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Learning and trying to be kind and living my life as fully as I can stand it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Stinson Beach

On Sunday August 30, 2015 my husband and I took the four kids to Stinson Beach in Marin. I had been missing the beach, craving its presence in my life, feeling the fact that my kids had spent very little time by the ocean, in the sand. Weekends for us, as for many of you parents and non-parents out there, are a mush of trying to get things done around the house (impossible with four toddlers but so needed with four toddlers and a big house on a big piece of land); trying to do something fun or exploratory or adventurous or educational with the kids while we have more than one set of adult hands or get some alone time. The whole how do I spend my free time and what is valuable to me question. I'm usually the one pulling us out of the house while my husband is pulling us back in. It wasn't even supposed to be particularly nice weather that day but I pulled us out, we packed our six into the Odyssey and set off.

Stinson Beach is an hour and a half away from our house with no traffic. There is always traffic. It's a mostly beautiful drive, plus driving to Marin from our house takes you past lots of back hoes and trains and those are our jam right now. You cross over the Bay on a long bridge. You realize that everyone is driving to Marin on a Sunday and smack your forehead for, if not forgetting, minimizing how lame Sunday traffic with a van full of kids is. Let's be real, Sunday traffic is almost always lame. You get to the windy, windswept Northern Cali hills and you see the wide, blue sea and know you are getting close.

I didn't grow up going to Stinson--my childhood home is across the street from Ocean Beach in San Francisco so we spent most of our time there. When my husband looks at me and says "It won't even be warm" when we talk about going to the beach, I always think "What does that have to do with anything?"
Ours was a cold beach where you had to run in and run out several times until your feet got numb. It wasn't a swimming beach. It was a digging, walking, running, wading, exploring beach. Stinson, on the other hand, always seemed like a warm weather beach to me. Maybe because Marin was almost always warmer than the Sunset district of San Francisco. More likely because when I went it was mostly in high school, with friends, and we were drawn there on warm to hot days as a special treat. Stinson lies somewhere between familiar and unknown to me--I don't have a specific place I like to park or lay my blanket; I do have good memories of walking its length with friends or laying out in the sun and people watching.

On our family trip we got one of the last spots in the parking lot. There were several groups of picnic-celebrators spread out on the grass. We took one stroller, the double Bob for its off roading prowess, and headed up the cement path leading up to the snack bar. Lily and Cyrus ran joyfully ahead, glad to be out of the car. Then we got to the sand and they wanted to be picked up. How many steps was it to the hard sand? Approximately infinity. Pushing a double stroller in soft sand? Someone should make that into an official DVD workout sold at Target because those wheels do not turn and you are feeling the burn. The wind picked had picked up quite a bit as soon as we hit the sand--this was definitely not a warm beach day.

We made it to the hard sand, right next to one of those sweet little inlets the tides sometimes create. I have many fond memories of playing in those and it seemed perfect for our crew. We set out our blanket, got out some pretzels that immediately got dumped into the sand, and sat down to take it all in. The sand toys came out and my man started constructing a wall between us and the water. The kids were 100% uninterested in the water except for Lily who was terrified. My little mama who worries about her siblings started screeching "No Daphne, no!" as her sister headed even slightly in the direction of the sea. So we were sand babies--mostly glad to be in a new spot. I was very glad and could feel the air and salt working into me, opening my heart up, reminding me that beach is home.

My sister arrived with her two toddlers and, like the Herculean warrior that she is, worked on pushing her single stroller and corraling her toddler through the vast spread of sand. I ran to help. Our area now resembled a mini-seaside retreat for Germanic small people with six light-haired, light-skinned children under the age of three roaming about. People stared but they always do. We talked, we watched kids, my husband went up to grab burritos from the snack shack, and then we packed up to go because realistically being on the windy beach with all those kids was not something any of us wanted to do all day. Kids--taking your leisure activities and turning them into work since the beginning of time.

We heaved and hoed back up the sandy hill, stunned and grateful when a younger man ran to help us lift the strollers to the cement. Plopping the kids onto the grass by the path so my sister could go get an ice cream treat that no one needed but that we offered anyway, we entered into the true fun of the trip--playing in the mud puddle on the edge of the parking lot. Out of the wind, we loitered a bit, admiring this sea of small cousins, laughing at the different dynamics among them.

Why am I telling this story? Because at some point in the day I knew I was entering a colitis flare. Such a drag. My stomach was not hurting but uneasy. I have the bladder of a camel so I almost never have to leave anywhere to go pee but on this trip I had to go off to find a bathroom for pooping purposes.

Side note: this story is going to involve poop talk. (Too late! Perhaps I should have put that note on toPoop talk makes me extremely uncomfortable and always has. You can't tell a story about colitis without talking about poop though so I guess it's time to get over it. Shudder.

We resume. The flare had begun. It wasn't major, it was just. . .my normal. Once every month or two I have a few days of stomach cramps, diarrhea, low energy, low appetite and overall blah feeling. During that time I resolve to "eat better" even though the jury is out on what foods I should or should not eat. Then I start feeling better and say woo hoo! Time for some bread and cheese and cereal and chips. It's not a cycle my husband loves. I can't say I love it either but I can definitely say I've gotten used to it. That day at Stinson I transitioned from feeling ok to paying attention to my guts again. I got ready to wait it out.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Away we go

September 2015 has been a doozy of a month. As a writer I'm struck by the number of times I start off with "It's hard to find the words to describe. . " Um yeah. That's where the writing comes in, lady. The wordy part. And with all the words in the world, in any language, I would have to spend many hours searching for one that would describe September. Get ready for lots of blogging.

I want to start at the beginning but instead I will start where I am. I will wrap it up in a messy bow because I neither know how nor have the patience to learn how to tie a tidy one. Then we can look at it all together, in one handful, from all of our different view points and see what we see.

Where I am is sitting at our desktop computer eating Italian Castelvetrano whole green olives from a jar, listening to my two older children cry and moan for me to come get them out of their cribs. It's quarter to eight in the evening and they need sleep more than they need anything else except maybe to cry. I hope they can relax into sleep soon. The little girls are asleep. Today has been a combination of a big, huge bag of whine and absolute glory--and by glory I mean two beaming toddlers chirping "Good morning" to busy adults streaming into Peets coffee and watching every.single.one respond with that light of recognition in their eye. The light that is God or humanity or connection or something. Even the grumpiest ones were pulled like magnets and smiled and greeted back. What is that magic?

Of the thirty days in September I spent thirteen admitted as an in-patient to two different hospitals. We just got the insurance claim in the mail letting us know that the total bill for the first three nights in our local hospitals was $730k and change. $732, 280.95 to be precise. That's just a fun aside that's not even showing up on my top twenty things I want to write about but falls into the category of what in the fucking hell are you even talking about, hospital? Almost a million dollars to get three days of IVs? Moving on because I just can't right now.

So almost half of the month being a patient. My post Deep in a Hole, an essay that deeply concerned a lot of people, was written the day after I got released from the first hospital and two days before getting admitted to the second. Of note, the second hospital stay began on September 11th which is only relevant because I am of an age and live in a time when that date on the calendar means you have known the date all day long, every year for the past fourteen years.

I wrote a post about how terrible I felt--how sad and sick and weak. The night of the 10th as I lay in bed between bouts of diarrhea, mathematically aware even with my truly awful addition and subtraction abilities that there was no way I was okay based on the volume that was coming out of me, my left hand clutched the sheet in misery and desperation. "Please," I thought aloud.

Was that the prayer that started things? No, I don't think so. Where I am now feels like it has been a long time in the making. Is there a rock bottom when we're talking about physical pain and illness? I will have to think more about that. Something happened at that moment. Something that looked and felt like giving up and standing up at the same time.

There is profound, powerful stuff happening in me right now. I want to write about you so you all can share it in any way it is possible to share. I don't think it will last forever but I imagine it will send ripples in me and beyond me for a long time.

25 Things About Me

1. I am currently taking 35mg of Prednisone per day.

2. This could be why I'm wide awake at 3:53 am

3. I love Steve Martin movies. L.A. Story may be my favorite.

4. I played soccer from age 5 to age 20.

5. I love to read.

6. I am a city-girl deep down in my bones and down to the bottom of my toes.
Born and raised in San Francisco so that has my hometown love, physical manifestations of my memories, my family, so many friends. It's so much a part of me it's hard to find the words to describe it.
Fell in love with New York the first time I stepped foot on its streets. Freshman year of college, travelling with a boy. Walking the streets at night, feeling like I was in a dream because people were grocery shopping and strolling as though it were the middle of the afternoon. Falling in love with a different boy on that same trip. I think I went at least once a year every year for more than ten years. I haven't been back in three years and I miss it with a dull ache in my chest.
Changed my life in Madrid. It seemed I could actually feel the blood pumping faster in my veins the first night I arrived. Ancient streets, food and noise and people and langauge and alcohol. I spent my junior year in college there, became fluent in Spanish there. Discovered what it felt like to have history become real. Became patriotic by surprise. I am a city girl.

7. I am the eldest of three siblings. Birthday order is as follows--me, sister two years younger, brother three years after her.

8. I used to love hugging, then I went to Boston for college and became more reserved and less into automatic hugging. I'm still figuring out where I stand on hugging.

9. It can be hard for me to say "I love you" to anyone other than my husband and my immediate family, even though there are many people I really love.

10. Being a patient, as in a person who is sick and being taken care of, is a big part of my identity. I've recently been reminded of that and it is having a profound affect on my life. I will write much more about this in the coming weeks.

11. I like the colors red and teal, but not together.

12. I have a dog named Sadie who has lived with me for twelve years. She is a German Shepard-Lab mix and she is a quirky, loving good dog who I underappreciate.and who has driven me nuts much of the time. These days she mostly chills and lets kids touch her even when she doesn't like it.

13. I am hugely afraid of snakes and have been for as long as I can remember.

14. I have two tattoos.

15. When I was a sophomore in high school I cut off my long, blondish hair and dyed it jet black. This was not meant as any type of socio-political statement at the time but it made a big impression at my school and in my familly. In retrospect it was a very fitting statement of my internal life but it mostly just seemed like it would be fun to do.

16. People often think I am part-Chinese or part-Asian because of the shape of my eyelids. I used to be very self-conscious of my eyes because kids made fun of me in middle school (ugh, middle school). I started loving my eyes in college.

17. I could eat sourdough bread and Cabot Sharp White Cheddar cheese every day.

18. I have been pregnant twice and given birth to four children--two by C-section and two vaginally.

19. I have owned four cars in my life--a reddish Ford Countour, a grey Subaru Forrester, a black Audi A4 and a silver Honda Odyssey.

20. I am messy and not skilled as a housekeeper. I would rather do almost anything other than clean though I have several friends who find cleaning soothing. I wish I found cleaning soothing. Can this be a learned trait?

21. I was baptized Catholic and received my First Communion but did not get Confirmed. I'm not 100% sure I'm supposed to capitalize those sacraments but it feels right and I'm not motivated to look it up.

22. Becoming a mother has profoundly changed my life and I'm still the same person I've always been. This is a confusing realization and experience.

23. I am completely fascinated by people.

24. Yoga makes me better.

25. I am not a good swimmer. But I am a Pisces.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Deep in a hole

Boy oh boy am I deep in the sads. Tears keep pouring down my face and my heart just aches. It feels bad. I think the thing my big kids say to me the most these days is "Mommy wake up!" because they find me lying in bed. Lying on the couch. Lying on the floor. Times are rough.

My Labor Day weekend was spent in the hospital. Just got out yesterday after a three night stay. I didn't harm myself or anything and I won't. I got dehydrated after a week-long colitis flare. The dehydration caused some acute kidney failure and then, of course, there was the colitis which they couldn't fix because there is no quick fix. Possibly no fix at all.

Last week my kids watched a lot of Elmo and we hung out at home as I told them "no" to the playground and "no" to picking them up into my too-tired arms.. They were troopers. I watched a lot of Friday Night Lights while they napped and rolled through the mental list of people who love me and want to help me. . .and didn't call any of them. It's not that I didn't want help or didn't think I needed it. The whole idea of calling someone to come to my messy house so they could try to peel my millions of kids off me was just. . .exhausting. I was weak and tired and sad and lonely and asking for help felt too damn hard.

I've written before about how parenthood is made for me, because I love to observe people and think about what makes them tick. In other ways it's the opposite. What I mean is that it can take my overactive, never shut-down, oh-good-God-in-Heaven-can-I-rip-my-head-off-and-smash-it-against the-wall-so-my-brain-stops-thinking-for-one-blessed-second to places it's hard to come back from. I was in it last week. Deep in the non-stop anxiety. The wanting to run away. The worry that I love some kids more than others. The feeling stuck in the suburbs. The being in constant relationship with five other people. The idea of adding more input to that--I just couldn't.

And I have wonderful friends. There are people I could call who, no questions asked, would hang out and not talk to me. Would play with my kids. Would hug me and not ask questions. And it was still too hard. In the end, I texted someone on my child-rearing team and asked her to come take my kids to her house. She happily complied and we all lived to see another day..though the next few were in the hospital for me.

I'm off Zoloft again. Is it the right decision? I don't know. Is it making for some tough times? Oh hell yes. The fear, the grief, the tears, the anger, the loneliness, the inadequacy--all of this is in me. I wish I could let it pour out and have it be gone but I don't think that's how I'm made--it might just keep coming.

This post is not a plea for help. Not because I'm stubborn (yes, I am very stubborn) but because that's just not what it is. It's about saying I'm sad. I have a lot of feelings about the fact that in the last few years I've:

-moved out of the city I love
-gotten married
-become a part of two other families, my new one and my husband's original family
-gone into emergency labor and delivered two beautiful, amazing children who spent many weeks in the NICU
-wondered if my son would live
-started learning how to be a parent
-started learning how to be a wife
-moved to a new town
-bought a house for the first time
-gave birth to two more babies who spent more weeks in the NICU
-lost my job at a company where I worked for most of my twenties and a good chunk of my thirties. 13 years

And for the past year most of those feelings have been muted by a drug. Now they're not and it's a lot. A lot, a lot. I am tired. I am overwhelmed. I think I've written most of that list in another post but I don't remember and who cares anyway. It bears repeating. My body is different. My memory hardly works. It's a lot. And on top of all that, I'm the type of mama who despite all efforts to the contrary worries about the day when they're all in school away from me and I'm lonesome for this time. It's all just effed, really.

So I reach out via text to a new friend and she gives me the image of riding a wave. This is not forever. And I remember that the night before I dreamed of not one but two tidal waves. I sit in the hammock and look up at the light streaming through the branches of ancient redwood trees. I read Anne Lamott and remind myself that I am not a freak. That this is what it feels like to be human.

None of that makes it any easier. But for a second I feel a millimeter of space in my heart that I can breathe some ease into. It's not enough but it's what there is. For now.