Monday, August 12, 2013

on just the three of us

So much more to say but, for now, as I type with one hand and hold a two week old in the other, this will do.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

on nesting

In the Spring of 1949, just before her first baby (there would be eight more) arrived, my grandmother began nesting.  She went to the grocer down the street and asked if there were any unused crates she could take.  There was, and she left with an orange one.  A short walk later and she was asking the sales clerk at the home store if there were any leftover wallpaper scraps. There was, and she left with a small sheet of the colorful stuff.  Once home, she papered the crate with her wallpaper find and then filled it with diapers and cloths.  She was finished.
On Saturday, as my grandmother told this story, I was sitting in my aunt’s house in my hometown surrounded by dozens of gifts.  She made the joke, “It’s amazing any of our babies ever survived without all of this!”
We live in a one bedroom apartment.  Like my grandmother and grandfather (or Mum and Pa as they would be named once the first of the 18 grandchildren arrived), we don’t have much room.  Unlike my Mum and Pa, we do have stuff.  Lots and lots of stuff.  Onesies and burp cloths, sound machines to white out police sirens, and contraptions created specifically to clean bottles.  I am grateful for all of it, but know it’s not needed.  My Mum told a few more stories and as she did I imagined those first few years before my Pa’s law practice took off, when they were just out of school, struggling, trying to create the life they knew they could have.

lovely stuff
They ended up with that life.  With an amazing love and friendship that spanned decades.  With a thanksgiving table so overflowing that it would often spark my Pa to call out, “Look at all these beautiful people! The fruit of my loins!” Which would, undoubtedly, produce both groans and laughs around the table.
Mike won’t practice law, and I won’t sell summer houses on the north fork like my grandmother did, so I know that our lives won’t look exactly the same (and there are no intentions for 9 children).  But it’s a nice reminder that what we start with is not indicative of what we end with.  As long as we have each other, and this little person who will be joining us soon, all the rest is a bonus.  An orange crate from the grocery store, some scrap wallpaper, and a proud mom-to-be bustling around a small apartment in Queens.  That seems like enough.

33 weeks this past weekend

Thursday, April 18, 2013

on good news, and dodging the odds

Last Thursday, after two weeks of waiting, we heard from the geneticist with results.  I was sitting on a boat in Florida, visiting my mom and step-dad, when I heard the good news.  After I hung up, after I knew that as far as any test could show there wasn't any genetic problem, I was thankful for those little club feet.  Those perfect, little, turned-in-on-themselves feet.

For a few days I suffered from some version of survivor guilt.  I didn't know what to say here after the nerves had passed and I knew that I had dodged some sort of odds bullet.  That in one day the geneticist may have made several other calls, with different words, different outcomes, different lives changed.

It would have been alright.  We would have been ok.  I know that.  But I also know that our lives were just made easier by not having to hear something different from that call.

I haven't written here this winter because I thought it would be a jinx.  I worried about getting my hopes up only for something awful to happen.  I didn't mean to let that negativity slip in, but I couldn't shake the feeling that our happiness could be taken away.  When Mike's Dad got sick we postponed our engagement to focus on family.  He passed away a year later and we postponed again because it was all just so sad.  Finally, when things were calm, we moved forward.  Only to have the tragedy of tragedies strike just a week before the wedding.  You can understand my hesitation. 

I don't believe that the world works this way.  I don't believe that there is some hand of fate that builds you up just enough to knock you down, but I couldn't be sure.  And so I wrote quietly.  In the notes app on the phone.  In scribbled margins of work notebooks.  But I didn't write any of it here.

But maybe I should.  Maybe now that I remember that good news and bad news comes and goes and we still move forward, maybe I'll remember what it felt like to share it here. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

on traffic and the Kosciuszko

On the BQE heading from Brooklyn to Queens, just as the road rises over the Kosciuszko bridge, there's a perfect span to the west of the Manhattan skyline.  Beneath the highway is Newtown Creek, to the north an acres wide cemetery (the kind my brother and I used to joke about, "aren't their heads bumping?"), then the East River, then Manhattan.  Without fail, no matter what time of day it is, there will be traffic on this stretch.  On nights when my Dad would drive me home from his place in Brooklyn Heights, I loved this traffic.  It meant I got him for another 20 minutes.  It meant another 20 minutes in the car for me to ramble on about every piece of information that entered my stream of consciousness.  For me to share the things I only shared in those quiet minutes when no one else was around. 

Last Thursday, Mike and I went to my doctor for a 21 week scan.  It was meant to be the last sonogram of the pregnancy.  I didn't want unneeded scans and I made the appointment for Mike's spring recess so he could be with me, so he could see that little being kicking around one last time before seeing it in person in August.  The sonogram tech made her measurements, chatted, and then left the room to show the doctor the pictures she gathered.  Last time this happened, the doctor came in, shook my hand, and told me that all was well and he'd see me next time.  Instead, last week, the doctor came in as he was putting his hands into a pair of gloves.  He sat down and said he'd like to do the sonogram himself.  I grabbed Mike and squeezed-doctors don't perform sonograms unless something is wrong.

Soon after we learned that our baby to be has bilateral club foot.  Both of its feet are turned inward, nearly upside down on themselves.  This time, as we watched on the screen and knew what we were looking for, it was clear.  Little knees, little legs, and then two too-small feet stuck awkwardly at right angles to the ankles.  Minutes later, in the doctor's office as we talked about the scan, I let a few tears fall.  I imagined the casts and braces (in my mind, some polio-era contraption), of my baby never walking normally and of being in pain.  All of which is dramatic and unrealistic-but the brain does strange things when confronted with such a surprise. 

We met with a geneticist that afternoon and learned that 90% of club foot cases are isolated.  Meaning, the only issue is the feet, which will be fixable and treatable (it seems braces have come a long way since the 1930's) and in most cases cured by the time the child starts to walk.  But with that lingering 10%, that stubborn remainder, the feet are a sign of a greater genetic issue.  A chromosomal defect.  One in particular that could lead to a "question of viability outside the womb", and so we are now in the midst of a 10-14 day wait on the results of last Friday's amio*.

That first night, as I tried to think only positive thoughts, as Mike cheered me by looking up every professional athlete who was born with club feet (there are a lot), as we told ourselves that 90% is a huge number and we don't have anything to worry about, I wanted my Dad.  It was a Thursday and I knew he was at his weekly gig.  But, more than knowing he was just out of the house, he felt very far away in Mexico, and I let myself cry for the first time since hearing the news.  In that moment, I wanted to feel like the kid, to be told what will be will be, but it will be alright either way.  To be in the passenger seat on the BQE, stuck in traffic on the Kosciuszko.  For the quiet moments in the car between my ramble and his words.

*A few days later our doctor sent us for a fetal echocardiogram to rule out any congenital heart abnormalities.  The scan showed another "soft marker" for genetic issues, an echogenic focus on the heart, so the amnio should tell us more about that as well.  Waiting.  Waiting.  

(not my photo)

Friday, February 8, 2013

on expecting

When a woman tells me she is "expecting", I can't help but think, "expecting what?".  It just sounds a little vague, like we think we're expecting a baby, but who knows, maybe we're expecting an elephant.  And then I can't help but imagine her in a hospital room cradling a baby elephant, in a "we weren't expecting this!" type of ba-dum-dum cymbal crash gag.  I see it in my head and I laugh every time.  But, since the other person is not seeing the funny reel of images in my head, they only know that they told me they were expecting and I started laughing.

Sometimes I wonder how I have any friends at all.

So now that I'm "expecting", I find myself talking to the little being in there and saying, "I expect you are a baby and not that worm alien who jumps out of the guys stomach with a little mini hat and cane to perform Hello Ma Baby on top of the diner counter in Spaceballs.  But, since I"m not really sure, it would be great if you could just give me a sign either way..."

I'm mainly kidding, but not totally.  It's a pretty strange thing to know you're growing a human but not be able to grasp that since, you know, it's not every day you grow a human.  Kind of sci-fi I tell you.  But pretty awesome too.

Not picking up the Spaceballs reference?: 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

on passing the test, and a new shore

On December 1st, just as the space behind the curtain started to fill with light, I quietly put my feet on the floor and made my out of the room.  I had spent the night before restless, rolling over to look at the clock every hour or so, awake with nerves.  Even though I had tried to tell myself that it would be negative, that it wasn't happening now, I had a feeling I couldn't shake.  A feeling that something was already happening. 

I took the test, and waited.  I put my head in my hands and did my own, personal form of praying.  Please, I thought, please let it be now.  I hesitated for another minute and then looked over to the test next to the sink.  No little lines to decipher on this model, the word said what I'd been waiting for.  Pregnant.  I made a sound.  A whispered yelp and then looked at the word again, not trusting the first sighting.  Pregnant.  The letters were still there.  I jumped up and looked in the mirror, half expecting to see someone different.  A few tears fell and I wiped my face and ran into the bedroom to wake Mike.  I climbed on top of him and told him the news.  He opened his eyes and asked me to say it again.  And I did.  He pulled me down on top of him in a tight hug and we stayed in bed for the next hour, amazed and happy and overwhelmed.

And in those minutes everything felt different.  At the time it was just a mass of rapidly dividing cells holding everything it would one day be, but still, it was there.  It was real.  A tiny bundle of genetic promise.  I put my hand on my belly and whispered, please grow baby, please stay with us.  And so it has.  Eight weeks after that morning and now it has hands and arms and legs which waved and kicked at us yesterday as we watched on the screen at the doctor's office. 

It's still early.  Just over twelve weeks.  But the riskiest part is nearly over, and so I am back to share.  After I found out the happy news, I didn't know what to say here.  I've always been a fairly good secret keeper, but the blank page asked for me to write about what was happening to us, and without sharing this huge new part of our life, I had nothing else to say.  There are unpublished drafts about Christmas traditions and a show with my brother, the new year and about sitting next to Patient Zero on the subway as he sneezed and coughed his symptoms all over me, but none made their way to this page.  It felt strange to write when the only thing I wanted to say could not yet be said.

I started writing here as a way of moving past the heartbreak that was losing Mike's mom so soon after losing his dad, but now the words on the side of this page feel fitting for this too.  Onward full-tilt we go.  To make good on a new shore. 

Saul Leiter-Mother And Baby In Mirror

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

on a thankful day

Thursday morning I rushed around the apartment, rushed to a cab, rushed to 59th and Lex, only to wait for twenty-five minutes for the Jitney out to the North Fork.  I rushed, to wait.  There's something poignant in there I think. 

Just under two hours later the bus pulled over to the side of Main Street in Cutchogue.  In front of Scoops Ice Cream and a few doors down from the diner and the church turned library.  I stepped off the bus, wished the driver a Happy Thanksgiving, and walked the half mile to my Mum's.  

It was perfectly quiet and clear and cool and I found myself smiling as I walked.  If I had been a character in a movie there'd have been good music, something to make sure the audience knew that this meant I was happy.  That something deep inside felt calm and at ease.  

I walked in the back door to hugs and the familiar high pitched, but welcoming, squeal of my mom.  Aunts, uncles, cousins, and my Mum.  A cacophony of family.  And it was good.  And I was thankful. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

on Life List item #1

Last week, procrastinating at the computer, Mike started listening to various versions of the Notre Dame Fight Song on YouTube (hey, everyone has a vice).  After a few minutes he found a video of a three year old girl singing the song.  The look on his face said what I knew he was thinking, “one day we could have one of these and teach them this.”  

It’s more real now.  It has been for me for a while.  But for Mike it’s always been this vague, distant thing.  Someday we’ll have kids.  Someday he’ll be a Dad.  But now that the attempt is in the present I’m noticing a change in him.  (I'm sorry, I know, I hate these phrases too: “attempt”, “trying”.  They come with such baggage.  With such uneasy entry into a very personal aspect of someone’s life.  At a party and the topic of babies comes up.  The couple in the room link arms, shares a knowing glance, and says, “oh, well, we’re trying.”  Well, thanks for that.  Because now I’m picturing you guys “trying” and it’s not exactly the image I need as I’m “trying” to eat as many cured meat/cheese/cracker concoctions as I can.  How’s that for a parenthetical aside? Whew.)
So yes, the trying.  Oh, the trying.  The counting of days.  The x’s and o’s on a calendar, the calendar purchased just for this purpose.  For the purpose of tracking the things you need to track when this is the thing you want.  I think of Mike’s two students who recently had babies.  As difficult as it must be for them, evolution prefers it.  Our bodies haven’t caught up to our new world.  The world where you wait to get married, combine finances, wait some more, take that little pill at the same time every night because, god forbid, we’re just not ready.  Wait for an even number year to try because that’s lucky (ok, maybe that’s just me).  But then the even number year turns out to be unlucky and you are thrown into the system of x’s and o’s, of counting and tracking and hoping and waiting.
And all the while you are desperate to tell someone, just anyone, but you don’t know who wants to hear it.  So, instead, you find yourself talking to your brother at 11pm on a Saturday night about trying and not trying too hard and ridiculously hilarious stories that make you feel less alone and weird and then thankful for having the most amazing friend in the guy that was born to your parents four years ahead of you.  Even if the conversation does make you realize that there really are no more lines left to cross in the sibling relationship.

painted wall at the Ace Hotel, home of Camp Mighty
But then there was Camp.  On the first night we played Life List Bingo, a way of meeting the people around us by matching them up with squares on the game.  One of the squares was “Get Knocked Up.”  Suddenly the very personal became very public and it didn’t matter.  I announced to my table that they could use me for that square and then, as the night went on, people came to find me, the girl whose number one Life List entry was to be a mom.  It felt funny ("hey guys, over here, I found Get Knocked Up!"), and true, and no longer something that I had to be embarrassed by.   

But I promise not to speak of this when we're at a party together and you're trying to focus on eating the appetizers.  Promise. 
view from breakfast at the Ace Hotel

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

on a bit of mighty

Saturday night, sitting at the diner with a small group of driven, smart, passionate women, I found myself making the case for why the zombie apocalypse was more than plausible, and why the $239 backup power supply from Brookstone* was on my Christmas list because of it.  I had only met these women two nights earlier but somehow felt comfortable enough to show them my nervous-rocking tick as I tried to convey, "this is real guys, it could happen."  It may have been the margarita talking, or maybe the two hours of The Walking Dead I had caught up on before going to Palm Springs but, either way, I felt pretty strongly that they needed to understand the consequences of inaction.  The group was quiet for a second and then Adina spoke up: her mom lived upstate with plenty of land to grow things and the position of the house was "defensible".  Yes, I thought, this is good.  We have a plan.  

I have more to say about Camp Mighty.  More important things than rambling thoughts of zombie tv shows turned real life.  Like how it lifted me out of the din of the past few months and snapped me awake.  How it surrounded me with a feeling so far from the middle-school-cafeteria fear I thought I'd be struck with**.  How the weekend served as a reminder that there is so much more to be and do and these people are the ones who are making it happen. 

But, for now, I am left knowing that if all goes to hell, I have a group of ladies who will have my back.  In a defensible position in upstate New York.  And that's something.

*ok, so I don't actually have a Christmas list, but if I did this would be on it. Most likely because of the Hurricane and the thought of being without power for all those days. But it would come in handy if the world crumbled due to zombie invasion as well.

**The fear was definitely present for the first hour of Thursday night as I forced myself to leave the safety of the hotel room and enter the bar.

Monday, November 12, 2012

on Sandy

We packed up the car with warm clothes and diapers and canned food and flashlights and headed out to the Rockaways last Saturday.

It was a beautiful day.  Clear and breezy and if you ignored the blocks upon blocks of downed trees and dark intersections, you could almost pretend that it was a perfect fall day.  As we turned onto Cross Bay Boulevard the car slowed and we creeped along for the remaining miles.  The roads were crowded with families collecting food and water and others who were standing among the contents of their battered and gutted homes.  The water logged and rotted remnants of everything that was once inside them.  

We sat in traffic while these people moved around us.  For a sick instant, as I played with the camera in my hands, it reminded me one of those drive-through safaris at Great Adventure.  Where you make your way slowly through the amusement park as the zebras and giraffes come up to your car.  You snap a photo, squeal in delight that the live animal came so close to you, and then move along.  I took the three below before feeling that it wasn't right.  We had our car.  We had our apartment.  We hadn't lost power.  We weren't hungry.  Taking the camera out to snap these people at their lowest, when I wasn't a photojournalist but rather just a glorified tourist, didn't feel right. 

As we crossed the bridge back onto solid ground I watched the water disappear in the side mirror.  It was blue and sparkling and inviting.  As it faded out of view I could almost pretend that it wasn't the same monster that came ashore just a few days earlier.  Almost pretend that this would never happen again, that we had seen the worst.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

on car talk

My Dad has been listening to Tom and Ray Magliozzi and their Car Talk radio show on NPR for as long as I can remember.  When I lived at home I'd wake up on Saturday mornings to their Boston r's and a's rolling out of the speakers in my Dad's office.  In recent years my visits to Cherry Valley have been highlighted by Saturday morning trips to the dump and listening along to them. (What, you don't think a visit to the town dump can be a highlight?)

But Tom and Ray have hung up their mics.  As of a few weeks ago they are no longer recording new shows.  Instead, NPR is airing shows and calls collected from the past two decades.  The news stings, and it feels like the end of an era.

It always amazes me that the things that feel like home can be carried along with us.  That home doesn't have to be just one place.  This morning I went to the computer to log on to internet radio, a strange but necessary thing in an apartment with no radio signal and, pre-recorded or not, I listened to the guys.  My Dad arrived in Mexico a few days ago, finishing his annual migration south of the border (like geese, but in a Volvo).  He's 2,544 miles away, but with Tom and Ray's voices as the backdrop to a Saturday morning, he feels close.  And it feels like home. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

on a Mighty list

I leave for Palm Springs and Camp Mighty in a week.  At some point last week, when the wind sounded like it would take our windows out with each rattle, when the images of Staten Island and Jersey and the Rockaways came pouring through the tv screen with heartbreaking frequency, I thought of cancelling.  I didn't think it was important enough, or maybe just that I wasn't important enough, and I was very close to calling United and asking about a flight refund.

A short time later a post came up on my Camp Mighty team page on facebook.  A woman in New York wrote that she was feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of fundraising for Camp in the aftermath of Sandy and was feeling overwhelmed in general.  I responded with my own comment on nerves but ended with encouragement for us both.  A few days later she sent me an email.  She thanked me for my comment and wrote that after seeing my name she realized that I was the author behind the APW Wedding Graduate Post that had inspired her to reach out to me over a year earlier.  She said that she had drafted the email and then never sent it as her own wedding arrived and she became distracted, but that here I was now.  And that we were going to meet in person.  At Camp Mighty.  As I read her words, the big scary leap suddenly felt smaller, more manageable. 

One of the benefits of Camp is taking the time to learn what it is we want to do, be, create, while we can.  So before heading out, we write a Life List and then use the weekend, and the inspiration found their, to figure out how to get some of them finished.  The simple act of writing this list has meant so much.  I found it pretty inspiring, and I love the idea of putting this out to the world in the hopes that some of them will be completed.  I will be adding some more, but for now:

1.   Be someone's mom (and a good one, or try real hard to be)
2.   Perform in a production of “Into the Woods”
3.   Take Mike to a game at Notre Dame
4.   Form a band, sing in front of a crowd
5.   Grow flowers, lots of them
6.   Go back to school for something that I love, not need
7.   Have an OpEd published in the Times
8.   Be published: anywhere, any format
9.   Write a novel…even if no one ever reads it
10. Write more, tell people blog exists
11.  Have a shared vacation home/rental with my brother and his family
12.  Learn how to mix fancy cocktails
13.  Give up the city, own a home somewhere with space
14.  Have a front porch with a swing
15.  Build a treehouse for my (future) kids
16.  Help draft a bill and lobby it in Washington
17.  Be an extra on Law and Order before SVU goes off the air (preferably the person in the first scene who finds the body)
18.  Practice guitar so I don’t need to rely on someone else to sing
19.  Take more photos
20.  Turn photos into cards, sell them on etsy (even if I only break even)
21.  Be that person who hosts great parties
22.  Have a dog
23.  Pay off credit card
24.  Summit Kilimanjaro with Mike
25.  Take a volunteer trip to somewhere that needs me
26.  Send more real/hand written notes and letters
27.  Take care of my clothes (if it says dry clean, dry clean)
28.  Spend more time outside
29.  Camp more
30.  Join a CSA
31.  Speak on a panel for Women in Development
32.  Do more, do better, with what I know (10 years in fundraising development)
33.  Be a board member of a non-profit I respect
34.  Volunteer to help a startup non-profit get off the ground
35.  Quit Diet Coke
36.  Make a significant change—local or greater
37.  Take a road trip across the U.S.
38.  Start a savings account for my future kids as soon as they’re born
39.  Climb Mt. Katahdin and the last leg of the Appalachian Trail
40.  Re-learn how to use a sewing machine
41.  Re-learn how to do a fuete
42.  Re-learn tough math before my future kids are old enough to need help with it
43.  Learn self defense, or maybe just some basic survival skills (I blame the trend in zombie apocolypse tv)
44.  Learn how to play the harmonica
45.  Learn to speak another language
46.  Learn how to grill/bbq
47.  Learn how to cook without needing recipes as backup
48.  Have headshot taken for blog sites/LinkedIn
49.  Make a budget, stick to it
50.  Have assets or, at the very least, a savings account
51.  See a show at Red Rocks
52.  Fix body: feet, back, more swimming, pilates
53.  Feel confident in the kitchen
54.  Work one day a week from home
55.  Participate in a swimming race/event
56.  Be an audience member at SNL
57.  Wear a bikini in public (and look good in it)
58.  Win a superbowl ring (not sure how, but VP of Football Operations with the NE Patriots sounds good)
59.  Take Mom to Paris
60.  Ask Dad to teach me everything he knows about growing things
61.  Record my Mum’s voice telling her stories/poems/songs
62.  Teach someone something I know well
63.  Call up the restaurant where friends are celebrating a birthday/anniversary and buy their dessert/wine
64.  Figure out logististics of performing a show with my Dad and my brother (tentative name: Tom and The Driscoll Kids)
65.  Get called up on stage to sing harmony line for Come Pick Me Up with Ryan Adams or Falling Slowing with Glen Hansard (hey, a girl can dream)
66.  Travel: Switzerland/Austria (the Alps)
67.  Travel: Alaskan coast/British Columbia
68.  Travel: a rainforest
69.  Travel: the American west (rocky mountains, red rocks, canyons)
70.  Travel: Africa
71.  Travel: Italy (Rome, Venice, Tuscany, Amalfi Coast)
72.  Travel: France
73.  Travel: Greece and Turkey
74.  Travel: Galapagos
75.  Travel: New Zealand
76.  Travel: Thailand
77.  Travel: Watch the sunrise from the top of Haleakala in Hawaii