Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Explain That!

I cannot put this book down. Liza Mundy, a journalist for the Washington Post, has written a thoroughly researched, easy-to-read book examining the recent history of infertility and treatments in all their forms in the Western world. I was turned on to the book during the course of research for my own book and, just 60 pages in, I have filled an entire page of notebook paper with my own chicken scratch. Some of my notes are reminders of things I want to piggyback my own research on. Others are simply things I have found shocking. As a woman who decided to get pregnant, went off the pill after sixteen years of taking it religiously and was pregnant within 45 days, I have absolutely no understanding of what infertility can do to a person or their relationships. My second pregnancy occurred even easier and my husband and I used to joke that he had better not hold my hand and look into my eyes soulfully or we'd be a much larger family.

One of the most striking sections I've read thus far pertains to egg donorship. Ms. Mundy relates that, in the early days of this technique, eggs were donated largely by women in their twenties whose motives were purely altruistic. Fast forward to the current century and there are 'egg banks' who can charge up to $20,000 for a single egg, and that is before any sort of background checks for genetic anomalies or illnesses are performed. Having read about the struggles so many women are engaged in as they attempt to start their own families and knowing that my eggs seemed perfectly useful, I toyed with the notion of donating an egg or two. Actually, to say I toyed with it is probably an overstatement. The truth is, I had a gut reaction at the thought of another child entering the world with half of my genetic code being raised by a family I will never know. Although I have decided that I personally have borne all the children I wish to, the tightness in my stomach stoppped me from contemplating this further. I couldn't imagine knowing that there was a child on the face of the planet that started from an egg that came from my ovary but wasn't known to me or raised by me. It seemed like an irresponsible act in some irrational way.

As I think about the possibility of donating an egg to scientific research, however, I experience no such qualms. The idea of using my genetic material to unlock some of the secrets of stem cell research and debilitating diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's or diabetes doesn't bother me at all at first look. I must admit I am mystified by the vastly different reactions I have to each of these hypothetical situations. Having experienced the joy of parenthood, I can only imagine the desperate desire another couple might have to bear their own children. Ironically, before I ever had my own children, or even thought I wanted any, I don't believe I would have hesitated a moment before donating an egg to another woman. Especially as a starving college student who might be paid for it.

At this point in my life, in my late thirties having started menopause at a freakishly young age, it is not likely that anyone will be beating down my door in an effort to harvest anything from my ovaries. I do wonder, though, what will happen with some of my dearest friends who are currently busy with their careers and are putting off getting married and/or having children. There is a part of me that thinks it might have been nice to have the opportunity to donate an egg to one of them should they find themselves having difficulty getting pregnant at some point. I think I might be able to get used to being an "auntie" to a child with some of my own DNA. And I would have done it for much less than $20,000. For a really good friend I could probably be bought for some really good dark chocolate....

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Universal Language

One of my favorite sounds of all time is what we, in our family, call "the crazy laugh". Each of my girls has one and it was the first laughter they had as infants. The belly laugh. The one they couldn't control that was so authentically expressed that it tickles everyone within hearing range.

E., as an older sister, was the one who could provoke such laughter from her baby sister most consistently. She would make silly faces, tickle her toes, and work so hard to get that giggle that pretty soon L. would laugh every time her big sister came into view.

As they grow older, their laughter has begun to change. E., now a very sophisticated young 7-year-old, has an entire repertoire of giggles. She has her sarcastic, 'ha ha, Mom' laugh, the eyelash-batting-movie-star-I'm-too-good-to-open-my-mouth-when-I-laugh laugh that comes out when she's with her older girlfriends or pretending to talk on her cell phone, the gut-busting, accidental-snorting laugh that takes her by surprise, and her very first laugh - the one that is most real and comes most rarely. I hear it when she is wrestling with her father and he gets her in a ticklish spot. It can be heard when she's watching old classic cartoons like Tom & Jerry or the Looney Tunes gang. She is so completely disarmed at these moments that the laughter escapes her spontaneously and falls like cold water from a sprinkler on a sweltering day.

L. is young enough that her contagious laugh still makes itself known on a daily basis. She doesn't object to being tickled like her big sister and simply feathering your fingers underneath her chin will reduce her to a quivering mass of giggles. Every time she erupts into this laugh E. comes running and screams, "I LOVE THAT LAUGH! THAT'S MY FAVORITE LAUGH IN THE WORLD!"

Babies can laugh at age four months. Even if a person is mute, they retain the ability to laugh with their mouths, facial expressions and stomach muscles. People from all cultures and corners of the world laugh and it is recognizable whether you understand their language or not. Elderly people respond to humorous situations regardless of their ability to understand their own circumstances. My grandmother, deep in the throes of Alzheimer's, could still see something silly, some sort of slapstick humor or a cartoon drawing and find a smile or giggle inside her. I am beginning to think that we do not make enough of this ability we all have to communicate and relate to one another on such a basic plane. I, for one, am determined to find more opportunities to laugh my deep, rich, authentic belly laugh. Even if I accidentally snort or spit or get the hiccups doing it. Maybe looking or sounding ridiculous will trigger laughter in others and that's definitely worth it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Listen to This!

http://www.thislife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=207 Anyone who has ever known or cared about someone who is 'different' needs to check this out. It's an hour-long program, but even if you only listen to the first section it's more than worth it. I guarantee it will put a smile on your face.

After being bumped off of my direct flight from Santa Barbara to Seattle on Sunday evening I was faced with the impossible choices of renting a car and hightailing it to LAX or spending another night in SB and flying out the next day. Standing in the stucco and tiled lobby of the miniscule airport, tears of frustration and anger streaming down my face and falling unimpeded in big plops on my computer bag, I dialed S's phone number seeking advice from the seasoned traveler. I had no real choice but to get home that night. S. was flying out on a 6AM flight Monday morning and I had to be home with the girls.

I decided to drive to L.A. Never mind the fact that I was scared out of my mind. I had never driven to Los Angeles and imagined it a labyrinth of streets I couldn't identify, a confusing maze of people and cars with no clear path to my destination. I had no idea how long it would take and was afraid to book myself on a flight I had no chance of making.

I settled in to the scratchy black fabric seat of the Dodge Neon, adjusted the mirrors and screamed out of the parking lot, taking my aggressions out on the tires and the pavement. Petty, but it always makes me feel better.

I merged on to Highway 101 and headed South with no problems. Less than one mile south of town the highway parallels the coastline - beaches full of gorgeous Southern California bodies tanned and bikini-clad - a fashion show for the too-young-for-cellulite crowd. Broad shouldered boys in baggy Hawaiian print trunks straddle their surfboards aware of the exact position of the girls on beach towels watching them. Their bravado glues their feet to the boards and straightens their spines, the challenge of hardbodied spectators a boost to their athletic prowess.

I couldn't see any of it. Although it was only 5:00 the fog cloaked the surf and sand and steamed across 101, slowing traffic to a crawl. After 20 miles of creeping along at 20mph, grinding my molars together and checking the dashboard clock I had to remind myself to breathe. My shoulders hovered somewhere up around my ears, curling forward in a posture I was sure I'd regret come morning, wherever I found myself. Just past Ojai, I turned on the radio and found the local NPR station. Six o'clock - This American Life. Within five minutes I was resting back against the seat and laughing out loud. I rolled in to LAX at five minutes after 8:00 - having missed my flight but not caring a lick. I knew I'd make it home tonight and I had Ira Glass to thank for pointing out what's real.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Doing What I Can

"Every time you love just a little
Take one step closer, solving a riddle
It echoes all over the world
Every time you opt in to kindness
Make one connection, used to divide us
It echoes all over the world
Every time you choose one more morning
Goodness or meanness, life has one warning
It echoes all over the world" - Dar Williams

The urge to fix, repair, alleviate weighs me down like a lead vest. I am in Southern California for the weekend, visiting my grandfather for perhaps the final time. Landing at the tiny airport, I walk down the ramp to the tarmac toward the receiving area I've been coming to since I was born. As a child, it was filled with aunts and uncles holding my cousins in their arms, hair shining in the warm sunshine, waving like homecoming princesses on a parade float. This was the place we came for summer vacations and Christmas with my mother, surrounded by her sisters and parents, instantly becoming a part of this chaotic, noisy bunch.

This morning, I can see the fog in the distance and smell the salty, sea air. There is nobody to greet me. Two of my aunts have long since moved out of town and my cousins are all grown with homes and lives of their own. I roll my suitcase along the pavement, inhaling deeply and filling my lungs with the moist air as I wonder what the day will bring. Grandpa has been defying the odds for the past two years since he was told that the pain in his legs was caused by bone cancer. He put up with radiation and two rounds of chemotherapy before he decided that enough was enough and the treatment was making him feel worse than the disease.

He is determined to play golf at least once a week and continue to live in the condo he's been in for over a decade. In the last six months, however, he has been hospitalized several times and now requires hospice nurses to check on him several times a week. He is living on Vicodin and Fentanyl patches and friends and neighbors who drop by to have meals with him. At over six feet tall, he weighs less than I did as a teenager and can only manage to sleep in his recliner. His sense of humor has not suffered one bit. He finds joy in the companionship of his cat and the golf tournaments on television.

Last week on the phone, I worried aloud that my visit would wear him out.

"I'll kick you out when it's time for my nap," he replied brusquely. This giant of a man who tells it like it is, accepts no bullsh*t and has the ability to send you his love telepathically has discovered his limits.

Tonight I picked him up in my rental car to take him to an early dinner at his favorite restaurant. I offered to stop by and get take-out so he could eat in his recliner but his response was instant, "No. It's much more fun to go sit with all the other people."

Over steaks and martinis ("at least three olives, please") he professed his pride in his children and grandchildren, "If I only have six months or a year left, that's okay. I don't begrudge it. I've had a good, long life."

As we head back to the condo he shows me the swelling in his legs and feet. Every other part of his body sports loose skin, bones and tendons showing as he moves slowly to get in to his chair. Above the top of his sport socks, the skin bulges and as he removes his socks there are deep craters in his shins left by the ridges in the fabric. The skin on his toes is taut and shiny, his feet look like absurd balloon animals. I am struck by an urge to offer some magical wisdom. I want to fix this. I envision lowering myself to my knees and massaging the fluid from his toes and ankles - pushing it up into his thighs and letting his lymphatic system filter and drain it. It seems too intimate. I could do this with a stranger, a patient, but not my own grandfather. I am reduced to tightening my jaw and murmuring sympathetically. He is not asking for me to fix anything. He is not complaining. It is me who is uncomfortable with his illness.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Eclairs and Stinky Cheese

(Continuation of our journey to Paris three years ago)

Our apartment is in the area of Paris called the Ninth Ward. The windows to the front face a narrow cobblestone street but the kitchen window and the little patio off the living room are my favorite. Waking up in the morning and peeking out these North-facing windows gives me a view of the tall buildings around us, made of stone hundreds and hundreds of years ago, each sill adorned with undershirts and skirts drying in the sun or flowers fresh from the markets. I have been transported.

A mere two blocks from our door are the markets. Each vendor sets up a stall every day and we wander the alleys slowly, eyes jumping from boxes bursting with haricots verts to gorgeous stacks of fresh tomatoes, skins shiny in the sun. Business is brisk. The locals come with their wheeled bags and bend over the produce, seeking out the freshest ingredients to use in their meals today. From the produce stands, they make a beeline across the street and enter the cool cheese shops to procure enough of just the right fromage to compliment their vegetables. Back across the alley again to the butcher shop, windows adorned with red lamb shanks hanging from the ceiling and cuts of beef lying surrounded by accordions of paper. The next door down is the 'cave' or wine shop. As tourists, we stand out as we saunter lazily, sucking the cream from the center of our eclairs, gaping at the endless array of gorgeous fruit and delicately arranged vegetables.

Sheepishly, we enter the fromagerie, licking the last crumbs from our fingertips. Behind glass cases are solid rounds of parmesan, blocks of creamy havarti, moldy rinds of roquefort. The tiled floor and walls are a cheery yellow and the shopkeeper beams at us, offering samples of the locally made artisan cheeses. There are soft white cheeses wrapped in grape leaves, others flecked with herbs or peppercorns. She holds out piece after piece, each one more sour-smelling and earthy than the next. S. and I chuckle as our four-year-old eagerly accepts each one, stuffing it into her mouth and rolling her eyes upward as she moans, "Mmmm, this is so good!" I encourage her to say it in French and she ducks behind my legs, instantly shy.

By the time we return to the apartment, we are weighed down with a fresh loaf of bread, several cuts of cheese, half a dozen fresh brown eggs, butter and a phenomenal bottle of Pinot Grigio we sampled. The owner explained to us that this particular wine has been made by her family since 1620. It makes me feel insane to even consider opening this bottle and drinking it. I know this particular bottle doesn't date back much farther than six months ago, but the idea of drinking something whose recipe hasn't changed for over four hundred years seems blasphemous. I'm sure I'll get over it...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Score One for Persistence

(these events occurred three years ago on a family trip to Europe)

Our first experience with serious jet lag. Ugh. We made it to Paris and the flight was uneventful, especially given the events of the 48 hours prior to boarding the plane. Nobody barfed or spiked a fever or set off security alarms. The number of times I was asked, "How much longer now?" reached the hundreds, I'm sure, but I can't say that wasn't expected.

The girls and I spent three hours awake in the middle of the night playing games. I finally made a deal with them that if they were allowed to watch Dumbo (thank God for the portable DVD player!!!) they would lay down and try to go back to sleep. The three of us finally fell asleep again around 5AM Paris time and slept until noon.

As soon as we awoke, E. was like a child possessed. She was determined that we get to the Eiffel Tower pronto! (Or, in French, 'allons y, vite! Vite!') Riding the Metro is incredibly simple and we were there in no time. After having fallen in love with the NYC subway, the girls treat mass transit as if it were a ride at Magic Mountain.

After staring in awe at the sheer height of the tower E. began pulling us toward the elevators. In lieu of expensive souvenirs, S. and I gave each of the girls their own disposable cameras to be in charge of. I literally had to stop E. from taking 24 photos from the top, she was so thrilled by how far we could see in every direction. The girls spied the carousel ride across the street from us and as soon as we got off the elevator to the ground level, we were off. What a dream! I can't believe I'm here right now!
It was terribly hot and humid so we decided to board the Bateaux Parisien for a river ride on the Seine. What fun to see the locals along the grassy banks, picnicking or playing guitar or saxophone here and there - all of them in various stages of undress as they soak up the sunshine. The boat passed by Notre Dame and I swear I'm watching a movie. I can't possibly be sitting on a boat with my husband and two daughters floating down the Seine past this impossibly gorgeous cathedral! Even my 9th grade French is proving to be quite serviceable. I am able to get by without a hitch despite the fact that I can't seem to recall my teacher's name or face. The reputation of the French for being incredibly rude is, so far, completely unfounded. The vast majority of the people we've come across are kind and helpful and are happy to speak English if I get stuck.

We are, due to the fact that we're traveling with two children under the age of six, woefully unable to explore anything in depth. We managed a cursory walk-through of Notre Dame and, although E. kept repeating, "Isn't it just beautiful?" she wasn't willing to linger very long. I was bowled over by the sheer size of this gorgeous place and the immensity of the quiet space contained inside. Like my high school French, the rituals I grew up with as a child came back to me and I had to restrain myself from dipping my fingers in the holy water and crossing myself as we entered. S. joked that I would burst into flames or be struck by lightning. I'm not so sure he's wrong about that.

What a terrific day! We finished up with cheese fondue and came back to the apartment to collapse.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Show Must Go On, Part 2

It's a good thing I am not a superstitious person.

It's the night before we're to head off to Europe for eight weeks and E. is doing much better. Her fever is down to a manageable 101 and she's a lot perkier. Of course, that could just be the popsicles and watermelon talking, but I'm pleased in any case.

The girls are in bed, the bags are all packed (all six of them), and I am finally excited. I hope that my high school French classes are going to pay off and I can sit in a Parisian cafe and order cafe au lait and eclairs like a native. S. and I sit downstairs watching television but not paying attention. We're discussing our plan.

"E's head will explode if we try to do too much."

"Let's expect to do not much of anything the first three days and if we get over the jet lag sooner, that will be a bonus."

"I can't wait to see our apartment and shop in the markets."

"Where are the passports and tickets?"

Something in S's face is off. It hasn't been a hot day, but he's got a sheen about him. His eyes are darting, not focusing in one spot for very long. Usually the calm center of this whirlpool, he's looking as though he's accidentally stuck a limb out and gotten caught up in the swirling waters. Is he nervous about traveling with the kids? He is the most well-seasoned traveler I know, having been to nearly every country in the world by the time he was 30.

"Be right back," he says, falsely cheerful. "I need some fresh air."

As the back sliding door closes I sit up straight, fluttering in my chest, ears flattened against my head to hear what's going on out there.

"Brrrrhaaaa," he throws up violently. I stop taking breaths - they're too loud in my ears. I have to hear.

"Brrrrhaaaa," again, into the bushes in the backyard. I wait a few minutes. I know if I go out there he'll be embarassed.

The slider opens and I hear his strong stride across the hardwood floor. I cock my head to the side, not wanting to meet his eyes but knowing that from behind me he can sense my question.

"Oookay! I'm feeling better now." He really sounds fine.

"Ready for bed?" he asks as if he hasn't just coated our shrubs in his regurgitated dinner.

"What was that?" I'm not ready to let this go. Especially not after E's trip to the ER yesterday. "Are you okay? Sounded like some pretty fierce yakking out there, dude."

"I'm fine. Just tired. You know me - I always feel better after throwing up. Let's get to bed. We've got a long day tomorrow." He offers his hand to me with a twinkle in his eye and I'm reassured. We're all tired. We need this vacation.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Show Must Go On

This took place several years ago - sorry for any confusion!

Four days to go. Laundry to finish up, suitcases lined up at the foot of our bed, passports out and ready. Man, those passports. One each for my daughters, so official looking, complete with holographic laminations over their photographs. Photographs that could have been any caucasian baby, bald and round-headed and smiley. S. and I had gone together to get our first passports in our mid-twenties. Our children both got theirs before they were two years old.

S. had scheduled his sabbatical so that we could head to Europe for the summer. A week each in Paris, Bordeaux and the South of France and then on to Italy for a week in Venice, Florence and finishing in Rome. I could hardly believe how lucky we were. Who gets to do this? The girls were unfazed by their first trip overseas. They had no idea how unusual this was, and maybe it wasn't, for their generation. By this time they had already both been to New York City and Disneyland - seasoned air travelers.

Three days to go. S frantic to finish up every last detail at work, me at home making lists and crossing things off. Don't forget something to alleviate the air pressure on the plane. Coloring books and favorite stuffed animals, stop at the bulk section of the grocery store and stock up on granola and trail mix.

E. is grumpy and whiny. She doesn't want to do anything but lie around on the couch and beg for my attention. Her long, lean body curled into an impossibly compact form beneath the pink quilt my mother made for her, one arm reaching out to bridge the gap between her still figure and my ever-moving one. I am sympathetic. She is excited about the trip, but doesn't handle unknowns very well. We've spent several evenings sitting with her poring over maps of Paris and Venice, looking at photos on the Internet and talking about the kinds of things we'll see there. The only CDs in the car for the past month are French language instruction songs and rhymes designed for children, so I'm hoping she will feel comfortable with the sounds she hears when she gets there. We've rented apartments everywhere we go so we can eat in as much as possible and have given ourselves at least three days extra in Paris to cope with the jet lag. I'm torn between comforting her and assuring her that it will be fine and leaving her to find her own way through this anxiety while I navigate my to-do list and stop the mail and newspaper, find someone to care for the yard and write how-to lists for the housesitter.

As the day passes, E. slowly descends into an ever-more pathetic state. She isn't hungry, she doesn't want to go to her gymnastics class, she just lies on the couch wrapped in the coccoon of her favorite blankie. I'm a little concerned, but frankly, it's pretty nice to be able to go about my tasks unhindered. L. is content to play with her toys on the floor or listen to a story tape. When S. gets home from work I am pleased to tell him how much I've accomplished today. I am becoming more and more excited about this trip. Now we just have to get through the weekend and we're off!

E. moans from the couch and I am finally ready to sit with her for a while. I perk up and head for the living room, a smile on my face and a book in hand hoping she will forgive me for ignoring her all day. As I sit down at her feet I feel the waves of heat radiating from her little head. She is positively on fire. The thermometer registers 105. I can't move or breathe. I'm not feeling guilty just yet - just shocked that she could feel so awful without me even realizing it. Fortunately, I know exactly where the Children's Motrin is and I give her a dose and a wet cloth for her forehead. Her eyes are lacquered - a high gloss shine and she drops to sleep before I've even finished the first page of 'Jamberry'.

By the next morning we've both been ripped from sleep over and over again. She's delirious with fever and mumbling in a confused, angry tone. I am so worried that I call her doctor's office. She's got no other symptoms, but her fever is still hovering around 104 so they tell me to come in. E. tries to fight as I buckle her into her carseat but she has no energy. She whimpers all the way to the clinic, having lost her cold cloth before we even exited our neighborhood. I run through the double doors, cradling her in my arms and the nurse practitioner strides to meet us in the waiting room. Without even touching the limp bundle in my arms she barks, "This child is terribly dehydrated. Get back in your car and drive to the hospital immediately. I'll call and tell them you're coming."

Again, I'm shocked, but this time it comes with a hefty dose of guilt. Of course she's dehydrated! I don't think she ate anything at all yesterday, and I can't honestly remember her asking for anything to drink.

"Go! Now!" The order comes firmly but kindly and I'm spurred on. My brave, brave little girl and her 32 pound frame absorbed two entire bags of IV fluid and two popsicles at the hospital before they would let us go. We're supposed to leave for France in less than 48 hours and I'm lying in a hospital bed snuggling with my four-year-old and a teddy bear donated by the ER staff.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Leaving the Northwest, Part Three

If I were back at home, I could have leaned across the aisle and locked gazes with my best girlfriend. Without uttering a word, it would have been obvious that this new teacher was KA-YUTE! Tall and slim with a moustache that could use a bit of a trim, Mr. M was exactly the young newbie sixth grade girls got incurable crushes on. Unfortunately, I was thousands of miles away from home. Although this classroom looked like any other, linoleum floor scarred by years of sneakers scuffing their way across to desks with chairs attached. Blackboards at the front and sides of the room, globe and aquarium in the back of the room. I wore my Levi's 501 jeans, an island in a sea of Wranglers. I didn't own the requisite pair of cowboy boots, nor did I want to, and my purple polo shirt stood out like a pimple on the end of a teenager's nose. I was solidly in the minority here. Man, I wanted to go home.

Somehow the morning passed by and I found myself on the playground with my classmates. We shuffled out into the blazing sunshine, kicking up dust as we made our way toward the metal climbing structure. The boys took off, hollering challenges to each other and began clambering up, oblivious to the blistering temperature of the frame underneath them. The superheated air filled my lungs and they felt heavy. I swiveled my head from side to side, eyes searching for some small patch of shade. Any attempt at making new friends seemed impossible in this harsh environment.

I stood underneath the overhang near the door, eavesdropping on scraps of conversation as they drifted past me. The bricks radiated the sun's heat back at me, but it wasn't enough to push me out into the mix of kids who had known each other their entire lives. One girl with dark, curly hair and a white shirt stood in the middle of the yard, head tipped back. Moments before, I had heard her bragging to another girl that staring directly at the sun for long enough would make you go blind. She was trying to prove her point. I watched her, mesmerized by her determination. My eyes burned for her but she never wavered.

The bell signaled the end of recess. The class came as if drawn by a strong magnet to line up at the door. Mr M. smiled at his brood as we organized ourselves as we'd been taught. I took my place at the end of the queue as he called, "Tina. Come on! Let's go." His smile shrank back underneath his moustache and he took a few tentative steps away from the door. As Tina stumbled slowly in a circle, eyebrows closing in on each other in confusion, his pace quickened. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and led her toward the cool hallway, talking in a low, smooth voice. I forced myself not to overhear. I didn't want to start my school year here like this.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Please Don't Take this the Wrong Way

Why am I not more upset? Remember this? The time has come, and this family I have come to love as my own, whose triumphs I celebrate and fears cause me to quake and rush to shore up the sandbags, is moving away. I am sad, very, very sad.

But as I showered this morning, wondering what today's farewell gathering will bring, I realized that I am not shattered. I will miss the impromptu meals and playdates. I will certainly not be able to speak with my dear friend about trivial concerns every day. We will have to navigate time differences and overseas operators in order to share our lives with each other, and there will be occasional trips to plan so that we can all be together. While I am certain that the number of times we see each other and the ways in which we manage to do so will change drastically, the nature of our relationship will not. My chosen sister and I have grown so much together. We have supported each other through some of the most difficult times we have ever experienced. We have grown to love each other's children and would raise them as our own if necessary. The bond of trust between us is as strong as any I have known.

I will miss them deeply. I will sob when they leave and expect to feel 'phantom pains' in the void left by their departure. But I am not sad. Not only am I secure in the knowledge that we will remain in each others' lives, I love them so much that I only want them to be happy. Because of this true, unselfish affection, I know that they have made the right decision. Their lives will be simpler for this and they will each have the opportunity to seek their own happiness unencumbered by other, more arduous obstacles. I will send them off surrounded by love and light and the hope that their new home will offer them new adventures, new friends, and a security that allows them to spread their wings. Oh, and a guest room for me to stay in occasionally...

Saturday, July 07, 2007


When last I left you, I was off to spend an evening with two dear friends whom I've known since I was in high school. Details of that will come later, but for now I'll let you know that we had a terrific time talking and drinking wine and parting was very sad, indeed.

Since then, I have opened my door wide to welcome summer in and am feeling like we are the poster family for the season. We drove five hours to the property my in-laws own in the Willamette Valley along the river to spend the week with family. In April, 13,000 blueberry plants found new homes in this fertile ground and my brother-in-law and his new wife are determined to realize their dream of simplifying their fast-paced lives and becoming organic farmers. My daughters toured the property via exciting rides on Grandpa's ATV, learned to skip rocks down by the river, and ate their weight in popsicles. Most afternoons found us sipping iced tea in the shade or playing croquet, resting up from our mornings spent floating the river in innertubes, building forts in the haystacks in the barn, or weeding the two acre vegetable garden. Dinners consisted of barbecues and greens freshly harvested and good red wine.

The dog came along and was thoroughly spoiled, getting scraps from the dinner table and fetching sticks in the river. He traipsed through the dusty fields and cocked his head at the cows, confused at the mere sight of them, and spent his nights warning raccoons and skunks off the property.

The weather was hot and sunny, the work was shared by all, and my children went to bed so wiped out every night that they slept past their normal 6:15 wake-up calls.

Now, however, I am home and I am ready to be here. As much fun as I had, I missed my own bed and my wireless connection and the chance to sneak away for a bit of a read in a quiet corner. I am looking forward to catching up on my reading...
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