Monday, February 28, 2011

Gestation Explanation

I've been chastised by a few people lately for my sporadic, infrequent blog posts; and I have to say I'm flattered to know that at least two or three people miss me when I'm not around. So, thanks for that!

Now, the reasons for the cyber-doldrums... First, as many of you have learned in the past couple of weeks, I'm almost 13 weeks pregnant with our second child. What's wonderful about that is that I once again get to experience the miracle of the human body as it nurtures and sustains a new life until it is ready to bring into this world, and into our overjoyed little family.

What's less wonderful is that I feel like crap. More specifically, I feel like I've had a perpetual hangover for about 10 weeks and the whole dang world is a noisy, stinky garbage truck. And for some reason, my toddler doesn't care one bit. He continues to demand the same level of attention and care regardless of how I feel. Can you believe that? SO inconsiderate.

So for the last couple of months I've been spending my minimal down time cat-napping, searching for foods that don't make me queasy, and doing my best to exercise at least a few times a week. This last is a particularly good idea since most of the palatable foods I mentioned are primarily sugar -- in fact, you could say I'm on the empty calorie diet. I'm also pretty much toast (hey - toast!) by 5:30 p.m. each day. Even though I always, always, set out to write or accomplish something after Monkey goes to bed; I always, always end up sinking into the couch watching bad TV and/or going to bed at 8:30. There you have it.

This rigorous schedule of scarfing down carbs in front of reality TV has also impacted my other baby - the book I've been working on. Despite everything, I'm very pleased to say that I have managed to drum up enough spare time and energy to churn out about 53,000 words. Of course, 52,000+ are likely to end up on the cutting room floor -- thank goodness we bought a house with a cutting room! -- but I'm okay with that. I am learning to appreciate the imperfectness of my process.

My goal by the end of March is to have a super-rough draft ready for the friends who have kindly agreed to serve as first-line readers. Primarily, I'm hoping that none of them will regret too deeply the choice to volunteer, or die of boredom by Chapter 6. We'll see.

I'm finding that gestating a baby and gestating a book are similar in some ways. Like a child, the book has a life of its own; even though I am the one trying to shape it. There's lots of anxiety about the parts of the process over which I have no control, and lots of worrying over the parts I can control. I keep wondering if I'm good enough to really do this, or if at some point somebody is going to figure out that I never should've been trusted with either children or a laptop and come take my license away. And in both cases, sometimes I have to acknowledge that I've done the best I can for today, and it's time to rest.

One key difference is that at the end of the nine months, I know this kid is coming. I can't push back the deadline or realign my goals or decide to wait for feedback from an editor. Pregnancy is the one area of my life where I've been unable to successfully procrastinate (and let's be honest, by 37 weeks the last thing you want to do is drag out the process). So I am trying to treat my writing goals the same way, as an inevitable progression with a definite end date.... Hopefully with a lot less screaming there at the end.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Love and Finding Home

Today was a fantastic day. If you live in or near Atlanta, you know that the weather was absolutely perfect today - sunny and low-60's. And since Sunday is our family day (the only day neither of us works), we got to enjoy the wonderful weather together.

First on our agenda, we went to a brunch at our synagogue for prospective new members. I don't often talk about our synagogue life, but today we were 'representing' young families, so I had the chance to briefly tell our story, while Monkey ran around the room like a crazy person. I realized as I was fumbling through it why talking about our synagogue always gets me so emotional; it's because our relationship with our shul has pretty much paralleled our relationship with each other.

When DH and I decided to spend our lives together and I realized that Judaism was my true religious home, our synagogue was the first place where we both felt truly welcome. Our rabbis (who are an amazing married couple from South America and two of the smartest, warmest people I know) instantly embraced us and have followed us on our journey ever since. Rabbi Analia guided me through my studies and helped me prepare for the Mikveh (ritual bath of conversion). Both Analia and Rabbi Mario served on my Bet Din (conversion panel), along with another amazing rabbi who is a member of our congregation.

Together they conducted our wedding ceremony, which our Jewish and Christian friends alike felt was a beautiful, moving and spiritual experience. We still frequently say to one another the special words that Analia shared with us that day, "If I had to choose again, I would choose you. Every day."

After brunch, we made our way back to another sacred space -- or at least a beloved space that represents something sacred  -- our favorite trail alongside the Chattahoochee. I have been walking that trail regularly for more than three years. It's meant lots of fresh air, burned calories, time with nature, several audiobooks, and lots of great conversations with my walking buddies. Last year, when I was training for the Avon walk, I must have covered those same 3.2-ish miles more than 100 times.

But for the last few months, with the move and the toddler-chaos and the weather, that favorite space has been neglected. Like an old friend, I've taken it for granted. When we went back today, we both noticed lots of little changes (new gravel, new plantings); and I also noticed that it was especially sweet to be there after so long. With all the transition in our lives lately, it felt like going home.

We don't get to the trail, or to synagogue, as often as we'd like. And yet, whenever we go either place, I feel more centered, and inspired to be just a little bit better than I was when I arrived. Nature never scolds me for my absence; the sounds of the birds and the soft breeze coming off the river are mine just for showing up that moment. And in our religious community, there are always warm smiles, hugs, and words of wisdom waiting for us when we walk in the door -- whether after a week or three months.

It occurs to me that our marriage is the same way (well, except that we see one another every day). Maybe we don't or can't always give one another our very best. But we find ways of reconnecting, and my sweet hubby is always inspiring and encouraging me to be a better person.

I guess that's what a home really is - a place where you are accepted and loved exactly the way you are, but also a jumping off point to become an even better you.

Oh, yeah, here's a picture of Monkey with a balloon.

Happy Valentine's Day, y'all... I hope you enjoy the day with someone who makes you feel at home.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Weird Have Been My Dreams of Late

I was driving somewhere with my family, I don't remember where. We were near the intersection of Piedmont and Bells Ferry in Kennesaw.

The blue lights in the mirror were a surprise; I checked my speed and verified that I was going 37 in a 35 zone. I wondered if I'd missed a school zone sign somewhere. There was no place to pull over on the four-lane road, so I slowed down but continued up the little hill. That's when I noticed that the entire road was blocked ahead, with at least six police cars. At the four-way stop they were pulling drivers over in all four directions. Cars were parked all along the roadside, in parking lots and up on the grassy hills that led down to the roads.

I slowed down and checked quickly to make sure we all had our seat belts on and car seat straps securely fastened. The officer who pulled us over was blond and pudgy, but still sort of handsome. He asked me a series of questions:

"Ma'am, do you know how fast you were going?"

"Yes. About 37."

"Mmm...hmmm. Do you have any weapons, drugs or other contraband in your car?" He raised his eyebrows on this last point significantly.

"No, sir, I don't think so."

"Then you won't mind if we search your car?"

"I guess not. What are you looking for?"

"This is a copyright roadblock. We've had reports of plagiarized screenplays in this area. Do you have any stacks of papers or items in binder clips in your vehicle?"

"Um, I don't think so..."

"Then what is this??" He holds up a familiar-looking stack of paper that apparently he has pulled from my trunk. He's also holding the canvas grocery bags I am always forgetting to take into the store.

"Oh, that's a draft of my novel," I stammer, "I've been working on it. But I thought it was only on my computer. I don't remember printing it out."

"Sure you don't. Like we haven't heard that before. Step out of the car, ma'am...."

We are ushered to a log cabin-type structure that has appeared on the hill out of nowhere. Inside it is one enormous room, where lots of other drivers and their passengers are pacing around and discussing our shared predicament. People are reenacting portions of movies and plays (in costume, of course) and then explaining loudly how what they've written is clearly different from this one or that one.

The officers enter the cabin, also dressed in elaborate stage costumes (including long renaissance style dresses), but still wearing their trooper hats and badges.They announce that we should all form a single-file line, that it's time for the 'Big Production.' We follow them out the door into a bright light....

And I wake up. So, any Jungian analysts want to take a shot??

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sometimes you have to stop and smell...whatever died in the wall

The last couple of weeks around our house have been all about ears and noses.

The problem with Monkey's sleeping I wrote about a couple of weeks ago turned out to be not teething, but a double ear infection. It took me almost six days of his crazy behavior (plus a fever) to figure out something was really wrong and take him to the doctor. I felt particularly silly about that because, during the first year and a half of Monkey's life, I probably took him to the doctor four or five different times thinking that he had an ear infection when he didn't. Sigh.

The silver lining was that I got a nice little Mommy lesson, which is when MLM doesn't seem like himself, there is probably a reason.

The nose problem has been even less pleasant and more pervasive...

We've discovered a major problem with buying a house in a wooded area that has been vacant for a couple of years and has an easily accessible water supply nearby... rodents. What we thought was a past problem when we moved in has turned into a parade of disgusting as we, and our pest control company, try to take back our house from its former residents. Roof rats, I am told, though I'm grateful not to have seen it for myself.

The good news is, we haven't seen any critters or their, ahem, tracks in our actual living space. They've been partying in the attic and the crawl space, and using the voids in the walls as their little rodent floo network back and forth. The bad news is that the pest control company's special bait -- which was supposed to send Mickey and company out of the house in search of water, where they would die somewhere I could pretend was a pleasant place full of cheese and classical music -- has unfortunately backfired. At least one, maybe two, of our uninvited guests did not find his way out into the yard before meeting his demise.

It started as a faint smell in our bathroom; then spread to almost every room in the house. Two men from the pest control company came out, climbed ladders, wandered around for a couple of hours and confirmed that, yes, something had died in our wall. Next to an air duct. Sweet.

Could they fix it? Well, maybe. They'd be drilling holes in our walls, piping in their cameras, which might not be able to get around the insulation; and there was some chance they'd be able to spot something. If they found it, it was somewhat likely they could get it out. Or not. Then we'd have anywhere from one to several open holes in our wall, which we'd have to fix ourselves. In the meantime, a toddler with free access to the inside of the wall. I could picture Monkey chewing on fistfuls of insulation while the house smelled EVEN WORSE because of the holes.

So the other option: hold our breath (literally), and wait. Ugh, ugh, ugh. We had to move dinner with friends elsewhere one night; opened the windows when we could, and left the house as often as possible when we couldn't. We have endured the sickly sweet smell of plug-in air fresheners turned all the way up to full blast, and the awful funk during showers and while brushing our teeth. I found myself dreaming that the rats were taking revenge, nibbling my extremities while I slept.

Thankfully, after two weeks, the smell has mostly faded. The pest control company is coming tomorrow to seal off all the entry points and set traps for anyone who wasn't frightened off by the smell of their compatriots rotting in the walls. Needless to say, all this smelly drama has left me with little inspiration to blog. If I had been posting, the last 14 blogs would have been titled "My House Still Stinks - What's Up With You?"

The other (better) reason for my absence from cyberspace is that I've been writing like a fiend on that novel I mentioned to y'all last month. There's definitely a learning curve, but I feel I'm scaling it, slowly. I haven't decided yet if the rats will get a cameo in the book, but I'll keep you posted.