Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Around the House

Update on the spray painting project:  It turned out okay.  In fact, the table looks pretty good, especially when the dining room lights are low and you don't stare at it too closely.  David made a big fuss about how great it looked, which I pretended was ridiculous but of course it actually delighted me.

(moved out from its normal resting place in the dining room, with the glass top removed)

Covered in primer.  Cooper supervised that process.
(back in dining room)

 It does look much more like it belongs in the room now.

I can't believe it sat over there in its shiny gold glory for so long before I decided to paint it black.

Project Living Room is also coming right along.  Pictures to be posted later.  I think we have decided to repaint, though, so the big question is whether we tackle that before our Vancouver trip, when I'm still teaching, or after or trip, when I'm prepping for the new semester.  I'm inclined to want to do it sooner rather than later, so I think we may just take it on next week.

Teaching The Bluest Eye has been okay.  It's not too hard to distance myself from Pecola Breedlove's story, considering our circumstances are entirely different.  But I don't think I'll ever teach that book again if I can help it.

I sewed a doggie cover for our backseat.  It is essentially a fleece blanket with straps attached to it so it can hook around the head rests in the front and back seat, creating a kind of hammock to keep the dogs contained.  This will prevent Little Mac from jumping into the front seat, where she settles comfortably on my lap (the ONLY time she ever sits on my lap, except occasionally when people she doesn't know come over and then she claims me as her territory and uses the additional height of my lap as leverage when growling and lunging at anyone who gets to close to us).  Anyway, once she settles on my lap, she's there for the duration of the car ride.  If I shift my weight too much, if I need to get chapstick out of my bag, she just might get crazy.  Makes for a stressful car ride.  You never know what could set her off.  And it's hard to eat Sonic tater tots with a dog on your lap.  So we prefer to keep her confined to the backseat.  We'll test it out this weekend, but it was a super easy project and if it works, I will be very pleased with my craftsmanship.

We've had a good set of thunderstorms come through here the last few days.  I've always loved a good storm, and David loves to look at the live weather radar online because he is a huge nerd.  The only member of our household who does not enjoy storms is Cooper, who feels the need to lie up by our heads, on our pillows, during the storms.  Except he doesn't lie still, he trembles and shakes and moves around and sticks his paws or his butt or his drooling face in my face and although I don't mind him sleeping in our bed, I draw the line at the idea of doggie butt-hole being on my pillow.  I mean seriously.  So he's been keeping us up nights, and the rumble of thunder during the day sends him scrambling for my lap, regardless of whether there's a laptop already occupying that space.

A big storm came through Saturday night and it leaked into our closet.  We'd had a small water leak there a few weeks before, but nothing major and we had sort of dismissed it and figured we'd deal with it later and maybe we'd need to put a new roof on the entire house, etc., etc.  Well, Saturday night, I opened the closet door to find water pouring in, dripping down the back of the mirrored doors.  We dragged out a shelving unit with David's clothes in it that had gotten close enough to the drip to get his clothes wet, covered the floor with towels, and listened to the dripping sound while Cooper alternating shoving his ass and his dog breath into our faces all night long.

Sunday morning, it was time to take action.  We've been out of town the last four weekends in a row, so we needed to be very productive.  The leaking roof was the first project.  David climbed up on the roof with the water hose, and I ran back and forth between the bedroom closet and outside to tell him when water started coming in.  This was slightly ridiculous, but, in the end, effective.  He managed to find the leak, and after a quick trip to Home Depot and another hour or so on the roof, we think he's got it fixed.  He also used our wet-vac to suck the water out of the carpet, sprayed that mold-killing, moisture-drying paint stuff on the walls and ceiling, while I washed all of his clothes that had gotten wet, and then reorganized my side of the closet, including my shoes. 

When I was finished with that project, I washed all the windows in my backroom/sunroom, while David power-sprayed the siding.  Good times!  The windows look good, though, so then I was motivated to take down the curtains and wash those.

The windows are bare.  Little Mac dubs herself Guardian of the Curtains that Lay Upon the Futon.
They sat in a pile to be ironed for a day or so.

Do not even think about ironing the curtains on which I recline.
And then I got them back on the windows and felt pleased with myself.

Little Mac was slightly disgruntled.  She continues to lurk on the futon.  I continue to lament the fact that we use a futon as a legitimate piece of furniture.

In non-productive news, we've started watching Game of Thrones.  David recorded all the episodes, so we're making our way through the first season.  I was reluctant to watch it because David has an obsession for period-pieces in which people wear togas and carry swords, while I prefer period pieces in which people wear corsets and carry parasols.  But Game of Thrones is pretty intense and addictive.  So now it seems that we are the sort of TV viewers who will basically watch anything that HBO airs as long as it has violence and nudity and is not recommended for children.

Life just keeps on keeping on, but all of my activities feel like distractions instead of like things I'm actually doing because they need to be done. 

Well, the leaky roof needed to be fixed.  Beyond that, we're killing time here folks. 

A friend of mine once told me that her mom redecorated the house just before her parents got divorced.  She used the project as a distraction.  Something to keep her busy and occupied.  Got the TV room completely redone to her liking, and then they separated and she moved out to an apartment.  Which she could then decorate.

I think she had the right idea--that redecorating can be a nice escape from Huge Life Issues You Don't Really Want to Confront, because I personally am currently finding throw pillows and paint swatches and HGTV utterly fascinating.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Facebook

One of the very first things I did when I got home from the hospital after Eliza was to deactivate my account.

The last profile picture I had posted was one of me standing at our front door.  It must have been just before Thanksgiving.  We were getting ready to go shopping and at seven and a half months pregnant, I felt enormous.  And emotional.  My feet had gotten to the point that shoes that fit me at the start of the day were too tight by the end of the day, so I'd bought two pairs of ballet flats a half size up to get me through December and the start of January.  I remember that I was having a bad hair day.  I pulled it back in a ponytail and then I just started crying because my face looked so fat and I couldn't bend over normally to pick up the hairbrush I had dropped and the semester was still going on and I was tired and I just wanted school to be over so I could lounge around my house and wash all of the baby's stuff and organize the nursery.

But if I'm being honest, mostly I was crying because my face looked so fat.

David gave me a big hug (although I think I caught him rolling his eyes).  And he said, "Think of it this way--you could be not pregnant."

That shut me up.  Yes, of course.  This was the baby we wanted so much, the girl we already loved.  What if I wasn't pregnant at all?  What if we weren't able to have a baby?  What if something had happened to her?  Was I really sniveling because we're getting ready to go to Target and I have a double chin?

I put my hands on my belly and felt her squirm around in there, and I said a little prayer of thanks that she was safe in my belly, and I told David to take my picture, double chin and all.

The bundle the stork is carrying says "January."  Eliza's due date was January 15th.
I had announced my pregnancy on fb but kept the pregnancy chatter to a minimum because I was trying to be cool or something and even in my excitement, I knew that not everyone was fascinated by my gestation.  This was one of few pictures I posted during my pregnancy, and the only deliberately posed "belly-pic."  People commented right away:  "You look so cute!!!"  I remember smiling at that because obviously I was not feeling cute at the time, but I ended up feeling so happy that day, shopping with David and planning for the baby.

I couldn't bear for fb to become a forum for condolences.  I had cringed in distaste when a high school teacher had passed away and someone had created a page for him called "R.I.P. Mr. [Name Withheld]."  It was done with the best of intentions, I believe, but it felt inappropriate to me.  FB is the land of jokes and funny stories and "TGIF!!!"  I refused to let people post condolences about my daughter on facebook.

But I also couldn't bear it if they didn't.

I couldn't log on and look at 200-ish people who were supposed to be my "friends" and watch their lives continue, hilarious, mundane, or delightful, while my world came crashing down around me.  I returned home from the hospital empty and numb and in shock, but I knew even then that I had to get out of what a friend of mine has called "happy happy land."  Because if I had to read about how much one person is "lovin' life!" or is "so blessed!" I would scream.  FB was fun and light-hearted and silly.  And those were things I thought I would never be again.

Plus, if I am being really honest here, I sometimes used fb for a kind of bitchy reason.  Like to compare my life to other people's and feel happy and smug about my own choices.  (Am I the only person who used fb for that reason?  Seriously?).  Of course, now, suddenly, I had nothing to be smug about.  I was the most pathetic person I knew, and I couldn't handle all of the pity I imagined was being directed my way.

Facebook wanted to know why I was leaving.  There's a list of reasons you can choose from.  I selected "Other."  But if you select "Other," then they make you explain:  I am suffering debilitating grief following the death of my baby and seeing other people be happy is simply beyond my capacity for survival at this time.

I didn't write that.  I went back and clicked "Privacy Concerns" instead.

* * *
A couple of weeks ago, I decided maybe I was ready to give it another go.  I wanted to keep in touch with some good friends who are moving for new jobs.  And I've met a lot of bereaved parents online whom I know are on facebook.  And I missed some friends from high school that I kept up with only through fb.  I thought I could go back on, purge my friend list (removing everyone who had a small child, posted pictures of small children, liked small children, did not send me a sympathy card/email/text, or simply was not interesting enough for me still to want to voyeuristically spy on), and add some new friends.  But many of my real-life good friends fit at least the first two or three of those categories.  And then there was extended family...  and some sort of random connections...  Should I just hide people instead?  Purging friends was stressing me out.

As I scrolled through posts, it turned out that I hadn't really been missing all that much.  Anything that was important had been communicated to me in some other way and although I'm sure there were some interesting articles linked that I will never read, it seemed a small price to pay for not having to read the gleeful announcements of people who are expecting babies with the kind of certainty that I had when that last picture was taken.

And then I saw that on December 3rd, a friend of mine had posted on my wall.  She was a friend from grad school who has since moved far away, but (through fb) we kept in touch.  She had a baby girl in October, so we'd talked pregnancy/birth plan stuff.  "Next month!" she wrote, "When's the due date?"

I deleted that post.  I couldn't look at that message I never saw and never answered, the day before Eliza's heart stopped beating, the day before she was born, five weeks and four days before her due date.

In short, my heart is still too broken for facebook.  I managed to post something stupid on my brother's page and he posted something stupid back.  A few people posted on my wall that they were glad to see me back, which was nice.  But I just can't do it.

I deactivated my account again this morning.  Because it's too hard, because I'm still too sad and mean, because the people who care about me will find another way to reach out to me, and I'll do the same.  I don't need facebook to keep in touch with my good friends, and I'm too raw and sad and broken to be able to keep in touch with my second degree friends and friendly acquaintances.

* * *
One of the hardest parts about losing Eliza has been returning to our regular lives.  As we were before.  No nursery, no baby, no nap schedule, no changes.  It's still just us and our dogs.  Doing what we want, when we want.  The problem is there is so little I want to do without Eliza.  What does it mean if my baby died and nothing changed?

I think maybe I need to stay off fb because I need something in my life to be demonstrably different.  FB was perhaps only significant in regard to the amount of time I spent on it (doing nothing productive can take a long time!), but it was certainly significant in that way.  I checked it at least once a day, every day.  Probably more like 3 or 4 times a day once I got it on my phone.  Posting, commenting, liking, connecting.  Effortless and easy.  I was part of that network, and I'm just not anymore.

At this point, of course, things are easier than they were.  Life is not simply an exercise in surviving the darkest misery I could imagine.  I now have good days, great moments.  I'm doing pretty well most of the time.  But I am not "better."  This will never be fixed.  Time will make it easier, the future may bring more happiness our way, but you don't rally from the death of a baby.  You're changed forever, in good ways and sad ways.

I need to mark a measurable difference in my life, something that was there before and is there no longer (besides, you know, my optimism and abdominal muscles).  Giving up FB is not really a huge sacrifice now (although it felt that way one year when I gave it up for Lent) but it is a kind of symbolic thing for me, I guess.

Although the old me is still persisting in ways that are both a surprise and relief, I am not exactly the same person I was when I posted that pregnancy picture on facebook, when I shook a Tennessee pom-pom at my best friend's wedding, when I held David's hand and grinned in front of Stonehenge.

I no longer dwell in the world where babies are sure things and life works out the way you planned and how far you ran today merits reporting.  It was nice while it lasted, but I just don't live in Facebookland anymore.

Now I'm figuring out how to live in this world, in this life, how to honor Eliza's life, and come to terms with her death, without being entirely defined by it.  It's a struggle here, exiled from Facebookland, but I'm grateful for the company.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Another Week

This week was not easy for me.  I have no explanation for that; I can't target a specific "trigger" that would make me especially sad.  I just know it was a beautiful, ordinary summer week and I missed Eliza more than ever.

David went to play baseball one night this week and I couldn't go watch him because I didn't want to face the possibility of making small talking with the other baseball wives.  I was going to go to yoga, but then I was crying too much, so I just sat on the couch and cried and then watched TV and ate cheese and crackers for dinner.  Not my finest evening.

* * *

I am teaching The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison this week.  Possibly one of the most depressing books EVER.  Also (PLOT SPOILER except not really because the narrator gives this away on the opening page) there's a stillborn baby in the novel.  Excellent choice, Brooke.  Way to think through that reading assignment.  Let's not only lead class discussion about rape and incest, let's throw a dead baby in there for good measure and see if you can get through the freaking day.

(The reason this book is on the reading list is because this year I took the easy way out and just assigned the same books I taught last summer, when dead babies were simply a sad, FICTIONAL story and I love the way Morrison gets my students all up in arms and angry with the white male patriarchy that ruins everyone's lives.)

Anyway, I was teaching the book today, and in a totally separate discussion about the character of Mr. Henry, I found myself reading aloud this sentence:

If happiness is anticipation with certainty, we were happy.


I know that feeling.

I remember that definition of happiness.

I'm the girl who doesn't like surprises.  I've always told David that the anticipation of something good--a weekend away, a dinner out, a visit from a friend--makes the whole experience that much sweeter.  You can look forward to it, enjoy it, reflect back on it.  It's the same reason Christmas Eve is more fun than Christmas day.  Because it's already super festive, but you still have more to look forward to.

Anticipation with certainty.

That was me.  A year ago.  I was anticipating a baby with certainty.  And that was the definition of happiness. 

* * *

So this week has been especially crap-tastic.  Over the past several months, I have developed some well-tested strategies for coping with extra-difficult waves of sadness.

I have employed all of them this week.  These include:

* Lots of television.  This week has featured Teen Wolf on MTV (no really, it's good) and Drop Dead Diva.

* Wearing especially cute outfits.  I realize this makes me sound totally shallow, but it all goes back to the idea of being able to hold myself together better when I at least appear to have my shit together.

* Walking the dog.  It isn't always my favorite thing to do (because I often think about the stroller I should be pushing or the Bjorn I should be wearing) but it makes Cooper so happy and when he dances around in doggie-glee, it always makes me smile.

* Tackling a new project.  This one backfired on me today.

So I thought that I was going to write one of those smug DIY blog entries about how super easy it is to take an old glass-top console table with brass legs and spray paint the shiny gold brass a nice glossy black and make the table look great and update my dining room for the cost of a can of spray paint.  And my comments would be full of people saying, "OMG that looks SO great!  Good work!  You are an amazing spray painter!"

I was taking step-by-step pictures and everything.  I was so confident.  I did some online research and bought the right supplies at Home Depot.  I sanded, I washed and dried, I laid down plastic.  And I started spraying.

The primer went on so well.  It was like I was born to spray paint.  It's like I was channeling Banksy, only without the hoodie.  I was shaking the can frequently and holding it straight while spraying in short, even, light, overlapping strokes from 10" away.  No drips, no problems.  It took awhile, but I ended up with the perfect coat of primer.

I came inside feeling all self-congratulatory and had a snack (banilla yogurt with kashi cereal in it) and watched Barefoot Contessa and then went back outside to tackle the black paint.  I fully expected that my DIY home improvement success would only continue.

But I should have known that this is MY LIFE and even when it comes to stupid little things, as soon as I start anticipating something with certainty, it is actually a clear sign that it's all going to fall apart.

And sure enough, the black spray paint behaved nothing like the primer.  First of all, it was much harder to actually push down the nozzle and make it spray and my hand was getting tired.  Secondly, it was so messy!  I had to put on work gloves to keep the paint off my finger.  But worst of all, the paint would inexplicably switch from a smooth, light, even mist to big huge drops of paint that splattered out all over the table legs.

Before you all start leaving helpful hints in the comments, let me just say I was following ALL of the directions.  I was holding the can appropriately.  It was not windy.  It was not humid.  I sprayed it JUST like I sprayed the primer.  The can just malfunctioned every so often until it looked like the freaking table had been SPLATTER painted.

(At this point, there might have been a sort of temper-tantrum that involved throwing the can of spray paint and shouting and stomping of feet.)

Then I called David over to look at the table.

Then I indignantly shot down every single one of his suggestions because I already WAS holding the spray paint properly and spraying in in several light overlapping coats and it WAS NOT windy.

Then I picked up the paint can again and tried to keep going, thinking that full coverage would at least help cover up the splatters.

Then I ran out of spray paint.

Then I went inside to watch HGTV and pout.

It must have been a faulty can of paint, right?

At any rate, David's going to pick up two more cans of it tomorrow and I am going to revisit this project at a later time.

Maybe things will get a little easier next week.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Skirt

So the skirt that I sewed?  The one I might have casually mentioned bragged about shamelessly?

Here it is:

Also pictured:  David's niece, Taylyn, her French braids, and me
Points of clarification:  David took this picture on his phone.  I asked him to take the photo, but he did not warn me that he was about to snap the picture which is why I look weird.  No seriously.  I don't normally stand around like that.  I swear.  I was just about to strike a more normal looking, very flattering, far more photogenic pose (see how my toe is up because I'm about to move?) and that would have made the front of the skirt hang normally and look as full as the rest of it, but there must have been a breeze or something.

Also, Taylyn wanted to be in the picture but did NOT want to (1) smile; (2) look at the camera; (3) stop eating goldfish crackers.  Three-year-olds are awesome like that. 

Oh, and right after David took the picture, his phone battery died, and we were loading up to go to dinner, and I was so hungry that I was stealing Taylyn's goldfish, so there were no re-takes.

Anyway, you get the idea.  I got the fabric and the black 1.5" elastic from a Jo-Ann fabric store.  The entire project was super easy and should you want to make a skirt of your own, you can find the tutorial here.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Down Home

We were back in my hometown for the weekend, but I'll get to that in a moment.  First things first:

It's Father's Day.  We decided to treat it like Mother's Day and so we basically ignored it.  David said he did such a good job of blocking it that he didn't know why he was getting "Thinking of you" texts from friends this morning.  I bought a card for my dad (first holiday of 2011 that I managed to purchase greeting cards for), which I then forgot to take to him, so it's now sitting on the table with a stamp on it to be mailed belatedly.  I'm not worried about it; I'm sure he understands.

Thanks for raising me right, Dad.  Note:  No babies were actually consuming alcohol in this photo.  At least not that I can remember.

I also got a card for David.  I usually buy funny cards, but this was a Very.Serious.Card.  You know, with lots of writing.  It said something like "We've been though good times and bad times.  And very good times and very bad times."  and then a bunch of stuff about how he's always there for me that he is "a great partner and a caring father."  Couldn't have described him better if I'd written it myself.

Also he is a stud.  Note: I was going to put a shirtless photo of him to illustrate his studliness but he has asked me not to compromise his professional reputation.  Here he's very professionally holding a jar of Puking Pestles in Harry Potter world. 
So as I was saying, we were down home over the weekend, staying with my parents back in Nevada, MO (that's pronounced Ne-VAY-duh).  This is quite the jaunt from St. Louis--over to the other side of the state (just twenty minutes from Kansas!) and down south toward the Ozarks.  It's the sort of place from which spring country songs about the joys of small town life, and also meth labs.  There are things I hate about Nevada, but also things I really love about.

For example:  David stopped in at the local insurance company to visit a good friend of his who works there.  While he was chatting, my friend Monica called to make an inquiry about her insurance policy.  When the receptionist (also wife) of the insurance agent told him Monica was on the phone, David told her to tell Monica that David was there and she'd have to call back later.  Monica was confused, and then cracking up.  The overlapping networks of connections is one of those things that people both love and hate about small towns.

Anyway, although I obviously know a lot of people in Nevada, I didn't advertise this trip.  I felt really conflicted because my grandparents and aunts, uncles, cousins are all there, but I just didn't want to see everybody.  Truth be told, I really didn't want to see anybody.  I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, and it's not that I don't love them all.  It's just that I had imagined going home to visit with Eliza and showing her off to everyone and being so happy and I just wasn't ready for the family get-together that didn't include her (last week at the lake with David's family was hard enough).  I wanted an easy weekend, and seeing everyone would not have been so easy.  It would have been fine if they stopped by, but I didn't want to plan a visit or see everybody at once.  So I didn't.  My Nana stopped by briefly on Sunday and I felt guilty for not calling her (perhaps because she said, "You've been here all weekend and didn't call me?  And I'm going to tell your Papa you didn't call him either!")  I do feel bad about that--I said that I'd see him next time and she commented that it had been a really long time since the last time I'd been home.

Uh, yeah.  Because the last time I was home was Thanksgiving weekend.  The weekend of my baby shower.  The week before my baby died.  The last time I was home I was pregnant and happy and excited.  It has taken me over six months to be ready to go back.

The fact is I didn't call anybody except two friends from high school whom I've been in touch frequently since Eliza died.   Right now, my feeling is that if people didn't make an extra effort to reach out to me in the past few months, I am not in a position to be able to make much of an effort from this end.  It's not that I'm holding grudges or hard feelings, and it's not that I don't want to see people.  I just don't have the energy to make plans.  I'm just making choices that are the easiest and simplest and least stressful right now.  And I don't feel bad about it.  This summer is just about surviving.

On the whole, it was a pretty good weekend (even with the guilt trip, I was glad to see Nana and sorry that I didn't get to see Papa).  It was pretty easy.  Although I had pictured having Eliza with us this summer, the stuff we did while we were home was the kind of stuff that I've always done, so it didn't feel like an extra painful reminder that she's not here.  It felt more like revisiting my high school days.  And we made the most of the entertainment that Nevada has to offer:  dinner with friends, swimming, Mexican food, Wal-Marts, the purchase of a cowboy hat for David, and a drive through the local drink barn.

Because what's more convenient than a convenience store?  A drive through drink barn.
Happy's Drink Barn is, as the name suggests, a drive-through barn-shaped liquor store--you pull in, a girl takes your order and gets you whatever alcohol you want from the coolers or shelves, then you pull forward and pay.  It's pretty brilliant.  I won't be surprised if they franchise and you see them everywhere.  Driving through Happy's Drink Barn is not something I'd imagined doing with my infant daughter, so that made it easy.  Not to mention that it's a drive-through liquor store, so what's not to like?

I also painted my mom's dining room while we were home and it turned out really cute.  It's a nice sort of olive-green color.  An improvement over the 20-year-old wallpaper that had been there previously.  It made me feel productive and kept me busy all weekend and it got me in the mood to paint my own house (even though it's somehow more fun to paint other people's houses--am I right?), so I am going to be tackling the master bedroom and living room this summer.

Anyway, it was generally really pleasant weekend and I only cried when David and I managed to headbutt each other by accident in bed in the middle of the night Friday night.  That really hurt.  I swear he was trying to lie on my pillow, but he says I was in his space.  A painful encounter either way.

So the weekend was good.  And now we just keep on figuring out how to survive this summer.  It means some small adjustments in what we do and where we go and whom we see.  We didn't go to Shakespeare in the Park this year because last year when we went I was newly pregnant and so excited and so first-trimester-exhausted that I fell asleep on our blanket during the second half of Hamlet.  I love the Taming of the Shrew, which was showing this year, but I just wasn't ready to go back.  I don't walk the dogs up to the neighborhood park where the baby strollers swarm.  We're not doing baby birthday parties, but I was somewhat relieved to get the invitation and know that we're not being treated like social pariahs, but our friends are understanding when we no-show (in this case we actually have other plans, but I don't think we could go either way).  But we are doing some socializing--I am making an effort to see friends from my program who are moving away to new jobs this fall.  I'm doing Girls' Night again next month.  And then there's the upcoming Canadian vacation (Update on those plans later--I think we will love it though, because, you guys, there is so much more to Canada than riots and heroin addicts.  No matter what the United States news might be reporting.).

So it's summer.  It's not the summer I had imagined.  It's not the way I want things to be.  But we're figuring out how to make it day by day. 

It's Father's Day, and I'm thankful for my dad.  And for Eliza's dad, too.

I'm also kind of thankful for Happy's Drink Barn.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Five Other Things

So some other things happened over the weekend or since I quit detailing my life minute-by-minute for you folks.  Here is a list:

1.  The dogs went to Groomingdale's and got baths and Mac got a haircut.

2.  Little Mac bit David's three-year-old niece and made her bleed.

3.  I drank some of the wine cube.

4.  I learned a lesson about oversharing in a nail salon.

5.  I called 911.  On three cows.

Let's go down the list, shall we?

1.  So I take the dogs to Groomingdale's.  Coop gets a bath and shedless treatment (waste of money but each time I remain hopeful that instead of lessening the amount of fur he loses for, oh, two hours or so, it will somehow cure him of fur-loss and I will never have to vacuum my couch again).  Mac gets a trim because her fur was so long she was like a cross between a lion and a wildabeast.

(Which reminds me of this time I went to camp in seventh grade and only one girl in our cabin did not yet shave her legs and we called her "Wildabeast" behind her back because seventh grade girls are total bitches like that, but it totally didn't cramp her game because one night she came back to the cabin with all kinds of hickeys and had to have a long talk with the counselor while the rest of us took our Bic razors and went to shower.)

Anyway, I got home to a message on our answering machine that went something like this:  "Little Mac is kind of hesitant about going into our dryer, so we are going to just let her air dry and it might take a little longer before she's ready to go home."

Which I knew automatically was an exceedingly polite way of saying "Your dog is a fucking Tazmanian devil who tried to rip us to shreds when we attempted to guide her into the doggie-dryer and so we are going to lock her into a cage by herself until you pick her ass up.  And also whatever tip you were planning to leave is not going to be big enough."

They do a great job, because she looked adorable when I picked her up.  You would never know just how vicious she can be.

Srsly. Do not fuck with me.
2. Which brings me to Little Mac biting David's niece.  Taylyn is a dog lover and although Cooper welcomes attention wherever he can get it, Taylyn was more interested in the cute little package that is Little Mac.

Don't you just want to love her and squeeze her?
Her is only sweet when her is sleeping.
 Unfortunately, Little Mac is like a peanutbutter cup with a razor blade inside.  You want to keep her away from the kids because they find her irresistible.  I would catch Taylyn trying to swipe her hand down Little Mac's back, ever-so-gently, just petting her for a second to see if she could touch her before Mac would start growling.  That's a risky game to play.

It's true that Mac usually gives a growling warning before she springs on you, but this was first thing in the morning, and Sister is not at her best first thing in the morning.  Moreover, we were all in the sunroom, so it was kind of crowded, and we had three different conversations going, and one of them involved shouting to David's grandpa since he doesn't hear so well, and Little Mac was overstimulated and overcrowded and she can't see well because of her cataracts and still there's no excuse for her.  What happened was simply that Taylyn tried to pet her, and Little Mac bit her on the hand, hard enough to break the skin.

I was mortified, but Taylyn's parents were (thankfully) very chill about it.  Taylyn barely even cried.  David gave Little Mac the "If you were a German Shepherd, you'd be dead by now," talk and tossed her in the other room (as a means of discipline this is admittedly ineffective, but we are at a loss.  Confrontations with Little Mac only have one winner, and it is always Little Mac.).  It was SO embarrassing.  Little Mac, of course, was unfazed.  She has no shame.

3.  The wine cube.  It's pretty good!  I mean, maybe not the awesomest wine I've ever had, but just as good as the cheap stuff I usually buy.  Wine cube is a winner!

4.  So I was back in the nail salon (I know, mistake number one) and this time when the dude (it was a dude this time) asked if I had kids, I said no.  But only because I wanted to stop the conversation before it started, having just had a revelation based on this experience:

When I walked into the salon and was choosing my color (OPI Shanghai Shimmer), it was very crowded.  Lots of people there, but everyone in the nail salon heard the following conversation:

Lady at Nail Salon (to guy working at nail salon):  What's your name?

Nail Salon Guy:  Tom.

Sharon:  Oh, I used to be married to a Tom.   My name is Sharon.

Tom:  Shar-on.  What happened to your husband?

\Me (to myself):  OMG inappropriate question, Tom.  What are you thinking?  He's either dead or they're divorced.  Either way, the story is probably not a really happy one.

Sharon:  We got divorced.  He had a thing for teenagers.  He was having an affair with the babysitter.

Tom:  Oh!  (Awkward silence ensues).

Me (to myself):  OMG.  Wow.  Sharon is just going to put her shit out there in the nail salon.  I do not need to put my shit out there in the nail salon.  I just put it out there on the internet instead.

Also the other lady working in the salon asked the woman next to me in the pedicure chair if she had kids, and that lady said, "No.  Never had time."  And I thought, There's probably way more to her story than that, but she doesn't feel the need to put her shit out there in a nail salon either.  She should start a blog.

The lesson here is that sometimes you can talk about your baby who died, and sometimes you can just read your People magazine and make as little conversation as possible.  And you don't need to feel weird about it either way.

5.  The cows.  When we were driving home from the lake, I cried for a while, and then I stared out the window, and then I was staring at three cows walking down the side of the highway.  They were following pedestrian rules of walking on the side of the road, against traffic.  A tight little threesome, trottling along the shoulder of the highway, just on the outside of the yellow line.

I started looking around frantically for some supervision for these cows.  A cowboy?  A ranch hand?  An Amish kid?  Somebody had to be in charge of these cows.

There was no one.

I was worried about the cows being hit by a truck and hurt or killed.  What if one of them panicked and darted into an oncoming vehicle?  David was more concerned about what a cow would do to a car than what a car would do to a cow.

We decided I should call the highway patrol.  I dialed 911 and had the following conversation: 

Operator:  911, what's your emergency?

Me:  Well, it's not an emergency exactly.  I need to report three cows on highway 44.

Operator:  Three cows?

Me:  Yes.  They are walking on the side of the highway, on the shoulder.  By themselves.  We passed them at mile marker 139.

Operator:  Eastbound or westbound?

Me:  Um, well they're westbound, but they're on the eastbound side of the road.  In the middle by the median.

Operator:  OK, I'll let the highway patrol know.

Me:  OK, thank you.

I felt all important since my call was taken seriously, and I imagined the operator quickly putting herself through to highway patrol:  "I have a report on three renegade cows, westbound on eastbound 44.  Pick them up, stat."  Or whatever word police use for "stat."

Poor cows.  I hope they were OK.

So those are the five most interesting things to happen to me of late.  Just filling my various roles of irresponsible and overindulgent dog owner, enthusiastic boxed-wine drinker, bereaved parent who avoids oversharing, and concerned citizen for cow and highway safety. 

So what's up with you?  Have you recently (or ever) dialed 911?  Saved a cow?  Been bitten by a small dog?  Been appalled at (or guilty of) oversharing?  Do tell.

Monday, June 13, 2011


NOTE:  Here's a weird thing about where I am at six months and one week:  I am alternately astonished by how much or how little I am crying, depending on the day.

So here I am, posting again. 

I feel like I've been gone a million years.

It's been like five days.

But my blog-reader-list thing!  It was FULL of new posts to read.  And I read them all!  And I was trying to comment but there were so MANY and it's after 8pm and I had to teach today and I feel TIRED and I have to finish reading and prepping for teaching and remembering how to turn Word files in PDFs (OMG I remembered.  And it's so embarrassingly easy that I can't believe I actually forgot and had to try to remember.).  So then instead of commenting I just started sending mental good-vibes to people.  I'm sure you felt those, right?  Great.

Anyway, you may be wondering what I've been doing.  Oh, not much.  Just, you know, flying through trees with the greatest of ease.

Yes, we went ziplining.  Yes, I was sort of nervous.  I hated the rope bridge more than any other part of it.  Once we did the first round, I loved it.  I could have zipped around all day.

David rocks the zipline.  He was fearless.

I am a tool.

I feel compelled to explain that the reason I am perching on my harness as though I am primly sitting on a chair is because the zip-lining guide, Kristy, told me to "cannonball" my legs up as I left the zipline platform and at this point I was starting to put my legs down for the landing but also trying to pose for a picture that would show that I was brave enough not to hold on with both hands and also I was trying to look cool for the other zipline guide, Corey, who was a cute boy with tattooed biceps. 

Clearly my efforts to look cool for Corey = FAIL.  Instead I look like some bizarre form of Mary Poppins or something.

BUT ziplining was fun.  It was one of those moments of feeling like a somewhat normal person in between many moments of feeling like a sad mess of a person.

The weekend was rough, honestly.  We were back at the lake with David's family and it was nice to see them and we did all kinds of fun things.  His nephew and niece are six and a half and three years old, respectively, and they are cute and fun to play with.  There was all the usual entertainment--swim in the pool!  paddleboat in the lake!  walk the dogs!  go out for fried fish!  read in the porch swing!  drink a beer while sitting on the patio!--but, you guys, all I could think about was that Eliza was supposed to be there.  Her cousins were supposed to be interested in (and then bored by) looking at the baby.  David was supposed to have her loaded up in the bjorn for our walks.  She was supposed to be rolling around on the carpet, gnawing on jenga pieces that the kids were playing with.  We were supposed to be making her laugh and arguing about who changed the last diaper.  David's grandma was supposed to be fussing over her and people were supposed to be asking me questions about how she was sleeping and whether she was teething and I was supposed to be comparing notes with David's aunt about when her kids started rolling over / crawling / walking / teething. 

Instead, Eliza was not mentioned.  I could have brought her up, but I didn't.  The truth is, if anyone had said her name, I would have burst into tears.  She was constantly at the forefront of my thoughts and I missed her SO much I couldn't even begin to talk about it. 

It was hard to see David's niece with her dad.  It was hard to see David playing with the kids.  I braided his niece's hair into two adorable French braids and she looked so cute and it broke my heart into a million pieces.  I held it together, but all I could think about was my baby girl and that I will never get to French braid her hair and, as you might expect, if I don't immediately redirect my thoughts from there, I could spiral out into a whole avalanche of things we're missing out on and I could cry about it for a million years.

The last day we were there, David's mom came down with his nephew who just turned one in April.  I was nervous about seeing him because he's such a "baby," and I thought that might be hard, but it was okay in the sense that he was a goofy, cute, drooling little bug of a dude and he staggers around like a drunken sailor when he walks.  He took to me right away, even though I'd only seen him once before, when he was five months old.  He wanted me to hold him and he hooked his little arm around my neck and David's grandma kept commenting on how much he was taking to his "Auntie Brooke." 

And I held him and tickled him and played with him and all I wanted was MY baby.

It was like this crazy kind of reverse torture.  The more FUN we had, the WORSE it felt.  Every fun activity was just a reminder of everything we are missing out on.  It was a FUN weekend.  We had a GOOD time.  And it was SO impossibly hard.

So I cried off and on for two days.  Not in front of everybody.  I cried in the bathroom or at bedtime or once while walking Cooper by myself because I just had to get away from all of the SUPER FUN FAMILY time because sometimes I HATE fun because I have to have it without Eliza.  I mean, I like fun.  But I also hate it at the same time.  We got in the car to go home and at the end of David's grandparents' road, I just burst into tears.  Because we weren't going home with our baby and our pack n play and our car loaded up with baby paraphernalia.  We were just going home.  Alone.

Well, the dogs were with us.
Cooper posing with his "serious" look. Serious look is complicated by fact that his head is abnormally small given the size of his body.  But he's just a baby.  He don't know.

Little Mac returns home only to pull the cushion out of her bed and wear it as a turtle shell.  Desire to be a turtle is the least of her issues, folks.
Anyway, it's back to real life now.  Summer class has started.  Teaching is good for me, honestly, because I am more productive when I am busy and it makes me feel like I am somewhat competent at doing something besides moping and crying.  Moping and crying, however, do remain my two greatest areas of expertise. 

I should keep working on my ziplining skillz, though.  Still hoping to impress Corey.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Monday, June 6, 2011

Oh, you thought I'd forgotten!  Or gotten tired of this project!

I am kind of tired of it.  Also I find myself thinking, "Should I really go back to Target today?  What will people think?"  But whatever.  Here's Monday:

8:00am.  Awake.  Unwilling to get up.  Read entry in daily grief book, and re-read past few entries, too.  Snuggle up to Cooper and do the half-asleep thing for a little while.

9:00am.  Up and at 'em.  Consider doing yoga dvd.  Decide not to.  Will walk dog vigorously instead.  Put on running shorts and tank top in preparation. 

9:15-10:30am.  blogging/reading/e-mailing.  Lots of thinking about Eliza.  Some tears.

10:30am-12:30pm.  Do some actual work.  Prep for class on banned books.  Update syllabus.  Make note to re-read Fahrenheit 451 over the weekend.  Send work-related e-mails.

12:30-1pm.  Eat lunch (leftover tatertot casserole) while reading Real Simple magazine.  Look forward to having office on campus where I can relocate at least half the crap from my home office.  Decide home office also needs more organizational storage solutions.  Wonder if this sudden need for extreme tidiness is a side-effect of grief's messiness or a side effect of just wanting to buy new stuff.

1:00pm.  More e-mail, then work on writing/editing work stuff.  Make note to look up NPR archives on 50th anniversary of Lolita.

3:00pm.  Put on wedding ring and Eliza bracelet.  Drive to Wash U to put in request for transcripts to be sent to new job.  Walk to building that houses registrar's office.  Go in wrong entrance and get turned around.  Maintenance worker gives me directions, which consist of "walk to your left instead of right."

3:30pm.  Politely ask registrar if I am in the right place to request a transcript.  She says I have to do it online.  I say that I need this piece of paper (wave piece of green paper) sent with the transcripts, so I thought I would need to drop this off in person.  She says she will send transcripts with this green paper, but I need to fill out online form and indicate that green paper has already been dropped off.  I give her green paper and leave.

3:32pm.  There is computer kiosk in hallway.  I decide to fill out online order form RIGHT THERE.  That will show the registrar girl that I can check stuff off my to-do list.

3:33pm.  Online order form requires address.  Address is on green paper.

3:33.5pm.  Return to office, politely request green paper back so I can have address.  Promise to return quickly.  Registrar-girl fetches paper for me, but also lets out irritated sigh.  Privately think that she should be thanking me for extra exercise because she looks like she needs it.  Remind self that everyone is fighting their own battles.

3:35pm.  Return to computer kiosk, fill out online form.  Transcripts used to be free but now cost $5.  What is world coming to?

3:37pm.  Return green paper to registrar with effusive thanks.

3:40pm.  Arrive at another building on campus to make copies for summer class.

3:45pm.  Girl in office shows me copy code and how to use machine.

3:46pm.  Syllabus copies are inexplicably being made on 11 x 20" pieces of paper.  Start making squawking noise and start pushing random buttons, trying to stop copy machine from spitting out poster-sized copies of my syllabus.

3:46.5pm.  Girl in office returns to copy machine, says someone else must have reset the settings.  Fixes it.

3:50pm.  Leave office with copies made, normal-size.

4:00pm.  Return to car, drive to learning center to pick up paycheck and drop off assignments.

4:30pm.  Drive to Target.  Make spur of the moment decision to stop in DSW and look at running shoes.  (Lesson learned:  These Skechers shape ups do not actually tone up legs in lieu of actual exercise.  I know, it's a shocking revelation.  And I personally don't find them as comfortable as my regular running shoes, which are two years old.)

4:45pm.  All running shoes at DSW cost minimum of $69 or are not in my size.  Leave DSW in huff.

4:50pm.  Duck into Famous Footwear next door.  Zero in on pair of Saucony's (my favorite brand) that are in my size and cost less than $50.  Sold.  Get in line behind a mom with two kids.

4:55pm.  Still waiting in line behind Tyler and his mother, while they debate over whether to order Pumas for Tyler in a size 7.5 or 8 and have them shipped to their house.  High-school-looking girl behind the counter feels Tyler's toes in the size 7 shoe and recommends an 8.  As though the high school girl is suddenly a shoe-fit expert.  I am skeptical.  Tyler's mother appears to trust her authority.  They decide to order the 8.  Meanwhile, Tyler's older sister tries to convince Tyler to try on another pair of Pumas that she found.  Tyler refuses.  Tyler's mother tells her to put the shoe back.  Tyler's sister puts it on the counter instead.  Then she begins whining for socks.  Tyler's sister is annoying.  Also she kind of reminds me of myself at age 11.

5:15pm.  Finally get out of their with the shoes.  Head for Target.

5:20pm.  Arrive at Target.  Park far away because lot is very full.  Walk toward entrance.

5:21pm.  Turn around outside entrance and walk back to car to get reusable shopping bags.

5:22pm.  Reusable shopping bags are not in car.  David must have removed them.  Let out my own irritated sigh.  He has probably cost me a quarter (since you save $.05/bag at Target if you bring your own) and also I feel terrible about using plastic bags.

5:23pm.  Enter Target.  This is the biggest Target in my area, and not where I usually shop.  It's so big it carries fresh produce.  I take my time wandering around.

5:30pm.  Stop at cleaning supplies.  Smell all of the natural anti-bac bathroom cleaners.  I think they smell like Listerine.  David thinks they smell like icy-hot.  David cannot abide by the scent of these bathroom cleaners.  I cannot abide by the gunk around the shower drain.  I finally decide to just buy the regular toxic stuff with bleach in it.  I feel guilty about not being a good steward of the environment.  I choose all natural kitchen cleaners and shampoo to make up for it.

5:40pm.  David calls me.  He's at a golf tournament that started at 3pm.  He ran inside for bathroom break and called to say hi.  I ask him if we need both sizes of ziplock bags.  He says yes.

5:45pm.  Wish David luck, hang up phone.  Choose the ziplock bags that claim to be more environmentally friendly than the others.

6:15pm.  Go to Target check out.  Have a million things in cart.  Check out lines are long, but a guy opens up a new lane for me.  I am pleased.  He scans my millions of things, loads them up in plastic bags (I continue to feel guilty).

6:20pm.  He gives me the total.  I tell him I want to open the Target debit card that works just like your regular bank debit card but saves you 5% on every purchase.  He asks me if I have a check with me.  I say, "Uh, no, wait! Yes."

6:20.05pm.  He clicks the wrong button and hit "VOID" on my order.  He tries to blame it on me saying I did not have a check with me.  But I would still have needed to pay for the stuff either way, so he still shouldn't have voided my order.  I remain silent.

6:20.5pm.  He calls over the manager to see if he can un-do the VOID on my order.  She says no.  He will have to re-ring it.  Everything in my cart. 

6:21pm.  Target guy starts sweating and freaking out.  I am remaining totally calm (I mean, seriously, who cares?) but he is freaking out.  He's telling people in line behind me that they should choose a different line because this will be a while since I am opening a debit card.  I am slightly annoyed that he is pitching all of this like it's my fault, but he is all red and sweaty like a heart attack is imminent, so I just say, "It's no big deal."  I mouth "Sorry" to the girl behind me.  She smiles and says, "It's not your fault."  I feel somewhat vindicated.  Target guy is still sweating profusely and tearing up plastic bags trying to get my stuff out of them to rescan.  I want to tell him to chill the hell out, but I don't want to stress him out more.

6:25-ishpm.  I leave Target, with debit card and many plastic bags full of crap useful household items.

6:35pm.  Arrive home.  Dump bags on kitchen counter.  Decide to walk Cooper.  Little Mac insists on joining us.  It's too hot for her (like 100 degrees hot). I make her stay inside and Cooper and I set off on the walk.

6:35.5pm.  We're one house down the block and I can hear Little Mac wailing from inside our house.

6:36pm.  I admit defeat.  Return home.  Get leash.  Little Mac joins us on the walk.

6:40pm.  I have shortened our route and slowed our pace, but Mac is still lagging behind and panting like crazy.  I tell her that next time she will listen to her mother. 

6:55pm.  Back from walk.  Feed dogs, wash hands, start boiling water for beans and rice.  Put away Target stuff.  Wish wine cube would cool instantly in fridge.  (Yes, I bought boxed wine at Target.  Go ahead and judge me.  It's the equivalent of two bottles!  In one little cardboard cube!  It lasts up to four weeks!  And you get to pour wine out of a spigot! FTW!)

7:30pm.  Eat dinner (beans and rice and broccoli) in kitchen while watching TV.  Reruns of The New Adventures of Old Christine -- my favorite! 

8:00pm.  House is clean, but floors need to be cleaned.  Pull out the steam cleaner.  Vacuum and steam the backroom, dining room, kitchen, and living room.

9:30pm.  David calls.  On his way home.  I put away vacuum and steam cleaner, feel like a Stepford wife.  Iron a pair of khaki pants for him to wear on Tuesday.  Feel like more of a Stepford wife.  Remember cube of wine in fridge and feel better.

10pm.  David arrives home.  Discuss golf tournament, get ready for bed.

10:15pm.  Read The Young Romantics (biography about Leigh Hunt, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley, et. al.)

11pm.  Sleep.

What Six Months Means

Monday was six months since Eliza died.  We did not commemorate the occasion in any special way.  Honestly, I try not to think about too much, not to get caught up in anniversaries because I think they can become a self-imposed reason to feel even shittier than I already do.  I don't need to torture myself--I'm already grieving.  Still. 

I'll tell you this, though.  Tears are still close to the surface, some kind of sadness is still ever-present, but six months later really is easier.  There are ups and downs, some days are harder than others, but I know it's easier than it was and here is why:  As I look back over these daily schedules, I am hardly watching any TV.  This is not because I am a TV snob (au contraire!) but back in my normal life, I just didn't watch much TV.  I never turn it on during the day when I'm home alone and sometimes David got home so late that we didn't have time to watch stuff before bed.  So we record all our shows and catch up on weekends (I love a lazy Sunday with nothing to do but watch TV and eat cheese and crackers for dinner). 

After Eliza died, thought, I couldn't be alone in my head.  It was unbearable.  I had to have the TV on constantly for the distraction.  I had to think about something else--anything else--besides my pain and grief.  The TV was on the moment I got out of bed and I moved directly from bed to the sofa in the living (by way of a bathroom break and maybe a brief detour to make a cup of tea in the kitchen, but there's a TV in the kitchen, too).  I was up with the Today show, watched Dr. Oz and Ellen, and then switched over to stuff I had recorded or Netflix instant queue. 

There for a while, especially on the days I didn't teach, I was probably watching about 8 hours of TV a day.  Minimum.  It was literally brain-numbing, but I had to do it to get away from my own thoughts.  Sometime over the last six months, I gradually started watching less TV.  It corresponds with the weather getting warmer and the TV seasons ending, but with a DVR and Netflix, there's really no reason to slow down.  Less TV doesn't mean there's nothing to watch.  It means that no matter how badly the loss of Eliza hurts me now, it really is more bearable than it was before.

So I guess I'm writing this to say, if you're reading this, and you're grieving, and you're just a few days or weeks or months out, I can assure you that it won't feel like this forever.  It really is like the change of seasons in Missouri.  Winter can drag out a long-ass time, and you'll have a couple of good days in there that make you think it's getting better, and then another cold spell will kill all hope you had of feeling better, but eventually, gradually, it will get easier.

Of course there's a moment when you'll say What's the point of feeling better, when better is still so shitty?  Is this really as good as it gets?  Because I still hate it.

Yeah, I know.  It's only been six months and I still want to go back in time and put things back the way they are supposed to be.  But that is starting to feel less possible, I entertain that idea less and less, and I am starting to think more about moving forward and a little less about going back in time (although having Eliza back is still my preference, obviously). 

Six months is a long ass time.  It's also a pretty short time.  For the first time in my life, I can't picture where I will be in another six months, or where I'll be a year from now.  As a serious plan-ahead kind of person, this is unsettling.  It is forcing me to live in the moment, where I am right now. 

This is a shitty place to be, because I don't especially like this moment.  Not so long ago, I thought I had everything to look forward to.  Being sucker-punched by trauma and grief was not in my plans (I suppose no one plans for that, right?  Hence the idea of being "sucker-punched"?).

This moment, though, right now?  It's okay. 

Being okay is different than it was.  It means that I can cry all morning and find myself laughing over dinner.  It means I go to Target and decide not to buy St. Louis Cardinals t-shirts for David's niece and nephew because if I have to flip through racks of Cardinals onesies, I will start crying in Target (I bought them Legos, bubbles, water guns, and glow bracelets instead).  It also means that I can smile at the good fortune of finding a dress on sale at Target for $8.74 (seriously!).  "Okay" means losing my shit way more often than I used to, but it also means holding it together most of the time. 

Life is not what it was supposed to be.  But I don't totally hate it 100% of the time.  And that's different than I felt six months ago.

Right now, in this little moment, I'm sitting on my futon typing this in my back room / sun room.  The radio is off, the AC is temporarily quiet, and I can actually hear birds chirping outside.  I know this post will be read by people who have been through this, or are going through it, by people who have reached out to me with kind words, by people who have come to feel connected to me and Eliza through this silly little blog, and I know that's a good thing. 

The room is full of light shining through white curtains and gleaming on hardwood floors (that, admittedly, need to be swept, hello dog hair!).  My bookshelves are full of books I love and, in front of the books, photographs of my friends and family I also love.  Cooper is next to me.  Mac is curled up on her bed, across the room.  The plants have been watered so they don't look parched.  This room is a nice place to be.

I could think about what I want to be doing, what I should be doing--taking care of a baby, packing a diaper bag for a couple more days at the lake with David's grandparents, ordering stupid things like mouse pads and stamps with Eliza's picture on them.  But am getting better at turning off that wishful thinking, and knowing that this moment, as a moment, by itself, does not totally suck.

Because, you guys, there is no TV in this room.

I miss Eliza as much as I ever did. 

But I don't have the TV on.  And I'm doing okay.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sunday, June 5, 2011

8:30am.  Wake up.  Snuggle with Cooper, who is sandwiched between me and David.

9:00am.  Out of bed.  David makes smoothies while I get dressed.

9:20am.  Head to driving range.

9:30am.  Driving range is very busy and I feel momentary sense of panic because what if I look stupid golfing or accidentally hit a ball sideways into someone or accidentally let go of my club and send it flying or something?

9:40am.  Begin hitting golf balls.  Manage to not make total ass of self by throwing club, etc.  Of course there are a lot of terrible shots, but everyone else is making them too.  Remind self that we are all there to practice, not to impress each other with our mad golf skills.

10:45am.  Have finished my bucket of balls and am ready to go.  David wants to practice chipping, so we head over to chipping area.  I manage to hit a few decent shots with my pitching wedge and I start feeling cocky.  Suddenly, every ball I hit barely leaves the ground and in fact zooms (or, in many cases, dribbles) off in unexpected directions.  Stupid sport.

11am.  I finally get two decent shots in a row, and decide to call it a day.

11:15am  We head home.  Eat leftover Chinese food for lunch.

11:45am.  David leaves to go play baseball in Illinois.  I sit down at computer, post blog about Saturday.

12:30am.  Begin to actually do some work.

3:00pm.  David arrives home.  I have actually worked consistently for more than two hours!  (Well, mostly consistently.)  Feel very proud of self. Finish up work and shut down computer.  David tells me that an acquaintance I like very much is about to have a baby girl any day.  I burst into tears.  (He didn't see that one coming.  Neither did I, actually.)

3:10pm.  Pull self together and start cleaning out utility closet.  It houses our water heater and furnace, but since our house is low on storage space, it also houses things like mops and brooms and David's tool kit and dog treats and aprons and extra placemats and potatoes and bags of tortilla chips.

BEFORE:  View from the front.

View to the left.  Pictured:  Blue Moon variety pack, box of dog treats, apron, mop(s), dusting stuff, juice, empty container used to hold cookies, tortilla chips, protein powder, frying pan, potatoes, placemats, salad bowl, green Tupperwear belonging to David's grandma, drawers containing with dog treats, placemats, wire, drawer pulls, hooks for hanging stuff, extra parts to items we no longer own.

View to the right.  Pictured:  Dog food, tool kit, Christmas-scented candles, fire extinguisher, extra batteries, corner of recycle bin.
3:15pm.  Entire contents of closet now piled onto kitchen counters and bar.

On bar:  spray paint, napkin holder, tupperware containing cheese cutters, paper plates and party napkins, dog treats, XXL Jif extra crunchy peanutbutter, candlestick holders, flashlight.

On kitchen counter:  aprons, baking soda, salad bowls, lunch boxes, beer, juice, bleach, pitchers, tortilla chips, protein powder, etc.

3:20pm.  Begin cleaning inside of closet, using vacuum to clean up cobwebs and dust on furnace pipes, wiping down shelves, etc.

4:00pm.  Closet is clean.  Still empty.  Project feels overwhelming and like a huge mistake.

4:15pm.  Leave for Home Depot to buy shelving for closet.  Also because I love to go to Home Depot twice in one weekend.  (Note:  That was sarcastic.  Also, this blog is not sponsored by Home Depot.  Home Depot does not know I exist except in the sense that it is impossible for me to go there and not spend at least $50.)

4:45pm.  Return from Home Depot.  Begin opening package of shelving unit.  Realize shelving unit is broken and also we forgot something else we needed.  Search for Home Depot receipt in purse.

4:48pm.  Unable to locate Home Depot receipt.  Curse.  Begin retracing steps.  Locate Home Depot receipt in cup holder of car.  Of course.

4:50pm.  David leaves to exchange shelving unit at Home Depot.  I begin trying to organize innards of utility closet.  I also rearrange canned goods and spices for easier access.

5:15pm.  Stack of cookbooks tips over, causes domino effect on countertop, my water glass falls to floor and shatters.

5:30pm.  Soak up water with towel and finish cleaning up tiny shards of glass with vacuum.  David returns home and asks how things are going.  Not well.

5:45pm.  David and I fight about where to put some things.  I start to cry because for some reason I feel incredibly emotionally invested in appropriate placement of random objects.  He lets me win the fight.

6:30pm.  Closet is starting to come together.  We take a break from closet work so David can make dinner and I can paint the front porch.  I cannot find my standard painting uniform (cut off OshKosh sweatpants that must be a little boys' size XXL or something and a t-shirt from University of Wisconsin at Whitewater that was given to me by a boy I met on Spring Break in Panama City, FL, with whom I had what we will euphemistically call here an "ill-fated romance."  How shocking for a relationship that started in Panama City, FL on Spring Break.).  Instead I put on a pair of boxer shorts (which also might be a little boys' size XXL and were probably my brother's in eighth grade. EW.) and a gray t-shirt with the neck cut out which I secretly think makes me look kind of cool like Jessie Spano in the episode where Zack finds out she's taking diet pills.

7:00pm.  Have already edged the porch and start to roll on paint.  Realize paint color is not called "Trail's End" but "Trail Print" which I find less appealing.  What is a trail print?  I guess like a foot print, but it also makes me think of dog poop.  I was hoping it was an earthy brown/gray color but actually it kind of just looks gray, which makes the name even less appropriate.  Still, it's better than mauve.  Why was our front porch mauve before, you may be asking.  I was trying to go for a brick red color that matched our paving stones...  Anyway, gray is an improvement.

8pm.  Hang sign that says "Wet Paint."  Wrap roller in plastic wrap so I can come back for coat #2 in a little while.  Go inside and eat dinner.  Tatertot casserole.

[Interjection:  Tatertot Casserole is total comfort food.  We used to eat it when I was little and I introduced David to it and now it is a staple in our house and we both get really excited about it.  You make it by mixing cooked ground beef (or, in my case, soy crumbles or tempeh) with cream of mushroom soup and that is layered in the bottom of a casserole dish.  Drain a can of French cut green beans and pour those over the meat/soy layer.  Top with tatertots and bake for twenty minutes or so at 350.  Add some shredded cheddar cheese on top, bake for another few minutes.  Enjoy!]

8:20pm.  David washes up dinner, I head back outside to give the porch a second coat (it's a very small porch--really a small concrete slab).

8:40pm.  Clean up paint materials, back inside to finish closet.

AFTER:  View from the front.

View to the left.  Food storage with cookbooks on bottom shelf.  Cleaning tools neatly hung.  Not pictured:  drawers, now organized, still containing dog treats, placemats, and miscellaney.

View to the right.  New shelves with tool kit, dog food, lunch boxes, pitchers, and that huge package of baking soda.

9:30pm.  Closet organized.  There is actually some space leftover!  We wonder why we didn't do this years ago.  Am amazed that it all got put away and (best of all) that I know where it is and David has not simply hidden it from me.  Flop down on sofa, check e-mail

10pm.  David goes to bed.  I cannot go to bed because this level of Angry Birds is making ME really angry.

10:30pm.  Admit defeat to Angry Birds and take a shower to wash off paint.

11pm.  In bed with wet hair.  Will just do a ponytail tomorrow.

 One more Before and After photo, so you can be suitably impressed:


OK, maybe it doesn't look that impressive in pictures when you can really only see our furnace and you can't see the layer of dust that's there in the Before pictures.  I assure you, it's a big improvement. 

Before I Write About Sunday

This daily diary is getting a bit tedious (and all heads reading this nod simultaneously) but!  Only three more days.  I don't like to be a quitter so I'll post Sunday later.

Before I start, though, I want to say that I read a post today by a mother whose daughter had a damaged brain when she was born and who has has grown up with many physical and mental challenges and who returns to the hospital for another round of treatment/surgery/tests today.  I can sympathize with that because as much as I wish I could have Eliza here under almost any circumstances, I know there are fates and difficulties that no child should have to face.  As I read her post, (you can read it here), I realized how much I could sympathize with what she's going through because some of the words fit my own situation exactly.

Like the impossibility of being blindly optimistic, even when we hope for a better future.  Because, as Jennifer writes, "You cannot say, in an overly hearty voice, Oh, that will never happen, because it has, and it took you by surprise and the only thing worse than bad news is being too dumb to expect it, and to sit there stunned to hear it, your mouth hanging open, and not the first clue how to cope."

When the doctor told me that she was sorry but my baby had died, I was so shocked and I wondered for a moment if I was going to have an out-of-body experience because suddenly every detail of that room was so incredibly vivid and it was like I could see myself, curling up on my side in the hospital bed, gasping, and David holding my hand while all the color drained from his face.  Then I barfed and then I had another contraction and then I just figured the whole process would kill me too and that would be a relief.  Because how do you even begin to cope with the worst news you never thought you would hear?  

Jennifer writes about that, too.  She explains that her worry for her daughter has her sitting up at night.  And what do you do when you're awake and you're terrified and there's nothing in the entire world that would bring you comfort except to have that lost chance given back to you?

Well, some of us turn our desperation into words.  Not the carefully crafted sentences and le mot juste that I preach to my students and admire in my favorite writers.  We are not George Eliots and Vladimir Nabokovs here.  But we do write, honestly and truthfully and desperately, and then we wait to see who writes back.  And it is a lifeline.  The words that come in blog comments from other people on this path.  The card in the mail.  The text from a childhood friend.  The e-mail from a high school friend.  The e-mail from a friendly acquaintance, with whom you have more in common than you ever knew.  Putting what I'm feeling out there and having those feelings affirmed and understood and echoed back to me has been the best way I know to cope when it feels like this is just unsurvivable.

"Tonight there is just a long time till morning, and your lost saints can give no comfort. So you pick up your pen instead and you pin the terror to the page, and you hope it does not get loose. And a circle of women who have sat this vigil themselves seem to surround you, echoing back so many generations you cannot begin to count, and you know you are not alone, and you never have been, even in that hardest part before dawn."

I love that image of pinning terror to the page.  I think I try to do that with grief--another form of terror, really.  If I could only describe it accurately, I could somehow understand it, control it, conquer it.  Or at the very least, get some of it outside me so it can't suffocate me so much.

I was telling David yesterday that we never really know what other people think of us.  I'm always stunned to hear someone's first impression of me because I think that all of my idiosyncrasies and insecurities must shine through and the best I can hope is for people to be charmed by my weirdness (as David clearly is).  But I guess I don't actually wear my heart on my sleeve because people look at me and sometimes they see someone who looks competent and put together and like she has things figured out.  This is totally flattering (if somewhat astonishing).  But it also reminds me of why it's important to me to be honest about how much this fucking sucks and how hard it is because no matter what happens, no matter if David and I go on to have kids of our own, or adopt a beautiful bunch of kids like the Jolie-Pitts or decide that it's just going to be the two of us and we're going to wear designer clothes and fly first class instead of saving for college funds, our lives will never be quite what they were supposed to be.  Eventually, we will heal and go on and our lives may look charmed from the outside, to people who don't know what we've lost, but we will always be missing our first baby girl, even when things get easier and this pain no longer eats up our guts.

Opening up about that sadness is an invitation for people I don't know to share their stories with me and, considering that I tend to get anxious about making small-talk with colleagues, I have been pleasantly surprised by how much I welcome those connections.  People say to me, "I am sorry about Eliza.  I know something of your pain..." and then I hear about her child who died, or his sibling, or her childhood best friend, or her cousin, or the fact that he was born after his parents lost a child, or that she had a miscarriage, or she and her husband struggled with infertility.  I'm honored that people think they can trust me with those stories and it doesn't feel like a burden.  It feels like a connection.

"You are not alone, and you never have been, even in that hardest part before dawn."

Countless other people have walked this path, or something similar.  But you won't know it unless you tell them what you're going through.  And some people don't know and don't get it and don't want to get it and would prefer to rewrite the metaphysical world so that it matches their own personal desire of orderly purpose instead of the reality of random unfairness.  But I have found for every one of those people, there someone out there it would benefit me to know, someone who will enrich my life, or tell me something new, or explain how they coped with heartbreak, or recall a funny shared experience, or offer me vacation advice. 

I miss Eliza all the time.  I loved that baby differently than I have every loved anyone.  It has been six months since we lost her, and that does not seem possible.  We wanted so much for her and we had such big plans.  Although some parts of this ache are softening a little bit as the months go by, our hearts will always long for her, and for all the hopes and dreams that died with her.  But I know that that longing won't always eat me up inside.  I know because I've heard it from other people who have been here.

Even in the middle of this grief, at the loneliness time of my life, I have discovered that I am not alone at all.  And that is a gift from Eliza.  It's not the one I wanted, but I am still thankful for it.