Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Never say never again

"Over and over and over again
The world only spins one way
The past is a distant flicker by now
And a lesson for another day."

For the last week or so I've been a bit haunted by a story I first read about on Facebook. The great niece of one of my online friends, lost one of her twin baby boys just before birth, after a 39 week pregnancy.

It made me wonder whether it is harder or easier to lose a twin than to lose a single baby at birth. Part of me thinks that having one baby to take home would be less unbearable than going home without a baby at all. Yet part of me wonders how much harder it would be to gieve intensely while caring for a newborn, to have a daily living reminder of that which you'd lost.

Obviously losing both twins after more than a 39 week pregnancy would be far worse than losing the one. But you'd also bear the sadness for the child who lost the brother he'd shared his life with for all those months.

The answers may be obvious or there may be no answers, only the starting where you are, only the going on, because time only moves one way, and they have a new life to look after.

One of the most haunting things the mom wrote was this: "In the western medical world babies are safer on the outside at 39 weeks where in the midwifery world they are seen as safer on the inside until baby wants to come out- as long as baby and mama are showing signs of being healthy."

So when the doctor spoke of risks and statistics and standard recommendations, it made her feel that she was not being treated as an individual. She wrote these words:"To move through fear and go against a doctor with years of experience and knowledge is not an easy thing to do. But to go against my intuition seemed even harder and was not emotionally or physically possible for me to do."

If her words haunt me, it's hard to imagine how much they might weigh on her. But people are human and make mistakes, and hindsight has 20/20 vision. It's easy to judge. It's even easier to have immense compassion.

I loved giving birth but I also feel like I didn't have a fully true birth experience. K.C. was born four days after her February 4 due date. Her father and I diligently went to all of the childbirth classes. A friend of mine was pregnant at the same time as I was and gave birth on her due date, February 6. I spoke to her the next day and asked how her labor went. She hesitated then said, I don't want to say anything because it might discourage you. I thought, you just did.

February 7 was my birthday and my weekly appointment with my OB-Gyn. She cheerfully checked me out and said that I was 1 percent dilated and to schedule an appointment for the following week. I was dismayed. I said, but this baby is getting so big. She said, your baby isn't getting too big and we love erasing appointments.

That night I had my first contractions. We'd been warned in Lamaze class about false labor and Braxton-Hicks contractions. I'm not sure why I was so uncertain whether I was in labor, given that I was three days past my due date. The contractions were mild and sporadic. I remember we went to dinner that night with my parents, who'd arrived a week earlier, at Michaelangelo's. I was timing my contractions and the waiters were joking that we'd have to name the baby Michaelangelina. Hah.

My contractions continued erratically through the night. We'd been told to wait until the contractions were coming five minutes apart to call the doctor. I'd fall asleep for 10 or 20 minutes and one would wake me. Eventually I got up and read until morning. Although my contractions still were following no pattern, I was getting punchy from not sleeping, so we called the doctor at 7 am. She told us to meet her at the hospital at 9 am.

By the time we arrived at the hospital my contractions had stopped. My doctor examined me, said that I was now 3 centimeters dilated. Today would be the day. They had me change into a hospital gown and then told us to walk around the hospital for 45 minutes. That brought the contractions back.

It was Friday, February 8, 1985. It was still in the dark age when an enema was part of the prep. I endured that indignity and got back into my hospital bed. My doctor came by, checked me and said that I stretched to 4 centimeters and she would be doing an amniotomy. Breaking my water. She did it with an instrument that looked like a crochet hook. She also started me on a pitocin drip. Pitocin ratcheted my contractions right up there. I was getting uncomfortable. My doctor nodded and said, a little Nubain I think. She injected the drug into my IV tube.

Nubain is an opiod. It made me feel loopy and I think I even dozed for a while. The contractions started getting stronger so an epidural was offered, which I accepted. Somehow the day had gone by because it was after 6 pm and time to push. I was moved to a delivery room. In Lamaze class we'd been told that some women liked to squat to push. I asked to squat and the nurse laughed and said, honey, you've had an epidural, you can't squat.

I know, I should have figured that out, but I didn't. I had no feeling from the waist down. I couldn't push. I couldn't even feel the contractions, at least not that I recall. My doctor whipped out another instrument, one that had never been mentioned in childbirth classes, a vaccuum extractor. She attached a cup to my baby's head. The cup was attached to some kind of mechanical suction device. There was a loud popping noise. The cup had come off the baby's head. It was quite scary. The doctor reattached it and this time she was able to extract a baby from my body. Kandace Claire was born at 6:55 pm. She weighed a whopping 6 lbs. 11 oz.

I'd missed dinner by the time I got out of recovery and into a room. They brought me a sandwich and a small can of grape juice. I ate and drank. Then I vomited into a basin.

But I had a healthy beautiful baby daughter.

I spent the weekend in the hospital. During our day of labor Jon started feeling sick and when my parents got to the hospital, he went home with a full-fledged cold. My doctor wasn't on call that weekend, the doctor on call didn't want to discharge me with a sick husband, so I got to stay in the hospital an extra couple of days. I didn't really mind. Jon didn't see Kandace again until she was three days old.

I was a clueless new mother and I sent Kandace to the nursery between feedings and at night. I let the nurses change all her first diapers. You might think I was smart to do that, to get some sleep, to take an amazing sitz bath. But later I felt guilt and regret. Perhaps irrationally (perhaps not), I felt as though I'd been a bystander at my child's birth. I didn't really labor to deliver her. I didn't keep her constantly with me during my hospital stay.

I did and still do love her to pieces. She'll be 32 years old in a couple of weeks. And I'd go through childbirth again, tomorrow, in a heartbeat, and I'd do it better, more naturally, without drugs if possible, just for the fun of it. I'd skip the 9 months and 4 days of pregancy though. I didn't love being pregnant. I did love giving birth.

And I wanted to do it again, and do it better the next time. But I didn't get a chance to with Chelsea. I'll write her birth story next time. Because there are some other things on my mind.

Neil even asked me why I was so affected by the story of the lost twin when so many somber things are happening in the world right now. After all, it was a distant connection, people die, children die every day. And there is so much drama in America at the moment, and I do worry about it. Because I feel so helpless. I even wonder if this is how the average German felt with Adolph Hitler at the helm. Maybe they didn't like what they were reading or hearing or seeing. But maybe they didn't think there was anything they could do about it.

It's so much easier to just keep living your comfortable life, thinking that if the situation deteriorates, some other powers that be won't allow it to happen. Thinking that morality and conscience and ethics will prevail over supremicism and racism and myisogyny and unfairness and cruelty and barbarity. Surely those in positions of influence will draw the line. Surely the best of the worst will summon up some conviction to counteract the passionate intensity of the worst of the worst.

Yes, surely someone else will take a stand and not allow another holocaust, another genocide. Because what can I do? What should I do? Should Neil and I have been out at the airport on Saturday, holding up signs? Should we march, should we demonstrate, should we organize, should we go to jail? Would that make a difference?

Or should we keep living our lives, enjoying the retirement we worked for so long and so hard, hoping someone else will step up and figure it out and make a difference and change history?

On Facebook I keep quiet. I have unfriended no one, argued with no one, agreed with no one, liked very little. I probably risked losing half my customer base because I made and posted pictures of pink cat hat beads.

Never again, we said about the Holocaust. But did we believe it? Did we mean it? How far will we go to defend it? And will it be far enough?

Tell me the truth
Don't ask me to lie
These are the things we say
You don't need proof and I'm not going to try
But I think we have lost our way

I don't own the sun and I can't raise the moon
So now as the darkness falls
Love so hard won then over too soon
And another cruel ending calls

All I can do is turn now to you
Holding my hand to my heart
All that I know is I'm watching us grow
Closer and closer apart

Now all the kings horses and all the kings men
Wait for their clarion call
Pride hears its voices and fear wins again
And there's nothing to break our fall

Over and over and over again
The world only spins one way
The past is a distant flicker by now
And a lesson for another day

Now my sad little boat floats on ou to sea
And you're almost out of sight
I'll remember you
Please don't forget me
I whisper with all my might

All I can do is turn now to you
Holding my hand to my heart
All that I know is I'm watching us grow

All I can do is turn back to you
And wave with one hand on my heart
All that I know is it's so hard to go.

(Mary Chapin Carpenter)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Tuning up the fiddle

"I will stare at the sun until its light doesn't blind me
I will walk unto the fire til its heat doesn't burn me
And I will feed the fire."

I had a weird head cold for about a week. At first I thought my allergies were unusually bad, but after we got home from North Carolina I just kept sneezing and suffering from congestion and drainage. I didn't have any of the other typical symptoms of an upper respiratory infection - no cough, no sore throat, no fever, no body aches, just a slight feeling of unwellness.

I pushed through it, popping over-the-counter antihistamines, and continued with my routines, making beads, listing beads, selling some beads, shipping beads. I walked on the treadmill and continued adjusting to this brave new world with Retired Neil.

Retired Neil has alternated between a whirlwind of sorting, organizing, cleaning, discarding and recycling, and time spent going over his lists while watching Star Trek re-runs. We did a little pre-furniture shopping for the new house, visiting Basset Furniture and Home Goods, mostly for ideas.

We've also gone through the house, room by room, and made a list of the furniture - what goes, what doesn't, what remains to be seen. We made a second pass at it, designating where in the new house things would go, and by default what we'll need to buy when we get there.

On our last trip I spent time studying how the model homes are furnished and felt relieved to see that they were not all matchy matchy. That is, each bedroom did not have a matching bed, dresser and nightstands. I like the idea of an eclectic mix and I love the idea of not spending a huge amount of money on furniture.

I think we can furnish all the guest bedrooms with bits and pieces of what we have now. I'm pretty sure we can fill up most of the basement rooms and some of the main floor rooms with the armoires and desks and bookcases and sofas and end tables and desks we have now. We'll need new sofas for the living room and maybe one sofa or a couple of recliners for the basement family room. We'll need new bedroom furniture for the master.

There are some odd decisions to be made. For example, right now we have a dining room table and two kitchen tables with about 20 chairs to go with them. The new house has a dining area but no separate kitchen eat-in area. And I'm not sure our present dining room table - counter height, rectangular and rustic - is quite right for the new dining area, which seems to call for a large round glass table. And I've always wanted a china cabinet.

So it's possible we'll put the dining room table in the game room, and the two kitchen tables in the media room and the bonus room, respectively. There are a lot of other odds and ends to be decided, like my mom's Baker piece, which I love but has no obvious spot, and her nested mahogany tables that might be OK as an end table or nightstand, or maybe in one of the box bays.

And how am I doing with all this focus on The Move? Pretty well for the most part, except that Neil is making me a little crazy with his over-eagerness in some respects. On the one hand I'm thrilled that he is taking action on donations to Goodwill and recycling of things like old batteries, burnt out flourescent bulbs and athletic trophies. On the other, I'm downhearted that he has already dissembled and washed tiers of shelving from the garage and staged it in the house. It just seems too soon to me.

Neil's point is that he has the time and energy to do it now and it will have to be done sometime so why not get ahead of the game. But he's the guy who packs a week in advance for a two-night trip. I pack the night before, or, if we aren't leaving too early, the morning of.

When I moved to Sugar Land from Jersey Village, it took me about six weeks to pack up a house I'd lived in for 19 years. True, I have about twice as much stuff now, partly because I never unpacked all of it and just bought new stuff. I suspect that this time will be similar. Once I pack my bead collection, how likely am I to unpack it?

OK, maybe I will, especially if after some time passes I feel settled. As much as I love this house, I never felt totally settled here. The plan has always been to move eventually. In more than nine years we never hung pictures on the walls. Neil has a thing about putting holes in walls and I just don't care about stuff like that, at least not enough to fight him.

So maybe that's the ticket to feeling more settled in the new house - hanging pictures right away or really soon after we get moved in. Maybe I'll unpack the boxes from Jersey Village that I never unpacked. It's impossible for me to predict at this ten seconds how I will feel about these things in July. Or August or whenever the move happens.

Right now, as I make beads while Neil spring cleans and donates and disposes, I have the sense that I'm fiddling while Rome burns. Some time ago I asked Neil when I'd have to pack up my studio and he said two weeks before the movers come. So I'm holding him to that. Right now my target for doing anything in terms of packing - other than decluttering as time permits - is May. I don't see the point of boxing up a lot of stuff so for months we can be tripping over boxes or digging for that thing we packed but need.

I do understand the feeling of knowing that it has to happen and wanting to get it done, but not yet. I'm determined, no, deperate to keep living life here for a while and not jump headlong into suspended animation. Limbo is not my thing, as you may remember.

I made two more dream beads for Beads of Courage. The challenges get harder.

I thought the first one would be the easier one.

For Henry, age 9. "It would be an American Flag, with 7 red stripes and 6 white stripes. The stars (as many as possible) would be bumpy and white on a blue background."

I wasn't sure I could get all 6 white stripes on, but I did. The USA was my idea.

I thought the second one would be the harder one, but it turned out to be easier than the flag bead. Reading through it and digesting it was the hard part.

For Brittany, age 23. "If I had the chance we to have a dream bead created I would want it to represent what I love so much. I love horses and to be able to have a horse shaped bead would be great. I have a palamino mare therapy horse. I also would love to have a bead represent everything I am my parents support and live through my battle, the lime green awareness ribbon to bring awareness to what I fight and my pets. I have a service dog that is amazing, a smaller dog that cuddles with me all the time, and a medium sized dog that just loves to hug and kiss you. And as mentioned my horse I'd like it to be in a fun shape maybe a large bead that on each side has painted on it the things I have listed about but in a fun shape not your regular shape and I want it smooth. Also favorite colors are lime green, turquoise, purple and zebra print. I hope I get selected to get a dream bead. I've never gotten one before as didn't know you could even ask for them. If none of this could be done, a really nice service dog (black German Shepherd) and a palamino-colored horse-shaped and colored bead(s) would be very cool to have as well."

I managed to get in the horse, all the favorite colors including zebra print, the lime green ribbon and even a little black dog. I'm pretty proud of it and I hope she loves it.

And now my father-in-law is here and tomorrow we are headed to Lake Charles again for another visit with Baby Blake and family. I've booked our second Airbnb experience, this time for an "Awesome private detached 2bd/1ba" with 47 five star reviews.

I read a little online about the idiosyncracies of Airbnb reviews. Turns out I'm not the only one who struggled with leaving a completely honest review for our last host. As long as the place is clean, the stars are actually a pretty low bar to achieve. Accuracy, Communication, Cleanliness, Location, Check-In, Value. Presumably you've scouted out location and value in advance. Communication and check-in should be no-brainers, as should accuracy assuming you have reasonably represented your offering.

It seems it's human nature to struggle with giving a frank less-than-fully-positive review for someone you've met in person, whose roof you've stayed beneath, especially if they were pleasant and have a good track record. You don't want to be that picky whiner who points out the tiny size of the room or the lingering cooking smells. Unless the place is egregiously misrepresented or unsanitary, most people would rather dwell on the positives and move on.

Of course there's no reason to wax eloquent unnecessarily. Our previous Airbnb home had superlatives written about the decor, the personality of the hostess, the proximity to Dunkin' Donuts, the comfy terrycloth slippers (Yang didn't want us to wear shoes in the house, a reasonable request), the amazing community (a street of attached townhomes), the softness of the bed, the toiletries in the bathroom (Suave, the cheapest brand ever made). On the other hand, in retrospect, I noticed several people used the word "cozy" (a euphemism for claustrophobic?) and one person alluded enthusiastically to what I found objectionable: "Rest assured, you'll want to inquire on her "food recipes", which permeate throughout the house, making you want to try her culinary skills!"

Armed with a bit of experience and more knowledge, I'll be cultivating the fine art of reading between the lines in future selections. I don't see any red flags for our upcoming stay. In fact I'll be disappointed if the mentioned bagels and bananas don't materialize.

Mother teach me to walk again
Milk and honey so intoxicating

I'm reunited
Into the fire
I am the spark
Into the night
I yearn for comfort

Open the doors that lead on into Eden
Don't know cheap disguise
Follow the signs marked back to the beginning
No more compromise

And into the fire
I'm reunited
Into the fire
I am the spark
Into the night
I yearn for comfort

Free the water that carries me to the sea
You I see as my security

I will stare at the sun until its light doesn't blind me
I will walk unto the fire til its heat doesn't burn me
And I will feed the fire

Into the fire
I'm reunited
Into the fire
I am the spark
Into the night
I yearn for comfort.

(Sarah McLachlan, Pierre Marchand)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Commencing the countdown

"Now the light commands, this is my home, I'm coming home
Earth below us, drifting falling, floating weightless, coming home."

Twentyseventeen. One week in.

We woke up on New Year's Day in Lake Charles, where we'd spent a couple of days doing some baby Blake bonding.

We spent the first three nights of the new year at home, before an action packed three-day trip to Charlotte for our pre-building meeting. Weather permitting they'll set the footings for our new house within the next week. Winter Storm Helena may play silly buggers with that plan which is OK with me.

The latest prediction is that our house will be ready in July. That's a little scary soon. The countdown truly has begun.

I have to admit, I liked everything on this trip except for being one thousand miles and change away from my kids.

It's not like they live here in town now though.

I liked that, despite chilly temperatures, I dressed in layers and wasn't too cold. I liked that we explored more and found some pleasant culinary diversity, local coffee shops, and the quaint university town of Davidson. I liked finding out that Carolina Cones opens on March 15, which means both that winters are endurably short enough and that it will likely be open again when we return for aour pre-sheetrocking meeting.

We stayed at our first Airbnb abode. It had its upsides and its drawbacks. I accentuated the positive in my review. "Very clean, new, convenient location, quiet, private, good value. Thank you."

The unmentioned downsides were the small size of the room which held only a queen bed and two nightstands, not even a dresser or chair, forcing us to put the bedcovers and throw pillows on the floor. The bathroom needed another towel rod and a hook or two, and a cup for teethbrushing. Our asian host cooked (for herself) both morning and evening, so the condo had the ever-lingering scent of chinese food.

Worst for me was no coffee in the morning. Yang offered filtered water and nothing more. I asked where the closest coffee was and she answered, Starbucks inside Harris Teeter. I may start traveling with a jar of instant coffee if I can't find lodging that mentions coffee access.

Our next two trips, Lake Charles again with Neil's Dad later this month and Keller in February will be test cases.

Neil asked if I'd stay with Yang again. I said I might if it was for a night or two but if we go for a longer time I might look at other options.

I did just make our next Airbnb reservation for Lake Charles later this month and hearted some options in Keller for next month.

I mentioned the Beads of Courage 2017 Bead of the Month Program, where BOC is offering to pay an artist $5 per bead for a total of 100 beads about 1.5 inches in size. Initially I said that I'd do it, but after some reflection I decided the stress of churning out 100 alike beads in that size would kill any joy in creating, even for a good cause.

I sent BOC this note on Dec. 27.
Hi Angeline - I made some test beads over the holiday and realized that I can't make 100 beads in that size that would be close to being identical. I think I should withdraw and let someone else have my spot.

I'm happy to keep making Dream Bbeads and Carry-a-Bead pairs as needed.

Thank you,

The test bead part was a white lie, but I didn't need a test to know it would be difficult for me. I could have agreed to 100 beads with a size and a theme, such as flowers or trees or fish, if I could vary base colors and design elements.

I got no reply. So it was with some surprise that I received an email from BOC on January 5 BOC announcing the program, and one of my beads was the featured example.

That's my bead in the middle, one side of the Dream Bead I made for Emma. I don't mind of course. No credit of course.

I also noticed a pair of my beads in another photo in the email that promoted the Carry-a-Bead program, the white pair with red and dark blue spots pictured on the safety pin.

It's fine, I am happy to be working with them and supporting their goals in small ways. I have them as my designated charity on Amazon Smile.

Every little bit (coming from enough people) makes a little difference.

I'm thinking about signing up for the 10th Bead Soup Blog Party, to be known as the Bead Hoarders Edition. I know I said last time that it would be my last one, but I want to have a reason to make some jewelry again. I know I don't necessarily need a reason, but even when I have an idea and want to make a finished piece, it rarely becomes a priority or reaches the top of the bucket list.

I did finish this piece yesterday. It's the Solar System in case you can't tell. I had a hard time deciding how to order it and I'm not sure it makes sense, but the idea is that you move up one side from the sun to Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars and Jupiter, then move across to Saturn and back down through Uranus, Neptune and Pluto (yes, I kept Pluto). Which begs the question of why Pluto is adjacent to the sun.

Badly-lit mirror selfie, but you get the idea.

I thought about starting with the Sun on one side and moving through the planets, which would make Jupiter the focal point. Or I could have started with a cental sun, with the planets in sequence up one side, counterbalanced with a host of asteroids (random beads) up the other for a nice asymmetric number. Neil thought I should make the whole system a long dangle, but even without spacers, that would have been a long bit. These ideas all have merit and it's possible I'll make a few more versions before the end of time.

In the meantime, you might say, I'm wearing the weight of the world on my shoulders.

Standing there alone, the ship is waiting
All systems are go, are you sure?
Control is not convinced
But the computer has the evidence
No need to abort
The countdown starts

Watching in a trance, the crew is certain
Nothing left to chance, all is working
Trying to relax up in the capsule
Send me up a drink, jokes Major Tom
The count goes on

4, 3, 2, 1
Earth below us
Drifting falling
Floating weightless
Calling calling home

Second stage is cut, we're now in orbit
Stabilizers up, running perfect
Starting to collect requested data
What will it effect when all is done
Thinks Major Tom

Back at ground control there is a problem
Go to rockets full, not responding
Hello Major Tom, are you receiving?
Turn the thrusters on, we're standing by
There's no reply

4, 3, 2, 1
Earth below us
Drifting falling
Floating weightless
Calling calling home

Across the stratosphere
A final message
Give my wife my love
Then nothing more

Far beneath the ship, the world is mourning
They don't realize he's alive
No one understands but Major Tom sees
Now the light commands, this is my home
I'm coming home

Earth below us
Drifting falling
Floating weightless
Coming home

Earth below us
Drifting falling
Floating weightless
Coming coming home


(Peter Schilling)