Saturday, February 13, 2016

Five years later

I don't even know how to start this one. 

It seems a lot of creatively-inclined people will submerge themselves in their art when things in life go awry. I suppose they find a solace in transferring their anger and grief onto whatever medium they are using. I find my experience to be the opposite. When life sucks, I don't want to write, because writing is emotional and makes me think about too much, and makes me ask questions and explore my own feelings. Nope. Pass.

If you look on the right-hand side of this blog, you'll notice there are no posts in 2011. That's because 2011 was the worst year of my life. It came on the heels of a challenging but ultimately fantastic 2010, which was the year Maddie was born (and the year I got to go see Ohio State in the Rose Bowl). The Christmas of 2010 was the best Christmas ever - there was a new baby in the family, my sister Jackie was sober and present and part of the holiday, and on December 17th, 2010, my doctor's office called me to let me know our first round of IVF had worked, and I was pregnant, after trying unsuccessfully for a year via IUIs. I felt like my life could not get any better. I was swimming in happiness - a cautious but very tangible happiness. Every subsequent doctor's appointment seemed to confirm what I had imagined was an almost impossible dream - we were going to have A BABY.

Of course you can imagine what happened. We were quiet about the baby, telling only a few people. And then, when I was 11 weeks and 6 days (which is one day shy of the safe-to-tell-people 12-week mark), I found myself going in for emergency surgery. The last thing I said to the doctors was, "Please take care of my baby." 

The doctors didn't even know why they were opening me up, they just knew they had to. I went to the emergency room that Saturday morning, around 1:30am, with severe abdominal pain. I won't bore you with the details of how I couldn't sleep, I couldn't pee, and how they didn't give me a pillow for my head but expected me to rest comfortably in the hospital bed, and how I whimpered throughout the entire night, and how Gina sat in the chair next to me, exhausted and emotional and uncomfortable and afraid. I'll leave that stuff out. I will tell you that they almost sent me home at 7am with a diagnosis of a UTI, but when a nurse noticed my pulse wasn't slowing, she decided against discharging me. NURSES ARE HEROES, YOU GUYS. I might've died had I gone home with only a prescription for fucking Cipro.

Sometime that morning, after they decided they weren't discharging me just yet, my fertility doctor, whose practice is located at the hospital I was at, came to see me. I could see the concern in his eyes when he saw me. "You don't look well, Katie." Maybe it sounds like he was being flippant, but he wasn't - he was validating me. No other doctor could figure out what was wrong with me, and one doctor even said, "I don't want to examine you because you are pregnant via IVF." Doctors, everybody! My fertility doctor was saying, yes, something is wrong, and you aren't going anywhere. He was the one who admitted me to the hospital. 

I had a CT and an x-ray, neither recommended in pregnant women, but my doctor felt like my life was more important than the health of the baby. I'm thankful every day that he was there through all of it, because I trusted him without question and I knew he had my best interest in mind with every decision he was making. Finally, Sunday morning, he told me, "We have to open you up and figure out what is going on. None of the tests are showing anything, but obviously something is wrong." We talked about the danger to the baby, but I'm pretty smart and I knew there was no other choice. So open me up they did, on February 13, 2011. 

I don't remember how long the surgery was - maybe 4 hours - but when I woke up, I wasn't in pain for the first time in two days - all I could feel was relief. I asked him if the baby was okay and he said yes, the baby was fine. He told me I'd suffered ovarian torsion, and that one ovary was necrotic and filling my body with sepsis, so they'd taken it out. They'd tried to do the surgery laparoscopically, but were unable to see anything, so they cut me open vertically from right above my belly button all the way down to my crotch. I imagine the next step was they were putting me on antibiotics to combat the sepsis, but I don't remember. I just remember the feeling of being out of pain and the relief that the baby had survived the surgery.

About two hours later, I started bleeding. Initially, when the nurse called my doctor to let him know, he said some bleeding is to be expected. But then I started bleeding more, and the nurse looked at me and said, "I think you're losing your baby." I don't remember what that nurse looked like - what color her hair was or what color her eyes were - but somehow I remember the feeling of the look on her face, and I remember how her voice sounded. She sounded like she was afraid I was going to freak out. But all I said was, "Okay." Thanks, morphine! I looked at Gina, who was there holding my hand, and I could see the tears in her eyes. A few minutes later, they showed us our 12-week-old fetus in a bedpan. I didn't cry. I was so drugged up and so grateful to be out of pain. All I could say was, "I'm sorry."

I ended up spending 11 days total in the hospital. I had a blood transfusion, which remains one of my trippiest experiences to date (I could FEEL myself recharging as the blood made its way into me - blood is the best!). It wasn't until I was on about day 5 that I started actually experiencing the emotions of what had happened. When I was finally well enough to go home, the infectious disease doctor told me I was finally "out of the woods," but that I had very much been in the woods during the past week and a half, probably being chased by crazy rabid wolves with machetes. Okay, I made that wolves part up. 

Recovery sucked, but I did learn that two Vicodin is better than one. I also learned just how much you use your core for, and when an incision has been made through half of it, it's hard to do EVERYTHING. I also learned that Gina is The Best at everything.

Grief is a weird thing, and I don't know if this grief is in a category all its own. I'm inclined to think had the baby been still born, it would've been harder. Or if I'd lost the baby earlier in the pregnancy, it would've been easier. I don't know. I just know that there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about that baby. I used to think everything happens for a reason, but I don't believe that anymore. Things just happen, and sometimes things are great and sometimes they suck. The only thing good to come out of losing that baby is Isabella, who would certainly not be our kid had that baby been born. But that doesn't make the loss any easier for me. Those two outcomes exist on separate planes - I love Isabella and love that she's ours and wouldn't trade her for anything (even when she's being a little punk), but I still ache for the baby I lost and wish with every part of my being that hadn't happened. 

Another thing about this kind of grief is that no one wants to hear about it. I mean, they say they do, they say "you can always talk to me!", but seriously, people don't know what to say or how to react. And it's easier to not talk about it, because it's such a bummer, and it's more fun to be funny and goofy. 

I haven't been able to get pregnant again, and it's taken me this long to finally be okay with that. I've finally accepted that there's a good chance this just might not happen for me. It helps having two rambunctious children who don't listen and who treat me like a short-order cook/housekeeper. But they are also delightful in so many ways, and I love them so much, and that love is finally enough to dull the pain of the loss. I still feel a twinge of jealousy whenever I hear anyone is pregnant - even characters on TV! - but it doesn't derail me anymore. I can go to baby showers, although I do try to avoid them in general. I'm angrier and more cynical than I otherwise would've been, but I've learned to just live with it. 

Every year on February 13th, I think "This is the year I'll post this story." But I haven't had it in me until now. Putting it all on paper (so to speak) feels like part of the process. So here it is. 

Right after our first insemination, in 2009. Look how relaxed and optimistic we are!

12/18/10 - the day after we found out I was pregnant. Pure joy. AND LOOK AT BABY MADDIE! COME ON!

Friday, February 12, 2016

I (did not) woke up like this.

I wore makeup yesterday.

This isn't a first, but it is rather rare. I have maybe too many feelings about makeup. I pushed against it as a young adult (oh my god, am I not considered a young adult anymore? DESPAIR!), because I felt like it was unnecessary, that we should be celebrating how beautiful people are, period, without women feeling like they needed to put on makeup to look a certain way.

Truthfully, this was probably planted when I was in middle school and high school and never learned how to do my own makeup, and was actually never remotely interested in learning. I wish I could say this was some feminist statement that little Katie was making, but it wasn't - honestly, I felt like I wasn't pretty enough to put makeup on, that people would look at me with makeup and think I was trying to hide something that wasn't able to be hidden, and ridicule would follow. I would've preferred invisibility to eyeliner.

Ah, adolescence.

I didn't realize how lucky I was in my 20's to actually not need makeup. I have never had everything going for me, but my skin has always been relatively clear, save for my freckles - which I wear proudly and feel no need to cover up - and while I am fair skinned, I somehow managed to have a bit of a "rosy glow" so that I never looked dead.

I'd say once I hit 35, I started to think I should maybe learn how to do my own makeup. The dark circles under my eyes were getting more prominent, and the blue in my eyes just kept looking more grey. I always enlist the help of my younger sister Jessie to do my makeup for parties and concerts, and the older I get, the more positive comments I get when I wear makeup. There were some people at my company party this year that didn't even recognize me, which is hilarious - I just had on eye makeup, lipstick, and big earrings. "WHO ARE YOU?!" and the subtext was definitely, "YOU LOOK SO GOOD!"

Of course, I have two little girls at home who I need to consider. There is part of me that doesn't want them to see put on makeup, because I absolutely do not want them to think they ever NEED it. However, I do want them to express their femininity and personality in whatever way they want, and if makeup is part of that, that's okay. My instinct is to not let them play with makeup, lest they assume this is a required part of being a girl, and that makeup is necessary to make you look pretty. But I also want them to have fun and dress up if they want, and not be intimidated by makeup like I was.

What's curious is that they have two moms who almost NEVER wear makeup. Gina really doesn't ever wear it - she wore some to the aforementioned holiday party, and that was the first time I've EVER seen makeup on her. I wear it so infrequently. And still, the girls are both deeply interested in it, and they are always wanting to play with it. Some of this blame is on Aunt Jessie, but I think some if it is just who they are. They are girls who like makeup.

They didn't see me with makeup when I left the house yesterday morning, and when I came home with it on, they both noticed immediately.

Izzy: "Are you wearing makeup?"

Maddie: "I like your makeup!"

Izzy: "You look beautiful!"

So...yeah. I do look better with makeup on. I just do. I don't want that to be true, but whatever. It's not earth-shattering. It's not a big deal. It's just another choice, like having pierced ears or red hair or new sneakers. And that's what I need to remember when my girls are teenagers and asking me if they can wear makeup to school. Sigh.

College Katie. No makeup + Tasmanian Devil t-shirt. The '90s, everybody.
Me and my buddy Jamie on a hike. No makeup.

Me and little sister Jessie. She dolled me up for the Beyonce concert. We're pretty hot, right? 
The time both of us wore makeup, to the '70s themed company holiday party.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Stranger danger

We probably haven't spoken with our kids enough about stranger danger. And that's most likely because we don't think it's smart to make our kids afraid of people, since most people are completely safe and have no interest in harming our children. It's hard to find the balance in teaching them what's okay when it comes to people we don't know.

Isabella has been getting reprimanded at school for saying hello to people outside the gate of the school. The first incident was Monday, and the teacher recalled the story with a thick incredulity that took me by surprise.

"She was just talking to people outside the gate! And I was like, is that your mom? No? Then you don't talk to that person!"

I just did that awkward parent-smile thing that says, "Hashtag kids, amirite?"

I didn't really think anything of it, until the director of the school stopped me in the parking lost last night.

"We had to speak to Isabella again about talking to strangers outside the gate."

Again, I was dumbfounded at the apparent severity of this infraction. "What did she say?"

"Oh, just 'Hi, I'm Isabella, what are you doing?'"

The horror. "Okay, I'll talk to her," was all I could manage.

When I went into the school, I overheard the teacher from Monday reprimanding Isabella. "And I told you to not talk to strangers, and you did it again! You're not listening to me!"

Listen - I know there are some monsters out there. I get it. We get it. But our kids are already shy, ESPECIALLY Isabella. She is so distrusting of everything. The front playground of the school is surrounded by a gate that she can't get through and no one can get to her. I think it's worth talking to her about it, but reprimanding her - especially in front of other children - seems harsh and unnecessary.

It's not that I want to keep them naive about the dangers of people they don't know. I just want them to stay curious. Learning to talk to people you don't know is an incredibly valuable skill, one that I have not developed well. I'd like them to be better at it than I am.

Side note: she bit her best buddy on the finger this week (she has never bitten ANYBODY), and I feel like they are taking the stranger thing way more seriously that the bite. Maybe the stranger thing is Isabella's attempt at distracting them from the bite. She is a smart kid.

PJ photo by Gina.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

There's a little bit of magic, everybody has it.

I was in a funk at the beginning of last summer. The kind where I could barely get out of bed in the morning or off the couch on the weekends. The kind where I ended every night with 2-3 drinks just to turn my brain off. The kind where I cried, a lot.

I was fun.

And then one day, I was on a walk, and one of my buddies (Katie or Erin, I can't remember which one) texted me:

So they sent me "A Better Son/Daughter." 

Sometimes when you're on, you're really fucking on
And your friends, they sing along and they love you
But the lows are so extreme, that the good seems fucking cheap
And it teases you for weeks in its absence

Luckily, it took approximately one listen for me to fall in love with it, and we were able to remain friends. But the bigger thing that happened was that Jenny Lewis pulled me out of my funk (the Lexapro also helped), and suddenly there was no other music worth listening to. I subscribed to Spotify and listened to every Jenny Lewis/Rilo Kiley song available, all the time, and I fell in love. When I first heard her song "The Next Messiah," I had this thought: "Why does anyone need to do drugs when songs like this exist?" The music from that song pulsed through my veins - I felt like I'd injected it into me. 

This happened with so many of her songs. I felt like she'd surely written "Head Underwater" for me. Obviously she'd read a bunch of my short stories from college and wrote "Late Bloomer." I fell hard for Jenny right as her new album Voyager was released, and not long after I first heard her, I saw the hilariously irreverent video for "She's Not Me." And then also the video for "Just One of the Guys," with Brie Larson, because OF COURSE SHE'S FRIENDS WITH BRIE LARSON. I kept looking for a song I hated and I wasn't finding any. Everything was so good. It all felt written for me.

Because Los Angeles is awesome, I was able to see her in concert for the first time about 6 weeks after I heard her for the first time. 

I like to pretend she's singing right to me here.
Best. Concert. Ever.

I think it's best if writers write for themselves, write what makes them happy, and what they believe in. You want to know your audience, but you don't want to cater to them too much or you risk losing your voice. But dammit, how great would it be to know that what you are sharing with people is changing them? That what you have to say matters so much, and is connecting on a very real level? THAT is rad. THAT is the dream. I feel lucky to have this girl and this music.

One of those "likes" is from her. 

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

30 in 30

I made up this challenge for myself a few days ago - 30 blog posts in 30 days. This is post #6 in as many days, and because of the nature of this challenge, I want to explain myself here.

I'm doing this as a way to get me to resume thinking as a writer. More on what that means in a later post. But I've been ignoring the writing thing for way too long, and I need to stop. So, this is one way I'm attempting to change my habits. 

This is my own space and I get to do whatever I please here, so not all of these posts will be fantastic or life-changing or funny or sad or whatever other adjective you're expecting. Sometimes they are just going to be fangirl love letters to writers or singers or actors. Sometimes they'll just be lists of stupid shit my kids do. Other times, they will be complaints about how everything is the worst. Maybe occasionally they will just be pictures with captions - captions count as writing! The posts might make you love me or hate me or think I'm wasting my time and yours. I'm okay with all of this. The goal is just to get them published, to have a deadline for myself, and to meet that deadline. I have no idea what I'm going to write about every day, but I will always find something, because that's what I need to do. 

Ideally, writing this much will slowly make me a better writer, and eventually, the quality of my posts will be higher, and you'll be interested to come here and see what I'm thinking and to tell me what you're thinking, and to also tell your friends to do the same. My goal with this blog has always been, since 2004!, to have a place to write and to connect, a place to dump thoughts I'm willing to share with others. 

And maybe in this process, I'll learn how to end blog posts well.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Beyonce & social change

I have to do it. I have to write about Beyonce.

I majored in theatre* in college because I thought I wanted to be an actor. I soon realized I wasn't good at acting, but I stayed in theatre because... well, because it was what I had started in, and what the hell else was I going to do? But definitely the second biggest reason I wanted to graduate with my bachelor's in theatre was because of the idea of "theatre as social change," a concept my small-minded self didn't think of until my History of Theatre class. As soon as my professor started talking about it, something clicked, and a huge "why" in my life was answered.

What a better thing to do with your art than to try to change the world? And that can be through something blatantly political, or through something more subtle, like introducing the concept of drag queens to a possibly tentative audience. We tell our stories so that we can feel understood, so that other people can relate to us, and so that we can, in a sense, weave our being into the fabric of humanity. We're saying, Hey look, we're here too, and here's what we're about, and I'm sure if you look hard enough, you can relate to something here, because we're actually not that different from you.

And sometimes, we tell our stories because we are pissed off. Who else but Beyonce could turn the Super Bowl into an advertisement not only for Beyonce, but for a brand new song/video, a new world tour, the Black Lives Matter movement, the atrocity that is the Flint, Michigan water crisis, and the desperate need to address systemic racism in America? Say what you will about her artistry - she is a force, and she is using that force for a purpose.

She woke up like this.

And guess who is angry? The "not-racist"s of the world. The folks who scream "all lives matter." The clueless ones. The ones who don't feel this anger, who don't feel this injustice, so they can't relate. (If you still think Black Lives Matter means your life doesn't matter, or police lives don't matter, or black lives matter MORE than any of these, you are so far off base, you're not even in the game anymore. But let me know if you'd like to play, and I'm happy to have a conversation about it with you.)

There were a million articles today about Beyonce's Super Bowl performance and how politically charged it was. It fills me with despair that so many people are so angry about it. Why do you think black people feel so disenfranchised? They're trying to tell us what they are feeling, and we're annoyed and angry and want them to just shut up. We're making it about us, the white folk, and how it makes us uncomfortable, and how we feel like we're being blamed. Guess what? It's not about us. Maybe this isn't my fight because of the color of my skin, but I stand on the side of human beings knowing they matter, knowing they are important, knowing they are equal. 

Now, excuse me while I whip about my AmEx to hopefully score pre-sale tickets to the Formation World Tour. Bow down, bitches. 

*I go back and forth with my preference on how to spell this word. Today is an "re" day.

A list: 40 things my children will fight over.

1. Who gets to turn the page in the book.

2. Who gets to take a bath first.

3. Who gets to take a bath second.

4. Who gets their back scratched longer at night.

5. Who gets buckled first.

6. Who gets more time with Mee Mee and Aunt Jessie.

7. Who gets to pick the TV show.

8. Who picked the last TV show.

9. Who gets the flower cup.

10. Who gets the Elsa-and-Anna-without-a-lid cup.

11. Who gets the Supergirl jammies.

12. Who gets the only Frozen jammies that we have one of (we have two of every other Frozen pair).

13. Who gets to sit on the counter.

14. Who gets to help make the macaroni and cheese.

15. Who gets the Christmas coloring book in the car.

16. Who gets Lambie.

17. Who gets to sleep with the book we read.

18. Who ate more dinner.

19. Who is a better listener.

20. Who gets to hold Noodle on a walk.

21. Who gets to cuddle with which mommy.

22. Who gets to hold the "silver remote."

23. Who is Shimmer and who is Shine.

24. Who is Zach-from-Mako-Mermaid's girlfriend.

25. Who plays the mommy and who plays the baby.

26. Who plays the dog and who plays the dog-walker.

27. Who gets the baby high chair.

28. Who gets the baby crib.

29. Who gets to hang up the phone when we do FaceTime.

30. Who gets the marker.

31. Who gets to sit at which side of the table.

32. Who gets to wear which dress.

33. Who has the better clothing/shoe choices.

34. Who gets their hair brushed first.

35. Who gets their hair brushed second.

36. Who gets the mail.

37. Who gets to climb across the back seat to their seat in the car - Maddie across Izzy's side, or Izzy across Maddie's side? Both is never okay.

38. Who gets the bird feather in the front yard.

39. Who gets to cuddle with Gina's binky - which is a crocheted blanket from when she was a little girl.

40. Who gets to pick the movie in the car. (YES. THE MOVIE IN THE CAR. THESE G.D. SPOILED CHILDREN.)

Saturday, February 06, 2016

A Crushing Chore

A quickie...

Upon learning of my re-entry into this creative realm I've been avoiding, a friend of mine recommended the book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. I'm not big on self-help books, but I will read any book about writing. It arrived yesterday. This is the back cover:

What struck me most about this is the part that says, "Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege." Over the past few years, I've been questioning why we tell stories, and more specifically, why I write.  I know why I don't write - that's simple. But when I am writing, why do I do it? And why do I always feel like it's a thing I should be doing?

For me, writing is the best way I know how to connect to other people. And I'm not talking about specific people - I'm talking about humanity. The best books I've read are books that show that other people feel the way I do, that we actually aren't hurdling through space alone and without instructions. It's that feeling that compels me to create, that urge to do that with other people and for other people. 

What makes it this crushing chore is that writing makes me vulnerable. It forces me to open myself up and dust off the stuff I ignore. I'm ignoring that stuff for a reason. It's not really working that well for me. So... I might as well just sit down and write. So that's what I'm doing.