Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dirty Laundry

I can't stay away.

Not that I'm trying to -- There's been plenty to keep me busy what with the holidays, a steady stream of guests, and dramas with the ex (his this time).

I could rant for hours on this one, but long story short: when J~ refused to keep a line of credit open to his ex-wife, a line he was supposed to close as part of their divorce agreement, she started calling in the middle of the night to harass us, and now she's refusing to hold up her end of the court-ordered bargain. I'll spare you the gory details, (and spare B~, my step-son, in case he ever stumbles upon this blog) but suffice it to say, it's ludicrous, and she doesn't have a leg to stand on, legally. The whole thing has left me composing spluttering diatribes in my mind, which distill down to a single question.

Please, woman, I ask you in all seriousness: Are you insane?

It is strangely energizing to be angry, to feel righteous. I know it's only adrenaline, conjured by the sense that the well-being of my loved ones and myself is threatened. I know it is an energy of limited use in my life. But it's better than weeping over my own ex, who I'm still shocked was able to drop the ball of our relationship so entirely, never looking back to see if I was okay, if maybe I might benefit from just one more apology, even going so far as to ask ME to "keep in touch."

Please, man, while I'm at it, I'll ask you, too: Are you insane???

J~ feels anger, too, but he's also grieving, so his voice cracks with pain when he expresses it. There is lead weight in his stride, in his voice, as he contends with the full implications of his ex's behavior. This was the woman he had a child with, after all, the woman he was devoted to for fifteen years, the woman to whom he must remain tied, through their son, for the rest of his/her/B~'s life.

Bottom line? Back to court, apparently.

My ex is a loser, but at least not spiteful. I suppose I can be thankful for that.

Meanwhile, J~ and I admire each other's matching wedding rings, which we wear with a sense of thrill and wonder. After all the hell we've been through, (and are still going through, peripherally), we feel like the luckiest couple on earth.

Plus, we're still trying to make a baby. What could be more fun than that?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Or Not Yet

It's been exactly a year since I began this blog, so of course I had to write today. I thought I'd be reporting at least this month's answer to the babies or not question, but at this point, I still can't say for sure. I also thought this might be my final post. Now I'm not so sure about that either.

By my calculations, taking into consideration a later ovulation than usual, I should begin to bleed any minute. I back up this prediction with the pregnancy test I did yesterday, which returned an unambiguous not.

This is false hope. I know I should resist its seductive charms, the dream of J~ and I, laughing and crying and hugging in the bathroom when we see the positive test, the photograph of the result I'd post on this blog, the beautiful child, maybe another two years later, rounding out our happy family.

Every now and then I drop a dollar on a lottery ticket in order to spend a few days fantasizing about what I'd do with the winnings. Most of the fantasies are about nice things I'd do for my family and friends. When the drawing rolls around, I get a little thrill thinking, Maybe this time I'll actually get lucky! Then I see the winning numbers, which are not even close to my numbers, and I feel, briefly, derelict, and then silly for ever having hoped in the first place. Better to have spent that dollar on a pack of gum. Better to have spent my energy actually doing nice things, albeit cheaper nice things, for my family and friends.

If I still haven't begun to bleed in the next hour or so, I'll ask J~ to pick up a pregnancy test on his drive home from work. False hope must be dispelled by any means necessary. As soon as possible.

In the meantime, life goes on.

Speaking of which, I just called J~ (I'm a slow writer) and while we were talking, I began to feel that tell-tale slow-building crampy feeling in my gut. No blood yet, but I know where this is heading. Oh well.

I expected I'd be filling today's post with profound summations of what I've learned this year. Looking back over recent entries, I see I've already covered that ground.

All that remains now is to describe the visual in my mind that accompanies this momentous post: the sun, big and deep orange, dropping toward the far-off horizon, streaming golden light over the desert sand (Don't ask me why the desert, just notice that I've written "Babies or Not" in the foreground sand). My silhouette in the distance -- head high, plodding away on horseback (better: camelback!). The music swells as I disappear into the golden light, and, as if on cue, the sun sinks below the horizon. As the light changes to cool, blue, calm, the music trails away.

FADE TO BLA-- no wait! What's that on the horizon?

It's me, running back through the sand, unwilling to give up the blog, or the hope of my thankfully still-monthly roulette. I scrawl one more word in the sand. After "Babies or Not" I add:


Wednesday, November 22, 2006


This past weekend, J~ and I drove north, to a bed and breakfast near Northampton, Massachusetts, for a much-anticipated getaway. This was my stomping grounds nearly twenty years ago, when I first began to wrestle with my identity as an individual, as an adult.

On our first night in town, while I reminisced about the old days, not all of which were good-old days, J~ moderated a stressful extended family health-crisis/divorce drama via cell phone. We managed to enjoy each other's company over dinner, in spite of our hunger, exhaustion, and mutual anxiety, not to mention the excruciatingly slow service, the loud and crowded room, the somewhat too-sweet Asian-fusion fare, and the drift of our dinner conversation into the state of the world and the tragic plight of so many of its peoples.

We stopped spontaneously on a busy sidewalk afterward, with sirens and traffic and cold wind and people all around, marveling that in the midst of all the chaos and violence and pollution and eager angst, we can still find a peaceful oasis within each other's gaze.

Last time I was in Northampton, I was still working out who I wanted to be, sorting out where I'd come from, and developing the internal fortitude to find happiness without guarantee of more happiness to come. Until this trip, I've always thought about my relationship with J~ in the context of my relationship with A~, comparing the two versions of my married life. In both cases, my primary relationship focus is the man. But suddenly I saw the even more primary relationship -- with myself -- and its much longer and more solidly upticking evolutionary curve. I realized afresh just how constant and unpredictable is the phenomenon of change.

However fleeting the moment may be, I thought, the moment is all we have.

So we ducked into a jewelry store, partly because it suprised us to find such a shop open until nine -- we had to experience it to believe it; partly for the atmosphere (it was quiet and warmly lit, with high ceilings and ornate woodwork -- a long-ago bank lobby); but mostly to look at wedding rings.

In the next two days, I took J~ to my favorite restaurants (India House, and Paul and Elizabeth's), on my favorite hikes (up Mount Norwottuck, and through the pine forest behind Hampshire College), and on a walking tour of downtown Amherst and Northampton. We returned to the jewelry store, this time with purpose, picking out a matching pair of simple, not-too-shiny white-gold bands, which will be custom-made and mailed to us in the next few weeks.

We can't wait to wear them.

In the meantime, there is Thanksgiving.

Speaking of which, thanks to all of you who wrote me with congratulations on the wedding, and appreciations for this blog. It means a lot to me to hear from you. Wishing you the best this holiday.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Looking Forward, Looking Back

At this moment, my stepson is in the next room, being the typical twelve-year-old: doing homework (i.e. cruising iTunes). My man is at his men's group, getting and giving that good ole manly support. I am just home from the gym, curled up on the couch with my laptop propped on a pillow, feeling content.

The only clouds on my horizon are my ex, who has basically dropped off the face of the earth, and J~'s ex, who errs in the opposite direction, sometimes calling J~ three times in a day, imagining she and I are friends or will become so, while going wet-noodle limp in terms of holding up her end of the parenting bargain. But she lets J~ know how much she appreciates all he's done for her, and how sorry she is for her part in the downfall of their marriage. I'm glad he's receiving that healing salve, but I can't help but compare, and it makes me sad. Could twelve years of relationship truly go down the drain with just a "Thanks for everything. Keep in touch"? I guess so.

Tonight I will prepare myself a peaceful, solitary meal (my boys have already eaten). I'll compose my Thanksgiving shopping list. I'll file a few papers, and, come nine o'clock, herd B~ upstairs to brush his teeth and get ready for bed. J~ will return and we will have, as he puts it, "functional sex" (as opposed to the passion-driven sex we've been having all weekend, our first alone since marrying two weeks ago). Tonight is prime pre-ovulation time for my menstrual cycle.

I looked at my fertility chart a few minutes ago, and noted that my next period will be due November 27th or 28th. If it doesn't come, I'll be doing a pregnancy test by the 29th. The timing couldn't be more perfect. Exactly a year ago on that date, I sat down and began this blog, still reeling from my recent miscarriage, unclear as to whether there would ever be another pregnancy attempt in my life.

I could have never predicted the changes this year would bring, not the least of which is that I'm happy, and that the question (Babies, or not?), as well as the mantra, (Doing well... Babies or not.) are still very much alive.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

We Did It

It is Saturday morning. J~ has made his ritual Saturday morning pancakes. Tomorrow, no doubt, he will make his ritual Sunday morning omelet. I am fresh out of the shower after a frosty four-mile run, feeling good, and still struck, as I have been since four nights ago, that a subtle but significant change has been made in my life.

No, I am not pregnant.

After dropping B~ with his friends for some downtown trick-or-treating, J~ and I stopped by Town Hall (it's open late on Tuesdays) to register me as a voter and to pick up a marriage license. Luckily for us, the office was abuzz with pre-election day preparations. Four women bustled behind counters and desks and a couple of men worked in the lobby area, setting up voting machines and tables and such. One of the men was the registrar of voters, also the dog warden, and several other positions he rattled off too quickly for me to retain. He and one of the women (the town clerk) handed me papers and pointed to where I was to sign. "I could marry you right now," he joked.

"Okay," we said.

Once it was understood that we were serious, he shrugged and smiled and said, "Alright. I'll do it," and performed a no-frills no-charge ceremony, consulting a paper-bound booklet for the procedure. "This is the first time I've done this," he admitted, having us raise our right hands to solemly pledge our "I do"s. He read the official questions and pronouncement straight from the booklet but ad-libbed his final line. "You may kiss the bride!" he laughed, and we and the bewildered and delighted women behind the counter laughed along with him.

J~ kissed me, and we held onto each other a long moment, while cheerful bustle resumed around us.

Two weekends from now we'll grab our chance for a mini-getaway. Maybe we'll find some wedding rings. Until then, and probably for a long time thereafter, I expect I'll continuee to be struck in random moments like this, by how modestly fabulous my life has become.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Transition, part 3: New Horizons

I went to court with J~ on Wednesday and watched him go through the nervous motions I went through several months earlier. Luckily for us, in this state there is no ninety-day waiting period. He had the paper declaring him officially "single and unmarried" in his hand two days later.

Our plan: go to town hall and get married as soon as possible, then take off for a honeymoon-appetizer weekend immediately thereafter. The actual honeymoon will have to wait until we have a plan for B~'s care and tickets to a warm and beachy destination yet to be determined.

I have one more day's work on the big magazine project that has dominated my life for the past few months, and four more meetings of the class I'm teaching. With breathing room in sight, the question I've been putting off has churned back to the surface: what is to become of this blog?

I began it on November 29th of last year, on the heels of my second miscarriage, while working as an abortion counselor. At that time, the Babies or Not question dominated my life. But shortly thereafter, my husband dropped a bomb on our marriage, and suddenly, for me anyway, the question became a slogan, a mantra: Babies or not, I told myself, I will get through this. I will be creatively and heartfully engaged in living.

Then J~ came along, cradling that precious question mark I thought I might've lost forever. It is especially poignant right now, as I'm a day away from the point in my menstrual cycle when my morning temperature usually takes a nose-dive and I begin to bleed. This morning and last, my temp has been slightly higher than usual (than ever before, actually). If it's high again tomorrow, I'll shoot over to the drug store for a pregnancy test. Otherwise, I'll be putting that question mark aside again for another month.

And that's the thing: I'm realizing now that I actually can put the question aside, and it is a relief. Babies or Not no longer dominates my life. I am in love. I am stepmothering. I am making art and writing and working and laughing into the night with my family and dinner guests as we toast marshmallows in the woodstove. I am making exciting plans for my life that do not preclude babymaking, but don't depend on it either. In other words, I am moving on.

And so, I am marking November 29th on my calendar for the potential last entry in this blog. I might come back, on occasion, to add updates and epilogues, but more likely, I'll start a new blog altogether.

As usual, I'll keep you posted.

Monday, October 23, 2006

How Far We've Come

A friend just emailed me an article supposedly* from a 1955 issue of Housekeeping Monthly entitled "The Good Wife's Guide," all about receiving your man at the end of his hard work day. Among the tidbits of wisdom this "Guide" offers:

"Don't complain if he's late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he may have gone through that day."

"Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him."

I could quote the whole outrageous article, but instead I'll let you see it for yourself.

To think, this was not outrageous fifty years ago, and fifty years is not so very long. But how much have things changed, truly? Look at women's magazines today. Okay, so they're a lot more sexually explicit, but still, chock full of prescriptions for man-pleasing. Not that there's anything wrong with man-pleasing (there is real pleasure in bringing smiles to the faces of loved ones), but where are the magazines about our own pleasures and interests, outside of the gym, kitchen, and bedroom, that is? And where are the men's magazines all about how to please a woman? The choices we see at the checkout stand are there because we haven't demanded otherwise, and because those are the ones we buy. We buy them because we still haven't quite figured out that we are completely fine and absolutely gorgeous without any affectations at all: free of makeup, speaking our moody truth, possibly even with all our body hair intact, and god forbid, wearing comfortable shoes. Also, let's face it, men in general are yet to fully engage in the joys of nurturing. It's a learned pleasure, and a lot of them never learned it.

But this isn't about blaming men for their shortcomings or ourselves for our insecurities, nor is it about blaming our parents. The atmosphere that they grew up in influenced the people they became, the way they raised us. Not just our mothers, but our fathers too. Just think of the pressure men must have felt to always know best, and how that pressure got passed along, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Is it any wonder that men still have so much trouble asking for help?

And no wonder women (me absolutely included) still struggle to remember that our comfort and happiness matters just as much as everyone else's.

The good news is, not many of us these days would agree that we shouldn't question our spouses when they stay out all night. (I, personally, told mine he better f-ing start talking, and then when he admitted what he'd been up to, I promptly divorced him.) It's a start.

Maybe we should sock away some of today's women's magazines, so that fifty years from now we can open them again and see how truly outrageous they are, and reflect, with amazement and pride, on how far we've come.

*I edited this entry to include the word "supposedly" because it has been brought to my attention that this article is likely a fake, an exaggeration of the truth of those times. (Thank you Lisa). My point remains basically applicable, however, so I've left the rest of my post unchanged. But I've learned my lesson: double-check my sources. Sorry about that. For more info, check this out.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Transition, part 2: Getting There

It may not have been a significant day in the scheme of things, but for me, yesterday -- rainy, windy, October 20th -- was a major holiday. Exactly ninety-one days since a magistrate heard my case, I was allowed to file the final paper, procure the final signature, and make this thing legal. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, I am divorced. And J~ is right behind me. If all goes well, he'll be single too on Wednesday. Good riddance, cheating spouses. Hello, brand new life!

Speaking of which, there will have to be a third post in this Transition series, in which I really explore the new horizons my life is offering. I've been so busy lately, my world has seemed quite small. But the class I'm teaching is moving along, I've wrapped up one design project and another, a big one, is almost done. Home improvements are under control: new woodstove is cooking away, wood is stacked, new windows are installed, and most of the rooms I've wanted to paint and find furniture for are now decently appointed. There is free time on the horizon.

Late yesterday afternoon, in spite of the weather, I went out walking, full of energy for my new freedom. I hadn't gone far before the rain stopped and the sun slid into view below the clouds. But it wasn't until the wind threatened to rip my umbrella out of my hands that I realized I didn't need to hide underneath it anymore. In fact, it was beautiful out. The air was fresh and lively, all the autumn-gold trees tossed and glistened wet in the late-slanting sun, and the gray clouds were thinning and tearing away into ragged white swatches against blue sky. I turned to the east, and sure enough, found the rainbow I was looking for, vibrant and solid and landing square in my new neighborhood. No doubt about it, my friends. I am home.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Transition, part 1: Old View

Two weeks ago I gave up the keys to my old apartment. But before I did, I sat in the living room and stared out of the same window I've stared out of for more than five years. The view isn't anything astonishing, a little patch of sky and a piece of the neighbor's roof and chimney. But many times, at night, I've seen fireworks in that patch of sky (there is a small stadium a mile away); and once or twice, when a storm passed through in the afternoon, there were rainbows.

The view has been good to me, even though so often I've looked at it unhappily, longing for the day I might have a roof, and chimney of my own, some sun, a patch of dirt to make myself a garden. I thought that the day I moved out of this apartment would be the day my ex and I took a step closer to that dream. Little did I know...

In my notebook, I composed an imaginary letter to A~. Well, the letter was real, but the idea of him ever reading it was not. In it, I wrote about the nausea I felt moving the last few things out of the building. I wrote about how angry and hurt I still feel. I wrote about how I can't possibly respond to his request that I call or write to give him updates on my life. Unless he can express interest and concern for how I actually feel, unless he can truly be my friend, I cannot be his. I wrote that, as much as I am loathe to admit it, I still miss him. And then it hit me: I cannot even be his friend. And then I cried for a few minutes, snapped a few photos, dropped my keys in my landlord's mailbox, and left.

Part 2, next post...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Sorry Sorry Lame-Ass Post

Oh, bear with me my readers! I'm deep in the work-crunch this week, major deadline looming. I'll be back!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Sort of

I'm still in the coccoon, but there are changes afoot: Though I have nightmnares about my ex, (I had one last night) and still cry, on occasion, over him, I'm mostly happy, finding my rhythm with work, the house, my man and his boy. I'm getting there.

In fact, this morning, as B~ (the boy) opened the door to leave for school, he blew a kiss to me at the computer. He's a sweet kid. I get hugs and kisses from him regularly, so this was nothing new. I didn't have to break my stride at the keyboard to return the gesture. It is brand new, however, for him to call out, "love you!" For this, I put my hands down and turned fully to face him, thoughtfully marking the occasion, saying--what else?--"I love you too."

Yesterday, I overheard T~, the local school counselor / window and door guy ask B~ if I was his mother.

"She's my sort-of step-mother," B~ said.

"Your sort-of step-mother?" came the inquiring reply.

"Yeah," B~ answered, leaving T~ to wonder.

I'm not sure quite what I am either, or what I'll be when I emerge from this transformative process, or what I'll be writing about, but at least I'm something already, if only sort-of something, and at least I'm not the only one who wants to know!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


That's me right now, I'd like to think: deep in my dark coccoon, not-quite catepillar, not-quite butterfly, not quite sure yet what I want to say except that I haven't slipped into a coma or run off from Blogland entirely.

I'm focusing on work at the moment, which I must admit, I find overwhelming. I've over committed myself and I can't figure out how to uncommit, so I'm doing my best to push through, while at the same time keeping the tiniest bit of momentum in place on home improvements and family planning (more like family hoping) and a modest exercise regimen.

Ovulation is imminent.

Updates to come.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Feel the Breeze

Dear new and loyal readers,

I'm thinking about this blog a lot lately, though I have come to no conclusions as to how to proceed. I remind myself that everything will be easier a month from now when I'm out from under this terrible nose-to-the-grindstone work-crunch I'm currently oppressed/blessed with.

For those of you in suspense, yet again, no I'm not pregnant. But the next egg is on deck, taking its little practice swings and feeling like a winner. I'll keep you posted.

By the way, this is a photo from the trip J~ and I took to Mexico. Ah, how nice to know that not all that long ago I was lying under a palm tree...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Fresh Air

My blog needs a change .

Lately I haven't had a whole lot to say on the subject of baby-making, or not-baby-making, or fear of or longing for or even avoidance of baby-making. It's the same redundant nail-biting anxiety that keeps going around and around in my head like Dorothy's tornado. And we all know I'm not in Kansas anymore, or at least in the naively happy and trusting middle-America place I think, metaphorically speaking, Kansas represents. (Forgive me for stereotyping and oversimplifying. I don't mean to offend the state of Kansas or middle-America or any of its inhabitants.)

The point is, how many more times do you want to hear me complain about how much a woman has to give up (personal time, freedom, social and professional status, not to mention earning power) to do what our species is most deeply programmed to do? And haven't I made the point enough times already that I think it's a woman's sole right and responsibility to make her own decisions about whether or not or when to reproduce? Haven't I made it clear that, though it can be harder emotionally and physically, I don't think there's anything wrong with deciding against it, even after a pregnancy has begun?

Assuming I'm not pregnant right now, and a few days from now I won't be obsessing afresh on miscarriage and motherhood, I need to figure out a way to move on. I want to keep writing, I want to keep communicating with you, dear readers.

So, tune in next time, when I promise to have something new to say.

Have a great day.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ambivalence, Revisited

I'm busier than I want to be lately, which is not exactly why I didn't write yesterday, though it was half of the two-part excuse I gave myself. The other half was that I didn't want to bore you with what felt like yet another redundant, tedious, repetitive rant on how unsure I am that I really want kids at all. This always happens to me when the possibility of pregnancy exists. And this month, the first of J~ and I actually and officially trying to make that possibility a reality, the doubt-demons are especially ferocious.

What if I'm pregnant now?
I can't help wonder. I don't get excited when I think this - I've learned to keep that heart-opening hopefulness tamped way down. Foreboding, on the other hand, runs rampant in its place. I imagine a snotty, whining, ugly baby, crying and clinging to me while I feel far too alone and overburdened, overweight, unhappy, longing to run away. Good-bye freedom, I find myself thinking in a grim monotone. Good-bye sleep.

But then again, last night, lying in bed in the dark, the what-ifs took an unexpected turn. What if my body actually could support a pregnancy now, but J~'s sperm are no good? I know I've said a million times that I'll be happy either way. J~ and I have said as much to each other on more than several occasions. But that was before I considered the possibility that his body mightn't be up to the task. Whoa Nellie, hold up just a second here!

Okay, so maybe the real reason I didn't want to write about this again is that I didn't want to admit - to you, to myself - just how much I want a child. But here it is in all it's undeniable glory: I want it to happen! Despite loss of sleep and freedom and moments (and I'm sure there will be plenty) when I'll feel like running away. Despite a million precious but boring hours of baths and laundry and chauffering and feeding and not chopping wood or playing tennis or losing myself in my writing, I still want it to happen and I want it to happen now.

Right this minute.


Monday, August 28, 2006

My Very Own Beloved Plan B

I feel I should write about the emergency contraceptive, Plan B, now available over the counter (with some caveats). But today I am preoccupied with my self-absorbed little self, and the Plan B that is my life at the moment.

This afternoon I will pack my stereo, my yoga mat, a last few dishes and kitchen appliances, shampoo, the contents of my refrigerator, and a shopping bag full of gift wrapping supplies, among other sundries that still litter my old apartment. I will slip a letter into my landlord's mailbox stating my intention to vacate the premises, fully and completely, by the end of the month (of September, that is).

I am dismantling the home I made with the man who was my husband, and moving into the home I'm making with the man who will be my second husband.

When I ask myself how I'm feeling about this transition, the answer comes back pure and simple: I'm happy. But it's a strange, almost embarrassing happiness, and now and then, not so pure and simple.

Chopping wood yesterday, I was hit by yet another wave of grief and anger about A~ (the cheating pathetic ex, whom I realize now, on some level, always kept an emergency exit plan in the back of his mind). Luckily I was holding a maul and standing over a very useful outlet for my emotion.

The thing that gets me is that I can't quite shake the need for an emergency exit plan of my own this time around. I don't anticipate needing or wanting out, but when I consider dumping my duplicate drinking glasses and inferior toaster oven, I feel a subtle wave of panic, picturing myself bereft and starting over without even the means for a glass of water and a slice of toast. When J~ says I needn't push past these feelings, or part with my junk ("Put them in boxes," he says, "and store them in the basement. Forever.") I laugh, and I immediately want to cry for thankfulness, and for grief that it took so long to find the person I now consider the love of my life.

Life is too damned short.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Not for Naught

For two days I've been tearing my hair out trying to figure out what's up with my computer that is doesn't have enough memory to crop a single unspectacular photograph to a measly 2090 pixels. And now I understand. Inadvertently, I was trying to crop to a gargantuan 2090 inches.

So I've been backing up files and transferring and cleaning my hard drive for naught, or at least for naught much.

Naught only that, but I was doing this photo thing because I didn't have time or inclination to write for my blog!

Well, now I have less time, so inclination is a moot point. Guess that goes to show me, life has its own agenda sometimes, and maybe its agenda is to remind us of this: You have more time than you think.

Some things, in fact, take care of themselves. See Exhibit A, B, and C above: three shots of my garden, from three nonsensically differing angles, but you get the idea: before, in-between, and now.

Want some vegetables? I've got too many patty-pan squash, and cherry tomatoes. We're practically swimming in them. Somebody, anybody, please!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Roller Coaster

I'm not a thrill-seeker. I don't ride roller coasters, never have. I'm perfectly happy on the ground. And I'm perfectly happy with the life I have right now, with my romance, my work, everything. So when I think about the steep peeks and valleys, the risks and dangers of taking on parenthood with a man I've known for seven months, not to mention all the hard work and sleep deprivation and worry and stress, why do I get such a thrill? Why am I going ahead in pursuit of it?

When I was nineteen, I had a life changing moment eight feet above the ground. I hadn't bothered stabilizing a ladder before climbing. Why take ten minutes fussing when I'll only be up there for five? I thought. I was brazen, cavalier. But when I felt the ladder slip, adrenaline surged through my limbs. Thoughts of paralysis, death, sprained ankles, coursed through my mind. I got back to the ground quick. There and then I made a pact I've lived by ever since: Never again will I gamble anything I'm not willing to lose.

I don't want to lose this happiness. I don't want to lose this life I have right now. So why am I still going ahead with this crazy baby-making scheme?

I'm thinking of that movie, Parenthood, did you ever see it? The story revolves around the Steve Martin character, a supremely stressed out dad whose panic-attack moment during a disastrous school play is scored to the roar and rattle of a roller coaster. Later, his batty old Grandmother says something to him, out of the blue, that has always stuck with me.

Thanks to the wonders of internet research, I can share with you exactly what she said:

"You know, when l was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster. Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride! I always wanted to go again. It was just interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited and so thrilled all together. Some didn't like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it."

And thanks to the wonders of the internet, I have my answer.

I'm proceeding with this cockamamy baby-making scheme because, as pleasant as my life is now, it's the merry-go-round. I already know that ride. I love it. But it gets old. I want the roller coaster life, with all its ups and downs and all its challenges and breathtaking views. Because I'll put more of myself into it, and I'll get more out of it. Simple as that.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


All that suspense for this most mundane piece of news: Once again, I'm not pregnant. I got that old familiar monthly red flag a few hours after my last post.

But this is why I kept you waiting: My usual Wednesday morning writing time was taken over by a mad dash and a nervous stomach, on my way to interview for an adjunct faculty position at a certain not-so-local University. I thought it a longshot, as I have no graduate degree, but lo and behold, after meeting with both the department head and the assistant dean, I was offered the Friday morning web design class, beginning September first. Chalk it up to right place, right time -- I think they were a teensy bit desperate -- but now my foot's in the door, and maybe next semester, I'll put in an application with the school close to J~'s.

For the first time in my life, I feel legitimate, with a real grown-up career-path job that I actually like, with real grown-up pay. Although freelancing can be lucrative, I've never done it steadily enough to believe each assignment I received wasn't just a stroke of blind luck, and I never liked it enough to want to put real energy into promoting myself as a freelance designer. (Abortion counseling, by the way, does NOT meet the grown-up pay requirement, not even close, although the work was more real and heavy than any other I've ever done.)

I drove home in a heightened state of emotion. After a brief chat with J~ and leaving voicemails for the few others whose numbers I could remember (my cell phone recently broke, taking a slew of contacts down with it), the happy-dance feeling wore off and I started to feel supremely alone with my milestone, and sad.

Just goes to show me, I guess, that every high has its corresponding low.

But it's the in-between moments, I think, that really tell the most about how we're doing. Whether we're coasting or plodding or struggling along on all that plain old level ground, keeping an eye out for the next catchable wave, there is rhythm, there is pleasure in work, there is the potential for camaraderie and creative thought. So onward, life companions! Make of this day something memorable.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Biology Lesson

BBT, for those of you who've never wanted or needed to be intimately tuned-in to a woman's menstrual cycle, refers to basal body temperature, or the body temperature at its base, in other words, first thing in the morning, before getting up to pee, before sitting up, before anything. It seems like an obscure piece of information, but taken regularly, it means a lot. Taken regularly, by the way, if you are trying to conceive, it can also drive you crazy. I'll get into that later.

You see, the menstrual cycle is made of two phases: The first phase, called the follicular phase, begins with bleeding, shedding all that cushy extra uterine lining built up from the previous cycle. It is called follicular, because the follicles of the ovaries are stimulated to prepare eggs. Only one egg will make the cut, but it takes a couple of weeks or so for it to be ready.

The luteal phase begins with a surge of hormone (luteal hormone, that is) which causes not only the egg to be released, but the BBT to rise, and stay risen, until menstruation is on its way. That is, unless fertilization has occurred and menstruation is not on its way, in which case the BBT will rise even more.

I've begun my day by shoving a thermometer in my mouth more times than I care to count. I recommend it, as a get-to-know-your-body exercise, but with a prominently placed WARNING: It's very hard to shake that first thought of the day, whatever it happens to be. And when pregnancy is on your mind, there isn't room for much else. But then again, I'm glad I've done it as much as I have. And I'm glad I've done it lately. This morning might be a whole lot more tension-filled if I couldn't read those BBT-leaves.

You see, I'm not bleeding, and I thought I would be by now.

But my temperature is in steady decline, has been for the past four days, and my period, technically, is not yet late.

Bottom line, for those of you in suspense:

Am I pregnant, dear readers? I think not.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Flight Plan

I don't feel like blogging today. I don't feel like obsessing over the infamous and looming title question. In two days, either I'll start bleeding or I won't. In the meantime, there is life to be lived. There is yoga with J~ (a particularly sweaty session this morning - felt good), there is painting to do (the kitchen and living room are done, downstairs bathroom next), there is wood to be chopped (my maul should arrive this afternoon), a patio footing to be dug (oh boy), a wildly overgrown garden to weed, and a huge design assignment to sink my teeth into. It's enough to be present with this moment without speculating on tomorrow, or the next day, or nine months from now.

J~ and I have begun a new practice (or, in my case, resurrected an old one) of writing lists each night (one for him, one for me) of priority chores for the following day. I like launching into a new day with, if not a flight plan, then at least a map with a few landmarks circled, sights I want to hit before landing in bed at night.

Blogging was one of those landmarks for today.

Now, on to the next.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Women's Work

When I was working as an abortion counselor, every now and then I’d tell a woman struggling with her decision about how apple trees, left to their own devices, overgrow. Too many branches too close together choke off light and air circulation, leaving the entire tree prone to disease. In a particularly fertile season, so much fruit will set that the full-grown weight of it would tear branches. Therefore, the orchard keeper must thin the young fruit, breaking away every other, or every third, hard little undeveloped apple.

My point (and I wrote about this once before, see The Orcharder) was that we women have the awesome responsibility of being both the trunk sustaining our family trees, and the arborist, the arbiter of life. We embody both Mother Nature's mindless yearning to procreate, and the mindful parent's need to moderate, guarding space for rest, for breath, for growth, exercise, and pleasure. For our own health and survival, and that of the entire family, not to mention species, we must make sometimes extremely difficult decisions.

Funny that I should think of this now, as I sit at J~’s kitchen table amid the usual jumble of magazines and keys and dishes, plus the brand new chainsaw I bought and assembled two days ago. A maul (my favorite tool: half axe, half sledgehammer) is on its way via UPS. Just outside the house lie three felled trees, waiting to be transformed into firewood. The chore is mine, in part because I have time, but mostly because I want it. I love hard physical labor. And I love chopping wood.

But there are other, less pleasurable chores on the road to getting this house in shape. The list is sometimes overwhelming, rife with the tedious, delicate, and dirty tasks I abhor. Through no one’s fault, I’m on my own with it more often than I’d like.

Meanwhile, within me, potentially, grows a new limb to a brand new family tree.

“I’m scared,” I told J~ last night, before we fell asleep. As wonderful as he is, after work and his very sweet, but, let’s not kid ourselves, very high-maintenance son, there isn’t much left. Even without a baby, I want more of him than he has to give.

Mothering an infant is an all-consuming task, rife with tedious, delicate, messy responsibilities. I don't doubt that I can do it. I’m strong and I’m capable and whatever I don’t know, I can learn. One thing, however, remains unclear: Is this really what I want?

Monday, August 07, 2006


Here we go again.

For those of you who've never taken a ride on the am-I-am-I-not roller coaster, let me tell you, it's a pretty compelling ride. It's not an obsession strictly of the mind, either. The body keeps nudging you back to pay closer attention. For everyone living outside my body, however, this might be a whole lot of boring speculation, so I'll limit myself to one paragraph. Here goes:

My breasts are sore. Though they are rarely as sore as they are right now, it isn't the first time I've had sore breasts and thought it meant I was pregnant. Then again, looking back at all my monthly charts (which I've been keeping, more or less, since March 2005) this is the earliest I ever reported such a symptom (the fifteenth day of this cycle). Even during my last, ill-fated pregnancy, I didn't report breast tenderness until the nineteenth day.

My period isn't due until Sunday.

This is going to be a long week.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Yes, No, Maybe

There is a book I have from the library, now overdue, still barely opened, entitled Maybe Baby: 28 Writers Tell the Truth About Skepticism, Infertility, Baby Lust, Childlessness, Ambivalence, and How They Made the Biggest Decision of Their Lives. It's a collection of essays from writers (women, mostly) who've faced the "to procreate or not to procreate" question and come up with a triad of answers: yes, no, and maybe. Aside from being too busy to read much of anything lately, I think I haven't tackled this one because I'm a bit discouraged by the cover copy, which implies that I won't find women like me inside, who've waffled on this question for years, who've come to a nervous yes, but whose bodies are potentially saying no.

I listened to an old radio program archived online the other day: Quirks and Quarks, put out by the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). The subject was happiness, and the gist of it was this: Mother Nature doesn't care if we're happy, Mother Nature only cares if we procreate. Humans are not programmed to find happiness - happiness would render us far too complacent. We strive for things, we get them, and before we know it, we're itching for something else.

In spite of all this, there are things that actually do contribute to a sense of happiness. The two that stick in my mind are: social relationships and regular exercise. Children? No. In fact, studies show that people are happier when they first marry, and they are happier again when the kids leave the nest, but inbetween, not so much.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Just a few weeks ago, thinking about moving into J~'s house made me a little depressed. Although the place is sweet in (almost) every other way, it's dark and stagnant, somehow. My apartment, although in an ugly, crowded neighborhood, is bright and airy.

Then J~ became determined to get rid of some of the trees encroaching on the house, causing increasingly moldy, mildewy conditions. I was thrilled.

It would be several weeks, we thought, until our chosen contractor could do the work. But, as it happens, we received a last-minute call: he had an opening for Monday. Three days later, voila: Light. Air flow. And a much sunnier, suddenly larger yard.

"It feels like a gift from the gods that this happened before I move in," I told J~. We were strolling downtown, stretching our legs before dinner. I was talking excitedly, anticipating the moment when I'm fully moved in and can begin to focus on my art and writing. I plan to drop a hefty chunk of savings very soon on a good digital camera, a lens or two, lights, and a tripod, so that I might begin documenting my artwork. As we were walking, I noticed a tripod set out on the curb with someone's trash. And in an open trash bag: a brand new art set in a big wooden box.

Talk about gifts from the gods!

Guess I've got my work cut out for me.

Monday, July 31, 2006

The Ugly Truth

I didn't want to have to tell you this. It's embarrassing and it isn't attractive. But it's a reality for one of every four women, one of every five men, more than thirty million Americans altogether. Most of us (ninety percent, according to some web sites) aren't even aware that we are members of the club. In my case, I've been unhappily cognizant of my membership for seventeen years, ever since my freshman year in college and a certain irresponsible ex-boyfriend who shall forever remain nameless. Here's the ugly truth:

I have herpes.

For many years, I only had an outbreak on rare occasions of heightened stress. A~ and I were able to, shall we say, work around it, for a very long time. But then I went back to school and all hell broke loose. Little sleep, poor diet, intense competitive pressure. It wasn't long before I was flaring up regularly.

Two years since graduation, I'm less physically taxed and the disease has eased up some. But emotionally, these have been two of the most challenging years of my life. It doesn't surprise me that I still have outbreaks on a regular basis.

In the past week alone, I got both engaged and divorced (or nearly so). I commuted back and forth between J~'s place and mine more times than I can count. I taught my most demanding pre-finals classes, after which, I'll be virtually unemployed. On top of that, I painted J~'s kitchen and prepped the living room, began packing up my apartment in earnest, and embarked on the really and truly life-altering project of making a baby. As if the rest weren't life-altering enough.

I'm thrilled. I'm emotional. I'm occasionally exhausted and overwhelmed. For a few minutes lately, several times a day, it feels like my heart rises up and spasms in my throat. I suppose it should come as no surprise that in the wake of all this, my herpes would flare up just a tad.

J~ and I did make a stab at baby making (forgive the horrible unintentional pun) on the night of his birthday, and another when we woke up the next day. But by Friday evening, I wasn't feeling quite right. I went to bed early, and in the morning, no surprise, herpes. We absorbed the sobering news: There can be no more baby-making sex until I heal. This takes several days, at least.

"Maybe it's a good thing," I said to J~. "I'm still painting the house, and I'm paranoid about breathing the fumes while pregnant. Plus, there's lots of heavy furniture to move in the coming month. Not to mention, I just got divorced. And we just got engaged. Maybe this is my body's way of saying I can only absorb so many big changes at once."

And, wouldn't you know it, not until just this morning do I have the tell-tale sign (EWCM) that the fertile window is upon us. And healing? Not quite yet.

Bottom line: J~ would need to have some powerful mojo (or some very tenatious sperm) for his birthday wish to come true. So, as is my habit of late, I'll be waiting on my period with bated breath. But meanwhile, we've turned our sites to next month, when I'll be mostly moved into the house, rested, healthy, and ready to try again.

Stay tuned!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Your Wish is My Command

Yesterday was J~'s birthday. He came to my place after work, and I took him out for an extravagant dinner. The room was loud, the food was outstanding, and we ate it smiling, shouting occasionally into each other's ears about how incredible it is that we've found each other, how lucky we both feel. We ordered dessert. No singing, no candles - I didn't want to make a spectacle out of him. But I had him make a wish just the same. He closed his eyes to concentrate before taking a first bite.

In the parking lot, our bellies full, waiting for the valet to bring the car around (actually waiting, ludicrously, for the valet to back the car out of the spot exactly in front of us), J~ asked, "Do you want to know my wish?"

We discussed the rules of wishes: if you tell me, then it won't come true, I protested. And the finer points of where these rules come from in the first place: Are you really superstitious about that? he asked. I gave it a moment's thought. No I guess not. Tell me.

"I wished that we make a baby tonight."

People, I'm telling you, he could have laid me down right there and then. The valet could've backed right over us. I wouldn't have minded one bit.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


I've been thinking about the word "engagement" in terms of what it means to be engaged in living. I did a search on the word, which led to seven definitions, the first six of which tie in with the expected connotations: war, marriage, short-term employment. But the seventh and final definition gets a little closer to what I have in mind: The condition of being in gear. I picture a car idling at a crossroads, in neutral, while the people inside bite their nails or worry a map between their fingers, trying to decide which way to go. Being engaged in living, it seems to me, means choosing a goal, or even just a direction, and making a move. It means taking risks, going out on a limb. It means being aware that life is short, and it is now.

I'm not saying engagement in living necessarily means strenuous action, or wildness, jumping out of airplanes, taking that new job and moving cross-country, or even picking up the phone, or going out on Saturday night. For many of us, the bravest and riskiest and most appropriate striving might be toward time alone, a much-needed rest. The poet, Audrey Lorde, while battling cancer, called taking care of her body, getting enough rest, "an act of political warfare," which, when you think about it, in our feed-the-corporate-machine work-overtime, get-ahead society, might not be such a stretch. But I digress.

On Wikipedia, I found a word tied to engagement which comes closer to what I'm talking about here: Disambiguation: the process of resolving ambiguity. I like that. I like how that leads me back to the traditional connotations of engagement. Dating is ambiguous. Marriage is not. Talking about combining lives, making babies, and getting married, is not the same thing as being engaged. It is ambiguous. It's sitting at the crossroads in neutral. Maybe the car is coasting ever so slightly, but the foot is poised over the brakes.

J~ "popped the question" Monday night and I felt prickly hot sweat break out on my scalp and lower back. Emotion welled up in my chest - a combination of love and fear and excitement - I didn't know if I wanted to laugh or cry or jump his bones or freeze up into a statue. We're just coming up on six months together, which isn't a long time at all. Our divorces aren't final -- his will be soon but mine won't until November. I'm not sure of my footing yet, in this still-shocking aftermath of A~, and I do fear more pain. There's (almost) every reason to wait. But we're not the idling type. Life is short. This is what we want. I said yes.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Cry Me a River

I sat down to write this morning already knowing the title of today's entry. As I absorb, on yet a deeper level, the end of my marriage, all the little hardships of my unexpectedly unmarried daily life (and some of these are very little) have been sparking multiple rounds of copious bawling grief.

But there is more to the last few days than crying. There is also the garden, bearing string beans and dill and kale and basil, squash of two varieties, and, as of yesterday, the first ripening tomatoes. And there is the kitchen at J~'s, freshly painted and looking fabulous, if I do say so myself. There is the run I took last night, reminding me of the power this thirty-six-year-old sometimes overfed body still contains: six miles with a sprint finish, and no urge to stop, not even on the long, steep, uphill in the last two miles.

On the work-front, there is my teaching: two weeks left and going very well; my students producing excellent work, and for the most part, seeming to enjoy it. And waiting in the wings: a long-time client with a list of projects for me to help promote her new book, and just last week, a magazine design and illustration assignment arriving via email from an old and beloved design school professor.

And of course there is J~ and this seemingly bottomless falling in love.

Best of all, there is the great wave of energy I feel after the tears subside, after I've let go just a little bit more of A~ and the dream I had of him and I. This is when I see most clearly that my new, unexpectedly unmarried life is alive and full of potential and exactly what I want in the wake of my divorce. If crying is what it takes to get there, than crying is what I'll do.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Divorce Court

It didn't seem that hard. Nerve-racking, yes, but emotional? Not really. That is, until I walked back to the courthouse on my lunch break the following day to file the next round of papers, and the clerk informed me with head-shaking dismay that I clearly didn't know what I was doing. (Usually lawyers handle this part of things, and since I didn't use a lawyer, I was dependent on my own research and the advice of marginally knowledgeable friends.)

"On what grounds did the magistrate grant the divorce?" the clerk asked.

"Under these," I said, pointing to the line I had circled on another form: Irreconcilable differences which has caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage.

"That's the grounds you filed under. What grounds did she grant it under?" I looked at him quizzically, realizing, as I absorbed the question, that this could be different. "See," he responded, before I could answer, "you don't even know that."

I almost cried then, kept my head down, staring at his hands - he had bony fingers, and a bright gold wedding band made of hearts stacked end to end. Married, I thought, and with bad taste. That did it. I got angry. And snapped my gaze up to his face. "Listen, asshole," I said -- okay, so I didn't say that in words, but I said it with my eyes -- "What do you suggest I do?" He told me to order a tape of the proceedings and transcribe what the magistrate said at the end of the trial. He gave me the requisition form. I mumbled thank you, and fled.

I managed to hold back the tears until I got to the street.

I survived the trial day dry-eyed, thanks to adrenaline and deep breaths and reminders to myself that it was almost over, that this was what I wanted, that I had J~ and he is so much better than A~ ever was. But now that I was going to have to re-experience the whole humiliating episode, it wasn't so easy-breezy anymore. Suddenly it sucked to be divorcing. As great as J~ is, this was not my wish in life. I would give him back in a heartbeat if I could roll back time and transform A~ into the person I once thought he was. But, as it turns out, time travel isn't possible (yet?) and A~ is not that person. I'm glad I know it, but it's hard.

"Thanks," A~ had said to me as we were leaving the courthouse the previous day, "for everything."

I nodded, but I didn't reply. What he was saying was heartfelt. For me, however, it was like the mugger saying to the muggee, "Thanks for the cash." You're welcome? I don't think so.

"Call me sometime," he went on. "Or email. I'd like to know how you're doing."

Again I nodded, speechless.

It seems like such a pathetic end to twelve years of love and commitment. Thanks for everything. Keep in touch. But then again, "pathetic" is par for the course. And "end" is absolutely fitting.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got my period, and my happily ever after to attend to.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Heat Wave Limbo

I'm staying at J~'s house in the shady, breezy countryside tonight in order to avoid my stuffy third floor apartment in the heat-wave city. Since I must be showered and dressed and on the road by seven a.m., I won't be writing my usual first-thing-Wednesday-morning entry. Responsible blogger that I am, I'm writing now, instead.

Tomorrow is D-Day: Divorce Day. I'm meeting my mother (my witness) and my soon-to-be-ex downtown at nine for the main event. "I hope it goes well," my friend L~ said on the phone just a minute ago, "though I don't know what 'well' means for this sort of thing."

"It means that we have an easy time finding parking, that everyone shows up on time, and that we're in and out within a half-hour," I replied.

Indeed, that's all I'm hoping for. After twelve years together, I want the quickest possible divorce.

I'm so ready to be divorced.

I'm so SO ready.

It'll be three months before the final divorce papers come in the mail, but next time I write, I should be in official divorce limbo.

I should also be out of am-I-or-am-I-not-pregnant limbo, yet again.

My period is due tomorrow, perhaps the next day.

This is getting to be a regular thing with me, this slim chance of pregnancy. J~ and I did use condoms this cycle. That is, until the fourteenth day, probably post-ovulation, when we threw caution to the wind. (What wind? There's no wind! We talked and we decided we were ready, simple as that.) Blame it on hormones, blame it on divorce emotions, blame it on the heat wave, but as slim as the chances are, I still kind of hope I am pregnant.

Who knows, it may have been too late to conceive this time, but not too late to keep me from speculating, and from letting you in on the suspense.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Who is YOUR Inner Coach?

Several years ago, I played tennis with T~, a dark-haired, beer-gutted, hard-hitting, clay court enthusiast, with the sweetest heart and the loudest, foulest mouth on the court. "What a stupid stupid shot!" he'd yell. And "Goddammit! How could you be such an idiot?!" Luckily, he was only reprimanding himself. But still, every time he did this, I tensed. The people on the next court tensed. It was uncomfortable.

"You should fire that inner coach of yours," I said to him once. "He doesn't seem to be helping your game." The words fell out of my mouth and I instantly regretted them. I'd never thought of the "inner coach" before and I doubted T~ would appreciate the suggestion. He'd just lost a third game in a row and he was seething. To my surprise, he laughed, and relaxed a little. He was a bit gentler with himself for a few minutes, a bit more focused. But three points into the next game he double-faulted and began berating himself for having the worst f-ing serve in the universe.

You always do that, Amy, I found myself thinking the other day as I walked the six blocks from my class to my car. What is wrong with you? I'd eaten too much lunch on top of too much breakfast. My stomach was stretched uncomfortably and I felt like a failure. You really have a problem. You're getting fat and you're just going to get fatter. By the time I got to the car I was miserable, considering stopping on the way home to buy a treat to cheer myself up. But I recognized the cycle, the downward spiral of that kind of action, and suddenly, I recognized something else as well.

I hadn't seen or thought of T~ in three years. In fact, I'd quit playing with him after that day. But somehow, I had his voice lodged inside my head. I had inadvertently hired his inner coach.

So I promptly took my own advice. I fired that coach and hired another, modeled after Lance Armstrong, Martina Navratilova, a conglomeration of everyone I could think of whom I considered successful and imagined would be supportive. Take the reins, my new coach said to me. You're in charge. You can do this. Easily.

I decided to spend my afternoon running long-avoided errands, then take a jog in the cool of the evening. I'd shower, have a nice salad for dinner, work on a painting, watch a few episodes of Sex and the City from my beloved DVD collection, and start fresh in the morning.

It turned out to be a great day.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Countdown to D-Day

A week from now I will be divorced.

Well, almost.

I have my day in court on Wednesday, July 19th. Assuming all goes well (all should go well. There's no argument. A~ doesn't even plan to show up.) it will be three months before the paperwork proclaiming me officially unmarried will arrive in the mail. But after Wednesday, there is nothing else I have to do. I'm done. For all intents and purposes (except remarriage, that will have to wait) I'll be divorced.

I'm nervous, but only about the mundane details. Like, for instance, I'm not sure where exactly the court is, or where I will park (my city has terrible parking) or if I'll get there on time (I'm not very good at getting places on time) or if I'll have all the proper paperwork on hand. I'm nervous that my witness (I need to have someone along to testify that I actually truly live in this state) will be acceptable even though she lives elsewhere and is my mother. I'm slightly less nervous that I won't properly answer the questions that the judge puts to me. I'm not nervous at all about being emotional, though, who knows, it could happen.

By the way, coincidentally, July 19th is my mother's birthday, and the anniversary of her own divorce. I've heard that life is cyclical, but this is ridiculous.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Imaginary Baby

Last night, J~ and I took a walk, ate a peaceful dinner, went our separate ways to complete some chores and phone calls, and then lay down side by side, tired, and smiling at each other from our respective pillows. "Wow," J~ said after a long silence. "I just got a really strong image of us lying here, just like this, with a baby between us."

My first thought was cynical: Just like this, my ass. We'd be a hell of a lot more tired. But I let go of that. For just a second, I let myself picture it too. It was a beautiful picture, full of love, and shockingly easy to imagine. I looked into his eyes, and we both laughed. Wow, I thought. He really does want to do this.

And then I felt how much I love him. And then I wanted to jump his bones (but didn't -- too tired). And then I felt a wave of apprehension, because a new picture flashed through my mind: Us lying here, just like this, only years from now, having accepted that the baby wasn't going to happen for us. It wasn't a terrible image. There was as much love in it, but also sadness.

I just wish it wasn't so shockingly easy to imagine.

Monday, July 10, 2006


Yesterday evening, I hung out with my brother D~ at my brother A~'s house, late into his last night before flying back home to California. With the movie Gladiator on in the background while he packed his bags, we talked about our budding romances, and how throwing pregnancy into the mix might effect us.

"Have either of you overstepped your bounds yet?" D~ asked, meaning, had J~ and I had a confrontation. Had we worked through anything tricky. He hated the thought of us hitting a first-ever snag with a baby on the way.

"We've definitely had difficult conversations," I told him. "We've certainly had emotional conversations. But there hasn't been much in the way of overstepping."

Well, come to think of it, there was that time I called J~ "Marshmallow Man" once too many times, in reference to some wishy-washy parenting, or an unclear boundary with his ex. He let me know I'd gone too far. I immediately got it, and apologized, and haven't used that derisive nickname again.

And there was the time J~ made a judgmental comment when I decided against a second trip to his place in a single, busy week. (I don't remember the exact words, but essentially, the sentiment was, If I were only working two days a week, I would do it for you.) In our next conversation, we were both prepared to revisit this issue, and to honor the fact that as a part-time counselor (at the time) and part-time freelancer, I was actually working more than two days. And in any case, I can hear about, and care about, his disappointment without owing an apology or an explanation for my choice. It was never an argument. He got it, and was already prepared to retract his statement before I said a thing.

The truth is, we haven't had anything close to a knock-down-drag-out, not much that can even qualify as confrontation. In fact, there hasn't been much drama at all in this relationship, except in the mere act of being open to each other, after so much hurt in how our marriages ended. (If you're not a long-time reader: J~ and I were both cheated on by our long-time partners, and dumped.) This doesn't mean there isn't communication between us, or emotion (lots of emotion) or passion (lots and lots of passion). Even so, it seemed like I wasn't giving my brother enough of an example. But to my surprise, he nodded, satisfied.

We turned our attention to Gladiator, where a life and death struggle was taking place in the Colosseum, blood and sweat and bodies flying, the crowd gone wild. "Can you believe that used to be considered sport?" I said. "I wonder if, a few hundred years from now, people will say the same thing about our sports." I was thinking of football. A game without someone carried out on a stretcher is exceptional.

"Look at boxing," D~ said. "It used to be that fights were thirty rounds long. It pretty much guaranteed that there'd be a knockout. Then it went to fifteen. Now, fights aren't more than ten rounds, unless it's a championship, in which case, it's never more than twelve. And if it looks like someone's about to get knocked out, chances are, they'll stop the fight."

"Huh. I didn't know that."

It's still far too easy to find examples of violence to read too much into this, but maybe there actually is some subtle shift in society, as illustrated by our sports. Maybe there is a trend toward honoring human life, away from unnecessary pain. Maybe J~ and I, in our own small way, are furthering this subtle shift with our relationship. No less passion. No less heart. But far less drama. And maybe, if we're lucky, no knock-outs at all.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Party Time

All of you BorN regulars who've strongly advised caution, and applauded my recent turn toward romantic sobriety, will be disappointed in me today. Last night, I told J~ I'm ready for this to be the last month of condoms. In spite of a cauldron full of worries, it remains clear: This is what we want to do. Life is too short for indefinite hesitation. As Annie Dillard is quick to remind us (see Imminent Death, three entries back), we're not getting any younger.

I also told him that I wanted to see an R.E. A.S.A.P (that's reproductive endocrinologist, for those of you who've never faced any challenges in that arena and haven't needed to apply this particular combination of acronyms).

Those of you readers who've strongly advised I get tested up and down and left and right, I'm sure you're also surprised to see my brick wall against medical intervention isn't quite so solid after all. (See Slippery Slopes, my entry from May 16th).

It's not a complete tear-down, though. I won't let them inject dye into my uterus to make sure its formed properly. I won't get an endometrial biopsy (where they pinch a sample of uterine lining, to make sure it's forming thick and rich enough to support a baby) because I wouldn't do any of the hormonal medications that would be prescribed in this case. But I will let them take a vial or two of blood. If there's a clotting disorder to blame for my miscarriages, I'd rather submit to the slightly disturbing baby aspirin once-a-day ritual (I'm a bit medicine-phobic) than kick my crying self as a third miscarriage comes on.

On the phone with J~ last night, I held my breath for his response. I expected he'd distrust my conviction, have some words about taking it slow, about how freaked out I'd seemed just a few weeks earlier. But no. There was a moment's hesitation, but not breath-held worry, as I feared. More like a deepening, letting it sink in. "I think it makes sense," he said. "Let's get this party started."

With B~ tucked in safely with his mother for the weekend, and off to camp for the next two weeks, J~ will make his way to my place tonight after work for the first in a string of nights of delicious privacy. Tomorrow, we'll be guests at a picnic at my brother's house, and Sunday, we plan to roll up our sleeves to spackle and sand and paint J~'s house.

This party is about to get rockin'.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Deep Thoughts

On Monday, I was planning to follow up on the ideas from Annie Dillard's we're-all-going-to-die so write-till-you-drop thing, but that Baby Anakin conversastion fell in my lap while I was trying to decide what to say. So here I am, once again, and I've been brooding. But I've got little to show for it.

Sometimes, when facing inevitable death, writing is the last thing on your mind.

Today's pulse check reveals what's becoming standard status for me: still in love, still not-quite divorced, still ambivalently and nail-bitingly aspiring to parenthood, still using condoms, still working toward the big move-in with J~. We've been seeing each other for five months now.

Time flies.

So, until I think of something new to say, I'll leave you with one of my favorite "Deep Thoughts" by Jack Handey, of Saturday Night Live fame:

Maybe in order to understand mankind we have to look at that word itself. MANKIND. Basically, it's made up of two separate words "mank"and "ind." What do these words mean? It's a mystery and that's why so is mankind.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Making Way for Baby Anakin

I'm sitting with my laptop at J~'s kitchen table composing today's blog entry. Moments ago, B~'s ride arrived to take him to day camp, but before that, he paced the length of the kitchen and livingroom, and came up behind me as I wrote. "This is private," I said.

"I know," he replied, turning reluctantly back to his pacing. I moved on to email, but it was too late. He'd seen something.

"If you had a baby," B~ asked, "what would you name it?"

"That depends on who I had a baby with, because I would want to choose the name together."

"If you and Dad had a baby."

Months ago I asked J~ to have a conversation with B~ about this. I didn't want us to spring a pregnancy on him out of the blue. I also wanted him to know about my miscarriages, so that he would be aware that a pregnancy, in my case, wouldn't necessarily lead to a little brother or sister. As far as I knew, this conversation hasn't happened yet. I imagine J~ would explain that by saying the right moment hadn't presented itself.

Maybe this was the moment now, but I wasn't sure I was the right person to be having it. So I stalled again. "Well, then, it depends on if it was a girl or a boy."

"A boy," B~ said, still pacing.

He had me cornered. So I admitted: we've talked about the possibility of having a child, that we liked the idea of using J~'s middle name, his own father's name, if it were a boy. It's a name we both like.

"That's a stupid name."

"I'm sure we'd be willing to consider your ideas too," I laughed.

"Anakin." He said, smiling ever so slightly. What twelve-year-old boy doesn't love his Star Wars?

"I like it," I said. "It's a good name. But even if we didn't officially name him Anakin, you could call him that. Maybe it would catch on."

B~ smirked, indicating he found the compromise ever so slightly distasteful.

"How would you feel about that," I asked, "if we had a baby?"

"I think it would be cool."

"Well, it's something we've talked about. We might like to do it." I was keeping my voice carefully casual. But now I took a deep breath, continued slowly. "Only we don't know yet if it would work because I was pregnant twice last year and I had miscarriages both times. Do you know what that is?" He did. And he stopped pacing to nod and confirm. "So even if I did get pregnant," I continued, "it might not work.

"I've heard that there are things doctors can do to help that."

"Yes, some women find that it helps, but it doesn't work for everyone. It can be very involved. There are some things I wouldn't want to do."

"Well if you can't get pregnant, why don't you adopt?"

"That's a possibility," I said. "But let's wait until I move in before we make any decisions."

He had resumed his pacing, begun making a passionate case for adoption, when his ride arrived.

Life goes on.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Imminent Death

There's nothing quite so powerful as being reminded that we're all going to die.

I was walking downtown on my lunch break yesterday (my first day of teaching - more on that eventually), when a piece of paper on the sidewalk caught my eye. It was a Xeroxed essay, entitled "Write Till You Drop." I picked it up.

"Write as if you were dying," says the author, Annie Dillard, "At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case."

Yup. It sure is. We're all going to die.

She goes on: "What would you begin writing if you knew you were going to die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?"

I've been sitting with these questions ever since. And I will continue to do so, hopefully, with some result by the next entry. All I know right now is, the writing I've been doing for this blog has been getting a little stale.

I've got another two months before I move in with J~, and I don't want to spend the meantime pining over and over for the day, or fearing it, or speculating about whether or not we'll ever truly get there. We'll get there, and it's going to be fine.

Nor do I want to continue to regurgitate the same worn out fears about recurring miscarriage and the perils of parenthood. Though I did give myself a good sobering scare last night reading a slew of bloggers reporting imminent fourth and fifth miscarriages. Why me? They cry, and I know, Why not me, too? But worrying doesn't help.

I have to shower now. I'm teaching today too.

This weekend, I'll spend some time with J~ and B~, and with my family (my brother, D~, is in town from California).

Maybe by Monday I'll have something new to say.

Happy weekend everybody.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


At J~'s house, I have a neighbor, H~, who approached me recently, having seen me walking up and down her street, to ask if I wanted to walk together sometime. I gladly agreed. We've since done so several times, for over an hour at a stretch. We now know each other's entire life stories. Or at least it feels that way.

H~ and I have one thing in common: we both got pregnant as teenagers. And we both called our babies-to-be by the same name. Only, I had an abortion, and she didn't. She now has a seven-year-old daughter (mine would have been eighteen) and a three-year-old son. She's happily married to the guy who she once described as a one night stand.

I wonder what's motivating me to write about this. It's not that I feel I'm getting a glimpse into the life I might've had; H~'s life is very different than mine ever could've been. But the questions she asks me (like, did I ever think of my miscarriages as punishment for my abortion) are probably the same questions I would've asked (or been afraid to ask) had I been in her shoes.

What H~ offers me is an opportunity to reflect, to see how far I've come. It wasn't that long ago that I did feel like I was living the consequence of a big mistake. I told H~ as much, and also that now, I see things differently. "I had a very tough choice to make back then. I made the best decision I could at the time. Both roads would have been hard, but I don't see that as punishment anymore. I'm happy with my life now. I'm glad to have the memories and experiences I've had. There are definitely things I regret, and things that make me sad. But we all have that."

It's great to have a chance to say this kind of thing out loud to someone, especially someone nodding, someone getting it, in spite of a life guided by a very different set of beliefs.

Plus, it was also nice to have someone to confess to, when the feeling welled up in me on our walk yesterday morning: I'm getting more and more excited about moving in with J~ fulltime. Come fall, barring any mishaps or missteps, that's exactly what I'm going to do.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Meltdown Weekend

First of all, there was A~, stopping by my apartment on Friday, chipper and smiling, to collect one more box, write one more check, and to go over the few remaining details of our divorce. "I can't do this," I told him, breaking into tears just a few minutes after his arrival. "I can't have a chatty, superficial friendship with you. It's painful for me that the same person who was my husband a few months ago is now the one saying, a week after the fact, 'So how did the surgery go?'"

He sat awkwardly while I cried.

"You didn't plan this, did you?" he asked, meaning, had I planned to cry.

This is not a new question with us. Early in our relationship, I would break down emotionally during intimate moments so frequently that he thought I only appeared to be interested in sex because I wanted his attention for an emotional release. I didn't know why it was happening, didn't want it to be happening. But it happened, and if I tried to ignore the feelings, I'd panic. He refused to be sexual with me unless I could promise not to have to interrupt the act. "Maybe we should work on our friendship," I said then. We abstained for nine months.

I sighed, and assured him that I had not planned these tears either. "I can't tell if you're just sitting through this to get your stuff, or if you actually care and want to be there for me until I get to the point where I could actually be friends with you."

"Well," he answered, "Do you think that if I did sit through it, you would actually get to that point?"

I laughed, which came out more like a splutter. And shook my head, at a loss for words.

There was a time when I would have explained to him that I used the expression "sit through it" sarcastically, derisively. I would've defined derisively. That he just didn't get it would've mattered less than the fact that he was clearly trying, doing his best.

But I was the one who didn't get it, because I thought that doing his best was the same thing as caring. Since his best these days involves causing me great pain and only a conditional willingness to "sit through" my expression of it, I realize that he simply doesn't know how to care, never really did. The tears were still coming.

"Would it help if I sat closer to you?" he asked.

"No!" I laughed. I had taught him this - getting closer used to help. "Thank you," I added, because I recognized that he was, as always, doing his best.

That evening, while J~ drove home from work, reporting rain so torrential, people were pulling over to wait it out, I was still leaking tears.

Saturday found me lying on my living room floor, on the phone with J~ again, crying some more. It was raining, and my period had begun. I don't care how poor the timing would have been for me to be pregnant this month, or how unlikely, or how encouraged I am to be having a very normal, 28-day cycle, it still makes me sad whenever this time of the month rolls around.

I drove to J~'s through a series of torrential downpours, in the grips of monster menstrual cramps. I arrived to find B~, having graduated sixth grade and finished elementary school just the day before, acting blue and antisocial. J~, feeling the weight of his son's struggle, and also, keenly, the fact of their family unit's dissolution, reported a heavy heart of his own. It wasn't until we were in the basement on Sunday, sitting on a couch destined for the Salvation Army, that his tears finally came.

In the afternoon, we took B~ to a friend's house for an overnight visit, and ourselves to a hardware store to buy spackle and other painting supplies. Back at the house, we abandoned speculative plans for housework or the gym in favor of breaking in our new, very fluffy and spacious couch with a make-out session and a nap. We woke to find the rain had not let up, but the sadness had.

It's day three of my period. My cramps have subsided. J~ is at work, B~ is still with his friend. The rain, which until moments ago was still coming down, appears to be over, at least for now. In fact, the sun is breaking through as I write.

Meltdown Weekend is officially over.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Home Alone

After a long hiatus at J~'s, I've returned to the scene of the crime (my apartment, with all it's wilting plants and moldy dishes in the sink) to catch up with course planning, to clean and breathe and sleep that glorious middle-of-the-bed sleep one can only achieve at home, alone.

Besides all that, I'm bracing myself for a final meeting with A~ (today at 1 pm). He'll be picking up his socket wrenches, random socks and other sundries, copying a few cassettes, and making sure there's nothing else we forgot was his. He'll also write me a check to cover my dental surgery, since the only reason I didn't have it done while we were together was pregnancy. (Knock wood again for those miscarriages.)

Speaking of pregnant, no I'm not, though my period is due any minute. I've told J~ that we'll be using condoms this month, as my move-in date is on the ropes. I love him as much as ever, but I'm starting to stand a little stronger on my own two feet, and I'm not ready yet to give up my independence, my apartment, my occasional glorious middle-of-the-bed sleep. And frankly, as long as it feels like such a relief to come "home" to my apartment, I'm not giving it up. I'll continue to cart things to his place, to make improvements and carve out space for myself there. The move-in together plan is by no means derailed. We're on track. It's a good track. But why rush it?

My ambiguous biological clock is whispering urgently into my ear, "Me! I'm the reason!"

I hear you, clock. I have by no means forgotten you. But you're not everything.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Passing Storm

Yesterday morning, after weeks of angst over which of my many not-very-inspiring priorities should be at the top of the list, I found myself sweeping aside my boring and tedious plans for the day. After filing some papers that had been lingering on my desk at J~'s house, answering some long unanswered emails, I ate a leisurely breakfast. And then, instead of gathering myself out the door and onto the long road home to run a million little very important errands, I found myself picking just a little bit more wallpaper off the downstairs bathroom, lifting just a tiny corner from the hallway, a tad here and there in the kitchen, and then stripping the entire kitchen, right down to the sheetrock. By the time I finished and had the room put together again, it was six-thirty in the evening. I felt great, though a little stiff around the knees.

J~ arrived home from work and we looked at paint chips. "I'm having a moment," he said, and his eyes got misty contemplating all I had done, how incredible his house is going to look, and just how invested I have become in it, and, most of all, in him.

He ate some bread and almond butter before heading out again, to catch up with his son at baseball practice. I relaxed on the couch for a few minutes, ate an orange and a piece of bread with hummus, and set off driving to the community center. My plans for a swim were foiled by a little thunder storm: community center policy is to close the pool. So I took a hot shower instead, and a long walk around and around the nearby high school track, while the storm passed overhead.

It felt great to be out in the evening air, watching the last orange and gold flame of daylight on the horizon, sky full of dusky storm clouds in every shade of moldering purple, flickering with lightning. I thought about a children's story I want to write that involves this kind of sky. I thought about how nice it felt to stretch my legs. I thought about J~, who had only just allowed me to go at this home improvement project in my haphazard, energetic way, rather than holding me to his careful, one-room-at-a-time approach, beginning with the smallest, and least interesting room, the tiny downstairs bath.

I don't want to move into his house before the place feels like home, and all my work: cleaning out his basement, gardening, combing craigslist for second-hand furniture, and now painting, are to move us in that direction. Supposedly we would get it in shape by the end of August, but I'd begun to doubt we could pull it off. I'm the one with time and energy for the project, but recently, I've hit a block. I simply wasn't enjoying it anymore, which took the wind out of my sails, and got me wondering if maybe I should be putting my energy elsewhere. "It's not happening fast enough," I had told J~, to no effect except to jack up the stress. And the pushiness felt wrong.

Still, I couldn't help but wonder if his reticence was larger than a need for order. Could it be that he wasn't ready to accept that the family life these walls had housed for so long was over and gone? Who was I to force that on him? But would he ever be ready if I didn't? Okay, okay, I thought, so maybe I don't move in until October. Possibly even November. Maybe, and I have to allow this, though it feels extreme, maybe I don't move in ever.

Once I faced that scariest of possibilities, owned it, realized it's better than moving in too soon, I was able to take the pressure off J~, and he, in turn, took the restrictions off me. "I just wish I had more time to be helping," he said, "But if you're into doing it, I think you should go for it!"

Apparently, that's all I needed to hear, judging by my weary body last night and the naked kitchen walls, just begging to be taped off and spackled today.

After several laps around the track last night, I flopped down on a big red high-jump mat. Something had changed. I felt happier than I have in weeks. What is it? I wondered.

And then I knew.

What's changed is this: I know it now. I'll be okay. Not because of J~, not because of anything he does or says, or whether or not we have children. I'll be okay because I'm happy right now. I'm happy now because I am following my own bliss. And I'm going to continue to be happy because I know how to do just that. There will always be fears and pressures and things I can't control. But when I stop looking too far ahead, clinging to a particular outcome, when I really attend to right now, happiness is not an elusive thing.

Life demands it, life encourages it. It's up to us to embrace it.

Monday, June 19, 2006


Anticipation can be exquisite torture. In sex, it's fun, it builds the energy. For kids looking forward to birthdays and holidays, it's much the same thing: an expectation of great pleasure around the bend, mixed with just enough doubt and uncertainty to keep it interesting.

I can't say the same for dental surgery. I've been dreading this experience ever since I was told, eight months ago, that it would likely be something I'd need. Torture? Yes. Exquisite? No way.

On the bright side, as it sometimes happens, anticipation is often more brutal than the actual experience.

My tenure in the dentist's chair wasn't exactly a relaxing spa treatment, but it was bearable. And interesting, as I was able to surreptitiously watch a great deal of the procedure in the reflective surface of the lamp over my head. Gory, but not so scary to have a guy poking around inside my mouth with needles and a knife when I could see exactly what he was doing with them.

Afterwards, thanks to Novocain, my mouth felt five times bigger than normal, and numb. The doc strongly encouraged me to fill my prescriptions for Motrin and Vicodin and begin taking them immediately. "You're going to be very uncomfortable," he warned. I took the Motrin he proffered before leaving the office, and dutifully filled the prescriptions (actually J~ did). But I couldn't bring myself to down narcotics without first experiencing some need for them.

It's three days post-surgery now, and still, I haven't experienced any real pain. I mean, this is boo boo territory, band-aid pain, laughable! Nothing worthy of a narcotic haze, nothing, even, compared to the occasionally fierce grip of menstrual cramps! I did take two more Motrins the first night, but even that seemed frivolous.

So, now that I have that much-anticipated event under my belt, it's time to move on to other things: teaching design this summer. Divorcing A~ in July. Painting J~'s kitchen. Moving in. Taking a brand new stab at baby-making, perhaps.

And to think, when I was first told I would need this surgery, I was already pregnant, happily married and on my way to becoming a parent, or so I thought.

Some things just can't be anticipated.

Friday, June 16, 2006


That's what today's about: dental surgery. (See May 14th's entry, Babies or Teeth) My appointment is at 2:30. In the meantime, J~ and I will go to the gym, then to the grocery store to buy soft foods: bananas, avocados, carrot juice, yogurt, tofu, spinach for steaming, oatmeal...

Wish me luck. I'll report soon as I'm up and about again.