shape of a life

there are already enough fertility memoirs out there, and mine is far from over, but i decided to write because i wanted to recollect for myself and for others what has been the substance of this journey, what i have learned along the way, what wanting something very much and not having it yet... has done to my person, my soul.



Have been having trouble focusing..on what to do, how to prioritize feel a little out of control with food issues.. ie ate a sandwich last night...the first wheat in a while and it was divine—squishy and soft and delicous and white and bread—the taste of bread, the delicious yeasty aroma of bread, the likes of which I have not had since mid-july so that’s been four and a half months of no wheat in any form —I didn’t die or anything, so tonight, I had a package of california roll sushi—which has wheat starch and FOUR pieces of pizza and a large piece of blondie—and I really don’t feel overly full—and that is how I know that I am pregnant---because normally that would leave me feeling quite full—I just feel comfortably full.

have been feeling some anxiety about the pregnancy---am now officiallly 10 weeks along—yay! but been having some disturbing dreams about bleeding--- hopefully everything will go well tomorrow at our ultrasound and appointment with the midwife.


Batman and Mia

Here are our two darlings, Batman--the little scrawny kitten pleading with Mia to spare his soul. He looks as if he is saying--I surrender. And Mia looks, well, she looks rather menancing. She seems to enjoy taunting him and playing with him. Although if you look at it in a different way, she could look tender and watchful over Batman.


The Wrath of Mia Baby

This is what happens when Mia is left at home by herself for a day or two with a fresh roll of toilet paper....

NOT a pretty sight. She does not like being left alone by herself, but then again, neither do I.


The Great Divide


Today as I hopped out of my Volvo fresh from school, carrying a load of laminated alphabet strips to be cut out, I glanced across the street. Gathered on the porch were 10 people--most of the members of that household They consisted of, Deborah—Part time personal nurse, dressed in mismatched purple shirt and red sweatpants, two boys of teenagish years that I never see in school, dressed in typical ghetto style of loose jeans, white t-shirt, designer jacket (the boys call me ‘Baby’), Deborah’s daughter, Demora, who just graduated from high school, looks about sixteen and has a one year old, Diandra, Deborah’s skinny smiling 10 year old who asked me to tutor her yesterday because she failed the fourth grade, and various other people who drift in and out of the house but whom I did not recognize. I smiled, waved, said hi, and the mom, Deborah smiled in return. I then be-bopped into my sparkling clean house, said hi to the cats, prepared my lunch of curried eggs, beets with roasted pistachios, and a flax waffle with smart balance butter, and sat at the computer to type. What you ask is the great divide. I don’t know how to befriend these neighbors that Jesus dearly loves, who bear his image. They are foreign to me and I am sure they think we are either crazy, weird, or in a cult for moving to this ‘hood. I guess it comes down to being able to cross the cultural/economic/class divide—which I don’t know if I can do.


Cats will be Cats

TIme for a post about my precious Cats—Mia and Batman. Today as I sat primping, brushing teeth, going to the bathroom, they just like to be near. They show a benign fascination with any movement—the toilet flushing, teeth brushing, the shower. Every time its as if they are saying “Come and see—let’s rush over there and look at---the turd moving down the toilet.” Today they were very interested in the noises my almost empty lotion bottle was making as I squished out its last drops. They are both rescue animals from the streets. Mia is our calico—very much a dainty lady, who talks back with a very offended meow when we asked her to leave the room or get off the table. She also does tricks—she sits, turns around, shakes, and dances. Batman on the other hand is our more mentally challenged animal. He has some motor development issues and is called our “precious little retard” by our vet. He loves to purr and is very loving and affectionate—almost more aware of the fact that we really did rescue him from most certain death on the streets. When we found him he was an emaciated 1.5 lb. ball of fur just begging for someone to pick him up. Mia escapes to the outside about once a day to visit her boyfriend, Nasty Cat. He is an orange striped tabby who has one eye and half a tail. Although Mia is “fixed” we do wonder what they find to do, but he does seem interested in her.



“If you get rid of the pain before you have answered its questions, you get rid of the self along with it.” --Carl Jung

Last weekend I became converted. No, not in the happy clapper running –down-the-aisle-screaming sense. Although I am not against that in the right context. No, I mean it was one of those moments when I saw myself—in my glory and shame most profoundly.

I scheduled a retreat at Richmond Hill a former monastery that is now an ecumenical retreat center and place of prayer. They have tiny rooms to retreat in that were originally the nuns’ cells—very simply furnished. If you get tired of your cell, they also have a library, chapel beautiful gardens, and prayer rooms. I go three or four times a year for personal retreats—to help me center myself on what is most important, to be quiet, to listen, to write (this time I filled up 20+ pages in my journal). For the last few retreats, I was under extreme emotional duress. One was after the news of our impending and very traumatic miscarriage. Another time was after a failed cycle of Clomid—in the midst of emotional upheaval. Those two times—I HAD to go somewhere, do something, or I would have gone crazy.

The beginning of this retreat was more relaxed. I had the fleeting thought as I packed

“I wonder why I am going? I know this is going to be good—Maybe just time to rest.”

We were not in the middle of fertility crises, teaching was going well, (partly because it is only 10.5 hours a week), Matt (my husband) and I were doing well in our relationship. I shrugged my shoulders and looked forward to a relaxing time of prayer, quiet, delicious food, solitude.

In addition to times of solitude, I also met with a spiritual director. She met with us in the raw emotional state of our first miscarriage and has helped me to grieve with grace and patience. Her name is Dawn Colapietro and she is a local social worker who works with parents who are grieving the death of their child. During each retreat this year she has met with me to help direct my personal time. She asks difficult personal questions most specifically about why and what I believe. Although we don’t completely agree on doctrine—something for which I am glad—She challenges me! Dawn teaches me to live at peace with myself and God and others—in spite of difficult circumstances. This time was no exception. We moved into a small prayer room overlooking the beautiful cobblestoned streets and colorful row houses across from Richmond Hill, lit a candle, and sat for about 10 minutes in blessed silence. Through our conversation, she gently asked questions such as “What parents reminds you the most of God and why” “How would Jesus parent you?” She reminded me that God wants me, His beloved child to live in joy and peace. She supported our efforts to pursue alternative fertility treatments. However, she said that she felt from our conversation that I had some unresolved issues from my childhood that I was holding inside—from my relationship with a parents or some unresolved guilt. I left with an assignment—to journal about my childhood and write down times I felt shame or guilt, then to think about what Jesus would say to those actions. She said to call me if there was anything I needed to share. That night in my cell I rested, cried, and journaled. I wrote down memories of shame from my childhood—and from more recent mistakes. I asked Jesus---How would you parent me? I cried as I realized the only images I could conjure up were ones of shame. Then I began to search to read in the gospels—How did Jesus respond to sinner, to children? To people who knew they were wrong—What did he say to them? and by extension—What would he then say to me, a sinner?

I realized, and was shown in a myriad of ways this weekend, that I have been living in hell. In a personal, do it yourself, make your own individualized hell of my own dibolical design. . Granted, it had some help from past sin, shame, parental passion for perfection, societal pressure, etc. (I need to lay off the alliteration eh?) To put it short, I have been passing judgment on myself and other. I have an internal list of “What it means for me to be a good person, wife, friend, lover, servant, Christian, teacher, creative type.” The list has been honed over the years, but when I do something that deviates from that list, I dissolve in a puddle of anger, rage, or self deprecation, depending on my mood. I also realized that yes—and this will make you tremble—I have a list for you as well. When you do not fulfill my list of “What it means to be a good, friend, colleague, boss, etc.” I dissolve into a puddle of rage, anger, hatred, tears. What a sorry way to live. Jesus came to set the captives free and over last weekend., I was set free of those chains. No, I did not see a blinding white light or have an out of body experience or hear someone whispering my name. But in a million still small voices I heard

“Those who look to Him—their faces are radiant—they will never be ashamed”

(it doesn’t say anything about not sinning, just about looking to him)

“You are my beloved children”

“There is therefore no condemnation for those who are living in Christ Jesus”

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you”

“No temptation has seized you but that which is common to man”

(no, I am not a freak. The things I struggle with are common to others)

“Let us find mercy and grace at God’s throne to help us in time of need”

“God doesn’t love with control”

to the woman caught in adultery “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

“I have tabernacled, made my house here with with you, by my will, you are my beloved child.” from (the Word became flesh and dwelt among us)

“I will give you grace upon grace from my fulness”

These were some of the words I wrote on my placemat that morning at breakfast—I sat in the silent room. No, not for bad behavior, but because I was choosing to be quiet and listen to my interior noise instead.

“Spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,

Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood

Teach us to care and not to care

Teach us to sit still

Even among these rocks

Our peace in His will”

--T. S. Eliot


Today spent some delightful time mucking about in the yard, attempting to de-branch and take out a nearly dead bush that has been gracing our front yard for the past two years. I got many positive comments from passerby and the neighbors, several offers of shovels, axes, etc., to help me finish the job of removing the stump. I’m not sure if the attention was due to their excitement over my removal of the eyesore or the fact that I was wearing spandex—and therefore provided an interesting “view” for some of the men who roam Oakwood.


shape of a life

This has always been a puzzlement to me, how to have a community but remain individual—how you could manage to be separate but joined and somehow amazingly, not lose sight of either your separateness or your togetherness. If you set out alone and sovereign, unconnected to a family, a religion, a nationality, a tradition, a class, then pretty soon you are too lonely, too self-invented and unique, too much aware that there is no one else like you in the world. If you submerge yourself completely in something—your town or your profession or your hobby--then pretty soon you have to struggle up to the surface because you need to be sure that even though you are a part of something big, some community, you still exist as a single unit with a single mind. It is the fundamental contradictoriness of the United States of America—the illogical but optimistic notion that you can create a union of individuals in which every man is king. I envied the orchid people all around me... for having found and fitted themselves into a small and crowded circle, and if any of them had moments when they had to step outside it and vouch for their independence from it, they seemed to be able to to it and then step happily back in. I even envied people like Laroche who belonged to the cult of not belonging, which is its own small and crowded circle that gave them a shape for their lives.
-The Orchid Thief

The Shape of a Life.

This little passage from The Orchid Thief spoke to me, struck a chord with me, said something universal, made me ask the questions –what gives shape to my life? It is true that we are all individuals with desires and needs and independence—or some semblance therof. but in the same way we all need that sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves, the reassurance that our lives do matter, that the sum is greater than its parts.

What gives shape to my life? to your life? For me it is living in Church Hill, being part of the community of faith in Richmond. I suppose what is unique about this particular time in history and society in America is that what gives shape to your life and my life is what we choose and we have many little worlds to choose. In some ways we are the architects of which worlds we chose. Here is an example. I am a part of Church Hill, of the urban landscape, gentrification, Christian urban renewal. In another sphere totally removed from that, I am an infertile, I have a world totally “other” from that—my miscarriage blogs—that I follow and check up on almost every day.