All right, people. Lizzy B. is very busy waging war against Norovirus, which, for a pregnant lady, is one hell of an engagement. So since it’s been forever, I figured maybe we’d have ourselves a little date with Etsy? Let’s shop, y’all!
Because if you’ve gotta barf, best do it in STYLE, yes?Read More
Dear Lizzy B.,
Trying to shake myself out of the fog of grief from last week, this afternoon I took myself out for a run on the National Mall. Well, a run/walk; I’d started C25K last year, hurt my left ankle, and had to quit in the middle of week 8. Frustrating! But I’m back at it in conjunction with a walking program here at work, and the first week run/walk is 1 min of each, alternating. I was happy to find that I had no trouble with the full 45 minute workout (including warm-up/cool-down), despite having some new trouble in the RIGHT ankle (Whee!). It helps that the weather here has been absolutely stunning the past couple of days.
I was realizing as I motored along past our museums and monuments, though, how seldom it is that I take the time to notice the feel of the air when the wind blows, or the crunch of gravel under my feet. To look around this city in which I was born, to which so many other people arrive from other places, and really feel my love for it. To sit in our home that we are so lucky to have, with a purring kitty on my lap and knitting in my hands, listening to my loved ones breathing in the spaces around me, and to be thankful that I have this day, that I have this moment, and that I had all the days before that.
I have this distressing tendency, Liz, to move along from crisis to crisis without actually catching any of the stuff that’s in the middle. It builds and builds and ultimately I hit a point where I can’t take ONE. MORE. THING. without a massive breakdown. But every now and then I’ll have a moment where I realize that I’ve quit breathing, and it’s time for me to get some fresh air into my system.
Today I took a deep breath. I just need to remember how to keep going.
PS: Since we’re all busy breathing, here is a photo of ladybugs having sex:Read More
Dearest Lizzy B.,
Yesterday, we lost our friend and companion of 13 years.
This is our Brutus Maximus Glorianus, furry child of our hearts, cat of a thousand nicknames. Purrbucket, Mr. Silky Paws, Crochety Old Man Cat, Broo, Bru-Bru, Brutissimo, Tiger Kitty.
Tom and I had only been in our first home together for four months when we walked into our local animal shelter “just to look”. There were many kitties there, and it was overwhelming to think that our choice would change our lives, but that we could only choose one cat whose life WE would change, and we wandered a while, bewildered. Meanwhile, others went by to see Brutus (then called “Peyton”, which never could have stuck; he was never a common “Peyton”.), and he would bitch at them in his grouchy way. But when we stopped by his space, he stuck his giant tiger paws through the bars, crossed them, and regarded us calmly as if to say, “Hello, there you are, when are we going home?”
So we did.
11 years ago May 4th, when I married Tom, we left for our honeymoon in New Orleans. A day or two into our trip, my brother called to tell us Brutus was very sick. Helpless, we waited for updates by phone as my dad and brother struggled to find out what was wrong. It turned out to be a urinary blockage, common in neutered male kitties, and very life threatening. We returned home and threw every dollar we’d received for our wedding, plus many more of my dad and brother’s dollars besides, into saving his life and keeping him with us.
Thank God, it worked. We went to pick him up at the vet where he’d stayed, touch-and-go, for a week or more, and he was SO HAPPY to see us, this grouchy kitty who came off like he hated everything. OH the purring, the talking, the insistence that it was time to go HOME now, please.
So we did. And Liz, we loved him SO hard.
Last October, we noticed the Old Man had lost a step, and some weight; we took him in to get seen, and he read as healthy at the time, if aging, which, for a dude who was at least 14 years old, is unsurprising. So we brought him home, where we lived on as always, with him underfoot for every session in the kitchen, on Tom’s lap for every television show or football game watched, in front of the fridge with his uncanny knack for knowing when the drawer containing the CHEESE was opened, greeting us each day at the door when we came home, and generally being our darling baby boy. But he wasn’t quite right.
He would have outside-the-litter-box incidents that didn’t seem related to his earlier trouble, but rather something going on in his brain that we referred to as “kitty alzheimer’s” – like he just suddenly forgot where the box was and thought it was right there. He went very slowly up stairs as if maybe it was rough on his legs, but we assumed it might be arthritis, and since he ran the Kitty Grand Prix regularly with our other two cats, up stairs and down at top speeds, it didn’t ring any alarm bells.
One morning earlier this week, though, when I called the cats down for their breakfast, Brutus was too slow coming down. I turned to call him, and saw him as he hit the bottom of the stairs, then sank like a deflated balloon, clearly unable to walk the rest of the way to his breakfast. I am not usually a pessimist, Liz, but my heart began to break in that instant. I think I already knew what was happening.
I scooped him up and into a cat carrier, and after dropping Sophie at school, rushed to the vet and waited outside their door until they opened.
We had almost no money in the bank at the time.
When the vet’s office opened, I had to wait another excruciating hour for the vet herself to arrive in the office, while the staff urged me to take him to the emergency vet down the road, where it’s several hundred dollars just to get in the door. I didn’t have that money, so I sat in their waiting room, cried, and waited in agony.
When the doc looked him over, she was completely baffled. She’d never seen presentation like his, and said, “I can honestly tell you, I really have no idea. I’d like to do a neurological consult for him.”
And once again, I ran up against the money wall. All I could think was, I’m bargaining the life of a friend based on the status of my bank account. I can’t do this. Can’t you just FIX it, and I’ll just pay you forever until it’s done?
We negotiated, discussed what made the most sense based on his age, and ultimately decided on a bloodwork panel that might give us answers, and some home fluids and vitamins to administer.
I took him home with me again, and it would be for the last time.
We had to wait a day to get the blood test results, and he deteriorated to the point where he was unable to move more than a step or two at a time, with long rests in between. He drank a little, would not eat, and was clearly uncomfortable. I think we already knew we wouldn’t get another miracle, but we sat with him, laid in the room with him. Tom came in and cradled Brutus against his belly, and they slept that way, Brutus purring, for several hours. That night, Tom and I both slept with him, curled like interior quote marks on each side, until he got himself down off the bed, clearly wanting to retreat to his Sick Kitty Cave under the bed. We left him, then, and we thought we knew. The cracks in our hearts widened and began to bleed.
The vet called me yesterday morning to tell me that the blood work told us what we needed to know. Our Brutus had either Feline Infectious Peritonitis (an incurable mutation of a coronavirus) or Spinal Lymphoma. We all strongly suspected, given his history and symptoms, that it was the latter.
If we hadn’t known before, we knew for sure then. It was time to say goodbye. I think we’d already known, and had been saying goodbye for days.
So, yesterday afternoon, I contacted a local mobile veterinary service to find out if they could help us let him go while at home, instead of in a cold office on a table somewhere. They said that they could, so we made the appointment for 6pm yesterday.
Tom and I both came home early to spend his last hours with him. We took him out of his grey sick room, and outside into the extraordinarily beautiful day. For three hours, we sat in the dappled sunshine under our apple trees, and Brutus settled himself down and sniffed grass.
We sat with him, and together we stroked his silky fur, talked to him, and spent every possible second we could get with our friend.
It’s never enough.
There in our yard, where he loved to roam and chew on blades of grass, to stare intently at squirrels and birds without ever seeming to feel it necessary to chase them, our Brutus Maximus Glorianus died in Tom’s arms, quietly and without pain.
He left all that for us.
So today, darling Lizzy B, Chez Cadorette is in mourning. Our friend is gone and there is a hole in our lives that may heal over, but that could only be filled by a certain tiger-shaped darling who had to leave us. He loved us very well indeed, and we will never, ever stop loving him.
Why is it sad? Makes us remember the good times we’ve had.
Much more to say, foolish to try
It’s time for saying goodbye.
Don’t want to leave, but we both know
Sometimes it’s better
Somehow I know
we’ll meet again
not sure quite where, and I don’t know just when
You’re in my heart
so until then
- Jim Henson, The Muppets
Liz C.Read More
Dear Liz C.,
You and I both, I think, are having some Crisis Situations. Mine is causing me to reflect greatly on my internal motivations, examining why I do the things I do, as well as what I can do to bring myself more joy, even when I’m joyless.
I really suck at making a priority of writing FOR MYSELF. This morning, though, while I was skimming some Whitman, I happened upon Trickle Drops… and it is going to be my anthem as I commit myself to writing more.
Trickle drops! my blue veins leaving! O drops of me! trickle, slow drops, Candid from me falling, drip, bleeding drops, From wounds made to free you whence you were prison'd, From my face, from my forehead and lips, From my breast, from within where I was conceal'd, press forth red drops, confession drops, Stain every page, stain every song I sing, every word I say, bloody drops, Let them know your scarlet heat, let them glisten, Saturate them with yourself all ashamed and wet, Glow upon all I have written or shall write, bleeding drops, Let it all be seen in your light, blushing drops.
Dear Liz C.,
See above. Why do we have babies? And I don’t mean just me, like, you and me. Why do WE – WOMANKIND – have babies?
If I’m absolutely honest with myself, I think I’m having this baby because I’m feeling largely purposeless. Maybe it’s not THE REASON I’m having this baby, but it’s certainly the thing that I’m most looking forward to.
Our move to Germany has shaken me. I feel baseless. Foundationless. Directionless. Friendless. Just… Less. The cultural and language barrier affected me in a way I didn’t anticipate. Rather than igniting my sense of adventure – which I always thought was quite keen – I’ve folded in on myself, cocooning in our townhome with blinds down. I hide. I try to work. But, often, I wallow. I wallow in my homesickness. I wallow in my loneliness. I wallow in the time difference, wishing with every tick of the clock that I was even an hour closer to all of my friends on the other side of the ocean.
My focus is, likewise, shaken. Housework is difficult. Work work is even more so. My to-do list teeters like an imposing Jenga tower, waiting to be knocked down by the weight of the next task added to the top. I’m overwhelmed in a way I never knew possible.
And, yes, I know this sounds like I’m having some kind of crisis, but I’ve spoken with my therapist and, after a long sob on the phone, she noted what I suspected. “Liz, it doesn’t seem like you’re depressed. It seems like you’re sad.”
And so I fight with myself to find things to be happy about. Reasons to love where we are physically and emotionally… and, in that space, there is this baby. This baby, who has just barely grown enough for me to feel the tiny flips in my belly. This baby, and the hope and possibility that hovers around our due date. This baby, who will give me more than my daily word count goal to work for each morning.
So long as I’m sticking with the honesty policy, I’ll say that this fight is hard-fought. And there are days when I am defeated. Defeated by the stress. Defeated by my newfound fear of the outside world. But, each day, I feel like I grow stronger and more capable of combating the sadness and anxiety that has come to define much of my time here in Germany. And I think so much of that is because growing this new life – this little brother or sister – gives me the strength I need to fight.
And, even if that’s not WHY I’m having this baby, it makes me really happy that I am.
Lizzy B.Read More
Darling Lizzy B,
You know I love it when you get chatty about your vag. It’s the little things.
Happy May Day! Merry Beltane! Seems an excellent time to discuss outdoor shenanigans, yes? YAY! I shall break from the debauchery and tell you stories.
Week before last was brutal literally all over the world, and it was more than I could handle in about seven kinds of ways. So for the last 2 weekends, I cancelled social plans (thank you so much, understanding friends!) and stayed home with the family, and we tackled the
back side 40.
I have bloffed(TM) before about Le Jardin des Chez Cadorette, and in many ways each season it’s the same. We vow in the dead of winter that THIS YEAR, surely, we shall plant seeds indoors that we can transplant into the garden beds, and SURELY we shall fill the beds that have laid open and ready since last year, and naturally all the things we wish to plant shall magically fit in our available space, right?
Every year, we don’t QUITE reach our lofty goals. So instead of starting from seed all our veggies, we went and got some from Merrifield Garden Center in Fairfax.
It’s something of an epic trip, involving some highway driving, some maneuvering in mid-city traffic, and then the navigation of the center itself. I should have thought to take a photo of the madhouse that last Saturday was, people-wise, but I was too busy assisting The Sainted Husband(TM), who, when he gets the scent of tomato plants up his nose, becomes the most crack-addled of hamsters. Kind of like Hammy, though he’s a squirrel:
First, though, I have to rewind to explain to you The Great Horse Poop Debacle of 2013, or, Why I Should Not Be Allowed On Craigslist EVER. This story is not short, so be ready for all the words. Ready? Mmkay.
We use raised bed gardening because we have a huge yard and even huge-er ambitions for how large we ultimately want this garden to be, and the soil in our yard is almost entirely clay. While this is something you can amend over time, the time it takes to do that measures in years rather than days/weeks/months, so we decided to use raised beds – essentially wood rectangles you plop down over top of your crappy soil, and fill with purchased topsoil and compost or whatever makes your little gardening heart happy. Still with me? Okay.
So we had two of our 4×8 foot raised beds to fill entirely, one half-size bed to balance out the far end of the garden where Miss Plum has her own half-size bed in which to plant whatever she likes, and some replacement dirt to get into some of the garden beds that overwintered. Maybe this is easier to talk about if you have some visuals?
Here’s where we started, approximately, in 2011:
To orient you, this is taken standing at the steps of our deck, your back to the southern facade of our house, facing the Upper Shed, now known as The Hop Shed(TM). (you can see the baby hops bed alongside the wall of the shed in the photo above, as well as one of the half size beds newly constructed in the upper right of the garden patch, and one full size bed in the far left upper corner of the garden patch. (Man. I’m gonna have to break out the tablet and label these, maybe? Who knew we’d need a whole map?)
ANYWAY. So that’s pretty much where we started: tilled ground, staked out spaces for six full size beds, and one half size bed that ended up down by the shed on the right. (Crikey, I’m going to have to TL;DR this entire letter, aren’t I?)
Here, have a gratuitous photo of The Sainted Husband(TM) hard at work to get you through all this:
I love that photo. Yum.
OH! Right, the garden. So.
NOW, fast forward to 2013, (because I am a crappy blogger who didn’t take good photos last year), here is where we got to last weekend:
The above photo is from the OPPOSITE vantage point, which is to say, the shed is at your back, and you’re facing the south facade of the house. The two half-size beds are there in the foreground (Miss Plum’s bed is the one on the right).
The two beds closest to the house (and thus farthest from you in that last photo) were completely empty except for a season’s growth of grass and weeds. And some (SOME AS IN PLURAL) black widow spiders. BUT WAIT. I’m getting ahead of myself (holy crap, I suck at this game)! It’s not Shelob time yet! POOP. It’s about the POOP, Liz. (Isn’t it always?)
I had to get on The List of that Guy, Craig, to look for a reasonably priced delivery of topsoil, and I found a promising listing by a local horse stable that said they will deliver EITHER well-composted horse poop (composted for 20 years, which is damn near topsoil in and of itself anyway), OR topsoil, up to 4 cubic yards of it, for a very very reasonable price. So I was like, YES MOAR DIRT PLZ and called up and ordered us 4 cubic yards of dirt for the garden.
The price WAS very reasonable, and it was certainly 4 cubic yards’ worth, but it wasn’t topsoil.
Four. Cubic. Yards. Of Horseshit. Child in photo is placed for scale.
That, for the uneducated, is REALLY A LOT of excrement to have in your suburban sideyard, y’all. For real. And you can’t just dump it all into garden beds and plant in it, because while this was slightly composted, it was still (and the flies all confirmed this tout de suite) poop, and it would just singe the roots of anything that tried to grow in it. It needs to be tempered with dirt.
So for a very reasonable price, we essentially got 10 years’ worth of compost, but still had no dirt.
The Sainted Husband said many very bad words when he returned home to see this. I was very definitely in the doghouse.
So over the course of the weekend following The Great Dump (har), we went back and forth to the local home center stores and got many. many. MANY. bags of topsoil.
40lb bags, 20 bags at a go, except once when it was only 15 because that’s all they had left, so 55 bags of topsoil for a total weight of 2,200 lbs, which we moved from the pallet in the store to the cart; from the cart into the vehicles; and from the vehicles into the garden, THEN from the spot in the garden where we dumped them, to the beds in which they’d get opened and dumped.
We don’t need no steenkin’ GYM! ~flex~
This is perhaps well past enough for one missive; next, I shall tell you all about Shelob: Redux, and show you how my garden grows.
With love from here to there,
Liz C.Read More
WARNING: Longest ever post ahead containing medical details and words like “vaginal.”
I’ve had a lot of people ask about maternity and OB care here in Germany, so – as I enter my second trimester – I thought I’d post a few things about my experiences thus far.
I’ll preface this by saying that I believe some of the care we’ve received is slightly different because we are Americans with good, private insurance. German citizens who have government insurance, I’m told, don’t get quite the same level of care. However, I’m exceptionally happy with the care we’ve received.
First of all, when you meet your doctor for the first time, it’s in his/her office for a sit-down chat WITH YOUR CLOTHES ON. This is such a stark contrast to US care where – especially with a new OB/GYN – you would already be sitting on the table, naked except for your gown. It really made me feel much more welcomed and comfortable. We chatted for a good 15 minutes about my past pregnancy, what to expect out of her care, and just got to know each other.
You also go to your first appointment basically ASAP after you get a positive pregnancy test. I don’t know if it’s universal in the US, but I wasn’t seen until 8 weeks with Archer (or, what we THOUGHT was 8 weeks – turned out to actually be 7… but whatever). Oh, and you see the doc every two weeks until you’re out of your first trimester. It’s kind of exhausting.
My OB doesn’t believe in stirrups. The exam room has a cushy reclining chair thing that is basically a combination ultrasound machine and roller coaster. It’s brand new, ergonomic, and pretty crazy awesome. You get in, sit back, and she pushes some buttons to raise you into the ideal position for your exam all without having to stick your feet into uncomfortable, cold stirrups.
We also get an ultrasound at every visit, which – again – I’m told is an extension of the fact that my insurance will cover it more than how your average German would receive care. Regardless, I’m not complaining. I love seeing my baby!
You also receive a “Mutterpass” – a special book that is updated at each appointment with your vitals, test results, etc. It’s got your medical history, as well. This book is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY and you are expected to bring it to each of your appointments, as well as to the hospital when it is time to deliver. Medical records in the US are guarded like national treasures. Getting your hands on them as a patient is a huge pain. The first time they handed me the little book I was like, “Excuse me… I’m supposed to KEEP THIS?”
I also have found that my doctor is a stronger advocate for me and my desires for my deliver. As most of you know, Archer’s delivery was traumatic. I’m so thankful for the folks at Hopkins Bayview for saving his life and would do ANYTHING to make sure that we don’t have a similar experience with this child… but – in the US – I’d have been declared HIGH RISK, moved out of care with my beloved OB, and scheduled for my c-section. When I spoke with my OB in the States (whom I love with all my heart), she said they may even consider bedrest early on. It was a very frustrating conversation – I felt very much like she didn’t look at my records (which I had to hire Nick Cage to steal from the Library of Congress), which clearly state that – while the initial post-labor report indicates a placental abruption – the final results of the placental analysis indicate any abruption was likely caused by a problem with the insertion point of the cord.
Here in Germany? Cautious, but not overly. I expressed an interest in trying a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section) and my doc is mostly supportive, but also very realistic. I’m supposed to take it easy, but they’re going to send me to a specialist around 30 weeks who will perform some kind of magic space ultrasound to do a detailed analysis of my placenta and umbilical cord to determine whether or not a scheduled c-section is necessary.
All in all, I’ve been very happy with my first trimester care. I’ll report back in three months when we’re entering the third trimester!
I love you, Liz C. <3Read More