Sunday, July 31, 2011

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Popcorn

Popcorn has been a staple food for me as long as I can remember.  We ate a lot of popcorn when I was a kid.  My mom had this popper that you had to put the oil and kernels in, and then put the whole thing in the microwave.  Sometimes my parents would make popcorn after my brother and I had gone to bed, but the smell of it would send us downstairs with these little tin buckets that we kept in our rooms--I guess for the express purpose of carrying them downstairs, filling them with popcorn, and taking them back up to bed.  (Now the idea of going to sleep with popcorn in my teeth would make me crazy, but as a kid I guess I didn't mind.)  A big part of Christmas was the three-flavor popcorn tin, with cheddar and caramel, and sometimes cinnamon popcorn.

At my friend Erin's house, her dad would make us popcorn and pour real butter on it and we would carry a huge bowl down to her basement and watch Space Balls or The Princess Bride while devouring our vat of buttered kernels and trying to perfect our British accents (I'm pretty sure this is how all the cool kids spent their weekends in seventh grade, right?).

Popcorn is especially a family tradition in the Talcott side of my family--my mom's mom's family.  My grandparents often made a Sunday night dinner out of popcorn, with chocolate waffles for dessert (a delicious family recipe, always served with vanilla ice cream), and my grandma's sisters shared that tradition, too.  "Snack Suppers" are still one of my favorite treats--popcorn, apples, cheese and crackers for dinner.  It occurs to me that we need to be making chocolate waffles more often...

When I was in my first year of grad school, living alone in an apartment, a bag of popcorn was dinner for me at least once a week.  Even now if David's at a meeting or ball game in the evening, he'll say, "What are you going to do for dinner?  Popcorn?" (David rarely finds it as compelling an idea as I do--he likes popcorn, but for him it's in the "snack" category).  It's probably the one and only food that no matter how stuffed I am, I always have room for it.  The smell is absolutely irresistible to me.

It was still something of a surprise, however, to discover that I share my love of popcorn with none other than Little Mac.  I remember feeding her some popcorn shortly after David and I started dating, when I was over at his place watching a movie.  I wanted to win her over and make her like me.  Little did I know that I was creating a monster...

We make it on the stove top now (because my cousin Amanda freaked me out about the chemicals in microwave popcorn--she also put me off of pre-shredded cheese!) and Little Mac is always underfoot in the kitchen anyway.  But she knows as soon as David puts that particular pan on the stove and pours in the oil that we're going to have popcorn.

She is so overcome with excitement and anticipation that she starts WAILING.  Howling.  And then Cooper joins her (we assume this is because her wailing hurts his ears, or maybe it's sympathy-wailing, either way, he sounds like a beagle and it's loud).  Mac gets especially frantic if no one is in the kitchen while the oil is warming up.  As though we might FORGET that there is popcorn on the stove unless she shrieks about it.  It's such an ordeal and so LOUD that sometimes we debate whether it's worth it to make popcorn (but in the end, it always is). 

So here you are--a taste of life with Little Mac.  Turn UP the volume of your computer (unless you are at work).  And please keep in mind, no dogs were hurt in this film.  She is in no physical pain whatsoever.  She just has trouble expressing her emotions appropriately:

And once the popcorn is popped, we eat in the living room and throw it out to the dogs one kernel at a time.  Cooper can usually catch it in his mouth.  Little Mac's eyesight is so bad that it has to land on the floor near her, otherwise it bounces off her head.  She tries to catch it, bless her heart, but she always ends up chasing it.  And she is absolutely beside herself with excitement the entire time.  If we pause too long between tosses, she'll bound up to the sofa and put her front paws up on our laps to remind us that she's still there, while she pants and smiles at us.

Action shot!  You can see that Mac has made a flying leap for this piece of popcorn, but she is going to miss it.  Cooper hangs back, because he wants the popcorn, but he respects his sister.  Or he fears for his life if he crosses her.  Either way.

Here's Coop, eyeing a kernel that's flying his way.

Another kernel--Cooper is poised to catch it!

Sister is hungry for more.  Always.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Questions from Glow, Answered

 Tash offered these questions in a post at Glow, and here I am, trying to answer them.

1. How much time has passed since the death of your child(ren)?  Do you mark grief in months, weeks or years? Does it seem to be going fast or slow?  

It's been almost eight months.  That seems like an impossibly long time.  It's almost the amount of time I was pregnant with Eliza.  Time has gone both fast and slow.  December is just behind me, but (thank God) it's also far away.  The grief has gotten easier to carrier.  Falling asleep, my brain no longer replays the hours of the hospital and her birth in vivid images and physical pain.  I mark grief in months, just as I would mark her age right now.  Time started off so very slow, but is going increasingly faster and I hate the idea of hitting the one year mark.  I remember reading other blogs where people were sad to hit one year because it met they were further from their baby, that what happened was now "last year" instead of so many months ago.  I didn't understand that--all I could think was that I just needed to get far enough out so I could breathe.  But now I get it.  One year brings no relief.  It just means I'm further from Eliza, and further from the sympathy of those early days.  It still hurts.  Different, but just the same.

2. Do you have an end goal to your grief?  How much time do you think that will take?  How much time did you think you'd need to get there right after your loss?  How much time do you think you need now? 

I think it will help us to get past Christmas this year.  What should have been Eliza's first Christmas is instead our second without her.  Last year's theme was shock, numbness, and trauma; this year's shaping up to be anguish, sorrow, and grief, continued.  So far the plan is to skip it entirely and go somewhere warm.  I feel like my friends are getting impatient with me--I understand that.  I sat out of a lot of events in the past eight months and I'm not sure how many more I'll need to miss in the future, but I think I'm approaching the timeline when their understanding is stretched a bit.  It frustrates me because I think either people can imagine how they would feel if their own baby died--in which case they know the grief is crippling--or they can't imagine, in which case they need to take my word for it:  the grief is crippling.  I need more time. 

3. Rather than a clear end goal, is there a milestone or marker to indicate that you are feeling grief less acutely, i.e. going to a baby shower, listening to a song that made you cry early in grief, driving past the hospital?  How long did it take to get there?

I feel much easier talking about other people's babies now.  Boys are easier than girls, but still.  I can swing it.  I may not start a conversation about these babies, but the mention of them does not make my heart feel like it is in a vise.  Also, I'm looking forward to starting my new job, which seemed unimaginable not so long ago.  I know these things mean it's less acute.  But I don't think I will EVER go to another baby shower again.  I'm having all kinds of anxiety about that, as my best friend is pregnant (due in January, just like I was) and this fall I think I should be hosting her baby shower, just like I hosted her bridal shower a few years ago.  And there's no way I can do it.  I already know what gift I'm going to give her, but I would rather peel off my skin than go to a baby shower.  Anyone's baby shower.  I think it would be easier to visit her and her new baby after it's born than to go to a shower where it's all excitement and anticipation.  I remember that feeling all too well.  It was mine, less than a year ago.

4. How do you view the time you had with your child, either alive (within or outside) or already deceased?  Before you all answer "Too short! Not enough!", did you have time to "bond" or develop a future imagination about what this child would be like?  Perhaps depending on whether yours was cut short, how do you now feel about the nine-month period of gestation -- too long or not long enough?  

Oh my word, I dreamed up Eliza from the moment I knew she was a girl (which was almost immediately after I found out I was pregnant--I was sure of it months before the ultrasound confirmed it).  I couldn't wait to see how she matched the girl I had imagined.  I know she was somewhat easy going (I had an easy pregnancy), but could be remarkably stubborn (which is why we got an extra ultrasound, since she refused to fully cooperate at 20 weeks).  She and Cooper would have been best friends because he loved to snuggle up against my belly.  She would have loved to read books.  She would have spent the first year of her life in onesies and baby leggings and adorable dresses.  Of course my time with her was not nearly enough, but it's true that I knew her and love her in ways that I would never have thought were possible for a baby who never lived outside my belly.  She was a part of our lives from the very start. 

5. One grief book suggested that it took 2-5 years to incorporate your grief into your life.  Where are you on this timeline, and you do you find that to be true?

My friend and I were just discussing this.  I mentioned that another friend of ours said it took 3-5 years to feel okay again after her mom died.  As that friend readily admits, though, her self-directed "therapy" wasn't the healthiest way to deal with loss (it involved a lot of alcohol).  The fact is, though, that even though I might be crossing off the checklist on "How to Properly Grieve," and I might be doing all the "right" things (counseling, writing, connecting with others, etc.) 2-5 years sounds just about right.  It will be a long time before I get through this, and I don't know how many of my friends and extended family will be patient with me for that long.  I would say that I lost six months of my life to Eliza's death--six months that I couldn't really do anything but what was absolutely necessary.  I don't think I'll lose 2-5 years entirely, but I do think it will take at least two years to incorporate this grief and sorrow into my life without letting it take over.

 6. There's a familiar saying, "Time Heals all wounds."  Do you think this is true?  Or do you subscribe to Edna St. Vincent Milay:  "Time does not bring relief, you all have lied"?

In loyalty to Edna St. Vincent Millay, I insist that both are true.  Yes, time does make things easier.  Easier to breathe, easier to function.  But it doesn't change the fact that I should have an adorable baby girl and I don't.  Whatever happens in my future, my life will always be different than it should be, and I hate that with all the energy I've got.  I can't deny, though, that time has brought some relief--distanced the tears, made ordinary activities bearable, even allowed distractions and temporary escapes from my sadness.  

7. Has your relationship with the future (immediate and far) changed since the death of your child(ren)?

My relationship with the future has changed dramatically.  We used to be huge planners--knowing where we wanted to be a year from now, five years, ten years.  Eliza was a perfectly timed part of that plan.  I have no idea what my future looks like now and that terrifies me.  I'm trying to live in the moment, but it's exhausting and I'm not always very good at it. 

8. How long did it take to answer these questions?

About half an hour.  I type fast.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Saddest Story

I like to teach Hemingway and Fitzgerald side-by-side.  They construct sentences so differently.  Generally speaking Fitzgerald's are long and flowy with lots of adjectives, Hemingway's are short and crisp with very few adjectives.  I like to make my students describe their prose and try to imitate it, or take a Fitzgerald sentence and re-write it the way Hemingway might have done it. 

Anyway, I can't remember when I first heard about the short story Hemingway wrote that was only six words long.  Maybe one of my professors mentioned it in undergrad?  I seem to recall that he supposedly wrote it to settle a bar bet, or to make a point to some of his fellow-authors that they were unnecessarily wordy.  I can't really remember the backstory, but every one in a while those six words float into my head.  Because not only is it the shortest story I know, it's also the very saddest story I've ever read:

For sale:
baby shoes,
never worn. 

Evidently Hemingway himself thought it was one of the best stories he'd ever written.  And also the saddest.

* * *
If I lived in the nineteenth century, tonight I would be diagnosed with melancholia.  I am not hysterical, I am not consumptive, I am not clinically depressed.  But I am really feeling melancholy tonight, as I think about Eliza and all of her cute little things.  A wardrobe of baby girl clothes, packed away in plastic bins.  Never worn.

It's getting redundant to say I miss her, but the old news is still true.

* * *
In new news...  our deep freeze melted, I spilled primer all over our patio furniture, and I've decided to paint our living room ceiling.  I promise 'round the house updates tomorrow, when the melancholia has subsided.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

You Can't Win With Me

Tell me that I seem to be doing well.  Tell me that I'm looking good.  Tell me that I'm handling everything "better."  Tell me that you're glad to see me acting more like my old self. 

And I will probably nod and smile and be absolutely furious.

You think I'm better?  Can't you see how hard things still are for me?  Can't you tell that my heart is still broken and it still aches to breathe sometimes?  Don't you see that I am barely holding it together a good deal of the time?  Can't you tell that I still cry more than I would ever have believed possible?  Don't you see how much effort it takes for me to be pleasant and sociable?  Don't you know that I would still do anything if it would bring back my baby?  Don't you know how much she was wanted, how much she is loved?  Can't you tell that my new version of happiness is nothing but a weak imitation of the way I used to feel?  How could I possibly be better when nothing can change what happened?

So tell me that I've changed.  Tell me that I'm dwelling in sadness.  Tell me that you thought I would be better by now.  Tell me that you think I should consider anti-depressants.  Tell me that you don't know what to say to me anymore.  Tell me that you miss the old me.  Tell me that you think I need to focus on moving forward.

And I will feel even MORE fury and frustration.

Can't you see how hard I'm trying?  Don't you know how far I've come since last December?  Remember that I managed to teach last semester and this summer AND land a full time job for the fall in a shitty and hyper-competitive job market?  Don't you know that I'm showering every day and going to therapy and taking vacations and doing yoga and eating healthy and staying married?  Don't you see how much I work to hold myself together?  Haven't you noticed all these little projects I'm taking on?  Don't you know that I'm being as social as possible?  Can't you see how hard I'm trying to appreciate small things and take happiness where I can find it?   I am doing the best I can to survive this and still feel like a human being at least part of the time--why isn't that enough for you?

You see?  There's no way to win with me.  Anything you say will piss me off.

It's a wonder anyone still talks to me at all.

Monday, July 25, 2011

O Canada

Some of my favorite moments...
Isn't this romantic?  Smooching on the Lovers Walk.

And then discovering that there was a slug about half an inch from my FACE.

Brandon and a big ass tree in Stanley Park

The famous steam clock in Gastown.
On Granville Island. My brother said, "We took an aquabus to go to a grocery store?"  But my mom and I shopped while the boys went on the brewery tour, and then we all picked out dinner at the market.  I loved it there!

Everybody getting their electronic fix at the townhouse in Vancouver.

Mom reading on our roof top patio.
Walking down to the beach in Vancouver.

The cliff walk.  Glass bottomed ledges make me nervous, so I volunteered to be the photographer.

Shannon Falls.  On the drive from Vancouver to Whistler.

One of my most favorite Canadian landmarks: Lululemon.  I wore that outfit for three days in a row because those were the warmest clothes I had and Whistler was freaking cold!

Crankworks mountain biking competition was going on while we were there. 

Riding the gondola up Whistler mountain.

This is my panic face when the gondola suddenly came to a stop. I don't like just hanging there.

My mom and I considered being an Olympic bobsled team. We decided to stick with zip lining.

This one's for Barrett.  Is Duck big enough to ride the chair lift without adult supervision?  Just barely.

Whistler is beautiful everywhere you look.

Brandon and David display two souvenirs of our microbrewery tour of BC.  They are eating double down sandwiches from KFC.  A double down is a bacon and cheese sandwich made with chicken breasts instead of bread.  Gross me out.

This is my gondola dance.  You're welcome.

My parents and Brandon were in a different gondola.  Apparently not dancing.
Our cabin in Whistler.
We're back home now after ten lovely days in Canada.  Like all of our "fun" times these days, vacation had its bittersweet moments and David and I both really missed Eliza and what should have been our first family vacation with her.  But we did manage to relax, keep busy, and truly enjoy ourselves.  I feel like it was a chance for me to reset a little bit, to get away and slow down and have a real break.  It was good for me.

My final verdict?

I heart Canada.  They've got some good stuff going on up there.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Meet the Olympic Zip Liner Team

So you might remember that David and I went ziplining last month in Branson, MO.

And let me just tell you, that compared to ziplining in Whistler, BC...  well, it doesn't really compare.  Because this time we were ziplining up in the MOUNTAINS, people!  And it was cold and it was cloudy and it was stunningly beautiful.

Our ziplining course went from Whistler Mountain to Blackcomb Mountain and back again, crossing over Fitzsimmons Creek, which was more like a raging river with all the snow and rain they've had (yes, it actually SNOWED on us when we road the gondola to the top of the mountain, and the hiking trails were closed because of snow).

As we zipped from one treetop-tower to another, we were up in the middle of an old-growth temperate rainforest, meaning the trees we were zipping from were 800-900 years old.  The ziplines got longer as we went, and the longest was 2,000 feet!  It dropped twenty stories as you zoomed along.  But even while zipping on it (at speeds up to 80km per hour or roughly 50mph for you Americans), all I could think about was the amazing view.  My dad brought his camera (tied to his jacket) so we managed to get a few pictures.  They're fun to see, but they can't really capture the amazing panoramic view of being on the mountains and hundreds of feet up in the air.  So you'll just have to take my word for it.  It was breathtaking.

David and I listen to the guide; my mom and brother pose for the picture.
Distant view of Fitzsimmons Creek.
My dad managed to snap this picture while zipping across.  It's awesome, but it still doesn't do it justice.
View from the platform, just before stepping off the edge!
V for Victory!
Brandon is too cool.

My mom was nervous but ended up loving it.

David shows off his best side.
On our last zip line, the guides suggested we "free style."  And they told us how to flip upside down.  They said that nobody ever regretting doing it, but some people regretted not trying it.  So I decided...  no regrets!  Also my brother went first, and he flipped upside down.  And you know I can never let my little brother show me up.

See that person out there UPSIDE DOWN, Spiderman style?  That's ME.  Yeah.  We call that free-styling.  
I made this one extra-large so you can see me--I'm the one in blue, hanging hundreds of feet above the ground, upside down, with NO HANDS.  I can't even believe I did that.

And then my MOM did it!!!  We were so proud of her.  David and my dad flipped upside down, too.  It was crazy awesome.

And then they asked if we would please be the next Olympic Zip Lining Team USA!  And we felt that it was our patriotic duty to accept.  (Note to self:  Next time you go zip lining, take a freaking ponytail holder for that mess)
Post-ziplining, at our Olympic awards ceremony in Whistler.  We obviously won the gold.
If you're in Whistler?  Do the Ziptrek Whistler Eagle.  No regrets!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Rafting the Raging Falls of Danger Chaos Fang Death

That was what our guide called some of the rapids that we hit while rafting yesterday.  Or something close to that, anyway.

Having decided that we are up for all kinds of outdoor adventure, we followed up our EXTREME HIKING ADVENTURE with EXTREME WHITE WATER RAFTING on the Green River. 

OK, I don't know if it was really "extreme," but the river was up, so we hit class 2 and class 3 rapids.  I'd been rafting once before in Colorado, and my brother went at some point with his boy scout troop, but it was the first time for my parents and Dah-Veed.  Oh, and since you raft in groups of 6, we were also in a boat with the father of our guide, who was from New Zealand and hilarious (that's a vague modifier but in this case deliberately so as it applies to both our guide and his dad).

The water was FREEZING cold--like take your breath away cold--even with our Super Sexy Neoprene Wetsuits on.  But the rapids were fun.  There was also a guy who kayaked along with our group (I think his job is partly to catch anyone who gets washed away) and it was amazing to watch him.  The scenery was gorgeous and the rafting was really so much fun.  I couldn't believe how fast an hour went by--it felt like we were on the river for no time at all.  Except that my feet were SO cold.

All the friendly Canadians keep telling us that they're still hoping summer will arrive here soon.  Although I'm not sorry to be missing out on the super hot temps at home, I have to say that I'm used to a hot and sticky July.  The cool air here is lovely, but I was definitely not prepared for it and after rafting I felt like I was chilled to the bone.  I changed back into yoga pants and a sweatshirt but I still didn't warm up until I had a cup of hot tea in front of our condo's fireplace!

For your viewing pleasure:

Moving into some rapids.  I'm also trying to dodge the freezing cold water. My brother is up front in the pink helmet, my dad is in the white helmet.  The blue helmet belongs to the guide's dad.  David is behind my dad and I'm behind David.  My mom can't be seen in this pic, but she's across from me, behind the blue helmet.

Here we all are.  David and Brandon appear to be posing.  Nerds.

The water is cold!

Brandon seems to be lunging out of the boat.  I am getting SOAKED.

Brandon waves his paddle happily in the air while the rest of us actually work.
Next up in our EXTREME OUTDOOR ADVENTURES:  ziplining!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Survived the Grind.

But just barely.

So we've done some amazing things in Vancouver.  Stanley Park, Granville Island, Gastown, Robson Street, hither, thither, and yon.  We have walked miles all over the city and the weather--while chilly by my hot-and-humid-Missouri-summer standards--has been glorious.  Cool, cloudy mornings shift into sunny-but-cool afternoons, and evenings were lovely for sitting outside with a blanket (there are virtually NO mosquitoes here--it's amazing!) so when we weren't traipsing all over the city, you could find my mom and me lounging on our rooftop deck with our e-readers and cups of tea.  Because we are so cool.

Tuesday morning, we were feeling adventurous and we decided to head over to Grouse Mountain.  My dad was interested in the wind turbine, my mom was interested in the gondola ride, and we all thought that a nice little 1.8 mile hike would be a fun way to spend the morning.


I thought 1.8 miles would be a breeze.  What I didn't count on was that the elevation goes up HALF A MILE in 1.8 miles.  So it was essentially like climbing a half-mile long vertical ladder.  Or maybe a mile long super steep staircase.  For TWO HOURS!

I have had some lovely hiking experiences in Hawaii, Oregon, and even the Ozark mountains in my home state.  I would say that I enjoy hiking.  But stair climbing?  For hours?  Well, as Brandon said when we were about 3/4 of the way up the mountain and I was begging David for a piggy-back ride, "I'm not sure we're really a hiking family."

The real problem was that we didn't research this well so we didn't know what we were getting into until we were all up in it.  We didn't bring water (why bother?  It's such a short hike!  And there's a restaurant at the top!) and even though it was a cool day, we were working hard enough that everybody shed their jackets and was sweating by the time we were a quarter of the way through.  My mom wanted to turn back and just ride the gondola up, but we peer-pressured her into continuing (Brandon kept saying it would probably "level out near the top," which defied all logic but somehow made us feel better.  It did NOT actually level out near the top, though.)  The record time to the top is something like 24 minutes.  We took just under two hours.  Also, we were passed by an old man with a walking stick.  Seriously.

But we made it!  And I have the commemorative t-shirt to prove it!

And it was seriously amazingly beautiful.

At the start of the walk.  I had no idea how unprepared I was.  Also this picture makes me want to bitch about David's lack of photography skills.  Not that I am the world's greatest photographer, but seriously?  If you're taking a picture of a SIGN, maybe you want to be able to READ it?  I'm just saying.  OK.  Done bitching, especially considering my husband has cooked dinner for my entire family almost every night of this vacation.  LOVE him.
Dad and Mom trekking uphill.

Brandon and David.  I'm only a few feet below them.  That's how freaking steep it is.

And everyone is starting to feel a little exhausted.

Can you see the path?  It's the one going DIRECTLY UPHILL.  At least the surroundings were spectacular.

A happy snap.  We look happier than our leg muscles feel.

The higher we got, the foggier it became.  Also we still had a long way to go at this point.

At last!  Victorious at the top of Grouse Grind!
By the time we made it up the mountains, my legs were feeling a little wobbly and I was afraid that my quads would be killing me the next morning.  We grabbed lunch up there (we'd worked up quite an appetite) and Brandon introduced my dad and David to the wonders of poutine (French fries and cheese curds covered in brown gravy--a culinary delight that my dad loved), and we guzzled bottles of water and talked about what unprepared idiots we were for that hike.  We ended up skipping the wind turbine because it was so foggy/cloudy that there wasn't much of a view.  But we road the gondola down the mountain and once we got below the cloud line, it was really lovely.

Amazingly, I wasn't sore at all the next day, but we gave up on our original plan to go to the anthropology museum that night because no one could handle the idea of WALKING anywhere.  Instead, we made dinner in the townhouse and then I soaked my weary legs in a hot bath and sipped a glass of wine.  It's the miracle cure for the over-strained muscles.  And not a bad way to spend an evening, whether or not you've hiked 1.8 miles at a near-90-degree incline.


Here's a view of our hike from below.  And yes, we started at the bottom, and hiked all the way up, beyond the clouds, to the very top!
If you look closely, through the fog, you can see the gondola approaching one of the towers--it doesn't stop until it goes THROUGH those clouds and all the way to the top of the mountain.  I still can't believe we WALKED up there.