Saturday, December 31, 2005

A two-monkey Saturday

After spending most of yesterday moping on the couch -- the result of yesterday morning's vomiting episode, the first in 10 days, which somehow made it more demoralizing rather than less -- I'm looking forward to getting out a bit more today. And also eating some real food.

Today's main events are diametrically opposed: This afternoon, Darren and Steve (Darcy's partner) are going to see King Kong. It's my job to watch young Sam while they're out for the approximately six hours this ridiculous movie apparently takes. It's been a while since I spent any significant amount of time alone with a toddler -- actually, it's been years -- so I'm a little apprehensive about my ability to stay engaged for dozens of performances of the same book. But I'm also looking forward to hanging out with curly-headed Sam, who is a very sweet little monkey himself.

After a few-hour hiatus, Darren and I are going to a veddy fancy restaurant with my sister and her husband. The four of us decided not to exchange Christmas presents this year, and are going out to dinner instead at this very nice northern Italian restaurant. We went there for my birthday and spent a truly hideous amount of money -- at least in part because we drank cocktails followed by two bottles of wine (we were with another couple, so it's not as bad as it sounds). And obviously this evening at least one of us will not be partaking of all that booze. I'm a bit nervous about the whole food thing, but thus far I've been ok when I eat out, as long as I order carefully.

I've never been one for big celebrations on New Year's Eve, and I'm feeling even less festive this year. So I'm guessing that after dinner we'll leave the younguns to their partying and D and I will come home. I'll be lucky if I stay awake until 10:30, let alone midnight... Apparently, though, we've missed our window for renting any decent movies. Darren went out last night to grab a copy of The (improperly punctuated) 40-Year Old Virgin, but to no avail. March of the Penguins was out everywhere, as was Millions. So we watched our own DVD of Broadcast News -- one of APL's favorite movies, if I remember correctly? -- and ate ice cream and were happy.
Given the size of Darren's DVD collection, we'll be in fine shape if we have to go the same route tonight.

Hope all of you have a very happy New Year, with a celebration that's just the way you want it.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

If pregnancy were a class, my grade would be a C-

Yeah, I just don't think I make a very good pregnant woman. Cases in point:

~The whining. I used to try to confine it to the indulgent folks over at Phantom Scribbler's Wednesday Whining thread, but that moment of restraint ended long ago. These days, I whine to anyone who will listen -- including the counter girl at Taco Bell who had the nerve to serve me a Sierra Mist without any syrup in it. Friends politely ask how I am feeling, and I respond with a 20-minute treatise on the last time I threw up, the current list of food I find appealing, the relative tightness of my waistband and how well I am sleeping. Someone needs to tell me to shut up. And then sit on me when words continue to come spewing out my mouth.

~The inability to feed myself at regular intervals, despite the fact that doing so dramatically reduces -- if not eliminates -- my nausea. I got up a little before 9 this morning and had a bowl of cereal. For the next several hours, I sat at the computer in my pajamas, doing some work and then fooling around. I kept thinking that I needed to get something to eat -- typically I have to eat second breakfast about 90 minutes after the first -- but sheer laziness kept my unwashed self in the chair. Finally, at 12:30, I was so nauseated that I couldn't even open the refrigerator. Had to munch on saltines for a while until I could bear to pull out a pot and the Annie's from the pantry. Later, ate the entire box of mac and cheese.

~My distaste for cheesy pregnancy-related tchotchkes. Yet another topic about which I have whined to the commenting pixies. Why does the stuffed, extremely pregnant bear with "baby on board" on its stupid yellow T-shirt bother me so much? And why am I so irrationally opposed to the idea of an all-female baby shower... something I know my mother-in-law must already be planning, complete with games. Games. Ugh.

~My general lack of interest in frilly baby stuff to begin with. The baby's room -- which I refuse to call a nursery, because isn't that something that wealthy English people have, and isn't it ruled by the nanny? -- is going to be orange, and it will have a bare minimum of frilly foo-foo nonsense. Some nice, bright prints, maybe a mobile -- won't that suffice?

~The very small number of questions I have for my doctors. They seem to be expecting a deluge of queries every time we go... and I just don't have 'em. In part that's because I read the Sears pregnancy book -- and use Dr. Google -- whenever I have questions. And in part because I feel like this event is largely going on without any conscious action on my part, so there's not much I can really do about it. (Although obviously I am eating as well as I can, all things considered, taking my vitamins religiously, thinking about getting some exercise, etc.)

~And that gets to the heart of what I think is bothering me: I feel strangely detached from this pregnancy. I don't feel a sense of connection with the bambino/a at all -- despite how clear it is that he or she is, in fact, in there (and apparently trying to kill me) -- and I plain and simple have not enjoyed being pregnant thus far. I keep waiting for that second trimester spurt of energy (not to mention the cessation of the nausea) and it's just not coming. I am spending a lot of time wishing that this stage were over.
Wasn't it just a week or so ago that I was writing about learning from Darcy about living in the present, being grateful for the life you've got? Well, it ain't happening right now. I think in part that's because so much of my life is in limbo right now -- I don't start my new job until next week, the holiday frenzy is already over, I'm trying to line up some freelance work but nothing has come through so far... I spend lots of time being busy, but not a ton of time actually accomplishing anything. And I guess that's how being pregnant feels, too -- like it is proceeding verrry slowly with nothing to show for it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Home again, home again

Oops, I didn't mean to go this long without posting, but it's taken me a while to get back in the swing of things. I left Maine a week ago to spend a night with my friends S and T, and their wonderful daughter C, in north Jersey. Although it was a short visit, we had a very nice time; I got to see their new house and neighborhood, and S and I got to catch up. And Rocky did quite well with the one-two punch of a toddler and a cat who is unused to dogs.

The following day, I drove the last hour to my parents' house and feverishly finished the scarf I made for my aunt, the last of the crocheted presents to be completed. Eventually, the house filled up: For most of the weekend, my parents' small Cape was occupied by seven adults and five dogs (except for Christmas dinner, at which point there were nine adults and five dogs). All things considered, it went pretty well -- the dogs got along, and so did the people. Crazy Lucy did gobble up the loaf of bread for Christmas dinner, and Jelly fell down the stairs to the basement, but neither was the worse for the wear.

In my family, Christmas is always a three-day affair. It begins on the 23rd, with my dad's parents' anniversary. Typically we go out to dinner, but my grandmother didn't feel up to it (and my grandfather has a hard time hearing in restaurants anyway), so we had takeout pizza -- the thin-crust NJ version that you fold in half to eat -- and orange soda at their house to celebrate their 63rd anniversary.

On Christmas Eve, we returned to my grandparents' house for the traditional Italian dinner, attended by all three of my grandparents' sons and their families. We've been celebrating the feast of the seven fishes for years -- although it's not something my grandfather's family did when he was growing up -- but for at least the last decade it's been in the form of seven-fish stew, a marinara sauce studded with seafood and served over linguine. I couldn't face the plate of shrimp, mussels, scallops, halibut, cod, squid tentacles and other assorted fishy bits this year, so my mom made a batch of meatballs and a separate pot of sauce, which I happily consumed.

This celebration was more harmonious than it has been in most years. Part of that has to do with the fact that my cousins -- three typically out-of-control boys -- are growing up; they range from 10 to 16 now, and are actually capable of carrying on conversations and recognizing when it's inappropriate to be rude or sarcastic (not that it always stops them...). Part of it also came from what seemed to be the naturally good moods of everyone present. My uncle C, the father of the boys, even started a round of carol singing with my grandfather, who absolutely loves to sing and can never get any of us to participate. C tends to be somewhat dismissive of his father, but on Christmas Eve he was warm and generous, and my grandfather was visibly pleased as we sat at the table after dessert, singing carols off-key.

We spent Christmas morning at my parents' house -- my folks, my mom's sister, my sister and her husband, Darren and me and all the pooches -- then my grandparents came over for dinner that night. All weekend, food was a bit of struggle for me. I never threw up -- thank jebus -- but I felt mildly queasy and extremely tired almost the whole time. I drove the whole way home, in a (successful) attempt at avoiding motion sickness. The drive took us nearly 8.5 hours -- about two hours longer than usual, thanks to the misery that is traffic between Boston and New York -- but Monday night we happily slept in our own beds.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A to-do list as long as my arm

That's what I've got in front of me today. I leave tomorrow for New Jersey; I'm spending tomorrow night with my fabulous pal S. and her family in north Jersey, then on Thursday driving the last hour to my parents' house. Rocky's coming with me, which should be interesting, considering that S. has a cat who has very little, if any, experience with dogs... and that Rocky loooooves cats and thinks they should be her friends and playmates.

Darren is coming down Friday with my sister, her husband, crazy Lucy and Jelly, who yesterday started a new and unpredictable habit of peeing in the house -- once on her bed, which seems to be a particularly bad sign. Luckily, one of my stops today is at the vet's to pick up a refill of her arthritis meds, so I will inquire about this new problem and find out when they want us to bring her in for what will probably turn out to be a couple hundred dollars of tests. I'm a bit worried about kidney function, which can be a problem in older dogs... she's been drinking a ton of water lately, and that's another bad sign.

Today's to-do list wouldn't be so long if I had gotten anything other than grocery shopping and some half-hearted wrapping done yesterday. But I spent the morning feeling miserable, between anxiety about the spotting and some heavy-duty nausea; then, by the time I was back from the ultrasound and feeling better, I had just an hour or two before we went to Darcy's sister's house for an impromptu gathering on what would have been Darcy's 36th birthday. Her sister wanted to hear all the stories she'd missed at the party, so we all obliged. There were 10 or 12 of us, munching on crackers and cheese and watching sweet Sam toddle around giggling; it was a completely celebratory, warm evening. We stayed much longer than we'd intended, came home, cleaned up pee (or at least Darren did) and went to bed.

And that is why I should be hopping in the shower and starting to cross items off that list, rather than sitting here typing. Oh, and did I mention that I also have an editing job for my former employer -- a job I have not yet received, but that must be finished before I leave tomorrow morning? Argh.

Monday, December 19, 2005

All clear

As Anita suspected, everything was fine at the ultrasound.


Again with the spotting

Yet another ultrasound scheduled on short notice, again because of inexplicable spotting. I'm also feeling some lower abdomen twinges that the nurse at my ob-gyn practice thinks is probably just round ligament pain, but the combination has me worried. Ultrasound is at 1:30 today.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Snow day

Technically, I believe the weather phenomenon we are experiencing right now is called a "wintry mix," but I'm not entirely certain. I was supposed to be spending today finishing my Christmas shopping and picking up the desk and printer stand for my new home office. But it's been snowing for hours, switching over to what appears to be freezing rain in the last half hour or so. That means the roads are likely to be lousy; while I hate the idea of doing these errands tomorrow and encountering the consumerist hordes, it's sorta silly to go out today when I don't really have to.

So, the day's agenda has changed. Today's tasks:
  • Take a shower.
  • Put laundry away, and deal with the giant pile of clothes on the chair in the bedroom.
  • Change sheets on guestroom bed and remove random piles of junk in preparation for Darren's brother's arrival this evening.
  • Call furniture store to put desk and printer stand on hold.
  • Finish crocheting hat for Dad.
  • Brush Rocky.
  • Contemplate beginning work on the scarf for my aunt.
  • Pick up other random piles of junk around the house and put contents away.
  • String lights on Christmas tree, which has been standing undecorated in the dining room since Sunday.
  • Lay on the couch and watch TV or read for a while (hey, technically I'm on vacation!).
I promise to try very hard to not start at the bottom of the list.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A wild and precious life

Yesterday, we laughed and we cried. A lot. We did a lot of both, which was sorely needed. The church was mobbed, and quiet except for the sniffling, which began almost immediately. Darcy had planned the service and asked her neighbor, a woman who was recently selected to run the Maine Council of Churches, to lead it. It was full of poetry, which Darcy loved, including several poems by Mary Oliver. And it began with music -- a selection of songs that her partner, Steve, chose for her. I had a hard time not sobbing as each song came on.

First was "At Last (My Love Has Come Along)." Next was "Save Me" by Aimee Mann, with the chorus "Won't you save me from the ranks of the freaks who have never loved anyone." And then the one that did me in: a live recording of "Something in the Way She Moves" by James Taylor, which begins "Something in the way she moves, or looks my way, or calls my name/ that seems to leave this troubled world behind... And I feel fine anytime she's around me now, she's around me now almost about all the time./ And if I'm well you can tell she's been with me now.She's been with me now quite a long, long time and I feel fine."

I'll spare you the blow-by-blow of the service, but amazing moments included hearing Darcy's beloved grandmother talk about their shared love of poetry, and the games they would play with Emily Dickinson's poems; she then recited from memory two or three that Darcy particularly liked. And Steve gave the most honest, beautiful euology I can ever remember hearing; he talked about how they met, when he fell in love with her, and when the work of the relationship began. He talked about fights they had, and the fact that Darcy would always return ater storming out (sometimes in her electric wheelchair) with a smile on her face. And he talked about Sam, their sweet son, who was in his dad's arms for much of the service.

Somehow, there is a recording of Darcy reading one of Oliver's most famous poems, The Summer Day; the service closed with that recording. Hearing her beautiful voice, unaffected by the ALS, brought the tears again. And the poem's message, which was the message of the entire service, really hit me hard.

Darcy's fervent wish for us all is that we learn to live intentionally, to take pleasure in every moment. Steve read something she'd written to that effect, which included lines such as "Don't waste time eating food you don't like, or drinking cheap beer. Don't watch television. Don't stay in a relationship you know is wrong."

I have never been good at living in the moment -- I am a planner, always thinking about the next thing on the to-do list or the next challenge ahead. Last night, though, I resolved to try to be more like Darcy, to take advantage of the time I have, to cut down on the multi-tasking (and perhaps even the TV-watching... not sure about that one), to put more effort into connecting with friends and family. I don't want to lose these hard-earned lessons.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean~
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down~
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
-Mary Oliver

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The memorial service is this afternoon

We're planning to get there early -- 45 minutes or an hour early -- because we assume it will be mobbed. This morning I need to get myself showered, make sure the clothes I'm planning to wear are clean (a project that was interrupted last night when dinner refused to stay down), iron Darren's suit pants and pick up a veggie platter for the party after the service. (Yes, party -- Darcy was very clear that this be a celebration, not a wake. She even specified which of our friends is to bartend, and what drinks he will be making: cosmopolitans and dirty martinis.)

Yesterday was my day to make dinner for her family. Her partner moved to Maine from Colorado, and he loves spicy southwestern food. So I made this fantastic Cook's Illustrated recipe for chicken enchiladas... forgetting, of course, that because it's a Cook's recipe it has eleventy-three thousand steps and literally took me three hours to make. By the end, I was covered in the spicy red sauce, my hair was greasy from standing over the stove and the kitchen looked like it'd been hit by a whirlwind. It was so nice, though, to leave all the mess behind, to pack up the food in nice, neat containers and bring it to their house, where all they'd have to do is throw it in the oven for 20 minutes. Darcy's family looked exhausted; they haven't had a moment of down time, and that on top of all the emotion has really drained them. So I'm sure in some way they are ready for today to be over.

I have to admit, in some ways I am looking forward to the service. I think we all really need the opportunity to say goodbye together. And while I know it's going to be difficult emotionally, it's a part of the process that we need to experience.


I am lucky enough that Darcy is only the second friend of mine to die. The first was Mark, a guy I went to high school with, who died from an incredibly aggressive melanoma when I was 25. The situation with Mark was complicated, though, by the fact that I was not that close to him, and that there were things about him I really didn't like. We were part of a large group of high schools friends, and of a smaller group of 5 or 6 of those friends who hung out a lot during summers and other breaks during college. He and I had very strong mutual friendships, but our own relationship was on the outer edges of that circle.

Still, he drove the 350 miles to see the first play in which I acted in college. (Yes, he nearly got me kicked out of school with his decision to get high in the fancy on-campus hotel, but that's another story entirely...) And I drove down to the Atlantic City area, where he went to school, for parties whenever I was home. We spent a lot of time one summer sitting on the edge of Paul's pool, drinking 40-ouncers of malt liquor (ugh), kicking our feet in the water and talking. So we were friends.

But Mark was bossy and socially awkward and could be a boor when he'd had to much to drink... which, for several summers, for all of us, was quite often. I never felt entirely comfortable with him -- in high school, because we competed, and because his sarcasm was withering, and later because of all the sketchy behavior he'd pulled with me and other female friends.

When he got sick, though, I tried, with varying degrees of success and an awful lot of guilt, to be there for him. My recollection is that it was less than a year -- maybe 6 or 9 months? -- between the news of his diagnosis and his death. So Paul and I drove down to visit him at school, to see the play he'd created as he sat beside us, wheezing because of what the cancer was doing to his lungs. Later, when he'd moved in with his mom and stepdad, I picked him up and took him to the movies to see that John Cusack movie about the hit man who goes to his 10th high school reunion. I vividly remember Mark hoisting himself up out of his seat in the middle of the movie to pull the medication he needed out of his pocket. Within a few weeks, Mark could no longer leave the house.

Soon after that, just a month or so before I moved to Boston to go to grad school, Mark died. He never made it to his reunion. After his funeral, we got raging drunk. I flirted with the best friend of my high school boyfriend (and later tearfully, drunkenly, confessed to Darren over the phone). I cried in the bar. And then Paul and I walked down to the beach and ran into the ocean.
I wrote an essay about all this in grad school; I puzzled over how to write about the loss of someone with whom I'd had such a conflicted relationship. I wrote and re-wrote. In every version, that essay ended with me and Paul standing in the Atlantic, having silently agreed not to jump over or dive through the waves, but to just stand there and let them crash on our heads.


We will not be running into the ocean today. Even if we did, the waves in this part of Maine are not strong and tall like those in New Jersey, and the feeling of being pounded by them, the physical feeling, would not be the same. I, for one, will not be getting blind drunk, nor flirting with anyone from high school. In the absence of those options, and in observance of the death of a friend with whom my relationship was much less conflicted, I am not sure what I will do. There will be tears, many tears -- for Darcy, and for the prospect of us without her. Beyond that, I do not know.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The sound of her voice

My friend Darcy was somewhat of a local celebrity; she wrote a book about her experience with ALS that received tons of publicity locally (and not as much as it should have nationally). So I don't know why I was shocked this morning to hear her death announced on Maine Public Radio, which then played a snippet of one of her essays. As her ALS progressed, she lost her ability to speak clearly, and her sister read most of her essays for public radio. This morning, though, as the water for my oatmeal was boiling, they played one of her first essays, one of the ones Darcy read herself. And the sound of her voice, unimpeded by the muscle problems that come with ALS, was amazing. I hadn't heard it in at least 18 months.

There is lots more I want to tell you about Darcy -- about the way we met, and the purple couch she couldn't get into her new apartment, and the gourmet lunches she would make when we went hiking, and the great parties she would throw. But I have to take a shower and take the dogs to the groomer and do a bunch of shopping, Christmas and otherwise.

In the meantime, there is a story about her in today's paper; the link will only be good for a week.

Update: National Public Radio aired a lovely remembrance of Darcy this evening on All Things Considered, as did Maine Public Radio (audio link, which I believe is temporary). Both stories include clips of her reading, in that voice I miss so much. And it's amazing to me to look at the guest book pages on Darcy's online obituary and see comments from all these people who never knew her, yet were moved to write.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Requiem for a friend

A few hours ago, I got the news that my friend Darcy died this morning. She was 35, and was diagnosed with ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's disease, a little over two years ago. She was lucky enough -- and that's exactly the way she put it -- during this period to have found the love of her life, to have bought a beautiful house with him and to have given birth to their sweet, sweet son. She was an incredible writer, a beloved teacher and a generous, warm-hearted friend. I am stunned that she is gone, and will be eternally grateful that I had the chance to know her.

Free at last

I am done. Yesterday was my last day of work; my phone extension and email address have been forwarded to the new editor, and my desk has been cleaned out. I went into the office during the snowstorm yesterday to pick up my stuff and say goodbye; it took all of an hour. And though there was no lunch outing or other official recognition of my departure, the guys on my staff collaborated with the art department to surprise me with a mock front page full of funny headlines. This is a tradition among our staff -- it's done at many publications when someone leaves -- and I had no idea they were working on it. What's even better is that my former boss, who moved on to a fancy job in a big city, contributed several hysterical lines via email. So that took some of the sting out of leaving -- though, again, it was my friends (rather than my current boss, who is in denial about my departure) who took it upon themselves to put this together.

Anyway, I headed out into the storm, bought some cards and a book of crochet patterns -- I've got to finish mittens for my mom and make a hat for my dad in the next 10 days -- and then felt sort of at a loss. I didn't want to go home and wander around the empty house for the afternoon. So I called S -- who as it happened passed her nursing boards the day before! -- and we trudged through the snow to a celebratory lunch.

On the way home, I stopped at the grocery store -- whose door I have not darkened in weeks -- and bought supplies for a fantastic New York Times recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver for pappardelle with beef ragu. And I made the first meal -- other than scrambled eggs or oatmeal -- I have cooked in weeks. With this recipe, you sear the meat and then saute it with carrots, celery, onion, garlic, rosemary and sage, then throw in half a bottle of Chianti until it reduces halfway. Add a 28-oz. can of plum tomatoes (with the juices) and then stick it in the oven at 275 for three hours. So the house filled up with these savory smells as the snow fell outside. I did some research online for home office supplies, straightened the house and unpacked the Christmas decorations. A neighbor cleared our driveway with his snowblower just before Darren came home from a long day at work, and my sister and her husband came over for dinner. (At the end of the three hours, you throw away the rosemary and sage, and shred the meat and veggies with a fork. You also drain the pasta and toss it with an obscene amount of butter.) It ended up being a lovely day.

I'm trying not to make too much of how good I felt yesterday -- I did get sick first thing in the morning, but it didn't completely drag me down the way it has many days -- but I'm feeling cautiously optimistic today, too. I think at least part of my energy and ambition yesterday came from the adrenaline of leaving work, and my need for it to feel like a special day, rather than run of the mill. But if it also signifies a lessening of the morning sickness, so much the better.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Too sad

I'm not sure how many of you read Anita's blog, but yesterday she got some very bad news about the baby she's carrying. If you get a chance, please head over and give her some support. She's been a wonderful friend to me through the trying to conceive and early pregnancy process, and I'm just heartsick about this turn of events.

At long last, the bedroom work is done

Here's the final repainting picture with which I will torture you. The difference here is that the ceiling and the floor are painted. We've ordered one rug, for the long side of the room, and are in negotiations with my parents about possibly using one that they don't need any more for the square side. (And, yes, that plant under the window is quite dead. I just haven't gotten around to admitting that and throwing it out yet.)

You can see from the bedside table that I've always liked the color we ended up with on the walls. My first thought was to strip the end tables and refinish them with stain, rather than paint. But since I'd have to coerce someone else into doing that work because of the noxious chemicals involved, and since I kinda like how they disappear into the wall, I'm thinking of leaving them this color. Your thoughts?

And here's a closeup of the floor color, which is sorta putty-like.

Now, to the shower and off into the snow to collect the contents of my desk and say goodbye to my soon-to-be-former co-workers.

Does beef bourguignonne count?

As seen at Phantom's...

You Are French Food

Snobby yet ubiquitous.
People act like they understand you more than they actually do.

Hmm, I was sure I would turn out to be Italian food... Curious.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The religion problem

My parents -- my mom especially -- are fairly religious. They were both raised Catholic; she Irish, he Italian. But they were both hippies as late teens and early 20-somethings, which I think is what led my mom to some of the newer Christia n churches, with rock bands, speaking in tongues and laying on of hands, when I was a kid. Since then, she's retreated to pretty hard-core Catholicism. While my dad doesn't talk about it much -- and he's much more politically liberal than she is -- he's right there with her on most things related to religion.

Darren and I met while working at a Catholic boarding school for Native American and Hispanic kids in New Mexico. He'd gone to Notre Dame and was at that point somewhat into liberal Catholicism. I wasn't, but I was enough of a Catholic to take that job the first year out of college, and to really enjoy immersing myself in the culture, as opposed to the dogma, of Catholicism. He and I took a group of five Navajo freshmen to Notre Dame on spring break that year and stayed with Darren's friends at Holy Cross seminary, where I was amazed to meet young, smart, fun guys who were planning to be priests. And a few years ago, we went back for the ordination of one of Darren's college roommates. It was an amazing and moving experience.

Still, we stopped practicing years ago. There were a variety of reasons, most of them the issues your average liberal has with the Church -- its policies on gay marriage (and this was before the draconion rules on gay men in seminaries that were recently reinforced), the lack of room for women, the problem of its policies on contraception, especially in the third world, its essential inability to deal with modernity. Practically as soon as I moved to Maine from Boston, where we'd occasionally gone to church at Boston College, a bastion of liberal theology that the Vatican occasionally gets worked up about, we stopped going to church.

My parents know this. We don't go to church with them when we stay at their house... except on Christmas, which we've spent with them every other year since we got married. (We did have a Catholic wedding, but if we'd gotten married even six months later, our doubts would have overwhelmed our desire to connect with that ritual, that tradition.) Two years ago, we realized on Dec. 24 that we were essentially trapped into going to church the following morning; we hadn't raised the issue with my parents ahead of time, and it didn't seem fair to spring it on my mom on Christmas morning. So we went. We didn't take communion, but we went.

We're spending Christmas with my folks again this year, and we've already decided that we need to have the conversation ahead of time. In fact, Darren wants to have a larger conversation with them about where we -- and he in particular -- stand on issues related to Catholicism; I'm of the opinion that we ought to just talk about Christmas for now and have the bigger talk later.

Because the bigger talk opens a can of worms that I'm not ready to deal with. I know that my mother -- and my father and my grandfather -- assumes that our child will be baptized in the church. My mom mentioned the other night that the only baby clothing of mine she'd kept was the dress I was baptized in. She found it recently and washed it, obviously hoping we'd have a baby girl who will wear it. The conversation was oblique; she didn't mention anything specific and neither did I. But soon I am going to have to tell her that this child is not going to be baptized Catholic. And since we're currently not attending -- or even looking for -- another denomination at the moment, this child is not going to be baptized at all for the time being.

This is a conversation I really do not want to have with my mother. In part because I will feel the need to be absolute about our decision, and yet there is a part of me that loves the ritual of baptism, of welcoming a child into a community of faith and love. But that love of ritual does not outweigh my serious philosophical differences with the Church.

Updated to add: I just told my parents about not attending church on Christmas, and they were fine with it. End of conversation.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

On the couch

So here I sit in the living room, typing this entry on my swanky new laptop and using some neighbor's wireless connection to get online. (That last bit freaks me out a little; I'll feel better once my own wireless network gets set up -- and encrypted -- next weekend.)

I'm still feeling generally crummy; thus the lack of updating. I had a morning sickness low point on Friday, when I had to pull over on the side of the road on the way to work in order to throw up. Thank jebus I had forseen this occasion, and my car was well stocked with plastic bags (though not, unfortunately, with tissues and/or napkins, a situation that has since been rectified). That was miserable. I was parked illegally on a well-traveled road through a park; since it's the approach to the interstate, it was full of commuters. Though I was parked fairly far back from the traffic light, I thought I'd be safe from traffic backing up next to my car... but that was not to be. At least I didn't get interrupted by a cop or a nosy commuter. Still, it was awful.

And then I went to work.

The last day of the first trimester is Thursday. My last day of work is Friday. I am trying very hard not to count on the nausea and vomiting to automatically lift when I wake up Friday morning, but it sure would be nice... In the meantime, I'm continuing on my vomit-once-a-day schedule, which seems to be unaffected by either the B-6 or the anti-nausea meds that completely knock me out anyway.

Other stuff... I've been meaning to post about the Linda Hirshman article that everyone's up in arms about; it tells you something about my lack of brainpower these days that it took me a few days of reading all the back-and-forth about her theories on women and work and feminism to realize that I am absolutely in the midst of one of those changes -- leaving full-time work for a part-time job, at least in part because of the baby on the way -- that she finds abhorrent. I need to gather my thoughts about that; at the moment, all I have is incoherent angst.

On a more domestic note (oh, the irony of that segue), the work on the bedroom is done. Darren has done an absolutely amazing job. I'd post pictures, but I haven't taken any, and with the latest round of paint smells up there sending me running for the bathroom a few hours ago, I don't think I'm taking any soon. We bought one rug yesterday and have to buy another today; once we've got that done, we can get going on the big move back into the room. It's going to be a bit like a chess game, as we move the couch from the living room into the bedroom, which creates a cascade of other moves, as does the need for me to set up the home office in a way that's conducive to daily work there, as opposed to a couple hours here and there. All of which also requires the purchasing of things, which stresses me out a wee bit due to the small fact that I am going to be virtually unemployed for the next three weeks.

Ok, enough of the miscellaneous angst. My in-laws just called to say they're dropping by with lunch and Darren's birthday present -- he turned 34 on Friday, which we celebrated in spectacularly unexciting fashion by watching 40 minutes of Mr & Mrs Smith (verdict: not as bad as you'd think, especially if you're in the mood for something light and full of cartoonish violence as enacted by very pretty people) and then falling asleep on the couch at 10 pm -- so I ought to get off my butt and attempt to straighten up this house.