Lucky Thirteen

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“Well,” I told Arthur back in January.  “It’s official.  We’ve been us for 20 years.  Can you believe we started dating that long ago?”

He nodded.  We were thick in the midst of house things, redecorating, and moving.  It felt like that statement should be more climactic somehow, but, well, we’d just bought a house.

So it goes.  Another year, another mile marker.  Thirteen years ago today, we held the official launch party formalizing our partnership and starting our family.

Arthur let me sleep in an hour and a half this morning and that’s the kind of gesture that feels somehow more romantic than the “traditional” sorts of gifts for a day like today.  I’ll put away the dishes and then go a bit extra to do the laundry that is typically his responsibility and tonight we’ll go to dinner and despite our best efforts, wind up talking about the nuts and bolts of running a life together.

As far as creative and collaborative endeavors go, I think it’s a success so far, that we still wake up and wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else.

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want to read more, head on over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.  

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The Cat Came Back

“Ahh!” I yelled as a furry, black streak bolted through my legs and out the door.

We had just finished viewing a house with our realtor that had gone uneventfully – until now.  Sh*t, I thought, we can’t lose someone’s pet!  Fortunately, the cat, once out, had run to the neighbor’s yard but then stopped to sit under a bush.  Arthur and the real estate agent successfully retrieved the cat and deposited it carefully back into the house.

We bought the house.

~*~

Friday morning, I was getting ready when E told me that there was a cat on the back porch.  I didn’t think much of it.  When I was growing up, it was common to see cats from around the neighborhood taking a stroll, probably after mice or birds.  The cat mewed for a few moments at the back door.  I wonder where he’s from, I thought.  We left to run an errand, and when I came back, the cat was gone.

~*~

Sunday, we saw the cat again.  This time, however, we were out in the yard, and the cat came up to us, rubbed against our legs, and purred.  It was obvious he wasn’t feral.  I thought about this for a moment and remembered the similar-looking cat that had escaped when we viewed the house.  I knew the former owner hadn’t moved too far away.  “I wonder if this is (former owner’s) cat,” I said to Arthur.  The neighbor who I knew kept in touch with the former owner didn’t seem to be home, though.  “I’ll call the real estate office on Monday.  Hopefully they can put me in touch with the former owner and I can find out if he’s missing a cat,” I decided.  We went indoors briefly, and when we came out again, the cat was gone.

~*~

This morning, I didn’t see the cat, but called and left a message with the real estate agent.  A couple hours later, running late, not having received a return call, I opened the garage door and as I was getting the car loaded, the cat came running from across the street, mewing frantically.  “Poor thing,” I said.  It was just too much to be coincidence.  I knew I needed to get in touch with the former owner as soon as possible.

Fortunately, the neighbor was home when I knocked and able to give me the former owner’s phone number.  I called him.  “Can you catch the cat?” he asked.  “I’ll be straight over.”

I picked up the cat, made sure I had him secured in the garage, and within five minutes, the former owner was there.  It turned out that the cat belonged to his adolescent daughter who had been worried and upset.  He was very glad to see the cat and looking forward to reuniting girl with her pet.

~*~

What can I say, I’m always excited to get an animal story with a happy ending.

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want to read more, please head over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.

Flipping The Script: Solidarity, not Pressure

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When I was actively going through infertility and treatment, I heard a lot of stories.  I think everyone who goes through any sort of medical or social crisis hears stuff like this, you know, the “the doctors told them they’d never get pregnant/recover/etc., but they did!”  Sometimes this was helpful, particularly when related firsthand by the person the story had happened to, and often, those storytellers (whether in person or on blogs) would point out that while it had worked for them, they knew it wasn’t necessarily going to work that way for others.  It was solidarity, not inspiration.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t always the case.  Sometimes the stories were told more prescriptively (often by people that they hadn’t happened to), in the “if you just hang on, it will happen!” or “if you do _______, you’ll have a baby!”  Often, it occurred when I was already beating myself up and wondering what I could have done differently or when we were making painful decisions whether or not to continue treatment.  Those stories made me feel guilty, my decisions unaccepted, and left me second-guessing whether or not I’d done “enough”.

I’ve lurked this year for National Infertility Awareness Week, mostly because reading everyone else’s blog posts proved interesting and the topic – “Flip the Script” – is one I’ve had to mull over a bit.  Finally, though, I’ve realized the script I want to flip: be careful with stories.

A couple of years ago, I realized I’d become that cliché, walking urban legend of infertility stories: IVF works on the third embryo transfer after losses, rare, tragic complications, and out of that, a beautiful, healthy child.  Getting spontaneously pregnant with my second with no interventions or treatments only added to it.

I’m grateful for how things worked out.  But it is by the most bizarre circumstances and strange, against-the-odds events that I am where I am in life right now.  There is absolutely nothing that is able to be generalized to someone else struggling with infertility.

It’s not because of my hard work.  It’s not because of my persistence.  It’s not because I’m somehow “special”.  It’s not because of my good attitude or positive thinking (please, ask anyone in my life – I did not accept infertility/PCOS with any grace whatsoever, still dislike many pregnancy announcements/going to other people’s baby showers except under special circumstances, and hated pretty much every moment of treatment).  It’s not because of “baby dust”.  It’s not because I deserved it more than anyone else.

Truthfully, I have no idea why things worked out the way they did.  I’m grateful, but I really don’t have an answer to the “why/how”.  And I resent the idea that if things had not worked, I would have been any less worthy.

Basically, what I’m saying is this: I hope no one (including me) ever uses my story as a cudgel or as a prescription or as a “this could be you too if you just keep trying!”  Because anyone who is struggling with infertility, needs to take a break, or needs to consider their options (including resolving without children), does not need that pressure or guilt.  It’s great to tell our stories and truths.  But there’s a way to do it without generalizing out-of-the-ordinary happenings to others or giving false hope.

Let’s flip that script, straight up.

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want to read more, please head over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.  

Pondering

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I’ve found myself reading mystery novelist Louise Penny a lot lately.  When the news and the world is horrible and dark, her novels are calming, a refuge of sorts, just like her fictional village Three Pines that can only be found by those who are lost.  Penny’s novels don’t deny the darkness, nor do they minimize or turn away from the ugliness found in human nature.  Penny does, however, present an alternative vision of genuine kindness and deep determination to do right in the face of unspeakable injustice and crimes.

Last week, Loribeth at The Road Less Travelled wrote a lovely piece on how we teach people to suffer (she gives a wonderful answer).  It’s been in my head for the last week because it is such a difficult, pertinent question.

As I was finishing up one of Penny’s novels and reading the acknowledgements section, I was struck by what Penny wrote of her own life during the time she worked on the book: “Michael [her husband] has dementia.  It has progressed, marching through our lives, stomping out his ability to speak, to walk, to remember events and names.  Dementia is a marauder, a thief.  But every hole it drilled has been filled by our friends.  By practical help and emotional support.”

It is the final part of her thanks that took my breath away: “I wrote A Great Reckoning with the peace of mind that comes with knowing I too am safe and loved.  And not alone.”

If I had to give an answer to the question of how to teach suffering, Penny’s words in the face of slowly losing her beloved husband are the best I could manage.  Create community.  Help find a way to let people know that they are safe.  Loved.  Not alone.

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you’d like to read more, head on over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for hosting and originating.  

Things that go Bump in the Night

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A few months ago, Arthur and I started talking about buying a house.  After we spent our original down payment on IVF, it’s taken us awhile and a few breaks that went our way, but we’re starting to look a bit with the hope of finding something in the fall or early next spring.  As we were brainstorming questions to ask a potential seller, I looked at Arthur somewhat sheepishly.

“Do you think it would be completely weird if I asked if they had ever seen or heard…anything strange over the years they lived there?”

Arthur gave me a quizzical look.  “Like ghosts,” I clarified, slightly embarrassed.

Arthur considered for a moment.  “No…” he finally said.

“Well,” I hedged, “I don’t like being startled.  And I do think there are phenomena we don’t understand or can’t explain sometimes.  I don’t know that it’s anything that won’t eventually be explained, but I just want to cover all my bases.”

I have a sort of love/hate relationship with scary.  As a tween, one of my favorite books was Horror at the Haunted House by Peg Kehret (spoiler/content note: it has an infant loss plot point).  I also had – and still have – a highly overactive imagination and frequent nightmares.  I read several books by Betty Ren Wright that scared the heck out of me, read a couple of “real life” ghost books that did the same, reached Steven King in high school and after reading one or two of those, promptly quit dabbling at all in horror.  Eighteen years after reading the King books, I still have nightmares specific to those novels.  That being said, I’m a total sucker for a good creepy story.  Even when I know it’s bad for me, I can’t help reading them occasionally.

I don’t really believe in ghosts, or at least, I don’t believe in ghosts during the day when the sun is shining.  However, if we are purchasing a house to live in for a long time, I have zero desire to discover any sort of…quirkiness once the purchase is final.

So, even though I suspect I’m going to get a few odd looks, I think I’m going to ask.

If you want to read more Microblog Monday entries, head over to Stirrup Queens to check them out.  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.

Everyday Miracles

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Despite the many shortcomings of modern medicine (and there are obviously plenty, alas), I still find myself drawn in by so many things that are routine in many healthcare facilities.  I can’t help but be slightly awed every time I see antibiotics work in clearing up an infection.  I’m struck by the fact that brain surgery and cardiac valve replacements are everyday procedures in plenty of hospitals.  Even something as run-of-the mill as x-rays or ultrasounds where the bones or organs can be visualized to direct treatment is amazing in its own way.

My Facebook feed this weekend was full of nursing memes and videos that ranged from the somber to the humorous.  National Nurses’ Day (in the United States) was on May 6, and as many friends and colleagues celebrated, I thought about an article I had come across last month on NPR.  The article features another sort of everyday miracle: waking up after a general anesthetic.

I was totally fascinated by Dr. Shafer’s perspective on the profound moment as a person wakes up after a procedure and her awareness of the awe-inspiring trust the patients place in her and other health care professionals to help them get safely through surgery – or, by extension, any health care experience.  Having worked as a nurse in both recovery (post anesthesia care) and neuro/trauma ICU over the last several years, I couldn’t help but think that Dr. Shafer has captured the essence of the humanity and beauty of the “ordinary” events in modern nursing and medicine.

Want to read more Microblog Monday posts?  Please check out Stirrup Queens’ blog.  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.  

Clothing-Specific Memories

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Sorting through clothing is a funny thing.  I know people who do not become sentimentally attached to their sweaters or jeans, who cull their collections regularly and who don’t overstuff their drawers, but I am not one of them.  There’s some clothing I can get rid of pretty easily: things that are stained, that obviously don’t fit, basic tees or undershirts that have reached the end of their usefulness, but there’s a whole separate class of clothing that lives in my closet that presents a bigger challenge.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who has this issue, something I was reminded of when I ran across this article, poignantly titled “What Do We Do With the Clothing of Grief?”  As the author recounts the sweater she bought so hopefully during a lost pregnancy, I couldn’t help but think of my own “clothing of grief”.

In my case, it’s the brightly colored peplum boiled wool jacket I wore to the doctor’s office the day there was no more heartbeat.  The black fleece pants that I wore throughout my pregnancy with E and wore to the hospital the day my water broke at 21 weeks.  The olive-green dress with embroidered cranes I wore the day after my brother died.  I don’t know why it’s that dress, the day after, that I associate so strongly with that tragedy, but for some reason, the two are inextricably woven together in my memory.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m ever going to make a decision about those clothes.  I did sell one piece, the sweater I was wearing the day I was diagnosed with PCOS that lay crumpled in a drawer for years, never worn again.  The others, however, seem either too practical (the fleece pants) or too much difficult to reacquire pieces that I really like (the jacket and the dress).  What’s really strange is that I had memories in the jacket in particular that are fairly happy memories before that day.

Perhaps it’s too much to ask that the clothing of grief be repurposed into something truly neutral, but I do sometimes pull out the pieces and wonder if I can find the courage to start wearing them again, make enough memories in them to imbue them with both joy and sorrow.  Instead of the clothing of grief, make them something more akin to the clothing of memory.

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The jacket, on a much happier day (visiting the Hoover Dam in Nevada)

Thanks to Mel for hosting and originating Microblog Mondays!  If you want more posts, head over to Stirrup Queens to read.