Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Writer's Brain

Air. Food. Water. Sex. A notebook, pen, pencil or word processor. All are fundamentals of (my) existence. If I don't have a pen or paper on hand, my brain gets bogged down with words and I get lost staring out windows while writing stories in my mind.

And it never really stops. At two in the morning, when sleep won't come - I'll lay awake thinking of a character - what does she look like when she's bending down to put on her shoes. Do the cuffs of her pants rest on the tops of her shoes, or is she wearing a skirt, and if so, nylons? If so, do they crinkle at the creases of the bend at her knee, or do they sag at her bony ankles? Why is she putting shoes on? What's the weather like? Who is she going out with? This will continue until my brain finally exhausts itself and I'll wake up the next day with only shadowy recollections of the 'writing' that my mind worked on in the early hours of the morning. It's almost like a disease -writer's brain

There are situations and places that trigger an extraordinary amount of writers-brain activity...cafes, for example. Or walks or car rides. Yesterday, on a brief ride to the gym, I found myself studying the edges of the road where the pavement met the snow and imagining fictional characters lugging fictional sacks on their backs, wearing shiny wet black boots and trudging along the roads edge - their breath misting ahead of them then vanishing. The ride was over too quickly for the characters to have faces or names or purposes for their journey - but the descriptions were vivid and lush and I was left kicking myself for not bringing a notebook with me to scratch down my thoughts. (But what normal person brings a notebook to the gym?)

You seem down, are you ok? The silence was worrying my mother, who was driving - she meant well, but her question only aggravated me. Can's she see that I'm working? I forget sometimes that not everyone has a non-stop world of adjectives and plot twists spinning in his or her thoughts.

When I write, I don't sit down with tidy little plans to carefully construct a story. Most days, when I find a moment to attack the blank page, it's more like purging. I spill every description, occasion, setting, phrase out of my head - everything splatters onto a blank word document and then I hope to God that I can clean up the mess.

Thus, the bits and pieces of random characters and stories that I have lying about on my desktop - disembodied and waiting for me to write down their next action, expression, thought...

Unfortunately lately, there has been a whole lot of time for messes - but very little time for the clean up


Monday, November 28, 2005
Change of Scenery
So, things look a little different here...the boss took three naps today, leaving me with some unexpected time to play.

I'm no html expert though and for some reason with this new template, certain symbols are turning to jibberish in my earlier posts (dashes and apostrophes, etc) so unless I can figure out how to fix these problems, I might need to find a different template. It's quite frustrating...when I preview my posts, the fonts look fine, but somehow they get jumbled in translation from preview to publication. If anyone can offer any advice or suggestions to remedy the problem, please send me an email or leave a comment.

In the meantime, jibberish reigns...much like in my real life.

Saturday, November 26, 2005
Post-Turkey Updates & Fodder for Procrastination
I've been doing quite well. Surprisingly well. Proud-of-how-put-together-I-am type well for the past week and a half, given the circumstances. No tears since that night with Uma.

I've faced the barrage of concerned looks and careful questions about how I'm doing, with smiles and nods - so much so that I've felt as though I'm comforting the person I'm speaking with more than they're trying to comfort me.

It was all happy feasting at my in-laws for Thanksgiving. After managing to weave my way, dry eyed, through a long and drawn out conversation with
Sil about the ultrasound and the procedure and the recovery, I thought I was through - smooth-sailing from here 'till Christmas.

Until later, after two unwise helpings of tiramisu, I was snuggled in bed with my husband, happily slipping into a food coma. And there appeared the black screen - with my little baby...the x's marking the top of his head and the little bump of his rump. For a brief moment, I was smiling; forgetting, I suppose, in my sleep-altered state. But it only lasted a moment before I turned and shook my husband awake. I pulled him come close and told him to whisper happy things for me to think about. We managed to avoid tears; but I was shaken for the first time in a week.

And now in the post holiday haze, I've been lazing about, letting the feast(s) of the past week settle and clicking the Next button on the top right corner of most Blogger pages. Quite interesting finds out there, if you truly search.

The majority of are sheer dribble or advertisements for one thing or another - but there gems worth taking a moment or two to read and bookmark. And then eventually, you'll come across an interesting page with
a plethora of links, as I did, and start clinking your way to sites with slightly more potential (if only because someone else has deemed them link-worthy)

This is precisely how I came across the Face Recognition Generator, which gave my husband and I quite a laugh tonight, and I know that it certainly can be classified as fodder for procrastination for any of my office-bound friends.

You upload a picture of yourself (or anyone else you happen to have kicking around on your computer) and the site generates a list of celebrity's who's faces best match your picture. The results for my first picture were somewhat flattering (although, hardly accurate...with few exceptions):

Deborah Kerr 76%
Christina Ricci 69%
Sandra Bullock 69%
Young Shirley MacLaine 68%
Angelina Jolie 68% (Hardly!)
Winona Ryder 68%
Alyson Hannigan 67%
Natalie Portman 67%
Vivian Leigh 67%
Margaret Atwood 65%

When I put in the only recent picture I have of my husband and I together- the results were quite humorous - especially for him. I'll admit that the picture itself catches us bedraggled at best, but still, I'm not sure he deserves to be compared to a wild-browed/bushy faced Fidel Castro - or an elderly Mother Theresa. You can decide for yourself

The site takes a couple moments to load the picture and rescan our faces - but clicking through the results is humorous - probably even more so if you go ahead and try it with your own mugshot.

My apologies in advance if you find yourself wasting a minute or two (or twenty) playing around at the site.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005
The Album
The apartment is toxic. We have only been inside for ten-minutes and already I am feeling heavy and suffocated. She is in her bedroom, pulling herself along the bed, dragging her legs behind. He is on the couch, ignoring us and intently watching a movie I don't recognize with the closed-captioning on. A silent car chase and a black box spells out Crash.

Finally, she emerges from the bedroom, moving quicker now, with wheels beneath her. She is my mother's younger sister, not yet turned fifty.

I left the medicare page bookmarked for you. She says to him (her husband of fifteen years) and he doesn't respond.

The hell with them, he says, turning to my mother and I and launching into a ten-minute speech about our corrupt government and how the world is out to screw him. He quotes Michael Moore and rants about the evils of the Whitehouse - reading books to children and sleeping with Bin Laden. Listening to him makes me tired. Thankfully, she is ready: jacket on, earmuffs placed crookedly over her head, gloves shoved in her pockets. Her eyes roll,
Let's go.

The cold today is relentless; stepping into it is like being slapped on the cheeks. She wheels through the doors and winces, but all she says is, Remind me to take my seizure meds at three.

We came to take her out of their apartment. It's our weekly committment, to give them each space. Trapped in that apartment, they're both bitter and biting at one another. She cries. He drinks and retreats to his bedroom. She worries, but knows better than to question him when she smells pot seeping from the crack under his door. He throws things; sometimes they bounce and bruise her legs and arms. He denies everything, but her skin turns black then purple and yellow then back to milky ivory, stretched loosely over swollen green veins.

We take her to a local diner to eat before Christmas shopping at a nearby discount store. She is nursing a plate of liver and onions with strips of shriveled bacon and a scoop of mashed potatoes. It's all shiny and brown and it makes me queasy to look at.

Instead, I flip through a book she has handed me. It is a small plastic album filled with pictures of herself and her boys; her granddaughters and various other people of note in her life. Siblings. Parents. Nieces and nephews - each photograph labeled on the back with dates and explanations: My boys and I - 1988. My boys - 1984. Our wedding - 1991; she is young and beautiful.

I look at her now, carefully slicing through a long brown onion, still beautiful - despite a toothless smile and soft cheeks that sink in around her lips. Her eyes are the same sparkling green, but lined at the corners with delicate crows feet. I stare at her legs in the pictures; they're not dangling from a wheelchair, covered in a flannel blanket. In the pictures, they're strong and standing, holding up the weight of her small body, dancing even.

At her both of her son's weddings, she managed to stand just long enough to dance their mother-son dance - gripping them tightly around their necks and balancing her small feet on theirs. She hasn't walked in years.

She explains the album to us while she chews. She keeps it on her at all times; just incase a stranger finds her dead and is searching for explanation. Oh Kara, my mom gasps and reaches to stroke her sister's arm. But Kara isn't sad, she thinks she's being practical. Her doctors gave her less than 5 years to live - 8 years ago.

I turn my nose back to the album - my high school senior portrait is tucked neatly into a plastic slit. We share a smile. Her world was a different place when I gave her that picture. Not perfect; but not toxic either. She was already in her wheelchair, her health was terrible and money was always a problem - but at least he was still a friend and partner - a husband. They even slept in the same room.

Sometimes, she says while wiping a napkin over her lips, I want to take those wedding pictures and wallpaper my bedroom with them.


Monday, November 21, 2005
The Hunt Continues
With the pregnancy, there was a sense of urgency: We must find a nice, three-bedroom home, with a backyard for the kids to play. Now, there's still a sense of urgency - but I feel my will to hold out for the nice house with the little yard in a kid friendly neighborhood - slowly disintegrating.

We've been homeless since we sold our condo. We've been living with relatives and house hunting on the weekends. The
hunt has me weary and with the cost of gasoline these days, I'm beginning to feel guilty for dragging our realtor back and forth across the NH border, as he directs us to homes that we're not going to like in tightly packed into neighborhoods where we'd never choose to live in.

In our last excursion, we wasted an entire weekend on one house. We saw it twice - wandering from room to room, snapping digital pictures and envisioning how we'd fit our furniture in the bedroom and what we'd do for the nursery. It wasn't a dream - it was reality. It was a work-in-progress house, with paneling and camp-like woodwork in the upstairs bedrooms. The furnace was ancient. The plastered walls were cracked. It was in a thickly settled, but quiet neighborhood - near the airport. It was livable, but would need work to be loveable. And so, we resigned ourselves to put an offer on it - and it was rejected.

I didn't love it. I wasn't looking forward to my husbands longer commute or the amount of time I'd be spending one-on-one with the boss in a house that needed so much work - but at least the hunt would have been over and we would've been home.

I'm tired of living day to day by pulling outfits from laundry baskets and piles of clothes on the floor; and I'm tired of wondering if I should bother unpacking (or searching through boxes for) certain things (like, my winter jacket.) I want so badly to be settled; to be home, that I'm losing the will to hunt.

No yard? Ok. Small bedrooms? Not a problem. The roof leaks? We can fix that. The neighborhood's sketchy? We can get a security system. We can move in immediately?


Sunday, November 20, 2005
Things That Are Nearly Impossible To Do With a Toddler Clinging to Your Pants...
#12: Make a lasagna from scratch: Don't even try it. Bits of pasta and cheese will drop and smear all over the floor. Your ears will sting from listening to him banging and clanging on pots and pans with a spoon. You will both be covered in sauce & exhausted.

Just order out.


Saturday, November 19, 2005
The End of What if
Two-weeks before meeting my husband, I was lying on the top-bunk in a frat house pressed between a wall and What-if. It started as two old friends, staying up late talking and drinking. Reminiscing in the fuzzy glow of a nineteen-inch television, muted on some late night talk show.

What-if and I sat; knees touching, on a lumpy and sheet-covered loveseat. He drank beer that I bought him. His unkempt roommate wandered between us throughout the night, nodding as he'd pass on his way to the mini-fridge, and then again on his way back out into the noisy hall.

As the night stretched on, What-if and I both knew that the subway was going to stop running and I'd have to spend the night, but neither of us mentioned it. We kept talking and drinking, slowly sinking together into the couch until my head was on his thin chest and our legs intertwined. Finally, we squeezed together on his twin-sized bed. He carefully slid his arm around my waist and tipped his head down, gently putting his forehead against mine, questioningly, as though asking, is this ok?

And then he kissed me.

I can't believe I'm kissing Mella. He whispered. I was flattered; he said it as though he was doing something other boy's only dreamt of. But, looking back, I know that wasn't how he meant it - because I was thinking the same thing. I can't believe I'm kissing What if...

It was all completely innocent. Clothes stayed on. Hands stayed put. It wasn't romantic, it was curious. It was years of friendship finally pushing past flirtation.

And, in the morning, What-if was gone. I woke up beside the boy who used to slide his foot over mine beneath the table and who used to strum the first few notes of Today on his guitar just to make me smile. In the sunlight, he was the same scruffy, tee shirt wearing, flirtatious friend of my adolescence.

We walked quietly to the subway and at the turnstile, he shyly kissed me goodbye. We stood silently for a moment afterward, sharing a knowing smile.

And then I rode the T home, alone.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005
Leave it to Uma
Yesterday was the procedure; and I made it through the entire process without crying. Not that I wasn't sad, it's just that this is something I can't change, I can only accept. So, I took deep breaths and thought of the boss at home waiting for me.

I smiled and assured the nurse that it was ok that she had trouble with my veins and had to stick both arms with the IV needle. I politely laughed at the odd humor of the google-eyed man who came to have me sign a waiver before giving me my anesthetic. I woozily thanked the woman who wheeled me back from the operating room and I even gratefully thanked the nurse who unhooked my IV and explained to me that I'm O positive, and I should remember that.

Breath deeply. Think of happier things. Napping beside my son. The warmth of my husband's hand softly holding mine. Quiet moments of blue-gray light falling through the window early on Christmas mornings. Spring afternoons, lying beneath an arch of apple blossoms. My back pressed against a warm wooden dock; my legs dangling, toes dipping in cool water. Exhale.

Yes, I made it through the entire day without crying. Until late last night, laying on the couch, watching Kill Bill Volume II with my head resting on my husbands lap. Leave it to me to make it through an entire emotional day - dry eyed, only to be sobbing and reaching for the tissues while watching Uma Thurman kick butt.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Because I can't...
Because I can't bring myself to wrap this up into a neat and eloquent post, I won't. Not yet. Instead, here are excerpts from emails between a close friend and I, sent over the past two days:

Monday - Nov 14 - 9:08 AM
From: Mella
To: M

...I'm going for my ultrasound today...Yay! Too early for the gender, but at least I'll get to see a little baby in there with a beating heart (hopefully!)...

Monday - Nov 14 - 12:03 PM
From: M
To: Mella

ooo! Good luck! Send a picture of the little one if you can! =)

Monday - Nov 14 - 5:01PM
From: Mella
To: M

Hi M...

We did get to see our little one - peacefully lying still, eyes closed, legs crossed, little arms and all. But no heartbeat. It was the worst experience of my life - seeing a little baby, just like how Alex looked at his first ultrasound - but being told that he's no longer alive.

Vinnie and I just started sobbing and hugging, right there in front of the technician. I felt almost worse for him - as we were looking at the baby, I could tell something was wrong, so I turned to Vinnie with a concerned look, but he just had a grin on his face and was staring at the little guy as though all was well. He was shocked...

There's no rhyme or reason for why something like this would happen at 10 weeks along - at 5 weeks (as I was with the first one) - it's probably a case of the embryo not properly implanting in the uterus...but at this point - it's hard to say why the heart stopped beating. My mom says that there's no answers...she said that some people theorize that viral infections can have devastating impacts on fetus's...and I did recently have a pretty bad virus. And that would explain why I still feel pregnant...if we only lost him a few days ago, the hormones haven't gone down enough to make me feel normal again.

So...we're just waiting for a call from the doctor to let us know when the operating room is open so that he can perform a D & C to clean out my uterus, since my body hasn't started cramping or spotting yet - and since the fetus is already so far along, I would probably need a D & C even if I passed most of it on my own.

I don't have the emotional energy to email the girls yet...probably in a couple of days after I have the procedure...but I wanted to let you know how things went.

Monday - Nov 14 - 10:52 PM
From: M
To: Mella

Oh Mella, I am so sorry. I don't even know what to say. I'm just sitting here crying. I can't understand it. I just can't believe it. I don't know what to say but I'm sorry. I'll be praying for you both- this was supposed to be such a happy day... If there is anything I can do, or if you just want to talk, I'm here. I love you so much.

Tuesday - Nov 15 - 8:36 AM
From: Mella
To: M

Oh,'s just terrible. I think I'm going through all of the stages of grief, rapid pace. I dreamt about losing the baby last night - that I miscarried it on my own, and it was awful. I tossed and turned all night and finally just gave up around 5:30 - but that was almost worse, because I was lying quietly just thinking about it. I wish I'd had some sort of warning - cramps, spotting, a gut feeling - anything...but this just came out of nowhere. The bloodwork was good, my size was good, I'm still feeling pregnant - and the little baby in there *looked* ok, he just looked like he was snoozing...until the technician fell completely silent.

It started out so well - she commented on my flat stomach and smiled while squirting on that cold jelly stuff - then she happily said "Oh! There he is!" when she put the sonogram thing on my abdomen, and we zoomed in on the little one - but within a few seconds, she fell completely silent. And I was worried almost instantly, because I didn't see the flickering light in his chest.

I keep picturing her taking the measurements from his little rump to his head, still trying to date the pregnancy, not entirely positive if she was seeing what she feared she was seeing...but when she asked "and you've had no cramps or spotting?" I knew what was coming. That's when I looked at Vinnie - but, M, he had the sweetest little smile on his face, just like he did when we saw our son for the first time - like love at first sight...he just squeezed my hand and said "baby!"

And then she said "I hate to tell you what I'm seeing..."

I'm sorry, M...I just can't stop replaying it in my mind. Whenever I close my eyes, I see the little body lying there, and I just can't believe that it's real. So, then, I turn to denial and I think "Well, maybe they just missed something...maybe he was so still because he was sleeping and maybe we just couldn't see, or the doppler couldn't hear the heartbeat...and I want to have them check one last time before "cleaning me out"...

But I know that it's unlikely, and that all that they'd be doing is billing me for an unnecessary ultrasound to confirm an already confirmed diagnosis - that I'm carrying an unviable pregnancy.

I'm taking the upcoming semester off - losing two babies so close together is a lot to process - I need a breather.

And on that note...I'm going to go hug my son...he's the only thing that can take my mind off of things. He actually had me giggling this morning...I can't thank God enough for giving me him first...I can't imagine what it would be like to have these two sad pregnancies without having a sweet baby to go home to.

...And that's all I've been able to write...


Thursday, November 03, 2005
Scene From the Stir-Up's
I'm vulnerable and chilled, sitting in a paper gown and staring down at the stir-ups by my dangling legs. They're wrapped in shiny purple plastic advertising the latest drug from the latest pharmaceutical company. The doctor knocks and enters. Smiles. Handshakes.

Then we fall into the normal doctor-patient chatter:

How's your baby?

Good, growing fast. My ankles nervously cross and re-cross. My fingers pinch the thin paper closed over my chest.

Any problems lately?


Normal periods? He asks, his nose tipped down, leaning over my file.

Well, sort of. I answer, confused. (Nonexistent should constitute regular when your pregnant, right?)

Oh, ok, when was your last period?

Well...I miscarried on September 4th, but before that it was in July.

July? He looks at me wide eyed and flips frantically through his papers. Have you had unprotected sex?

Uh, yeah.

So, there's a chance you might be pregnant.

Uh, YEAH...

Oh, so you think you ARE pregnant?

Yeah...that's why I'm here!

Did we know this?

Yeah, I did blood work two weeks ago!

I thought you were here for a routine pap smear! He's now tearing my file apart looking for the blood work results from two weeks prior.

Sitting in that terrible paper towel-dress, I couldn't help but smile as he squirmed and tore through his notes. For a brief moment, it was as if he was in the breezy-gown, embarrassed and vulnerable. And I didn't have to get a pap smear - that'll make any girl happy.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005
No More Monkey's
We were on a mission for the boss. He has grown bored with his car-shaped walker and his playpen filled with mismatched odds and ends. He’s no longer interested in balancing the empty I Can't Believe It's Not Butter container on his head, and the empty plastic tube of Lay's chips with it’s rattling toy shoved inside (creating a makeshift instrument) no longer thrills him.

He spends his days banging on the coffee table, demanding something to keep him busy.

And so we found ourselves side by side in the developmental toy aisle - frozen in the over stimulating onslaught of colors and beeping, blinking, and honking toys. We didn't need much, just a toy or two to tide him over until his birthday and Christmas. Just a set of blocks or a wobbly rainbow stacker - that's all we needed.

But it's easy to lose track of needs vs. wants when you're standing in that aisle. Everything screams: Push me! Squeeze me! Try me! Buy me! Each box outlines exactly how developmentally stimulating their product is. This basketball hoop that blinks and plays music when plastic balls pass through it encourages hand eye coordination and rewards baby's efforts. The slightly smaller sticker notes: $20.00 and what the box doesn't mention at all is: The repetitive music will drive you crazy and your child will take the plastic balls to chew them and then lose them under couches, tables, cribs, etc.

After much deliberation, we left the store armed with two toys and the proud satisfaction that we had bought exactly what he would've chosen had he been there himself.

This morning, I excitedly showed the boss his two new toys.

He is afraid of the moving/singing monkey and has already abandoned the ball-spinning-turtle in favor of simpler things.

He's chewing on one of his shoes and squealing with delight.

Lesson learned.