Saturday, July 24, 2010

It's not much, but it's what I know...

I’m driving down Tharpe Street today on my way to meet my husband for dinner when I start thinking about my little sister (the older little sister), and about how I miss her so much some times. For those who don’t know me very well, I have three siblings. I am the oldest by almost eleven years, so that by the time the first little sister was born, I was already pretty old(ish). And then when my brother was born, I was already a teenager, and by the time the youngest one was born I was already out of the house (thankfully)! So there I was driving along thinking about how even though there are a lot of years between us, and I love her like crazy, I’ve always been slightly jealous of her (a: because she got the cool name; and b: because she is a much better writer than I am; and c: because she can draw and is really funny). And thinking of my jealously made me laugh because usually the little sisters are the ones who are supposed to be jealous of the older sisters… not the other way around. And that got me to thinking about how our lives are now and how hard we try sometimes to have a relationship and how hard it is to have said relationship because of the years and miles between us. But mostly, what I think of is how things were when we were kids and how much I hate that life happened the way that it did to bring us to where we are now. I guess I think about this stuff because as a foster mom, I constantly am reminded of how awful people can be to their children, and the good Lord knows my mom and her dad were awful to us when we were kids.

I think my little trip down memory lane today was triggered by the fact that my son has been giving me a hard time the last couple of nights going to sleep. He’s apparently decided that bedtime is optional – and for a four month old I just don’t think that optional bedtimes are acceptable. Anyway, I started thinking about how when little sister was about three years old she started going through a phase where she didn’t want to take naps. But when I had to babysit (which was pretty much all the time) I wanted her to take naps so that I could play records and chill out (remember… I was only thirteen at the time). So when she would try to get up out of her bed and come bother me (which is what I thought she was doing back then) I’d trot her right back into the bedroom and put her right back into bed – and then I’d “trick” her into staying in bed by covering her up with every single one of her stuffed animals and then running my finger over her eyebrows until she got sleepy enough to stay asleep.

This one little memory made me realize just how much of my childhood I had tried to forget over the years and a lot of stuff came flooding back into my brain that I thought I had safely compartmentalized and locked away. This one little memory made me start thinking about our Grammy and Grampy’s house in Wildwood and about the day little sister was born and about the house on Chuli Nene and about the time little sister ran away and showed up on my doorstep. And I realized that I was going through these memories like little mini flashbacks that were quick in my head but so freaking detailed that I almost felt like I was going back in time.

In the span of five minutes and four miles, I had managed to remember teensy little details like the color of the shag carpeting in the sewing room of my Grammy’s house, which led me to remembering the earliest of my memories about my mother and father which was of them fighting at my Grammy’s while we were visiting (I think I was about five). I remembered the sound of surprise my mother made when we awoke one morning to find that my little sister had decided to “cook” in the middle of the night and had laid out all of the ingredients for omelets and all of the kitchen utensils on the floor in the family room of the trailer we lived in – I think she even “scrambled” the eggs (little sister was about three years old I think). I remembered the day I came home from a visit with my Grandma and brought back some cool makeup how mad I was when I found little sister in the bathroom unceremoniously dumping all of my new makeup down the bathroom sink – the smell of the toner she was dumping out was incredibly strong in my nose (I was maybe fourteen). And then I remembered how excited I was to learn that someone figured out little sister and little brother belonged to me after they had been “kidnapped” by their dad and lost to me for so many years – I could almost taste the salt from my tears on my cheeks (I was in my twenties when they were “found” and they were five and three when he took them).

So in this short drive, a lot of little things came into my head. I realized that many of the issues little sister(s), little brother and I had as children were things that were repeating themselves in homes all around the world. The emotions and agonies we’ve experienced over the years are nothing any more special than those of other families who’ve been torn apart by life, but somehow, subconsciously (possibly) I found myself trying to heal the wounds of my past by becoming a foster mom. Some people turn to booze or drugs to self medicate… apparently I turn to emotional turmoil to help soothe myself.

My little sister has been dealing with some pretty powerful stuff… and from a thousand miles away, it’s hard to try to help. But I guess I’ve been dealing with some pretty powerful stuff, too, as evidenced by my little flashback montage today – but I’ve dealt with it by trying to fix other people’s stuff (it’s easier to fix someone else’s stuff than your own I reckon). My sister has been dealing with her stuff by putting it on paper – this wonderful mix of words and drawings that make the awful so much more deal with-able. And once again, I find myself jealous of her because she can put into words and pictures what I can’t, and I want to be able to do that so badly. So I guess since I can’t get my stuff out on paper as well I’ do what I can do and just go “trick” my son into falling asleep by rubbing his eyebrows like I used to do for little sister (it is, after all, way past his bedtime)… it’s not much, but it’s what I know I can do. :)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Whole New World...

Well… I now know that my life is truly different than it was 9 weeks ago… turns out we had a snake back behind our building; and, because it’s a slow day everyone had to go look at the snake, of course. So we’re all (and I do mean all – you’d have thought it was a goober convention) outside watching this racer snake hanging out on the tree limb of the dogwood behind the building. It was such a pretty little snake (if there is such a thing), and it’s such a nice day out that you would have thought it was something right out of National Geographic… but then someone (me) realized that we’re in the South and decided it would be a good idea to throw a pine cone at the snake. (Yes… I’m that smart)

So I pick up a pine cone and toss it at said snake. And dang… for a girl… I can throw! Bulls eye!!! That snake turned its pretty little head and looked right at me. If he could talk I know he would have been saying “hey lady… I’m hanging out here… what gives?” or something like that. But other than look at me, nothing happens. So, even though I’m terrified of snakes, I’m kind of disappointed. I mean, seriously, I would have thought that my bull’s eye throw would have knocked that snake’s world and sent him at least chasing something! So I lean down to get another pine cone and hear someone behind me doing the yippee dance of someone being bombarded by something… I look up in time to see Laura, our sales support fabulous wonderstar, dancing in place because something had bitten her. Right about that time, the Mensa convention of genius minds that had gathered to watch a snake in the back realized that they were standing in the middle of a ground hornet’s nest! Oh my Gosh… you’d have thought we all lost our minds. Now when I write this next part… I want you to envision a classroom of three year olds screaming and jumping and running like little mad men… We all start running towards the back door of the building… every one of us whooping and dancing so as not to attract the bees (yeah… that totally works). Everyone except Will and me makes it in okay, and then the mad rush of angry bees makes a whoosh.

I manage to make it into the building but because LA had bees up her pants, she had stopped in the middle of the MuniScan office and started stripping down. Paige calls out to Will “Don’t come in ‘cuz LA’s takin’ her pants off”. So Will’s stuck outside with the bees and finally he decides to run to the front of the building to come in the front door. I’m trying to breathe because LA’s antics are cracking me up – even though in the back of my mind I’m wondering and hoping that she’s not allergic to bees. I hear Laura ask Paige for a cigarette and that was just enough to make me lose it completely… it was all too surreal and too funny. (The cigarette was not to smoke, of course, it was to use the tobacco to draw out the poison from the sting – but it was great timing).

All said and done, LA got stung like 5 times on her legs and hand and Laura got stung once on her ankle. We had to call Mr. Jimmy to let him know about the nest – and Lord don’t you know him listening to the story of how we found it had to be kind of funny. I stuck my head out around the corner a few minutes ago to see if the bees were still in a tizzy… and they were calmed down by then, but that snake was still up in his branch just hanging out, enjoying the sunshine. I think he might have gotten the last laugh on this one!

This would never have happened at my old job... we would have had a procedure in place for how to handle a snake in a tree!

Monday, July 19, 2010

MAPPing out our direction...

Once Evan and I figured out that we couldn’t have kids naturally, he had to deal with an awful lot of tears and tantrums from me. I was so angry. I was so angry I couldn’t focus my anger. I kept thinking to myself that it wasn’t fair because people who should never be able to have kids are able to have bazillions of them, yet I knew we would be a good family and provide a good, loving and stable home and here we were barren. It was like some gigantic slap in the face. When I finally got un-angry enough to be somewhat rational again, we started looking into adoption.

I knew that our rabbi and his wife had adopted both of their girls, and I figured that since he was clergy, that he had probably counseled many people through this, so I sent an email asking if we could talk to him about it. We went in to talk to him about adoption and he was so kind and informative. I remember him telling us not to worry about the finances part – that would come in time – and I also remember thinking he was insane about that part because we were a young family with student loans to deal with and mortgages and we were just getting started. So we started researching. And one thing that both Evan and I are very, very good at is research. I mean… seriously… a JD and PhD candidate married to a MS in PoliSci and about to be an MS in Public Admin… we KNEW how to research.

So we did. We started out kind of excited about the prospects. And we both started to become very angry all over again very quickly. Every place we looked we saw adoption fees in the tens of thousands of dollars. Seriously??? I mean, come on! One place was charging $65,000 for a healthy baby… like they would be able to guarantee a healthy baby anyway… but $65,000??? The most affordable option we were able to find was still out of what we could afford, coming in at just under $18,000. Even if we just had that lying around, how on earth would we have been able to afford the $890 a month in daycare, and $160 a month in formula and $80 a month in diapers alone on top of spending that much???

I became quite despondent. I will admit now that I was very depressed about it all. It seemed like there was never going to be a way for us to become a family of more than just me and Evan. But I was not about to give up on the idea of ever being a mommy… so I kept searching. Finally we decided to find out about adopting through the state agencies where kids who have been removed from their biological parents for various reasons could be adopted by families. So I called around and found out about the MAPP class (which is a class every adoptive and foster parent has to take). I called Florida Baptist Children’s Home first but was told that because we were Jewish that they would never, ever place a child with us. I was devastated!!! I had never experienced such blatant discrimination in my life… and to have experienced it from a faith based agency really threw me for a loop – especially after having just basically found out that we couldn’t have kids naturally – it was like a double whammy!!! Finally, I was able to find another agency that did not discriminate – Boystown understood that a good, loving home was just that – a good loving home whether it is Jewish, Catholic, Baptist, Muslim or Buddhist. Boystown was a godsend!!! They got us signed up for the MAPP class and got us on the road to adoption!

We committed to taking a class every Saturday for four weeks to learn what to expect from adoption and what kinds of behaviors and medical issues to expect from kids in state care. What we expected was a boring class. What we got was anything but!!! There was a lot of homework, don’t get me wrong, but it was a truly eye opening experience learning about the absolutely horrific things people can do to children and to each other. It was also an exercise in our relationship because it forced me and Evan to deal with things about ourselves and our pasts that we would likely never have revisited if not forced to. I mean… my parents were a nightmare… and I would have been happy to leave things in the past, but we had to learn to deal with our own childhood issues to be able to help children that may be placed with us to deal with theirs.

We didn’t go into the class expecting to make friends… but we made friends with the Olmsteads, who have since become like family to us! It’s pretty interesting how similar they are to me and Evan in a lot of ways!!! We didn’t go into the class expecting really anything… but we came out with new friends, a stronger relationship, and a new focus – becoming a foster-to-adopt family. More next time…

Before you get married... eat raw chicken

Evan and I had a perfectly wonderful dinner tonight at the Red Lobster. The service was a tad slow and the air was a tad high, but over all, it was a nice dinner. And when the two of us go to dinner we get to do a lot of talking, and we usually have such a good time in the process. One of the topics we touched on tonight was whether or not we were the same people we were when we got married - meaning had we tried to market ourselves as people we were not in order to "hook" the other one in. We came to the conclusion that Evan ate more salad and vegetables when we were courting than he does now, and I was a lot more wild during those days in that I would be out in the woods with my friends or would still go out in bars whereas now I prefer to be home with him and the baby.

Tonight was a little different because we ended up taking two cars due to me having come straight from a TAFPA board meeting across town, so after dinner I took the baby home in my car (because Evan likes to listen to comedy with bad words that I do not want my son to learn) and Evan headed home in his. Neither of us goes the same way, so I expected that Evan would have beaten us home due to the weather, but alas we pull into the driveway right about the same time. When we get out of the car he says he'd been listening to a comedian that was talking about how when you first start dating the fun stuff you do on dates distorts who you really are.

At this point, I'm kind of freaking out because it sounds to me like he's decided I'm no fun anymore and our responsibilities are a drag, but he goes on to say that this comedian thinks you should each eat a half of a raw piece of chicken and if you still like each other after going through food poisoning together that it's meant to be. So now I'm wondering if he's trying to lure me into eating gross nasty slimy chicken or something, but no he points out that within two weeks of starting to date him that my best friend's little brother was shot and murdered during a botched convenience store robbery. He got to see me at my snottiest, snivveliest, most distraught days as I worked through the grief with my friend and her family.

He then pointed out that within three weeks of becoming engaged, my best guy friend was killed in a freak accident in the back roods roads of 305. He knew I was crazy in love with my friend (obviously not in the same kind of love I was in with Evan... but you know what I mean)and that when Richard died I took it very, very hard. I was so depressed afterwards that I wouldn't get out of bed for days. And I cried all the time.

About a month after that, Evan and I were on the phone arguing about something and I was two seconds away from saying I wanted to break up when my cat dragged into my bedroom a half dead half alive nasty thing and I shrieked and asked Evan to come get it and kill it. From all the way across town he came in less than ten minutes to kill whatever present Bob has brought into my house... and he did it with no questions asked.

Evan saw me at my very worst and my very lowest points, and he was still in love with me anyway. His point in these stories, is that we were meant to be together. We went through some pretty hard stuff when we lost our first foster child to another family unexpectedly. And both Evan and went before the judge to plead our case even though before that beautiful little girl was given to us Evan never wanted kids. He stuck with me through two deaths, some pretty icky things the cat drug in, planning a wedding (which is another story all together), travelling to meet his parents, and finishing up school. And he stayed with me when I decided that we wanted kids.

What he was telling me tonight is that he loves me. He loves me for who I am and he loves me for what I try to be. Can I be any more loved than that? I don't think it's possible. It may be that I've landed the last truly great, romantic man of the century!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

From New LIFE to Boystown

I was driving home from my old job one day when I noticed a sign right across from the bank. It read "New Leaders In Fertility and Endocrinology - or New LIFE" and touted that they were the best. I was super excited, because I didn't know there was anyone in town who handled infertility. A couple of weeks later, I decided to make an appointment.

I went in and was given a slew of paperwork to fill out. Finally I was called back to Abbigail's office to talk about my options and what brought me in. It was clear that the office was new and that Abbi was having some vertigo issues - so I kind of let slide that she wasn't the nicest person to me in the world. Besides... I wanted to have a baby so badly that I would have overlooked most anything. After talking about what we would do, I thanked her and left to go up front to make my follow up appointment which would be based on the time I started my next monthly cycle.

I was back within two weeks. They took blood work and did an ultrasound of my uterus and made some snapshots form the ultrasound and bid me good day. I was back three days later for more blood work and another ultrasound and another three days after that. Each visit's co-pay was costing me $50 or $100 depending on whether they did the Ultrasound or blood work or both. And we went through this at this pace for the entire month. When it came time for me to ovulate, Abbi told me to have fun with my husband the day before and the day after and to come back in the office afterwards for more tests.

So Evan was a good sport and played his part. And then I went in for more tests. After a whole month of collecting data, it was finally time for me to meet the doctor and discuss the results. I was actually quite excited, but then I got into his office and he basically said that they should never have even bothered to test me, that because of my weight, he couldn't help me because it would be borderline unethical. There was no sympathy in his voice at all. He said if I lost 60 pounds that he would reconsider but until then, no.

Now if you know me, you know I've had issues with my weight since I was very young. And I had just recently lost 70 pounds after hiring a personal trainer and starving myself basically. But I hit a brick wall and could lose no further. What really angered me is the lack of compassion but the eagerness to bill my insurance company more than $20,000 is fees associated with all of the testing.

I was devastated. About this time, my normal OBGYN retired and I had to find a new one. Dr. Friall came highly recommended and I ended up falling in love with her. She guided me through some things to try - we had Evan's boys counted a couple of times and Evan got to go see a Urologist - and we eventually tried two inseminations which both failed. That led us to try Clomid to see if we could get me to ovulate for another insemination, but it made me really sick and I basically exsanguanated for 6 months before having a D&C to stop the blood loss. I finally had my D&C while our foster daughter was in the ICU recovering from a lower respiratory infection. I figured if she had to be in the hospital and so did I maybe we couild recover together.

Dr, Friall eventually sent me to Dr, Winslow who also had the initial bedside manner of a slug, but once he warmed up to me he mentioned that it would be basically a 1% chance of me being able to carry Evan's baby because his guys were just way too damamged. So our choices were limited to IVF with ICSI ($15K a pop usually needing at least 3 cycles and not covered by insurance) or using a donor ($2-3K a pop). Both of these seemed so awful. I mean, I want to have a baby, but at what cost...

So we started really looking at adoption or fostering for serious. And that will be the next post...

Friday, July 16, 2010

How Did I Get Here?

Before I married Evan… actually before I ever even met Evan… I had decided I did not want children. I liked kids, don’t get me wrong; but, my mother and father were poster children for people who should never have procreated, and I was slightly afraid I would be the kind of parent they were. That thought scared the crap out of me, so I convinced myself no kids were ever going to be in the cards for me – I even managed to convince myself that I should never marry either.

As I got older though, there was something inside of me that kept longing for something… searching for something, really. And I tried to provide that something by learning new things or trying out new lifestyles in the hopes that something would eventually click and fill up that place that seemed to be eternally empty. It started with me going out all the time – to bars or dance clubs – and staying out to all hours of the night. But that wasn’t doing anything for that searching feeling other than making me more tired during the day so that my job felt like a weight around my shoulders. So I learned how to fish from my friend, Jeff; and I took that to the extreme by fishing almost every day for a while.

Jeff and I would head out from Tallahassee to go to Bottoms Road in Panacea to go flats fishing down at the end of the road by the boat ramp. We’d do this together several times a week or on the weekends, and I’ll never ever forget the first time I caught a speckled trout and had to take the darned thing off my line without getting bitten (who knew trout had massive teeth that HURT when they sink into your fingers). Heck, we even made it a party by taking Melanie and Claire along and eventually Mark and Wolfie who were present the day I tried to kill myself by becoming shark bait (but that will be a story for another post). It was a few months of wonderful, but then Jeff moved to Atlanta. And Melanie and Claire broke up. And Mark had a baby and I lost touch with Wolfie. And after almost being shark food, I didn’t like being in the water alone anymore. And then I got bored.

So I took a class about underwater environments at FSU and became enamored of the ocean (actually, I was already pretty in love with the water), and fell into the scuba class at FSU after an offhanded comment by one of the other students led me to the PEN 1136 class. I was terrified at first. I was not the typical 18 year old male that traditionally took the class – I had way more padding than the other girls in the class, and I’m not athletic. But it was wonderful! And the very first time I jumped off the boat in the Keys to dive the Christ of the Abyss, I knew the ocean and I would always have an incredible bond. I took my scuba experience to the extreme by signing up for the leadership classes once I finished my first class and then pushing myself to earn new certifications and make myself do things I would normally have never done (I did tell you I am a big chicken, right?). But then my life changed and diving was not longer really an option because my ears – specifically my Eustachian tubes – wouldn’t let me get to depth anymore (boo bad genetics!).

So I started hanging out in the woods with my hunting buddies (who I actually had met through scuba) more and more. I never shot anything (other than the odd Mountain Dew can at the rifle range every now and then), but I had a blast being out in the woods listening to the dogs bay off in the distance and hanging out by the campfire afterwards. My friend, Richard, and I would ride the back woods roads until the wee hours of the morning talking about life, friendship, love, God, work, and everything else you could think of, and we had fun. And Richard was with me the day I actually had a buck in my sights but the gun was shaking so badly I couldn’t pull the trigger. He had such a good laugh at that! But then Richard started dating a girl pretty seriously and I was focusing on my new house a little more and my days in the woods started to become fewer and farther between. Eventually I was more focused on school and Richard was more focused on running marathons until I before I knew it, I wasn’t in the woods at all anymore.

And I met Evan. And life changed. And Richard died suddenly. And my scuba friends all came back together for a while, but we were changed because we had lost our glue. And I became unglued a bit in my sadness. And then I married Evan and life changed again pretty seriously. And somewhere along the way, that emptiness began to change… my searching behavior began to shift. Marrying Evan made the emptiness not so empty, but there was still something missing. So we talked about kids. He didn’t want them. And I didn’t want them. But really, I think we both did want them and were too afraid of ourselves to realize it.

We went through fertility testing until both of us were sick of being poked and prodded and stuck and studied. Finally, they figured out that his little guys were misshapen, lazy and too few to count, and my girls were too weird, and lazy and unreliable to work with. Basically, biology was against us. Who knew Mother Nature could actually decide she didn’t like you??? And so it was that we had to decide… adoption or be childless. And in my next posts, I’ll take you through those decisions.

The Story of the Great Blue Smurf

Anyone who tells you fixing up a fixer-upper is an easy project for a first time homebuyer may also try to sell you some prime oceanfront property in Montana so beware! Me? Personally, I own about a million acres in both Montana and Arizona where I hear the surf’s good some days! But seriously, home repair for the novice is definitely a process that requires significant levels of patience, understanding and cool temper as well as copious amount of liquid libation. My most recent foray into the building industry involves my master bathroom and the giant-blue-smurf mess I made about two years ago when I first bought the house and attempted projects with little to no sleep. Let me paint the picture for you (actually after you read this you may not want me anywhere near you with a bucket of paint):

It’s a quarter to midnight about a week into my nice, new 30 year mortgage, and I’ve managed to get most of my furniture into the new house by finagling my guy-friend’s trucks out from under them by promising beer (and quite possibly sexual favors that I never followed up on) and have started to tackle the task of painting. I’m pretty tired at this point in time as the good Lord decided to make that one of the hottest weeks in March ever seen on record. My dogs are so agitated because of the move that they can’t seem to get more than 5 inches away from me without freaking out that I am going to leave them so I am now technically hatching two dog-eggs (one of whom is 55 lbs and likes to sit on my foot).

Somehow I manage to maneuver around the dogs, fight off my tiredness and hold up the gallon of bright blue (okay, I have no idea why I chose this color so don’t ask) paint as I slowly brush the vibrant color onto the unprepared, still half wallpapered walls of my master bathroom. In retrospection, I made lots of bad judgment calls during this project, but we’ll focus instead on some of the funnier mistakes. So I’ve gotten about half the walls painted and it’s now closer to two a.m. than to one and my eyesight is starting to fail (some would say it failed the minute I picked out the bright blue paint chip).

It’s about this time that my grip on the paint can slips and what’s left in the can starts to tumble out of my hands. I hear myself scream “Nooooooo” but in the slow-motion voice and timeframe that follows it sounds more like “nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnoooooooooooowwwww” which is better than the four letter expletives I’m sure I was actually thinking of stringing together. I can literally hear the paint splashing down the walls, dripping onto the toilet, hitting the dogs (both of them) and dropping down my legs to puddle at my toes. Gabriel and Grace, both surprised at the sudden movement from the dropped can and my improvised crab dance as well as frightened from the splashes of goop hitting them, decide to bolt out from under me slinging even more paint throughout my bedroom and into the living room. Further frightened by my shrieking like a banshee, they proceed to jump on my bed, the sofa and finally the arm chair.

Meanwhile, I’ve forgotten that I’m covered in paint as well and start to run out after them only to realize once I’ve placed one smurf gut covered size nine and a half clodhopper on my tan carpet the mistake I’ve just made. So here I am, cussing up a storm of half formed four letter words (think Yosemite Sam), covered in gunk, trying desperately to walk only on the very small parts of my feet that aren’t covered in blue goo, fussing at my dogs who have now decided to wallow all over the sofa and arm chair thus furthering my level of agitation. Did I mention I was tired and agitated? Well, once I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have a blue toilet and some paw sized mementoes of the evening’s festivities through out the house I was able to calm down enough to get most of the gunk cleaned up and myself in the shower.

I finally climbed into bed that night… err… morning sometime around six a.m. and proceeded to sleep well into the next afternoon. When I arose and padded into the bathroom I couldn’t help but laugh at the folly from the previous evening. Not only was the blue everywhere, but it was awful to boot. But flash back to the beginning of the story when I told you that I was painting unprepared, half wallpapered walls. Pulling wallpaper down is a chore in and of itself, but pulling down wallpaper that’s had paint soaking through it is a nightmare. Here it is two years later and I’ve just now (as of 11:45 last night) eradicated the last bits of the bad dream by putting the last bits of plaster on the walls in preparation of the new color that will be going on this week.

Oh, you’re wondering how I got the goo off the dogs aren’t you? Well, let’s just sum up just how bad a mom I am… I shaved them down and made them go naked for the rest of the summer. Who got the last laugh now? Ha!