My children don’t have a father. They have two moms, and an anonymous-for-now sperm donor.
(They also have amazing aunts and uncles and cousins and neighbors. And I hope one day they’ll have some donor-siblings, but today I’m thinking specifically of their donor.)
The information we know about the donor is a strange mix of intimately detailed and hopelessly limited.
Some of things we know: some basic physiological characteristics and measurements, some resume fluff like education and career, some self-reported interests, a few generations of family health history. One small picture of him as a toddler. Some impressive sperm counts and morphology from a thawed sample.
What we don’t know could fill many a book. We don’t know if he has dimples, or if he needed braces as a teenager, or how much he likes to sing in the shower or dance in the kitchen. We don’t know if he was ever afraid of thunderstorms, or when he got his first passport. We don’t know if he ever thinks of the children that he helped create.
I don’t know how much it matters. The boys are so much their own people — arrived on the scene as completely their own little people — that maybe it doesn’t matter one whit about the meatbags and middlemen that mixed some body fluids to get them started.
I can surmise the donor is pretty smart. I mean, he figured out how to get paid to masturbate, and if that’s not a sliver of the Manly American Dream come true, I don’t know what is.
But half-kidding aside, I can also surmise that the donor is major-league generous. His contribution — however anonymous, or pleasant, or lucrative, or not — made us mothers, the kind of gift that nobody can put a bow on. Not even one of those Lexus-sized Christmas bows.
I can thank KK for making the leap with me, for all the once-in-a-lifetime-ness and the relentless daily grinding of it all. For being brave enough to let her heart burst open, so there’d be room to hold us all.
I can thank our friends and family for the support and patience and love they show us every day, that they show the boys every day.
Sometimes I get a little sad that I can’t thank the donor for his role in the gift, too, for helping me finally find my life’s work.
For months and months, I’ve been looking for a way to display artwork at the boys’ eye-level.
Unfortunately, “eye-level” means it would also be within their arms’ reach. Which means anything left unattended would very shortly end up in their mouths and on the floor. Likely in many sharp little pieces.
No deal. The Van Goghs and Rembrandts and Monets would have to wait.
Serendipitously, I got lost in Target, one day scanning aisle after aisle for trash cans. (How can you hide a bunch of trash cans? They’re as big as…well.)
In my search, I found this nifty little undermarketed artwork holder that showed promise.
No glass, no hard plastic even, and it’d be easy to switch out images every so often, without having to take it off the wall. And only $10!
Did I mention “undermarketed”? Check out Target’s own web presence:
I promptly bought it, brought it home, and lost it for 2 months.
The recent playroom expansion gave us more wall space and the perfect excuse to find and install the artwork holder.
For the first fill, I found a cat calendar at Goodwill for $1, and a puppy one at Target’s dollar spot for $3ish. Cut some of the cutest down to fit the pockets and hung the whole thing up with some Command poster strips. Et voila!
But what did the critics think?
And finally, here’s an overly-long video of them worshiping at the quadruped shrine.
This would be a Wordless Wednesday post, but I didn’t get the camera I wanted for Christmas. Instead, welcome to the first Wordy Wednesday post, where I celebrate by spewing out a longer post, with “longer” arbitrarily defined as “over 1,000 words.” This whopper clocks in at an uncomfortably long 2,009. I should probably have saved it for a Therapy Thursday instead.
I had some nightmares. I looked up what they might mean. They meant exactly what I imagined they might. Failure sucks.
The last few months, I’ve been dreaming up a storm. Good, bad, and otherwise — they’ve been more vivid, more frequent, and more memorable.
I slept horribly last night, which means lots of being awake alternating with nightmares. The deluxe package!
Nightmare 1: Waiting to board a flight at an Iraqi airport. Me, a shifty Iraq-ish au pair-slash-suspected-secret agent, and identical twin baby girls who (mostly peacefully) suck on pacifiers the whole time. Our flight number was four digits and mostly made of 3s and 4s, like 3343, and so were most of the other flight numbers I saw while looking for ours.
The airport walls were made of pine paneling, which felt dated, cheap, and not exactly confidence inspiring.
I was most upset because I didn’t have my flight drugs, Valium or similar — in real life, more necessary than my boarding pass!
The babies never cried at the same time, or for more than a few seconds at all. They didn’t have much hair. They weren’t obviously mine or not mine or anybody else’s. They didn’t require any care, and the au pair was one in name only. Nothing happened, nothing resolved.
Nightmare 2: In a big commercial airplane, getting ready to either land or crash. I’m more uncomfortable than the people around me. Some terrifying ups and downs, and engine noises. I squinch my eyes shut and wait for it to be over, come what may. Just be over already.
Lots of spacious sleek silver modernity in the plane and at the airport I can glimpse through the plane window. We finally land, surprisingly smoothly, but nobody claps or even acts like it had been a big deal at all.
Presumably life went on and people deplaned, etc, but I woke up for the last time before anything notable happened.
My favorite interpreters weigh in
“Sitting in an airport: suggests that changes will [be] imminent. You have a desire or need for adventure.”
“If you are waiting for a plane it means you are not being direct enough in your approach, and that you know sometimes in life people walk over you….Being in a waiting room indicates your uncertainty about a project in your waking life. ”
“To dream of a crying baby indicates that it is time to heal your inner self.”
“When one dreams of a Pacifier there is an energy of needing to be taken care of, to have someone giving you something which is going to feel like sustenance, which is going to bring you comfort….the world has become too complicated and you must find a way back to peace. You have put too much on your plate and you need a break.”
“For Women: When Numbers appear in the dream for a woman, this is a sign that she has become overly organized and that has made her world a difficult place to live. ”
“In a dream state the airplane means that you may need to take off a new project, it can also be a symbol of fear.”
Airports: “Refers to making new departures; changes, hoped for or real; desire or need for adventure.”
Abroad [Iraq]: “Your feelings about that country, or the view or associated feelings you have of it; being in or moving toward a new or changed life situation.”
Brown: “As a mood this can depict gloominess, dullness or even depression….Brown in regard to objects can show them as being old or worn.”
“In general [drugs] relate to whatever you associate with the particular drug. For instance aspirin would connect with your attempts to deal with pain.”
Three: “is symbolised by the triangle, and represents a unity of the positive and negative to create a new condition. Thus we see it as mother and father bringing forth child, which is a mixture of both but different from either. So it might represent family. Creativity out of opposites or opposition. …A perfect number according to Chinese….Also a favourable number associated to the childbirth and to the birth. A sacred number of the woman in the Mayas.”
Four: “The symbol of four is the square or cube, representing stability, materialisation, earthiness, strength of a physical nature, permanency. It is the symbol of the four points of the compass; four elements…four functions….Four often, perhaps in the form of a square, depicts a sort of physical harmony, a wholeness.”
Twins: “several possibilities when you dream of a twin or twins…The first one is that it is part of you that has got split off from your main development….Twins can also represent duality, conflict, or two sides of an issue, but also the emergence of something new, something that was denied, that you were born with, but never acknowledged as part of yourself.”
Spy [the shifty au pair]: “Suspicion; underhandedness; secrecy; something you could be in trouble about if you were found out.”
Difficulty landing: “Difficulty achieving goal or making it real in a down to earth way; anxiety about where life events are taking you; feeling out of control or not being in control; difficulties or fears about being in someone else’s hands.”
I agree with the consensus that it feels like my life is going nowhere, as indicated by all the waiting and airport imagery and difficulty landing.
Or, as I bawled at dinner last night, “My scenery never changes!”
Oops. I hope KK tipped the waiter extra. (PMS was part of it, but still…)
The context: I set two big creative projects for myself last year, and neither one came to anything. At all.
The smaller project failed because I knowingly gave away, to someone else’s project, the time and energy it would have taken to complete my own. Their project was mostly successful, I think, but because it wasn’t my project, it ended up being hollow and unrewarding (to me). On top of which, of course, I didn’t get my own project done either. Lose/lose.
The big one has failed to fruit for absolutely no good reason, due to no one’s fault whatsoever, and that’s supposed to make me feel better.
But having these two big go-out-on-a-limb, try-something-new things fail, Fail, FAIL has made my life “a difficult place to live.”
The deadline for completing the smaller project has passed, but the bigger project will limp along for a little longer. My sticking with it for over a year now is nearly unprecedented. I’d like to see something for my considerable efforts.
For everyone’s considerable efforts.
I’m a naturally careful person. I don’t like surprises, and I’m comfortable taking only very calculated risks.
And that’s worked fine in the past, to create a string of accomplishments (however mundane) and achievements (however modest) that equal “not a failure at life by most objective standards.”
I’ll take it.
Stylistically, I was a born generalist. Even as a kid, I’d pick a new hobby every few months — learn about it, get proficient, and move on. Here are a few I remember:
mapping and beating The Legend of Zelda (on the first Nintendo)
beating Tetris on the Gameboy
trying to rollerskate backwards
assembling my little sister’s “some assembly required” Christmas presents on Christmas Eve after she went to bed
reading many, many different book series
working my way through the adult non-fiction collection at the big public library downtown, starting at the Dewey 000s [I didn’t read them all, but I skimmed most of them]
building a notable antique toy collection
researching, analyzing, and compiling product and service reviews so I could advise family members on prospective purchases (back in the WAY pre-Amazon and Yelp days)
many, many different arts and crafts
going through the trash at the Post Office to read other people’s junk mail, trade publications, and newspapers from far-off places
building houses of cards (3×5, not playing)
taking apart and reassembling small appliances and electronics
learning to score baseball
learning all the rules of major league baseball so I could become the first woman MLB umpire
teaching the squirrels in the backyard to take peanuts from my hand
building better tadpole catching tools
any many others that I can’t think of right now.
All told, a steady self-directed stream of projects. (Where’s my Nobel?)
In the process, I left a lot of unfinished projects, and my mom always bitched about it: “Why should I buy you this kit? You only made 3 of the 10 from the last one!”
But I knew intuitively that learning enough about most things was, usually, enough. Had I finished the last kit, my 10th thingamajig would not have been any better than the 3rd. So why beat your head against the wall when there are so many other things to learn and do?
This translated into my adult life when I struggled to hold out through entire semesters in college — getting an overview in a month or two was usually enough.
Pushing through a whole four years’ worth of semesters? I barely made it.
For my first 4 or 5 years’ of working after college, I couldn’t stay anywhere more than 9 or 10 months (range = 6 weeks to barely-10-months). Never fired, whatever that’s worth, but I learned each job in a few weeks, and when there weren’t more challenges coming down the pike, I had to pick up and leave or wallow in eventually-suicidal stuckness.
So with my innate need for a good balance of novelty and achievement, you might be able to see how this stuck-in-a-failure-rut-ness is really wearing on me.
I’ve been reading about buddhism some, about the slippery, sad slope that is attachment to outcomes.
Rationally, it makes sense, and I’ve seen it play out with my MS experience. If I expect to feel great (normal) and I don’t, I double the feeling-bad burden when I cling to the belief that “no, really, I SHOULD be feeling fine.”
Better to accept the reality that I hurt/tingle/crawl/collapse, step up the self-care, and move on/be still. Simple, not always easy, but it’s another tool in my coping toolbox.
But as much as I’d like to, I’m having a helluva hard time applying the same benign detachment to This Big Project (TBP) and its string of failures.
Because the nature of TBP, the primary metric, includes a very specific outcome.
To get semantic, I do not want to try to do TBP. (If I did, I could have successfully hung up my spurs after a few months.)
Instead, I want to do TBP.
It’s an all-or-nothing proposition.
And so far, it’s been 100% nothing.
And even my dreams are noticing.
My 2013 game face:
It doesn’t help that I spent exactly the first two full weeks of the year convalescing with the flu, where every day’s agenda was: meds, rest, fluids, rest, repeat.
I’m finally feeling better enough to trade “meds and fluids” for “a little work and some writing.”
But I’m still kind of miffed that being sidelined kept me from taking advantage of the forward-looking momentum that a new year can bring.
A fresh start, however real or imagined or arbitrary.
Instead, this month, this year, has been more like Extended 2012 Failure Purgatory, and I can’t advance until…what? I don’t even know.
What you can’t see about the carpet are the fact it’s over 20 years old, the ghosting, the spots, the fact that the back 4 feet of the room was laminate, and a bizarre spreading it-came-from-below shadow-stain near that armchair in the back right that always felt cool to the touch but never damp.
Our before, with the laminate already removed from where they GLUED IT TO THE SLAB SUBFLOOR:
See that weird triangleish piece at the bottom right? It looks like that because when the previous family moved out and took the fridge, they covered the ice maker line with a bag and hit the road. They did not TURN OFF the ice maker line, so it eventually leaked from the adjacent kitchen right before we moved in.
We pulled up the pad in an attempt to speed the drying and salvage the carpet…which worked (yay!) until the replacement pad roll we bought got flooded when the water heater gave out while we were 500 miles away one week (boo!).
If you’re doing the math, that was 3 years ago. We were too beaten down to try replacing it again.
Minus the carpet:
And a few hours later, with the new carpet:
Lula had to spend the duration of the install up in the bedroom, instead of her usual sequestration area (KK’s office, but KK was working there today). I took advantage of her ignorance to capture her first reaction to the new floor.
There’s no music, but if you turn it up, you can hear her shnuffling and scratching. I think she likes it.
I also made a quick recording of KK doing snow angels on the new carpet, but it’s not uploading for some reason. Here’s a still instead, post-rolling-around-on-the-new-floor.
Angel, the carpet installer, was amazing and a total pro. I assumed it would take two people to do the job, but he showed up alone this morning — a man, a van, a plan — and bent it to his/our will. He also had really excellent highlights. So basically, my hero.
The couch arrives Tuesday, and we’ll see if the curtains I picked out will work in there. I will be so happy to have it look like a room where people actually live that I may even start inviting in Deborah and Barbara, the Jehovah’s Witness ladies who stop by every month or so.
But maybe not. I had a few too many literary theory courses (1) to be able to discuss The Watchtower, or the Bible, in polite company.
Today’s prompt was to create a care package for my fellow patients. But as much as I love presents, it’s been my experience that people with MS may be best served by having less stuff, not more: less to clean, less to put away, and certainly less to trip over.
Instead, I’d like to share a care package of the tools that have made my weight loss and fitness dreams come true-r. (Hey, it’s a work in progress.)
I just finished Week 4 Day 2 of Couch-to-5K for the second time this year, and these are the things that keep me going.
Enell Sports Bra
Before I started working out, I was a 38G. Now, 50+ pounds later, I am a 34G. There is no god. But luckily, there is Enell.
Benefits: The boobs do not move — I can RUN for the first time since I was 8. No underwires! Straps do not dig or shift. Front close, so you don’t have to get trapped trying to pull it over your head, necessitating a call to the fire department and the jaws of life to get free. (Remember, they said they’d have to start charging after the next time.) Unique sizing system, so I get to be a size 3. Built strong to last long.
Drawbacks: Limited color selection. Cup seam shows through lighter shirts, but I AM RUNNING HOW DARE YOU JUDGE ME RROOOOWRRRR!
Shopping tips: Prime-eligible at Amazon, and you might be able to find it at a local running store to try on first. And because I love you all, I will share that I recently found their outlet on ebay, where they sell slightly imperfect versions for nearly half price.
Body Glide anti-chafe balm I know none of you have first-hand experience with this, but sometimes fat girls have thighs that touch. And when exercise makes that touching sweatier and more frictive, bad things can happen. Body Glide is like lube for your body. Or as Linda Richman would say, “Like buttah!”
Benefits: Odorless. Easy deodorant-style application. Usually sold in running stores, so we can infer that it’s not only fat girls who have issues with rubbage. Lasts for hours — longer than I would ever work out. I used it on my foot, after my shoe started rubbing on my toe, and it worked great for that, too.
Drawbacks: My stick crumbled off into big chunks after a few weeks. I was able to mash most of it back into the applicator and keep using it, but I’d prefer if it hadn’t happened in the first place.
TuneBand I am a very suggestible person, and I’m not above using the right music provide motivation to get started, keep going, and even have a good time. If you can hear Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before you Go-Go” and not smile and step lightly, you might be dead.
Benefits: Easy to put on and take off. The silicone skin is strong, and thicker on the back where the armband slides through. After nearly a year of 3+ uses/week, it looks and works like new. Comes in a bunch of colors. The armband is highly adjustable (something I’d worried about because I have huge bus driver arms).
Drawbacks: None! The TuneBand has exceeded all my expectations, and now it’s even on sale for less bank.
Panasonic Ergo Fit earbuds You can listen to music without earbuds. Plus, they’re handy for helping drown out the dumbass conversation the girls on the treadmills next to yours are having, at such high volume. I hadn’t had much luck with earbuds in the past — wearing glasses doesn’t help, but it also rules out wearing any kind of external headphone comfortably The in-ear style of these is way more comfortable than the round Apple-style ones.
Benefits: These sound nice even at volumes high enough to drown out dumbass conversations. They’ve been impervious to sweat and being tossed in my gym bag. They came in red, one of my favorite accessory colors. Reasonably priced. The cord slider helps keep them from getting terminally tangled.
Drawbacks: None. They don’t have an inline mic for taking calls, but nobody needs to hear me huffing and puffing while I’m working out. (I keep these Skull Candy earbuds in my purse for non-gym use, if you’re looking for the mic.)
Contigo Autoseal water bottles The only water bottle I’ve tried that (1) really doesn’t leak so much as a drop in my gym bag and (2) has a drinking hole that’s actual mouth-sized. Unlike, say, classic Nalgenes, which are actual now-you’re-wearing-a-bottle-of-water sized.
Benefits: Dishwasher safe. Strong and BPA free. Lots of colors. Carabiner clip built into the top.
Drawbacks: If you store the lids on the bottles, they might develop a slightly musty smell in the cap. Are you one of the strange few who doesn’t love a fresh bottle of Basement in the morning? Solution: just store the bottles open.
Shopping tip: I bought these first for KK for Christmas a few years back, in a 3-pack at Costco for $10 or $15 bucks. Those are still going strong, and I’ve picked up a number of others (and three of the stainless tumbler ones) at the thrifts for just a dollar or two.
Benefits: Also dishwasher safe. Lots of colors. Built-in carabiner clip. The flip straw part is soft, so I’m not afraid of knocking my teeth out. Even better, you simply sip from it — you don’t have to bite it like you do a Camelbak.
Drawbacks: Just the leaking thing, really.
Shopping tip: I recently found a Quickdraw Plus at Marshalls or TJ’s for $5, imperfect just because they’d sewn the reflective strip on backwards. And just this week, I thrifted a sample version these waist packs, with the bottle, for $1.50! I would normally have to be in a coma to agree to wearing any kind of waist pack, but this one fits (very comfortably) at the small of my back, so I can pretend like it doesn’t exist.
Some other tools I’ve used include:
Lose It! Free for iPhone and online.
I used this to track my food and exercise because it was free, straightforward, and worked seamlessly cross-platform. Nice, clean interface.
5KRunner. Free for iPhone.
This was my Couch-to-5K coach the first time around. I liked that it was free and awarded badges to gamify the experience. And it worked. I did NOT like that there was no way to control my music without having to go through too many steps just to skip to the next song. I also found the interface too small to read when I got hot and the Uthoff’s kicked up, but honestly, that was a double-edged sword. Sometimes, it’s just better to remain ignorant of how far you still have to go!
SlimKicker. Free for iPhone and online.
This one is new to me, but I’m about to try it because I like the novel premise. You choose short-term goals to work toward for 7-30 days. Your challenges get tougher over time, and you’re encouraged to check in daily with folks who’ve chosen the same challenge for support. You win points and “level-up” when you succeed.
Honorable mention: Weight Watchers
I think every woman in America has a WW story or six.
I did WW for the first time a little over 5 years ago. I hadn’t weighed myself in years, and was sort of surprised to be 241 pounds at my first meeting. Miss Melba, the leader, was amazing and deserves her own cult. I watched portions and counted points and lost 42 pounds in six months, without ever visiting a gym or doing anything more strenuous than walking the dog.
Mostly, I enjoyed getting to clap for myself and others at meetings. I only stopped because the MS started and I had to marshal all my resources to deal with that instead. But I did learn some vital weight loss skills, like portion control, substitutions, body awareness, which I’ve been able to apply to successive independent attempts ever since.
So I’d recommend WW to anyone who, like me, was weight-loss naive, with the caveat that you find a leader that clicks with you immediately. Like choosing a doctor, you may have to shop around, but it is totally worth it when it works.
Short hair. I had hair down to my waist until I was 23 years old. (My mom had to scotch tape baby bows to my head until I was nearly four, so once it showed up, she couldn’t bring herself to cut it.) That meant I had to wash it at night and after toweling it dry, still had to wait 8 to 10 hours for it to actually dry. It could easily take an hour even with a hair dryer.
Cutting my hair short freed me to get active and sweaty and take showers, without having to block out 2 days to do it. I’ve just gone shorter and shorter ever since. Now, after I shower at the gym, I dry my hair for about 5 seconds under the hand dryer. It’s hard to imagine ever going back.
Which brings us to braving public showering and locker rooms. Until last year, I had spent more time in men’s locker rooms than in women’s.
I never played sports, but I spent two years in high school being a manager for the football team, which meant that I, and my also-female co-manager, were the only two girls in the whole school allowed to go into the fieldhouse. (To fill up water coolers and make ice packs, not to ogle. I assure even the straightest of you ladies that there is NOTHING sexy about that smell. Ugh.)
But last year, my wife joined a new rock climbing gym (the largest in the nation) when it opened nearish us. She invited me to come along, as they had a regular fitness area with cardio and weight stuff that nobody else was using. I went. It was cool, at first. But I quickly realized that my 40-minute workout ended before KK’s 2-3 hour one, and sitting around in sweaty clothes was gnarly.
I finally tried the showers, so at least I could clean up and sit around in clean clothes while I diddled on the iPad for an hour or two. It was not traumatic. It even felt good. Each shower was separate, so there was nothing really public about it. (I’ve used worse in hostels in Europe.) There was even a curtain separating the showers from the main locker part, so nobody had to see too much of me. And best of all, I could take a cold shower, which helps beat back the Uthoff’s and fatigue that MS brings uninvited to every workout.
A weightlifting training program, customized for me by a dear friend.
Cardio stuff often makes me too hot, too fast, and I start to lose power before I get the benefits. Weightraining, though, allows me to get serious work done before even breaking a sweat. It’s been such an important part of the process. I’ve gotten stronger, sure, but it’s also improved my balance and posture (which has suffered since 4th grade — see “34G above”).
I hope you read through this long list and thought,
Well, DUH! Of course she lost weight and got stronger. Look at all the help she had!
Because, clearly, it takes a village’s worth of goods, programs, and lifestyle changes to make big fitness changes. I didn’t even include the food prep tools I use, or the recipe websites, or the protein bars I love, or…the list goes on.
But the takeaway is that I gave myself “all that help.”
I built it into my life, one piece at a time. I kept the parts that helped and chucked the ones that didn’t.
And once it hit a critical mass, I started to lose critical (m)ass.
And if I can do it, you can do it. I don’t have to know you to say that. Anyone can do it, because it’s not about being perfect or being the best. It’s about being better and feeling better.