Thursday, May 31, 2012

Talismans and Distractions

A pendant from my friend, hanging from Mom's beads

It takes a lot to get though a day in the hospital with a loved one.

And thus, even though I am, for the most part, a rational being, not terribly prone to magical thinking, I am employing a lot of talismans. And distractions.

Talismans for comfort, and to indulge that small part of me who still clings to magic. Because... why not? What could it hurt?

And distractions because I would like to retrain to my last shreds of sanity. And those dreadful few days in the ICU, sitting in the preternaturally noisy hush, watching a machine breathe for my mom? Were whatever is the polar opposite of awesome. Hence the books, magazines, snacks, telephone, and screens large and small.

The talismans? Jewelry, most of it given to me by dear friends, that I can see, touch; feel giving me strength as I sit. And wait.

First a bracelet of faceted stones from my friend Rachel who lost her wonderful parents way too soon. As their only child capable of caring for them (her brother is autistic), she knows more than any other close friend, what it means to be a caretaking daughter.

Then a wonderful necklace made up from a "Super Mom" pendant my dear Empress Alexandra gave me last year when she was my roommate at BlogHer, strung on beads that were once my mom's. Purple beads, our favorite color.

Finally another bracelet: sparkly plum-colored glass beads, with a flattened silvery bean in the middle, a perfect worry stone conveniently encircling on my wrist. This is one of sixteen nearly identical bracelets.

I gave one to each of my fellow Listen to Your Mother NYC cast members just before we began our show. It reminds me of my non-caregiver self, she who moves through the larger world and will do so again, one day soon.

May they work their magic and keep my mother (and me) safe.

Holding Mom's hand again

As for the much needed distractions: I played a lot of games on my iPhone. A million thanks to my Scramble and Words-With-Friends friends.

I brought with me about the only two books I could tolerate in this situation: Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) and Rosanne Cash's Composed; both memoirs, by the way, as that's how I roll these days. And also? I have meaningful connections to each of these authors, and somehow that made me want their words with me, let me feel like I was sitting with a friend, not a stranger, as I was reading them (or in the case of Rosanne, re-reading).

And hearing their words in THEIR voices inside my head as I read, instead of my own, also makes me feel less alone.

Jenny's book is with me because it is hysterically funny and also raw and real at the same time. And I think reading a book by someone more neurotic and over-the-top than me makes me feel calm and together in comparison. I know Jenny, have hung out with her at blog conferences (she's in that funny category of fond acquaintances who feel like close friends to me because I am privy to their innermost thoughts via reading their blogs) and have given and received numerous hugs from her.

She is a generous and compassionate woman, just the right person to sit with me by my mother's bedside. (She also gave my blog its first big boost by linking to my From Autist to Artist" post in one of her Sunday wrap-ups two years ago, and for that I am forever grateful.)

As to my connection with Rosanne, it is more tangential and tenuous, but I still feel it. Besides the fact that my sort-of-step brother (it's complicated) has toured with her band at times, and that I am friendly with a couple of friends of hers, we also met face to face once. Her book was actually released ON my 50th birthday and I chose to go to a reading/performance/signing that night. 

As someone who has gone through the illnesses and the loss of so many of her loved ones, and written about it so soulfully and eloquently, I have found much comfort in reading her book yet again this week.

And Jenny and Rosanne are both Twitter friends. Which is the perfect lead in to my final distraction, which is also so much more than a distraction, is actually a tremendous support and source of strength. And that is social media.

Through Twitter and Facebook (and this blog) I have never felt alone on this journey with my mom, not even for a moment, not even in those darkest hours when her strength was at a nadir, and I thought I might lose her.

Finally, if you're here for an actual update on Mom's actual condition: As of today, Thursday, she is much improved. My brother (her step-son) Bruce came in yesterday to lend support, and he took the evening shift, so I could pick up my kids, have a family dinner. 

Yesterday afternoon, Mom moved from ICU to a step-down unit, and, if all continues to go according to plan, will be in a regular "medicine bed" tomorrow and then on to rehab, working on walking again. Because she still has that broken hip, remember?

So there will be a lot more hospital days in her and my future. But with the right talismans and distractions  - and my wonderful community of friends and family, both physical and virtual - I will make it through.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


The view in ICU
Mom is doing better today. Much better.

(How much do I love writing that?)

She is off both the ventilator and the vasopressor drugs (that were supporting her blood pressure).

She's not out of the woods yet, but neither is she stuck in the weeds. There is a path and she's on it, even if it meanders and seems to double back at times.

There are still minefields ahead. Her equilibrium is so very delicate, thrown off by the slightest breeze. So we are going slow as they remove the supports that have been propping her up since the post-operative crash.

And yet there is danger in this, too.

The sooner she is on her feet, the better, as she is most assuredly in the "use it or lose it" years. And at the moment, still immobilized by equipment lines, strapped into a bed, she is not using much of anything.

Unless you count her middle finger, glowing bright red under the oxygen monitor's light, which she is waving under the noses of the staff who are bothering her, poking and prodding, hassling and tugging at her; tightening straps she wants loosened and set free from. And yes, I believe she knows what she is doing as she lifts that finger to them.

She can't really speak much yet, her esophagus torn up pretty badly from the ventilator tube's sojourn there. But her eyes and gestures say plenty.

When the nurse had handed me the suction tube and showed me how to stick it into the hole in the oxygen face mask, told me to encourage her to cough and suck up whatever comes out?  She forgot to warn me that what might be coughed up could resemble a lung.

Seriously, a giant gob of bright red clotty blood came spewing out and even I, who have staunched my father's bleeding wound with my bare hands, blanched and willed myself not to faint as I suctioned it all away and then gingerly hung up the now bloody tube, wondering if I would have the courage to pick it up again.

(My apologies to the squeamish among you for that.)

Thank goodness they finally ditched the mask, set her up with the old nasal cannula (after she rasped "take this fucking thing off me" enough times). And her oxygen - as far as I knew when they kicked me out for the night - was still satting at 98%. Excellent.

My mother, while sweet and tender, is also a tough old bird. I don't want to tempt the fates and say this, so please knock on some wood or spit over your left shoulder three times while you read it, but I think... she may just pull through.

It's not going to be easy. Rehab is going to be a long haul, and we HAVE to get her on her feet again. And she is not exactly compliant with exercise regimens, though she will tell you she is. Because if she does something once, she considers herself DONE with it. Even if she has been told to do it three times a day for a month.

I have seen her lie to doctors and physical therapists. She wants to be SEEN as compliant without really complying.

(OK, I might just be describing myself here, too. And my son Ethan, as well, come to think of it. Methinks a pattern is emerging. I may just have detected a lovely family trait.)

So, there is clearly much more cursing ahead.

But that's OK.


And so I'll take that ahead, whatever way it comes.

Just Write
I am linking this up with Just Write, just because.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Rollercoaster

The view from where I sit

My life since last Friday morning has been a jumble.

I am riding the rollercoaster, strapped to my mother's flagging health.

I am up, down, and all over.

I couldn't even begin to put things into a coherent sequence, present a normal timeline to you. The days whiz by, but the minutes telescope to feel like hours. Waiting is excruciating. But so are the events that puncture the boredom.

The biggest single up/down moment:

On Sunday morning, Mom's orthopedic surgeon came out to find me in the waiting room, to tell me that the operation had gone well: rod and pins in, bones fit together like tidy puzzle pieces, quickly done. He told me she was about to be extubated; that in about an hour she would be waking up, and they would send someone to bring me to her side.

The hour came and went. I didn't want to be a nudge; figured she probably was waking up slow from the anesthesia. (I know I do.)

I was being happily distracted by my friend Barbara, who had surprised me by a visit with rations (black and white cookie!) and delightful conversation.

But when she left it was nearly two hours without a word.

I walked up to the desk to ask "When can I go to my mother?" and did not like what I was overhearing as the reception clerk attempted to track her down.

"She's in recovery on another floor." was all she told me, and the unit and bed number. But when I got out of the elevator I saw that the unit had a name too: Surgical Intensive Care Unit. This did not bode well.

And when I arrived at her bedside I was shocked to see her surrounded by medical folks frantically doing... THINGS to her. Not what "successful operation" had lead me to expect.

I was shooed away to wait outside with nary an explanation. I tried hard not to flip out. Eventually I was made to understand the situation.

No one ever properly apologized for leaving me in the dark for so long. But I understood, people had been kept busy trying to save my mother's life. I couldn't be too pissed.

And so it has gone for the last 48 hours.

I am up, down, and all around.

My mother, due to her critical aortic stenosis, is such a delicately balanced machine, and they have not yet found the perfect sweet spot for her blood volume. Push too many fluids and they back up into her lungs, send her into heart failure. Remove too much of that excess fluid and she can't maintain her blood pressure.

So a ventilating machine is helping her to breathe, so she can get enough oxygen in spite of the (hopefully lessening) fluid in her lungs, and medicines are keeping her blood pressure in a normalish range. There are various other forces pulling and pushing at her including her levels of pain and sedation.

All in all, an incredibly complicated dance.

She rides it up and down throughout the day, as do I. I am sharp one moment, lost the next. I have been deeply distracted and also in need of distraction (many thanks go out to friends playing iPhone word games with me, you are keeping me sane).

This morning my brain was in another sphere while brushing my teeth. I had accidentally picked up my son's Sponge Bob toothpaste and squeezed it upon my toothbrush, didn't notice until I got a mouth full of bubble gum flavor where I was expecting mint. That grabbed my attention, in a not particularly pleasant manner. And the rest of the day followed suit.

Just as I was thinking that I'd had enough of watching her seeming sleep, that it was time to go home and leap into the waiting arms of my beloved children (who were likely gnashing their teeth and fighting over Wii games) she floated up to consciousness for a moment.

I hastened to stand by her, on the side of the good ear. She was clearly bewildered and very uncomfortable, finding the giant tube down her throat most distressing, her eyes beseeching, full of questions.

I explained as best I could, simply, succinctly since I knew I had likely only moments before I lost her again.  I like to think he heard me, understood.

And then it was time to go, to flee Westward, back into the arms of my husband and progeny.  I missed putting Jake to bed, but caught a very-happy-to-see-me Ethan awake.

And unbathed, of course.

And slightly sunburnt.

And with a big hug and kiss for me, his one and only, irreplaceable Mom.


Sunday, May 27, 2012


Whatever I was whining to myself about came to a screeching halt on Friday morning, when I got the call that my mother had taken a bad fall and was on her way to the ER. That sweeps everything stark.

What is important... what is stupid piddly shit... made instantly clear.

Children don't have this perspective yet. Jacob has been clingy, Ethan morose, petulant; they want their mom.

So do I.

Here's the update I don't want to give: 

It's touch and go right now. She is in the ICU. A machine is breathing for her. Her blood pressure is being supported by drugs. She is surrounded by machines, tubes, equipment. A thousand IVs hang around her. Lines snake themselves all over her body. Monitors beep and hum. The thrum and hiss of the ventilator sets the bass beat.

The unquiet quiet of an ICU.

I made a difficult decision on Friday to take the risk and do something (surgery) that may just be the road to killing her quickly, versus doing nothing and walking the path of certainly killing her slowly.

To not have had the surgery, to choose the "do nothing" approach would have meant a month - or two or three - on complete bed rest.  And bed rest plus an elderly person such as my mother - with cognitive/memory issues and a bum heart - usually equals an excruciating, permanent slide into the abyss.

And yet, whatever the immediate outcome, the long term is still not good. I have been losing her bit by bit for quite a number of years now, hastened much by my father's death. (Can it really have been two years and counting?)

The incline of her decline has steepened in the past few months. I really have felt like I'm watching the color fade from her spirit, before my very eyes.

And yet now that feels glacial slow compared to what has transpired in the last three days.

In one word:


The hip repair surgery went well, but...



(Like that old joke, "The operation was a success, but unfortunately the patient...")

She was not a good candidate for surgery.

Her old, huge, much used heart is tired and worn out.

The valves don't work like they should, like they used to (though one has been tricky since the beginning: she, a little girl with a heart murmur).

So even though they took a zillion extra precautions.  Were oh so careful to try to not unduly stress her heart during the surgery. It's still surgery. Things had to happen. Things her heart did not like.

The surgery went well. She could stand on that leg (if she could wake up and stand).

But her heart needs the help now.

The machines. The slow drip of the IVs.

And so she slumbers deep below the level of consciousness; sedated, kept under to avoid the unbearable discomforts her body is enduring in its struggle to remain alive.

And yet still, she is there, some small part of her. The spark of her life flickering but not guttered.

I sit by her side (until they toss me out for the night).

I cannot touch her skin; she winces, grimaces at even the gentlest caress.

So I stroke her hair, smooth it down; fan it out on the pillow, fingertips following the ripples of her silver curls out to the ends.

I whisper in her ear. Words of love. Of encouragement.

Is it cruel that I ask her to hang in there for yet one more day, that I am not willing to let go?

I will accept what comes.

She may fight and rise.

She may release, and fall.

But not yet. Please, not yet.

I want my mommy.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Down the Rabbit Hole (Again)

My Mother is in the hospital again, and this time it's serious: a broken hip.  Difficult for anyone, usually disastrous for the elderly, of which she most surely is.

And the sad and ironic thing is that I was on my way to see her anyway, yesterday. I was in a taxi, taking Jacob up his doctor's appointment when I realized a message had come in that I hadn't noticed in the hustle and bustle of my early morning.

When I registered that it was from the nurse at Carnegie, I held my breath. It is almost never good news.

A fall... found by aide... ambulance... Mt. Sinai ER.

Not how I was planning to spend the day (or the entire holiday weekend, for that matter). I had been thinking: do Mom's laundry, take her to lunch, give her a manicure. Bur ER bound we were.

I was on pins and needles throughout Jake's appointment, just itching to get. to. the. hospital. Jake was amazing though. He had heard my phone conversations, had understood my explanation that we were NOT going to be visiting Grandma in her home as planned, but instead going to the hospital to see her.

He told everyone at the doctor's office: "My Grandma is in the hospital. She doesn't feel good. We are going to see her to tell her to feel better."  (Whoever says autistic kids lack compassion can go suck it.)

And he was great in the two hours he was with me there (until my husband could come to pick him up). He kept telling my mom to "Feel better, Grandma!"

Very shortly after we arrived they wheeled her away for CT scans and X-rays. The doctor prepared me. By the rotation of her leg and the level of her pain, it was certain her hip was either broken or dislocated.

I was praying for dislocation but not feeling hopeful, and sure enough, it was as we'd feared: the top of her femur, the "ball" part of the ball and socket joint that is a hip was broken clear off the rest. She needs surgery to repair it, to place a metal rod in the bone and pins and screws to hold everything in place.


Thank goodness her sense of humor is still intact. Between that and the disinhibiting quality to the morphine that is keeping her out of severe pain, she has been terribly funny.

In the ER, as the nurses were trying to put in a catheter, and she was not quite understanding what they were doing, I heard my mother's voice calling out from behind the curtain: "Varda, why are there women in my vagina?"

When told that she needs to have surgery that involves putting the metal rod and pin in her hip, her reply was: "Then I better find a man with a magnetic penis!"

I hold on to this as I prepare to return to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning tomorrow, to send my mother off into surgery. there will be more tales to tell, but for now, I am tired. So, goodnight.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wednesday's Week in Pictures (and Words)

I've got a mixed bag for you this week: school events, family events, and random awesomeness found on the streets of New York City. Enjoy!

An independent pharmacy's nostalgic storefront display
Would you ever see this (and the typewriter at the top) in the window at a CVS? No. Support your local small businesses, people. They are the lifeblood of your communities!

Jacob said "Make me black & white!"
This week's "Streets of New York WTF" moment:

Ethan's class had a Revolutionary War Stories puppet show on Friday, the culmination of a long project in which they each researched and wrote original short plays about a historical figure from colonial & revolutionary times. Ethan's assigned person? None other than Nathan Hale.

Remember? The "I regret that I have but one life to give for my country!" guy? Yes, he was caught while spying for us, and hanged at 21. Which Ethan, of course, re-enacted with his puppet. With glee. Thanks, wonderful, creative 4th grade teacher.

But next time? Maybe pick a better role model for my kid?


We had lots of rain.

After the rain

Saturday night we had FREE tickets to the hottest new show in town:

Of course we were running late, and trying to hustle boys through Times Square on a Saturday night was, well, trying. Emerging from the subway at 50th street, Broadway was packed. Walking four abreast clearly impossible, we split into teams of two, hustled our buns, and made it to the show on time, literally sliding into our seats at 8:04 as the lights went down.

Ethan & Dan on Broadway
Peter and the Starcatcher was a great show. Wonderful acting, brilliant and creative and very playful staging. An enjoyable evening for all. (Thanks for the tickets Aunt Patty.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Dress

I'm clearing out my closets. Trying to sort the wheat from the chaff. Trying to lighten up our load, to dispossess ourselves of some of our excess possessions, the clutter that that has taken over our lives.

I could claim it's the children and all their attendant... things. I could claim it's autism, citing how long we have to hold onto toys Ethan has long outgrown, because Jake has still not yet grown into them, or is so fondly attached to and revisits from time to time the toys of a much younger child. (Thomas, anyone?)

But this would be a big fat lie.

I have always been this way, surrounded by too much stuff. Not quite ready to be featured on an episode of Hoarders, but not quite NOT either. If there were a show called "They're serious collectors and clutterers but CAN throw out paper and trash and WILL donate outgrown clothes to others who can use them" you could sign me up.

It doesn't help that we live in a small apartment, no longer have a storage space downtown, and both my husband and I have had recent parental deaths land a lifetime of memory-filled THINGS into our laps. What we release now is never coming back. There is no ancestral attic or basement for the detritus of our and their (and our grandparents') lives.

There is just one small, overstuffed apartment, that we also need to live in.

Right now I am coming to terms with the fact that I am unlikely to ever again be the size or shape that I was in my twenties and thirties. And so all the clothes in the back of my closet, the stuff that has survived twenty years of previous purges, has to go.

Even lovely favorites, filled with memories... I bought that shirt at my first Sundance Festival... I used to go clubbing in the 80s in that crushed velvet jacket... that's the sundress I wore when I met my husband on Memorial Day weekend at Fire Island, fourteen years ago...

It's too much to hang onto. 

And yet.. and yet... there's one dress I cannot part with.


The green velvet dress I wore to Thanksgiving, 2001.

My parents were in town. We were at my in-laws. And I was in a foul, foul, horrible mood. Just despondent.

You see, I had done a terrible thing that morning, had cheated and taken a home pregnancy test. Even though it was still days before it would be accurate. Even though we had been admonished, in no uncertain terms, to NOT DO THAT by the fertility clinic. We were just 23 days into our IVF cycle, a week and a day since the embryo transfer. Too. damn. soon.

But the box of pee sticks in the bathroom cabinet had sung their siren song of temptation to me that morning. I had been feeling so pregnant, surely there would be confirmation on a stick.

Really, I had been floating on the air of rising expectations for days. There had been signs and portents that yes, the IVF was successful.

And then that Thursday, Thanksgiving morning, I was just plummeted into the black pit of despair. Once more, a lone pink line on the pee-stick.

I lay on the sofa moaning and groaning, in mourning. I barely roused myself in time to shower and dress for Thanksgiving dinner across town. But I made sure to throw on a beloved dress that I always felt good in: the crushed green velvet.

That year, unlike the one just past, I was not spending Thanksgiving with my beloved cousins, but with my husband's family - who I am thoroughly fond of, but much less intimate with, so I couldn't really talk about what was going on.

I didn't even tell my husband what I'd done, as it was so against the rules and I didn't want to admit to being bad, bad, bad. Explaining my mood, I just mumbled something about having an ominous feeling, and that I was starting to think that maybe the IVF hadn't been successful.

I managed to eat my dinner and engage in some minimal, polite conversation. But then right afterward I withdrew and joined my elderly father in the living room as he was taking his traditional post-turkey sofa nap. I don't think I even got up for dessert, feeling thoroughly rotten, thinking to sleep off my funk.

So why would I possibly be nostalgic about this dress then, commemorating such a dreadful day?

Because two days later, on Saturday morning I peed on another stick and saw the most beautiful sight in the world: two pink lines, one fainter than the other but definitely, undeniably, there.

I was pregnant.

Very, in fact.

(yes, the twins)

And suddenly Thanksgiving Day was cast in a whole new light...

My mood swings, sudden despondency, near hysterics? Clearly a sign that the pregnancy hormones were starting to kick in, big time.

My need to nap after dinner? That the intense first trimester exhaustion had likewise begun.

So the dress, to me now, has magical qualities, evoking the beginning of my noticeable pregnancy. I'm keeping it. If I can wear it again someday, so much the better (green has always been a good color on me).

But until then? It's going in a box, alongside a photograph of five two-day-old embryos, a pair of tiny blue hospital bracelets with "Baby A" and "Baby B" on them. And a little white plastic stick with two pink lines on it.

What? You didn't think I could throw THAT out, did you?

read to be read at
And, for the first time in a long time, I'm linking up with Yeah, Write because I sorta kinda like this post and hope you did too. (But I'm on the Hang-out grid, not the challenge grid, because I missed being one of the first 50. Because I had to wait 'til the kids were asleep to edit and re-write. Damn my perfectionist ways!)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

SOC Sunday: Feverish

I am struggling a bit right now. I wrote a really tough post about depression yesterday, the absolutely most beautiful day of the year when I stayed inside in my PJs. But it is just too raw, and I am not ready to publish it yet. So for now, this from today: 


I lift Ethan's sweat-soaked body from my bed to carry him back to his.  Although his shirt is drenched through, his back feels cooler now. The fever's broken. Finally.

I silently wish him sweet dreams and an easy rest of the night's sleep. I start to make plans to scotch all my plans for tomorrow. I'll have a sick kid home with me to attend to, and he'll need lots of attention as well as chicken soup and saltines. I am deeply praying it's just a random 24-hour viral fever thing, and not the flu. Please. not. the. flu!

We have been, HE has been, lucky. So far in his nearly ten years on the planet he has had one flu, two strep throats, a few handfuls of colds, three maybe four stomach bugs. (Yes I *AM* knocking on wood and spitting over my left shoulder as I write this.)

We have had no stitches, no broken bones, no trips to the emergency room. And not for his brother Jacob either, and for a sensory seeking kid with autism that;s quite a miracle, I am well aware.  (Rest assured: more knocking and spitting.)

But the downside of tihs is feeling ill hits Ethan really hard, feels very abnormal to him, deeply frightening. He came to me in the bathroom this afternoon as I was FINALLY going to get to take my shower. He burst in crying "Mom, somethings wrong! My teeth are chattering and I feel hot one minute and cold the next and then both at the same time! What's wrong with me?!?"

He was genuinely perplexed and panicked, it had been that long since he'd had a spiky fever. When I went to feel him he was massively hot clear to halfway down his belly. That's between 101 and 102 in my mom guestimation book.

I calmed him down by reassuring him it was "just a fever" and started the alternating motrin & tylenol train rolling. Within an hour he was slurping ginger ale and playing a calm Wii game. But by bedtime he was pretty punk. And I was wiped out too.

And, on top of this?  Jacob was in massive meltdown mode all day because he lost TV for the WHOLE day due to some early bad behavior. Because I, like an idiot, had said - "If you do that ONE more time you will lose TV for the whole day!" - and then I had to follow through. And tihs was before Ethan got sick. We survived. But that's a whole other story for another day.

I never did get my shower.

New to SOCS?  It’s five minutes of your time and a brain dump.  Want to try it?  Here are the rules…
  • Set a timer and write for 5 minutes only.
  • Write an intro to the post if you want but don’t edit the post. No proofreading or spell-checking. This is writing in the raw.
You can do it, too!  Click on the picture link and let's hear your 5 minutes of brilliance...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Z is for Zzzzzzzzzz

Z is for Zzzzzzzzzz

Catching a few delightful zees.


Asleep at the wheel.

It's how I'm feeling these days, quite often.

A victim of insomnia; though I am also sleep's bully, keeping it from its proper place in my life quite willfully.

For, you see, it's not so much that I can't fall asleep, it's that I won't let myself go to bed. Night-owl Ethan often does not go down until 10 or 10:30. That's when my "me time" begins. And there is so very, very much to be done.

When I do manage to put myself to bed at a decent hour? A nighttime's rise up to consciousness - whether to relieve a bladder or turn from an aching hip - will no longer be a brief blip in my slumbers; will now result in extended wakefulness. If you have gotten an email from me at 3 am? Yes. This.

And then there is unfortunate circumstance: a child's middle-of-the-night projectile vomit; my mother's ER visits, always an all-night affair, occasionally even 36 hours when hospital beds are scarce.

All conspiring to rob me of my rightful slumber.

I used to be a good sleeper, once.

The sandman and I enjoyed an easy, cozy relationship.

Before kids.

Before autism.

Before ADD.

Before peri-menopause.

Before elderly parents.

Before death.

Before blogging.

Aye, there's the rub: I confess I write best at about two am. It's not just the quiet in my household, kids tucked away in their beds. Even though I live in the city that never does, in this mostly residential, very family neighborhood, even though it is, yes, Manhattan, most of the people all around me are fast asleep.

Not all, certainly not that. Somewhere in my building there is surely a teenager chatting away on Facebook, an old man raiding the refrigerator, a new mother pacing the floorboards with her restless babe.

Yet still, it is enough. There is a psychic calm all about. Cars along Riverside swoosh by sporadically. The doormen are ensconced in lobby chairs, struggling to remain alert to the rare late arrivals, no longer jauntily calling out to each other from beneath sidewalk awnings. The brainwave patterns surrounding me are buzzing in the deep deltas of sleep. 

And my words, which serve such pragmatic purposes during the day, find themselves bubbling up from deeper pools in the dark; flowing into channels that delight and surprise me, swirling eddies carrying me along to places I have only glimpsed before, maybe in dreams.

And so, when I awaken at three am, having fallen asleep bolt upright on the couch while attempting to watch a movie on TV with my husband, I don't just pop myself into bed. I sit down at the computer: prime writing time has begun.

There's a reason I'm sleepwalking through my days sometimes, and its name is blog.

And I like this writing life so much, yes I do, that I'm willing to sacrifice a standard good night's sleep to it; catch my z's when and where I can.

And, please note:

Z is also for something really important to me... Zygotes.

Those are the earliest bits of us, what happens when a pair of compatible gametes meet cute, get happy together; existing for four days only before they become blastocysts, then embryos, then fetuses. (And then, eventually, if all goes according to plan: babies.)

I have zygotes on the brain right now because, having just realized that I've never truly told the tale here, I'm busy writing out the story of my twin boys' conception. Not a terribly sexy story I'm afraid, as it was a highly technical affair involving petri dishes, not mood lighting. Yes, IVF. Stay tuned...

This post has been inspired by and linked up to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday writing meme, the letter of the week most obviously "Z." And yes, after this she's going to start back at the beginning with "A" again. Join in!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Things that made me smile

I was out and about the city today; places to go, people to meet, errands to run. And my handy little iPhone camera came with me. 

I just shot the things that caught my eye. 

I like things that look like other things - a shrub that takes on the shape of a mighty tree, a sidewalk crack that becomes a textured abstract painting. Familiar objects whose graphic qualities please me.

And people too, with heads or without.

Woman on the M79 bus
completely random stranger in motion
And of course, some flowers. There will always be urban flowers.

Photographing like this makes me think of my father. Until the very end, he was never out and about without his camera, viewing the world with the eye of an artist.

I take you with me, Dad.

You would have really liked that sidewalk crack.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

This is Not a Post

This is not a real blog post.

I just don't have time for that right now. Neither the time nor the energy. So I'll just sketch things out. You can fill in the details.

I thought things would slow down after Listen to Your Mother had come and gone.

Not hardly. There's always something. All the little things I didn't do in those last frantic weeks of preparing for the show? Still needed to be done.

Mountains of laundry. Sinkloads of dishes. A living room that looks like a toystore threw up in it. The house elves did not come in and magically take care of all that shit.

And in the midst of it all I decamped for an overnight to Philly to hear THEIR own LTYM.  A one day road trip with my producing partner Holly, the Culture Mom, which couldn't have been more fun.

The wonderful LTYM - Philly Producing Team
But I returned to the same workload I had left, and then some. (Dad in charge. Need I say more?)

And then there was Mothers Day. More work. A brunch in New Jersey with the in-laws.

If this were a post I would tell you how tough it was this year on Mothers Day, being with my mother, who is a mere ghost of herself. She has forgotten who nearly everybody is. She could barely walk, gets less steady on her feet each passing week, yet won't use the rollator walker - of which she has THREE - out of stubborn pride.

Mothers Day
It makes me really sad to be around her. I want my Mommy back. Even the befuddled, filter-less mom I've been taking care of these past few years was still feisty, funny. I'll take her.

This subdued old woman who just sits and vaguely smiles with nothing to say and no idea where she is or why she's there? Just breaks my heart.

She appreciated the sunshine and greenery on the backyard deck. She smiled at our niece's toddler twin boys who so remind us all of toddler Ethan & Jake, simultaneously so long ago and just a blink away.

But she no longer plays with my boys. Doesn't know how to talk to them, their interests incomprehensible to her now limited comprehension.

If this were a post I would tell you about how Jacob has developed a whole new panoply of annoying habits this spring, including a frequent maniacal loud giggling laugh that we call "the silly laugh" because calling it "the maniacal creepy laugh" is just too... creepy.

I would tell you how the medicine that was helping Ethan to focus all year started to make him paranoid and angry so we had to stop it, and now we're back to square one.

I would tell you.

But I'm too tired to write that post. You'll have to fill in the blanks. I'm sure you can.

Now, sit down here and take a little nap with me. There, that's nice. And when we wake up we can fold some laundry. And I will tell you...

Just Write
I am linking this up with Just Write, because this was ... just written.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Talking about Screen-love at Hopeful Parents

It's not the 10th of the month, it's the 12th. But I'm over at Hopeful Parents today. I may be a day late (well, 2 days actually), but at least I'm not a dollar short.

My post: No screen-free for me

All about how we were so NOT participating in screen free week over here. But I am working to accept that, for TV is what taught Jake to talk and for that I will always be grateful.

It has been some week - my Listen to Your Mother Show happening last Sunday, My NYT Motherlode Blog post appearing last Monday, and then an overnight road trip yesterday to see Philly's LTYM sister show. (I never go away overnight!) Whew.

Hopefully things will settle down a bit soon. Meanwhile, go read me over there today. OK? Thanks.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Shaggy No More

Remember this?
Ethan, April 2012

Gone. Now this:

Ethan, May 2012, freshly shorn
And while in the past I have always found Ethan to look older after his haircuts, this weekend he somehow looked younger. I think it's because his hair had gone so far into the shaggy side, he ended up looking teenagerish in his dishevelment, especially as it hooded his eyes somewhat. Remember the shot from earlier this spring, wherein he looked nothing so much as a young Bob Dylan? No? Here:


Jake didn't quite NEED a cut the way Ethan did, but he prefers his hair short, so he got one, too.

My long haired boys on the way to Cozy's Cuts

Ethan insisted on getting into every photo I tried to take of Jake

Jake, happy with his short 'do. Yes, that's a zit on his forehead. Yikes!

Last photo before the shears

Why, yes, Ethan does like to mug for the camera

Trippin' down the New York City streets, post-cut
Later, reading a VERY good book...

... and out cold.
With the cat curled up at his feet.
That looks good, think I'll go take a nap, too.

Oh, wait, I have homework to supervise, kids to bathe, read with and put to bed. It was a nice thought though.