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Pickle Me This

November 26, 2015

Be. Sick.

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I don’t think I knew the definition of giving in. Okay, now I really give in, getting in bed and staying in bed and someone else has to take the children to school, and never mind that I can’t even read, I can’t write, I can pretty much just take staring at the ceiling. This morning I laid in bed and experienced the bedsheets becoming drenched with my sweat. When I came home from the doctor, I was freezing and got tucked into bed whilst wearing a toque. The doctor says that I have is not the flu, and at least it’s not pneumonia or bronchitis, but instead a virus that will go in about 10 days from its start. Which is a while from now. Sometimes I feel better, but I mustn’t use this as an excuse to suppose I am better. I have to continue to stay in bed. And in a way, it’s a bit like pregnancy—everything is interesting. All the sweat, and shivers—new bodily functions—and I’ve become gaggingly sensitive to scents. But it’s terrible, which one is not really allowed to complain about because it’s temporary—there are people with worse lots. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but not tomorrow or the next day. Patience and faith. I need to relax. I need to be wait and be. Sick. Okay.

I tweeted this post yesterday, from the blogger Pip Lincolne: “Ten Things I Sort of Like About Being Sick.” I think some people thought I’d written it. I most definitely hadn’t, but I’d starting to think I could. Or something like it. So I will put my mind to it. Will proceed at a snail’s pace, of course,

November 24, 2015

I give in

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Late Saturday night, illness arrived, packing a wallop. I was feverish, sore and achey, and my skin hurt. I felt better on Sunday, and put in a good show at the Draft Reading Series 10th Anniversary Celebration, reading from Mitzi Bytes for the first time and participating on a panel. But by the time we were home, I was sick again. So totally exhausted, and yet unable to sleep either, because my brain was totally loopy and not settled. Yesterday, I was too unwell to take the children to school. I was determined to fetch Iris at noon, which I did, but I was a terrible mess—hunched over because my stomach hurt, only able to take slow stilted steps. She ate Corn Pops for lunch out of a plastic cup.  I had a nap when she did though, and woke up finally feeling better, and for the first time, it seemed like not cancelling my class that evening was not a terrible mistake. I was even able to finish Stuart’s birthday cake, fetch Harriet from school, taught my class respectably enough (albeit in jogging pants), and bought NyQuil on the way home. So that last night I finally slept, but I awoke this morning still feeling terrible, and as it seems I’m unable to outrun this cold-fluey ailment of mine (and I don’t have to make a presentation in front of a group of people today—thank goodness), I’ve decided to submit and spend the day in bed. The rarest luxury for a mother, I realize. Crossing my fingers that rest brings recovery. Being sick is terrible.

May 18, 2015

Night and Day

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We are going through a difficult period. I like framing it this way because it suggests an ending, as opposed to, We are going through a difficult eternity. “It’s just a phase,” we keep saying. “Things will get better,” but we’re beginning to sound less sure of this. It has been so long. Nearly two years since I’ve had unbroken night’s sleep. And since we came back from England, things have been awful. Iris moved downstairs into Harriet’s room to sleep, but her nighttime wake-ups have continued, plus it’s started taking her sometimes up to an hour to fall asleep, she requires us lying down beside her to do so, and then she gets up again at 11, at 1. She won’t settle unless she’s in bed with us, which would be okay (and I’m certainly not going to fight a screaming nearly-two-year-old in the middle of the night) except that then she flops and kicks and pinches my upper arms. It is unpleasant. And last night we had a babysitter booked so we could go out to a movie, but Iris refused to go to sleep. Or she would be asleep until we dared to rise and leave the room, and then her eyes would snap open and there we’d be again. Eventually, I gave the babysitter $20 and told her to go home, because we’d missed the movie. And it seems like the baby is holding us hostage, when I dare to frame the whole thing like a power struggle (which I shouldn’t do—it only makes unpleasant realities worse). We can’t go out together to anything that starts before 9pm, because no one else but Stuart and I has the patience to put Iris to bed, and now that she’s only staying asleep for 2hrs after that (if she goes to sleep at all), the world seems to have shrunk to the size of an acorn. I know that there are far worse problems to have than this one, but perspective can be hard to come by when one is having melodramatic thoughts about being subject to tyranny. Five years ago, I wrote a blog post about baby sleep books called The Trajectory of a Downward Spiral, but the trajectory of this plot is more like a head smashing into a wall. Repeatedly.

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IMG_20150516_124948But. We have had the most wonderful weekend. A weekend whose wonderfulness is currently under threat as I spend this holiday Monday morose and bereft at the end of Mad Men. The children watched Annie and ate goldfish crackers in Harriet’s room while Stuart and I watched the final episode this morning. It was so absolutely perfect. Overwhelmingly good. I feel about this show like I’ve been immersed in the narrative for six years, swimming around inside it and examining from all angles. I can’t believe it’s over, but then it isn’t really. We rewatched an episode from Season 1 on Saturday night, and it occurred to me that I’ll never really be done with it. But still, I’m sad there is no more to look forward to. So many of my feelings were invested in these characters. It all mattered a lot to me.

IMG_20150516_194237On Saturday, we celebrated summer things with a trip to the Wychwood Barns Farmers’ Market and ate delicious food, and delighted in the fact that our children are old enough to play unattended (in mud puddles, no less) while we sit on a park bench. We also delighted in that our children were so thrilled to take the bus to the market, but were also cool with walking home. So many of my plans for this summer are inspired by Dan Rubinstein’s book, Born to Walk, and I appreciate that Harriet is big enough to be venturing further afield on foot, to be discovering her pedestrian legs without (too much) complaining. But there are also wheels, and so after Iris’s nap, she went on a bike-ride. We’re going to shed the training wheels this summer, we’ve resolved, but this is just one more thing we’re not sure about how to teach her to do—along with shoelace tying. After that, we did our planting, mostly flowers because the squirrels thwart our efforts to grow anything more substantial. Some kale and basil, but otherwise impatiens, and suddenly our deck is beautiful again. The silver maple that shades our house and yard in magnificent bloom. There is a hammock set up underneath it.

IMG_20150517_103545Yesterday, we went on our first ravine walk of what is to be many, as we’ve declared 2015 as #SummeroftheRavines. Once again, this is a plan born of Born to Walk—to explore these wild corners of our city. We didn’t have much of a plan and climbed down into the Rosedale Valley via the path behind Castle Frank Subway Station. Unfortunately, Bayview Avenue cuts off our access to the Don Valley, which we weren’t expecting, so we had to climb back out of the ravine in order to get to where we really wanted to be, and by this point, it was nearly time to quit.

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IMG_20150517_123639But we had fun and the weather was beautiful, and once again, there are very little complaining. We’d compiled a Ravine Walk Bingo sheet, which gave our walk some incentive, as did the promise of lunch afterwards. We went to the House on Parliament and had the most delicious meal, our first patio of the season. And then back to the hammock. I’ve been reading H is for Hawk all weekend, which is not a great read for the emotionally fragile, I am realizing. But it’s really good, deep and layered, and totally weird. So intense. It is possible my whole family will be relieved when I’m finally completed it.

IMG_20150517_143321Which brings me to right now where I’ve just been delivered lunch. (“Um, if I’d known you were having lunch in bed, I might not have brought you breakfast there.”) And it’s up to me to save this day from my lugubriousness and histrionics. Iris has started being capable of having actual conversations (albeit stilted ones, usually about dogs), which is extraordinary, and clearly her brain is going wild these days. If I’m able to muster perspective, it would be that these development changes are responsible for our sleep woes. If I am able to focus less on the woe. In a few weeks she will be two. Harriet turns six next Tuesday. For our family, the next month and a bit is a season of happy birthdays and anniversaries and so so many reasons for cake. (Another? My sister is having a baby tomorrow.)

It all goes by so fast.

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February 17, 2015

It’s probably fair that I tell you about Monday

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Because you’ve had to suffer through many a post in which I tell you about my glorious weekends and fantastic holidays, it is probably fair that I tell you about Monday. We had been away for the weekend visiting my parents, and it was so cold outside that all our plans for winter adventures were abandoned and we never got more adventurous than ordering in a pizza. We arrived home on Sunday night to discover our cold water pipes were frozen. We had hot water—impossibly scalding hot—but no cold, which meant no showers, flushing toilets or drinking water. We went to bed far too late and woke up in the morning (a holiday Monday!) to the pipe problem not being miraculously fixed, which was the solution we’d been hoping for. Our next solution was to turn the thermostat up high and hope that the heated house would thaw the pipes. We should have gone out at this point, but it still seemed so impossibly cold out and we were so tired we couldn’t bother, but this only meant that the indoors became as unbearable as out. By noon, we were taking turns running outside in short sleeves and bare feet to cool off. I made a soup for lunch that nobody ate, and since it was a vegan recipe by Mayim Bialik, I should have seen that coming (although trying to be Blossom has never steered me so wrong before… only into unflattering hats. But I digress). Iris went down for her nap, and we were all miserable. Stuart and I were taking turns being horrible to each other, Harriet had cabin fever. We still had no running water, and nobody had showered. We finally went outside for a walk around the block, but it was boring, and we were all cranky. The one thing going for us is that the sauna in our house had allowed a frozen chicken to defrost in record time, if not the pipes, so we had that for dinner, and then it occurred to us as we were setting the table that beer would make everything better, and we should have started drinking hours ago—the grown-ups at least. So we made up for lost time, all said we were sorry, and sat down to a delicious roast chicken as the sun went down—the only good thing that had happened all day. This morning our landlord knocked a hole in the drywall in the basement to unfreeze the pipes behind it, we had water again—celebrations were had. And we decided not to rue February for all the trouble it had caused us so far—colds, stomach bugs, computer malfunction, froze pipes etc.—because all the trouble had come our way just two weeks into this wretched month, and there’s still another two weeks left. Fingers crossed.

January 6, 2015

Further Adventures in Accidental Cakery

cake“To me, the grounds for hope are simply that we don’t know what will happen next, and that the unlikely and the unimaginable transpire quite regularly.” —Rebecca Solnit, “Woolf’s Darkness”

Today was a day so firmly determined to shrug off its plan that all one can really do is shrug one’s shoulders…and eat dessert.

I have a babysitter on Tuesday mornings, who called last night to cancel because she was ill. Which I thought meant I’d lose some productivity today, but I didn’t know the half of it. When we woke up this morning, the furnace was broken and the temperature down to 15 degrees. With the wind-chill, today felt like -17 outside, so this was troubling news. Luckily, our landlords were on it, and I was grateful that the babysitter would not have arrived at our freezing house after all. Iris and I took Harriet to school, and then we came home to await the serviceperson’s arrival. For about 10 minutes after we came out of the -17, the house actually felt warm, but then it got cold again even though I was wearing multiple layers of clothing, tights under my pants. The only option left then was to put something in the oven.

So I decided to make a cake. But it couldn’t be just any cake. We’ve had far too much in the way of baked goods over the past month and I’d sort of vowed to take a cake break, but then what else does one put in oven’s oven? I had absolutely nothing in the way of things to stew. So cake it was, but quinoa cake, I decided, because quinoa has been sitting in my cupboard for ages. (Although it was actually in the fridge, where we store all our grains to stymy inevitable infestations of mice and moths. Harriet thinks it’s weird that some families keep cereal in the cupboard. She’s never had a krispie that wasn’t chilled. Anyway…)

Quinoa sounded healthier than ordinary chocolate cake, at least. Except that it called for 4 eggs and we have no eggs. So I made it with flax meal sub’d for the four eggs. And coconut oil for the butter (and the coconut oil had frozen!). A quinoa cake didn’t sound all that promising in the first place, and all my sorry doctoring would do it no favours. I put it in my bundt pan (and how I love my bundt pan) where it baked for nearly two hours, and refused to be cooked all the way through. Mission accomplished though: I’d heated the kitchen most of the morning. Still no furnace serviceperson yet.

We’d lost another degree when I contacted our landlord to let her know that they’d not yet arrived. She heard back from them: they HAD come in the morning but knocked at my neighbour’s door and not ours, and didn’t call when they got no answer. She spent 40 minutes on the phone with the company, who told her that the serviceperson could return to our house tonight between 8 and 11pm. Unrelentingly, she stayed on the phone, where they finally agreed to return sooner but only at 3pm, when I leave to go pick up Harriet from school. And so I was charged with finding someone else to fetch Harriet from school, which I knew was going to be trouble—Harriet lives in perpetual fear that I’m not going to pick her up because I was late once in September 2013. Finally, both my landlord AND I found (different) kind neighbours willing to fetch Harriet, which led to more back and forthing as we sorted out the surfeit of human kindness.

The serviceperson finally arrived soon after Iris had awoken from the nap she was taking upstairs with a space heater. We had to chase him down before he left again, which wasn’t aided by the fact that Iris refused to be clothed in outerwear of any kind, and so I had to carry her out wrapped in Stuart’s hoodie. And then Iris and I had to spend 30 minutes in the basement bachelor apartment (where the furnace is) which had no place to sit down except the legendary sex bed (which I know well from sound through the air vents) and I didn’t feel exactly comfortable having Iris sit on that bed, but we had no choice. It was made, at least. She watched Elmo videos on my phone and ate goldfish crackers while I stared at at the serviceperson’s sizeable bum (and thankfully, it was not a plumber’s).

I asked him if all the furnaces broke on the coldest day of the year, and he said that tomorrow was actually the coldest day of the year, so we were getting our trouble out of the way early.

And then he was finally done, and I rushed out to find Harriet (not before putting Iris in snow pants and a jacket), who was being brought home by a classmate’s mother, but I went up the wrong street and missed them and was informed by the saintly crossing guard at Bloor and Spadina that Harriet had passed by her corner about five minutes before. So I had to run back home in the -17, and finally found Harriet in front of our house. Where we had heat again and Harriet was home, and so order was all restored, but I had accomplished absolutely nothing in the entire day, except for a really weird quinoa cake, so we sat down to eat it.

It wasn’t bad. Mushy in the middle, and really really rich. “If the furnace hadn’t broken, this cake wouldn’t exist,” I thought, as Iris found a knife and actually cut herself a second piece. I gave another to Harriet too, and then they wanted thirds, but I drew the line—quinoa, yes, but it had a cup of cocoa and even more sugar— and so they both crawled under the table and proceeded to eat the crumbs. They were down there for ages, and the licked the floor completely clean. I’ve never seen them so ravenous for anything.

Stuart came home and the house was in disarray, but we were reading stories, and everything seemed to be settling down. We were having a pasta dinner that involved boiling water and squeezing a lemon, so that was good, and then I remembered that tomorrow is pizza day, which is even better—no lunch to make. And once the pasta was eaten, we finished the cake, the whole thing (save for the quarter I gave to Harriet’s classmate’s mom for bringing her home, wrapped in tinfoil).

I am beginning to think there may be an order to the universe after all, and that accidental cake is part of it, most certainly.

March 3, 2014

Reading when the world seems unsteady

outsideThat time does fly is demonstrated by the fact that once again, I am waiting for test results on my thyroid lump (as I will be six months from now, and six months after that, and if this schedule alters, it’s probably not a positive twist in the story). It is no fun waiting for test results, I am learning, no matter how routine it becomes to get needles stabbed in one’s neck. It is no fun getting needles stabbed in one’s neck either. But the very worst is waiting on test results when one is reading a novel that isn’t very good.

I was reading that not very good novel yesterday when I wasn’t waiting for test results, and while the novel wasn’t good, reading it wasn’t so bad. But once I’d had the tests and things got heightened, I started to feel resentful.

We turn to books for certain things–for entertainment, for wisdom, to pass the time. Sometimes the right book comes along and offers all the answers that infinite existential google searches might fail to turn up. But to need some such thing and find yourself instead in the hands of an author whose book is carelessly constructed, sloppy, superficial, thoughtless. I don’t have time for that. The amount of understanding I’m willing to extend as a reader shrinks to about none.

When my world seems unsteady, I don’t want to read for escape. Instead, I require literary foundations solid and deep, something sure beneath my feet.

Is it too much to want a book to capture my attention, and also save my life? Anything less is just bookish jetsam.

Anyway, if you need me, I’ll be reading the new Lorrie Moore.

January 16, 2014

The Saddest News

annex200A few years ago, I misread a headline that Book City in Bloor West Village was closing as my local Book City closing (Bloor Street in the Annex), and was devastated for a moment. The relief I felt upon realizing my mistake was absolutely epic, but I always suspected that the moment was a glimpse of things to come. I’ve been lucky to this long stay immune to the indie bookshop closure plague, but it seems that my luck is finally up with the announcement today that Book City’s flagship location would indeed be closing, and I cried and cried and cried.

Of course, one could say, the loss of a store is not a real thing. But then it is a real thing, which is the whole point of a proper bookshop. Real things are people, like Jen who phoned me yesterday afternoon to confirm my order for the collected letters of Penelope Fitzgerald. Like John, who has worked there since 1976, and everybody else who takes my special orders, rings through my giant stacks of books, rings through my customer discount without even seeing my card because they know my name. My husband went into Book City shortly after Iris’s birth, and came home with a present from Rachel. I have tweeted that I’m coming in for a particular book, and they’ll have it behind the counter for me by the time I’m at the shop. Such excellent, knowledgable, expert customer service, and all these people are going to be out of a job. I am so sad for each and every one of them.

We used to live in Little Italy, and it wasn’t until we moved nearly six years ago that I realized what I’d been missing all my life: a bookshop just around the corner. It is the ultimate destination. I do all my Christmas shopping there, and if I’ve ever given you a book for any other occasion, that’s where it’s come from. Any time Stuart and I go out on a date, we make a late-night stop in. We took Harriet trick-or-treating there on Halloween. After Harriet was born, it was the first place I ever ventured. During Harriet’s first year when I was bored and alone, I became a regular. The shop staff (Hi, Suzanne!) were some of the brightest spots in my life. Harriet wanders around the shop like she owns it, and I feel like she has grown up there. It makes me so sad that Iris won’t have that experience. I have bought so many books because someone has been smart enough to display it at the counter knowing it was precisely what I wanted/needed. So many bookish discussions at the counter. Running into bookish friends in their natural habitats. On lazy Saturdays when we have to go somewhere, it is generally where we go. I look around my library and see that most of my books have come from there. Memorable visits, like the day Harriet bought Wonder Woman. Pre-ordering Donna Tartt and Zadie Smith, and getting my mitts on those books the day they come out. When we were on austerity measures after Stuart lost his job 3 years ago, and for Mother’s Day my gift was to buy some books and it was such a pleasure. I love that whenever I’ve wanted a poetry book from a small press, I could be reasonably assured of seeing it on the shelf. I was so looking forward to The M Word being on sale there.

It has been an honour to pay full(ish–I had my customer discount after all) price for books in exchange for having an excellent independent book shop in my neighbourhood. I wish that more people could see how much we gain for such a transaction. Books cost money because they are items of value, and I think that in our society’s hunger for deals and discounts, in that we have made everything about dollar signs, we have forgotten what value is. Anyone who has let Chapters/Indigo drive out their local indies will soon be sorry when that whole enterprise shuts down and they’re left with no place to buy books at all. And then there is Amazon, who has seen fit to forfeit profit in order to ruin everybody else, but I promise you that their prices will no longer be so reasonable once they’ve finally achieved their grand monopoly. And how about conditions in their warehouses? Also, real things: Amazon does not qualify.

And I know I have been spoiled, to take for granted that I could walk around the corner and to pick up nearly any book I desired. There are those who will say I need to get with the times, who find my elitism repugnant, who find that Costco serves their book buying needs just fine, thank you very much. But those people must not know that they’re missing. These are not the people I want designing our society. People who have never known how a bookshop really can be the heart of a neighbourhood, and what a hole is left when one disappears. All this is partly sentimental, which I think is what they call it when I despair about the loss of things that make me happy, but it is also practical–where will I buy my books now? I am fortunate to have some excellent specialty bookshops in my neighbourhood still, but no place for new adult books unless I go out of my way. And I guess what I’ve always liked about my life and where we live is that I’ve never had to go out of my way to buy a book. Book-buying has always been right there on the main thoroughfare, along with Sweet Fantasies Ice Cream. In short, life has been complete. I have been so lucky. I am not sure this is a bad thing and think it should be wider-spread, not rare. Can you imagine how much better and smarter the world could be if everybody had such a place around the corner to go?

It is shameful that the Annex will no longer contain a proper bookstore–how far this storied neighbourhood has fallen. And I implore some brave soul with capital to make a new venture, please. I promise to come and spend lots of money.

See also: Jon Paul Fiorentino on the need for fixed book pricing in Canada: “FBP may seem, to some, to be counter intuitive to the free market sensibilities we have in North America, but consider this: The book marketplace is one of the only marketplaces where vendors can return merchandise to their suppliers for a full refund whenever they want. Books are clearly not typical merchandise. They are as much cultural artifacts as they are goods for sale. In fact, books represent the source of our cultural and intellectual reality. So why should they be treated with the same notion of disposability as jeans or candy bars? FBP is good for bookstores because it levels the playing field and eliminates undercutting. It’s good for independent publishers because it allows them to control their print runs, stay in competition with larger houses, and take risks on less popular but innovative and vital authors. It’s good for authors because it secures a level of remuneration with regard to the fixed net price their royalties will be paid out at, and it’s good for consumers because it diversifies the marketplace and gives them more options.”

January 11, 2014

On Seven Months

IMG_20140106_171400As it was when Harriet was  a baby, seven months has been a turning point. The baby has become vertical. She sits and eats her dinner with us in her chair. She has a sense of humour. I can put her down and she can play by herself, thereby ensuring that dinner gets made. She and Harriet are beginning to play together. We have found equilibrium as a family of four. And yet seven months is turning point in another sense, such as we’ve turned a corner and smashed into a wall. It would be more troubling if we hadn’t been precisely here before, but it’s still exhausting and frustrating. Six nights out of seven, she won’t be put down to sleep in the evenings, and then we take turns sitting on the sofa drinking wine by ourselves while the other is upstairs trying to get her to settle. Because we’ve been here before, we know enough not to turn it into a power struggle, we know that baby needs what she needs, and that “sleep habits” are indeed something a child of 18 months can indeed acquire out of the blue. I always expected that we’d end up here again, but oh, it’s not a fun place, even if you’re only visiting. (She is upstairs, screaming right now, and just spat out her soother and it sailed down the stairs.) We know we know we know, and it could be a million things–she is teething (or just evil?), and on antibiotics since this morning for cellulitis. I spent 4 hours last night at the emergency room having that cellulitis diagnosed, so you can see why I had hopes for having earned a more enjoyable way to spend my time tonight than the screamy baby relay. When I am refreshed enough to be philosophical about the whole thing, I know she is little, in need, that I love her, and these days are fleeting (and it’s the nights that are the trouble; the days themselves are fine, and I’m not even really tired because once I come to bed, she is happy enough to sleep beside me), but more often on these nights, I’m just impatient and angry. There is nothing like a baby to take one to the limits of herself. My own limits, as I learned very early in my mothering days, are closer than I’d like to admit.

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August 17, 2013

Flaws in the cloth, flies in the ointment.

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Me breastfeeding on a ferry-boat. I am proud of this.

It occurs to me that as I enter my mid-thirties, only now am I really learning how to be alive, how to be strong, to be brave. Part of this is having children (two! can you believe it?) which changes the stakes, but a large part of it is also flaws in the cloth, flies in the ointment finally starting to turn up after three decades in which things like good health and general happiness could still be taken for granted. And I wasn’t even going to write about this, for two days imagined that I wouldn’t have to, but this space is such an outlet for me. It also seems very dishonest to document the truly lovely parts of my life but leave out the sordid bits. To let you know all my stunning achievements (yesterday I breastfed standing up on a ferry boat!) but neglect to inform you that I am once again waiting on biopsy results. “Biopsy”, which was once a terrifying prophecy but has actually become an idea as banal as is the actual experience.

I returned to my thyroid doctor on Thursday for what I hoped would be my final appointment, the one where he told me to return annually for lump-checks but all would be well, but discovered that my thyroid lump has grown again. They did a biopsy, and I tried not to cry, and in doing so, forgot to ask questions properly about the state of my lump and therefore now my imagination is taking me to terrible places again. Though not so terrible–my lump is mainly cystic, which makes the change not so surprising. As it was not cancer before, it is likely to not be cancer again (though I fear believing too strongly in this until I know for sure, for fear of being absolutely gutted by reality. Also, I was only reassured that it was probably nothing by the resident doctor, and I fear she was just trying to be nice. I liked better being reassured by the doctor himself as I was before, as he is devoid of social skills and therefore would never just try to be nice. See, all this worrying takes one down twisty, twisty roads). Even if it was cancer, it is a cancer that will not change my life significantly. Though not being cancer won’t mean I get off easy either–the fact that the lump is changing suggests that I may still require a thyroidectomy. (Initially I wrote “will probably require…” but changed it, as I don’t in fact know this, or anything, and wild speculations have taken us to stupid places before, so let’s not do that again.) And while I can console myself that life will go on after this, and I could have far, far worse problems, sometimes these consolations are not quite enough and I find myself feeling quite sad, hence the need to sit down and write this post here on my blog.

This may be the last post I ever write on this computer. I turned on my computer last night, and the system had gone haywire. It’s working properly today, but I think this machine is reaching the end of its life. (Harriet is confused by our insistence on talking about computers “dying” and “being brought back to life”. It is strange but not so surprising that we accord them such essential mortal characteristics.) 4 years ago, my computer “broke down in an altogether final sense” and I lost many precious things, learning a very important lesson about backing up my files and also that computers don’t last forever (a fact I still resent: they are so expensive!). Consequently, the loss of this machine is not a big deal and I have enough money to buy a new computer, which I think I am going to do today before driving this one completely into the ground.

However clunky and unpretty, these computers suit as a kind of metaphor. (Forgive me, but my computer really is an extension of myself.) The crash 4 years ago came on my 30th birthday, a few weeks after Harriet was born. I lost everything, which was sort of how I was feeling those days, the disclocation of self that came with new motherhood. I consoled myself with the opportunity of a blank slate, stories to be written in replacement of those I had lost. And I am proud of what I’ve made in the years since. This time, however, there has been no crash. This computer I’m losing not long after the birth of Iris has all its files back-upped elsewhere. Instead of being caught unaware, I’m averting disaster. And instead of being inspired by a blank slate, I’m just inspired in general, more ready than ever to build on what I’ve created in the last four years.

I was terrified at the prospect of another new baby, that after the progress we’d made in the parent-game of having to go all the way back to the beginning. But it hasn’t been like that at all. The biggest surprise of having Iris in our lives is how clear she’s made it that I’ve actually been in a stasis the last four years, a kind of limbo as we sorted out the question of a second child, whether or not to have one. And now she is here and it’s as though we’re moving forward, finally. I suspect that I am probably done having children, and now it’s time to look outward, to focus on other things. I am enormously excited to think of what lies before me,  of the things I’m going to write on the new computer that comes into my life today. (I am also returning to the Mac life, I think, which will automatically make me a more physcially attractive human being).

And so it goes, flaws in the cloth. I’m finally learning how normal life is supposed to go. Oh, but how I do love the cloth, this life, right here in what just might be the very best summer (and believe me, I’ve known some excellent summers in my time). And I love this blog as a proper reflection of it all, the good and the bad, and I am so grateful for this space where take note of all the things that are important to me. And to those people who are reading.

February 27, 2013

The problem with optimism

The problem, of course, with my resilient and cheerful “It’s just a cyst!” response to last week’s lump discovery is that when an ultrasound suggests it’s something more suspicious than that, being optimistic just starts to seem stupid. Which is why I’ve spent many of the last 20 hours crying, imagining myself having the rarest form of thyroid cancer that has no treatment and kills in six months, and why the poor woman who made the mistake of asking how I was this morning was met with me bursting into tears. If you thought I was planning my funeral last week, it’s got nothing on what’s happened since. And baby has been kicking away like a mad-fetus, is healthy as ever, but this isn’t really consoling, actually, because I just keep thinking, “You can’t be here without me.”

And so the fact of the matter is that yesterday’s ultrasound revealed suspicious results and I am being referred to for a biopsy. I am really scared, not of a biopsy or even surgery, but of more bad news that is the opposite of what I’m expecting to hear. I am also nervous because I know that being in the third trimester of pregnancy complicates things, and that I wouldn’t be able to have surgery until after our baby comes. I keep desperately googling various combination of terms in an effort to finally stumble on the site that says, “You, Kerry, are going to be fine,” but I haven’t found that one yet. Even though I know that there is a good chance the lump is benign, and that even if it isn’t, that it can be treated, and that the survival rate for thyroid cancer is 97%, and these are the things I keep trying to remember, but it is hard to stay grounded. I have always had this weird tendency to see worry as insurance too, and fear that being optimistic will only trip things up and make everything fall apart.

I picked up Ina-May’s Guide to Breastfeeding at the library yesterday, and thought, “How on earth am I going to find time to read this book?” And then I heard from my doctor and it all seemed more and more unlikely. How does anyone ever has time for any of this? And how do you bear the waiting, the unknowing, the uncertainty (which is basically what life is, usually we can fool ourselves into thinking it’s less precarious)? What is giving me a little bit of peace though is imagining the summer, our baby here, leaves on the trees, and I do suppose the whole “not being dead” thing is going to give the post-partum days a rather glorious perspective. In the meantime, however, it is hard to just wait.

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Mitzi Bytes

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