Thursday, November 30, 2006

Wherein Exciting News is Announced

And so it came to pass that on November 29th at 10:30 a.m., I did waddle into the ultrasound room at Dr. S.'s office, and was accompanied by my sweet husband and not just one but two sets of grandparents, wherein we learned that, Baby P-M does indeed possess, as the technician said, "boy parts." And lo there was much weeping and laughing and all sorts of overwhelming sensations.

I still am a bit shocked, as I really was pretty convinced that it was a baby Ella rather than a baby Grayson kicking around in my belly. It is still so foreign to me that my body, my female body, my feminist-with-every-inch-of-her-being body, could create a male. I'm not sure I know how to "do boy."

And then I realize, that by creating this kind of stereotyping, this sense that boys are that much different than girls, that I am perpetuating the kind of wretched stereotyping that believes that boys care about things like monster trucks and WWF wrestling, and that girls care about things like Barbie dolls and hair salons. What kind of namby-pamby feminist is that?

I can't wait to look into the eyes of my son and see the sensitive soul that lurks within. And today, I am humbled by the chance to welcome and adore him. Advent feels very fresh this year.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


This is a traditional Thanksgiving Day post. As trite as Thanksgiving can at times become, though, I am reminded that at least once a year we set aside a day to remember all with which we have been blessed. Years ago I gave up the "pilgrims and indians sat down and ate lots of stuff together" idea, mostly because the Trail of Tears afterward seems to cancel out any of that Hallmark card smoochiness, and I still remain a little, or rather a lot, uncomfortable with what our (meaning my white brothers and sisters) did to our native American brothers and sisters. Add to this the fact that I just really don't like turkey, or mashed potatoes, or gravy, or (gasp) pumpkin pie (but the rolls, I could make a whole meal on the rolls alone), so the specifics of the meal aren't a huge priority for me.

However, (and you knew there was a however, didn't you?), as I lay awake last night a baby kicking away in my belly thanks to that MochaJava frozen drink I requested from Borders (note to self: no more caffeine for the kid) I am especially mindful this year of all that I have to be thankful for and that makes this holiday especially poignant.

And so in the spirit of the season, here is a mere sampling of the Contemplative Chaplain's Gratitude List (in absolutely no particular order):
  • For advanced fertility treatments and the kind staff who administer them who give hope to those who may not be able to have biological children on their own "naturally."
  • For health insurance that covers a $40 anti-nausea pill for morning sickness.
  • For maternity clothes which neither cling too tightly, nor billow in the breeze.
  • For kind neighbors who make baklava for you, and other kind neighbors who volunteer to come over and move television sets for you without even knowing your first name.
  • For growing girls who are wise beyond their years but who still like to lie on the couch and tell fart jokes with their (step)parents.
  • For sweet clementines in season.
  • For parents who cry in joy when you talk about their newest grandchild, and for parents who kindly offer much-needed funding when it seems that financial burdens are too great.
  • For a husband who accomodates pregnancy cravings without mumbling, tells me "You're not fat, you're pregnant and you look fine!" and who still looks at me with eyes which light up when I walk into a room.
  • For a democratic house and senate.
  • For dachshunds whose feet smell like cornchips who burrow under the afghan near me and snore softly and sweetly while I watch movies.
  • For friends both near and far who call me when they hear I'm sick, and throw me impromptu baby showers, and drive five hours with two children under the age of three just to help us register at Babies R Us.
  • For peanut M&M's.
  • For elderly patients with wizened faces and soft hands who call me "Honey" and tell me they love me when I say goodbye.
  • For term limits on the presidency.
  • For extended family who graciously open their homes to us and cook us steaks and bake us brownies and know my favorite brand of scotch.
  • For Nature's Miracle enzymatic cleaner and cat litter deodorizer.
  • For spring hyacinths.
  • For hope.
Thank you, my sweet "blogees" for reading, for supporting me, for offering your graced presence to this delightful little amusement which gives me such joy. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Baby 1, Cooper 0

Lately all the pregnancy manuals (which if I were a wiser woman I might just stop reading), are talking about that euphoric moment when you feel the first kicks, those butterfly flutters that you realize aren't just gas pains, but a living being in your belly. I've been a little perplexed about this quickening, worrying some that I'm delayed, that my baby is developmentally unskilled at providing the kinds of kicks worthy of a ballet or soccer field (whichever he or she decides to flourish in, I'm rooting for tai chi myself).

At the last doctor's appointment, when the doctor smothered the Wesson oilish stuff on my belly and rubbed the Doppler machine over my already swollen stomach, we heard the quick swishing, swishing of the heartbeat, punctuated by lots of static. The doctor said, "Those are kicks you're hearing. You've got a pretty active baby in there." So, whenever I get anxious about not feeling the baby myself, I just repeat Dr. S.'s mantra, "It's an active baby in's an active baby in there..." over and over until I feel better, or imagine I feel something.

And then, yesterday morning, whilst lying in bed on my back, Cooper, the 22lb. tomcat decided to come a calling. He's learning that he can no longer pounce on my belly in a desperate attempt for some human lovin'. But, he still seems to feel the need to slowly explore with his front paws my growing belly. He'll come up next to me and with an exploratory paw get ready to navigate my middle section. Usually, it's at this point that I stop him in mid-pounce and redirect his efforts. However, yesterday morning I was a little sleepy, a little slow with the reflexes, and Cooper's paw landed a little too heavily on my belly, at which point the baby gave a resounding kick back.

So, for the record, that would be baby: 1. Cooper: 0. Let the games begin.

Friday, November 03, 2006

I Love My Job

Sometimes my work is heavy, heavy, heavy. Sometimes I see too much sadness and death. Sometimes I see too many tears and feel burdened by deathbed confessions and family secrets. Sometimes I ask myself why I do this work when I can't shake off the grief at the end of a day. Sometimes I forget why God called me here.

And then, sometimes, I have visits which remind me of the absurdities of life, and I giggle helplessly and imagine God winking at me with bright sparkling eyes.

My visit with Violet was one of those times, one of those times when I remembered that we as hospice workers must have a quirky sense of humor to stay fresh and balanced.

Violet has been on service for over a year. She is in her late 80s and when I met her, she was a firecracker, filled with spark and life. Violet was a housekeeper and she kept the homes in an urban environment of the wealthy and polished. Violet, being from a proudly working-class background, regaled me in that first visit with tales of the rich and famous and she told all the stories with a hint of sarcasm in her voice. She was an old lefty. Founder of a house church which practiced social justice. She had made the decision to come into a facility on her own, because she didn't want to burden her children. And she had carefully researched this specific facility. She liked it because it was geographically in between both of her children's homes. Violet had a practical no-nonsense streak to her. We hit it off right away. "Come back anytime, honey!" she called as I left that first day.

In the past year, Violet's become frail. Her mind wanders into places where she can't and won't lead me. She sleeps quite a bit. She's wasted away to less than 75 lbs. and we recently had to order a child-sized wheelchair to accomodate her shrinking frame. It makes me sad to see her. I often don't stay very long, which is okay, because she never wakes up to greet me anymore anyway. I leave my card on her bedside table and call her daughter after I leave to report that I was there. Violet hasn't been Violet much lately.

A few days ago I went to the nursing home to see Violet. I expected our normal routine. She'd sleep. I'd call her name. She'd sleep. I'd hold her hand. She'd sleep. I'd sing. She'd sleep. I'd leave.

But when I arrived in Violet's room, her bed was made and she was nowhere to be seen. I confess that my first thought was that Violet had died, and no one had called me. I asked the nurse in the hallway, "Where is Violet?" And she smiled a slow smile and said, "Guess what? She woke up today, so we took her to exercise."

The word "exercise" at most extended care facilities is a huge overstatement. And, this facility in particular has an "exercise program" which leaves a lot to be desired. It is run by two Women's Fellowship volunteers from the local Lutheran church who play praise music on a Jurassic boombox and sit back to back with their charges in wheelchairs circling around them. The "teachers" then recite a well-rehearsed litany in a monotone that goes something like this, "okay-now-m0ve-your-fingers-and-one-and-two-and-three-and-four-and-now-circle-your-wrists-and-one-and-two-and-three-and-four-and-now-wiggle-your-toes-and-one..." all spoken in the same droll monotone which says, "I really could care less about doing this, or about you." It was depressing to watch. And I immediately scanned the circle of white heads for Violet's.

I found her, slumped in her wheelchair decidedly asleep. I tried to wake her. No good. I tried to touch her hand. No response. Violet had opted for the easy way to tune out "exercise," and who could blame her.

I sat on the floor next to her and began doing my own version of the Lawrence Welk on Sedatives Exercise Plan led by Tweedle Dull and Tweedle Duller, the Jane Fondas of resident exercise plans minus the leg warmers and communist sentiments. I let the demented patient on the other side of me pat my head and say, "Good puppy." I considered panting happily and looking at him with begging eyes. "Exercise" (and I use that term lightly) went on for another ten minutes or so. As I was doing a head turn for a count of four, I was shocked to see Violet's eyes were open. "Violet! Hi!" I bubbled. Her eyes focused on mine and she smiled.

And then she leaned over and said to me with that sparkle in her eye and a smile on her face in a slow conspiratorial whisper which punctuated every word, "I... hate ...this ...crap. Get me out of here." Never had I seen her more lucid. I laughed and she said, "Really. Let's go. This is crap." And she spoke her second request a little louder, but still with the smile on her lips as if she knew she had found in me a kindred spirit. I couldn't have agreed more with her assessment. I happily excused us from our work-out session, feigning a pulled pinky finger muscle and wheeled her back to her room.

She fell asleep on the way there. But her moment of lucidity made me giggle all day. And as I planted a goodbye kiss on her sleeping forehead, I quietly thanked her for reminding me again how much I love my job.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Look! Up in the Sky! It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's...

Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me. I have been a bad, bad writer and an even worse correspondent to those who have emailed. Mia Culpa.

My reason has simply been this: the vomits have been back in full force, after a glorious five day reprieve which coincidentally occured right smack dab in the middle of my women's retreat in Michigan two weekends ago, ah, but the God/dess does smile upon a coven of laughing women. But lately it seems, I've again spent way too much time on my knees in worshipping the great white basin (or in the case of one of our 1970s style bathrooms the harvest gold basin). I have been completely uncreative, apart from my ability to combine a wide array of colors in my pukeage ("Look! Those specks of color swirling around in the water are the SweetTarts I had to soothe my nausea!"). And there has just been nothing to say, unless entire entries like the previous sentence provide you with vivid images upon which you'd have liked me to expound more. So, trust me, dear readers, I was sparing you.

However, there has been a sea change. For now, now dear readers, I have sucumbed to the power of my new drug of choice...Zofran. Zofran the wonder drug, able to keep short women from tossing their cookies for an entire day! Zofran. Say it with me. Zofran! It sounds like the name of a superhero. Zofran. Zofran, queen of the universe, a superhero whose superpowers may be, oh, I don't know, projectile vomiting great distances to gross-out her evil nemesis? And I love Zofran so much, that I can almost forget that it costs, hold on to your hats, about forty bucks a pop. Forty freakin' dollars a pill. So, there's incentive to keep it down, maybe that's why I've been puke-free since Monday night, because at heart I am a cheapskate afraid of wasting a single yellow tablet.

Seriously though, it feels good to feel good. I had so little energy for so long. I hadn't gained any weight in five or six weeks. I was weeping constantly and worrying that I was starving my child and then all the anti-choice Republicans would come after me and slap my wrist for harming a fetus and I would be hauled away to Gitmo or somewhere until I gave birth to a child who would be adopted out to a fundamentalist Christian family who could teach the baby "family values," and skeet shooting as I am probably an unfit feminist who will leave my husband, kill my children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become a lesbian.

Sometimes my mind wanders when I've been so isolated, as you can see.

So, where've you been?