Bluebird Down

The pursuit of domestic bliss, one glorious debacle at a time.

Enough. Enough now. January 19, 2015

It just recently happened that I put a name on emotions I’ve been feeling for the past few years. I slouched in the chair across from the man who taught me how to be a therapist and announced, “I think I’ve been grieving.” His response: “I know.”

Until I scrolled through my blog looking at past posts, I had no idea it has been three and a half years of grieving. Grief is funny like that.

In the Spring of 2011, Z came back after three years in Iraq. In the Summer of 2011, we found out that we couldn’t conceive our own baby. There were doctors and procedures and rolling waves of anticipation and disappointment. There were adoption seminars and background checks and financial wizardry. And there was a meltdown coming. I was on a mission and it took me too long to notice that Z was struggling to find his way back. Back to life at home. With me. With a kid that is already too much trouble.

2012 and 2013 weren’t good.

We at least had sense enough to know that you can’t bring a baby into that.

We fought for each other. We fought against each other. Foughtfoughtfought because it was uglyuglyugly. What wrung out after the sweat and exhaustion and anger was us, refortified.

And yet, I was sinking in the grief for the family that never was. There are two philosophies when it comes to therapy (well, there is more than two, but for the sake of simplicity…). There is the pro sports trainer version where you come to the sidelines with a sprained psyche, we wrap it up, give you some meds and send you back out into society to keep pushing. Then there is the deeper psychotherapy where you let the client come to their own realizations, in their own time, with your support. The first version is easier, but it doesn’t truly fix anything. The second version is more painful and you can sacrifice a chunk of your life to the greater good of your existence. That’s when you make the grand announcement and find out you were the only one that didn’t know.

In the midst, you have to live your life. You have to go to work, because the mortgage company doesn’t recognize existential crises. You have to make dinner. Do laundry. Be a wife, have friends, contribute to your community, when all you want is to be.left.alone.

I avoided babies. It’s embarrassing to admit now. I avoided babies like the plague. It wasn’t easy. While my ovaries were imploding, my friends’ reproductive organs were shooting off like fireworks. Why did I avoid your baby showers and first birthday parties? Because I didn’t want to be the weirdo crying in the corner. Trust me, it would have been uncomfortable for all.

I’m not even sure why I took it so hard. A blend of ego and mortality, for sure. Nothing like being told a major organ system has aged out to make you face your impending doom. And everyone was getting pregnant, why not me? What’s so wrong with me that the universe has decided to pass on me? How is it fair that I can’t have babies, but my job is still to sit down an 8th grader and explain to her that going to the doctor is kinda important when you are pregnant? Plus I really do think Z would have been a great dad. It’s my fault he doesn’t get that experience. Add guilt to ego and mortality, with a heavy dose of emotional exhaustion.

There’s not a good answer. There is only reality and how you face your reality.

And then someone goes and plops a newborn baby in your arms. I did not want to go on the family trip last summer. Babies were going to be there. In case no one was noticing, I avoid babies. Absolutely no respect for my neurosis. So here’s this baby, in my arms, wrapped up all baby-like, looking soft and sweet. I’m holding him at my shoulder level, presumably to chuck him back at his father the first second he threatens to expose me as a fraud. Instead he wiggled his itty bitty butt and settled in. Well, that’s unexpected. I tried to give him to other family members to hold. Nope, you hold him. He likes it. He slept. I relaxed my arms. Appears the coast is clear. I even fed him a few times. I told his mom that I hoped I was doing it right. She responded, “I’m never sure I’m doing it right,” and walked out of the room. Hmmm, how about that.

The second reality check came when someone asked me to write an article about being over 40 and childless. Hand to God, it shocked me that someone identified me as “over 40 and childless.” I suddenly had to focus and face the past three and a half years (that timeline still floors me). I haven’t gotten that article out, because this one needed to come first.

So I’ve been grieving. The sheer acknowledgment has made such a massive difference. Owning it makes a difference. Maybe the real difference is when a baby trusts you with their nap, you trust the baby. Thanks, baby.

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Race Report: Tour de Lila September 6, 2011

Head cow said to the other cows, "Nobody move. That girl ain't right."

I was about eight miles into the ride when I realized a cow was staring at me. Actually, not just one cow, but a field of cows. They had stopped grazing and seemed to hold their breath as they watched me chug down mouthfuls of water. I suppose I was a sight. I was alone on a country road where forty-some-odd bikes had already ridden through. I was red faced, dry mouthed and was working on a hateful disposition. Moments earlier Z had been riding behind me. After too many “we need to catch up!” and “use your gears!” I told him to go ahead of me. Instead of drafting, he took off. Insert the hateful disposition right there. As I caught my breath, I noticed an old farmer was watching me from the barn. Deciding I was too pitiful to be a threat, he moved along with his Saturday morning chores. The cows, though, they were suspicious. Why was this chunky girl trying to ride a bike down their road? Why didn’t the skinny men in tight pants wait for her? Is that milk in that bottle?

The Tour de Lila was the first bike ride Z and I had participated in. We loaded our bikes and headed to my mom’s house the night before. She stuffed us with spaghetti and meatballs. She gave us the big bed so we would be rested. The ride was 15, 25 or 50 miles. I was told it was a family ride. In truth, the only “families” that showed up were professional riding teams from the local bike shops. They all headed out on the 50 mile ride on their $5,000 bikes. As I watched them roll out, I thought that they really did look like the guys from the Tour de France. Z and I were signed up for the 25 mile ride. We were riding our mountain bikes. My spin instructor, Justin, assured me that I could easily do 25 miles. As I stared into the deep brown eyes of a cow, I thought, “I’m a fool. There is no way I can do 25 miles. This isn’t freakin’ spin class. There is wind out here!” Z had doubled back, so I ended my water break. We were almost to the point where a decision had to be made — turn left and go 25 miles, stay straight and go 15. Up ahead [he left me again], Z signaled to turn left. I stayed straight. I figured if I was going to ride alone, I might as well blaze my own path. The local bike shop guy came by in his van to see how I was doing. Good, I said. Keep going, he said. The 50 milers passed me too. They cheered encouragement. I was doing a respectable job (meaning I hadn’t fallen off my bike), when the first hill came. And it came with a vengeance. It’s true, I don’t entirely understand how to use my gears. I thought I had the general concept, but in practice, I was failing miserably. I got off of my bike and walked for a moment. The bike guy in the van was back. “Are you OK?” Yes. “You sure?” Yes. “Bike OK?” Clearly he did not think I was OK and wanted me to stop being delusional. “I’m fine. That hill almost killed me.” He looked concerned. “I’m fine,” I said and got back on my bike and peddled off. There were three more major hills, but I didn’t get off of my bike. At one point I looked like I was barely moving, but I was on the seat with my bike in the upright position. Small victories, people.

The irony is that when I finished the ride, I felt good. Good and energetic. I finished 15 real road miles in an hour and 10 minutes. The bike shop riders were averaging about 22 miles in an hour. In spin class I can finish 25 miles in 50 minutes on a base ride. I probably could have done 25 miles for the Tour de Lila. I know now I could have done 25. Next time I’ll have a little faith in myself.

Currently Reading: The Happiness Project is still sitting on my bed stand and Sarah’s Key is in my bookbag waiting to be read. I really haven’t read anything since I went back to work on August 25th. According to Stephen King, if you don’t have time to read, you have no business writing.

Training Log: My training has been off the rails since the beginning of August. Next 5K is this coming Saturday. I absolutely get the NO EXCUSES, JUST DO IT! philosophy, but I also get that I have to show up at work and do household chores and finish my freelance articles and shower and sleep. I’ll figure it out, because I think two blogs saying “I did it, but it wasn’t pretty” is enough.

 

Scout and Her Latin Lovers August 27, 2011

Scout, caught on the couch. Gateway behavior to her alternative lifestyle.

Scout, AKA Backyard Kitty, has a squirrel boyfriend. We named him Raul. She shares her expensive Old Girl Cat Food with him. I suspect she wants to share her igloo cat house with him. Raul is not a stay-the-night kind of squirrel though. I can see it in his eyes. I try to tell her that she can’t trust a squirrel that sits on the corner of the fence and yells at her mom. If he were a Real Squirrel, he would come up on the deck and say hello properly.

Turns out that she may have taken my advice, but not told Raul. I woke up at 4:00 a.m. Friday morning to the horrific sound of an animal trapped under our kitchen cabinets. It was scratching to get out with its teeth, and claws and broken bones. Z had already been dealing with it for an hour before I woke up. He tried to get Mike the Toothless Cat and Pete! the Wonder Pup to meow, bark or scratch in defensive of our home. Apparently they looked at the cabinet and turned around and went back to their beds. The scratching coming from the cabinet turned my stomach. I banged on the door with my Life is Good water bottle. The scratching stopped. Z thought it was a mouse. No way, I said. That’s bigger than a mouse. Oh no, I bet it’s a squirrel. We concluded we had a R. Kelly Trapped in the Closet scenario going on under my soup pots. There’s a new squirrel in the cat house. We named him Julio. I hope he’s good looking, because he’s obviously too stupid to find his way out from under the house. [How did he get under there anyway?!] Every time he scratched, I banged on the counter. I’m sure he was frightened, but I have a general lack of compassion at 4 a.m. I have to sleep, I whined to Zef. He set up his iPad to play gun show podcasts for the poor squirrel. As I fell back to sleep, Z said the podcasts were working. I said the squirrel probably passed out from boredom. Or maybe that was the final push he needed to save himself. No scratching has been heard in 24 hours. Run free, Julio.

Hopes to Finish Reading Today So I Can Start Sarah’s Key: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Training Log: The Holden Uganda Run for Water 5K was cancelled due to Hurricane Irene. Off to the gym this morning if the power stays on.

 

Tiny Room Tour: Out With a Bang August 12, 2011

Filed under: Currently Reading,Family,Field Trips,Food,Road Trip,Writing — Teri @ 8:35 pm

Oh, the luxury! The Tiny Room Tour finished up the summer dates in spectacular style. Monday afternoon we loaded up and headed out to Banner Elk, NC to stay at the Mast Farm Inn. Along the way, I was making phone calls and recording interviews for my article due to the community paper the next day. I tell myself that I work best under pressure. By the time we rolled through Boone, then along the back roads of Banner Elk I was thrilled to see the green roof of the inn. We walk in and meet Danielle, the innkeeper. I instantly love her. She’s loud and friendly and laughs a lot. When we asked about local restaurants for dinner, she enthusiastically told us about her favorites. She won my heart when she kept saying, “they specialize in local, organic food.” She asked what we wanted to do while we were there. I said, “We — oh,” and looked over at Zef. “OK, well, I used ‘we’ loosely, because I haven’t asked Zef, but ‘we’ want to hike and kayak.” Z cocked his head to the side and look at me as if he hasn’t had a say about anything since five minutes into our first date. Danielle howled. She took us up to the Aunt Leona Room, a third floor dormer room without a TV and directed us to Vidalia for dinner. Danielle promised the onion rings were amazing and they were. Z had spaghetti with lamb meatballs and I had a tomato and goat cheese salad. Z loved the lamb. I told him to enjoy it, because I was never, ever making it at home.

 

Profile View. See the Indian head?

 

The next morning we woke to our 8 o’clock coffee delivery. Breakfast was at 8:30 in the dining room. It was a vast and amazing plate of homemade yogurt with granola, vegetable quiche. ham and biscuits. I was stuffed and the forecast said it may rain, so we opted to go for a hike and put off kayaking until better weather the next day. My idea was to wander down some paths, maybe take in a waterfall or two, then head back to town for some shopping. Z had other plans. He looked at the list of trails and immediately zeroed in on Grandfather Trail, where you access part of the trail by climbing up wooden ladders on the mountain face. I thought he was insane, and luckily so did the park service, because they closed the trail for the day because of high winds. We were told we could go to the west side of the mountain and take the Profile Trail. I suppose because we were still full from breakfast, we didn’t pack very much water or food for the hike. I suspect we also thought Profile Trail would be easy. And the first mile was easy. We passed a rocky stream where we played in the cool water. We marched up the inclines past Foscoe View, Profile Campsite and Profile View. Once we reached Shanty Springs, I was starting to think this wasn’t much fun anymore. This is where the climb became technically strenuous. I had already finished most of my water and it was starting to get hot. We passed a couple on the way down. The man, probably in his late 20’s with a bandana wrapped around his head and a professional camera hanging from his neck, was invigorated! He told us to keep going, it was totally worth it. A girl about his age came down the rocks a few minutes after he did. She nodded meekly to his enthusiasm. I looked her in the eye. We exchanged an all-knowing glance that all men are deranged. The couple moved pasted us and kept descending as Z and I started up the rocks. The path is a series of rock formations that we had to navigate. At some parts I found it easier to climb up on my hands and knees. Other parts, I slid on my butt. I asked Z how far we were going. He wanted to make it to the west side head of the Grandfather Trail. “It’s about three miles. Actually, 3.1,” he yelled back at me. It was like a 5K to the sky. I could do that, I told myself. When we reached Calloway Gap, Z decided we should go a little longer. “We’re almost to the peak,” he pleaded. I dragged behind him. My big breakfast had fueled the way up but was now gone. I didn’t have any water left. My legs were shaking. We had the option of going to the Watagua View or Calloway Peak and the elusive Grandfather Trail. Watagua View was closer. “I’m not going the long way,” I told Z. That climb was the hardest thing I had done in a while and I was done. But first I had to get back down. Where going up the trail was physically challenging, going down was mentally challenging. I turned my left ankle three times since I lost the ability to land my foot squarely. I slid down rocks. I was slightly concerned about falling off the trail and down the mountain. When we reached the bottom, I chugged a hot Coke and downed a snack pack of walnuts from the truck. My hands were shaking and I had no strength in my legs. Z, on the other hand, was fine. He leaned against the back of the truck and stretched his legs while I debated going into diabetic shock. When he hopped into the driver’s seat, I informed him that we were going straight to Mellow Mushroom Pizza — despite dusty ankles, despite reeking of bug spray and sunblock and despite the wild look in my eyes. When we got back to the inn, I was still feeling pretty down on myself for having such a hard time on the trail. We met Danielle’s husband, Ken, in the hallway. We told him about our day. He seemed genuinely impressed that we finished the trail in four hours. I used the burst of confidence to will my tired legs up to our third floor room.

 

I think I said an expletive when I saw this portion. Silly me, I wasn't even to the strenuous part yet. (Trail is much steeper and rockier than appears in photo.)

 

The next morning I had to roll myself out of bed because all of my muscles were locked into position. I winced going down the stairs. My upper thigh muscles were unforgiving. I tried to convince Z that antiquing would be a fun alternative to kayaking. He scowled at me and asked for the nearest outfitter. As I ate my fruit danish and drank my OJ, I was grateful that you sit while kayaking. We were the only kayakers on the river with a few tubers and fishermen. And why were we the only kayakers? Because everyone else had the sense to know that it was too shallow to kayak. The mountains, it seems, are also suffering through a drought. At points in the river, we had to get out and drag our kayaks through ankle deep water. Other times, I just reached out and pushed off of the river bed. Z christened our outfitter Rocky Bottom Kayaks. I hate this was Z’s first kayaking trip because it wasn’t as fun as it should have been. Luckily we have a knack for coming away with stories even in the dullest of circumstances.

Currently Reading: Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

Finished Reading and Loved: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

 

Ay, Caramba! and A Holy Freakin’ Moly July 28, 2011

Apparently today at our house it was Let’s Finally Be Decisive and Change Our Entire Lives Day. Z and I have made three very important leaps forward — leaps into the deep, dark unknown.

Decision #1: It’s time to make some babies in a Petri dish. Hey, there is romance and then there is fertility. Don’t confuse the two. Z’s test results were good: The Time Trials were a success! Z made Dr. M run through the options once again. Insemination was taken off of the table. My eggs get more and more decrepit every single day and, as far as Dr. M is concerned,  it’s best not to chance giving birth to a baby dinosaur. [How is that for gender disparity — Dr. M said Z is working with slightly deformed goods, but mine are just aged, and yet THE WOMAN is the problem. Typical.] So we are inevitably back to working with in vitro fertilization. My fertilized eggs will be monitored in the dish for five days before the best and – hopefully – brightest of the bunch get returned to the mother ship. [If I’m going to all this trouble, this kid better be a daggone rocket scientist.] If the first round doesn’t work with my eggs, we go to donor eggs and the process starts again. I’m going to be buying baby food with my social security checks at this rate.

 

This is how I imagine a petri dish full of my babies.

 

Decision #2: Z wants to own a business. We looked into a franchising possibility today and are super excited about it. We’ve been conducting our due diligence. Once things become more concrete, I’ll be less mysterious on the topic. On our way back from the doctor’s office, we are discussing all of the possibilities. Z will manage the business and staff and I will create the marketing plan. I was blurting out ideas when he informed me that he expected me to keep my day job. Say what?! So, wait, you expect me to 1) keep my day job 2) have a kid and 3) also work at the family business? He went into his passive-aggressive happy place trance before he emerged an hour later to declare, “We’ll still need your work health insurance if we have a kid.” That was just rude putting all of the responsibility for our baby dinosaur’s health on my shoulders. I’m going to need Z to work on his daddy and his negotiating skills.

 

Who needs an MBA?

 

Decision #3: I was feeling bold the other day and submitted a writing sample to a local community paper. And lo and behold, I am their new contributing writer. It’s a volunteer position, so I have to keep my day job. [Reoccurring theme, anyone?] I worked on my first story today. It’s 500 words about an upcoming event. I was interviewing the event coordinator, when in mid-sentence, my brain screamed out, “Who the heck do you think you are? You aren’t a writer! You can’t submit this story for publication! You don’t know what you are doing!” My subject was too distracted by the thousand details still to be done and the stifling temperature in the venue to notice that I was having a nervous breakdown in front of her. Luckily I have a really poor attention span, even for my own breakdowns, and recovered quickly. Yeah, I can do this. [I think I can! I think I can! I think I can!] When it becomes a reality and I see it in print, I’ll post it here.

 

I bought these to soothe my apprehension, but they just made me nervous, so I hide them under the bed.

 

All and all, you can’t really argue with a day filled with a baby dinosaur, a husband with a purpose and 500 words for publication. I’ll be thanking my lucky star tonight.

Stress Reading: On Writing by Stephen King. So far it’s more of an autobiography  than a book on writing advice. Pleasant read though.

Training Log: Oh boy.

 

The Wicked Witch of the West Had Killer Legs July 24, 2011

Filed under: Currently Reading,Exercise Follies,Family,Field Trips — Teri @ 10:27 pm

If you squint, you can see Bike Boy in the distance.

The Tiny Room Tour is over halfway through the North American dates. Z and I spent the last five days on Hatteras Island on the Outer Banks. True to form, our cabin accommodations were spartan — no TV, no kitchen, a mat for a bed. It was sorta awesome. I took away a few important thoughts from our time together: 1) my husband eats Oreos incorrectly 2) the Wicked Witch of the West must have had killer legs 3) it’s impossible to take a good photo of stars.

On the way to the bath house the first night I looked up to the sky and was completely blown away by the number of stars that could be seen. It’s a forgotten advantage of living away from urbanization. Layers upon layers upon layers of stars in a sky was so black that it looked soft. Van Gogh totally should have painted Starry Night on black velvet. It would have taken it to a whole new level.

One of my favorite moments was sitting on the mat at bedtime eating Double Stuf Oreos with Z. I revere the Oreo. I take my time, twist the cookie away from the cream, eat the cream (while trying to peel it up in one piece — let’s face it, you can’t lick that stuff), then eat the cookies one by one. Happiness. I look up and see Z stuffing the whole cookie in his mouth. No reverence. No remorse. I was stunned that I was married to a man that didn’t know the proper technique to eating an Oreo. I tried to teach him. He listened, then popped another whole cookie into his mouth.

The next morning we decided to bike the seven miles down to the Graveyard of the Atlantic museum. I packed Gatorade, apples and granola bars in case we got distracted and didn’t get back in time for lunch. We always get distracted. We were almost to the museum when we ran into the traffic for the ferry to Ocracoke Island. The ferryman (no, not that ferryman, luckily) waved us over and said we could take our bikes and hop the line to the front if we wanted to take the ferry. We hadn’t planned on going to Ocracoke, but who can resist hopping a huge car line?! We weaved through the cars and parked our bikes up front. A guy in his mid-20s was already waiting with his bike. He was friendly in a quiet and mild mannered kind of way. He told us he was biking from Rochester, New York to Greenville, South Carolina to visit family. He had already rode 850 miles, mostly taking a coastal path. He had camping gear tied to the back of his ten year old bike. Did you do anything special to your bike for the trip, I asked? I put new tires on, he said. So much for needing the latest and greatest equipment. At the end of our 40 minute ferry ride, I wished him luck and told him to be safe. He blushed and took off down the road in a blur.

Meanwhile, Z and I had 13 miles to go to make it to Ocracoke Village. I was on my beach cruiser and Z was on his mountain bike. Z let me set the pace since my beach cruiser doesn’t have gears and was being solely powered by my pudgy little legs. We were pushing slightly uphill and against the wind for the first nine miles. That part of the island is completely undeveloped except for Highway 12 South running from the ferry dock to the village. At intervals we could see the ocean through the sand dunes. It was incredibly hot, but the sky was blue and, even though I was peddling like mad against the wind, it felt great against my face. As I struggled to come up with a word to describe what I was seeing, the only thing that would come to mind was, “This is the day the Lord has made.” We stopped halfway to visit the Ocracoke Ponies, who were mostly hiding in the shade. When we got back on the road, Zef couldn’t hear me due to the wind, so I entertained myself by humming the theme song for the Wicked Witch of the West. She may have been wicked, but with all of that bike riding, she must have had killer legs. Thanks to the wind, it took us two whole hours to get to the village. We were hot, sweaty and thirsty and it was two hours past lunch time. We stopped at the first pizza place in the village — Jason’s Restaurant. Chris, the waiter, took pity on us and brought us huge glasses of water in addition to our tea and soda. [Why, oh why, does no one on the Outer Banks carry Coke, I begged to know. Because the Pepsi bottler is in New Bern, Chris said definitively. Oh.] Maybe I was just hungry, but the pizza is amazingly delicious. If you are ever on Ocracoke Island, go there. Ask for Chris. You won’t be disappointed. Before we left, Chris wrapped our leftovers for the ride back and filled our empty Gatorade bottles with ice water. I was expecting to battle the wind again, but the ride back was utterly calm. We arrived at the ferry in under an hour. Told you that pizza was amazing.

Currently Reading: A Scattered Life by Karen McQuestion

Training Log: About 60 bike miles over the course of three days.

 

A Mother’s Wisdom July 12, 2011

Filed under: Currently Reading,Family,Training Log — Teri @ 12:11 pm

My mother left behind this little tidbit on our refrigerator after she house-sat for us this weekend:

Still Currently Reading Because I’m Not Reading: Bossypants by Tina Fey

Training Log: Day 1 of 7 (that’s a restart!): Activity: Spin (Stage 8 Tour de France – Climbing), Time: 51 minutes, Miles: 18.2, Calories Burned: 516