience.

Our success depended on it. Our success demanded it.

We signed a contract to do our part. The contract also specified that our clinic would do its part.

We never considered otherwise. Events in the news this past month suggest perhaps we should have.

Thank heavens, Dr. Perloe and his staff are consummate professionals and we never had a need to worry. Mixing babies for couples with fertility issues goes beyond their life work. It is their passion. And they do it with compassion. And with contracts.

Those two qualifiers — compassion and contracts — ensure that they would never, ever risk a patient’s hard work, dedication, financial and emotional investment, and (most important of all), eggs or embryos. Never.

The procedure is risky enough as it is.

The IVF success rate for a woman over 40 is between 13-18%. A donor egg increases those chances to 35% per embryo. Transferring twin embryos gives slightly more favorable odds, procuring a 55-65% success rate that one embryo will take. With a chance for twins at 30-40%.

Now I’m no mathematician (far from it – despite being the daughter of a physicist), but I do understand that even when hedging my bets with donor eggs and a double-embryo transfer, there was absolutely no guarantee we would find success – especially on the first try.

But success, we found. On the very first cycle, too. And with both embryos.

It was an absolute miracle. Without a doubt.

But the miracle was brought to fruition through the hard work and dedication of our IVF team – the physicians, embryologists, nurses, technicians, and Mike and me. We were all in it together, working hard and following our contract to the letter. We dotted every egg and crossed every petri dish.

Again, I reiterate that the one thing that was never considered when we rolled the dice, said our Hail Marys, and took our gamble on IVF was that our clinic would be negligent.

But a month ago this week, a fertility clinic in Ohio was just that: grossly negligent. There were issues with a cryogenic tank that housed microscopic miracles, the frozen eggs and embryos of thousands of prospective parents. Somehow, the built-in failproof — the remote alarm system that would notify employees if temperatures began to climb — had been turned off.

As a result, that tank — a tank that housed a total of 4000 eggs and embryos– rose to temperatures that left all 4000 nonviable.  4000 hopes and dreams, 4000 Hail Mary passes, 4000 double or nothing bets, 4000 potential babies… all lost.

I’m up close and personal with the IVF process that these heartbroken families went through. I understand their hopes, their dreams, their financial and emotional investments. I understand their courage, their fear, their gamble.

But I am not up close and personal with their loss. The emotional cost is unfathomable. I can’t imagine it. I don’t even know where to begin. That reality is too harsh, too brutal, too gut-wrenching. There is too much frustration and betrayal and agony and pain for my mind to go there. It slams shut at the thought.

IVF is a wild, whirling roulette wheel. The odds are frightening. A world-class clinic makes the risk worth it. Still, it’s a scary bet.

Wannabe parents willingly take bold risks at steep odds because babies are the jackpot. Babies. Our tiny-fingered, downy-crowned, milk-mottled legacies. We will do almost anything humanly possible to bring them into this world.

These parents in Ohio did just that.

This clinic in Ohio did not.

This clinic was anything but. It is a tragedy and a travesty.

The harm done is irreparable. The resources lost are irreplaceable. The crime committed is unforgivable.

And as the lawsuits stack up, the cases are nearing class-action status. But how do you put a price on hearts broken? On families fractured before they’ve begun? On entire legacies lost?

How is justice ever to be found? How?

It can’t be done.

Mother-Daughter Dynamic Duo: Shine a Life on Cindy and Meghan

I have an artist friend. She is quiet and still as mountains in moonlight. She is layered in the wisdom of the natural world. Her soul ripples when you speak with her. She receives you. She hears you. Actively.

Her hair is scalloped shale, flecked with silver, and her cheekbones are high, whittled planes. She has deep-set eyes and a deep-seated soul.

And she fills this world with rich, buttery warmth.

I can’t even remember the first time I met her. I’ve known her for over half my life. But I do remember her impact on me. How I felt instantly calm and at home. How I didn’t need to fill any silences or put on any airs. Because she is peace. She is acceptance. She is serenity and space. I feel settled in her presence. And loved.

And I admire her for these ways and for so many more.

I admire her for the way she lives her life, loves her child, and lives her art. I don’t know if I know anyone else like her. I don’t see her often, but when I do, I am reminded of what I aspire to be.

She is my soul mentor. She is who I want to be when my soul grows up. And her name is Cindy.

Cindy makes jewelry – handcrafted pieces of spiritual energy. And when I wear her stuff, I can feel the pulse of the cosmos in concert with mine. And it is sheer magic.

And it makes me want to know what she knows. I want to know her secrets. How she lives her passion and creates her world. Because I want to do it, too. I want my art to reflect my spirit and to pulse in concert with the universe. I want to fill this world with buttery warmth.

That’s what I want for my art.

And the way she loves her child — with a fierce and gentle love that listens lightly or moves mountains. She is soft and hard and silence and storm. She is Mother Nature, and she can be unruffled or unleashed.

And this magic mama has wielded an incredibly accomplished daughter.

And I want that, too. That kind of motherhood. That kind of energy. That kind of quiet.

Let me tell you about her daughter — her quirky, cat-like, wisp of a daughter: She has the high cheekbones and deep soul of her mother, but she is absolutely her own woman. And her name is Meghan.

I had the distinct pleasure of being Meghan’s girl scout leader in elementary and middle school, and her Brit and AP Lit teacher in high school., but it is I who was led and I who was taught by this slip-wisp of wonder and whimsy.

She is an artist, too, but she writes. Oh, my, how she writes! Her words are whispers, powerful whispers, that float out and settle next to you on your couch, encouraging you to find the magic in the world — whether it is the vaulting landscape of a national park or the purring kitten at your elbow. She prompts you to feel and to hear and to see miracles in all their myriad forms.

Her essays and blogs are the metaphysical equivalent of condensed orange juice. They are small slices that encompass ALL the flavors, ALL the energy, ALL the power of living life to the fullest.

This mother/daughter duo are gypsies, unfettered and unphased by society’s demand for conformity. They dance down the path less chosen. In the moonlight. In the moment.

They’ve tapped into the inner sanctums of transcendental living, prophets of essence and art. One hikes through the world with a sleeping bag and journal. The other hunkers down with soft metals and gemstones. Both spin ordinary into extraordinary.

And both inspire me.

I don’t see either of them often, but when I do – at a summer concert down at the railroad tracks, at a little shop down under the bridge — I feel restored.

They are both my spiritual mentors. They are who I aspire to be.

(Visit Cindy’s Lunatique Whimsical Jewelry page on Facebook and find you some handcrafted pieces of spiritual energy to wear  ‘round your own neck and wrist!) 33B90F41-1181-4F76-8A3E-8EA5A907D689

Active Shooter: The Phrase That’s Getting Way Too Close for Comfort

Active shooter. I hear the phrase way, way too often.

My husband’s school had an active shooter drill yesterday. My daughter’s hospital had an armed gunman rob the cafeteria on Tuesday night.

And then last night, an active shooter killed himself and another, and injured a third in a UAB hospital on the second floor.

The second floor is the O.R.

Three of my daughter’s best friends and med school roommates just happen to be surgical residents at UAB: one, ortho; another, ENT; a third, neuro. All three perform procedures at that satellite hospital.

In the O.R.

The thing about surgical residents – and I guess all residents in nearly every medical program — is that the doctors rotate between a whole group of satellite hospitals, making it difficult for family and friends to keep up with which physical location a specific physician is at during any given month – or sometimes week or even day.

This UAB Highlands Hospital shooting left me and my own daughter very rattled. Very. We were both so worried for the three young doctors we know and adore. I can’t even imagine being the parent of one of them and not knowing if he or she were at that location that night. Especially because when surgeons are in the OR, they are cut off from all communication. Therefore, it might be hours before a mom would know if her child was safe or not. (The very reason I heard about the shooting was because the mom of one of Caitlin’s roommates posted a live update online, asking for prayers.)

So I prayed and texted and called and prayed some more. Until I heard back from my daughter who finally heard back from all her friends. Thankfully, each was safe and sound and at other locations.

Still.

There were other friends and families out there who learned that their loved ones were not okay. And that is absolutely not okay.

And the entire scenario played out like something out of Grey’s Anatomy. Very, very much like something Shonda Rhimes already wrote and produced years ago.

Only it happened last night. And it was real.

Real gunshots, real lockdown, real medical professionals shot – not just actors playing them on tv. There were even electrical outages. And emergency surgeries on the spot. With cell phones for light. Heroic measures were taken. Ortho surgeons performed trauma surgery. On the scene. Trauma surgeons tagged in.

This was the stuff of sound stage and scriptwriting, not real life.

But it was. It is.

This is the America of the twenty-first century. Where every day we hear more stories of gun violence in more and more places: schools, hospitals, offices, streets, restaurants, theaters, concerts, churches.

The locations vary, but the people and results are the same: disgruntled, mentally unstable individuals shooting bullets into people. People of all ages, all colors, all religions, all political views, all walks of life. People who support gun rights and people who support gun control. People who in minutes become victims, become patients, or worse, become bodies.

What will it take for us to finally DO something about all these victims, all these bodies, all this senseless death?

And I’m not one of those people who believe guns don’t have a place in America. I’m not one to demand guns be taken away.

But I do believe there should be limits to the number of weapons people have in their homes. And I do believe that all weapons (particularly hand guns) should be in gun safes. And I do believe those gun safes should be mandatory. And I do believe that the age limit for buying ANY gun should be raised to twenty-one. And I do believe there should be rigorous mental health screenings prior to the purchase of any guns. And I do believe that if a person exhibits risky behavior and unsound judgement (including drunk driving and aggravated assault arrests), that their mental health should be reevaluated.

What I do NOT believe is that we should add more guns. I do NOT think people should be allowed to stockpile weapons. I do NOT think we should arm teachers (I am a teacher, and in my expert opinion, I am here to say that would be a serious mistake.) I do NOT think we should arm churchgoers. Or allow guns in bars (heaven help!) or have open carry permits (that’s just inviting trouble!).

We do NOT need modern-era vigilantes who think they are gun experts because “I’ve been around them all my life” or because somebody has attended a three-hour gun safety course or because they’ve been offered paid incentive by the POTUS to carry a firearm. I don’t want any of these people in charge of my personal wellbeing. I do NOT believe that the answer is more guns.

All of what I’ve said makes sense to me, though I’m no expert on guns and gun violence. But I do know that if we keep staying the course, we will keep stacking the corpses.

Something’s gotta give here in these oh-so-un-United States. Here in the land of the free and the home of the semi-automatic weapon. Here in the land of the brave who hide behind gun barrels. Here in the land where we have more guns than citizens (and we’re losing more people every day, but don’t seem to be losing a single gun), something’s gotta give.

The UAB shooting really hit home for me last night.

It’s a terrifying time to be a mother.

It’s also a terrifying time to be a teacher. And a student. And a theater-goer. And a church member. And a shopper. And a jogger. And a… well, you get the picture.

It’s just a terrible time to be an American.

 

Sharing Wonder Women: Am I Worthy Enough?

Lately when I write it feels like butterflies in my belly or helium in my heart. It lifts me. Something new is on the horizon. I can feel it in my blood. Almost like a fever. And I know I’m heading in the right direction. Dreams are being hewn and forged. My fingers flash like meteors on my keyboard, pounding out the metal-workings of my mind.

But just because writing gives me a jiggly, hot, helium-gut these days (hmmm, that really doesn’t sound like a good thing, come to think of it…), it doesn’t mean that the words come easy for me. Sometimes they do.

Some days, the words sparkle in the air like glitter, like dusty motes caught up in the sunshine, beams of beauty filling up my soul and the words falling down like magic onto my keyboard. The process is easy like Sunday morning. And the paragraphs simply spill out of me.

But then other days they don’t. On those days, my mind gets mired-up in the weight of the work. The sunshine flares and the sentences get heavy and coated with ash. The words don’t sparkle in the air, they clump in heaps, clotting up my lungs and computer screen and brains. And the magic skips town and the murk settles in. And the world is harsh as Monday morning. And the words glum up and refuse to form sentences, much less meaning.

This week I’ve had a bit of both — they’ve poured out and they’ve clumped up. And I’m thinking it’s because I’m pursuing a dream; I’m on a quest to reveal truths and to unearth gold. And it involves my writing, but it’s not simply my blog (well, it is, technically, I guess – but it’s more than that.) Because I’m not just telling my story. I’m telling other women’s stories, too — their journeys, their struggles, their successes, their truths. And it is a tremendous responsibility.

Because their story is all our story. Each one demonstrates another facet of the female evolution out of the primordial, patriarchal pond into the promise of the present, tapping into our collective unconscious and untangling the myths and lies to reveal truths instead. We too, are warriors and superheroes. We too, are strength and passion and power.

But revealing long-hidden truths is never easy. The way is hardly well-mapped. Really, it isn’t mapped at all – and it’s super hard to know where to dig if you can’t see where the truth lies.

And the truth does lie… or rather, the truth is lied about. We’ve been told for centuries that we are weak, that we are helpless, that we need to be told how to act and speak. That without someone looking out for us, we women could never survive.

Well, these women’s stories prove otherwise. They are all survivors. No, take that back, they are victors! And so are we all. We just have to believe. It is truth.

But the task of telling these women’s histories leaves me feeling overwhelmed and overtasked. Kind of like I’m living the life of the kid in The Alchemist, one moment blessings tumbling into my lap, and the next, nothing but scarcity as far as the eye can see.

But those butterfly wings and bubbly-heart beacon have never steered me wrong yet. So I have to take it as evidence that I’m on the right track and just keep digging – or typing.

As my fingers type, I watch what unfolds. And then I dig around. And sift. And throw out. And throw out. And throw out. And start all over again.

Because I need their stories to be as real and as true as their memory and my translation can be. And I have to remember that perfection is impossible — even though in this crazy, airbrushed, Instagram-ed world, we have been fooled into believing it exists. It doesn’t.

But reality is far better anyway.  It has dimension and depth, shadow and shine. The world would be a flat and featureless place without all of those things. And so would we. Flat, fictional, and fake.

But these women they have it all: depth, dimension, shadow and shine. Some of them have struggled through incredible darkness. Some have climbed incredible heights. Some are family. Some are friends. Some I have reached out to. Some have reached out to me.

All are beautiful. All are real. They have flaws. They are not goddesses. But they are no mere mortals either.

They are Women.

I will try my utmost to do their stories justice…

Ghostly Awakenings, Weekly Shaves, and Asparagus Pee: Simple Truths

We’ve named our ghost Argus. Actually, my AP kids did. Sort of. As I was telling them about his latest antics this week…

“Our ghost woke me up again at 2 this morning,” I began.

“Who?”

“Our ghost.”

“Argus? Who’s Argus?”

And from that point forward, his name has been Argus. And Argus has been at it again.

This week he toppled Tate’s plastic tea set to the floor. At 2 AM. On a Thursday. It’s his main M.O. (Well, the days of the week change, but honestly, if it clangs and clatters and it’s between 2 and 3 at night, it’s Argus.)

So lately, when I’m jolted awake by a loud crash, I don’t even wake Mike anymore. Instead, I lie still for maybe ten minutes, making certain we’re not being robbed blind or murdered in our sleep, and then I go back to sleep.

Or try. Because after Argus does his ghost-version of Ding Dong Ditch, it takes a bit for the fight-or-flight instinct to decelerate. So I lie there and think about stuff. All sorts of stuff. My mind runs the gamut of unhinged musings. For instance…

… how the deodorant in my vanity drawer should’ve run out weeks ago. but instead, keeps regenerating there in the darkness like the liver of Prometheus or a Hanukah menorah. It’s a miracle. Maybe not a miracle of Titan or Festival of Lights proportions, but a miracle nonetheless. And I know I really should go to CVS and get another before the miracles cease and my lavender scented underarms give way to stench, but I kinda want to see how long it’ll keep it up.

… or how thinking about smells gets me thinking of asparagus pee and how you would never want to eat it before going to the gynecologist, where you must wee in a cup. Unless of course, you bear a grudge against a lab tech there and are into passive aggressive behavior. Then it’s genius. (Not that I would do such a thing. And not because I’m not passive-aggressive, but because I don’t know any lab techs there.)

And speaking of genius – and gynecologists – I once heard of someone tidying up her nether regions prior to a visit to the lady doctor and accidentally slicing some tender bits. So if you’re keeping a running list of what NOT TO DO prior to going to the gynecologist: that’s a NO to asparagus and a NO to trimming the hedges.

But DO shave your legs before going. That’s just common decency.

These days I shave my legs once a week — which is hardly common decency for Mike, but I really did used to shave them every day, until… well, Twins. (And Mike would claim “Well, marriage” — but I call shenanigans on that excuse…) So now, when I finally do break out the Venus Comfort Glide, it’s like hewing down the Hundred Acre Wood with a hacksaw. But this past Thursday at 2 AM, my legs were recently cleared of their tree line and as close to smooth and supple as a fancy, refillable razor can get them when you forget to refill for nigh-on a year. (Again, Twins.)

Each week after I shave I mark it off my TO-DO List. It qualifies as a major chore (you gotta look for silver linings), and I feel majorly accomplished.

And yes, I’m a List Girl. Eliminating items helps me feel less claustrophobic. Less buried alive under the rubble of twin tornados roaring through their toddler years. They spin wildly on their own – on the verge of category 4 storms — or join together in one massive category 5.

Our living room most times is scattered, smothered, and covered in wooden blocks and puzzle pieces and stacks of laundry that regenerate faster than my deodorant stick and the Hundred Acre Wood on my legs. (And then Argus keeps adding to the clutter with tea sets and DVD stacks and any other readily tippable targets at 2 AM.)

And let’s not even discuss my van, which looks like disaster coverage in a trailer park — flotsam scattered stem to stern.

So in the midst of this insanity, freshly-shaved legs are a huge check off on my To Do List. Please don’t begrudge me my minor victories.

Another big check off on my list is my weekly blog — which also qualifies as a major accomplishment, and also (I have to admit) a big reason I don’t shave more than once a week and why my house looks like a natural disaster sight. It steals time — robs me blind, actually, because I am not a fast writer.

But my blog gives me so much more than semi-smooth calves in return. I feel like I’ve reconnected with some inner light and voice — one that was growing ever dimmer and quieter. But now, it’s perked back up. Kind of like Argus.

For obvious reasons, Argus’ voice was buried. For less obvious ones, mine was. But he’s chosen to reappear and make a racket and be heard — and so have I. He’s stumbling around in the dark, looking to reveal his own sort of truths.  And so am I. And sometimes those truths are profoundly important and philosophical — like female empowerment —  and sometimes they’re small and still important — like asparagus pee-cup prevention.

Regardless, I still feel the need to share. Just like Argus.

So all these (and more!) thoughts tumbled around in my brain last Thursday night. And  as I finally found myself ready to drift back to sleep – nearly an hour later — I heard another noise, accompanied by the rankest breath this side of the underworld. And no, it wasn’t Argus this time. (I’ve never smelled him, thank the Heavens. That might just be my limit to ghost tolerance.) Nope, it was my dachshund, hacking and wheezing like a Sleestak –those weird, prehistoric, wet-suit wearing monsters of my Saturday morning childhood. I love Neci dearly, but her breath is vile.

So I rolled over to avoid her exhaust and immediately felt the bed tilt and swirl, an abrupt reminder of yet another escaped otolith rambling around inside my inner ear and wreaking havoc. It’s been a month of vertigo, off and on and it’s getting old.

But then I realized…

My mind was reeling while my mind was reeling.

I’d become a literal metaphor.

With freshly-shaved legs.

I feel so accomplished.

 

The Blinking Light of Fairy Heights: Shine a Life on Faye

Today, I sit quietly at my desk, the fog rolling off the river and into the leyland cypresses that stand as sentinels at the far reaches of our lot, and I ponder who to write about, which woman to celebrate first in my Shine A Life series. The fog attempts to blot the sun this morning, but it still manages to glow from behind the wet, winding gauze. I know it will burn through soon and shine its warmth again. And I am struck by the parallels to one who has steadily been a warm and guiding soul in my life, and how she, too, is currently struggling in the gray, suffocating gauze of grief.

I have known her since I was six, or somewhere thereabouts. She has seen me at my best, and she’s seen me at my worst. She has known me from the sandy creek-beds and maypop fields of Mississippi to the concrete gutters and asphalt acres of Texas. And though we haven’t seen each other in years, she knows me now, through the blue and white posts and profiles of Facebook.

And those blue and white posts are what have me thinking about her today. Particularly the profile pic of her with her husband and their only son in his Air Force dress blues. Because this week, she lays that Air Force Academy graduate and pilot-hero son to rest.

I never had the privilege of knowing him, but I know his mother well. And his mother’s eyes are there in his portraits, along with her aquiline nose, and the way his smile lifts his cheeks (and everyone who catches it) in glowing and genuine warmth.

This woman, this beautiful mother of four, and grandmother of four, and mentor to me and thousands of others has unknowingly nudged her way into my heart and my blog today.

I remember when I first met Faye (for that is her name, and it means any number of things, from fairy to loyalty to believe — and she thoroughly embodies all three), she was working toward her PhD at Ole Miss: a tall glass of milk with coal-colored hair and chicory-root eyes. She amazed my six-year-old self because she studied novels in her graduate classes. I never knew you could study novels. Physics, yes. My dad and my uncles did that. But novels? Rooting around in prose like an archaeologist in soil – unearthing various and sundry truths and philosophies and polishing them up for the world to see? This was mind-altering stuff.

Plus, she and her roommate were the first women that I, as a youngster, had ever known who lived independently. This was equally mind-altering.

I remember their apartment building. It was at the top of a wicked-steep, small-town hill – perhaps the steepest in our little university town. Our nursery school, The Busy Bee, was at the bottom of that hill, and at the top — just outside the paved entrance to her apartment building — perched a blinking caution light.

Funny, I didn’t remember that blinking light until just now. And simply writing about it reminds me of perhaps the most famous light in all of literature: the mystical, green light of Gatsby fame, symbol of promise and potential and the great chase of gargantuan dreams.

But this light on Faye’s hill was a blinking yellow — a signal to slow down because there, at the apex of the hill was a blind drive. It served as a reminder to look out for others after that long, precipitous climb to the top.

To me, it is a symbolic reminder of how Faye has lived her life.  After long, difficult climbs, she has reached so many celebratory pinnacles in her lifetime. She acquired that PhD. She’s been an educator. Now she’s a school board trustee. She’s also a regional director of United Way. But most importantly of all, she is a wife and mother and grandmother and mentor.

She is loved, and she is revered because people have been her life work — not titles, not accolades, not money, not prestige — not any of the things Gatsby pursued while chasing his elusive green light across the bay.

Faye has dedicated her life predominantly to children – her own, and her community’s. And I see myself as one of them. She will never understand the impact she had upon me as a six-year-old girl, nor as a sixteen-year-old, not even as one nearing sixty (ok, I’ve still got a few years till then, but you get the point…)

In this world made up of the fast and furious pursuit of things, it’s a rare thing to find a blinking yellow light. I will forever more think of them as Fairy lights, after my beautiful friend Faye. They symbolize wisdom and love — the two things of value in this green glass goblin world of greed. They will remind me to pause and always make room for others. Because when all else slips away under cover of fog and darkness, Wisdom and Love remain. And the greatest of these is Love.

This week is the hardest week that I hope Faye will ever have to endure. It will be a wickedly steep, achingly-hard climb for her. I can’t even imagine the pain, the cracking of all the what-ifs and why-Gods inside her chest. Her baby boy, one of her brightest, most perfect contributions to this world, has gone on to fly with the angels. And not a one of us knows what to say or do to help.

But I pray she feels all the hearts she has touched along the way as we send our sincerest outpourings of love and prayers from every corner of the world. I am confident in saying thousands are standing still with her in spirit during this, a mother’s darkest hour, as she celebrates the life of her beautiful boy, gone way too soon.

 

 

 

What Warklike Noise is This? Schools Should Not Be the Stage for Tragedy

Help me, Lord, to find what I am supposed to write today… A day after yet another school tragedy — the 18th in the year 2018. More headlines. More pics of moms in mourning, this time with the added dimension of Ash Wednesday smudges on foreheads. More stories of teachers sacrificing themselves. More stories of students who made it talking about students who didn’t. More stories. But not stories. All true. I wish they weren’t. I wish they were made up. I wish I were merely watching a Shakespearean tragedy. But alas, I’m not.

And how do I find the words to make sense of these real-world tragedies? To find words? To unearth them? To polish them and use them? To help myself through these dark times, these hellish realities?  To help me make some sort of sense of it all? To make sense of a world that steals sons? And daughters? And hearts? And grinds them into mincemeat to serve up on little slices of computer screens and news headlines… And now snaps. On Snapchat. Snap-shots of horror and fear. Screaming and gunshots. Panic and pain. All of these things are too horrible to fathom. To absorb. To digest. I am… overwhelmed. And inept. Is there anything that can be done? Anything?

Quesions. More questions. And no answers. Only words. And words are not answers. Words don’t do much. Words are those old standbys. They are hashtags. #ThoughtsandPrayers. Affections, not action. I can polish them up all I want, they ultimately do nothing.

It is Action we need, not Words. Not Thoughts. We have active shooters in our schools killing kids. Many, many kids. And educators. And the wrong sorts of people are the only ones acting.

No, I take that back. The rest of us are acting, too.

We are all playing a role. We have taken on the role of Hamlet — the great procrastinor. The tragic hero who unpacks his heart with words. Who delays and delays and delays until it is way too late. Until there is so much death and destruction that the entire kingdom has tumbled into the hands of the enemy.

Apparently, that is the role we are all willing to play –the politicians and public alike.

And there are so many ghosts telling us to do something. So many. In hallways and classrooms and media centers and cafeterias and restrooms. Begging us to avenge their murders most foul with action.

But still, we wait… while noble hearts crack. And cease. While tragedy becomes commonplace.

So, no. I don’t need to find the words to make sense of this anymore. None of us do. Instead, we need to DO SOMETHING. We need to stop the bleeding.  And stop the madness. And stop the death…

To do or not to do.  That is the question.

And I don’t want to hear that now is not the time…  that the wounds are too fresh.

But in this, at least, Shakespeare’s words are right… It needs to happen now “while men’s minds are wild, lest more mischance on plots and errors should happen.

Take up the bodies. Such a sight as this becomes the [battle]field, but here shows much amiss.”

Let’s find a way to be the change.

#dosomethingaboutallthetragedyalready

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑