The Daily News

LFCA Latest Issue: Friday, September 25, 2009.

Latest Post on BlogHer: Parenting after Infertility.

My Status: Fed Josh's almonds to the squirrels. They needed them very badly.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

In the Valley of the Etchers, the One Armed Man is King

There was a boy in my etching class in high school who had one arm. It was amputated above the elbow and he never used a prosthetic. Everyone in the class was learning printmaking for the first time, so we were all coming at it from a level playing field.

One part of printmaking is that after your metal plate is ready, you heat it while putting on the ink in order to get the ink to sink into the grooves. After you get the ink into the grooves, you take it off the heat and rub the plate with a tarlatan to take off the excess ink and then I was taught to hand-wipe my plates. When we were working with the tarlatan, we kept the bottom of the plate on a stack of newspaper serving the same purpose as an oven mitt. Metal plates heated up By the time you were hand-wiping the plate, the metal had cooled enough to do the quick movements and not get burned, but I still have light scars on my arms from times a plate hit my uncovered arm after the plate was heated.

It is probably pretty clear at this point that it would help to have two arms.

One day, I was watching the one-armed boy work and noticed several things: (1) He worked more confidently than I did. When I put on ink, it was like I was a little worried that perhaps the plate didn't want to get dirty and I hadn't asked the plate yet how it felt and perhaps I was overstepping a line and... When he worked, he worked in the ink with quick confident movements like he was Super Nanny taming a child. (2) He was not only a better artist in terms of his needle-work, but he was a better printer. His lines were clear and crisp and he hadn't had the same issues I had with being wishy washy in terms of the resin. (3) He did all of this with one arm and no prosthetic. Without burning himself too badly. And er...I had two arms and did I mention that I still have scars from burning myself on hot plates?

He saw me watching him work so I said, "you're really really good."

And without looking at my sorry plate, he said, "well, I listen."

Which was a fair point.

Because I really didn't listen. Here's a reenactment of an average class: we sat down to watch our teacher demonstrate a new technique. I started taking notes. I soon became confused because I was busy trying to balance worrying that I wouldn't understand the assignment with listening to the teacher. I soon gave up listening to the teacher and daydreamed about boys. The demonstration would end and my teacher would start up the boom box so we could listen to the same Bruce Springsteen tape we always listened to while we worked. I started asking everyone around me a dozen questions, which showed just how little I listened during the lecture. I then became overwhelmed and took a walk and rode the merry-go-round outside the school (one of the perks of having your class on the Mall). And I ate a Big Chief Crunchy because by that time, you could really only get them in random places like the cafeteria at the Natural History Museum. And then I'd return to the classroom and attempt to work but usually end up returning to the teacher to have him walk me through the steps again. And then it would finally click with me, but I would run out of time to actually do the work. And then I'd go home and daydream about boys.

I took on a new project this week and saw myself entering into the same traps I set for myself back in that class. I could feel my eyes glaze over as I stared at the instructions on the screen and I called up Lindsay and said, "I am never ever ever going to get this. Will you please hold my dick through this whole thing?" And then I'd daydream about boys. And then finally, finally, when it was almost time for bed, a small element of it would finally click and I'd realize how much time I wasted with my incessant worrying.

So I'd like to thank the one-armed boy for his simple advice. You know, to listen. To be in the moment and absorb the task at hand rather than worrying about how I'm going to fail. And to stop daydreaming at boys. I mean, he didn't tell me to stop that, but I assume it was inherent in the message.


It wasn't?

Okay, scratch that. I'd like to thank the one-armed boy for his advice that I should listen, be in the moment, absorb the task at hand, and save daydreaming about boys for when I'm eating my Big Chief Crunchy after school hours.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Blog Roundup

Those who follow me on Twitter know that we've become smitten with a squirrel who lives in our front yard. And by "we" I mean everyone in this house who is not Josh. Josh may have a problem with the squirrel because we keep feeding him Josh's almonds. But the thing is that Simon loves almonds and we love Simon and we just want the damn squirrel to be happy.

One person wanted to name the squirrel Beauty and another person wanted to name him Beatle (as in, The Beatles, except there is only one, so he is simply Beatle) and has been campaigning hard for a name change. But Simon Liverspot suits this squirrel perfectly. I left a camera by the window so I can snap a picture when he comes to eat so you can see how Simon can only possibly be named Simon. It's as if he was simply born to fill this name. Simon Arthur Liverspot.

This is what happens when you don't buy your wife a pet and she can't procreate. She transfers all of her enormous love to a squirrel.

Last weekend was Rosh Hashanah. This weekend is Yom Kippur. Before the fast, Jen and I are roadtripping to West Virginia to see the smallest house in the world, the densest population of hackysack players in the world, and the birthplace of the greatest vegetarian egg rolls in the world. It's all the same place; it's just whichever lens you wish to view the random town that we've chosen for our roadtrip. It's just two ladies, the open road, and a handful of Beatles CDs.

Last weekend, I held the ChickieNob through the service, almost clonking her on her head when I held her to my chest and bent down during the Aleinu. I know that at age five, she's awfully big to be holding in my arms like that, but she wanted to be hugged and I wanted to hold her despite the fact that by the second hour, my arms were turning into jelly.

The reality is that one of my parenting fantasies was that I'd be in shul, holding my child and casually flicking through the prayer book at the same time. The key point is at the same time--having the whole picture--the child, the community. I felt so out of sorts for so many years, on the outskirts of community as my friends all had children. And it felt like this was the last year to grab at that fantasy. I can't foresee myself holding a six-year-old next year. So it was bittersweet--stepping outside of myself and seeing her in my arms and the service going on and knowing it was probably the last time I'd get to have that.

The Weekly What If: What if you had to decide between a really good marriage/partnership or a really good circle of close friends? As in, you could either have your partner be your best friend and have no close friends outside that relationship OR you could have a cordial/functional partnership, but have a very close circle of friends who live nearby and remain with you throughout life. Sorry--you have to choose one or the other, but also tell us why (and feel free to go anonymous if you wish).

And now, the blogs...

This may be a first: I choose a post from a blog the same week they decide to close (this is in addition to another post by a different blogger which was deleted before I could put it in the Roundup. What is happening with the world?). And apparently, no amount of begging is going to change things. But I am keeping my pick because damn it, it's my pick. Punch Drunk has a post about a friend who was her pregnancy pal. They went through their first pregnancies together and tried to repeat the experience with their seconds, though their life paths diverged. It is a bittersweet post about seeing that person on Facebook again and thinking about how life was supposed to go.

Bee in the Bonnet has a post about delays in a cycle. And while there are follow up posts that give more information about the cycle, I am still paused back in that moment, where the future is unknown and the only facts before you is that there is a pause, one more hurdle, a road bump. It is difficult to read a post about a cancellation or pause and not feel that aching that comes from the times you received that phone call yourself. And the post just got under my skin. I thought about it all week because she let us so deeply into the moment.

Circus Children has a post about her "what if not" list. She writes of her reason for not keeping lists: "As a matter of fact, lists scare me a little, because if I did do lists and I didn't stick to them (which in my case is very likely) there would actually be proof of the things I didn't do." And yet, her husband asks her to create two lists--one for a future where IVF works and one for a future where it does not. It is both beautiful and heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time--and you send so many good thoughts by the end, that only the long list remains in her hand at the end of the day, showing her everything that she did do.

Lastly, IF You Only Knew has a gorgeous post about who she sees when she looks in the mirror. It begins with seeing herself in the mirror at a store and she writes: "It's that all of the pain I feel on the inside gets amplified by the ugliness on the outside. The reason my body has changed is from the surgery. Infertility did this to me. I said in an earlier post that thinking you are infertile and knowing come with two different emotions." And it takes a second look in the figurative mirror--once prompted by her husband--to still see the old Caitlin through the new changes. And that we are so much more than our bodies.

The roundup to the Roundup: I love Simon Liverspot. Floating in a sea of Jewish holidays. The Weekly What If. And lots of great posts to read. I was supposed to meet someone this weekend and it has been delayed and in case she's reading this, I want her to know I made her cookies and am sending good thoughts for an easy move.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The 71st Circle Time: The Show and Tell Weekly Thread

Show and Tell is wasted on elementary schoolers. Join several dozen bloggers weekly to show off an item, tell a story, and get the attention of the class. In other words, this is Show and Tell 2.0. Everyone is welcome to join, even if you have never posted before and just found out about Show and Tell for the first time today. So yank out a photo of the worst bridesmaid's dress you ever wore and tell us the story; show off the homemade soup you cooked last night; or tell us all about the scarf you made for your first knitting project. Details on how to participate are located at the bottom of this post.

Let's begin.

The ChickieNob has recently become obsessed with ballet, and when I say "obsessed" I mean that she spends a minimum of four hours a day reenacting famous poses (mostly just arm movements, which she calls port de bras, because I am not buying toe shoes for a five-year-old. I mean, I'll buy them for myself despite my lack of ballet training and the potential for a broken ankle, but not her), pirouetting around the living room, and wondering aloud how she will ever learn to do 32 fouette rond de jambe when she cannot even stay upright for one. This literally keeps her up at night. She has had to discuss ballet with me at 2 a.m. because she is just so worried that she will never become a principal dancer with the ABT.

We listen to a lot of Tchaikovsky (on CD--not on my Irish Penny Whistle). I gave her an old ballet program that I kept from 1985 and she pores over it, flicking her wrist like Martine Van Hamel or holding her leg behind her like Marianna Tcherkassky. She is in love with Angel Corella. This past weekend, she gave me a two hour performance of Swan Lake, mastering Odette's fearful expression when she sees Prince Sigfried for the first time and the traditional swan pose in Act Two:

She just turned five-years-old. Do yo think there is a possibility that we will be scoring free tickets to the ballet twenty years from now? Principal dancers must get a few free tickets to pass out to friends and family...right?

She is about to start ballet classes soon (yes, all of this and she hasn't taken a single ballet lesson). It's hard to hold onto your excitement for something when you enter into classes, having to keep pace with the rest of the group rather than sprint with your heart. I hope that she still peppers me with translating everything into French after ballet classes begin. It would be a shame if she lost this spirit.

On the other hand, she has never, ever kicked another child gleefully in the face during one of her performances. She does not know that joy yet and you can only get that by taking a class and getting on that stage. So much to learn, so much to learn.

What are you showing today?

Click here or scroll down to the bottom of this post if this is your first time joining along (Important: link to the permalink for the post, not the main url for your blog and use your blog's name, not your name. Links not going to a Show and Tell post will be deleted). The list is open from now until late Friday night and a new one is posted every week.

Other People Standing at the Head of the Class:

Want to bring something to Show and Tell?
  • If you would like to join circle time and show something to the class, simply post each Wednesday night (or any time between Wednesday morning and Friday night), hopefully including a picture if possible, and telling us about your item. It can be anything--a photo from a trip, a picture of the dress you bought this week, a random image from an old yearbook showing a person you miss. It doesn't need to contain a picture if you can't get a picture--you can simply tell a story about a single item. The list opens every Wednesday night and closes on Friday night.
  • You must mention Show and Tell and include a link back to this post in your post so people can find the rest of the class. This spreads new readership around through the list. This is now required.
  • Label your post "Show and Tell" each week and then come back here and add the permalink for the post via the Mr. Linky feature (not your blog's main url--use the permalink for your specific Show and Tell post).
  • Oh, and then the point is that you click through all of your classmates and see what they are showing this week. And everyone loves a good "ooooh" and "aaaah" and to be queen (or king) of the playground for five minutes so leave them a comment if you can.
  • Did you post a link and now it's missing?: I reserve the right to delete any links that are not leading to a Show and Tell post or are the blogging equivalent of a spitball.

A Post from the Very Worst Actress in the World

I've been considering self-hosting the blog, mostly so I can upload audio files and bore you with numerous recordings of myself playing the Irish Penny Whistle. I rock that whistle hard. In fact, I keep it on my desk so I can play myself a little Tchaikovsky when I'm trying to think. Have you ever heard Tchaikovsky played on a whistle that can only range 8 notes? It's really an amazing sound.

In debating the pros and cons of this (remember, I move very slowly. I only got a header a year ago, over two years into blogging. It could take me three more decades to get to self-hosting status), I told Josh that we could finally have our contest and ask all of you to be the judges of which one of us does the best British accent.

I think it's me.

I can (1) keep it going a lot longer without dropping it. As in, I can spend the whole evening pretending I'm part of the British royal family, a cousin who just happens to have moved to the Washington, D.C. suburbs and (2) keep it softer. I don't go for Liverpool or the brogue of the Fens. I go for a very light London accent--nothing flashy, nothing too far off the beaten path.

I was climbing into bed, excitedly telling him that we could finally put our long-running debate to rest when he dryly reminded me that my mother had told him that night at dinner that two children were cut from the hundred who auditioned for a performing arts camp when I was little. As in, 108 children audition and 106 children were accepted.

And I was one of the two.

Methinks I don't like those odds so much anymore.

I didn't know that I was one of only two children who didn't make the cut until my mother told that story at dinner a few weeks ago. I was under the impression that hundreds of children were cut. That sort of made me feel terrible about myself even though it's over twenty years later.

It really isn't news that I'm a terrible actress--I've had it told to me (once by a very famous actor who later denied saying it even though he said it in front of twenty people so I have witnesses, but since the actor is currently dead and cannot defend his assessment that I am the worst actress he has ever seen, I will let him rest in peace) and I'm confident in the assessment to say it to you: I am a terrible actress.

Which must have been the part to do me in when I auditioned for the performing arts camp because I'm not the worst singer. I'm not the best singer, but I can stay on-key (right? I sing on-key in the movies, I think). I'm certainly "good enough" to make a middle school performance camp. And even if I can't sing, I actually am pretty talented musically. I still play by ear--currently, only the Irish Penny Whistle--but before that, piano and guitar. But I never never never play piano unless you get me very drunk. And then I will play Mozart and promise people piano lessons and vomit in the toilet the next morning. But I am considering getting a keyboard and giving the twins piano lessons because...I can. So, what I'm trying to say that insofar as the performing arts, I can sing mostly on-key and I do actually have some talent with instrumental music. So I have to assume I wasn't eliminated for my musical abilities ( sang "Corner of the Sky" from Pippin as my audition piece. Too maudlin? Cliche?).

And I made an exclusive dance troupe when I was older that performed in many places including the Kennedy Center. I wasn't one of the principal dancers in the troupe and I was often shunted to small roles in infrequently performed dances, but still, I made that troupe.

So can you imagine how G-d awful I must be as an actress to be able to sing and be able to dance and still be one of only two children cut from a performing arts camp?

If I'm going to boast of having actual dance talent, I do need to balance out the sentiment and admit this story:

I was given a single chance in the dance troupe to perform one of the main numbers when another girl was going to miss a performance. I took over her role and practiced my part incessantly, usually wearing her pink and grey costume that went with the dance as I practiced in front of the mirror. I was in love with myself.

The performance was held at the Kennedy Center. They had set up a stage in the main lobby, the one where people mill about near Kennedy's head snacking on overpriced M&Ms during intermission. We were performing as part of a cultural celebration type thing...actually, I'm not really sure why we were there or what else was going on. My information was to show up at this particular stage, go on, dance my dance, and exit.

There was no orchestra pit between the stage and the audience as there is in the main theater. Which I thought was a good thing because I've had trouble with disorientation and orchestra pits in the past. I did piano guild for a few years when I was little and an assessment I went to at age six was held at a university campus. I played my pieces on the stage with the judges sitting in the audience. I was supposed to enter from the side stairs, play my pieces, bow, and exit from the side stairs. Instead I entered from the side stairs, played my pieces, stood up in confusion, peed in my underpants due to fear, started walking towards the orchestra pit while the adult judges jumped up waving their hands and shrieking "no," stood on the edge and started crying because I couldn't figure how to get off the stage, and then went home to change my dress.

Despite the lack of orchestra pit, I reminded myself several times not to pee in my dress at the Kennedy Center performance.

So, I'm in the wings at the makeshift Kennedy Center stage and the music swells and I trot out on stage, pausing to execute a gorgeous cherkessia in unison with the other girls. It is this wonderfully raucous dance, and I was getting great height with the jumps, the skirt of my dress billowing out like a sail as I flew through the air. And the other girls were floating by me, leaping and turning, our arms like the bare branches of a pomegranate tree.

We fell into a line and what should have happened was that my body dipped down, my arms held aloft behind me, birdlike, for a count of four. Instead, while all the other girls did that, I ran forward to the edge of the stage, jumping directly to the step that would follow--four running steps forward, kick, and four running steps back.

That, obviously, wasn't supposed to happen. I was supposed to be back with the other girls who were still counting their four seconds of bird arms instead of dancing alone to the front of the stage. My foot was also not supposed to connect with the little boy's face that was beaming at the edge of the stage.

I remember thinking to myself as I kicked, "where is everyone else?" my body twisting instinctively backwards to check where my co-dancers were on the stage. The boy screamed in pain and the audience gasped in shock because to everyone else in the room, it appeared that I gleefully left the line of dancers to break off on my own and kick a small child in the face. I ran backwards, still following the next part of the dance while the other girls ran forward, bird-arms over, to complete the real next step while simultaneously checking on the child who was sobbing on the floor.

That was my last performance with the troupe.

You know that saying, "those who can, do. Those who can't, teach"?

I shouldn't even be allowed to teach.

Though I still am considering self-hosting so we can give you two samples of our terrible British accents for our accent throwdown. And despite my mantle as the worst actress ever, a face-kicking dancer, and a mostly on-key singer, I am actually a very good drawer.

No, really, I am.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Savages' Wrong Embryo Transfer and What We Can Actually Learn About IVF

The headline on MSNBC read "Woman Implanted with Wrong Embryo," which begs the response: "Media Distracts with Wrong Headline." It's not just the misuse of the word "implant" instead of "transfer," which overpromises science's capabilities (and regardless of the you say to-mah-to, I say to-may-to debate we've had over the years about improper vocabulary, my stance is that this is important because it is just one more way misinformation about infertility is spread to the general public. Embryos can only be transferred, not implanted, hence why IVF is not a sure thing despite what some people believe when they tell you that "you can always do IVF!"), it's that once again, the general public isn't getting a story about what has been happening in clinics across America 364 days this year--what they're hearing is the one case that happened instead of the thousands of success stories.

My heart goes out to the two couples at the center of this situation. I cannot imagine the position the Savages are in, going through IVF, emotionally focused on creating a life that they would raise and discovering that through someone else's mistake, they were pregnant, but their two choices were to either terminate or carry to term for another couple. It's literally impossible to imagine.

Yet I take issue with this thought: "They are telling their story in the hopes that no other couple ever has to go through what they have endured."

The reality is that telling their story does not prevent human error. This could happen again. Every clinic across America could think about it every second of every day and it could still happen again because humans make mistakes. Even machines make mistakes. It isn't the happiest thought in the world when you're trusting your body to a doctor, but prior to this point, clinics never operated in a willy-nilly fashion, leaving unlabeled vials on the counter.

My clinic was merticulous, labeling everything with a number and cross-checking every gamete that exited the body with the owner. My husband had a number on a card he held, the semen sample had a number on it, and they would read off the numbers, over and over and over again, triple checking that even with an IUI, the correct sample was used. And my clinic is not special. This is happening every day in every clinic across America. They have protocols, they have safety nets, they have systems.

And with every safe guard in place, it still happened.

It's not that I don't believe that Americans should hear this story and discuss it. By all means, it is newsworthy because it is outside the norm. The problem is that the average American isn't having that thought drilled into their head. With IVF barely on their radar, they hear yet another tale of IVF gone wrong, treading on the heels of Nadya Suleman. The message they will take away from this is not that IVF is a godsend for millions of Americans (not all of the 7.3 million American diagnosed with infertility will utilize IVF or even IUI, but those who do are thankful that procedures exist that can circumvent medical issues that impede conception), but that once again, IVF is dangerous. This is what y'all get when you go playing G-d and messing with nature.

If I owned the airwaves, I would tell Americans this:

Procedures such as IUI, IVF, and ICSI, are necessities--not choices--for people with certain medical limitations who wish to build their families. That fertility treatments are not evil or selfish or prone to error any moreso than medical procedures such as blood transfusions, organ transplantation, or hernia surgery. When humans are involved, mistakes can happen, as much as we hope and pray that they don't and have every right to ask for compensation when human error rather than medical realities affect our lives.

That 7.3 million Americans are currently diagnosed with infertility and while it may not be life-threatening, it is certainly lifestyle threatening. Infertility is not caused from waiting too long to procreate or stress or not praying hard enough--infertility is an umbrella term for a series of medical issues that can affect men or women (infertility is about 40% male factor, 40% female factor, with the remaining 20% comprised of a combination of factors or unexplained infertility) who wish to build their family.

And that while other options for family building do exist, it is no one's place to tell another person how they should build their family any moreso than it would be appropriate for you to decide or even suggest to someone else where they should live, who they should marry, what job they should hold, or any other lifestyle choice. No one enters into treatments lightly, without having researched options and weighed choices.

That there are around 3 million children created via IVF walking around on this earth right now, and that if we're going to tell the story of the Savages, we need to also balance out the news by reminding the public that in all but a handful of cases, IVF fails not due to human error, but to the body's error. And that when it succeeds, it creates children who have even gone on to build families of their own.