When is a Meme Not A Meme?

When you just pluck one out of the ether and use it for NaBloPoMo.

I’m not doing tags, but here’s the basic idea:

Seven random or strange facts about myself. If you read this and feel inspired to share, link to me!

1. I sucked my thumb as a child. As a matter of fact, I sucked my thumb until I was 12 or so. Not in public (not after I was 6 years old, anyway), but at night as I slept. I don’t remember how I finally broke the habit, whether it was wearing socks to bed or some bad-tasting ointment. Maybe I just outgrew it.

2. I absolutely cannot fall asleep in a room where a closet door is open, especially if it is open a crack. This is because of the short story by Stephen King called “The Boogeyman”. I read it when I was 12 or 13. It scared the sweet be-jeepers out of me. The same day I finished it, I went to sleep over a friend’s house. Her closet door was open a crack — and it didn’t close (I tried). I lay awake all night waiting for the boogeyman to come out of that closet and scare me to death.

I am not kidding.

I was an imaginative child. And, apparently, for some unknown reason, my parents were letting me read Stephen King at 12 years of age.

3. Related to #2: I cannot put my hand down a kitchen sink drain with a disposal. This is because of a scene in Firestarter, which was the first King book I ever read. If something goes down that drain, it’s staying there until DearDR gets it. Most times, while he has his hand down the drain, I have to leave the room.

4. I once left my apartment — after getting ready for bed — to go to the bar where I was pretty sure my then-boyfriend would be so he could come back to my apartment to… (can you guess? I bet you can’t)… kill a cockroach for me. He wasn’t there; I was too embarrassed to ask anyone else I knew to help me. After a couple of beers, I went home. Fortunately by the time I got back, my roommate’s cat had killed the roach. And was eating it.

Another night of a lot of sleep for me.

5. I have kept a journal (NOT a diary) since I was in sixth grade. Some years I have written more than others. This blog is my journal now.

6. Somewhat related to #5: When I was 15 or 16, my father read my journal, and based on what he read, coerced me into psychotherapy. In my opinion, it was the usual teenage angst (which I do not mean to belittle as at the time it was very weighty to me. I hope I remember to not condesend to my daughters when they have teenage angst. And not to read their journals, either. Dad.), but if I recall correctly, he was worried about something to the effect of “I’d like to go to sleep for a very long time” and perhaps thought I was suicidal. I went to therapy, where I was pretty much told (to my disappointment) that most teenagers felt the exact same way I did at times, and I wasn’t alone.

It took me a long time to forgive my father for reading my journal. But I did.

7. I wrote my first poem when I was in fourth grade. It was called “Imagination”. I read it in front of my class and everything! It was very exciting. That was when I knew I wanted to be a writer. I remember telling my mom I wanted to be a writer. Her response, “Oh, honey. You should be a pharmacist, and you can write in your spare time.” My parents are pharmacists. I recalling thinking, “We are not communicating here.”

For the record, and lest you get the wrong idea from a couple of these facts, I have great parents. We are just different in some basic ways. For example, they are very scientific and I am very creative. It took us a long time to be able to understand and accept each other. And now I consider them great friends as well as awesome parents. And, frankly, as grandparents, they rock.

Meatless Monday: A Holiday Side Dish

I love this recipe because it takes what can be a time-consuming dish and converts it into a slow-cooker recipe. I did not adapt this one at all.

From Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker

Wild Mushroom Risotto

1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced (okay, I usually use 2)
1 1/4 cup arborio rice
2 cups chopped cremini mushrooms
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup white wine
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or soy cheese substitute)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsely leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Soak the dried porcini in the boiling water for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup of the soaking liquid. Chop mushrooms and set aside.

2. In a medium-sized skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until fragrant and slightly softened, about 1 minute.

3. Transfer shallots and garlic to a 3 1/2-4-quart slow cooker. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil. Stir in all the mushrooms, the reserved soaking liquid, stock, wine, thyme and salt. Cover and cook on high for about 2 hours, until all liquid is absorbed.

4. About 5 minutes before the end of cooking time, stir in the cheese and parsely and season with pepper. To serve, spoon the risotto into shallow bowls and serve hot.

I will be making this as a side for Thanksgiving. We are heading to my parents’ house. My mom is gracious enough to get Tofurky for me and the girls, and most of her sides are vegetarian, too.

Someone at NaBloPoMo had a post about stress-free holidays or entertaining. If I can find the discussion, I’ll link to it. I think I am a fairly successful hostess, and here is what I try to do:

1. Keep it simple. I don’t put out a lot of different types of hor d’oevres if I’m making a full dinner. If I am cooking dinner, I make it a very straight-forward meal. For example, pesto-encrusted salmon, pasta with marinara, salad and bread (with another type of protein for the vegetarians). For my daughter’s birthday, I put out a big veggie tray with dip, and chips and salsa for people to munch on. The meal was soup (2 kinds. 1 veg and 2 meat), panini (4 types, 2 veg and 2 meat) and salad. Everyone had cake for dessert.

2. Delegate, delegate, delegate. My sister Earthmother helped me make the panini (she put them together, and I cooked ’em, basically). My other sister-in-law played with the kids — she even took them for a walk at one point. My brother fed Bun (even though he is ethically opposed to tofu *smile*). My mother and my MIL each brought one of the soups. In other words, let people help. It’s too hard to do everything yourself. Even Martha Stewart has staff!

3. Plan ahead, but be flexible. Have a timeline that you want things to run on, and then let things roll. Try not to get too bent out of shape if, for example, present opening takes too long. You’re not trying to get the trains to run perfectly on time; you’re entertaining people.

4. If you can make things ahead, do it. The various panini had various sauces, and I either made them ahead or, in the case of pesto, bought it pre-made (I miss my fresh basil plant).

The holidays can be — should be, make that — fun and enjoyable times, not dreadful (i.e. full of dread). Just let yourself off the hook, know your limits, and your children’s limits, and bring back the joy. This season is about love, sharing and family, not spending too much, eating too much, and running around trying to please everyone! For me, also, the Christmas season especially, is about Christ, and I am trying to teach my girls that he is the centerpiece of the season, not Santa and big shiny gifts.

Good Luck. Happy Thanksgiving, no matter how you spend it!

Afterword

Grief is a strange beast. It ebbs and flows; it buries you. Days you can’t breathe for grief, and when it ebbs, you don’t feel relief, you just wonder when it will become too great to bear again.

I know for a long time after Gabriel was gone, I kept thinking: This is not my life. I would wake up at night and listen for the baby. I would wake up in the morning, and before the truth hit me — again — I would think, “Oh, it was a bad dream.” I thought that any moment I would really wake up and find the nightmare over and Gabriel would be with us.

I kept thinking it was a test, a trial. That after we passed — however you pass a test like that — our son would be returned to us. Like God or the universe was playing a prank. A tasteless, crappy prank, but it was easier to believe that than that our Li’l Bean, as we had called him through the pregnancy, was truly gone. Was dead. Was buried in the ground, in a casket smaller than a bassinet. The bassinet that we had had waiting for him.

I had listened to that heartbeat for 37 weeks. How could it have stopped? This was not my life.

Each year, half a million babies are stillborn. Can you believe that number? 500,000! Dan and I were stunned when we met with the perinatologist and he told us that statistic. I mean, we knew it could happen, but that it did happen that often was… surprising, is as good a word as any here.

In half of those half million cases, a cause is never found. Such was the case with Gabriel. There are some theories as to why we lost Gabriel, but at the time, no answers. And nothing that said to us, “Don’t try this again.” No genetic abnormalities; his cord was not wrapped around his neck; no other trauma or reason.

He just died. Before he was ever born.

The grief washed over us. And even as the days and weeks and months went by, even as I didn’t spend as much time literally crying, the grief didn’t leave. Four plus years later, two healthy daughters later, the grief is still here.

I own it now though. I know this is my life. And while I have accepted that, and I take so much joy in my family, I feel Gabriel’s absence every day. I still cry.

And then I go and hold my little girls and my husband, and I let them heal me.

You Know, For Kids

I couldn’t find the song I wanted, namely “Hoodoo Voodoo” done by Wilco from Mermaid Avenue. “Hoodoo Voodoo” was a song Woody Guthrie wrote for his kids, and it’s a great kid song.

We don’t own a lot of kid music, and it’s very challenging for me to play “mommy” music around them. I have to screen for language and imagery when choosing from my collection.

But the Mermaid Avenue CDs are fantastic. And my kids love them!

The song below is also a favorite of DearDR’s. I’m proud of that fact because I introduced him to it, so to speak.

Photo Friday

I have a ghost in my house that sucks all the juice out of a number of my batteries. It is killing my phones (cordless), my cell phone, the digital camera, and my flip video camera.

Monkey’s toys, especially the loud ones, are just fine for some reason.

I’ve managed to get some pictures anyway.

The Party’s Over

From Monkey’s birthday party. She was pooped out, but fortunately not too over-stimulated that is was difficult to put her to bed. We walked that fine line.

My Kids Like to Get In Things

From laundry baskets to a home-made tent. (Sorry I lost most of Bun on the latter pic.)

Yeah, Monkey is wearing a T-rex pajama top and no pants. Why?

Random News and Notes

Monkey had her three year check up today. She is put together perfectly in every way. She weighs 33 pounds and is 38 inches tall. Monkey really enjoyed her check up, and was chatty with the doctor, and just generally easy going and relaxed.

And then she got two shots.

Talk about spoiling a perfectly nice time. She’s been pouting and limping since, except for those times when she is doing what she wants (arts and crafts, playing up at the mall). At those latter times, she is just fine.

Bun played peek-a-boo with Monkey and me today. We were in the downstairs potty; Monkey crawled up to the door and partially closed it. I thought she was headed up the stairs, which are right there. But then, her little hand appeared, grasped the door and pulled it open. Then she peeked her head around it at Monkey and me.

Monkey and I broke up laughing. I said, “Are you playing peek-a-boo with us?” Bun continued to play for a few minutes, while Monkey and I laughed and laughed. It was adorable.

DearDR is convinced Bun said her first word the other day. He says she took her binky out of her mouth, tried to put it in his, and said, “bingy” (i.e. binky). I am skeptical, primarily because she really hasn’t even said “dada” yet. I mean, she makes the “da da da da” sound, but she hasn’t quite addressed DearDR yet.

And she certainly isn’t saying “mama”. Little ingrate.

But DearDR wants to note for the record that he thinks her first word was binky. So noted, husband.

Now, I really have to go clean my kitchen because somehow, in the space of only a few hours, it has gotten completely trashed. We’ve been out most of the day — although we have eaten here. I guess the eat-and-run has buried the kitchen sink in dirty dishes. And I’d like to clean it up before I start dinner and it just gets messed up again. (Is there logic in that? Probably not. The logic that says, “Why make my bed? I’m just going to sleep in it again later.” Which reminds me, I also have to change the sheets…)

The Worst Day(s) of My Life

On June 4, 2003, I had a pre-natal visit. I was pregnant with our first child. Everything seemed to be going fine.

Twenty-four hours later we were a long way from “fine”.

I first noticed that the baby was quieter than usual that evening, June 4. I didn’t think too much of it because I had literally just been at the midwives and had heard his heartbeat (at the time, we didn’t know he was a boy, and we didn’t have the name Gabriel picked out). But even after a vanilla milkshake from Bruster’s with a banana added that night (can’t drink those anymore; frankly it’s a wonder I can visit a Bruster’s at all), he wasn’t kicking around.

The next day, I went to work. At the time I was working part-time as a receptionist at a hair salon, and as a freelance writer. I had decaf coffee, a Pop Tart, and then some grapes. Nothing from the baby. I called the midwives, and told them my concern, that I hadn’t felt the baby moving.

It had been less than 24 hours since my appointment. They were mystified. The midwife I spoke with suggested I have a high-carbohydrate snack and see what happened. I explained I had already done that. She asked if I would like to go to the hospital so they could find the heartbeat or do a sonogram.

We really thought everything was fine at this point. I could say something dramatic like, “I already knew my baby was dead” because in retrospect I know that now. But I didn’t think he was dead. I just thought he was quiet.

(Look, I don’t want to go into a blow-by-blow of this experience. I am going to pick the strongest images and emotions from the next few days and give them to you. We’ll go from there.)

The worst words in the world that a pregnant woman can hear: “We can’t find the heartbeat.”

The worst words a pregnant woman has to say: “I lost the baby.”

The worst moment after the worst words: When DearDR rushed into the hospital room with “that look” on his face. “That look” was so lost and scared and vulnerable. It was the look, that when you see it on someone’s face after they’ve lost someone, that you want to say, “I’m so sorry” or — worse — “It’s going to be okay.” And I couldn’t say either of those things to him. I was sorry, sorry for all of us. But it certainly wasn’t going to be okay.

The worst pain: After the epidural wears off, and they won’t bolus it anymore because the next time they turn up the pain meds, it’s because you’re getting a C-section.

The worst memory: Not having much of a memory of the hours after they hook you up to a morphine drip.

The worst denial: Denial is a powerful thing, my friends. Denial says, “They are all wrong, and this baby is fine, and when I finally get this labor started, I’m going to push out a fine, strong, healthy baby. Won’t everyone be surprised? It’s going to be great!”

The worst of everything (aside from the obvious): The look on everyone else’s face. The expression of sorrow and pain on most, and the resolute expression that your father has because he’s here to comfort you, and the pity on other faces, and the fear that everyone is hiding because why is this taking so long and why don’t they just do a C-section already, and if I have to be here one more day I’m going to lose it. The force of good cheer some of your visitors bring with them mistakingly thinking this helps you be strong.

The second worse: The waiting. The pain. The drugs.

I delivered Gabriel on Sunday June 8 at 2 a.m. in the morning (that time is not exact). It was Pentecost Sunday.

To paraphrase (a lot): “The Lord said, ‘I will send my Holy Spirit to you in your hour of greatest need. And he will make you strong.'”

And the Spirit did. I would be lying if I didn’t add, I wish I hadn’t needed the Spirit quite as much. God could have kept the Spirit if I could have had my son. It was, indeed, the darkest hour in my life. I am pretty sure DearDR would second that.

Gabriel was 5 pounds 4 ounces and 21 inches long. He was a beautiful baby — he truly had the most gorgeous hands, with long, long fingers.

I wish I knew what color his eyes were. I wish I had heard him cry. I could fill pages and pages of all that I wish in relation to Gabriel. You get the idea, I’m sure. If you are a parent; if you have lost a child. You know.

Gabriel was the name that DearDR and I picked before the morphine hook-up, when the epidural was still working. We picked a girl’s name, too, but I don’t remember what it was. Gabriel means, “gift of God”. And if that sounds weird, well, I’ll explain it another day. I’m pretty wiped out right now.

You can imagine why.

Crazy Eights

I’ve been tagged for a meme by Katie at No Assembly Required. I have to say this is my first tag! My meme cherry has been popped. *blush*

So here goes:

8 things I am passionate about:

1. My family (this probably goes without saying, but I may need the padding). My daughters are amazing, and my husband is pretty incredible too. They make me feel humble, actually. And lucky.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers football
3. Vegetarian and organic eating. When thinking about this list, I was seriously worried about what I was going to put on it (still am for that matter, I’m doing this on the fly). But then this topic occurred to me. I almost dismissed it, but then I thought, “I would no more eat meat — or feed my daughters meat — than burn my own house down.” So, yeah, it fits the bill. I wish we ate more organic, but… I’m doing the best I can with what I got. (You’ll see that sentiment again momentarily.)
4. My faith relationship with God. Uh, this should probably be number one. A “not necessarily in this order” disclaimer should be applied to this list.
5. Environmentalism/sustainability. I have a lot further to go on this one, but I am hoping every little baby step counts.
6. Reading. I love to read anything and everything I can get my hands on. My husband truly thinks this comes under “addiction”, not “passion”.
7. Writing. I cannot wait to take more time to do this more often.
8. Running/exercise. You wouldn’t actually know this if you met me now — not because of the way I look (I’m skinny) — but I am out of shape. I love to run and exercise, and it is the next thing on the list of things I have to, have to get back into my life.

8 things I want to do before I die

1. See my children grow up to be lovely, happy, responsible adults. Winning a Nobel or Pulitzer prize is optional.
2. Write a book, either a novel or memoir. I truly believe I have books in me. I just have to be disciplined enough to get them out.
3. Travel to Ireland.
4. Earn my MFA in writing (probably poetry).
5. Spend a couple of weeks alone with my husband on the West Coast doing bed & breakfasts and winery tours.
6. Buy a hybrid car.
7. Plant a garden that uses compost in my backyard.
8. Have another baby boy. Well, if I do get pregnant again (after Bun turns 2 please dear God), I will take a girl, too. But if I could choose, I would love to have a healthy boy this time around.

8 things I say often

1. I’m doing the best I can with what I got.
2. Listen to me.
3. No; also: Not right now.
4. I love you and/or I love you, too.
5. Do you have to go potty? Let’s go on the potty.
6. Get your hands (or feet) off your sister.
7. Please give that back.
8. I really need some time to myself. (this one to DearDR when he asks, “What’s wrong?” And, often, when he doesn’t ask.)

8 books I’ve read recently (I can’t swear these are the most recent. I read a lot.)

1. Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood
2. Pattern Recognition, by William Gibson
3. The Last Days of Dogtown, by Anita Diamant
4. The Laughing Man, by T. M. Wright
5. The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini (I know, this is two books, but I’m counting by authors)
6. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
7. Everyone Worth Knowing, by Lauren Weisberger
8. Guilty Pleasures, by Laurell K. Hamilton (I gotta say, this book SUCKED. She may be a popular author, but, man, she writes like a brick. Everything else on this list I would recommend. 1, 5 & 6, highly, even.)

8 songs I could listen to over and over

1. Seven Nation Army, White Stripes
2. Either/Or, Wilco
3. California Stars, Wilco & Billy Bragg
4. In the Sun and Devil’s Broom, Joseph Arthur (so dark, so beautiful)
5. Half Acre, Hem
6. Just about anything from Fountains of Wayne
7. Turn on Me, the Shins
8. Just about anything from Death Cab for Cutie

8 things that attract me to my best friends

1. They are smart.
2. They are fun, but not reckless.
3. Even when I don’t see them for weeks/months/years, even, it’s like we’ve never been apart.
4. They are always there — good times, bad times, even (gulp) boring times.
5. Where applicable, their kids. Where not applicable, their pets! *smile*
6. They don’t make fun of me. Too much.
7. They take my side.
8. Despite my dunderheaded moments (which — hey, there aren’t that many! right? hmmm), they still call me back and invite me to go out with them.

Now, I am supposed to tag 8 people I think should do Crazy Eights. I would like to pick only NaBloPoMo people, but I think some of them (Soy is the New Black and Sarcastic Mom come immediately to mind) have already been tagged. So I will pick:

1. Misfit Hausfrau*
2. Her Bad Mother*
3. MaryP at It’s Not All Mary Poppins
4. Chag at Cynical Dad (I think he just did something like this, only in 4s, so if he doesn’t do it again, I won’t be put out)
5. Burgh Baby Mama
6. Andrea Frets at Fretting the Small Stuff
7. Frances C at Fleeting Moments
8. Any of my friends who read this site, but don’t comment. E-mail me!

* These two lovely ladies, one of whom I know “in real life”, are going through some difficult times. So if they don’t meme, we all understand why. Please keep them in your prayers/send good vibes their way.

Monday’s Meatless Main Dish

Adapted from Great Recipes for Good Health (published by Reader’s Digest)

Hearty Lentil Stew
Serves 8 — with plenty left over to freeze

3 cloves garlic
Olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 large stalks celery, chopped
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups lentils
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cans diced tomatoes, with juice
1 tsp. rosemary, crumbled
Black pepper to taste
1/4 pound small mushrooms, halved
4 medium all-purpose potatoes (about 1 lb.), peeled and cut into cubes*

1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, saute garlic and onions in olive oil. Add carrots and celery; saute for 15 minutes or until they begin to soften. Add lentils; stir to coat with oil.
2. Add broth, tomatoes, rosemary and pepper. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 35 minutes.
3. Add mushrooms and potatoes after 35 minutes. Simmer another 20 to 25 minutes, or until potatoes and lentils are tender. Serve over white or brown rice.

* You can also use smaller potatoes, such as red potatoes. You don’t have to peel them if, like me, you don’t want to bother.

Another popular dish at my house. DearDR and the kids love lentils, and this makes enough for more than one meal. If you don’t want to use rice, you can serve it with a nice hearty loaf of bread. A green salad rounds out the meal.

Three Years Ago Today

I gave birth to a healthy baby girl. That’s you, Monkey.

When I discovered I was pregnant again, nine months after we lost Gabriel, I had a curious feeling: very quiet, very calm. I felt the part of me that wanted to be fearful, and I stoically closed that door. What came into my heart instead was the feeling of strong faith.

When people asked, “Aren’t you scared?” I answered, “I have a lot of faith.” I did have faith: in my midwives and doctors, in me, in God, and, most especially, in you, Monkey. I just had the belief that your heart would not break mine.

To say that my pregnancy with Monkey was joyful would not be correct. We were so wounded, still. To say it was completely without anxiety would be overstating it, too.

But there was the quiet whisper of faith. It sustained me — and in turn, DearDR — through 38 weeks. Through anxious sonograms and non-stress tests. Through the discovery of low amniotic fluid and modified bedrest. Through gallons and gallons of water that I quickly grew tired of drinking. Through the blanket that I knit for you while on that bedrest.

Faith and your heartbeat.

DearDR and I entered the hospital on a Wednesday evening to begin induction. Pitocin would be started the following morning, and I would be tended by the midwife on call.

My labor seemed to progress very quickly, but I don’t remember a lot of pain. At about 8 hours, I got to the pushing contractions. I started to push. I remember feeling a rush of strength, of triumph.

Monkey got stuck.

She was “sunny-side up”, meaning that her face was toward the ceiling. It’s not the optimal position for a vaginal birth.

I kept pushing. I lost complete track of time. I tried position after position after position: standing, kneeling, squatting, and so on. (I did not have an epidural.)

The perinatologist on call, Dr. C, came in when I was about two and a half hours into pushing. She assessed the situation, talked to my midwife and DearDR. She probably talked to me, too, but I really don’t recall. I remember talk about vacuum forceps, trying to turn the baby, and the dreaded “c” word — Cesarean section.

Dr. C attempted to manually turn Monkey. It was the worst pain I had ever felt in my life — and I’m in labor here. She tried again. I begged her to stop. I was laying on my back with my legs spread hell-to-breakfast, and I could see her getting ready to try it again. My midwife had one of my legs, but the other one was free. I took aim at Dr. C’s head, because I fully intended to kick her if she hurt me. DearDR saw my face and grabbed my leg.

I was pretty close to hating him in that moment.

I determined that Dr. C would not be right. She didn’t think I could push that baby out. I proved her wrong about half an hour later.

At 11:11 p.m. on 11-11-2004 (not kidding) I pushed Monkey into the world. Her eyes were wide open.

And now you are three years old, Monkey. Happy Birthday. You are one of two of the brightest lights in my life. I love you.