Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Writober 10.2.19: Burying the Lede

he endometrial cancer was found during routine fertility tests. “Instead of a baby,” I sometimes say, “I got a tumor!” I usually laugh when I say this because what else is there to do?

When I received the call that Friday morning four years ago, the only question I asked the doctor was, “But what does this mean in terms of trying to have a baby.”

He didn’t answer that; he said the oncologist would be able to answer that for me. He went on to assure me that people with my diagnosis went on to live happy, healthy lives.

Yes, I thought. But childless lives so what’s the point? And no, I don’t mean that for everyone. I’m always quick to add that too, the rare times I express that sentiment because I know perfectly well one can have a full, happy life without children. But that’s not the life I envisioned for myself and yet, there I was.

For the entire month between diagnosis and treatment, I worked, I laughed, I interacted with people. But in the shower I cried. The water would drown out the tears, I thought and I didn’t want the roommates to hear because I was supposed to be happy to be alive. I was supposed to be grateful that they’d caught the cancer in time.

Mostly though I walked around convinced I was dreaming. This is a nightmare, I’d think. I’ll wake up soon. But it was real. The hysterectomy happened. All the cancer was caught and I was alive. Thank goodness, people said, that you were trying to get pregnant! Otherwise who knows what would have happened!

Yes. Thank goodness.

I was 42 that year. Then I was 43. Another year closer to 45 and the cut off age for trying to adopt a baby domestically. Why not internationally, people ask (and asked). Finances, mostly. But fun fact: I’m too fat to adopt a child from China. Yes, China has specific BMI requirements.

Year 44 was spent filling out forms. Oh, you’ll have that application done in no time knowing you!

Yes, that’s what I thought so too. But every form brought with it self reflection, questions, doubts. Can I do this? Do I really want to do this? Am I ready/willing to accept whatever comes? Sometimes that was a quick, decisive yes. Sometimes that was weeks of uncertainty. What I thought would be a three month process took 11 months. And then I waited, and waited and waited. At the 15 month mark I asked myself, “How long do you wait?” I did some math. “If you get a baby now, you’ll be 66 when it’s 20. If you get a baby when you’re 50, you’ll be 70!” At that age, what’s four years but somehow it was a sticking point. I decided I’d give it till 48 and then I’d make a decision.

And then life decided to mix things up.

On Tuesday, July 16th I received an email from a case worker at the adoption agency asking me if I had time to speak the following day. “Is this it?” I wondered. “Shit, this might be it.”

And it was. On Wednesday, July 17th I was told I’d been matched with a baby born in early July. By Monday, July 22nd, I was holding her in my arms.

And now, here we are. She’s been with me for a little over two months it feels as if she’s been with me forever. But that’s probably the sleep deprivation talking. I’m definitely dreaming now, but in the best way possible.

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Friday, May 10, 2019

Asking for a Friend

One of the things I believe about myself is that I’m not good at asking for help or asking for things for myself. I think this is true but it’s also hard to know exactly if my self perception matches reality. Additionally, this has led me to believe I also wouldn’t be good in jobs where I would be required to ask for donations, do fundraising. 

However, I’m starting to believe I could learn to be good at that kind of job - it would all depend on who I’m asking for. During this week’s children’s mental health awareness fair I noticed that one of the agencies was giving away a children’s book. I stared at the table for a minute, trying to decide the appropriateness of asking for books for kids that weren’t there and the fact that technically I was working. Basically doing what I do best - over thinking the shit out of the moment.

And then I decided, what the hell. Worst that happens is I get a no and I die of embarrassment. After I explained about the volunteer gig and that graduation is next week the lady let me take 8 books. So that made me happy. Later, when I was helping to clean up, a coworker asked me if I wanted a small bag of popcorn before she took the box away. “Actually,” I said, “can I have 8? I like to give the kids a snack.” She gave me the whole box which has about 30 bags I think. Score!

Free really is the best price. As I always say, you can take the girl out of El Salvador but you can’t take El Salvador out of the girl.

So, if I could find a job that pays me well* where I have to beg and steal uhm appropriate stuff for kids I might be halfway good at it. Maybe.

*the books aren’t gonna pay for themselves, you know.

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

What Had Happened Was - Reading Edition

Reading meme from Tumblr

There’s a reason memes are so popular (among the olds I mean. Apparently the young people are over them.) - they can ring so true. When I saw the one in the image above, I burst out laughing and had to immediately post it to Facebook because it so perfectly captured where my reading life is right now. I’ve written before about my extensive (though I still content that a mere 700 or so books isn’t a very big number of books) collection and how comforting it is to be surrounded by all those unread books, all the potential of diving in to different lives and worlds.

That said, at the rate I’ve been reading for the last, oh, probably decade now, you wouldn’t know that I enjoy reading much. I don’t think I’ve met my Goodreads reading challenge in several years. I came sort of close last year, reading 21 of the 26 books I pledged to read. I decided this would be the year that that changes and pledged to read 30 books in 2019.

So far, I’ve being doing pretty good, with 17 books already read. But things have slowed down a bit in the last month so unless I pick the pace back up I may not make it. What I’ve rediscovered is that carving out reading time isn’t so hard but I am still easily distracted by the TV or phone. I’m also having to be careful about the books I choose - right now my reading choices are still more fluff than substance. I’d like to say that the brain is ready for learning! For serious, thought provoking content! But like any muscle, it’s a bit out of practice so as much as I may want to dive full in to Sapiens or All Quiet on the Western Front or What Social Classes Owe to Each Other (all of which I have on the Kindle app on the iPhone), those are proving to be a bit too dense. But I still have hope. I mean, if moving hundreds of books across the country twice and from apartment to apartment several times isn’t about hope then what is it? Besides proof that I’m a very foolish person, I mean.

Here are the books I’ve read so far:
The Naked Sun (Robot, #2), Asimov
The Caves of Steel (Robot, #1), Asimov
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, West
Heidi, Spyri
Bad Blood (Virgil Flowers, #4), Sanford
When Never Comes, Davis
Dark of the Moon (Virgil Flowers, #1), Sanford
This is the New Happy, Frankel
Golden Prey, (Lucas Davenport, #27), Sanford
The Jungle Book, Kipling
Halsey Street, Coster
Ninth and Nowhere, Deaver
Blood for Blood (Ziba MacKenzie, #1), Selman
Deadlock (V.I. Warshawski, #2), Paretsky
The Great Passage, Miura
Indemnity Only, Paretsky
The Tenth Island: Finding Joy, Beauty, and Unexpected Love in the Azores, Marcum

So far, my favorite would have to be The Great Passage. I can definitely see me reading that more than once. If you’re looking for a book to read, I would definitely recommend it.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Time is a Construct

It’s been six months since I updated this space. That surprises me; if you’d asked me, I would have said it hadn’t been more than two months, three tops.

As I type this, Sade’s “Your Love is King” is piping through the iPhone. Which is a funny coincidence. Though the song came out in 1984, Sade, for me, is tied to a period in the late 90s/early 2000s that was pretty significant, shaping me, for better or worse. And here we are, in 2019 and yet, there are moments when I think “wasn’t that just yesterday?” Vague, I know, but it’s late, I need to be getting ready for bed and I don’t know that I have it in me at 9 on a Sunday night to be unpacking old memories and wondering if the choices I’ve made in the past 20 years have been right ones.

So, let’s see, since October, I went to El Salvador in December for what may be my last trip home for a while, I’ve moved in to a new apartment and I’ve been at the job for two years. Those are the biggies. Being new-ish on the job is part of the reason why the trips to El Salvador have to be on hold for a while. I have to save up the vacation leave for when the adoption is finalized otherwise taking leave to be home with the baby is going to be much shorter than I’d like. Plus, the trip can be expensive and as I’m repeatedly told (as if I didn’t know) babies are expensive. So one is required to be a grown up. Which is probably a good thing to practice given that I’m wanting to be responsible for another human being.

Adoption-wise, the home study was updated back in November so I’m going in to year two. The recent move (to a cheaper apartment) also required a mini-update but beyond that, I’m still in wait mode. When I went to the information session in 2017, they said the process could be anywhere from 12 to 24 months. I decided to believe it would be 24 months to stave off the impatience a bit. So far that’s worked and it’s also given me some time to save up money. If I’m still waiting this time next year though, I don’t know. I’ll be 47. That seems, well, not 27. I have feelings about that too but just like the others mentioned above, much too much to unpack right now.

When you don’t write often, finding an ending that isn’t another promise to write more is hard so for now, this is enough.

1 comment(s) | Filed under: Adoption | Dailies

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Installs and Stagnation

The trouble with being a wanna-be geek is that trying to rebuild my websites is WORK. And because it’s work the motivation to get it done isn’t always there. Tonight though I had a brief spurt of “let’s get it done” and logged in.

Well, tried to log in. It’s been so many months since I last logged in that I first had to cycle through a few domains to remember where the latest installation of Expression Engine is housed. Nerd people problems, having more than one domain to keep up with. Anyway, found it, logged in and thought again how it’s about time that EE has automatic upgrades. Well, almost automatic. I still have to hit the update link; still, better than before, which is part of the reason why I’m struggling with the task. I have two very old installs still in use that I’ve neglected and which are requiring a fresh start.

An hour later and I figured out the slideshow. :D Okay, to be fair, part of that time was also spent selecting photos and getting them ready to post. Gotta say, not terribly impressed with the image functions in EE. I think there are modules one can buy but, yeah, that won’t be happening.

Whenever I jump back into the web stuff I remember why I enjoy it so much but also how frustrating it is for me. If I were better at it I probably wouldn’t let so many months go in between attempts.

I’m gonna go do a little reading now. I restarted The Brothers Karamazov. I tried to pick up where I’d left off a few years ago but was having a hard time getting back into it so back to page one I went. I’m finding the reading to be going much better this time so who knows, maybe this is the year that both that book and the websites are taken off the To Do list. Wouldn’t that be something?

Monday, August 27, 2018

Love is Love

photo of heart embroidery

photo of heart embroidery

It’s funny what you can do when you’re avoiding doing something else.

As I was sitting there, thinking about this thing that I should be doing, I looked around and noticed that things had piled up on the coffee table, the stack of mail was starting to lean and so I thought, “Well, here is something I can accomplish.” So I grabbed the stack of mail, retrieved the few pieces that actually mattered, set the rest on the recycle pile and then I moved on to the other things. I bought this cloth frame (let’s call it that although I’m not sure that’s the actual name for it) more than a year ago. It was on sale and the price was so low that even though I had no idea what I’d use it for it seemed crazy to not buy it. Today I looked at it and thought, “Maybe an outline of a heart for a quick ‘art piece’.”

After I’d back stitched a heart I stared at it and decided it was too minimalist to be anything so I decided to fill it in. Having never done embroidery before, I have no idea if the technique was anything “good” but it covered the area needed but it was still not enough. From somewhere I decided I would do a series of hearts of stacked hearts in Pride colors. That plan got switched out part way because the wooden frame would have made that a little hard to accomplish and several hours later, here we are.

It’s rough and part of me is okay with that; part of me wishes I was better at this. But that’s vanity talking, right? I just admitted that I’ve never embroidered anything so why would I think my first time, with no real preparation or study, would be anything but rough? Crazy.

That aside, still have to tackle the thing I was procrastinating on. But it’s past midnight now so that won’t be happening tonight.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

It’s the Waiting, Stupid

I had a call with the social worker today; she asked me how things were going, if there had been any notable changes, how I’m handling the waiting.

Things are fine, I said. During the informational session the group was told that the adoption process could take as little as a few months or go on for a couple of years. All along I’ve been thinking it would take 2 years so that I’ve been waiting for seven months doesn’t trouble me. Tricks, they’re not just for kids. “It’s only been 7 months. I still have a year and a half to go!” It helps.

Where it doesn’t help, however, is in the job situation. It’s a fine enough job but it doesn’t keep the brain engaged like I would like. The old job - that was something else towards the end. The stress and anxiety proved to be too much for me to handle; that said, I felt a certain amount of satisfaction about the responsibility that I’d worked up to, the autonomy I had to make decisions, to lead a team. Leaving that and taking the job I did, it was a conscious choice, it was a necessary break. But I also knew that the slower pace would soon go from being a blessing to a bit of a chore and sure enough, here I am.

It’s hard though, to think about searching for something more because when (if? when.) I have a child, being able to leave work at work, not having to worry that I’m leaving things undone because I’m focusing on raising a child, not having to think about work on the weekends, all of that will be not just welcomed but necessary. So this is where the waiting is hard. If I were pregnant there would be a clear timeline - “In 9 months I’ll need the flexibility! I can deal with the slow pace for a little while longer.”

So right now I just don’t know. Is it 3 months, 9 months, 18? A lot of time is spent at work; it’s hard to go from day to day when I feel like I’m operating at 50%.

But, as I said to the social worker, if this is my biggest problem then I’m doing okay.

I said to a friend recently, “it’s a privileged position to be in, to expect a job to give us fulfillment. It’s a luxury.” I need to remember that. So many people don’t get the opportunity to be troubled by sometimes being bored at work, they’re so busy just getting by. So, yes, it’s an embarrassment to complain. Definitely have to remember that.

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Friday, July 20, 2018

Is Fat a Four Letter Word?

Were you ever skinny, the eight year old asked.

The brain is a wondrous thing isn’t it? As soon as she asked that question I thought back to what it was like being a chubby child in a culture that places so much value in thinness, in a culture where your nickname is “la gorda” (fat girl) and you can’t complain because it’s said with love! And even when it isn’t, if it really bothered you you’d do something about it. 

Where it doesn’t matter how nice your are or what good you do because those accomplishments will be brushed aside with pity and sadness as some supposedly well meaning aunt pats you on the arm and asks why you don’t take better care of yourself and warns you that you won’t find a man to love you if you’re fat. A culture and world where people treat gaining weight as one of the worst things that can happen to a person. A family where so many of the stories told about you seem to focus on the fatness.

I thought these things as I was clapping my hands and bopping around as we were waiting for the little girl’s father to take her home. I thought these things as I looked at her little chubby face, waiting for my response. I thought these things as I remembered hearing her 6 year old sister called “la flaquita” (the little thin one) and how her choices aren’t questioned as much as her older sister’s. I thought back to a week ago when, during a lesson, I asked the 6 year old for an example of a criticism. She quickly said to me, “You’re fat.” It starts so young, this judgement of our bodies. 

I think I have a good sense of what this little girl’s life is like and how she is made to feel.

I thought these things in the span of nano seconds and then I replied with an upbeat “nope!”

She smiled and hugged me as she said, “we’re the same!”

I hope we’re not. I hope she gets to grow up feeling better about herself. I hope she grows up knowing every day that the number on the scale doesn’t and shouldn’t at all dictate how she lives her life. I hope that if at some point she decides her chubbiness is something to work on she does it for herself and not because being thin will magically make things better because I gotta tell you I know some unhappy thin people.

If I had the opportunity to be in this little girl’s life for a longer period of time I’d probably have other lessons for her, other messages but in that moment I decided the best thing I could do for her was pretend that being fat has never bothered me.

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Monday, June 25, 2018

Reading Requires Muscles, Too

I used to be a voracious reader. I used to run through two, three books a week. While I know there are others that read faster, for me, that was a nice clip. Although I can’t pinpoint when that habit slowed down, in my head, despite evidence to the contrary, I’m still a reader. However, right now I think I’m more of a “thinking about reading” type of person. Given my extensive collection of books - I say that but, really, I only own about 800 or so books; a number that I don’t really think merits the use of the word extensive but I have been told that I have very little perspective on the matter so I allow others to influence my vocabulary here. But back to my point, I do believe I had one. While I have all these books, these last few years they feel more like art, or a security blanket. I love the look of my books being out on the shelves. I feel better just by looking at them. Better, that is, when I push down the good amount of guilt I feel at not reading more.

2018 Reading Challenge

Every year I log into Goodreads and set my reading challenge. Every year, despite seeing the small number of books I actually read the year before, I set a goal of 20+ books. And around this time of the year I start to realize that unless I start calling in sick to work and read nonstop day and night I simply will not meet the challenge. It’s quite annoying really. So, in the last month I’ve been reminding myself that reading is brain exercise and that I need to just practice my reading habit again.

Currently Reading number

I’ve not set anything as ambitious as reading a number of pages each day but I have set a goal of not starting new books so that I can work through the 58 “currently reading” titles on my Goodreads aptly named “currently reading” virtual bookshelf. If i buckled down and simply read these books that are in various stages of completeness, reaching my goal would be a cinch.

Of all the books I have started, I decided I’d try to finish Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot - partly because I saw the movie and liked the story, partly because I read better when I’m physically holding a book and, honestly, it also just seemed like an easier read than some of the others on the list.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot book cover

WTF reading progress

I started the book in May of 2016, May 15th to be exact. You gotta love stats, right? 10% of the book was read in 2016, when I bought the book. Another 5% read in 2017. All of 2017, wow. And here I am, set to finish, finally, in 2018. You know, as bad as my memory is, it’s a good thing I have a relatively good memory for what happens in books otherwise each book would have so many restarts!

It’s a bit sad that I’m so excited about finishing a book but, hey, every little bit helps is the motto for this, and pretty much everything else in my life at the moment so I’ll take it.

Friday, June 15, 2018

History is Made by the Historians

I’ve never been able to keep a diary, or, as the grown ups like to call them, a journal.

I’ve wanted to, that I know. I wouldn’t be able to tell you how many times I tried or how old I was when I bought the first diary but in the recesses of my mind, the poor beleaguered thing that my memory can often be, I have fuzzy visions of small, square, fat little notebooks, with delicate locks which, really, were only for show. I would crease the spines, date the page and write in my imperfectly messy round script the very important happenings that a little girl thinks to record. Each time I did this for a day, maybe two, perhaps a week but slowly, the blandness of my days would devour any desire to write. Of course, as I type that I stifle a cynical chuckle because, if you’ve read me for long enough, or if you know me well enough then you know that my childhood, well into my early teens, was full of chaos. But in between the cyclones of dysfunction, there was school, and then home, and then school and then home, and on and on.

Is it any wonder I quickly put aside the blank pages in favor of already full pages of stories from much more creative people than me, and chose to get lost in those stories?

Still, here I am at 45 years of age and I still have this wish that I had shelves - or probably more likely, boxes tucked away in some closet, of fat, little notebooks that graduated to more mature, grown up vehicles that stored my words.

Partly because my memory, as mentioned above, and on many entries previously, isn’t great. As recently as today I shared as much with a coworker - shortly after confessing that I sometimes forget words. Not names for that is a common enough thing but every day, common, simple words. Like ambulance, for example. Why this particular loss of memory should so stick with me I cannot say but I still distinctly remember, funnily enough, being in the car, driving to who knows where but I was doing something I often do - crafting a story, an entry. And I got to a point where I needed to think of the thing that takes you to the hospital. The vehicle with the flashing lights - no, not a police car, not a fire truck, that thing, damn it. The rest of the story went by the wayside as I struggled to pull that simple little thing from the brain only to come back with confusion and, okay, I’ll write it since I’m here, fear. When these moments happen there is always fear. “That isn’t good,” the coworker said, about the loss of memory. “I know,” I said. “But at this point, I’m dealing with about 25 years of poor sleep habits, chronic sleep deprivation and that’s gotta have taken a toll.”

But before this entry gets away from me and we go merrily down the path of a game I (and many others, I believe) like to play called “Is this a tumor? It’s not a tumor!” let me quickly go back to the point of this.

Our day to day matters. We may think not but it does. We’re not famous so who’ll care what we were doing, thinking, feeling on that Monday in May in 1995? Maybe no one else but ourselves but that’s enough. I truly believe that.

I was speaking with a new colleague a couple of weeks ago and she shared with me that with every new job she keeps a journal her first year on the job. Then, in the second year, she’ll go back and look at all the things she’s learned, the accomplishments, and, yes, even the “mistakes” so that she can assess how far she’s progressed, feel good about the things she did well and improve on the things she didn’t. I appreciate that level of introspection, of the constant learning and the desire for personal growth. I love that she recognizes the power of journaling.

A week ago, while listening to a new podcast (Making Oprah), well, new to me as it ran a couple of years ago, Oprah was asked what she was thinking and feeling when she got the opportunity to start her show. She didn’t have to rely on memory; she simply went to her journal for that year, that fateful day of and read her entry. It wasn’t earth shattering. It’s not as if she forecasted the empire she would build but just the sheer ability to say, “Here, let me turn to that page and tell you exactly what I wrote that day” - that moment is powerful to me.

And maybe that’s my vanity. Maybe that’s my ego. The belief that my words matter but I think it’s checked somewhat by the fact that I’m not saying my journal would matter to anyone else. It’s not as if I think my ramblings will do anything but maybe mildly entertain me in my old age. But I do think, in an age when facts and truths are being rewritten on a nearly hourly basis, maybe each of us writing down our own stories, our own histories, is a small step to keeping things on an even keel.

Or maybe it’s just me liking the sound of the keys as I type into the abyss. Only time will tell.

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