The Dairy Life, Yoga Withdrawal, and Writing Critiques

I’ve been on a deadline (per usual this time of year) so I haven’t been writing much. But today my next job is late so I am free…FREE I SAY! There are ton of things I’ve been wanting to put up here, but then time passed and I didn’t have time and blah, blah, anyway I’m putting it all right here in one little post so here ya go.

Declan can eat dairy! It’s such a bizarre concept. Monday morning at 9am my husband called me to say that the allergist’s office had called him and offered us a 10:00 appointment for Declan’s food challenge. Despite my begging my sitter to come when she wanted to cancel so that I could make my afternoon deadline, I said “Holy crap, I’ll be there!” I dropped everything, put some yogurt and milk in a cooler bag, grabbed the kid, and hopped in a cab to West Side.

Declan was seriously an angel and colored and played with his toys and barely even looked at the iPad for the nearly 3 hours we were at the office. He ate his yogurt and drank his milk with no argument. Halfway through his cheeks got red and we worried a bit, but some time in the waiting room where it was cooler solved the problem. He made it through the last waiting period and showed no reaction. I couldn’t believe it. The allergist said that if he tolerated a full serving of dairy the next morning, then he would be clear and have no restrictions. Declan is a dairy eater! I no longer have to worry about his grabbing Go-gurts or cheese puffs. He can have cheese sticks for a snack! I made chicken and dumplings this week because I hadn’t been able to make creamy soup in years. Other than a little tummy discomfort and his insisting for the first two days that he can only eat dairy, Declan’s been fine. It’s kind of amazing.

Playing so nicely.

Playing so nicely.

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Silly, dairy-eating boy.

Which brings me to yoga withdrawal. As of right now, I have not taken a yoga class in 13 days and it SUCKS. I do not do well without my yoga. My anxiety is left to fester and grow and take hold without my asana practice. It is not a good scene. But 13 days ago I took a very back-bendy class which left my lower back ridiculously tight. That night, like every night, Declan came into my room at 2am. I carried him back to his bed and as I lowered his 35lb body into the lower bunk, something really bad happened in my lower back. I could barely stand back up. I then endured several days of spasms and pain and stiffness and general awfulness and, of course, no yoga.

A week later it was finally feeling less painful and more mobile, but I wanted to give it time. The thought of doing a forward fold was kind of terrifying. Actually, it’s still pretty scary, but I’ll be in class tonight. It’s an instructor I know well and trust and I’ll be talking to her beforehand to make sure I don’t do anything to re-injure myself. Back pain is the WORST! I can honestly see how people with back problems get hooked on pain medication. You need your back for everything!

And the writing critiques. A few weeks ago I sent four of my poems to my husband’s aunt to read. She is pretty much one of my favorite people. She’s been a professional writer in many capacities and has also taught writing and she recently got her MFA in poetry. I respect her writing and her opinion so I asked her if she would read some of my stuff. I saw her at Thanksgiving and she told me she’d be sending me her thoughts and not to worry. But I worried.

A few days later I got her response and its’ several pages long. I read the first paragraph and realized I wouldn’t be able to finish. Due to the aforementioned deadline and back pain (and maybe just a tiny bit of fear), I wasn’t able to sit down to go through it. Today, I am free. I should read her thoughts. I should sit with my poems while I have the chance. But I am paralyzed. I am writing on my blog, but I am afraid to open that attachment and read her words. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve handed over my work to another writer and I don’t know if I’m ready. I get so married to my words that I find it hard to think about changing them. I have flashbacks to college writing workshops where I picked to pieces by vengeful English students. I am trying to get up the courage. It’s the next thing I’ll do…I swear.

Thanksgiving in NYC

Hands down, one of my favorite things about living in New York City is Thanksgiving. Long, long ago, when the husband and I were just dating and I was still in college, I started coming here to his family for Thanksgiving…and the parade! I have ALWAYS loved parades and the best one of all is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Every year, my house was filled with the sounds of parade coverage as we lounged in the living room waiting to go to my grandma’s to feast. When I had a chance to actually attend in person, I jumped at it…and kept going every year after.

I have so many parade memories that they sort of start to meld together into one awesome parade: there was the year we had brunch at Jean Georges and watched from the patio, the year my sister-in-law and I froze to death and laughed at a family near us that had a comment for EVERYTHING, the year my mom and sister came up and we took selfies with the balloons before it was cool (with a real camera no less), the year we watched from an apartment high above Central Park West, the year Declan was a tiny baby in the Bjorn.

But two years ago, we said no more. It got to be a hassle getting the kids there and then getting them ready to go to the in-laws. So instead we went to the balloon inflating the night before. NEVER go to the balloon inflating!!! It is a nightmare that knows no equal where people are herded like cattle past giant cartoon characters captured in nets. We escaped into the subway halfway through!

So last year we scrapped the whole parade. It was sad, but it was relaxing. This year, we were all prepared to watch on TV and hang out at home. But after 40 minutes of interviews with sitcom stars, commercials, and clips from Broadway shows, Brady and I couldn’t take anymore. So we went for a little walk and got us some parade action.

What a Day!

Today was a doozy of a day. It started with it becoming arctic cold overnight, which I guess happened in most of the Northern Hemisphere since I kept reading that there were freezing temperatures in all 50 states. Here are some of the bad/annoying/irritating things that happened today:

- Declan’s slight, morning head-stuffiness morphed into an actual cold, no lie, en route to the allergist.

- We were sent home by the allergist with no food challenge and a hope of a cancellation in the near future.

- Despite not having the food challenge I still went all the way to the West Side in the freezing cold and spent $30 on cabs.

- Declan’s actual cold became a terrible cold.

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- TWO people walked right past me in the line at the grocery store as if I wasn’t there waiting too! (Cutting in line is my #1 pet peeve.)

- My two pairs of warm boots arrived from Zappos and NEITHER fit me and it promises to be just as cold again tomorrow.

- I had to drag my children into the cold and dark to volunteer for the last CSA shift to make my volunteer quota for the season.

- Declan created this masterpiece on the wall in the hallway.

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- I got my period. (Sorry for the TMI, but seriously, it’s the day that just won’t stop giving.)

But, all day my yogi-self kept telling me to step back and take a breath, to look at what was happening and see the positive. So, because of that, and because looking at the list above I seriously look like a whiny baby, I will oblige my yogi-self and see the positives.  So here are some of the good/nice/not annoying things that happened today:

- Declan and I stopped at the bookstore and it was story time and he LOVED it! That kids loves songs with hand gestures and being read stories.

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- Since Declan didn’t feel good he snuggled me all day. (I didn’t mind the snot that came with it too much.)

- I somehow got in some freelance work.

- Zappos has free shipping and returns.

- The other lovely people who were volunteering saw that I had my kids with me and that it was cold and let me sign in and go home! Yay for nice people! I did do a little restocking of veggies for good measure while we were there.

- Magic Eraser removes pencil on a wall like, well, magic.

- Declan fell immediately asleep and I got to snuggle with Brady a little. He told me about the stories he makes up while he’s falling asleep and it was incredible! It involves him making a legendary basketball shot, being sent to a special middle school in California to play basketball, coming back to New York for high school and leaving basketball to play football and perfecting the “rocket throw.” How cool is this kid?

How’s that for balance? I’m working on it. I really am.

The Food Challenge

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I’ve written here before about Declan’s dairy allergy. When he was 9 months old he pulled a cup of milk over onto himself and promptly broke out in hives everywhere it touched his skin–clearly a problem. Again, I’m thankful that I not only breastfed him, but that I was off dairy for my own reasons while I did it. Anyway, a trip to the allergist confirmed that he was allergic (not sensitive, not lactose intolerant, actually really allergic) to milk. We were told to try slowly introducing cooked milk products and see what happened and to come back for a skin test in six months. The allergist assured us that most kids outgrow this allergy by the age of two. She also told us that we would need to carry an EpiPen with us at all times. While the chance of him going into anaphylactic shock was very low, it was still there.

Subsequent skin tests, disappointingly, showed that he was still allergic. Each time that red welt appeared on his skin within seconds of the nurse scratching on the milk. At two, he was still allergic and we were to come back in a year. In the meantime, we should still try more cooked milk products. He was able to eat pizza and grilled cheese. This past August I took him back for a skin test before starting preschool, hoping to avoid the EpiPen paperwork and the worry that he would touch butter while baking in class.

Amazingly, no welt appeared on his arm! I was so relieved! But, the EpiPen paperwork would still have to be done. We still had to do a food challenge to be sure he could tolerate milk. I went to the front desk to schedule the appointment and was told it would be more than THREE MONTHS before we could do the challenge, during which Declan would eat small amounts of some raw dairy product while being closely monitored over the span of a few hours. I was deflated, but still hopeful.

The food challenge is tomorrow. I’ve been waiting and waiting for this day. I have yogurt and chocolate milk and cheese sticks–all foods that he wishes he could eat–in the fridge waiting. He is excited and even told his teachers that he gets to “go to a doctor appointment and eat dairy!” I got the confirmation text from the allergist’s office on Saturday afternoon. It mentioned that there should be “no signs of respiratory symptoms.” So, of course, Declan woke up with a cough on Sunday morning.

He seems ok, but I am FREAKED out! What if they turn us away? What if we have to wait another THREE MONTHS? I feel pretty sure I have a restless night ahead of me. His nose isn’t runny and his cough seems to only be in the morning, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. He’s a three-year-old and it’s November! Are there any three-year-olds who DON’T have respiratory symptoms in November. I’m aware that there’s a medical reason for this, but come on! Because I need him to have this test. I don’t care about what he can and can’t eat. It’s honestly not that difficult to avoid dairy. I just don’t want to worry anymore. I don’t want to worry that some kid will spill their Horizon milk box on him at the playground and he’ll break out in hives…or worse. I don’t want to have to worry that he’ll get frosting on his skin at a birthday party or grab his brother’s yogurt when he inevitably doesn’t throw it away. I don’t want to have to worry that I mixed up the cereal bowls because I was too tired and accidentally gave him the one with real milk.

I’m also thankful that there’s a possibility that he’s outgrown his allergy. It’s tough to avoid touching certain foods. I feel awful for the kids who have allergies they can’t outgrow and that they will take through adulthood. Good thoughts for us that all goes well tomorrow and Declan happily slurps up some yogurt with no adverse reactions.

Lucky Number Seven

This past Saturday we celebrated Brady’s seventh birthday. Seven whole years of his being on this planet. Seven years of my being a mother and my husband being a father–of us being a family. It also reminded me that I have now officially been freelancing longer than I was a staffer. A very odd concept.

I always thought that I would grow up and go to college and then go to more college and then maybe some more and then I would get a job and be “successful.” Never was it in my future plans to try to juggle mostly full-time full-on mothering along with part-time work. That moment, seven years ago, when they placed my baby in my arms was probably the most defining one of my entire life. It threw all of the descriptors I had of myself to the wind and left me grasping for new ones.

I think that in the last seven years I’ve done a fairly good job of both finding new ways to define myself and of letting go of definitions. It’s not easy and I don’t always succeed, but I have come to be have a more expansive self definition than I ever did before kids. I can see myself as  “mom, wife, editor, yogi, friend, sister, daughter, activist,” and many more. It’s difficult sometimes to accept that I am many things all in one, but motherhood, and age and experience, have helped me find myself more fully.

Ok, back to that seven-year-old boy. I have also loved growing my definition of my son and seeing him grow in his view of himself. Where once he played with shiny things and loved buttons, he has now decided that he likes the Seattle Seahawks and Pokemon and reading about boys having adventures and so many other things. He is no longer just my baby. He is a student, a friend, a son, a grandson, a helper, a martial artist, a soccer player. And who knows what the future holds.

In those struggling days of having a new baby and trying desperately to hold onto who I was, I never imagined having conversations with my son about the different dinosaurs and why they died out or what dark matter is or how shark lose their teeth and replace them all the time. I didn’t realize all that he would teach me, not just about myself, but about the world. It’s a great gift of parenthood. Children test your limits at every turn and surprise you when you least expect it.

Seven whole years of my life as mom and he’s grown and changed so much, and he has also changed me. Amazing.

Here’s to my astounding seven-year-old and to all that he is and will be.

A Little Motivation

Aside from the walk, I’ve been feeling kind of stagnant in my life. I’m doing the same old work. This blog seems to have stalled out. I spend half my day dropping off and picking up children from various places. Even yoga was feeling stale. For nearly two years of a more-intense yoga practice, I was still excited to go to class and rejuvenated afterward…until I wasn’t. I started holding onto anxiety during my practice and feeling stuck. With life being busier, it seemed easier to just stay home and get a little work done or have that extra time to clean up or do whatever other task inevitably was left undone during the day.

This left me feeling depressed. Yoga had been my safe haven, my relaxation, my energy, my love for so long. Was it over? Would I have to search for some new passion? I didn’t want it to be the end. Plus, I have an annual membership to my studio that doesn’t end until August so I HAVE to go. That shit is expensive! So I continued to go and I enjoyed it, but didn’t feel passionate the way I used to.

Then last week I went to my usual class with one of my favorite instructors–the instructor who helped ignite my passion with an arm balance years ago. We had been working on astavakrasana or eight angle pose and this day I just GOT it. I held it so well that she tried to get me to transition into eka pada koundinayasana II, but that didn’t work out because of a sensitive shoulder (and it’s REALLY hard!). But that didn’t matter, in holding that pose I felt it again; that spark, that love, that excitement. When I got home I showed the pose to my husband and kids, who said it was a “cool trick.” Well, it IS a cool trick.

Holding that one pose brought me back into myself and into the moment. It helped me to remember why I love yoga in the first place. The answer is most definitely NOT advanced poses, although it was for me this time. The answer is finding something in yourself that you didn’t know was there. In the past it’s been exciting advanced poses, mantras that touched something inside of me, classes that made me feel like a part of something larger than myself, and even watching a fellow student discover a new pose for themselves. It seems that I am not done with yoga yet and yoga is most certainly not done with me. In the words of every yoga teacher ever, “it is a practice.”

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Oh yeah! Astavakrasana baby!

Also, notice how my home practice inevitably involves children…

And So I Walked

In addition to not having a moment to sit down, I’ve delayed writing about the Out of the Darkness Walk because I wasn’t sure what to say. It was a good experience. It is something I am so happy to have done. It contributed to some healing that I didn’t even realize I needed. It made me feel useful.

But I think that raising money was the part that made me feel amazing. It was beyond moving to have people donate, to know that they did it for me, or for my father, or for my family, or for their own experience. It felt like I was doing something. Sharing so much, especially here on my blog, really felt like coming out of the darkness is so many ways. It was an invaluable experience for me. Contributing to a cause that means so very, very much to me was fulfilling and eye opening.

The day of the walk was cool and breezy. The sun was shining and Battery Park was beautiful. My friends and I rarely get out of the neighborhood these days and being there was nice. It was amazing to see just how many people were there. One of my favorite parts were the honor beads that everyone wore. Each color designated why you were there and I kept forgetting, but I knew that each person wearing gold, like me, had lost a parent. The speakers were brave and amazing. Spending some child-free time with my friends was actually one of the best parts of the day. In addition to catching up about pretty much everything, they let me talk. They listened to me talk about my dad, they looked at the photos I brought. It felt so good, because a lot of the time it feels like a taboo subject.

But, and I didn’t want there to be a but, people stuck with their own. I wanted to feel not so alone. Being a survivor of a loved one’s suicide can be so very lonely. A part of me really wanted to feel that loneliness subside a bit. Instead, I felt sort of disconnected from the rest of the people there. I wanted to see that other people felt like I do and I didn’t get that. I think it was the wrong place. Maybe I can find that in another way.

The most healing part for me came at the end. My father’s photo was in the memorial garden and I saw that some people had taken their photos to take home. I went over and saw two people embracing looking at the photo of their loved one. When they left, I walked up and looked at the photo of my dad. There he was, smiling on the beach. I was going to grab it, but I couldn’t. I stood and looked. I felt tears in my eyes. My father doesn’t have a grave because he was cremated. Being there felt a lot like being at a grave site. He was there among other people who were loved and lost. I felt sad, but I felt peaceful. In the end, I left him there among the others and it felt right.

I really want to thank AFSP for doing these walks. They do so much good in so many ways. Not only do they help provide much needed services, but they help people heal through them. Thank you again to everyone who gave to my campaign and to my team. We raised far more than we expected and it will go to wonderful, and often overlooked cause. It’s a good thing. A very good thing.

 

As the Walk Approaches

As the day of the Out of the Darkness Walk becomes closer and closer I find myself unexpectedly emotional. First I am blown away by the generosity of those who have given to my campaign. I did not anticipate raising this much–my team has exceeded our goal–and I certainly didn’t anticipate being so touched by every donation, every word of support, every story shared with me of mental illness or the impact of suicide. I am doing the work I set out to do and it has been a long time coming.

I am also finding myself thinking about my dad, and missing him, much more than usual. I suppose this seems like a natural connection, after all I wouldn’t be doing this at all if it weren’t for him. But it has surprised me. After nearly 11 years, the pain of him not being in my life has receded into a dull ache that makes itself known when something reminds me of him from time to time and only flares into a sharp pain on those days that make his absence most obvious. But that spike of pain behind my ribs has been visiting me more often as I ready myself for the walk. Right after signing up a few weeks ago I lay in bed one night, my husband asleep beside me. I was suddenly hit by a massive wave of longing for my dad. I desperately wanted to hear his voice and feel the rough skin on his hands as he held mine. One of the most distinctive things about him was his laugh, which could often devolve into a cough from his lifelong smoking habit. When I think hard I can hear it perfectly in my mind. I can recreate his saying my name, followed by that laugh, as if I had just said or done something hilarious. That night I thought of his laugh and it played in my head as if I could hear it and I dissolved into sobs into my pillow. It seemed so silly to be crying about something that has been the way it is for so long. But I couldn’t stop the sadness and each tear seemed to welcome the next until I was cried out and exhausted and fell into a fitful sleep.

I tell myself that this is why I’m walking, to spare some other daughter, or mother, or son, or best friend this kind of pain. Although the act of actually doing something is filling up some long empty space in me, I also find myself nervous. I’m not sure how I’ll feel to be with all of those other survivors. I’ve never talked in real life with anyone else that has lost someone close to suicide. I’m not sure how I’ll feel about those walking because they themselves have survived a suicide attempt. My feelings on it are so very complicated. I’m nervous that no one else will even talk to me or that this will be a disappointing experience, when it is something I have wanted to do for so long. I am so very, very glad that two of my best friends will be beside me. I could not do it alone.

So I guess the short story is that this is harder than I thought it would be. This is complicated and it’s bringing up feelings I had long buried. It reminds me that mental illness is such a devious beast that is not always easily dealt with. So this is more than a charity walk and more than a fundraiser and more than the realization of some work I feel is necessary. It is a journey for me, touching on feelings I haven’t wanted to feel. It is a part of the process and I am glad I have taken it on.

In Defense of My Cause

In these days of social media it often seems that everyone and their mother…and brother…and best friend is asking for a donation for their cause. I have heard people complain that it’s getting to be too much. Sometimes, I want to agree. But I don’t think we all need to give to every campaign out there. They are (almost) all important. Cancer needs to be researched. ALS needs some type of treatment. Children living in poverty need some type of system to hold them up. People around the world need access to clean water. I am thankful that through Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat and Instagram and whatever else is out there, thousands upon thousands of people can easily see that there is a friend walking/running/doing yoga/stripping/whatever for the cause of their choice and they can just click a link and add to the resources that will help. Yes, it can lead to guilt when you can’t give to them all, but just remember that someone can.

Back to my cause. Yes, I am joining (again) the lists of people who are doing something for some cause. But let me please just defend mine for a moment before you dismiss it as just another. There is something different about raising money for suicide awareness, prevention, and support. Rarely do you hear of a cancer that people are ashamed to admit that they have. No one is afraid to see their name on the list of donors for research into an incurable disease of the body. But when it comes to suicide, this is not the case. I myself couldn’t find it in me to admit, publicly, to the reason for my father’s death until 10 years after the fact. There are still important people in my life (who obviously don’t read my blog) who do not know and I cannot bring myself to tell them.

Because when you tell people that someone you loved with your whole being killed themselves, there is an automatic judgement. Their impression of them changes. I want my father to always be the person he really was. I want him to be the loving husband he was to my mother, the involved and passionate father he was to my sister and I, the chatty and helpful friend he was to almost everyone he came in contact with. More than that, I don’t want every negative aspect of his personality to be scrutinized. Yes he had a tendency to be grumpy, he was overly cautious, he smoked too much, and he had a serious temper that would flare and wane before you realized what was happening. But he was the man he was, he was not his depression and death.

In so many cases, this change in the picture of the person who is gone is understandable. So many times the depression was hidden. The death was a shock. No one, or only those very close to the person, knew what they were going through that led to this terrible end. And if people knew, and understood, and were supportive, could that end have been different? If they felt they could reach out and share and find that others felt the same way, would that have helped?

This is why I am walking. This is why I am raising money. This is why I share my story over and over again. We need to be able to share this. We need to end these false ideas–that depression is laziness, that only cowards commit suicide, that asking for help is weak. We need to offer treatment, understanding, love, help, to people at risk and to people touched by suicide. We need to show that little bit of light to people who are floundering and can’t see a way out. That’s why I’m on the list of people asking you to give. Because this is a cause that doesn’t see the light. That’s why it’s so aptly called the Out of the Darkness Walk.

I am so, so very grateful to those who have given. Every donation has touched my heart in so many ways. Every comment on my posts makes me feel wonderful. It is SO important to me to reach my goal. It has been a hard road to get here and I want my contribution to be meaningful.

My Donation Page

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