Thursday, April 30, 2009

Catan again

After the first few weeks of constant Catan playing (my Catan name is Rugbymom if anyone fancies a match), I have cut way back. Some days I don't even play at all. Some days I still can't stop. When Corey called the other day, for exmple, I tried in vain to mute the game but he caught me. "I hear what you're doing," he said, scolding my procrastination. Oh well.

Yesterday, I managed to play only one game. Sort of. I finished work and started a game on a tough board. I was doing very poorly. I made a move that I thought was pretty sneaky, and the person I blocked with the robber called me an idiot.

I froze in horror. This had not happened since the first night I played, when I landed in asshole city and people called me that all over the place. I am much more seasoned now and have won far more games. Idiot just isn't ok.

So I showed him. I left the game! He couldn't play anymore since it was my turn and I left in the middle of the game (after calling him an unsportsmanlike dick, obviously). I started a new game and won it! Ha! Now who's cool?

Something is wrong with me, I think. Maybe a year is too long to be self employed?

Monday, April 27, 2009

My Feet

It was 90 degrees both days this weekend and I was playing the piano in a wedding on Saturday (despite the fact that I've not played the piano for ten years). That meant that in the 90 degree heat, my feet were dangling from a piano bench or wedding reception chair from 2 in the afternoon until 11 at night.

I woke up Sunday with so much water in my feet, I could literally feel it slosh as I walked (thundered?) around my parents' house.

I have ugly feet. I'm not under any misconceptions about the long, skinny, bony monkey toes and craggly flippers I have. As I wrote in my graduate thesis, my feet are so flat I can make a suction sound when I slap them on a wet floor. Well, not any more.

Somehow, tons of extra water entered my pregnant body and sank into my feet, which now look like balloon animals or dinosaur paws, cankles included. I kept hearing this voice, nagging and reminiscing since my birth, telling me: The one thing your Gommy always told me that was true was that pregnant women should put on sneakers first thing in the morning and never, ever take them off until bedtime. No matter what.

I remembered working at K-mart that first summer, when this monstrously pregnant woman would come in every day in flip-flops, teetering around on engorged animal feet. I used to wonder if it was appropriate for a 16-year-old K-mart cashier to pass on my grandma's wisdom and decided against it. Now, experiencing it, I wish I had spoken up. I also wished my own mother would stop repeating it as I rolled around on the couch and moaned. "Sneakers!" she kept saying. "You need to go out and get some sneakers!"

Well I didn't have sneakers with me on that trip home and I sort of thought the whole swelling thing would sneak up on a girl gradually, like the baby bump or the awful bowel movement troubles. Appartently, swelling is a different category altogether. When we got back to Pittsburgh I shoved those yams into some Pumas and made Corey wait on me as I elevated them. This morning, things are slightly better, but I still have cankles oozing over the tops of my shoes. Things have begun to get interesting.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Preview?

Last night I woke up at 3am. Exactly 3am. I saw the red lights on Corey's alarm clock over his shoulder, seeming to yell at me as I could not fall back asleep. I had his long monkey limbs kicking my legs and Baby Love's little monkey limbs kicking my organs. I could not sleep--was in fact as wide awake as I've ever been.

I lay there for one hour, contemplating The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (which we had watched earlier) and all my students who make excuses. I was trying to figure out how I could get them to not make excuses anymore.

Then I gave up on sleep. I crawled out of bed and did work, got paperwork together for the rugby girls I'm coaching. I emailed people. I phoned hotels to ask about group rates. I even played several games of Catan against German people who whooped my butt and had very different abbreviations for things like "good game" and "good luck." Hope they weren't calling me names.

I think the worst part about being up at that time of day was the limitations I had on activities. I couldn't really watch TV because we don't have cable and there's pretty much nothing on network at that hour. I couldn't practice the piano because Corey was asleep. I guess I could have been writing.

At least when my baby is born, I'll have something to do during the wee hours of the morning when I should be asleep but am not. Maybe I'll make friends with someone in Europe so I can call that person and chat away my insomnia.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Ride Home

Corey and I were stopped in traffic on Penn Ave between the cemeteries and the new Children's Hospital. I hate being stopped there because the whole scene is so depressing for me.

First, I hate seeing the flower guy. No matter what the weather, he stands there in a blue windbreaker, his wind-chapped face staring blankly into the cars, beseeching us to buy his fake flowers from a paint bucket. He always has a cigarette dangling limply from his teeth. Always. He makes me feel sad.

Today, there was also a woman jogging in a BUM Equipment hoodie. How long has it been since you've seen one of those? All I can think is that she's been stuck in Allegheny Cemetery jogging in desperate search for the entrance since they were in fashion.

Finally, I hate that there's a big "NO BICYCLES" sign in the cemetery. Why? Why no bicycles? Surely they are easier on the paths than cars. And there are lots of cars in there of late since the slain officers were lain to rest (I tend to think of both adjoining cemeteries right there as one entity, even though I know there are technically two burial areas separated by a fence).

The whole scene is capped off by a big hospital for children, which just makes me think about childhood illness and increases my sadness. I wish that light had been green so we could have swooped past more quickly. Now I feel blue.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Excuses!

I've been dabbling in some online teaching to earn some moolah while the freelance writing well is a tad dry. I try always to recognize that the students in this environment--much closer to that of a community college than to a university--have not had the educational opportunities or stability in their lives that my comp students have enjoyed.

I worked with at-risk learners for years in academic support for the student athletes. I'm sensitive and empathetic and try to view each student individually, taking into account the sociological context of every situation. Despite everything against them, you know what these athletes were not? Lazy. You know what they also were not? Excuse makers. They were "get 'er done" types of people, as many competitive athletes are and, accustomed to the rhythm of sport, took responsibility for losing as they did for low grades on specific assignments.

Not these online students! The excuses I get sometimes make my head explode. I'm trying very hard to not say, "If this were your paid job and I were your boss, would you still tell me that in response to your project being late?"

This morning, I found the following email: Why did I get a zero on the quiz? Online, it says it was due the 18th but the grades would be available on the 21st. To me, I feel like I have until the 21st to take it.

Really? Because the word "due" next to April 18 indicated, to me, that in fact April 18 was the last day to take it. How is that in any way confusing? I agonize over wordings of assignments and spend hours making sure things are clearly written. No, this kid gets a 0.

Another one wants an extension because her internet doesn't work at home and she doesn't like the library. I don't like having to do extra work because students submit work beyond the deadline and I have to carve out additional time to grade it. But I do it! Because that is life. We do things we don't like in life.

I feel closer to being a parent right now, amidst my online teaching, than I have my entire pregnancy. I feel what must be a small taste of the insane frustration in raising a teenager and, my goodness, my son will not be an excuse maker! Ownership!!! Own your tardiness and own your zeroes. Gah!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Successful Day

Today, Corey agreed to build the rain barrel. I couldn't have been happier if he told me I didn't look pregnant from the back (which he did do!!!).

I thought it was going on another gutter to keep the rain off the foundation of the house and out of the basement, but Corey says we can eventually rout the downspout toward the barrel. I wonder when this will take place...

I am a bit overly excited that it's supposed to rain tomorrow so that water will make its way into the barrel. I feel like doing a rain dance or something just to see how/if it works.

While he was assembling that, I made my way to Construction Junction in search of both a hack saw and a wardrobe. I found neither of those things, but I did locate a credenza for just $10! It was missing a foot and had a scratch, but the missing foot and scratchy area are hidden against the wall. I got the very nice store folks to load it into the Mazda for me and I now have a storage solution for my living room.

This is the best thing in the world because it eliminates the need for a new coffee table with storage, it offers a place to stick all my extra throw blankets during the summer, it has ample room for board games and Corey can fill it with his crap.

Though he was initially very skeptical of the purchase, as soon as I got it dusted off, nay before it was dusted off, he began to fill it with his things. A phone charger. Some keys. A folder. By the time I got home from a writerly function later that night, it had a lamp on top and all sorts of stuff crammed into the drawers. This is going to be a magnet for his piles, I can just tell.

Hopefully that means I'll get the kitchen table back. I wonder if I have just encouraged his spreading or if I've really done myself a favor in providing a place to hide his piles?

At any rate, I feel good because we were proactive this weekend. Our house is not the same as it was yesterday. And this is a good thing.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Our Grand To-Do List

Our plans for the summer (excluding birthing our son and becoming his parents):

**Attach the rain barrel Corey built to the actual downspout, thus fulfilling its existence as a rain barrel and removing it from our deck, where it currently serves as a conversation piece**

1. Dig up concrete on left side of house and give it to dude seeking clean fill
2. Put dirt, grass seed where sea of concrete once was; perhaps additional garden bed for climbing beans
3. Blow insulation into the horse-hair plaster walls of our home, then fill, spackle, and paint over the holes
4. Install some sort of closet or closet substitute in our bedroom so Corey will put his clothes away after only 2 short years of living in our house
5. Convince my dad that his true passion in life is to power wash then stain our deck during his extended visit to Pittsburgh to meet his grandson

I feel like all of these things are manageable in the next 12 weeks (although number 5 can happen any time). I also feel nervous that many of these are beyond my control or reign. Apart from going to Ikea and bringing home the Aneboda, I actually can't do anything on that list at all...because I can't hire workers to complete the tasks and I can't lift or physically move the things required for the other items.

This means I have to do something I'm not that great at: I have to trust my husband and relinquish a little piece of control of my life. If I had to grade myself on my ability to do such things, I would give myself an F.

So, I'm trying to take small bites. Step one is to make that trip to Ikea and instead of lugging around the furniture by hand like usual, I'm going to actually utilize a stock worker to help me. I shall bring home that wardrobe, darn it. And while I'm out doing that, I will breathe normally and trust that Corey is wrestling with our down spout.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Shame, shame, and more shame

"Ummmmm..." a young girl hesitated, tapping me on the arm as I waited for the elevator in the Cathedral of Learning, during a class change.

"Your tucked up into your book bag."

My worst fears come true. I reached behind me to discover the flowy skirt of my latest maternity dress was indeed wedged up into my backpack, with my undies and tights flapping in the breeze for all to see.

I had exited the bus on 5th ave, walked a half block along the crowded sidewalk, and into the building. It's a gorgeous day, so thousands of people were outside playing frisbee and smoking cigarettes and (in my mind) staring at the bunched up granny panties of a mom-to-be.

Worse, I am wearing awful beige underwear because regular, cute little underwear don't fit my pregnant body. These are enormous, probably all crumply in the back.

I spent the rest of the day reaching behind me to make sure my skirt was down. This is, I suppose, my punishment for trying to look nice the last day of class in hopes of leaving a good impressions for the students' know, so that I can trade them good letters of recommendation for babysitting services.

Oh Crap

My friend emailed me this morning to tell me I am going to die. Not really. But she did say that the 71A had a measles exposure, obviously during times I rode the darn thing. This story provides a bit more information--the culprit was a person from India, measles can lead to pneumonia, I should be afraid of every single person who doesn't look like me (pregnant, caucasian, etc.).

In all seriousness, a case of the measles would be a big deal for me right now, because my immune system is so low with my pregnancy. But I think my mom got me the MMR vaccination when I was little. If it was something they were vaccinating for, I'm sure I had it.

This news has come during a time when I am just starting to seriously consider and research vaccines. There is so much to think about when you are in charge of a new life, and I want to make the right decisions. I will say that the presence of a "foreign other" potentially infecting me and Baby Love on the bus has added new weight to the choice. I am vaccinated and unafraid, but what if Baby Love had not yet been vaccinated? Or what if that was one of the ones I chose to skip, since folks in the US don't get measles?

It's such a cyclical argument. I don't know what to do, except call up the midwives and keep reading my books.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Magical Yarn Adventure!

**Warning: This post drips with yarn dorkiness and OCD**

I have been searching for supplies to knit Baby Love the Big Bad Baby Blanket, as featured in Stitch n Bitch. The pattern calls for lots and lots of fingering-weight merino wool yarn. I began my search to discover that such yarn was EXPENSIVE. Like, re-mortgage our house expensive. But it wouldn't do to knit Baby Love something like this with Lions Pride or something crappy. I had to find an alternative.

Meanwhile, my brother-in-law has a magical friend who owns a yarn store. Only it's not just any yarn store. It's called Yarnia! And in Yarnia you get to make your own yarn. Unfortunately, Yarnia is in Portland, OR, or I would go there every day and knit instead of work. But the Portland location did not preclude me from a virtual conversation and yarn purchase!

On Thursday, I started telling Lindsey about my wants and needs and then she made helpful suggestions. Like what if we also used bamboo? And since Jordie was coming home for Passover anyway, what if we just used him as a courier and didn't pay shipping (directly, anyway...)? I quickly set about placing an order for 1.25 pounds of beautifully blended blue and green bamboo/merino wool yarn, at less than half the cost I'd been finding for those tiny bulbs of fancy yarn elsewhere. And it all comes on one cone so there won't be ends and no weaving in of yarn stubs as I work on the blanket!

When I landed in the airport in Philly, I almost forgot to hug Jordie. I just reached into his bag and grabbed my loot, which seemed more important at the time. I became instantly anti-social and cast on 126 stitches with the long metal needles I smuggled through security. I even managed to knit 20 rows of seed stitch while Jordie and Corey took care of the rental car. This is less a testament to my fast knitting than to the ineptitude of Dollar Rental.

By the end of the weekend, I had ten inches of beautiful, drapey awesome blanket...littered with mistakes. Though it broke my heart to do so, I had to rip out over 8 inches. I decided that I would stare at those errors (Corey pretended he couldn't see them and that they weren't real) for decades and that Baby Love deserved a truly perfect blanket, what with the yarn made from scratch and all.

I had a technique revelation during the reknitting process. Since I knit English style, I've had to change how I hold my needles. I used to stick the right needle in my armpit and go to town. Now, my bulge is in the way almost as much as my engorged pregnant boobs. The needle pretty much points straight out toward the right...

But this weekend I found a new home for the back end of the needle: in that hidey-hole between my hip and my baby belly, where I usually stash dark chocolate. I just wedge the needle in there and I am all set. Much more comfortable and efficient that way, I think.

Stay tuned for more details about the BBBB. This is probably the beginning of a long adventure involving wardrobes and fauns and yarn fibres.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

I hear you breathing and I smell your breath

I was teaching the other day when, mid-thought, I became overwhelmed by the smell of maple syrup. "Who's been eating French toast?" I asked the class, "I smell your syrup." They all looked at me, unsure whether to laugh or fess up or what. One of my students started laughing and sort of sheepishly raised his hand. He told me he'd been eating a butterscotch candy that did, he agreed, smell sort of mapley.

I have always had a strong sense of smell and bat ears. I've always been able to hear the lights screaming in our living room and the high pitch sounds of computers and our television. Working in an office became unbearable for me toward the end, and only partly due to the miserable wretches who filled my days with negativity. I additionally could hear the wheels of each printer, the hum of each monitor.

Now imagine those already strong senses magnified by my pregnancy. I think, in retrospect, I knew I was pregnant when I first sat down in my office on the 6th floor and smelled the frying sweet potatoes in the basement cafeteria. I can hear the students' phones vibrating in their sweatpants pockets, I can smell their deodorant, and going into any store that carries anything fragrant is completely out of the question. I'd die!

I try very hard not to talk too much about being pregnant with my students. They are, after all, 18 and more concerned with their GPA/ABV combination (that's alcohol by volume for you old heads who stopped binge drinking on Thursdays). But after I smelled S's butterscotch breath, I couldn't avoid explaining things to them.

Suddenly, we were talking about white flour and avoiding bagels and then, I was horrified to hear myself discussing prunes with a student who wrote an exercise about her hatred of prunes and her grandparents' discussions of them for increased bowel health. I talked about bowel health with a student!

My only explanation for doing such a thing is that Corey bought cheap light bulbs for the recessed lighting in the living room, and these bulbs are more high pitched than a dog whistle. I hear them constantly, even from up in our bedroom with the door shut and my head beneath a pillow. He insists he can't eat dinner without light, and the table lamp just won't do. So if I walk around saying crazy things or lacking a filter, it's because Baby Love's dad has made me nuts, torturing me with the lights and then finishing me off with his dirty plates crusted in barbecue sauce. I blame the pair of them. I think I hear them snickering at me right now.

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Savages

Corey and I just finished watching The Savages thanks to Netflix. I remember adding it to our queue because I love "Phil Hoffman" as the director calls him. Now that it has arrived, I can't believe how serendipitous it seems based on what's going on in our lives. Each of us has a relative who is struggling with dementia at the moment, and my maternal family is working through the logistics, guilt, grief, and difficulty of transitioning my grandmother into a nursing home.

I couldn't believe how much this movie affected me, even from the title. It does indeed seem a savage process to have to age like this, to travel through incontinence and forgetting. To have to become the care provider for the person who was supposed to care for you. I am dealing with a lot of guilt at my removal from helping with my grandmother--I live 4 hours away, which seems a valid enough excuse until I listen to my mother describe the daily experience of taking care of her. I want so badly to help. Like Wendy Savage, I work predominantly as a freelance writer. Ben Savage tells her she has to take care of her dad at one point because her life is "portable." But like Ben Savage, I also teach at a university. It's a complicated pickle.

I last spoke to my grandmother on Saturday morning, when she asked me why I wouldn't be playing rugby that day. I got very sad when, after I reminded her I was pregnant, she said, "Oh! That's so wonderful! When did you find out?" Through all her confusions of late, she has always remembered my pregnancy, making it one of the few canned sets of sentences I had come to rely on in the conversation. (Corey will be a good dad; I can't wait to see this baby; I always loved being pregnant...etc.)

At one point during the movie, when Corey noticed I looked particularly sad, he just took my hand and reassured me we would move my mom out here to Pittsburgh to be near us if she finds herself in that state. By the end of the movie, we knew we had to buy the house across the street (currently for sale, if any relatives are interested!) and fill it with his siblings, both of our parents, and the hired house staff we'll need to help them sweep the hardwood floors.

All I can say in the end is that I am grateful to have my extended family. As wonderful as my life is in Pittsburgh, it sorely lacks the ease and comfort of family and, while I would never hope to see my loved ones deteriorate like Lenny Savage, I grew secretly wishful at the thought of the extended clan living 60 feet away in the brick house with matching stained glass.

Saturday, April 04, 2009


I have a friend. Her name is Vicki. She lives inside my Mac. Whenever I finish a draft of a story, she reads it out loud to me in her even, sometimes-monotonous voice. When I try to fool her and type something silly (like ball hair! or Haha) she never falls for it. She just reads with the same little even voice.

Recently, Vicki started reading my emails to me, too, before I send them. She's a good friend. On those long days by myself, sitting at my computer, sometimes she's the only person I talk to. I have to remind myself that she only says the things I tell her to, that we aren't really having a conversation over there in MS Word.

My students are always surprised when I ask them if they read their papers out loud before the submit them to me. "Of course we don't do that!" they look at me, sometimes putting down their Sodokus. But how can a writer not? When Vicki reads my words to me, I hear them just as they are, not just as I thought they were inside my head. Vicki zips through every missed comma and pauses too long at each superfluous em dash. When she says an adjective, I sometimes cringe and realize I used it a sentence above. Then I change it and ask her to read it again.

What do people do without Vicki? How did people live before their computers could talk back to them, gently showing them where they weren't quite stepping up to the plate?

All I know is that Vicki is my most important co-worker. I might start writing her a paycheck, if I can think of a valid last name for her. That would be a tax write-off! (Even reading this out loud, Vicki seems to scold. She just doesn't like humor of any sort. What a pill. Sorry, Vicki.)

I think that I'll invite her to come with me to a rugby game this afternoon. She and I can watch from the sidelines and then, when I'm home all day on Monday, we'll have something real to talk about and I won't feel so isolated up here in my brown office. But then Vicki will read me my to-do list and I'll remember that I can be at work in my underpants (she tells me to put on jeans before I leave the house) and I'll decide that, in the end, Vicki isn't such a bad person to be near for all those long hours.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


One year ago today, my friend Julie died. She was 26, a 2nd year poetry student to my 3rd year non-fiction status. She was my co-worker and my friend. I have thought about her a lot this past year, the way that she only used jars to transport foods, even and especially liquids, and the ways that she would scrounge rubbish from the trash if it seemed like it might one day be recyclable.

Every time I plant a bulb in my garden, and now when I watch them bloom, I think about her. I think about her and her bee stings as I put local honey in my tea. "This could have been the bee..."

It's still incomprehensible to me that someone my age could die. I think that's why her death affected me most: it brought a huge wave of mortality into my world.

Today, I want to honor her and think about her and say it is a beautiful day. She would be out enjoying it on a bicycle, wearing very little clothing and a pair of ratty canvas sneakers with the pinky toes peeping out. She would probably pat my belly and smile about Baby Love.

I miss her.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Better Late Than Never

Here is a photo of Baby Love from the much-contested ultrasound last week (two weeks ago? Who can remember?). See his cute nose? And how is neaderthal ridge seems to have toned down? They had a much harder time getting him to sit still for portraiture this time. He spent much of the u/s with his legs up over his head, butt in the air. He is like me already!!!