This Old Scruffy Shelter Dog Stole My Heart

On Monday, I lay on the floor of my office rolling over a tennis ball, trying to break up the tightness still present in my back nearly a week after my second epidural shot. With no warning, searing white pain shot down my right leg, exploding like a lightning bolt through the nerves of my calf and rendering my right foot completely useless.

Needless to say, it wasn’t a great day.

Tuesday, after much icing and ibuprofen, my leg was feeling a bit better, but my hope for finding lasting relief was all but gone. I sat listless at my desk, comfort eating six wheels of turkey wrap sandwiches that were brought in as a treat for a departing coworker. I needed to get moving, to get some air, even if it meant just hobbling around my building a couple times. So that’s what I did.

As I rounded the corner to return to my office, there he was: a sweet gremlin of a dog with tan shaggy fur and ears that made up 40% of his body weight and stuck out at 75 degree angles. He was being walked by a young woman through the brush-lined walkway in front of my office.

“Can I pet your dog?” I asked, ignoring the shooting pain as I bent down and reached out to his adorable fluffy face.

“Oh, he’s not my dog,” she replied. “I’m volunteering for the shelter and taking him out for a little exercise.”

Hearing this news, my reach became a little more longing, a little more sympathetic, and as I touched his downy fur, he flopped his little head into my hand. Perhaps the weight of his ears was too much and he needed to rest. Me and Shelter Dog, though—we had an immediate connection.

shelter dog

At that moment I forgot the pain in my back. I forgot that I should have been due to give birth to my second child this week. I just felt warmth and sweetness flowing through my fingertips to him and back to me.

Sir Didymus

immediately thought of Sir Didymus when I saw him

This little Sir Didymus look-alike. This little awkward, strangely-shaped guy. This bundle that just wanted to be loved. This sweet puppy that would get so many hugs from a toddler boy (and possibly a few kicks), that would curl up at the end of our bed, that would ruin more of our furniture, that would create kinks in our plans when we want to go out or travel, that would drive up costs with vet bills and pet food and insurance…

As I scratched behind his ears and rubbed the slightly more coarse fur along his back, he leaned into me, content. He wasn’t slobbery excited to see me. He wasn’t skittish or defensive, either. He was just there for me, like an angel dog showing up exactly when I needed him.

“Do you need a mommy?” I asked, fighting back tears. “Anyone would be lucky to be your mom.”

I stood up gingerly and said goodbye to Shelter Dog as I dragged myself up the stairs with the grace and agility of Quasimodo. There was another hour left of my day, but I had Shelter Dog on the brain.

I repeatedly messaged my two coworkers who were on the walk with me.

Me: He looks like Sir Didymus from the Labyrinth, doesn’t he?

Me: He was so sweet. He wasn’t really hyper, just kind of hanging out, you know?

Me: That girl said the shelter is right here, right? Like around the corner? It has to be close because she’s walking him around here.

Me: Okay, I think…I think I’m going to go try to find him.

Me: NO! I can’t. I know why we can’t get a dog right now. It wouldn’t be right. We are never home!

Me: I’m going to go get another turkey sandwich.

Me: Okay, it’s time to go home now. I’m going to the shelter first.

I walked over to the vet’s office to find out where the shelter was, and lo and behold, Shelter Dog was actually there! The staff led me to the back and told me he was getting some dental work done but that he was perfectly healthy otherwise, although a little more advanced in age (he’s likely at least six years old if not more). Normally this news would send me packing, as I’ve always wanted a puppy or at least a young dog so that our family could have as much time with him as possible. But I was in too deep. Didn’t matter. I learned that Shelter Dog’s name was Cody.

shelter dog pet

Still didn’t matter.

I have gone over and over in my head why I can’t have a dog for the last several years, but this guy finally did it. He just undid all the logic in my brain and made me fall in love with him in about three seconds flat, and now I can’t think of anything else.

Sadly, Alex doesn’t agree. Always the voice of reason in our family, he said that we really don’t have the resources to provide a good life for any dog right now. We are both away from the house for long hours. We don’t have proper living and outdoor space for him. We are just starting to come out from under a financial cloud for the last couple years. If we brought home a dog for purely emotional reasons, all the practical stuff would eventually hit us, and it could make poor Shelter Dog even more at risk if we had to give him back—something unthinkable, but something that could come to pass if we can’t pull together the support he needs.

I love this dog, of this I’m sure. But as Don Henley and Patty Smyth once crooned, “Sometimes, love just ain’t enough.”

Oh, Shelter Dog. I would come visit you again, but I don’t think I could walk away this time. And I know I’d have to. For your own good, not for mine.

shelter dog

My Mom Told Me I’m a Good Mother, So the Apacolypse Is Nigh

Italian mothers have two jobs: feeding you, and making you feel bad about yourself. They don’t do the latter out of spite. Their intentions are good, and in the end, they motivate you to become a better person (while also hating yourself just a tiny bit).

My own mother has always been tough on me. When I brought home an A- from school, she wondered why it wasn’t an A. When I didn’t put away a TV tray after she had asked me to (admittedly several times), she grounded me for a month. She taught me to sit up straight, make myself presentable, part my hair on the side (so it didn’t accentuate my large nose), and when in doubt, always do what “they say” (the elusive “they”).

mother and daughter

But Mom had never been more scrutinizing than when I became a mother. She had the experience, of course, and I didn’t know what in God’s name I was doing. I’m sure it must be just about impossible for an Italian mother to hold her tongue and let her daughter make her own decisions/mistakes about her child. Because if there’s anything an Italian woman loves more than her kids, it’s her grandkids. Trust me, I had a Nonna.

Mom had something to say about everything: putting Lucas on his back to sleep (I put you on your stomach and you survived), pumping at work and in the middle of the night so I could breastfeed for nine months (You’re crazy), not putting up a DVD player in the backseat of the car so Lucas could watch Elmo for our 45-minute commute (He’s bored!). A lot of her advice was sound, common sense mothering. Some of it was inspired! But many things have changed in parenting in the 30-something years since I was a child.

For every recommendation of my mother’s that I’d follow, I would shoot down three others in the name of research and modern family practices. We bumped heads a lot on the best way to raise my son, but ultimately, I made the calls I felt were best for him (while also quietly absorbing her wisdom like a sponge, and refusing to admit that I was, in fact, listening to her commentary).

I would often explain to my mom that certain tactics of hers wouldn’t work because of my child’s particular temperament. He’s as stubborn as a bull that mated with a donkey and gave birth to a mutant terrier-mule hybrid. This quality will serve him well for some things, but when it comes to parenting, some of the techniques that worked on lil’ miss eager-to-please (me) just don’t apply to him. Still, I think Mom saw this as either 1. me being a lazy parent or 2. me being stubborn myself and unwilling to try something she suggests.

Recently, my parents visited for a week, mostly spending time with their grandson while Alex and I went to work. Watching my parents with Lucas, I cackled to myself as they initially told me the sun shone out of his ass, only to eventually become weary of his obstinate and extremely energetic three-year-old ways. My dad remarked on how very bull-headed Lucas is, and I tried, I really tried not to say, “You see?! I TOLD YOU.” But I said it anyway. It was too tempting.

Smugness aside, something unfathomable happened to me a few days after my parents returned home. My mom called me up and told me something that I never in a million years ever expected to come out of her mouth.

Mom: You know, I really think you’re doing a great job with Lucas.

Me: I’m sorry, what?

Mom: You’re doing a great job. You really explain things to him, and you’re patient and gentle.

Me: ……

Mom: You’re a good mother.

Me: ………….

Mom: Did you hear me?

Me: Are you dying?

In all seriousness, I can’t tell you what it means to have your own mother, your mother whom you’ve always known to be tough as nails, stronger than any person you’ve met, and the very best mother in the whole world, tell you that you are a great mom.

But let me take a stab at it anyway. What it means is that after three-and-a-half years of questioning whether I was ruining my child’s life, of worrying whether I was too tough or too soft, of fretting if I was giving my son the right amount of attention, discipline, and support that he needs—if my mom thinks I’m doing a good job, then I must be doing something right.

I Just Might Be a Real Californian Now

In a few months I will have lived in California for eight years. That’s only one year less than I lived in New York. Even though I’ve been here a while, I’ve always considered myself an East Coast person at heart. A transplant. A Masshole/New Yorker just kind of living among the free-spirited, easy-going Californians—something of an outsider.

But something happened this week that triggered a realization: over the last eight years, a slow, subtle transformation has been taking place. I’m becoming a real Californian—and I’m not sure I don’t like it.

After my pseudo-failed epidural injection, a kind of desperation took over where I was willing to try anything—even alternative methods I previously dismissed as hippie hocus pocus. So I reached out to some of my West Coast friends who’ve been talking up essential oils and was immediately bombarded by positive testimonials and a kind of “welcome to the club” orientation. A coworker friend brought me a couple samples and I applied them immediately. I was dazzled. They aren’t a cure, and the pain is still there, but I could see the benefits. My headaches are gone. My sinus pressure is relieved. I’m more alert. My desire to snack (out of boredom or just plain sadness) is suppressed. And the pain is muted, dulled.

Suddenly I found myself talking up essential oils to my other friends and family and I stopped in my tracks. Good God, when did it happen? When did I become THAT GIRL FROM CALIFORNIA? The one who does yoga and eats organic kale chips and quinoa and goes on hikes and says that things are rad?

salad

This arugula, quinoa, and almond salad was not just healthy, but delicious.

I think it started the minute I got here and realized how beautiful this part of the world is. I wanted to explore, to hike the trails that lead to the beaches, to taste the wine that’s practically grown in my backyard. I found myself researching “clean eating” and drastically changed my eating habits within the first couple years of living here. But I just saw that as making healthier choices as I got older, not adopting the California lifestyle.

Next, I found that my drinking habits were changing. My California friends did not drink as heavily and as socially as my East Coast friends and family. When we get together, we’re more likely to drink tea and coffee than beer and cocktails. We play board games, run 5k races (well, not me, but I would if I could), visit Star Wars exhibits at the Tech Museum, or just chill at each other’s houses and watch our kids play. I think I can count on one hand the amount of times we’ve been to the bars together. Again, I thought this was just a product of growing up—and part of it is—but another part has a distinctly West Coast flavor. I can’t picture my New York friends hanging out and drinking tea on a Saturday night. Just not gonna happen.

beach

My idea of a perfect day.

When my insomnia started rearing its head during grad school, I bought lavender-scented spray and meditation CDs. I took melatonin (more natural) instead of hardcore sleeping pills. I settled in for a bath and a good book.

And now that I’ve exhausted all that Western medicine has to offer, I’m sitting here with my essential oils and looking up Feldenkrais classes and acupuncture specialists in the area.

Guys…I think the transformation is nearly complete. I’m a real Californian now. I’m….gulp…almost…actually….happy.

Hey La Hey La, My Back Pain’s Back

On September 17, I received an epidural steroid injection. I didn’t have high hopes for the procedure, but it was my last-ditch effort for Western medicine before I started turning to essential oils and rain dances to Pagan goddesses. On September 18, I had some kind of reaction to the shot, breaking out in a rash and tossing my cookies for a few days. My back pain had not lessened.

heels and dress

I thought about wearing heels for the first time in ages.

But by September 24, something miraculous had happened. I bent down to pick up some of Lucas’ toys and it didn’t hurt. I stood back up and it didn’t hurt. I got up off the couch and it didn’t take a tremendous effort. I went for a walk with my friends and I wasn’t suffering afterwards. I went for a hike with my folks, who were in town visiting for the week, and I didn’t even feel a twinge (just noticed how ridiculously out of shape I am). The pain was virtually gone.

It’s incredible the amount of energy you expend just fighting off chronic pain. I had always attributed my near-constant state of exhaustion to insomnia and to working full-time and caring for an over-the-top energetic three-year-old. But it turns out, I have all the energy in the world when I’m not dealing with back pain. I was more productive in the last week than I’ve been in months—not that I haven’t always worked to the best of my ability—but I found myself churning it out, both at the office and at home.

I liked this new/old me. I had forgotten what it felt like to move about my life and not have to always consider how much it’s going to hurt to do X, Y, and Z. But soon, all too soon, the familiar ache began to creep back in.

October 4, after spending what felt like the entire week in the car driving here, there, and everywhere with my parents, I found myself shifting in my seat uncomfortably. I hadn’t touched my painkillers in days and days, but my mind absentmindedly wondered where I had left them. No. Don’t do it. You are just a little achy. You don’t need them.

October 5, in the wee hours of the morning: I woke up, tossing and turning. It was 4:00am, my usual insomnia-fueled wake-up hour. Only this time I was awake because I was hurting. No position was comfortable. I thought about the pain meds again. No. You are just annoyed because you’re awake. You’re uncomfortable because it’s really hot out. It’s not your back.

October 5, after a morning of cleaning the house and doing the laundry and going grocery shopping, I laid down and felt the spasms of pain as my back finally relaxed against the couch cushions. I felt the numb tingling down my leg and the tightness in my hip. I felt the muscles tense in my backside. I stood up from the couch, gingerly, and made my way to the medicine cabinet. I twisted off the cap, popped a pill, and shuffled back to the couch, staring aimlessly out the slider door.

It was a lovely week and a half.

An Ode to Fall in New England

This morning when I stepped outside, there was a brisk quality to the air that was not there yesterday. I wore flats with no socks, and as a cool breeze wafted over the tops of my feet, I realized…oh yeah, it’s fall.

Fall in California is fairly unremarkable. The shift from summer is practically imperceptible. It’s a few degrees cooler and you can order pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks. In late fall we may see some rain. That’s about it.

fall in California

Fall in California looks like…every other day in California.

But fall in New England…Oh! Fall in New England. It’s pure magic. You can actually smell the change of seasons—one day it’s warm honeysuckle, the next, a faint wisp of chestnut and hickory. It begins with one tree timidly showing its colors in early September. By the end of the month, the rest have followed, bursting with brilliant fiery reds, tangerine oranges, and mustard yellows.

fall in new england

The apples in the orchards are ripe and ready for picking. Hay rides, bales of golden delicious, warm apple cider with a dash of cinnamon. A good thick scarf to wrap around your nose, which is just starting to become slightly tender with the cold. Apple pies. Pumpkins. Your mom breaks out the seasonal decor, filling the mantle with gourds and corn varietals and folksy-looking scarecrows.

By mid-October, the yard is littered with fallen leaves that crunch under your feet. As a child, I would rake up a huge pile next to a tree, climb up, and leap into the leaves with total abandon. As I emerged from the pile, now flattened and scattered, I’d giggle as I pulled twigs out of my hair,  racing to rake the leaves into a heap once more.

But soon, all too soon, the coolness turns cold. Cozy light sweaters and pea coats must be traded for multiple layers of bulk; mittens and hats to be worn at all times. The trees become barren, their lonely branches reaching up helplessly into the dimly-lit skies. The ground hardens and becomes unyielding. And then…the endless winter.

I miss fall in New England down to my very own apple core. But I do not miss what follows. So enjoy your bright leaves and hot cocoa with marshmallows now, New Englanders! Because pretty soon, you’ll be looking at this:

winter in new england

While it’ll still be this for me:

fall in California

Hanging Onto My Italian Heritage

Once a week I make pasta for my family. It’s a tradition that goes back to my childhood. Every Sunday, my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and I would all gather at Nonna’s house for macaroni. I’ve been eating pasta once a week for pretty much…ever since.

pasta

Every good Italian has a handful of these wooden spoons.

I don’t have time these days for the full authentic sauce and homemade meatballs every week, but I try to mix it up. Sometimes it’s simply penne with frozen turkey meatballs, other times it’s bowtie pasta with leeks and pancetta, other (rare) times it’s the real-deal pasta carbonara.  Whether it’s ghetto bottled sauce with packaged chicken sausage or the more gourmet preparation, I always look forward to pasta nights.

Problem is, my family seems to be losing interest.

First it started when Alex decided he wasn’t really into the turkey meatballs (even though Lucas and I enjoyed them both for their taste and their simplicity). Then all of a sudden Lucas started pushing his macaroni around his plate, picking out only the meat bits. One day I packed pasta for lunch for Lucas, as I typically do when we have leftovers. Pre-school sent him home with the thermos—full. They said he wouldn’t touch it.

Lately, when I tell Alex I’m making pasta for dinner, I can hear him sigh in resignation. In a last-ditch effort to peak his interest, I went all out this week and cooked rigatoni with a bolognese sauce made from ground grass-fed angus beef and lamb. As Alex and Lucas tucked in, I looked on anxiously, hopefully…

The apathy was palpable. They just don’t care about pasta anymore.

Guys…I need to have pasta in my life. I can’t NOT have it. I finally worked up the courage to ask my husband, “Do you just not…like it?” And with great trepidation (because he knows how I feel about Italian food), he answered that he liked it, but just felt I made it too much.

Not going to lie. This hurts in my green, white, and red-striped bleeding heart. I’ve tried hard to hang onto my Italian heritage, but when you live 3,000 miles away from your Italian relatives, and the best slice of pizza in your community comes from a Round Table chain, well, it’s easy to find it slipping away.

Italian pantryThere are little things in my kitchen that are definitively Italian. I’ve only got the best olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette. I have a pepper mill. My pantry is full of peperoncinis and olives. I have a wine rack that needs weekly refilling. But if you open up my fridge, you’d hardly know an Italian gal is in charge of its contents. Tortillas, lentils, beans, albondigas (all thanks to my mother-in-law sending home tons of leftovers). Maybe sometimes there’s a handful of fresh parsley and basil. More often it’s cilantro.

My boys have Mexican taste buds. And my poor Italian tummy, while appreciative of the deliciousness of Mexican cuisine, just craves those macaroni Sundays the way a crack addict craves the rock.

How do I reconcile this? How do I keep my little family happy at dinnertime without sacrificing my weekly pasta? Do I change up the recipes? Do I (gulp) just make it every other week? Or do I tell them to suck it up and eat the damn pasta?

You know what my Italian heritage tells me to do? It tells me to Mangia! Mangia! and just fuggetaboutit.

Just My Luck

Well, I mentioned there might be some drama with my epidural steroid injection shot last week. Annnnnnd I was right. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy. Next time I make a prediction on this blog, I’m going to call that I come into a huge sum of money and get a book deal. Just watch.

Anywho, the injection itself went off without a hitch, though it wasn’t exactly pleasant. I was pretty sore for the first day or two afterwards, but was otherwise functional. But the next day after the shot at work, something funky began to happen. It felt as though I had a raging fever. My skin was on fire. My cheeks began to flush and I felt woozy. I tried to stick it out at work for the full day, but soon realized I needed to get myself home…fast.

By the time I got home, my face, neck, and chest were the color of a cherry bomb and I was running to the bathroom every five minutes. Nice visual, right? One panicked call to the doctor later and I discover:

I had a freaking allergic reaction to the shot.

flushed face

This is me today. Much improved, but still slightly flushed.

Beautiful! Beautiful! Seriously, brava! I’m giving my luck a sarcastic standing ovation right now, since this was the one procedure I was counting on that could maybe maybe provide a little pain relief for my back. Instead, it confined me to my home for four days while I hugged the toilet and pressed a cold facecloth to my head.

I am thankful, of course, that in the grand scheme of allergic reactions, this one was not so bad. No hospital visit required, no shortness of breath, no swelling. Just a need to ship my child off to the in-laws for the second weekend in a row and to hole up in my living room with Netflix on a constant loop. Not that I minded the rest THAT much, but I miss my kid, I miss my office, and I miss wearing not pajamas.

The worst part of all of this is that I’m still feeling pain in my back. I’m supposed to give the medicine a full week to kick in, but I’ve only got two more days and all I can say is that so far it has taken the average daily pain from a 4 to a 3. It’s an improvement, but is it worth the days of hot cheeks…both on my face and elsewhere? The good money says naaaaah, not so much.

Sorry, steroids. You and me just don’t get along.

So where do I go from here? The old me might have collapsed into a downward spiral of shame and self-pity. The new me is going full The Secret. Good things will come. But it’s not about sitting and waiting for them to come to you. Good things come when you set out for them to happen. And if it doesn’t work, you just move on to try the next good thing.

So it’s onward in the search for better pain management! I think it’s time I go full hippy homeopathic, which my East Coast brain knows is a crock of shit, but my science brain recognizes that the mind is a powerful thing. If I just BELIEVE these things can help, then maybe, just maybe, they will.

But if they’re going to make me look like I fell asleep in the tropical sun for 12 hours with no sunscreen then….pass.

I Got Nothing!

Confession: when I’m happy and/or simply content, I have jack-ass shit to write about.

The boy is being precious. I had a lovely anniversary weekend. Work is going swimmingly. I have absolutely nothing to complain about…except the regular stuff everyone has to complain about. And how interesting is that?!

tailgating

Look! This is me having fun! Very enjoyable weekend = very bland blog.

Oh! I’m super tired because I had an awesome time going out for dinner, tailgating, and watching the Giants get destroyed at AT&T park this weekend! I’m sure you all feel really bad for me.

Oh! My kid is obsessed with watching this one terrible Hulk cartoon on Netflix. Yeah, let’s write a blog about that.

Oh! I’m getting an epidural steroid shot on Wednesday. I’m a little nervous! That’s about all I can say on that topic.

This is the danger of running a personal blog. Sometimes you just don’t have a whole lot interesting going on, but it’s important to update your page with something, anything, so people don’t forget about you. And oh how quickly they forget. On the Internet, you’re only as good as your last post. And even if your last post went viral, your next post better not be a stinker, otherwise people are moving on.

But here I am. Writing away. And I got nothing.

I got nothing

There’s only one other time you might find me tongue-tied on this here blog, and that’s when there’s stuff going on that crosses my hey, this will be on the Internet forever so maybe I don’t want to write about it boundary. And since I’ve written about miscarriage, morbid fantasies, the death of my cousin, and awkward office sex talk, you know it’s pretty juicy if I’m not sharing it here. Sometimes it’s just not my secret to tell. Other times it is mine, but it’s in my or my family’s best interest to keep it to myself.

So what do you do when you’re either content or carrying around a secret you can’t share? You sit back and let the other people around you do the talking. You listen. You smile. You send up a little thanks to the universe for easing up on you for a bit. And you hold your breath because Lord knows the next big thing might be just around the corner.

…and if all else fails, I’m sure that epidural shot will yield SOME drama worth writing about! You all know my luck with doctors. If this shot actually helps with my pain, it will be a goddamned miracle. Which means I may have to start posting Italian recipes on this blog or some shit.

How I Met Your Dad

wedding pictureOkay, Lucas. You’re too young to roll your eyes at me or even sit still for a conversation longer than one minute, so for now I’ll just write this down for you to (maybe) read at a later date. One day you might ask me, “Mom, how did you and Dad meet?” and I’m going to stumble a little, as I always do when I tell people this story. Because the thing is, Lucas, your father and I met…in Las Vegas.

I’m not sure what people will think about Vegas when you become a teenager, but in 2006 when I went to there for a business trip, Vegas was a party place where people went to hook up with strangers, drink, gamble, and maybe take in a show. I was sent there for a full week by myself to review dance shows and competitions for the magazine that I worked for in New York. Your dad was dragged along with his friends, even though he wasn’t much of a drinker, didn’t gamble, and he counted playing Command and Conquer into the wee hours of the night as a really wild time.

For the week that I was in Vegas, most of my work took place during the night, which left my mornings and afternoons wide open. I can’t tell you how bizarre it was to be alone in Las Vegas not getting afternoon drunk on cocktails served by banana-hammock-clad pool boys. Time had a strange way of both zooming by and flowing like molasses. I was equal parts geared up and ridiculously bored. So the only natural thing for me to do was to eat Alaskan king crab legs from the buffet at 9am, and then head down to the pool.

…Which is where I saw him.

Your dad was sitting by the pool with his friends when he turned around and flashed me his killer smile. I know, I know. You’re probably like ew. Stop. But it’s too late now—you asked. Be grateful I didn’t sit you down for eight seasons and tell you about all the dudes I banged before I met your dad (hint: waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay less than Ted Moseby).

I smiled back at him. He turned back to his friends and I returned to sunbathing. Glanced over again. Smiled. Blushed. Smiled back. Looked away. Pretended to be fully absorbed in fixing the strings on my bikini. Glanced over. He was looking again. Smiled. He still wasn’t coming over. I thought Should I do something? I shouldn’t do anything. Glanced over. Yup, he was smiling again.

Clearly, I was going to have to do something. I decided to up the stakes and jumped into the pool. Nothing is more awkward than swimming around in a pool by yourself attempting to look sexy while doing the doggie paddle. It was the middle of July in Vegas and I was getting hot, so I decided to dunk my head. Then I went for it—the Full Ariel.

This time I didn’t look back over at your dad because as soon as I launched myself out of the water and threw my hair back, I realized that 1. he would probably never, ever talk to me after that and 2. I was in too deep. Still, after swimming over to the fountain and attempting to hide my shame behind it, I realized there was no turning back. I chanced a look.

Still smiling. Still not coming to talk to me.

Phase three: I just swam over to him, pulled myself out of the pool, sat down beside him and said “hi.” Your Tio Eric’s sister was there, and she yelled out to your dad, “Buy her a drink, for God’s sake!” If I wasn’t embarrassed before, I surely was now. Thankfully, your dad didn’t seem to mind the fact that I circled him like a shark. We hit it off, chatting in the pool for so long that I got sunburned on only the left side of my body. We met for a burger before I had to go review a show, then we had a drink when I came back.

The next day, your dad left to go back to California. A couple days after that, I returned to New York. You would think, okay, you went on one date in Las Vegas, where nothing is normal. That should have been it! If you know anything about us, you know we are both pretty practical people, neither of us prone to impulsive behavior. But for some reason, we just kept going. We called. We talked. We discovered we missed each other. We fell in love with each other. We trekked across the country a few times to visit each other. And after only a few months, I moved out to California to be with him, leaving everything and everybody I knew behind.

A year after we met, we were engaged. A year after that, we got married. And then we had you, the best thing that has ever happened to either of us. Do you believe that if we hadn’t both gone to Vegas that week, hadn’t both stayed at the same hotel, hadn’t followed through after that smile, hadn’t called each other every day, hadn’t moved across the country and uprooted our lives—you wouldn’t be here?! Think about all the things that had to fall into place for you to become a person. And yet, you are here. And that just proves to me what I had a hunch about all along:

Meeting your father was magic.

happy couple on beach

Happy six-year anniversary, Alex :).

A Week of Anniversaries: A Wedding, a Miscarriage, and 9/11

This week is a tricky one for me. On the one hand, it marks the six-year anniversary of my wedding to Alex—one of the happiest moments of my life, next to the birth of my son and the 2004 Red Sox World Series win. (Not even kidding about that Red Sox business. No sports fan could ask for a more epic win.) I know Alex is not a fan of the gushing public declarations of love, so I will only say this: expect a totally gushy blog later in the week. Sorry not sorry.

weddingpic

On the other hand, it represents the one-year anniversary of my first miscarriage. I’m not sure what else I can say about it that I haven’t already said in this xoJane piece about speaking up after dealing with loss. As much as I have moved on, and as much as I am growing more and more fond of our tight little family unit of three, I’m always going to think about it every year at this time. Someone recently told me that grieving is a lifelong process. You never truly get over a loss, you just find a way to deal with it.

Which brings me to my third anniversary of the week: 9/11. No matter how many years pass and how much I feel I might have grown immune to the event, I always get sucked into the media sensationalism, and I always find myself frozen in a sadomasochistic cycle of reliving the trauma. I do it to myself, I can’t even lie.

I’m told by some that the healthy thing to do is to avoid thinking about it at all costs. Others find talking about it cathartic. Just as I felt that I needed to talk about miscarriage after my second pregnancy failed, I feel like I need to watch the footage, I need to reach out to my New York friends and remind them how much I love them. And I need to tell you all my story.

I wrote this on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. It’s every bit as true today as it was then.

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Every year around early September, I become an insufferable grump. I’m irritable, angry, and a bit oversensitive. While usually a social person, I withdraw into myself, preferring the company of wine or TV. Every year I wonder what the heck is going on—until the inevitable documentaries start running on National Geographic. And then it snaps into place.

Oh right, it’s 9/11. And I still can’t believe I was there.

Even just admitting that makes me feel ashamed. I shouldn’t be this affected by it, I tell myself. I survived. Everyone I knew survived. I wasn’t inside the building, like my cousin was. I wasn’t left homeless like many of my college friends were. I just watched it out my window. I was safe in the confines of my lower Manhattan dorm room, and I watched, helpless, as the towers burned and collapsed upon themselves. I viewed it all through this strangely detached lens…one eyeball on the TV, with frenzied journalists attempting the play-by-play, one eyeball out my 14th floor window.

Bits and pieces of the day stand out like the jagged remains of the WTC infrastructure, poking up from a smoldering pile of my memories. But I push them down because I feel unworthy of this level of horror. Like I’m not allowed to feel it. But it happened, regardless of the shame.

The strange part is I’ve told my story probably a hundred times, but if I’m to be completely honest, I can’t even recall if the details are the absolute truth or if they’re just what I’ve told myself is true. Entire chunks of time are missing, and in hearing other people’s stories, those who were with me at the time, I’ve attempted to fill in the blanks.

Why can’t I truly remember on my own? Maybe my brain is trying to protect itself. Whatever it’s attempting to do, it’s not working. Because as each year passes by, I only feel the fear and shame more pronounced. Because I can’t remember. Because I should have reacted with more strength of character. Because I wasn’t a hero, like so many New Yorkers were. Because I didn’t suffer enough.

A week before 9/11, my NYU roommates and I rejoiced in our luck. We had drawn the number one spot for our entire dorm, which meant we could pick any room we wanted. We zoomed up to the top floor and headed to a corner suite. When we opened the door, we smiled and said, “This is the one!” Our view was of the lower part of 3rd Avenue, punctuated by the two largest buildings in Manhattan.

People stopped in just to marvel at the smooth, rectangular behemoths. We toasted to what we thought would be an amazing senior year.

My first class was at 11am, so the plan was to sleep in. But, a little before 9am, I heard a scream and I ran out into our common room. Deep black smoke billowed out from the World Trade Centers. We didn’t know what had happened. Was it a fire in one building or was it two? Wait…there was a plane crash?!

How does a plane crash into a building in New York? One of my roommates had just gotten out of the shower. She had a towel twisted around her hair and she stood next to me watching. Neither of us moved for quite some time.

Despite the thick black smoke, my roommates still left to go to class. I think, at the time, we believed it was just a terrible accident. Did I see the second plane fly into the building? I always remember it that way, though a part of my brain also says no, both buildings were already in flames. All I know is, to this day, when planes fly low near my office (since we are right next to an airport, lucky me), I have intense body-seizing episodes of fear. The angles are too familiar. The sound is too…

The next thing I remember is scrambling. Scrambling to find my friends. Were they in class? Were they in their dorms? So many of my friends lived only a block or two away from the Twin Towers. A couple of them worked in or right next to them. Were they at the office that morning?

Many people started gathering in my room, the room with the view. Our phones were all out, but somehow word go out that girls from my dance team—my best friends—were making their way to us from downtown, attempting to convene at my place.

I remember one friend told us she was instructed to stay inside one of the buildings of the World Trade Center. She said she had a terrible feeling and ran past the guards who were trying to herd the crowds back into the lobby. She got on one of the last subways to leave the financial district and made her way up to us.

Security at the dorms was starting to tighten. They wouldn’t let anyone who wasn’t a resident into the complex. We begged and pleaded and eventually snuck in the girls who had no place to go.

Things started to calm down a bit. Some people went back to their rooms. One roommate came back from class and said that a bunch of people were just standing around in the streets looking up. We did the same, though our view was straight ahead. We just watched and waited.

Through all of this, I felt a strange calm, as though expecting to wake up from a dream. Panic didn’t set in, for some reason, until I heard the terrorists had flown a plane into the Pentagon. Then it was real. Then we were under attack. What building would come next?

As my anxiety built to a fever pitch, I noticed the slightest of shifts in the South Tower building and thought oh no, not possible but before the thought could even fully form, down came the building, pancaking upon itself and taking with it thousands of souls. At that point in time, I knew that my cousin was in the building. Many of our downtown friends had still not been located. Our friend Andy had called only minutes before to say he had been taking pictures. In a flash I thought: they’re all dead.

More time passed. Another building came down. I finally got through to my parents to let them know I was alright. I don’t remember what I said to them, or what they said to me. I have no idea what happened between the hours of 11am and 5pm.

I do know that in the early evening, we realized we had accounted for most of our friends. As each one came up into the room, tears came down our faces. The tears said, You are alive. I can stop mourning you now. But there were still a few more people we couldn’t find. As time wore on, we believed the likelihood of them being alive was pretty slim.

Then…a glimmer of hope.

Word came down (Where the hell did this word come from? With the WTC cell tower down, no one had service. And land lines were clogged.) that a make-shift shelter was being set up at our gym in SoHo for displaced downtown students. So out the door we flew. We ran the mile there in a blink, rushing against the exodus from downtown, breathing in the smoke and the ash, praying, praying that our friends Betsy and Andy were there. I wondered, too, about my ex-boyfriend, whom I last heard had to evacuate his dorm in his pajamas. He brought with him only his keys and his wallet.

We found them. We found them all. Covered in ash. Covered in blood (some not their own). Safe but shaken, severely shaken. My last memory of the day is running across the gym to hug my ex, who was volunteering to help distribute blankets and pillows to students. It may have been 6 or 7pm at that time.

What happened to the rest of the day? Couldn’t say. All I know is I somehow ended up back at my dorm, but this time, I refused to go back to my room with the view. I “slept” in a room with 15 other girls and guys in a huddle of blankets. Someone kicked the remote off the bed and it landed with a crack. We all woke up and cried. Young women and men in their early 20s—we cried when a TV remote hit the floor.

So that’s what I think about on the anniversary of 9/11. In the weeks and months that followed, I lived in a world of missing persons posters, tanks, the constant smell of fire, and a stubborn black dust that always covered my computer screen. If someone mentions 9/11 today, I’ll nod and listen to their story. Then, when they find out I was there, they lean in, expecting drama.

I have none to offer them, and I almost feel sorry. That’s when the shame takes over. I bore witness to a singular event in history, and not only do I feel sorry for, what, not being dead?—I can’t even properly remember it. Instead, I shoved it way down deep in my psyche so I wouldn’t have to deal with it. And now, every year, it rears its head up at me regardless.

It says, here’s a memory: Remember the time you saw people jump 100 stories to their death? Oh, you don’t remember that? Okay, well maybe you really didn’t see it. Maybe you only watched it on TV.

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I wrote that account so I could try to retain what memories I had. Re-reading it, I know I couldn’t have told it in such detail if I tried to write it today, only three years later. Our brains are incredible, mystical organs. Sometimes they shine in moments of brilliance. Other times they utterly fail you.

Every year, in this week of anniversaries, I will honor 9/11 by allowing myself to feel the complex emotions it and the other milestones represent. After all, anniversaries are not just about celebration. They are about weathering the storm. And I wouldn’t be who I am today without all three of them.