Monday, June 30, 2008

Messages from the Universe

The left button on my laptop mouse has become ultra-sensitive. My longtime habit of resting my thumb there--no pressure, just at the ready--means that I accidentally click on a lot of things as I move my cursor. It also means adding extra clicks when I only intend one or two.

It can be quite annoying to suddenly find myself navigating away to an ad I had no intention of visiting. Or clicking the Back button and quickly moving about four pages back.

But I do wonder if the universe is sending me a message when the two sites I accidentally hit today were the weight loss site I have not visited in months and my department's site when I have been a little behind in my work.

Off to run a couple searches that could be construed as research. And then to work out in the morning.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Global Warming Friday: Wall*E

Let me start with my main complaint. We discovered, as the ticket-taker handed back our ticket stubs, that the first however many kids going to see Wall*E got a free watch. Scooter was overjoyed to be given a prize even before the movie began, so he clutched it tightly. I have dutifully set it and figure we were planning on trying to teach him to tell time (with the current short cut of using digital), so what the heck. Except... the watch is basically one of those rubber wristbands with a little display inset, made in China, and the battery cannot be replaced. In other words, destined for the landfill. For those of you who have read about the movie, the irony should be obvious; for the rest, you'll figure it out pretty quickly.

Watch aside, how great was this movie! I'm generally a Pixar fan anyways and find that they are able to work at multiple levels, providing entertainment for kids and parents alike, but this film transcends their usual fare. And somehow, before I started reading reviews today to decide whether or not to take Scooter, I hadn't known about the environmental element of the story. I knew there were two robots who fall in love, but had no idea about the larger narrative.

A partial summary, being as un-spoilery as possible: Wall*E is basically a robotic garbage compactor. For several centuries, he has been working through the garbage that covers the Earth's surface. His only companionship is, of course, a cockroach. Some of the opening scenes, establishing the routine of Wall*E's lonely existence reminded me of I Am Legend--without the sense of impending danger, just that Wall*E has found a rhythm that helps him deal what might otherwise feel like a pointless existence.

When another robot is set down in his neighborhood to search for any signs of vegetation, Wall*E quickly falls in love. His desire to be with her is what sets up the drastic change of scenery for the second part of the movie.

Much of the movie is dark, as it presents a dystopic vision of what could happen to our planet and us. The opening scenes make it clear that humans have turned to alternative energy sources, but in the end are overwhelmed by the trash produced in a consumerist society. But it is not without hope, and the closing credits make more concrete the possibilities that are suggested at the movie's end. (Not that I got to watch them all, as I had a 5-year-old repeatedly asking, "Is it the The End?")

As we walked out of the theater, Scooter said that he loved the movie. But take that with a grain of salt, as he followed what has become his usual pattern: eagerly order popcorn and find a seat, wonder through ads and previews when the movie will start, proclaim self scared of stuff that isn't all that scary, sit on one mother's lap, switch mother's or move to behind a mother (the better to be protected from the movie), request a couple times to go home, ask if it's over yet, insist that the movie was great. Still, we continue to take him to kids' movies, at least in part for the practice.

He came out of the theater talking about the different robots. And I figure that's what he'll most remember. But I know, from past experiences, that some of the message has crept in there too and they'll reappear at surprising moments. Plus, I can now refer back to the movie as a touchstone when we encounter moments that resonate with its lessons. In particular, different aspects can be used to discuss the saying, "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." But there are also messages about education and how much we miss if we're always buried in the computer screen (and yes, ironic that I'm now buried in my laptop to write this, but it did make me want to step away for a bit). There are several more complex topics introduced as well, particularly the issue of the role of corporations in our lives and the power of advertisement. Even some politics, especially if you want to dissect the suggestion at one point to "Stay the course." Throw in the usual bits about love and perseverance and doing what's right. This one will provide fodder for many areas of discussion.

But back to the watch. I can't help but wonder how much crap tie-in merchandise I'll be seeing in the stores. There are surely a thousand different product ideas, mostly cheap plastic and made overseas, that have been dreamed up for this movie, encased in layers of cardboard and plastic. I'm plenty guilty of purchasing such items, though we've slowed down a bit in this department. But whether or not I personally pass over these items, it's disappointing to think that a movie with such a strong message might be perverted in such a way.

Maybe I'll be proven wrong. (Disney, please prove me wrong.) Maybe the Wall*E's of our future won't be compacting plastic watches and figurines that look just like them.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

As requested...


The "recipe," as much as there is one:

Mix up crust according to directions. Remember mother-in-law's remarks that it falls apart easily and that she only got 2 crusts out of a 4-crust box. Scrap idea of making individual pies.

Take out cherries from fridge. They've been sitting in there for a couple of days, pitted and mixed with a little lemon juice. No idea how many, just the ones that were ripe and easy to reach from the third rung of the step-ladder.

Mix into cherries: 1/4-cup tapioca flour, 3/4-cup sugar.

Pour into pie crust that has been pressed into greased pie plate, more or less evenly. Realize that there aren't quite as many cherries as needed. Shrug.

Place second crust on top of pie. No need to slash it, as it's conveniently torn in a couple places. Sprinkle a little more sugar on top.

Back in oven, according to crust box directions (425? maybe?) for 35-40 minutes.

First slice was pretty good, rest is waiting at the in-laws for this weekend's dessert.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008

Outnumbered

I want a dog. Have for a while. This is the longest I have been without one in my entire life--more than two years now.

Trillian is a bit reluctant. I'll even admit that many of her reasons are valid. Primarily the whole "let's not take this on while we're trying to have another kid" reason. Plus her allergies.

But I want a dog enough that I'd be willing to compromise my pound-puppy sensibilities to get a dog breed that tends to be less allergenic.

For a while, I had an ally. Scooter thought he would like a dog. But then we stayed with my sister--and her oversolicitous Labrador.

A typical conversation goes like this:

Me: (using an opening, like he sees a dog and comments that it's nice) That dog sure is nice. Would you like to have a dog?

Scooter: No, I already have pets. I have fish.

M: You could have fish and a dog.

S: No, then the house would be crowded.

So apparently a 5-gallon tank of tiny tropical fish is the tipping point in our house.

If I press him further, he'll come up with other excuses. Today, it was that a dog would scare away Trillian. When I said, "But what if she wants the dog?" Then it would scare away me. If both of us want the dog? It will scare away Scooter.

I've been outvoted and emphatically so.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A new path

The thyroid is an endocrine gland located in the neck. For a gland, it’s a good size—and it ought to be! The hormones produced by the thyroid affect every cell and system in the body. If the thyroid hormones are out of whack, it can impact one’s heart rate and pulse, metabolism, energy level, temperature, experience of pain, cholesterol levels, eyesight, and even skin and hair health.

The most common test run when a thyroid problem is suspected is a blood test to determine one’s TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels. TSH is released by the pituitary gland to tell the thyroid when it needs to produce more T3 and T4, the two thyroid hormones. Generally speaking, a high TSH level indicates that the usual feedback loop is not resulting in enough thyroid hormone, so the pituitary gland keeps upping production in an attempt to get the amount it wants. But if the thyroid is underperforming or failing, it simply cannot keep up. (Things can also go the other way, where the thyroid pumps out too much, regardless of what the pituitary says.)

I have a decent amount of second-hand information on thyroid problems; Trillian has a history of them and is currently on a common medication to regulate her levels. She had to fight hard to get a doctor to pay attention to her complaints, all definite symptoms of hypothyroidism, because at the time the reference range for TSH went up to 5.5 or 6. Most labs, including the one I use, have moved the high end of the range to 4.5 or so, but many people (Trillian included) feel that anything over 3.0 in a woman is suspect and that most women are probably at optimum when their TSH is at 1.5.

The TSH test I had in March came back at 2.52. Well within the reference range for my lab, so my physician included it in her observation that all of my levels were fine. She had also ordered tests to look for a number of thyroid antibodies. If those had been detected, it would have indicated an issue to pursue, regardless of my TSH level. But that was clean too.

Trillian gave me her take on those numbers, that I was close enough to 3.0 that I should keep an eye on things. She also inspired me to dig through some old medical records and see what my TSH has been in the past. I discovered an interesting pattern. The oldest level I had on record, from before I was even trying to get pregnant with Scooter, was right around 2.5. But the blood tests from during my pregnancy and soon after were more like 1.8. Interesting, something to bring up with my physician, but not necessarily a problem.

Then Cid (Clueless* Infertility Doctor) made some offhand remark at the beginning of my appointment about my TSH being “borderline.” Turns out he’s another proponent of moving the reference range down to 3.0. He didn’t dwell on it, but one of the tests he ordered for me, in addition to another TSH, was an assay of my free T4. Turns out he did something right. I would guess that he expected my T4 to come back low, which would indicate hypothyroidism.

Funny thing though. My free T4 came back high. Not super high, but outside the reference range.

I sifted through a lot of online sites and charts about thyroid test results. My particular situation—high T4, normal/high-normal TSH—just did not appear in most places I looked. But finally I came up with something that not only fit my test results, but also a whole host of other health complaints I’ve had: resistance to thyroid hormone (RTH).

In the past, I’ve often thought I might have hypothyroidism. I am overweight, and despite recently upping the frequency and intensity of my exercise, I cannot lose weight. I am always tired, my nails have always been brittle, I ache all over. Trillian would probably throw in depression and irritability. But then I don’t have some of the hallmark symptoms, things that result from metabolic changes, particularly cold intolerance. If anything, I have a tendency to overheat easily and much prefer the cold. (Though not the incessant Toronto winter.)

Turns out that people with RTH can have symptoms of both hypo- and hyperthyroidism. But the thing that just about knocked me out of my chair was when I came to a section in the Wikipedia article about RTH as a possible/likely cause of fibromyalgia. See, I was diagnosed (tentatively, reluctantly by a neurologist) with fibromyalgia a bit before Scooter’s first birthday. Because I am unwilling to take sleep aids or muscle relaxants on a regular basis, I have managed it primarily through diet and exercise. And otherwise pushed through the aches and poor sleep, as I have been since they became part of my baseline around the time puberty hit.

And then I started finding the information I had been looking for: women with untreated RTH are much more likely to suffer miscarriages. In particular, the chance of a miscarriage rises exponentially if the fetus is not also affected by RTH. I’ve also seen anecdotal suggestions that some women with RTH find their usual symptoms alleviated by pregnancy (when the fetus also has RTH).** But the good news is that there appears to be a good chance of a successful pregnancy and healthy baby when the mother is treated with T3.

So I am in the process of making appointments and getting the referrals I need to follow this particular path. It means waiting several months, but my melancholy has mostly lifted; if this is the right route, if this takes me to an answer, if it can improve my health across the board, the wait will be worth it.

*Not in terms of his knowledge of his specialty, but regarding his human interaction and estimation of my intelligence.

**Once I have a little more information on myself, if it turns out my hunch is correct, we’ll be pursuing this for Scooter too.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A few Scooter moments

I have started a few posts, serious posts on various issues. But they tend to get bogged down a couple paragraphs on and I have to hit "Save Now" for the time being.

So instead I'll give you a few more Scooter moments from the past few days.

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We've had a bunch of foam letters and numbers for the bath for about three years now. Since reaching the cusp of reading, Scooter has a renewed interest in them. He likes to pick out letters and stick them to the side of the tub, asking me to pronounce the nonsense he creates. He gets a kick out of throwing numbers and shapes into the mix. And then laughs hysterically as I stumble through them.

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How do you keep a boy busy in the bath for a while? Stick a foam letter in the middle of his back.

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Scooter's favorite activity at his daycare recently has been hammering nails into blocks of wood. His teacher showed me a picture of him the other day, wearing goggles, swinging a hammer.

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Scooter has also been playing with some of the other kids in his class. It hasn't surprised me to discover that they have similar personalities and that they spend their time together building things. One kid in particular tends to share the same orbit as Scooter. He gravitates to us when it's pick up time and likes to tell me something new. It serves as a little reminder to me that there are plenty of kids here who will not find him all that odd.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Waiting for the bus

Riding the bus gives Scooter and me more time to chat in a very non-pressuring way. Most days I'll ask questions about school--what he will do or has done, depending on the direction we're headed--and then let him go on at length about whatever catches his fancy. Usually non-school-related, but at least I get a glimpse into what's going on in his mind. Today provided two thought-provoking exchanges.

On the way to school:
As we waited for the bus, Scooter watched some people walking across the street. He said, not very loudly but possibly loudly enough, "That woman has a fat tummy."

"You shouldn't say things like that," I responded. I could see, flashing across his face, something that would have been but it's true, if he could have put his thoughts into words. And I realized that "should" is subjective, so I added, "It's not nice. It might hurt her feelings."

He seemed to sort of get it, but was a little upset about being called on it, so he justified: "I was only saying it to myself."

I smiled at him and back-tracked a little: "You can say it to yourself. Just say it a little more quietly."

During this exchange, I quickly noted that this is the first time he's come out with a statement quite like that. Usually when he notices people, it's to remark on their movement ("Where are they going? Maybe to the park.") or some object they have with them. I would have expected him to remark on the stroller being pushed by another woman in the group. But instead, he was observing people-y qualities.

On the way home:
Scooter and I were trudging up the hill from his preschool to the bus stop. We always have plenty of time, so I let him dawdle, encourage it even. One of the houses along the way has had a "For Rent" sign up for some time now. The sign started out with the logo of a local company, the realtor's name and phone number at the bottom. Recently, that information was blocked out by much duct tape and a new phone number written in black marker. Yesterday, Scooter noticed that the sign looked different. I explained about the tape, saying that they wanted to put a new phone number on it. So today as we neared the sign, he said, "I want to read the new phone number."

"OK," I paused, waiting for him to start. When he didn't, I asked if he saw the number. He seemed a bit unsure, so I coached him a bit: "It starts with five-five-five." (Not the actual first three digits.) "Do you see what comes next?"

He studied the last four digits, 1200. "One thousand..." pause, during which I was impressed he knew the number, "two hundred." Not exactly the way we tend to say phone numbers, but more complicated than the one-two-zero-zero I would have expected. He has long been able to count to 20 and from there to 100 by tens. I'm sure he's heard references to 1000, but I was a bit awestruck to realize that he could pull all of those concepts together. (Makes me laugh a bit when I consider that one of the questions on the kindergarten enrollment form was whether he was beginning to recognize some letters and numbers.)

He may answer most of my questions about what he did at school, who he played with, what he ate for snack with a standard "I don't know" until I can draw information out with pointed questions. But there's no doubt he's got a lot going on in his mind--and something about waiting for the bus that brings it out.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The doorbell rang

The doorbell rang and Scooter scampered ahead of me to answer it. Standing there was our 9-year-old neighbor. He wanted to see if Scooter would like to play. He didn't have anything in particular in mind, so they started out riding bikes in the cul-de-sac.

I did my usual mom thing and went out front to keep an eye on Scooter, trying not to be so obvious as to embarrass him, but knowing that he still lacks some of the balance and awareness that the other kids possess. I chatted for a bit with Scooter's friend's mother and then looked over some plants when she went back inside.

After a bit, Scooter invited his friend to our house to play trains, something they've done a few times in the past couple weeks. I reminded Scooter of the protocol--I had to say it was OK (which I did) and his friend's mother had to be asked too. She has always said OK so far, but I want him to learn the proper steps.

She came out with her son, and the two boys headed in. She asked me about the bus schedule and my experiences. We moved on to gas prices and fuel efficiency. And daycare and errands and any number of things. Trillian came out and joined in the conversation.

And I thought about how nice it was to have that moment, friendly adult conversation outside, kids playing nearby.

I mentioned how much Scooter enjoys playing with her son, both as praise for her son reaching out to a younger kid and as thanks that she lets him come over.

When the neighbor headed back to his house before Scooter's bath, he said something about "maybe tomorrow again." Scooter happily named his neighborhood friends to me as he got ready for bed. It means the world to him--and to me--that the doorbell rang and it was for him.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Because this shouldn't make me cry?

The appointment with the fertility doctor was less than encouraging. The fact that I started crying when I realized that I was pretty much back at square one with him--and that he was truly baffled by my show of emotion (because most women who have had two miscarriages are usually cheery at the prospect of more tests and possibly no answers?)--only prolonged the awkwardness of the entire encounter. Another round of blood tests--12 vials. And waiting for two or three weeks to find out the results of the one that might bear out previous theories. Plus an internal ultrasound that, at least, ruled out the uterine polyp the ultrasound tech had insisted was present after my second miscarriage.

There's a lot for me to say about the specifics of the appointment, where things are, the continued waiting, the growing sense that I may not get any answers and so will have to make my own decision without any real help. (One huge frustration today was having the fertility doctor ask me, multiple times, "So what do you want me to do?" I don't know. Would presenting me with information, a sense of standard procedure, and your professional opinion be too much?)

But anyways, let me rant about one thing in particular. I need doctors--and that is doctors in the plural, he was only the most recent one--to stop asking, in the tone that announces its criticism, if maybe I would want to switch sperm donors. You know, given my son's issues.

There is a part of me, when I am out of the doctor's office, that can find a sort of humor in the question. Back when I was pregnant with Scooter, I joked with Trillian that I would be able to take all the credit for the good stuff and blame any negatives on the anonymous donor, some man we'll never meet. Of course now that I ascribe all of Scooter's quirks to my family's genetics, readily admit this, am not at all ashamed of this, now the doctors are trying to pass it off on the anonymous donor.

The doctor today returned to this topic multiple times. I don't think he even understands the implications of Asperger's over other forms of autism. He certainly couldn't pronounce it. He glommed on to my mention that while the exact causes are unknown, Asperger's is generally thought, perhaps more than other forms of autism, to have a strong genetic component. And so he kept pushing genetic testing. Even though I told him, no fewer than three times, that researchers have yet to trace Asperger's to any specific genetic variation and so a genetic counselor wouldn't know what to look for. I felt a bit like a high school biology teacher trying to explain the topic to a particularly dense student. Finally, he brought in the issue of other chromosomal abnormalities, but admitted that since I've had one live birth, the likelihood of a serious problem is less than 1%.

I did actually raise my voice when he brought up the fact that Scooter has not been officially diagnosed, suggested that perhaps we should be pursuing this. I think he meant more in terms of genetic testing (despite what I had already told him), but that really struck a nerve and I started to explain--loudly--that we've been trying for an evaluation and/or diagnosis for over three years now and that the wait list in our state is currently six months and we were only just able to work on initiating that process after our move (I have a stack of paperwork to wade through still). He did apologize for any perceived slight of my parenting, but still seemed generally clueless.

From my research, I do think that there is a chance that I might have more luck in staying pregnant with a different donor, if the previous miscarriages have been a result of immunologic factors. And so it is something I am allowing to live at the back of my mind right now. But I wonder why this is not something that has been mentioned to me by a medical professional. I would understand this. The science behind it makes sense to me, even if I'm not sure how I would proceed. However, this harping on my son's "issues" is wearing thin.

And for a doctor who deals exclusively with fertility, is it too much to expect him to be just a little sensitive?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Stopping to smell the roses...

and the other flowers too.

The lilacs have already bloomed, as have the fruit trees. But otherwise we're being treated to a real riot of color.

We have three rose bushes in various shades of pink. Our neighbors have pale yellow. Today, as I walked down to pick Scooter up from daycare, I stopped to enjoy two bushes, one in a bright yellow, the other a dark red that reminded me of a rose bush we had at our previous house.

Purple penstemon bloom everywhere I turn. White peonies are nodding open their heavy heads. The lamb's ear is putting up dusky green spikes with tiny purple flowers. Wisteria twists itself over a fence and around a tree. Various white and yellow flowers greet the sun each day, their names still a mystery to me.

Each day I take a tour of our backyard, lingering especially over the fruit trees. Little green cherries dot their trees, but now the occasional red one appears. I am attempting a silent truce with birds and insects--they can have all of the cherries high up if they'll leave me those that are within reach of a short ladder.

The apple tree is a bit behind the cherry trees, dotted with tiny green balls of fruit. I do not yet know if they will be green or red when ripe, but look forward to sharing them with Scooter.

I'm a bit in love with the flora here. The fauna too. Bees buzz around the flowers, and lizards of various sizes scurry about as I pass by.

I am enjoying the slower pace of summer in a quiet town.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Bringing a darkness to light

There is a long, self-pitying post that has been rattling around in my head for weeks now. I suspect it has been a significant part of the writer's block I've been suffering for several weeks now.

Today was one of those days when several things came together in such a way as to tell me it is time to write this. I had a plan of how I would present this, all the background and context I would give. But the more intricate a plan I create in my head, the further away the heart of the matter recedes. So I'm just going to dive in. I don't know exactly where I'm going with this and am not sure how long it will take to get there, so feel free to move on to the next post in your queue.

It is supposed to be some sort of comfort, apparently, to tell a woman who has miscarried that there was probably a chromosomal abnormality in the fetus. Therefore, it was for the best. Which, for me personally, felt like the science version of "It's all part of God's plan."

I also, as much as I might have wanted to believe the above, never fully believed it. Again I feel the need to emphasize that I approach most aspects of my life through logic and science. But I do reserve a special place for dreams, particularly during pregnancy. Not as a form of prophecy, but more as an opportunity to get in touch with my subconscious and body and to figure out what exactly is going on in there. And so it meant something to me when I had a dream in which I held my little girl. I believed so much more strongly in that little girl than a potential chromosomal abnormality.

The second miscarriage happened so quickly that I had not quite settled into the idea of being pregnant. But that very fact, the decreasing amount of time my body could hold onto the baby, just convinced me that there was something outside of the random, inexplicable chance event my medical providers tried to assure me was the cause.

It was a moment of confirmation, therefore, when I began to unravel some of what might have happened. I was elated to know that my suspicions were probably correct and that there was someone who was not going to make me go through the process again without any additional support.

But there's a dark side to this new knowledge. And this is what has been eating at me.

There was nothing wrong with my little girl. Or the second baby I never got to know. Either one would have been a beautiful, healthy baby. With me now.

It was not the babies' chromosomes that failed. It was my body. More specifically, my body attacked my babies, treated them as cancerous growths, worked to flush them out as quickly as possible.

My body killed my little girl.

And this is the origin of my recent discontent with my body, the sense that the physical me and the mental me are not in harmony. Because if I had not created that separation, I would have to replace "my body" with "I."

I can write all of this now, because I have started to heal that rift. I recently increased the frequency, length, and intensity of my workouts, spending more time simply existing in my body.

I'm headed to a fertility clinic soon and hope to be trying again in another 6 weeks. Even though I have been displeased with how many times my start date has been pushed back, I am starting to think that this may be a good thing for my mental state; perhaps I will be more at peace with my body by the time I ask it to undertake this task again.

I do not regret the knowledge I have collected in the past few months, even with the twist of pain it has brought. I also recognize the shimmer of stress that attends all my considerations of future pregnancy, restraining my excitement, not allowing me to think beyond the step immediately ahead of me. It constantly whispers, "But what if there's a third time? How will you recover?" And the truth is, I might not; I fear that a third miscarriage would break me.

I am not, perhaps, quite as pessimistic as this might all sound. There is enough hope that I will press on. But it is always with a glance backward, aware of the weight I am bearing.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Global Warming Wednesday: Reducing our auto footprint

I was just about to write a post on our recent reduction in car use when I saw that the BlogHers Act Canada June Challenge is about reducing one's auto footprint.

When we first got to Springfield, we found ourselves driving a lot more than we had in Toronto. Not a big surprise. We had walked a lot of places in Toronto. When we had the time, two miles was a fairly standard range. Although Springfield is a small town population-wise, it is spread out. Scooter's school is close by, as are a couple playgrounds, but two miles gets us nothing more than more houses and playgrounds.

Now Springfield does have a bus system, but my initial consultations of the schedule showed that it wouldn't do much for those "quick" dashes downtown to the stores (15 minutes each way to most places). But as we headed to summer and a more open schedule, not to mention more expensive gas, I began to think that maybe I should take another look.

So Scooter and I took the bus a couple times for discretionary adventures--the library, the coffeeshop, fun like that. But trips that were very open-ended in terms of time. As in Toronto, Scooter enjoyed riding in public transit. And I discovered that the Springfield bus system is actually quite pleasant. (Plus, at least for the time being, it's free. Relatively speaking. The system was recently revamped and tax money funds some part of it for now. The powers-that-be want to keep it that way, though they'll probably have to add a surcharge to local utilities.)

I looked more closely at the schedule and determined that I could use the bus system to get Scooter to and from his daycare this summer. The one dead spot was after dropping him off; I had generally been planning to head downtown and work there for a few hours, as I tend to have more productive bursts in the morning, away from the house. But in order to get there via bus, I would have to wait over 30 minutes. So I tend to walk the 2+ miles and count it as part of my exercise program.

So far, most of the trips have gone rather smoothly, with the exception of two legs from the daycare back home. I made it by bus to the daycare in each instance, but ended up calling Trillian to come get us. The first time, I called her from the bus as hail fell thickly upon the bus. It did end by the time I got out of the bus a few blocks later, but it turned out that we were still under a severe weather warning. The second time was a bit more frustrating. The bus passed us by. Even though I was in a pick-up location, even though I flagged it down (first with a smile, then increasingly more frantically). Scooter took it quite personally, so I was relieved when he was willing to take the bus again afterwards. (I also registered a complaint online and was informed by a very apologetic woman of the number for the service that picks up disabled and elderly riders--which would also be immediately dispatched if we get passed again).

We're not the only people in Springfield who have decided the bus might be a good way to go. Even on the neighborhood leg of my trips, I'm sometimes surprised by just how full the bus can get. And the popularity is a good thing--there's talk of increasing the frequency of some routes.

Using the bus extensively definitely means keeping my schedule more open, being willing to adjust my expectations to their timetable, spending a little more time in transit. Starting when we're on summer hours has made this a bit easier. But I figure that if I can switch my thinking over the next few months, this will become habit. I want this to become my default, primarily because of the environmental benefits. But whenever I start to waver, it won't take more than a little math to get me back on the bus.

Monday, June 02, 2008

More than a card

Somehow June has snuck up on me and with it another Blogging for LGBT Families Day. A list of this year's posts is over at Mombian.

I expected that the card from my grandmother would contain congratulations. We had just spread the news among our families that I was pregnant. My grandmother had no computer and much preferred writing over phoning, so it wasn't a surprise to see her shaky handwriting and the return address I'd memorized long ago.

But she wrote much more than a simple note of congratulations.

My grandmother wrote that the combination of my recent announcement and a cousin's upcoming wedding had led her to think a lot about life and relationships. She hoped and expected that I already knew she considered my relationship with Trillian to be as committed as any of the married couples in our family, but she had felt compelled to tell me this explicitly. She also wrote that she wanted to mark our commitment, albeit belatedly, in a way commensurate with how she had and would celebrate the weddings of her other grandchildren.

Hers was the first "wedding" gift we ever received.

Now this particular grandmother lived in Massachusetts. Same-sex marriage became a reality there before her death. The congregation to which she belonged, a very important part of her daily life, went through a difficult time in deciding whether or not they would officiate for the weddings of same-sex couples. I heard about this second-hand, from one of my aunts; she told me that my grandmother had been a vocal proponent of their participation in these ceremonies.

A few months after my grandmother's death, I received a packet of papers and pictures. The aunt who had been given the position of "family historian" had gone through the papers from my grandmother's house and sent relevant items to each family member. I flipped through my items: my senior portrait, letters I had written to my grandparents, a picture of Scooter, a newspaper clipping from when I won some prizes in a math contest, and copies of two letters my grandmother had written. One to her local newspaper, one to her congregation. Both about how ridiculous it was to fear same-sex marriage, that nothing could take away from the marriage she'd had with my grandfather, that her granddaughter's family deserved all of the same protections.

Scooter only got to meet her once, and he probably remembers nothing of the visit. Luckily, there are moments from that time that I will never forget. One of the things I requested when it came time to divide the material goods from her house was a set of wooden nesting blocks. We had all played with them whenever we visited their house, but they gained special meaning for me. I remember my grandmother sitting in a chair as Scooter played with them. He had another wooden toy and the different blocks with their open sides facing up. He would knock the first toy around inside each block in turn, obviously paying attention to how the quality of the sound changed, depending on the size of the block. My grandmother was enraptured and exclaimed emphatically over how smart he was.

Those blocks, those letters, that card--I've kept them all. I have pictures and other things from my grandmother, but those are the items that bring back the strongest memories and make me feel a connection with her.