Sunday, December 9, 2012


There's not much in the category of vivid memory when it comes to the nearly eight weeks I spent trying to get through the worst of the Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG).  My eyes were mostly closed and  the rooms were kept dark so even if I were inclined to open them, few details would have shown themselves.  Life was mostly tactile, the soft curves of a cross always held in my palm, the nubby cool of a washcloth on my forehead, the pinch and burn of various needles here and there.

There were two needled ports in me at all times and then various stickings along the way.  One of the needled ports needed to be moved regularly to avoid edemas, but the edema came anyway, soft potatoes underneath the skin of my leg, up and down the sides and tops of my thighs.  I had to avoid rolling on them.  That needle brought the slow drip of the Zofran pump into my body.  It was less a needle and more of a safety pin and was just as much fun to have poked into you.  It was Michael's job to continuously do the resticking every twelve hours.

The Zofran pump is supposed to help.  People would tell my mother who would tell me that the Zofran pump made all the difference for the women they knew, their daughters-in-law, their friends of a friend.  But the Zofran had zero impact on me.  Every time the home healthcare woman came to check on me, she'd up it and up it and up it.  They'd call and check on me and they'd up it again from afar and they'd tell me stories about how they had been sick this way, too, and they forced themselves to eat a hamburger rather than have the naso-jejunal tube put up their noses.  I didn't have a feeding tube yet.  I was only a few weeks into the nightmare - not that I understood the passage of time.  Not that I knew a difference between night and the darkness of day.

When I did get the feeding tube, that was my other port.  It was TPN, Total Parenteral Nutrition, which sounds a lot like what it is.  Your entire dietary needs come from a bag of thick, ivory-colored slop, through a portal in your arm, and tunneled into a vein that brings blood into the heart.  That port required actually surgery, the first of my life, though really, it's probably more appropriately called a procedure.  Either way, there were masks and quiet in the room, and before that, a promise from one of the nurses that it would be better after that. 

It wasn't better after that, except I could try to find comfort in the fact that I wasn't dying from malnutrition and neither was my baby.  

The last of the needles, they were the worst.  Every six hours, I had to be pricked with a tiny, tiny, baby needle to check the toxicity of my blood.  It was nothing.  It's what every diabetic does all the time.  

The irony is I used to have a weird pride in having my blood drawn as every phlebotomist who has ever come across my veins has remarked on them with wonder and admiration.  They're big, plump, lovely veins - a runner's veins, coursing with blood and health and eternity.  But the longer I was sick, the smaller and deeper my veins became.  They withdrew, blaming me for the lack of water, for the lack of movement, the lack of everything wholesome.

And the prickers stopped admiring them, instead cursing my veins, calling other nurses in to try to find a point of entry, bringing in that one nurse from another floor who was always so good at pricking patients.  She was a large, red-headed nurse and I feared her even though she was nice.  I just knew she wasn't going to let me get away with not getting pricked.  I begged and pleaded, but she took a cotton ball and "shined" me up, then pricked and pricked, finally using a butterfly needle in a small vein on the top of my hand.  

I hated those butterfly needles the most because like everything else, they promised they wouldn't hurt as much.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The unwritable things

For the past three years, I have been meaning to write about my illness (Hyperemesis Gravidarum) while pregnant with Atticus.  I have had every intention of doing it.  I've spent the time in my head that writers often do before putting something on paper, but it's never gone any further than that.  I've waited for the phrasing that usually starts it all for me, or some other moment of entry - a scene, a bit of dialogue, a comment made in passing.

But none of those things have come.  Now, of course, Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) is in the public eye as reports of the Duchess of Cambridge being hospitalized for it has hit the news.  Of course, I feel heavy for the suffering she is going through.  That's my first feeling, but after that, my feelings are so complicated and messy, I cannot find words for them.

This is not a great place for a writer to rest.  It's certainly not a starting point.  I don't mean to suggest that writing from a place of questioning is problematic.  Quite the opposite in fact; for me, it's absolutely necessary.  But a place of questioning and a place of confusion are very, very far apart.

But I'm going to try to start anyway.  My experience as a writer tells me the results will be ugly and painful to edit, but since Hyperemisis Gravidarium is both ugly and painful, the most I'll be guilty of is  mimetic fallacy.

Let's start with how we call it.  Is it a disease?  An affliction?  A condition?  A disorder?  An allergy?  An illness?  I've heard HG called all these things.  I've also heard it described as a severe form of morning sickness, a description I find so underwhelming as to be insulting.

I'm not unsympathetic to women suffering from morning sickness and its varieties and severities are so infinite as to require sympathy, but it should not be in the same category.

The best way I have to explain HG is this: think of a moment when you are wrapped around the toilet either from a virulent flu or from a night of virulent drinking.  You've vomited and vomited and vomited and vomited.  You don't even have any bile left and you wish you did because there would at least be some release.  You're cold, you're sweating, your body is exhausted from the tensing and energy all that puking takes.  Your mouth is a graveyard.

In that moment, you really, sincerely, and truly would rather be dead than alive.  It's not just something you say.  You are quite certain you cannot live through one more second of the nausea and you pray for God to make you pass out.

That's HG, 24/7, for weeks and weeks and months on end with absolutely no grace in its severity.  There are no moments of release from the unrelenting nausea.  You do not sleep through it.  You do not pass out.  You just try to keep breathing, which is increasingly difficult as the act of expanding your rib cage aggravates the nausea.


Atticus just walked in.  He is sick with a bad cold and his patheticness makes him absolutely irresistible.  Mothers out there, you get this, right?  I don't want my kid to be sick, but man, is he ever huggable when he is.  So I'm off to be with him, putting the HG behind me as the ultimate grace of the experience, Atticus, needs me.

More on HG and how to call it soon.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Yea, though I walk through the valley of darkness

Every day here in Southwest Pennsylvania presents the same question of how to fill our time effectively, creatively, meaningfully, and as time goes on, I am finding real answers to that question increasingly difficult.  In previous blog postings, I have tried to explain what it is about this place that I  find so challenging.  And then on a playground at Atticus's school, I had a conversation that clarified everything for me.

Three children other than Atticus were running around in that easy ramble of happiness children have that I so covet.  The daycare woman, Miss Linda, was in charge of them and we were happy to see her as we like her very much.  Miss Linda is one of those magical people with children who blows bubbles a lot and who plays a masterful game of peekaboo.

As she and I pushed Atticus and another child on the swings, Miss Linda commented how pretty Cal U's (California University of Pennsylvania) campus was and I readily agreed as it is really quite something.  All the buildings are quite new with red brick, a large sycamore shades the lawn near the center of campus, and there are charming walkways festooned with hanging lamps and greenery all around.

"But why is California so ugly?" I asked her.  I've held this question in for the last several months but for some reason, I knew I could ask without fear of offending her.  "It's just so ugly.  Hardly anyone keeps their house up and everything's so rundown."

Miss Linda smiled.  "Haven't you noticed this whole valley is depressed?  It's in a serious state of spiritual, emotional, and financial depression and most the people down here don't even know it."

I almost leapt in the air from the delight of recognition.  This was exactly what I'd been trying to articulate since I got here.  This was 100% it.  This place is seriously spiritually depressed.

Miss Linda talked about how religion is bubbling up all over the valley, but to her mind, not the real kind, but a false representation of it that keeps people down rather than buoying them.  And she talked about the Marcellus Shale and the election and other things as we ran around after Atticus and his little friends.

I told Miss Linda I didn't want to stay here.  I didn't want Atticus to grow up in this place

"Well, what will you do if this is where God wants you?" she asked.  "What if it's your job to do something about it?"

I hated that question, but it didn't feel totally unfamiliar.

My answer was I would make it work and I will, but I can already feel myself becoming part of the gray around here.  I won't give up.  I'm looking for color.  I'm trying to wear the color and bring the happy, but hot damn, it's hard.  Thank God for Atticus who is the opposite of gray.  I couldn't manage here in the valley of darkness without him.  And there are people like Miss Linda, and there are great neighbors ... they all seem to be holding out.  But this week, seriously, it's a struggle to hold out against it.

In response to the question of finding meaning in our day today, I put up our Christmas tree.  It is bright and cheerful and happy and it took several hours that might otherwise have been spent sitting in a corner on the floor.  Our little Christmas tree is lit up with multi-colored lights and and decorated with bright teal and white ornaments.  It looks great.  I just think we might need more mega-wattage to shine throughout the whole valley.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Small Town Library Saga

Post two from the bustling city center of California, Pennsylvania:

Here's an unreasonable truth - I've grown to like it here.  I don't know when it happened, but on more than one occasion of late, I have noticed an odd feeling that can only be described as contentment.  I'd like to give all the glory to California, PA, but that's not entirely justified.

The real reason for the contentedness has to do with Atticus's new age.  A three-year-old is an amazing thing.  Truly scrumptious.  Every day, his cognizance widens so that I find myself fielding questions as varied as What do you do all day and Why does it hurt sometimes to poop?  These are both really wonderful, thoughtful questions.

This is just to say that Atticus is increasingly good company and not the work that he's been for the first three years of his life.  I loved him tremendously for those first three years, but I think I'll enjoy the next many years even more.

So back to California, PA.  I've mentioned the proximity to everything here because this town is very, very small.  I promised a post about the adorable little library here so here it is.

The California Public Library is a renovated train station about yay big (insert mental image of me holding my hands about shoulder width apart).  Half of the library is the kid's section which includes little tables and chairs, puzzles, coloring books, games, and a glorious doll called Gus Gutz.  More on Gus in a minute.

In my first few weeks here in Little Cal, I didn't know what to do with myself or my little man.  We missed our space, our yard, and our friends in Tennessee desperately.  So we went to the California Public Library pretty much every day for about two weeks.  It was air-conditioned with magazines and loads of little distractions for Atticus.  He read every book about trucks the library had in the first two visits and has since continuously borrowed the same four books every week since we have lived here.

Then something strange happened.  My mom and Aunt were in town this past weekend and I wanted to show them our adorable little library that gave us such respite as newcomers in town.  We walked in and Atticus ran to the children's area and immediately started playing with all his playthings there including Gus Gutz.  Now, just so you know, the Gus Gutz part here is just a sidebar.  It is not the something strange that happened.

Gus Gutz is a doll about two feet long with a gaping mouth opening almost as big as his head.  Atticus can shove his hand down Gus's gaping mouth and pull out all of Gus's innards: kidneys, lungs, gall bladder, heart, stomach, intestines, etc ... I just bring him up because, man, what a cool doll.  It grossed out my Aunt but a lot of things gross her out so let's not rush to judgement on Gus Gutz in general.  He's rad.

Back to the story.  As we are leaving, Atticus grabs his favorite book about firetrucks, but I did not bring my library card.  "No problem," says weird librarian guy, "Do you have fifty cents?"

"Sure," we say.  "We have fifty cents."

"Then you can get a library card," he says to my Aunt.  But then going through the process, he wants more and more information/identification which we already said we didn't have.  He's exasperated, my kid is on the floor literally pounding fists.  "Well, can you come back later with a water bill or something like that?"

"Sure," we say, but really, we all know we will not.  And here's why: I've been to this library about twenty times in the past two months.  I will bring the book and my card back in on Monday.  This is what I think is reasonable.

So we go home and start dinner and visiting and drinking and cooking and dancing and all the grand things one does when they have family in town.

Then the doorbell rings.  I run to the door with a beer in my hand and Atticus, naked since he just peed on the floor from too much excitement while dancing, is at my side.

It's the librarian.  He wants to know why we didn't come back and do I have proof of residency.

You mean other than the fact that I opened the door to the house you have on file?  I show him a cable bill, he writes down my library card number, and then says, "You never know what people are trying to do."

Um, really?  You think four adults and a three-year-old are trying to pull the biggest heist of the century on the California Public Library system by borrowing your Mighty Machines Fire Truck book?  A book we borrow all the time and have never been late in returning?

I'm still irked by weird librarian guy.  I appreciate that he takes his job seriously, but if he is serious about community and book distribution, he might have recognized me and asked me to come back on Monday or call in with my library id number.  Again, we live in a small town.  Clearly, the dude knows where to find me.

Anyway, his shenanigans have really put me off of library visits for the time being, but Lord knows I have to turn that book in on time.  Otherwise weird librarian guy might just show up at my house again.

Monday, October 15, 2012


It is crisp cold in the evenings which means it is time to commence with the fall crafts.  Here are me and young Atticus's Halloween projects from today.  (And yes, we did do the boo feet last year, but his moose-y feet can make bigger ghosts this year).

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Knowing Something in California, Pennsylvania

In my last post many moons ago, I let out a frustrated stream of consciousness regarding all the not knowing that was happening in my life.  My recently graduated husband was on the job market with his shiny PhD in hand and we did not where we would be working and living come fall.

On my doorsteps, the distinct crunch and color of fall - orange, yellow, and brown leaves.  Finally, there is a chill in the air.  It is fall and we have moved.  The not knowing has become the knowing.  

Michael accepted a one-year position with California University of Pennsylvania, a really great school in southwest Pennsylvania.  The school, the campus, the classes -- all great.  The tiny town it's in -- not as great.  If you've talked to me in the last month or so, you have heard me complain about where we are almost as virulently as I complained about not knowing where we'd be.  I recognize the wrongness of this and need to rectify it.  We got a job.  A good one.  It's time to get happy about it.

Here's what I know: I likely would not like to make California, Pennsylvania my home base.  It is very, very small.  I can easily walk its length in a ten minute span of time.  There is no grocery store and Target is very far away.  I didn't realize how much I needed Target, but apparently I do.

And yet, here's what else I know: I've got at least a year here and I've got to make it good.

Toward that end, a series of blog posts on why living in California, Pennsylvania for this year is going to be a great thing.  This first post will be a skeletal list to give initial credit where credit is due:

1.  Good neighbors: while our moving truck was still unloading, neighbors were stopping by and welcoming us.  Atticus and I are desperately social creatures.  We like having regular contact with the people who live around us so serious props to these good and lovely people.

2.  Walking distance to everything in town: the renovated train station library will get its own entry soon.  Atticus and I walk there a lot.  A lot.  Really a lot.

3.  Campus proximity: if we wanted to throw a rock at campus and we had really good throwing arms, we could.

4.  Bucolic Central: I will take pictures soon of what driving on the highway here looks like.  Think: rolling hills, red barns, grazing cows, dried fields of corn husks.

Okay.  That's all I have so far.  It's an effort to turn my frown upside down, but I'm committed to getting there and to a place of gratitude.  Above is a picture of something good that happened here.  Atticus got to run around campus and play near this Calder-esque sculpture with his cousins J Bug and Nate and his Grandpa.  That was a very good day.  More pictures of fun and grace forthcoming.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

No, we do not know where we will be this fall.

Welcome, Summer of Expectation. Welcome, summer of not knowing. Of wondering what should go in a box and what should not. Of should we keep this or give it to a smaller boy? Welcome, summer of it never feels like time off. Welcome, summer of malcontent and uncertain surrender of that feeling like you might have the slightest semblance of control. Welcome, sullen job market, fickle and unfeeling. Welcome, self-consuming questions aplenty that usually start with, "Why did we go into this field?" Welcome, $6 here and $6 there almost 75 times over to Interfolio service. Welcome, more questions on why the hell are we in this field? Welcome, almost-three-old boy bounding into the room with no idea of the weight of the world. Welcome, same boy with sparkling eyes and a growing interest in making me laugh by putting both fingers up your nose. Welcome, more waiting and less patience for empty e-mail boxes. Welcome, stop-asking-him-if-he's-heard-anything. Welcome, yet another neighbor asking, "Well, have you heard anything?" Welcome, yet another neighbor reminding me of the roots I have planted here. Yes, welcome that, and without sarcasm, but instead with painful awareness of what we'll be losing here if we ever leave. Welcome, giving up and giving in. Welcome, television that stops airing distractions far too soon. Welcome, spontaneous pool parties and the hopes of spontaneous job offerings. Welcome, little boy who will not know what hit him when and if we ever leave.

Friday, March 23, 2012

How to Dress for Church

Hello friends,

My article about how we should or should not dress for church is up and ready for discourse at U.S. Catholic. Please take a moment to read it and join in the commentary.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

Things Atticus Says at Age Two and a Half That I Will Miss

This post is only interesting to me and that's fine. I want a record of this. Here are the things Atticus says the most at age two-and-a-half.

1. Man gotta do.

2. Readabook, Mommy. (Yes, that's all one word and also a command)

3. No, Daddys, talk to Mommys. (Leave me alone, Daddy, I'm trying to talk to Mommy)

4. Yes, sir! (with hand on the top of the head, missing the mark of his forehead slightly)


6. Watch 'yardigans.

7. At-tis have special treat?

8. No, I At-tis. (When asked if he's hungry or if he's a puppy)

9. Good puppy, good puppy.

10. Hi, buddy! Hi, buddy! (to anyone in our neighborhood who will take the time to talk to him)

11. Mommy have yummies? (right before he eats all the food on my plate)

12. Want bacon!

13. At-tis tookies? (Atticus have cookies?)

14. At-tis atman snacks? (Atticus have Batman fruit snacks?)

15. Mommy sit couch watch a show.

16. Daddy on pooter? Watch dancing diggers? (Daddy on computer)

17. Oh, man. Oh, man. (to express disappointment)

18. Dis' a back hoe. (This truck is a back hoe)

19. Grampa's workshop At-tis hammer and nails and saw.

20. Carter, James, Baby Sophie, Sam, Dia, Baby Harper, Weston ... (listing his friends before he goes to bed)

21. Daddy Atman. At-tis Robin.

22. Just a second.

23. Puppy tiss! (Puppy kiss, right before licking your face)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

List of Baby Things You Might Need (or Might Not Need)

I have forwarded the following list to about a zillion friends and have just realized how much easier it would be to just post it here and use this link as reference. If it's your time to have your first baby and you feel completely confused by what the heck you should be registering for, check this list out. It's certainly not the end all, be all - and I encourage additions via comments from fellow mamas and papas - but it's a good list, one I've been cultivating for two years now.

Things you need/might use

Dr. Sears, "The Baby Book" (absolutely invaluable - the bible of baby books)
Soft Muslin Blankets (Aden + Anais or Hudson Baby for a cheaper option)
Burp/Spit-up Cloths (old school diaper cloths)
Monitor (I'd get a digital video one if I did it again)
Boppy Nursing Pillow
Booster Seat with Tray
Changing Table
Baby Hangers with Clips
Portable Crib with Bassinette that fits in (for baby to sleep next to you for first couple of months if you so choose)
High Chair (Wish like hell I could've afforded the Tripp Trapp one)
Jogging Stroller
Cheap stroller to keep in trunk of car
Sling or Carrier (I use both, but my carrier more.  Baby Bjorn is popular, but has a lower weight limit)
Zutano Fleece Booties (absolutely indispensable - the only sock- or shoe-like item that stays on)
Infant Bathtub
Spout Cover
Towels/Baby Washcloths
Aveeno Baby Soap/Shampoo
First Aid Kit with Nail Clippers
Drainable Bath Scoop
Bumbo Baby Seat
Johnny Jump-Up
Shampoo Shield/Visor (so brilliant - love this thing)
Toy Chests/Bins
Diaper Bag (I think Skip Hop makes the cutest, most affordable ones):
Activity Center
Desitin (I've only used half of one tube over the last year)
Usborne Books
Robeez Baby Shoes (for when they walk - if not this brand then just this style)
Night Light (we have this one:
Potty Chair (for later)
Mirrors for car
Binky Straps
Containers for snacks (Munchkin Snack Catcher is genius)
Spill-proof cups for later (I like the Avents the best as they're the easiest to clean thoroughly)
Infant Carrier
Carseat (for after the Infant Carrier)
Carseat Saver
Fold-up Outdoor Blanket (like this one:
A lifetime supply of Gerber Graduate Puffs (also known as baby crack)
Dutalier Nursery Slider/Ottoman (yeah, um, this one's really expensive)

Nursing Stuff
Medela Breast Pump (Pump In Style is the one I have - they're expensive, but necessary, in my opinion)
Medela Nursing Bras (Here's the one I wore for eleven months:
Medela Sleeping Bras:
Nursing Pads (NOT the disposable ones! They're uncomfortable)
Medela Nursing Bottles (to go with the Pump In Style)
Breastmilk Freezer Storage Bags
Lansinoh (small, small, small container - you won't need it long)

Things you don't need/probably won't use
Socks (at least that many of them)
Bottles (You'll need them, but not that many, really - or at least, Atticus didn't need many)
Shoes (for infants)
A winter jacket for a baby - (blankets are easier and you can't put a baby in a jacket in a carseat)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Warby Parker Challenge, Take Two

Okay, so I wasn't happy with the fit of my first round of choices from Warby Parker (which, by the way, is a really excellent company that I have been very happy to work with over the past couple of weeks. Excellent communication and excellent customer service - plus a great price! Hard to beat).

Okay, please weigh on on these next five. I have a favorite already, but I'll withhold that for now.

1. The Nedwin

2. The Finn (again, but a new color)

3. The Reece

4. The Fitz

5. The Japhy

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Let the Great Warby Parker Challenge Begin


I am on the market for a new pair of glasses - ones that make me look both charming, smart, and lovely. Toward that goal, I signed on for the Warby Parker try at home program. Please vote for your favorite pair based on the pictures below.

#1. The Langston

#2. The Miles

#3. The Webb

#4. The Zagg

#5. The Finn

Full Disclosure: I'm leaning toward the Finn or the Langston.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Connectivity, Friends, Disappointments

Of one thing we might be certain, our lives will continue to scatter as we age in a sad number of ways. This is perhaps truer of academics than people from other professions as we academics are more prone to moving around the country than most. Except maybe journalists. They probably move a lot. And people who work for airlines. And probably some other kinds of jobs that are not coming to mind right now. To all those groups of people, I say let us commiserate.

Let us commiserate about how difficult it is to retain friendships as we keep moving, both geographically and temporally. Staying connected as we grow older is an increasing impossibility which is a great misfortune as we now need those connections even more than we did in our pink-lighted, beer-soaked days where friends were everywhere, seeping out of our pockets, lining near barstools, ringing through our phones and ears and hearts.

And then, silence. Or perhaps not silence so much as the steady hush of busyness, of life getting on with itself, of life becoming more complicated, of responsibilities shoring our shoulders closer to the ground.

And then out of nowhere, we are where we are. And sometimes it is unfamiliar when a familiar face would be awfully nice. But the terrible busy is terribly important. Kids, work, projects, relationships, television obsessions.

Another unreturned phone call. More moments of solitary. Less connectivity. More getting on with it.