Depends On How You Define The Term

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For years, I’ve told people that I am supremely un-athletic.  When I say I’m uncoordinated, I’m not being modest or downplaying.  I just really don’t have a great sense for where my body exists in space (or which side is my left vs my right).  Once, during a softball game, I managed to hit the ball so that it bounced into fair territory but had so much backspin that it flew back up, hit me in the face, and tagged me out all at the same time.  It’s a talent, but not the kind that gets you endorsements and ad deals, more the kind that gets you 15 minutes of infamy as a meme or gif.

I also never had a standard gait.  As a child, I literally skipped just about everywhere and when I did walk, teachers and other students would remark on how odd it looked.  While today I would most likely have gotten physical and occupational therapy for the gait itself and the sensory issues that underlay it, back in the 80s when I was a kid, that wasn’t so much a “thing”.  I never particularly enjoyed being active, hated gym classes deeply, and when getting bitten by a dog plus developing bursitis in both hips put an end to my short-lived running habit in high school, I stopped doing much physical activity for quite a while.

It wasn’t until I was in my 20s and started as an aide in a physical therapy clinic that I started getting back into fitness.  Funny thing I discovered when I started working there: people who do PT for a living tend to like athletics and activity.  My coworkers gently helped me retrain my gait so that it’s far more normal (bonus, when my gait got better, I got rid of the bursitis) and, because there happened to be a fitness center attached to the clinic where we all got free memberships, encouraged me to consult the personal trainers there and develop a program – and continued to encourage me when I did that.  The positive feedback worked and I managed to get into the habit of activity that has continued to this day.

I’m still not coordinated, I still don’t have any athletic talent, I still trip over my own feet, I have a chronic back issue that flares up on and off, and my grand plan for winning any kind of race is to get into my 90s and win my age category by dint of being one of the only ones in that age bracket doing the race.  But I get out there, jog lightly, walk, and strength train around 2.5-3 hours a week, and find that it increases both my mental and physical well-being.  I’ve often said that I’m bookish and nerdy (true), but I suppose at this point, I can’t honestly say I’m un-athletic any more.

The Birds in the Backyard

Having lived in this general region for the majority of my life, I tend to think I’m fairly familiar with most of the wildlife.  When we lived next to a lake, I used to watch for the swans when I’d go out for runs.  I often saw squirrels (we had black squirrels along with the more common red/grey ones) or geese.  Once I got to see several bald eagles in the trees.  I’ve seen owls and deer and fawns.

On Saturday, I had just gotten home from work and was a bit surprised to find the girls staring out the window.  They had gotten a couple of birdseed feeders in the shapes of bells for Christmas and Arthur had helped to string one up in the tree a week or two earlier.  I hadn’t seen many birds and wondered if we just had the wrong mix of seeds.

That day, however, there were a whole bunch of birds pecking around the bell and tree.  A gorgeous ladder-back woodpecker with a bright red head scuttled up and down the branches.  There was a cardinal and chickadees and a sparrow or two.  There was also another bird I couldn’t identify.  It looked grayish but had an orange breast and was too small to be a robin.

A couple of the grayish/orange birds flew into the tree and all of a sudden, with the angle change, I knew what they were.  “Those are bluebirds!” I exclaimed.

I had no idea that any lived in our area.  I’ve seen pictures (including the famous “grumpy bluebird” one) but I’d never actually seen one in real life.  My MIL later identified them as Eastern Bluebirds.

Terrible pictures, but there they are!

Really rather fun to get to see them and probably going to have to figure out what food to put out there for them as it’s quite cold right now.  I’m hoping they’ll come back sometime!

Something More

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A friend posted about the latest study making the rounds regarding miscarriage/loss and the impacts on those who experience it.  Basically, the study showed that in both the short and long term, women who experienced loss had fairly high rates of post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression.  I’ll admit that I myself, while very much appreciating the fact that the study (finally) validates my own experiences, rather side-eyed the amount of surprise the researchers expressed at how high the numbers came out.  Clearly, they haven’t spent much time around people going through infertility/ectopic/miscarriage/loss, because this seemed pretty obvious to me.

My friend, however, noted that the article talks about how the researchers “hope the findings will encourage women to speak more openly about miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy and help others understand the impact of early pregnancy loss on women.”  I checked it out a little further, and the article states: “Having a greater appreciation of the results hopefully with enable friends, colleagues, employers, and family members to better support women and their partners going through a pregnancy loss.”  As my friend noted, there’s very little about better helping women connect with mental health care or how the medical care of these conditions might change.

Peer support is a marvelous thing.  Openness is a marvelous thing.  I mean, I’m here, blogging about miscarriage and infertility as are a lot of others.  I have no trouble talking about my own miscarriages in real life.  Peer support and community and blogs got me through some of the darkest moments of this thing.  Peer support and speaking out and awareness matters.

But it’s not the only thing that’s necessary here.

When I was pregnant with M, I almost lost my mind through the first trimester.  Unfortunately, that’s not hyperbole.  I was anxious beyond all possible belief and struggling through panic attacks regularly.  I had intrusive flashbacks to my first pregnancy – a missed miscarriage – that left me in a terrible place.  Add in a subchorionic hematoma that also left me bleeding/spotting semi-regularly, which caused a great deal of concern thanks to my third pregnancy, and I was a total wreck.

I’m incredibly fortunate because my OB, who knew my history, had me to come in weekly through the first trimester to check for a heart beat until I could pick it up on my home doppler, then feel movement.  I do not think I could have coped and functioned otherwise, because that’s how extreme the anxiety had gotten.  I also had access to mental health/therapy, which helped at other times.  Peer support is wonderful, but I needed access to professionals and a different plan of care than the current standard.  I had it, but I’m also pretty certain I’m an exception, not the rule.

To this day, I still get an absolute pit of fear in my stomach when people announce pregnancies, separate from any sadness/jealousy left over from the infertility because I know how much can go wrong.  I breathe a sigh of relief when people pass 13, 24, 28, 32, 34 weeks’ gestation.  Ultrasound pictures, among other triggers, can still send me into flashbacks and intrusive thoughts/memories or occasionally outright panic attacks.  Part of me hates to acknowledge that despite the fact that I’ve had some good outcomes, I still struggle (yep, therapy – among other things – are a part of my life currently).

What I’m saying is, how does the medical system need to change to adjust for this study (and I say this as someone who has a career in healthcare, so this is not an abstract question for me)?  How do we connect people better with mental health professionals?  Do we need to see more follow-up appointments?  Better screening tools?

How can we encourage women to speak out about their experiences without making it a mandate, another “to do” for people already in pain?

I sincerely hope that this study is a call for new goals/initiatives/treatment plans, well beyond what currently exists, not only awareness.

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

The Odyssey

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Last year, Arthur and I left our long-time church denomination after the worldwide conference voted to make a decision we simply could not abide by.  After we took a couple months off entirely and spent Sundays making waffles, reading, and just being generally lazy in the best possible way, we knew we wanted to work on finding a new church more in line with our values.  Eventually, we landed and started putting down roots.  There’s plenty that churches and denominations have generally in common, and while this is a new tradition to us in many ways, it’s also very familiar.  There are still occasional moments, though.

Listening to the organ play the intro to one of the communion hymns yesterday, both Arthur and I recognized it immediately.  It’s a particular favorite of mine, to the extent that it’s the music I walked down the aisle to when we got married, but as I looked down at the words, I realized they were definitely not the old, familiar ones I know by heart.  The closing hymn was the reverse: I knew all the words, but they were not set to the music I know.  Both of us laughed afterwards – so close, and yet so far!

Such it is right now in this period of transition generally.

I think one of things that is alternately frustrating and comforting is that after everything (waves hand generally at the last seven or eight years) the building blocks of who I am are still the same.  I’m still introverted, stubborn, bookish, prone to wrath, able to laugh most days at the absurdity of life.  The bedrock is there.  The circumstances have changed fairly vastly, the worldview expanded, perspective changed, but I’m still, well, me.  Also, in some big ways, not.  The familiar sitting in such close company with all the new is a little disconcerting.

Perhaps one of the things I expected after the everything was a personality transformation into something entirely different.  Something that overcame my weaknesses.  Something that transfigured my strengths.  Something motivational.  Something fabulous.  And, perhaps, an ending, a there, a destination.

Instead, as one of the characters says to the protagonist in the novel (This Tender Land  by William Kent Krueger) I’ve been reading and re-reading, “You believe you’ve been looking for home, Odie.  This is where your belief has brought you.  That doesn’t mean it’s the end of your journey.”

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

Good Gracious, It’s 2020

After a decidedly mixed-bag Christmas (a post for another day), I’m happy to say that I’ve gotten the lift in spirits I sometimes get in January.  Some of that probably has to do with the daylight getting slightly longer, but this time, the somewhat arbitrary “life reboot” of New Year’s Day fits well with my needing to move into a new phase of life.

  • In the last month or so, I’ve stepped up my gym routine. I started with classes back in July, but also had a foot out the door mentally because of the FET in October.  However, I’ve realized how much fertility treatments, bed rest + various activity restrictions, and c-sections/surgeries have destroyed my core and abdominal muscles.  I’ve spent the last several years with an old back injury flaring up regularly because of my lack of core.  In August, I noticed after doing class for about a month, I was having a bit less pain.  Since the FET fail, I’ve worked on adjustments to my workouts to continue that progress.  While I still don’t have the rock-solid abs and core I’d love to possess, I’m definitely noticing that my back is better yet.  Hopefully that progress will continue!
  • Arthur and I made plans to turn our spare room into a craft/quiet/art/music room for the kids. Crib will become a desk and changing table a set of shelves to store art supplies.  It’s nice to figure out a way to re-purpose these items in a way that fits our lives now instead of having them sitting in the room, a silent ache every time I walked past.  E graduated from physical therapy (hopefully for the final time).  Plan is to step up preschool to three days per week once the school has an opening to prepare E for kindergarten in the fall.  Both girls are taking low-stress/strictly for fun gymnastics lessons for the next couple months.
  • I finally spackled the place on the kitchen ceiling that had an ugly water spot. I resealed the upstairs tub over a year ago, suspecting this was the problem, and since I did, no more dampness to that area.  Definitely time to repaint and make it look nice!  I also broke down and sprang for good re-chargeable batteries to use in the flame-less candles in the living room.  Put them on a timer so that they come on around 4 pm daily and it’s rather amazing how much that simple change makes me smile every time they light.
  • For Arthur’s Christmas present, I got him a short-term subscription to a box that sends ingredients + recipes from some of the top bartenders working currently for custom cocktails. It makes a good “stay in” sort of date night, allows us to try some different things without committing to large/expensive bottles of ingredients that might only get used once, and is just good fun.  We made “Pommes Bandes” last night (pineapple juice, lime juice, allspice cider syrup, Angostura bitters, and rum on the rocks with a garnish of candied ginger).  Definitely not something I would have made for myself normally (or picked off a menu at a bar/restaurant) but absolutely delicious.
  • Journeys and quests (hmmm) have been the theme of the last couple of books I picked up. Finished William Kent Krueger’s This Tender Land, a re-telling of “The Odyssey” set in Depression-era Minnesota and absolutely loved it.  I also read the four books of “The Raven Cycle” by Maggie Stiefvater (credit to Jess) and enjoyed those as well.  As a little bit of a departure, I was able to pick up Bitten By Witch Fever: Wallpaper & Arsenic in the 19th Century Home by Lucinda Hawksley from the library (another Jess pick) – totally fascinating.  As someone whose favorite color happens to be rich emerald to forest greens, I am pretty sure that if I’d lived in the centuries where arsenic dyes were in widespread use (apparently not just in wallpaper, but in clothing/textile dyes as well), well…I don’t know that I’d have much expectation for longevity.

 

  • Pommes BandesPommes Bandes and a good book – perfect way to spend an evening!

Happy New Year, all!

Rising to the Occasion

I sat down after the cycle failure last night and took inventory of all the myriad emotions swirling through my head.  There was one discordant note that stuck with me: that this ending had come with no final input from the RE that really has been excellent through so much of this process.  It seemed so out of character.  I was so jarred by it that two o’clock in the morning found me awake, staring at the ceiling, aching and angry.

Most of the overall situation is fairly inevitable and unfixable – I cannot change the outcome of the cycle, I cannot change the past seven years, and I cannot change the fact that big decisions lie ahead.  Infertility yanked the illusion of control out of my hands when it comes to reproduction and really, most of life.

But I could hunt down this one small loose end and try to tie it up.  I could express my feelings – bewilderment, sadness, shock that this final phone call with the nurse was the end of the relationship with the clinic and doctor who had really seen me through so much.  I called, spoke to the office manager, and (surprisingly calmly) used my words.

I’m very glad I did.  My RE called me back this evening and we had the discussion that I wanted to have, needed to have at the end of this part of the story.  I’m grateful to him for being open and honest about the various reasons things went down the way they did yesterday and getting the chance to close things on a truly good note.  It was the compassion I deeply needed to hear.

I would be lying if I said I don’t tend towards cynicism far too often in life.  I’m not great at faith or hope or trust in anything from medicine to science to churches to myself to other people to G-d Themselves.  Every now and again, though, I’m surprised and I get a small glimpse of something good.

This is one time where, I’m happy to say, my hope was rewarded and my RE rose to the occasion wonderfully.

I don’t really believe in “closure”.  Like so many other griefs, resolving infertility will be an ongoing process.  Even when we’ve finalized the last of the decisions, I suspect there will be pangs that pierce me at the most strange and random moments for many years to come.  Infertility will no longer be one of the major, ongoing parts of my life, but it will always be a part of my story.

That being said, on this one part, I was able to have a moment of genuine resolution.

Right now, for me, that is a victory.

The Mushroom Affair

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A couple of weeks ago, I was pulling into the driveway and noticed some new additions to the yard.

They’re big – the fully open ones were about 6-10 inches across. 

The mushrooms were so large, striking, and graceful that even one of our neighbors commented on them.  We all wondered if they were good to eat, but no one was going to try anything.  I’m no mushroom expert*, but my father does know mushrooms somewhat and he taught me all throughout childhood the cardinal rule of mushroom hunting: do not eat anything without being 100% certain of the identification.  I grew up in rural Virginia where wild mushrooms were fairly plentiful and remember clearly his warnings and stories about a single mushroom in a stew being able to poison an entire family.  Even if we weren’t planning to eat them, however, getting an ID was worthwhile.  The mushrooms were growing right next to the sidewalk, easy for picking or curious dogs to take a bite.

I called my dad and sent him photos.  We quickly eliminated the entire branch amanitas, responsible for some of the more deadly poisonous mushrooms as these lacked a volva at the bottom.

With some research and Dad’s guidance, I found an article on the false parasol, also known as the green-spored lepiota or chlorophyllum molybdites.  We both concurred that this was the most likely identification and there was a final test that could confirm it pretty strongly: a spore print that produced green/gray spores on paper.

Sure enough:

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The green-spored lepiota is poisonous, but not generally deadly.  It produces severe vomiting/diarrhea (that can cause dangerous dehydration) in humans and apparently can be fatal to dogs.  Living in a neighborhood full of small people and dogs, it was an easy call to carefully pull them up and dispose of them.  They’ve come back once already after a heavy rain and we’ll have to keep watching.

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

*Disclaimer: I am not an expert whatsoever in mushroom identification and can’t be responsible for identification of whether or not something is poisonous.  This 100% is not a way of determining whether something you choose to eat is safe – make sure you know your stuff well and consult an expert in real life because correct ID can literally mean the difference between life and death.