Fifty Shades of Green

Morning-SicknessFor four long months I have dreamt of the moment when I could confidently—without pausing to take a deep breath, sip ginger ale, eat a cracker, or run to the bathroom to throw up—write about the hell that was all-day morning sickness. The only way I could possibly put pen to paper to record the experience was to be safely and securely on the other side of it. Even now, as I write these words half way through my pregnancy, recalling certain memories evokes powerful feelings… to gag, that is.

In the earliest weeks after learning that I was, in fact, in the family way, it concerned me that I felt no nausea. It seemed like all I’d ever heard about being pregnant was that you felt dreadfully sick. Thus, being the worrier I am, I thought my lack of dreadful sickness was a surefire indication that something was wrong. Though, I quickly learned that one should never count their cookies before they’re tossed.

Once the cookie-tossing began, it was a force to be reckoned with. Just ask my husband (who just so happened to be busy driving my emotionally-unstable, nauseated and exhausted @$$ all the way back to Ohio from New Mexico at the time). Along with infinite potty breaks, Lee had the coveted job of rustling up super-specific, pregnant-lady emergency supplies in the middle of the desert such as Cap’n Crunch, dry toast, pancakes, orange sherbet, ginger ale and root beer floats to name a few.

After the first of the year, back in Columbus, I was a wretched mess. I couldn’t keep down something as simple as a saltine. My suitcase and bags of souvenirs remained untouched on the floor for two whole months and simple tasks such as brushing my teeth or cleaning the cat’s dishes would send me heaving. Miraculously, in the midst of this misery, a brand new drug approved for the treatment of severe morning sickness had just hit the market and my doctor sent me home with a mountain of free samples.

This little miracle pill enabled me to eat certain types of food once again and tolerate being in the same room with my husband as he cooked his own supper, but it didn’t take away the nausea completely. So I subsisted on any old weird thing that sounded good to me at the moment, such as: banana smoothies and Cool Ranch Doritos, Chex Mix and Dots, cherry icees, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, and pickles and cranberry juice.

It was during this time that I also learned to lead a much smaller life that involved little to no make-up, optional showers and lots of yoga pants and baseball caps. For three months I shuffled around in less than a 1,000 square foot radius… going from the bed to the recliner to the bathroom to the fridge and back to bed again and thus, cabin fever became VERY real. I would dream about getting out — and going anywhere that was different from the house became my mission… and my madness.

And it all came to a head one snowy, subzero day when I became particularly fixated on leaving the house and going out to eat. It was precisely the sort of wet and chilly day people are happy to remain indoors, but I insisted that we go out and try a brand new restaurant. Initially I was psyched! After spending way too many days indoors with unruly hair and in raggedy pajamas, I was finally getting out! And my husband (who probably just wanted to stay home and watch ESPN) was happily taking me! I showered, fixed my hair and make-up, and cut the tags off of a brand new maternity outfit.

The outing, however, proved to be a terrible idea. The roads were in terrible shape and the drive took three times longer than normal, so by the time we arrived at the restaurant, sat down and ordered our food… I was beginning to lose my initial “out on the town” glow. But here we were, at my insisting, and I was DETERMINED to make this work. So I said nothing, and I smiled and I made small talk and I ate. And I ate. And I continued to eat even though my topsy-turvy tummy had twice tried telling to stop.

“Are you alright?” Lee asked me from across the table. I nodded in the affirmative, even though I was anything BUT alright. “… because you don’t LOOK alright. Why don’t you get up and get some air.” He said to me gently. So I took his advice. And I almost made it to the bathroom.

But yup… You guessed it… I didn’t make it. In fact, I “didn’t make it” all over the outside of the bathroom door, the inside of the bathroom door, the outside of the d@mn motion-detector trash can lid and motion-detector sink troughs. Oh yeah… and I also “didn’t make it” all over my new, never-been-worn maternity outfit and somehow (to this day I’m not really sure how I managed this) my freshly-washed hair.

Needless to say, since that fateful and mortifying day, I became a whole lot more content with my “small life” of staying at home in my raggedy pajamas with my unruly hair. Besides, from what I hear about bringing home a new baby… showers are optional anyway. Right?

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Advanced Maternal Age

biological clockWith a sharp exhale, I dried my hands and put a dampened palm to my sweaty forehead. Blinking at my reflection a few times in the bathroom mirror, I looked at the test again, making sure that I was seeing exactly what it was I thought I was seeing. Had I imagined it? Had I read the instructions correctly? This. Is. Impossible.

I needed another opinion — a pure and unbiased opinion from a pure and unbiased (and not nearly as hormonal) person. So as not to influence my pure, unbiased (and not hormonal) husband , I carefully hid the answer key by partially replacing the torn foil wrapper and summoned him.

“Tell me EXACTLY what you see here. How many lines do you see?” I said in cautious tones, simultaneously standing on my tiptoes and biting my pinky finger, anxiously awaiting his reply.

“I see two lines.” He replied and then looked at me quizzically, his expression asking a thousand and one questions, for which I had no answers. So I removed the wrapper and let him read for himself exactly what the presence of “two lines” indicated on the home pregnancy test. And then I cried. I REALLY cried.

I’d like to tell you that those very first tears after learning we were (shockingly) about to become parents were tears of unbridled joy and expectant bliss. But they weren’t. Those first tears were nothing but sheer, unadulterated fear. Fear that we weren’t ready… Fear that we didn’t have what it takes… Fear that in my 39 years alone on this earth I had grown far too selfish to EVER be equipped to care for an innocent being… And OMG! I AM THIRTY-NINE!

Then the real fear came: The fear that I was too old… Fear that we (but still mostly me) were too old… And fear that my dilapidated-broken-down-ancient-ruin-of-a-nearly-40-year-old body was too old to successfully bear a healthy child. “How is this even possible?!?!” an internal voice screamed. “My eggs are from the FORD ADMINISTRATION!” But apparently it WAS possible, and it IS possible, because it IS happening. And that test (along with the four additional tests I would take soon after) wasn’t lying.

A mother of “advanced maternal age” is what they call you when you find yourself with child over the age of 35, so it’s a pretty safe bet that I am really pushing the envelope here. Apparently, there’s a seemingly endless supply of things that a “woman of a certain age” ought to worry about because of the “advanced maternal age” label, such as: genetic anomalies, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, low birth weight and premature labor and/or delivery. But here’s the thing… I’m choosing not to spend exorbitant amounts of precious energy worrying about all of that stuff because, you see… I wasn’t supposed to be here. Ever.

Many of you who regularly read this blog already know that I have long held the belief that children were not in the cards for me. I had, for the most part, accepted this and Lee and I were about the business of building a happy, meaningful and productive life together sans children. That is, until right before Christmas, when we got this bit of earth-shattering news.

And I can tell you that the most jaw-dropping bit of all is that there was no magic pill. Years ago I tried the magic pills, the magic shots, and the magic procedures and surgeries performed by the magic doctors — all to no avail. And yet somehow I am here now, against all kinds of odds. I am here now—at a ripe, old, advanced maternal age—terrifyingly, dumb-foundingly, shockingly… miraculously.

Moving Day

red letter dayIt’s odd how the most important moments in our lives are marked. It’s not so much by the grand pageantry of big events, but rather the small details that define our daily circumstances. We just don’t know it at the time. The little moments happen, building a collection of days and weeks that gradually mounts, moving us along until one day we look around and notice we’re no longer standing where we used to be. 

As expected, moving day on campus was a flurry of activity. Anxious parents, faces wrought with concern, clucked and fussed over their newly-minted “adult” children while those same children worked to acquaint themselves with their new surroundings. Hard as it was to wrap my mind around it — my nephew was part of this new batch of freshmen at Ohio State. An avalanche of applications, test scores and campus visits now behind him, he met his roommates and unpacked his modest supply of dorm stuff. Class schedule in hand, he seemed set for this monumental First Day of the Rest of His Life. 

Although I’m not his mother, an odd mix of emotions washed over me after we said our goodbyes. As I stood, squinting in the sunlight, watching his broad, grown-up shoulders fade and disappear into the darkness of the dormitory, feelings of pride, nervousness, nostalgia and sadness ran together in a silent churning sea of sentiment. The day he was born naturally leapt to mind alongside flickering memories of massive Lego builds, movie nights, school plays, sporting events and spontaneous trips to McDonalds. 

I felt a smile tug on the corners of my mouth when I recalled the time, just before he left for camp, when he gobbled three cheeseburgers I was sure he’d never finish. The the hot sting of tears followed quickly after the realization that he was no longer that little boy on his way to summer camp and cheeseburgers no longer an effective currency for affection. 

As we drove away I glanced out the window, noticing hundreds of bright-eyed coeds walking and laughing as they unloaded boxes or rested in slanted rays of sun on late-summer lawns — I felt emotion rise up in me once more. Only this time I recognized it for what it was: a beginning. It is the time when everything is shiny and new and the world rolls out in front of you like a warm and welcome ribbon of highway. It was at that moment—that little moment—that I knew it wasn’t the goodbye that was taunting me. No, caught instead in the corners of my mind… was the quiet turning of the page. 

The Apron

By Tara Canestraro

The following was written by my friend Tara who lost her mother four years ago. Late one night, filled with deep emotion, Tara stayed up and penned the following about her mother, the relationship she had with her and the special kind of love that exists between a mother and her children.

the-apron

Anyone in my family can tell you what the words “go get my apron” meant. For as long as I can remember my mom always had an apron she wore to work. I used to think this apron was magical because so many things came from it.

From this “magical” apron came groceries, utilities, clothing, house payments, wedding dresses, car payments, college tuition and even toys. And the most magnificent thing that it could produce was a Christmas beyond a child’s wildest imagination.

Her apron was not only used for her own children — it was carried on to the next generation. It provided school clothes, more prom dresses, lunch money, Beanie Babies, books, coats and shoes. With her smooth tone of voice—never condescending—we were always told, “It’s in my apron.” Oh was this apron magical!

As the years went by, what I always knew to be “the apron,” had lost its shape and became the pocketbook. The pocketbook could take on the same majesty as the apron. It could provide for anyone in need without question. Even if was something as simple as a piece of gum, the pocketbook miraculously provided.

As an adult I now see that the apron/pocketbook helped a lot of people, and wasn’t really magical after all. I realize now that deep inside the pockets of this apron were things like sacrifice, dedication, and hard work. What came out of it were things like patience, loyalty and love.

She, like many, many mothers, was very dedicated to her children and worked tirelessly to make sure we had everything we needed and then some. Patience and loyalty were given without hesitation, and love and sacrifice provided expecting nothing in return.

Although I cannot repay all that the apron gave to me, I truly pray that my children will see her wisdom and virtues through me. I hope I can provide for my own family in the same way she did — without hesitation, without questioning, always loving, always putting their needs first.

Losing her has been the hardest thing in my life, but I have learned so much from it. What you have is material, but what you need is love. The most precious gift I can give to my children and my children’s children comes from my mother’s apron — self-sacrificing, unconditional love.

I hope in all my years, the contents of that “magical” apron will continue to be passed down from generation to generation.

Tara

Tara Canestraro

Our Barbies, Ourselves

Barbie125thCareerRetroWe’ve come a long way, baby. Or should I say Barbie has come a long way from the ill-proportioned, frighteningly well-endowed, bleach-blond beach bimbo she once was to her latest occupation: Engineer. You go girl!! You show the world that you can be ANYTHING you want to be! Plastic can be molded in a million different ways and clothes can be sewn to suit any proportions these days—real or imaginary. I, for one, find it refreshing to see that Barbie is made of stern enough stuff to conquer yet another male-dominated field.

I’ve long had a theory about Barbies and the girls who play with them. That being that who we are (or aspire to be)… was probably foreshadowed in our Barbie play. The notion grew out of a simple conversation I was having one day with two of my female co-workers. Somehow the topic of Barbie came up and all of us confirmed that we’d had at least one of them growing up. Naturally, the conversation turned to what we liked to do with our Barbies when we played with them…

JOANNA
I proudly admitted to the fact that all my Barbie wanted to do was HAVE FUN! She partied, she LOVED working on her tan and swimming in her pool (which was actually just our kitchen sink magically converted into a sparkling oasis in which Barbie could dive and swim… naked). MY Barbie would not be confined to the pre-determined dwellings crafted for her by Matel.

The Barbie mansion could not hold her. The Barbie RV was too cramped and not NEARLY luxurious enough… and so I constantly commandeered entire rooms in our house and created elaborate living spaces for her to inhabit. Thankfully my mother put up with this. I do seem to remember my poor dad trying to get to his office in our basement and having to ever-so-gingerly tip-toe around all the precariously placed pink and orange inflatable furniture.

My Barbie also did not do any work. Don’t ask me how she had any money… but she managed. She had A LOT of boyfriends. Perhaps they sponsored her. If she DID work, it was in a fashion boutique where she spent most of the time trying on the clothes instead of helping customers. In fact, looking back on it now, my Barbie was a little bitchy, somewhat lazy, completely self-absorbed and truth be told, probably a bit of a tramp.

AMANDA
One of my co-workers—let’s call her Amanda (names have been changed to protect the innocent)—had a much different interaction with her Barbie. Amanda’s Barbie was what I would call a little Worker Bee. Amanda dressed her in gray business suits and sent her to work in an office. All Amanda’s Barbie did was work. Amanda even cut up Barbie-sized squares of paper that she would feed into a miniature typewriter!! And all I could think of while she was telling me this was: She thought THIS was fun!?!?! How in the #@$% could this be fun??? But it was what Amanda liked to do with her Barbie.

When I inquired about possible boyfriends for her Barbie (I’d be remiss if I failed to mention Ken) she said that she didn’t have any Ken dolls. But she WOULD occasionally borrow her brother’s G.I. Joe doll and Joe, as if on a covert mission, would quote: “infiltrate the Barbie mansion.” Nice. It’s good to know that even Worker Bees like Amanda like to have fun. Even if it IS on the down-low, after a long, hard day at the office.

LISA
The other co-worker, let’s call her Lisa, technically HAD a Barbie to play with. But she didn’t really LIKE her Barbie all that much. Rather she tortured her Barbie from time to time. She would cut off all her hair, strip off all of her clothes, grab her by her teensy plastic foot and swing her around and around the room until she went flying into the wall.

———————————————————————

The most fascinating part of this colorful dialogue was the concept of our “Barbie play” amazingly hinting at the kind of women we’d each grown up to be. Thus my theory was born: What little girls do with their Barbies can offer a fairly accurate glimpse into the personalities of the women-in-waiting.

Now, I am NOT admitting to being a grown-up “bitchy, lazy, self-absorbed tramp”… though some may beg to differ. But I definitely DO like to have FUN above anything else. To me, work is a necessary evil and a means to much more important aspirations like partying, vacationing, shopping and working on my tan.

Some people, like Amanda, LIVE to work. And Amanda, to this day, remains one of the most devoted, hard-working employees I know. She put herself through school while working full time, earning not one but two degrees and has climbed the ladder in her organization. Most importantly, she is completely happy and fulfilled as that person.

Though I’ve lost track of Lisa over the years, when I knew her she was a dedicated athlete constantly railing against typical female stereotypes. She believed that women can do ANYTHING that men can do and to indicate otherwise got under her skin like nothing else. She valued fairness and equality in all walks of life and her work and leisure remained consistent with those beliefs. I doubt that she’s changed.

So perhaps it is a stretch, my theory. But I believe I’m on to something. If only I could find a generous benefactor to grant me the financial resources for the necessary research. I could quit my job and travel the globe interviewing women everywhere to obtain their stories. Naturally, this endeavor would require me to do quite a bit of socializing and patronizing lavish resorts along the way. I’d then publish my findings, resulting in a best-selling book, thus allowing me to fully retire before the age of 40… making way for nothing but F-U-N.

What’s In a Year?

holding handsKisses were exchanged as the clock struck midnight and one by one the couples announced their plans for 2013.

“We’re gonna pop out a kid, honey!” Said the couple excitedly expecting their first child in the spring.

“We did a pretty cool thing in 2012 and it looks like we’ve got an exciting year ahead of us.” Proclaimed the pair of newly-minted parents whose baby girl arrived the previous fall.

“Here’s to the first year in our new home.” One of the two newlyweds seated on the couch replied to the other.

Looking out across the snowy landscape in the wee hours of a brand new year, we couldn’t help but consider what 2013 might hold for us. “2013.” Lee said as he navigated the snow-covered roads back to our house at the conclusion of the party. “Twenty years ago…” We began to say at the exact same time. Twenty years ago we graduated high school together before heading off in two very different directions. “It’s just so hard to believe.” One of us exclaimed… preaching to the proverbial choir.

We will get married this summer. That much we know. The planning has begun and as a picture of our wedding day emerges, our excitement grows for the anticipated date. But beyond that, it is unclear where we will go and what life will look like. We have a home and friends and belong to a community. He has a real job and I am hoping that the new year brings permanent employment (beyond contract work) my way. But for the most part, we are settled. Much of our picture is already colored in.

“So I suppose they’ll have their own little club once they all have babies.” I announced over lunch today while referring to the growing enclave of which we are not a part. “There’s no one else like us, you know.” I muttered with a mouthful of food while considering what the words “like us” meant exactly. I decided I was referring to couples in their late 30’s who don’t have children and aren’t sure they want any. I suppose it is as simple as that.

“I like us.” Lee stated very matter-of-factly as he shrugged his shoulders in a perfunctory but decided sort of way.

And I was reminded—all over again—why I love him as much as I do.

“I like us, too.” I said and reached for another slice of pizza.

What’s That Elf on the Shelf REALLY Up To?

So here we are again. It’s creeping up on Christmas and parents everywhere are creeping around their houses late into the night searching for just the right spot to place their creepy little elf for the kiddies to find come morning. Yes, that wicked ol’ Elf on the Shelf has sprung to life once again and being the hater that I am… I couldn’t help but devote some blog time to the miniature Freak Show.

Some of you may recall that I wrote a post about him and his meteoric rise to fame last Christmas when the tiny demon became a blip on my personal radar. In case you missed it and you’re interested, you can read that one here. I feel I did an adequate job of relaying my fear, disdain and general creeped-out-ed-ness for this convention so I don’t think it’s necessary to expound on that much more.

What I would like to point out is that while I knew I wasn’t the ONLY person who found the Elf on the Shelf to be the very incarnation of evil itself — I had no idea how popular fearing him had actually become. It seems that for every parent out there who adores inflicting him and his “magical powers” upon their child, there is someone else more sensible, someone more enlightened, someone… well… someone more like me.

These enlightened ones know this little guy is up to no good. They understand that beneath that tiny red suit beats a heart of pure darkness. And behind those rosy cheeks and piercing blue eyes lurks a monster waiting to be unleashed… in your home… after you’re all asleep.

I’ve compiled the following images from around the web as proof positive that he is not all he’s cracked up to be. The catchy tune, the cutesy animated commercial and the adorably designed, strategically marketed storybook and package is all a disguise. The plan? Get inside your home and gain your trust. The ultimate goal? Well, take a look for youself…

elf_tree lightself_artistelf_song elf_grandma elf_fluffy

Not to worry though parents—if you’ve been duped by the elf and his cleverly-hatched scheme, and he is, in fact, IN your house this very instance—there is a glimmer of hope. Perhaps your child is also an “enlightened one” like I mentioned earlier. And perhaps he or she will take matters into their own hands… like this one did…

elf_fire