Monday, November 19, 2012

Day 19

Today, I'm deeply grateful for my diagnosis.
Not for the illness itself (although that has its gifts as well) but for the simple knowing of why I spent years feeling sick, sore, and bone deep tired.
The diagnosis itself was disheartening: there are no cures for autoimmune disorders, and even the known treatments can only improve symptoms, not clear them up.But after literally decades of thinking I was lazy or over-sensitive or God knows what, at least now I have a name to put on the problem.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Day 15

Having a chronic illness, I possess a complicated relationship with my body.

It is literally out to get me.

But I'm not alone in feeling that way.

While I, as a general rule, strongly dislike the line of thinking that over-identifies your state of mind with your health (your attitude, for example, has no impact on your actual state of health or illness, cancer patients with crappy attitudes survive at the same rate as those who 'stay positive', and thyroid problems have nothing to do with self-repression), I am also struck by the fact that women are so often afflicted with auto-immune disorders in a culture that constantly tells them to loathe their bodies. American culture encourages an antagonistic relationship between the self and the body: whether it's a fixation with skin or weight or hair or teeth, there is an entire industry dedicated to making certain we are unhappy with ourselves.

Contented people don't shop.

But if I am going to live in this body, and heal it to the extent that I can, I have to change the relationship I have with it. After all, this body, with all its problems, has also conceived, given birth to, and nursed two beautiful girls. So today, and from this day forward, I am cultivating gratitude for this body, with all its flaws. I will seek not to change it but to really communicate with it, to nourish it, strengthen it, and cherish it for precisely what it is.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Day 13

...and some days, you just thank God for a sense of humor.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Day 12

I've had dogs for most of my life, one way or another. The first dog in my life was Puppy (who was actually called Portia), a little schnauzer who lived with my grandparents. Later, I got to grow up with another awesome schnauzer named Max.

When Kevin and I were first together, we got Sophie.
Sophie was our family dog, and a wonderful friend to all of us. We lost her about a month ago now. It was sudden, completely unexpected, and heartbreaking. We were left with a pup-shaped hole in all of our lives, so we turned to a rescue in town that we had fostered for in the past.

So meet Toby:
He's just a little guy.
For now. I suspect he'll continue growing exponentially.

Dogs have so much to teach us, about love, about acceptance, about contentment, and about gratitude.

I am deeply thankful to have my life blessed by dogs.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Random evening thought

There may be more entertaining things than listening to trained historians going off on A World Lit Only By Fire, but not many.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fieldsIn Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
Take up our quarrel with the foe:

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Day 10

I had planned on writing this entry earlier in the week, but I simply didn't have the energy to do the post justice. So instead, here it is today.

I married one of the finest men I've ever met. He's a wonderful husband, a devoted father, he's handsome, he's smart, he's funny... (don't tell him I said that. It's a running argument.) This man works long hours then comes home and dives right into playing with the girls. And then half the time he cooks dinner.

He's a really good cook.

I don't know how we got lucky enough to find each other, but he's one of the greatest blessings in my life.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Day 8

Let's talk about what we really love, ok?


This literal video may be the best thing that ever happened to me.

Remember card catalogs?
Giant encyclopedias?
Putting clothes on to shop?

ME NEITHER, and I love it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Day 7: Late again.

Which is why today I am grateful for a full life.

Sometimes it's cornucopia-full. Sometimes it's "Oh God why didn't someone stop me when I ordered pie on top of that" full. But the truth is, there's nothing I would change.

It's beautiful, this little life of mine.

And now I have to run - the puppy is trying to eat the baby's toys again.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Day 6: Trivial Tuesdays

Gratitude is important, even essential. We need to recognize and remember the things in our life that matter, that give us meaning and purpose.

But contentment also requires a daily appreciation of the little things, the aspects of our lives that seem trivial but that bring joy and beauty.

So today, I am grateful for nail polish.

I know, right? But listen, I have two very small daughters, a 3 month old puppy, and a house to manage. Self-care is difficult to fit in. But my nails are something I can do in relatively little time and that I will see constantly thereafter.

What little things do you do to give yourself a boost?

Day 5 - My In-laws (No, seriously!)

(Sorry folks, a last minute run to the rheumy for me and a church council meeting made for a more hectic than usual day! So today's  a twofer.)

I married an amazing man, and he'll get his own entry soon enough. And when I married him, I also got to join up with an amazing family.
I'm starting to realize that all the pics I have of the adults in my family include my kids.
I can't say enough about how grateful I am to have the in-laws that I do. My mother-in-law is a fantastic woman. She's warm and loving and welcoming, and I enjoy watching the beautiful relationship she has with my daughters almost as much as I enjoy the close friendship that she and I share.

My FiL (who may be confused with my husband in this picture - those genes run strong!) is just as generous of spirit. He's one of the strongest people I've ever met, and I can't decide whether to thank him or deck him for giving Kevin his sense of humor. (Just kidding Jer! You both make me laugh.)

Then there's my sister in law, who took this gorgeous picture. She's incredibly talented, fun, brilliant, and far more fashionable than I am.

This last is particularly important, as I am in dire need of someone to help me dress myself most of the time. 

I didn't marry Kevin for his family, but I sure am grateful they came with the bargain.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Day 4: The Girls

What more can I say?
I don't think I knew what real happiness was until I became a mother.
Or real terror, for that matter.
The fact that they're in my life makes my heart burst with gratitude.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Day 3!

What am I grateful for today?
A small sampling of our wild and crazy bunch.
My whole fandamily.
Each one of them deserve their own entry, but that would quickly take up the whole month, and there are other things I want to talk about! 

There's my cousin Shawn (She of the tigger shirt!), who is geeky and fabulous and one of the most beautiful souls I've ever met. There's my big sis, who is sweet and funny and big hearted. My little bro (not pictured here) is one of the few people who can make me laugh until I just about wet myself. (The other is my cousin Steve, who is making me cackle in this pic now). My older brother (also not pictured... these guys, I swear) could go on the road with the other two. 

What can I say, we're a damned funny bunch.

Between my sister and Shawn is my cousin Ann, who is just a lovely woman and who I see shamefully little, given how close we live.

This isn't anywhere near all of us. But I was born into a great family, and I'm truly grateful for it. None of us are perfect, but we love each other. We make each other laugh. We look after each other.

I think that's as good as it gets.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Day 2

This is my Dad.

He looks extra sweet because he's holding a baby.
Don't let this fool you.
My Dad is a superhero. It's true.
I don't know if it was a radioactive spider bite, gamma rays, or the fact that he was secretly born on the planet Krypton, but this man has survived cancer scares, an aneurysm in his cerebral cortex, a stroke, and having me as a teenaged daughter.

Of course, I've known he was a superhero since I was a little girl. (Although according to a tape from that period I also claimed he was a duck.) 

My father gave so much of himself over the years to see us well cared for. From him I got my dry wit, my over-use of eyebrows to convey information, a love of history, and an enjoyment of things that go boom. 

I love you, Dad. Thanks for being my hero.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Day 1

Can I tell you about my Mom for a minute?
She's going to kill me for posting this but  I think she looks gorgeous.

Because she is amazing.
She's a wonderful, warm, multi-talented woman. Everything I know about motherhood I learned from her. (You hear that, Punk? Blame Granne later.)
When I was little, I always felt loved, cared for, and supported. Hell, I still feel that way. And if I can do that for my girls, I'll count it a job well done. 

She's also a mean cook.

Anything I am today, I am because I had a wonderful start in life. 

Thanks, Mom. can you take the Mother's Curse off? 

Thirty Days of Gratitude

It's a good idea, no?

I've been thinking a lot about the idea of contentment. I know some people (and I'm sure you do too) who are in need of contentment. They are constantly anxious (as an active state, not a passive anxiety), or hold on to old resentments and grudges, or are quick to insult (If you go looking for a slight, you'll find one), or are often disappointed by unmet expectations.

OK, that's often me too.

Contentment is the antidote.
Dogs have a lot to teach us about contentment.

 It's not about settling, or being a Pollyanna. It's not about blind optimism: if anything, I call myself a cheerful pessimist. I tend to assume worse things will happen and remain open to being pleasantly surprised.

Instead, it's about radical acceptance and gratitude. It's about seeing what you have, and how things are, and accepting them without judgment. It's about assessing and loving what is beautiful in your life. This season, after the harvest and leading up to Thanksgiving, when the nights grow long and we begin to turn inward, is perfect for evaluating what in your life brings you joy.

I'll be posting 30 days of gratitude, and I hope you will, in some way, join me.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


One of my New Year's resolutions for 2012 was to submit something somewhere. Yes, it was vague, but hey. So when I found out that Wisconsin's NPR station was holding a flash fiction contest, I thought "Hey, good opportunity."

I didn't win, which is fine - that wasn't really the point of the exercise. But I ended up with a little ghost story I'm rather pleased with. So here it is, as a bit of a Halloween present.


I remember when I loved the sound of the winter winds.

There was something cozy about hearing their lonely travels high in the tree branches that arched over our home. I shared a garret with my sister, and we would stay awake on cold November nights,
tormenting each other with cold toes and whispering secrets while the sky whistled and wailed above us.

Then I grew up and married, and Robert and I traded our childhood home on the Ohio for a farmstead in the North Woods. We bought the cabin, a larger place in clearing with the coop already built and the well already dug, from a man who had moved back East after his wife died.

“Consumption,” our nearest neighbor, a woman tough as her tanned skin, told me. “She hated it here, and the winter killed her.”

The first two months were wonderful. It could have been lonely, a half-day’s ride from town. But we had each other and the work of preparing for the oncoming winter, and when fall came our farmstead seemed like a fairy land, festooned in golds and crimsons and rich with the smell of apples. We laughed often and dreamed of the next year’s plantings.

But then the cold set in. It seemed as if it were some strange animal thing, this cold that came on so quickly after the leaves fell. The nights grew longer, and our store of firewood grew smaller.

“Maybe we should have stayed in Indiana until spring,”I said.

“The first winter is always the hardest,” Robert answered.

When the first snows fell and we discovered just how far away town was. The north wind howled high above us. Like the cold it seemed less a force of nature than an animal thing, the breath of some lost creature.

When our little cat disappeared, Robert laughed and said, “It’s a cat. They wander.”

When two of the hens went missing, he shrugged and said, “It’s a fox. I’ll find where it got in.”

When the calf vanished, he said nothing.

But by silent assent we began doing our chores together and only in the sunlit hours. I tried to ignore the feeling that I was being watched, that we were not alone in our little clearing in the great bone
white woods. It was ridiculous, after all.

The wind was only wind.

The bitter cold was only winter’s chill.

The dead do not wander, hungry.

But then came the night that the winds were especially fierce, rising in a fevered crescendo. I awoke to find Robert sitting up, wrapped in a quilt.

“Do you hear that?” he asked me.

“The wind?” I said.

“No,” he said. “The voice in the wind. She’s so alone…”

I told him I didn’t and coaxed him back to bed.

On the next night, he couldn’t sleep at all.

“Don’t you hear that?” he asked. “Her nails, scratching at the roof?”

“It’s only the branches,” I said.

By the third, he was delirious and covered in sweat. I tried to stay awake, to comfort him. But by the time the sun rose I had slipped into sleep, and I arose in an empty cabin.

The winds were silent. I didn’t wait to pack my things. I threw on Robert’s greatcoat, pulled on my gloves and heavy boots, and fled.

By March, I was back home, living with my sister.

I no longer love to hear the winter winds high in the sycamores. There is nothing cozy about them. Instead, they carry the sound of Robert’s voice.

He is calling my name.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Three Years

Three years ago right about now, I had come to the end of a long ordeal. I had labored for forty-eight hours and the finale was quite an event, attended by a pediatric team and what felt like a small army of residents. Then they handed me this small, pink bundle.

 She was silent and wide eyed, and the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my entire life. She was like a little acorn fairy, and she had my chin.

It can't have been three years, can it? And yet look.

If she was a miracle then I don't even have words for her now. She grows tall and straight like a willow tree.
My fairy princess, my little warrior, my pirate queen, I give thanks to God every day for the privilege of being your mother.

Happy Birthday, Punk.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The New Normal

Of all the changes over the last year, my diagnosis with an autoimmune disorder has been the most disruptive. There's a process that goes with the news that goes from shock to massive relief at having an answer to grief.

Getting to acceptance takes time. It also takes some redefinition: of your life, your activities, and your expectations.

This came up in conversation lately with my husband and a friend of ours. She had come to visit, and asked me how I was feeling.

"I'm doing really well," I said, and meant it. I've healed really well from our youngest's birth, the transition from one kid to two has been as painless as I could have hoped for (which is to say, not painless at all, but far better than I had feared), and I'm rather blissfully happy.

Then, later, when I yawned and rubbed my eyes, she asked if I was tired. I said yes, and mentioned that my pain levels had been up lately.

She frowned at me. "That's what I was asking about earlier."

"She does that to me all the time," my husband said.

I had to explain that it's like this: I'm in pain. Sometimes very little, sometimes a good bit. That's not going to change. Well, it might. I went into remission when I was pregnant, for example. But it very well may not, and it's safer to assume that it won't.

So when people ask how I'm feeling, I have a choice to make. I can base the answer on my pain level, and decide that I'm just going to be Not OK from now until forever. Or I can base the answer, and how I think about my day, on... well, everything else.

Don't get me wrong: that doesn't mean I'm not going to bitch. I will, and I do, and sometimes it really does start to grind me down. But I can't, and won't, let it define my life.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

On Friday, I was walking past the stairs up to our second floor. I looked up and saw my elder daughter sitting on the landing. Next to her sat the cat's food bowl.
 "I only ate on piece!" she said.
I raised an eyebrow. "You ate catfood?"
There was a long pause. ""
I put my hands on my hips. "Did it taste yucky?"
 So that's pretty much my life these days.
You may notice I've changed things around in here. I've screened my previous entries for now; most of them will be eventually reposted. But it was time for a re-evaluation. After all, since the last time I posted I have:

  • Gotten my PhD
  • Gone on the job market in my field
  • Had a handful of interviews for some very nice jobs that nevertheless went to other people
  • Felt massively relieved when those jobs went to other people
  • Realized that was a sign and gave up on the idea of Academia as a career, at least in the traditional sense
  • Been diagnosed with autoimmune issues
  • Been through a challenging pregnancy that ended up with the birth of Punk #2
I think it's safe to say I'm in a different place now, so it was time for a makeover. I also wanted to write in a more concrete way about activism, chronic illness, and parenting, so it felt like time to come back here and start it up again. I hope you'll join me.