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.
So I’m sitting here right now, doing my best not to cry. (And failing.) I seem to have stacked a whole lot more on my plate than usual.
Of course, it’s football season… and I’m used to the stress and demands our family’s football life takes on my schedule and my sanity.
But now I’ve added little league flag football for the boys, with twice-weekly practice. (So we don’t get home until 7 PM. And the boys have to be cooked for and fed and homework completed and bathed and read to and in bed by 8.)
And then there’s the online gifted certification that I’ve committed myself to for the next four semesters. And my desire to fit in some exercise and blogging. And to get my hair done occasionally. And to have time with Mike.
And teach. And plan lessons. And grade 185 students’ assignments — times 2 or 3 on any given week. Oh, and be a club sponsor.
And be a person who listens. Who hears. Who cares. Who helps. A good mother. A good wife. A good daughter. A good teacher. A good friend. In other words, a good person.
And to fit sleep in there somewhere.
So I’m trying not to panic. And I’m failing at that too. I feel like I’m failing at all the things. All of them.
And I was sailing along doing just fine… or at least I thought I was, until I got an email this morning telling me that the group I thought I was a part of in my mandatory gifted cert Group Component had made a mistake, and I wasn’t actually in the group after all.
I feel like the last kid picked for dodge ball.
But here’s the thing about me. I’m really good at dodging. I would dodge the hell out of group work and do it all on my own, if given the chance. I hate group work. It was the bane of my existence as a student, both in high school and in college, and now here it is, the bane of my existence as an educator.
I’m a perfectionist and an introvert and group work is some sort of tenth circle of hell Dante never dreamed up because it’s simply too diabolical. That one was left to the higher education tour guides of hell.
So what’s a girl to do?
Well experts tell the simpletons like myself to cultivate an ability to say NO. To prioritize my life, cafeteria style, and learn to pass rather than heap the items onto my plate.
But the thing is… my life itself isn’t a turn at the buffet. It IS the buffet. A great, big, delectable buffet — with a small side of broccoli group work that I have on the table, whether I like it or not.
All the things on my buffet are all the things I need to live this great big life of mine. All the things. Even the broccoli. And not a one is too small to pass up. (Especially not the hair appointment… I think it’s the only thing I truly do that is selfish.)
So what is this girl to do? This girl is gonna cry. Just for a hot second. And then she’s gonna cuss the tiniest of blue streaks, to let some of the steam escape, lest she explode like the Coke Zero can in the center console of her van in the 97 degree heat this past Thursday.
Because the pressure is great. But so is her work ethic. She’s not gonna explode. And she’s not gonna implode.
She’s gonna tackle one mountainous molehill at a time. Starting with an email to find a new group for this mother-effing group work due in two hard, hellish weeks…
A lot of things have changed in my seventeen years of teaching.
Back when I first began, I was told, “Don’t smile until Christmas,” by almost everybody around me: education professors, veteran teachers, administrators. Everybody.
Thankfully, that has changed. Now teachers are encouraged to build relationships of trust and respect with our students. And that is a very positive change.
Not all of the changes have been for the better, though.
Some things, once rare, have become commonplace: like social media bullying and the threat of school shootings. Some things are nearly brand new: like vape juuls and dab pens. And some things are the new normal: like lockdown drills and smart phone distractions.
School shootings are a profoundly American tragedy, and one I’ve addressed before. In my years of teaching, they’ve become so ubiquitous that society seems to be jaded about them. This breaks my heart.
Smart phones didn’t exist seventeen years ago, but they’re everywhere now — along with rapidly multiplying smart watches. And with them, social media is a near-constant source of distraction (and contention) in the classroom. This likewise makes me super sad.
Kids would much rather check the stories on Snapchat than read the stories in English class. Instagram features and filters are much more compelling to them than mathematical fractals and fractions. Even in athletics, they’d sometimes rather tweet than compete.
Teachers get paid to teach… but very often, we feel like we do anything and everything BUT teach. Our classrooms have become lessons in covert operations.
Juuls and dab pens are everywhere — but kids are experts at hiding them. Hoodies and rubber bands have become suspect. Kids wear rubber bands around their wrist sleeves so they can hide juuls and take hits. They wear hoodies tight round their faces so they can exhale into their shirts.
I’ve seen vapor clouds disappear above students’ heads, but been unable to locate the source. I’ve seen discarded cartridges magically appear in my corners.
We play detective every day, trying to figure out which kid was the source of the sickeningly sweet odor infiltrating our room; which kid has red eyes from allergies, which kid has red eyes from THC; which kid is staring at his crotch because he’s texting, and which kid is staring at his crotch because he’s bored. (We get it all, almost every day.)
And you might think juuls and dab pens are more dangerous than smart phones, but experts argue they are all equally hazardous. I would agree.
Adolescent drug use, depression, and suicide is on the rise — and a huge contributing factor is social media and the pressures that come with it. Kids buy what social media is selling, which is almost always half-truths and lies.
Teens see the highlight reels of celebrities and idols and believe the image portrayed is reality. And then there’s also the bullies and predators out there, pressuring kids into sexting and nude pics — and the ensuing threats and belittling if they don’t… and the degrading and shame if they do.
Almost every aspect of social media leaves our kids feeling like they are not rich enough or smart enough or pretty enough or blond enough or athletic enough or cool enough… that they quite simply are not, nor will ever be, ENOUGH.
There’s been more than one occasion where I’ve found suicidal thoughts embedded in student essays. Social media is feeding insecurity and depression and kids are seeking escape through drugs and suicide.
Yes, teaching has gotten noticeably harder in the last seventeen years.
Before, I was told not to smile until Christmas. Now I’m told to smile and greet my students outside the classroom every day. To give high fives and side hugs. To genuinely care about my students and make sure they know I do.
These days, our district (and district all over our nation) are encouraging teachers to build relationships with students.
Because in a world full of school shootings and school bullying, teen depression, smart phone distractions, vape pens, and drug abuse, kids are not getting a whole lot of positive messages or interactions with anyone anymore — peers or adults.
Because for some of our students, the smiles and greetings and side hugs we give are the only real human connection they make on any given day.
Sometimes our classroom is the only place where kids’ voices are used and actually heard. The only place where kids are given attention and affirmation. The only place where kids feel safe and secure and at home.
Some kids get nurtured at home. Some don’t. Some kids have the tools they need to navigate this increasingly treacherous world. Some don’t. Our job is to make sure all kids do. Teachers don’t just teach the Three R’s anymore.
The most important job we have as teachers now is to demonstrate love, compassion, and positive interaction. To teach community. To model the best of what humanity can be.
I’ve never been a teacher who didn’t smile till Christmas. Never. It wasn’t in my nature.
And while I’m glad that particular rule is no longer the norm, it makes me sad that changing times are what finally made the institution that is education see that students really do need and deserve smiles… long before Christmas.
Yes, there have been many changes over my seventeen years of teaching, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is that I still love teaching students. I really do. I still find it the most rewarding thing I can do with my life, besides motherhood.
But for me, teaching and motherhood are the perfect pairing. They go together like tacos and Tuesdays, cookies and milk, bacon and anything.
I defy logic. I defy all explanation. I am one of the wonders. I shouldn’t have been able to have these boys. I’m a challenge to the balance. I know that. I knew it all along. But when our maternal fetal specialist agreed to take our case pro bono because our lovely Georgia governor played dirty with our insurance, I learned just how unique I was. Modern medicine was eager to use me as a case study. I was a Wonder with a capital W. Without my fertility specialist extraordinaire and my maternal fetal specialist with angel wings and a big check book, without my ever-steady and supportive ob/gyn, I wouldn’t have these boys. I completely get it.
But it’s not just medicine that brought my winsome sprouts to my womb and formed them into into flesh and blood and spirited magic. There is so much more to it than that. Prayer played a tremendous part. And Grace. And finally Fortune, that most fickle of Ladies. She decided to be kind. For whatever reason, the Universe decided to bestow two breathtaking blessings upon Mike and me. And I cannot be thankful enough. Ever. And so I’m giving my testimony for others. Sharing our recipe for success. Hoping that someone, somewhere along with way, will benefit from our story.
I know that my age was against me. VERY against me. Especially when I would read all of the unhappy IVF stories of women my age. I quit reading them, actually. I eliminated all negative energy from my life. That was ingredient Number 1. Only positivity and sunshine.
I began listening to Natalie Merchant’s song, “Wonder,” some lines of which I alluded to earlier. Now if you don’t know it, Google it. Get on YouTube and listen to it. It is powerful stuff. Words are powerful potion. My father taught me about self-fulfilling prophecy and about spoken blessings. He’s quite the preacher type. He’s also a physicist. He’s kinda weird. He’s an oxymoron. He’s Sheldon Cooper on scripturoids. But he always, always, ALWAYS has believed in the power of prayer and the spoken word. So I accentuated the positive and eliminated the negative.
Speaking of the power of the word, if you haven’t read The Secret by Rhonda Byrne or The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (Ingredients 2 and 3), read them. Out loud. And believe. They both discuss the power of the Universe and Her generous nature, Her willingness to grant your heart’s desire. You just have to say it. See it. Believe it. Write it. And wait for it to be delivered.
Now of course it’s not that simple. There is hard work involved. You have to dig. And keep digging. And the digging is physical, which is hard, full of medicines and injections and time and doctors visits and uncomfortable procedures, and it is also mental. The ups and downs of infertility is an ordeal no one who hasn’t experienced it can ever possibly imagine.
But you know what else? It is one that SO MANY of us share. It is a taboo subject that most are afraid of, or ashamed of, or too private to talk about. I was amazed at how many couples I knew presented themselves as IVF patients once I came out about our journey. Infertility sufferers are everywhere, yet it is still such a lonely, isolating experience.
So Coelho nails it. The mental digging is the hardest. But he explains that just when you are ready to quit, when the digging has gotten darn-near impossible. When the clay and rock are so incredibly rigid and unyielding and your body is bone-weary and your soul is sucker-punched, just KEEP digging. Because the Universe is about to deliver. It’s like the transitioning stage in labor. It feels like you’ve accomplished nothing at all, but your bundles of blessings are about to present themselves, to crown in all of their wondrous beauty.
So just like the good books commanded, we said it, we believed it, we wrote it down, complete with baby names (names, incidentally, which are now the middle names of both boys ). We visualized. We saw our sticky beans steeping in the placental gravy of the Universe’s Grace. We believed we would stay pregnant, even through dehydration and preeclampsia and advanced maternal age and hospital runs at midnight and the fortnight I slept with ice packs on my chest because it felt like the boys were splitting my sternum like a Butterball turkey’s wishbone.
Beyond saying and believing, Mike and I also played an active part in our process. We researched a ton, which included watching IVF home videos of couples who had been through this process before. (You would be amazed at how many of those there are online.) We watched those who had succeeded and we watched those who had failed and then succeeded. We searched for any and every kernal of wisdom and homeopathic hocus pocus, which leads me to Ingredient #4: pineapple core (yes, CORE) and raw walnuts.
I ate them every single day without fail for two weeks after embryo transfer to assist with implantation. The core was a bit gritty and fibrous and pulpy, but not as bad as you would think. And besides, I would’ve eaten an entire pineapple, in all of its sharp and spiney glory, if I thought it would help in our quest for the elusive sticky beans.
Coming home from the clinic on our transfer day, Mike and I implemented Ingredient 5, a tradition that carried me and our embryos through that most terrifying of times for all fertility patients: the first trimester. We listened to two very, very (have I said VERY?) uplifting and prophetic songs: Natalie Merchant’s “Wonder,” which referenced earlier, and Elton John’s, “You’ll be Blessed.” Google that one too. Right now.
These two songs became the soundtrack of our conception and gestation. I listened and sang along to them religiously every day. Every. Single. Solitary. Morning. Without fail. My power songs. Through them, Fate smiled at Destiny. Through them, the Universe laughed as she came to my cradle and laughed as my body she lifted and laughed as she filled me with her bountiful blessings. With a little help from these songs, and With love, with patience, and with faith. I made my way, and continue to make my way through this miraculous journey.
The final ingredient is absolutely NOTHING like the aforementioned ingredients. It was nothing I planned or researched or manufactured. It was completely unpredicted and unrehearsed and (thankfully) unrepeated and something I would’ve preferred had happened in a bit more private of a manner, but the Universe works in mysterious ways…
Ingredient # 6: the Collywobbles. Such a fun, playful, Roald Dahl kind of word for one of the most UNfun, UNplayful conditions known to man: intestinal distress. The night before our two little baby buds would be siphoned from a petri dish and shot through my cervix with a straw, I had an up close and personal experience with the Collywobbles. To say it was horrible would be an understatement. But I have no doubt in my mind that not only was it God trying to acclimate me to the shit storms to come (twins are nothing, if not collywobbles times two), but I also maintain that it was an integral (and embarrassing) part of our recipe for in vitro success. Doctors prescribe enemas for all manner of procedures. It just so happens that this particular order was placed by the Heavens. Now, my girls will tell you I just don’t ever discuss poop. Ever. But in keeping with the nature of my blog to give honest, heartfelt information about our journey and our family, I guess I have contracted myself into spilling all… kind of like that midsummer night’s eve three years ago.
So before getting down and dirty, allow me to set the stage as prettily as possible: Daytime was dripping into dusk and it was hothouse humid — typical August fare for Georgia. Mike was away at football and wouldn’t be home until late — again, typical August fare for a Georgia football wife.
I was at the park across from our neighborhood, the chattering rise and fall of cicada song pacing my run. Butterfly bushes lined part of my path and I was pushing myself hard. I knew that the following morning Mike and I would drive to the perimeter for transfer and I would be taking it easy for at least the next nine months. I was taking no chances. I didn’t care that my doctor had told me I couldn’t sneeze, poop, fart, laugh, hiccup or jiggle those embryos out, I was going to be as safe and sedentary as possible.
So on this hot, humid, hellhound of an August night, I decided to get my last run in and work out all of my remaining anxieties. When, much to my surprise and chagrin, on the far side of the baseball fields, in a No Man’s Land of summer perennials and the boys of summer charging their grounders and snagging fly balls– I was struck with a vicious and violent blitzkrieg. My stomach flipped and dropped. I broke out in cold sweats. My core cramped. My vision blurred. I was a half a mile from home. And I was in trouble. To call it intestinal distress would be an understatement. And to call it collywobbles seems way too pretty. And it was NOT pretty. And there was nothing I could do. Nothing but think about that horribly humiliating scene in Bridesmaids and be jealous because Maya Rudolph at least had a huge tent of a wedding dress to hide her shame. All I could do was break out in spontaneous prayer. Sincere prayer. Bona fide, true blue, unpretentious prayer. There’s no prayer more down to earth than a “please don’t let me crap myself in public“ prayer. And as I prayed, I shuffled. A hearty knees together, buttocks clenched shuffle. A get-your-Flintstone-feet-in-gear shuffle. And I am here to tell you that bona fide prayer and heartfelt hustle will get you far. It’ll get you darn near half a mile. Close, but no latrine. I made it to our driveway, and I am forever thankful for that small blessing.
And then then floodgates of Heaven opened and the rest is a poorly digested visual. I don’t know if it was nerves, a beastly bug, or the reheated half of a Reuben sandwich from Larry’s Giant Subs I had for dinner, but I was dealt a savage– and I believe an extremely fortuitous, hand. I thoroughly believe the Universe decreed that I have a completely pristine vessel in which to implant my little lads. I’m convinced that in our parenting game of chance and childbirth, my royal flush didn’t beat a full house, it helped make one. (Sorry, terrible pun.)
Anyways… that is our sticky beans recipe. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Note I didn’t say THE recipe for success. Everyone’s recipe will different. And the climate and the conditions and the Universe all have a mighty say in how and when and where the blessings will be rewarded. Some beans will be organic and simply made, with no assistance whatsoever. Others will need chemical intervention, like ours did. And still others will be harvested elsewhere and then supplied. But know that if you want it deeply enough, badly enough, heartily enough, your own little peas will be delivered unto you. Thus sayeth the Universe. So dig deep.
I have a passion for teaching English to high schoolers. A passion for seeing kids learn, seeing kids’ faces light up with understanding and excitement. Sadly, I see that light diminishing more with each passing year.
This week begins my 18th year of teaching English to secondary students. And every year, fewer and fewer students love to read. Heck, let’s get rid of the phrase “love to” and state the facts: Every year, fewer and fewer students read. Anything.
Or I guess I should qualify that statement — kids do read a little. And by a little, I mean memes. They’ll read something if it’s shorter than a sentence. And is paired with an image.
And they write that way too. Sentences are overrated. They want fragments, abbreviations, and emojis. That’s how kids communicate these days.
Which means my subject matter — literature and composition — is rapidly dying. It’s very nearly dead — and almost universally despised by my students. So I have a hard task in front of me, trying to save something most kids would love to see buried and gone.
On the first day of school, they are always so happy to brag to me about how much they hate English class. How they don’t read and they don’t want to. They once read a book in 7th grade, they’ll tell me when pressed, about some boy and a plane that crashed. “Hatchet?” I ask. “Yeah, that’s it,” they say. It’s the only book they’ve ever read. “Nothing since?” I whimper. They laugh. “Nope.” And my heart sinks. Every time.
How can I resuscitate a skill that far gone? Something that breathed — once — three years back and then flatlined, never to even be mourned?
We are in the era of smart phones and laptops. Kids don’t even watch television anymore. They watch their portable screens. And mostly quick, entertaining segments on YouTube. If it’s not quick, they won’t usually give it their time. And if it doesn’t grab their attention in the first 30 seconds, they’re hitting the search bar looking for something else.
Kids’ attention spans are jaded and fading. They want new, new, new and fast, fast, fast. And reading meets none of those requirements; writing, even less.
How do I, as an educator, compete in this fast and furious climate and culture?
Sometimes I worry that it’s just too late. That I simply don’t have the ability to raise Literacy from the dead. Indeed, the prognosis is bleak.
Case in point: my students from last year. I love them dearly, and I really believed that together, we’d made all sorts of progress. Now, I knew they weren’t out randomly picking up books instead of their iPhones, but I still thought I’d made some sort of impact. I thought they’d at least enjoyed the literature we read together.
But then I had a group of kids tell me a couple weeks back how much they hated To Kill a Mockingbird. Hated it.
And I wanted to cry. I failed them miserably. And I deceived myself in the process.
How can I remedy my failure? How can I bring the joy of reading and the art of writing back from the brink of death? Or is it already too late?
I know for a fact I can’t do it on my own. It’s impossible. Trauma surgeons have whole teams working in conjunction to keep their patients alive. From paramedics to ER docs to nurses to lab techs to anesthetists to surgical residents and attendings, everybody does their part, separately and together, to keep the patient from multiple system failure. Resuscitating literacy can’t all ride on me.
And it can’t all wait till it gets to me either. Fifteen years without a heart for reading is probably too late. Sure, I might find a feeble pulse in a couple of kids and nurture it back into a steady beat, but saving 2 kids out of 185 is not enough.
Nope, it’s got to be more and it’s got to begin sooner. It needs to begin at home. With parents and their babies.
Parents, read to your children. Read to them early — as newborns, even. It’s never too soon, I promise. Read them Goodnight, Moon. Read them The Grouchy Ladybug. Read them Green Eggs and Ham. And sing to them, too. Sing nursery rhymes. Sing The Itsy Bitsy Spider, sing The Wheels on the Bus. Heck, sing Baby Shark, if you dare.
But read to them, and sing to them, and foster in them the love of language.
Then, we teachers will keep it going — from preschool all the way through senior year and beyond. Together, we can foster lifelong readers and writers… and excellent communicators. This world needs these skills. Desperately.
Cackling farts — from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. And I certainly love me some vulgarity. Anyone who knows me knows my propensity for my favorite four-letter acronym – one I’m trying to curb since I’ve got these two impressionable young lads soaking in vocabulary like spaghetti sauce (or pureed prunes, or masticated teddy grahams, or you name it) on your favorite silk blouse (but I’ll save the stain stories for another blog). Still, “cackling farts” is simply the grossest, funniest, most colorful, obscene, and obscure term for EGGS I ever did hear. And this post is dedicated to them.
Eggs. Such simple things, it would seem. But simple, or not, as humans, we are fascinated by them. We eat them for breakfast in numerous ways, from the simply scrambled or over-easy, to the fancy-schmancy eggs benedict or quiche. And the recipes go on and on…
We’ve also built idioms around them. Some to reflect personality: “you’re a tough egg to crack” or he’s a “good egg” or a “bad egg.” Others reflect embarrassment: you can have “egg on your face” or we’ll tell someone to “go suck an egg.” We can use them in terms of monetary metaphors: we build “nest eggs” or search for “the goose that laid the golden egg” or we’re cautioned not to “put all our eggs in one basket.”
Naturally, if there are idioms about eggs, there are bound to be books about eggs. Some of the greatest literature features them. From Gulliver’s Travels to The Handmaid’s Tale to “Green Eggs and Ham,” we celebrate and admonish, using the Egg.
So eggs are far more complicated than the chalky-white ovals of serene, life-giving perfection they might seem. They house SO MUCH POTENTIAL. In the afore-mentioned The Handmaid’s Tale, the narrator proclaims, “I think that this is what God must look like: an egg.” And then later, “If I have an egg, what more can I want?”
Interestingly enough, this novel is about infertility. An entire nation that has fallen on post-nuclear sterility. The narrator may or may not be infertile. She has one daughter. She, nor the reader, knows for certain if she can get pregnant again.
And just like Offred, six years ago, I myself didn’t know if I would be able to carry children again.
We had an appointment with our fertility specialist, Dr. Mark Perloe, at Shady Gove Fertility in Atlant. (I can’t sing his praises highly enough!!! If you are contemplating IVF or if you are struggling with infertility of any sort, go see HIM.) Anyway, at that very first meeting, Dr. Perloe informed us that a woman over 40 had nearly zero chance of getting pregnant with her own eggs, and that we would need to use a donor.
My eggs were past their expiration date.
Now, you know what? I knew that already. Of course I did. I’m an educated woman. I do my research. I knew it going in. Still, his words stung just a bit. Just for a second. Not, though, for the reason you are probably thinking (the use of donor eggs).
NOPE, it was the Advanced Maternal Age phrase he used. AMA, a three-letter acronym that isn’t nearly as fun as my favorite four-letter one, and a label that would go into my charts and follow me to delivery. I still feel twenty-two, after all. As Jimmy Buffet says, “I’m growing older, but not up…”
“Donor eggs,” though — I was already familiar with and prepared for that phrase. We were given a password and the privacy of our home to view the donor profiles and search for our potential anonymous Wonder Woman — a super hero of the highest magnitude. I am forever and ever in her debt.
It felt strange, perusing those profiles. A giddy, dizzy, feverish, frightening cyber-ride. We wanted someone as close to me as we could get. Not because we intended to hide the fact that we used donor eggs from the boys or anyone else, for that matter, it was just something we wanted.
We wanted someone who loves literature as much as me. Someone who excels in science like their big sister. Who swings a mean bat or tennis racket, like their other big sister. Who appreciates a mean game of football, like their dad. Oh, and we wanted height. A nice, tall drink of water. I’m 5’10 and so to combine that height with their daddy’s good genes, we’re hoping for a couple of defensive powerhouses one day.
“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen,” said the mighty Ralph Waldo Emerson.
And our decision, our selection, set the Universe in motion, her cogs and wheels, parts and plugs assembling the various and sundry pieces, the stardust and cackling farts, the wood glue and lacquer and metal most attractive that would spark our little fellas into being.
Her eggs. My basket. And a gaggle of Y chromosomes from Mike. Now of course, it wasn’t nearly that simple… but more on that next time.
Yesterday was my last day of summer vacation before teacher pre-planning began. My last day to relax and recharge. And I did just that.
I finally used the massage gift certificate Mike got me for a Valentine’s Day gift. (What? I’m only five months late…)
The massage was marvelous. I don’t know what took me so long. Yes I do… TWINS. Still, it was well worth the wait.
To be honest, I was more than a little anxious about this appointment, though. For the first time ever, I had a male massage therapist. And considering you’re kind of naked and vulnerable on that table — along with the fact I was raised in a cult where skin is akin to original sin — this was a giant step outside my comfort zone.
His name was Wesley, I reasoned, as I settled beneath the sheets, candles flickering lazily and zen music playing softly. Wesley is such a non-assuming, more-than-slightly-Methodist name, so what’s to worry? That, plus the splashing water sounds and chirping birdcalls helped set my mind at ease.
Turns out, there was no need to worry, whatsoever. Wesley was a perfect gentleman and a perfect massage therapist. I was always appropriately sheeted or toweled and completely at ease (mostly).
I presented quite the challenge to poor little Methodist Wesley’s protestant work ethic. I had more knots in my back than a macrame hammock, and today I kind of feel like I got stretched taut between trees until the hammock unravelled. It’s all good, though, I told him to get them out. And he did. The knots screamed; I screamed. Eventually, they succumbed and I survived.
After the trauma, I relaxed into an awesome foot massage. Now, my favorite part of any massage is always the foot part of a massage. I love it more than warm banana pudding, and that’s saying a lot. Now some of you like cold banana pudding, and that’s saying a lot, too. Like how wrong you are, and how you probably like chardonnay (and even sugar in your cornbread, too). But, whatever. You’re wrong and foot massages are all that is right in this world.
But the surprising part of yesterday’s massage — the part I loved the absolute most — was a really weird technique I’d never encountered before. I’ll call it Red Bull…
So I was lying on my back, the sheet smooth once again — its myriad of origami massage pleats deconstructed — and the session complete. Or so I thought.
It was then Wesley returned to the crown of my head, placed both his hands, palms up, under my shoulders and slid them all the way down to my kidneys. It was weird and uncomfortable. Number one — because it felt like my back was straddling train tracks, and number two — because Wesley’s chin was directly above my face. I could feel his breath. It was awkward as fundamentalism.
But then he pulled his arms backward, lifting my body with his hands as he went. It was like sails being unfurled from somewhere spiny and cramped in my center, like wings being unwound. I was in metamorphosis, and it was marvelous.
I emerged from the spa yesterday afternoon like a newborn moth, all limp and relaxed and blinking blindly in the sun, every tendon and blood vessel traceable beneath translucent skin.
Being a mother of five-year-old twin boys at 53 is a whole nother level of tired. Like 4th-circle-of-eternal-boulder-pushing-with-Sisyphus-riding-piggy-back tired.
Some days I just don’t know where I’m going to get the energy.
The boys’ constant demand for attention is so… demanding. The endless bickering, boundless messes, bottomless hunger… it all saps my energy.
While they themselves are unending bands of the stuff, bouncing and careening over any and all semblance of peace and order. And legos and play doh. And happy meal toys and wrappers. And the last remaining vestiges of nerves that make up my life.
I wonder… can I steal some of that energy? Harness it for the stamina I need to entertain these green goblins of go-gettedness for the next fourteen hours? The next fifteen years? Because I seem to have zero reserves of go-gettedness left. Zilch.
I don’t recall being anywhere near this kind of tired when my girls where little. But then again, I wasn’t anywhere near this kind of age when my girls were little. I was a young mom to young kids. Now I’m a — well, let’s just say an older mom to young kids.
Which makes my life way more than a wee-bit more exhausting. I would swear I’m anemic, but they’ve tested me for that.
Mercy. Most days I beg for mercy. And mercifully, most days, there’s the swimming pool.
Swimming is their favorite right now. They love to splash in the coolness, to feel the ripples across their shoulders, to dive beneath the surface and hear their warbling words come out in whomps that burst in bubbles above their drifting curls.
So I take them to the pool. For them — and for me. It gives them play. And it gives me peace.
It’s the easiest part of my day right now. Demands diminish in the calm, soft ripples of silver and blue. The boys splash and play like sweet little sprites, and I’m granted a blessed disconnect from the harshness of my real — and really hard — world. Until…
My goggles are slipping! I’m hungry! My noodle is missing! There’s a frog in the pool! Parker won’t talk to me! Tate broke my head! I’m hungry!!!
The whines cut the calm like a chainsaw, severing it into the bloody little jagged pieces of pandemonium that is my life.
And it dawns on me. I’m not anemic. I’m exsanguinated. There’s nothing left to bleed.
I saw a story the other day from the Wall Street Journal celebrating a slew of women in their fifties, empty-nesters with newfound freedom to fly the coop and reinvent themselves.
One woman picked up and moved to the crater of a volcano. Another biked across the United States in a peace sign pattern. A third went snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands. None though, said, “Hey, I’ll raise a second set of kids.” None.
Many women I know commented on the article, saying they’d had their children early, and now they were living their best lives.
Well… I had my children early. And I had my children late. My nest is ragged and worn, with a whole lotta years left to go.
Perhaps there’s a reason God made sure most women don’t have babies after 40, much less 48.
And now, in my summer of 53, with school about to begin again, and Sisyphus and his boulder on my back, and my 5 year old twins in my nest, and me on my own for the next six months while my husband resumes his football duties — I refuse to believe I can’t still reinvent myself. In my fifties. With a far-from-empty nest.
I will work even harder to make this writing dream of mine come true.
I will continue to carve out words from the smallest slivers of time. I will keep stringing stolen seconds into sentences. I will keep climbing the steep and thorny path of progress while keeping my nestlings as content as two five-year-old boys can possibly be. Which isn’t very. And not often.
But I will not give in. Because inside the exhaustion of it all, there is also inspiration. And there is also breathtaking beauty.
This morning, my little goblins came creeping into my bedroom at Seven-Zero-Zero, as my oldest son says. (They are NOT allowed to leave their rooms until that six-five-nine has flipped. And they waste nary a second once it has.)
For a minute, I SO wanted to bark at them to go back where they came from and just let mama sleep.
But then, they are where they came from… curled up on my body like fiddlehead ferns, tentacles tracing my cheek, lips kissing my eyelids, chattering away like baby birds about their daddy and the swimming pool and the desperate need to water the garden before it rains. We have to GET UP… NOW. And how could I be mad at that?
They are where they came from, and they are where they belong. For this season. And for always.
And yes, there’s a reason God made sure most women don’t have babies at fifty. But you know what? I’m not most women.
I can raise these boys with the grace and the grit they deserve. With the same grace and grit I raised my girls with. I will. They deserve no less.
And I can also write my memoirs and my musings and murder my little darlings (it’s a writing metaphor, please do not be alarmed…) with the grace and the grit that I deserve, too. I can and I will.
Because I’m not most women.
I had my children early, and I had my children late. My family is beautiful and messy and more-than-I-can-handle most Mondays and a whole lot of other days, too. But still… I am absolutely living my best life AND reinventing myself, too.
And while I’m not swimming with turtles off a Darwinian desert isle, it is still survival of the fittest in all its glory. It’s all fight AND all flight. And while most days I feel I’ve been exsanguinated, I’m not dead yet.
Why are Americans yelling at other Americans to go back where they came from? What has our country become?
Apparently, a hate-spewing-and-mongering place where if you aren’t white and a man, you must not belong. Where you definitely don’t belong on a platform where you’ll be heard.
I mean, that was definitely the case for me as a girl growing up. I was white (which made my life a little easier), but not male. So I was just supposed to shut up and let the white patriarchy “take care of everything” for me.
I knew a long time ago that sort of governing body wasn’t for me. I wanted a voice. I didn’t just want it — I needed it. So I fought hard for it and I found it. And there’s no way in hell im going back where I came from.
And now I’m willing to fight hard for these congresswomen and for all women — to be strong and belong.
I really thought our country had moved past such a heinous viewpoint. But now, that’s pretty much all I see and all I hear. White men in power telling women to go back where they came from, whatever that means.
And I honestly think I know what that means. They want women to go back to the days of their youth (the men’s youth, where women stayed silent and submissive). There are even some women (quite a few of them, actually) chanting right along. Serena Joy would be so proud…
Well, this woman is not going back where she came from. I’m using my voice for more than parroting the patriarchy. I learned what that could get me a long time ago, and I’ll be f***ed if I’m going back to that place again. Legitimately.
So I will persist in stating my opinions and in fighting for my voice, my body, my rights. For all our rights.
Because despite the fact that women make less on the dollar than the average man and we hold less seats in our “representative” government, we are STILL equal citizens in the eyes of the law.
But if we don’t keep fighting, I’m not sure that will stay the case. If we don’t keep fighting and speaking up and demanding change and demanding accountability, our representative government might very well go back to the government of 1776… All white. All male. And all, by the way, immigrant. There’s a piece of white, patriarchal irony for ya.
Today is Mike’s and my seven-year wedding anniversary. Our wedding was a lot like us – eclectic and quirky.
We wed on a goat farm under a giant oak next to a babbling creek. A thousand paper cranes bore witness, along with about fifty of our most cherished family and friends.
There was a belt of active thunderstorms all day long (we got rain on our wedding day – excellent luck, I hear), but a donut hole of blue skies kept our ceremony dry — or as dry as a muggy, mid-July night in Georgia can possibly be.
One of my favorite wedding photos is of Mike and me from behind, his hand at the small of my back, while sweat pearls on my shoulders and beads on my spine. It’s not glamorous, by any means. But it’s real. Like our love.
We put the wedding together in a few, quick weeks. You heard right — weeks, not months. SIX Weeks to be exact.
Mike proposed on Memorial Day (to my dog, by the way) and we didn’t want to wait until the following summer, so we crossed our fingers and made it happen. Apparently we thrive in chaos. I guess it was our trial run for raising twin boys. If we could pull off venue and invitations, dress and catering, cake and honeymoon — the whole nine yards — in a month-and-a-half, we could handle anything.
So yes, Mike proposed to my dachshund. I guess he knows how much I loved the little wiener (No, that’s not an Asian joke!). And while he didn’t EXACTLY propose to her, somehow in my misguided and vodka-fogged, post-Memorial Day party brain, I thought he was talking to her when he dropped on one knee beside me on the love seat. I very nearly missed the question, the question I’d been anticipating for a while. (We’d been dating quite exclusively and seriously for four years, after all.) Sometimes I’m a dumbass.
Anyways, once all that got cleared up and I said yes, the game clock began. We knew we had virtually no time, but we also knew we wanted all of our choices to mean something. (Sounds ironic, coming from a woman who thought her future husband chose her dog, but still…)
I knew I wanted cranes: 1000 origami cranes, to be exact. As a nod to Mike’s Asian heritage. 1000 origami cranes threaded with fishing line for the illusion of flight, and strung here, there and yonder-where.
And I wanted a post-Edwardian era gown — the time period of Downton Abbey’s glory; the time period of Agatha Christie’s country house mysteries; the time period of my beloved grandmother’s youth. Those were my two wishes. The rest could fall as it may.
The dress came easy. I found it online. When it came, it fit perfectly. The only dress I ever tried on. I felt delicious and decadent — like Lady Mary or Clarissa Dalloway. So the dress came easy.
The cranes… eh, not so much. Anything mathematical is not my forte. And origami, whether it actually is or is not, felt mathematical to me – all those congruent right triangles and bisected angles. I just couldn’t seem to grasp it.
That is until my seven-year-old nephew Jackson taught us how to make them over a veeeeerrrryyy long weekend in Scottsdale. Jackson is an origami wizard. He can craft the Taj Mahal, if given ten minutes and a tissue. He tutored us patiently and precisely, and with a lot of help and some martini time outs (for me, not him), I finally mastered it. Which meant we only had approximately 999 more to go before game time.
Now the goat farm was, quite simply, destiny. For some odd and glorious reason, goats have played a pivotal role in Mike’s and my courtship, from the goat raffle (yes, you read right) I was running when I met him that first football season (we’re weird ‘round these parts) to the charming and bizarre Goats on the Roof general store we visited one Spring Break, we sort of have a weird and wonderful connection with bearded billies. Combine that with the fact that Bethany’s best friend’s family has a goat farm and BAM! Goat farm, it was — complete with tire swing.
The rest feels like a blur. A big, glorious purple and gold blur– Mike’s college colors and our chosen palette. The ring bearer’s “pillow” was a prized football. We used books and borrowed vases for centerpieces. I found the perfect shoes – which were plain and simple pumps, laced up and layered in all sorts of awesomeness via Etsy.
Family from near and far arrived to help steam dresses, arrange flowers, decorate the venue, cook Korean BBQ, and participate in the ceremony. One niece played the violin; another read e.e. cummings. My nephews lit the lanterns; Mike’s carried the rings. My brother-in-law, a film editor in Hollywood, shot the video.
Everything, I mean everything, just folded together into a masterpiece. Like our 1000 cranes, we layered, creased, pressed and adjusted until, “Voila!” — dream nuptials in a nanosecond.
My girls were my bridesmaids, and while I don’t necessarily recommend the turbulent and tumultuous past required to use your very own daughters in your bridal party, I must say… I must explain… well… when I try to voice what it felt like — having them stand there at the altar with me, supporting and loving me, supporting and loving Mike; opening their arms and hearts and lives to allow him to join our intimate little clan of incandescence and joy… words fail me. I’m at a loss. Let’s just say, it was THE special ingredient, THE added love element that made the wedding as absolutely perfect as perfect can be.
There are so many other tiny tidbits I could share, including my grandmother’s posthumous contribution, our extended Peters metaphor, hangover knavery, and inadvertent F bombs, but I think I should quit while I’m ahead.
Let’s just say that as Mike and I celebrate our seventh wedding anniversary, I was reminded of how unbelievably blessed we truly are. Our wedding was perfect because of our families. Correction… Family. Our nuclear and extended crews melded into a giant conglomeration of love and crazy and talent — and helped us pull off the impossible: a wedding in six weeks.
And on that sublime and sultry July night seven years ago, we were folded, pressed, and pleated into a multilayered, multifaceted masterpiece of a fine, new family.