Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Whew... also: ALLELUIA!

Relief is sweet, but the joy of motherhood is sweeter. The long, dreadful, wracking, agonizing, uncertain, plodding, itchy wait is over, and adoption is reified. It's no longer the secret we hold close to our vests. I can talk about it now, everywhere, and I do, though I suspect that will slow as it becomes less a recent happening and more a fact of our lives. I feel relieved of my burdens, of the wait, of the disappointments, and I never knew how heavy those were until I laid them down. I'm bursting to tell it from the top of the world, to shout every last one of the alleluias that are elbowing each other for space in my heart.

So, the quick version? There isn't one. I've been more moved by this process than I ever anticipated, and I expected roiling passions of joy, fear, pain, anticipation... and I tried to leave room in my expectations for the unexpected, too. This all started two years ago when Rose and I decided we wanted to have kids. Or, rather, to act on that decision. There were those weird, tentative conversations where we asked each other who wanted to carry the baby, and those odd visits to the sperm donor followed by even more awkward weeks of waiting to see if it had worked. And always the disappointment followed. The crushing, hope-stealing feeling that accompanies the first cramps when I got my period instead of a positive pregnancy test. And the weariness that settles in when a year has gone by and you're still running on that hamster wheel.

Then you suddenly have white lab coats in the middle of your most personal business, people contact you about financing procedures and whether they can fax or e-mail your test results. And some go on like that for some time for good or ill, but Rose and I did not. We might have, but I got some really great advice from my awesome middle sister. With the threat of mitochondrial disease soon to be confirmed in the family tree, she recommended adopting. Rose and I hadn't really considered adoption yet, but from our first conversation, it quickly became center stage in our world.

I racked up heaps of 2 AM bedtimes researching agencies that work with gay couples, international adoption, domestic infant adoption, foster adoption, financing adoption, bonding, and attachment disorder in adoption. I had fun with it, in a harrowing way. It's like trying to pick a college: I knew it was vitally important to pick a good one, but it was all so detached, none of it real or personal yet, and even the mountain of rejections was just water off the duck's back. It was all glossy brochures and slick websites at that point, nothing in it to prick the heart.

By January of this year we had found two agencies to investigate. In April of this year we chose our agency because their financial policies worked best for us. It sounds callous, but so much of what these agencies do is regulated by the state, the chief differences among them are the ratio of placed babies to waiting families and how they manage the money. Hope Cottage is where those glossy brochures started their slow transformation into our baby.

After we chose, we had to be screened. And we were screened like the janitors at CIA headquarters. There were fingerprint cards, and questionnaires. We explained ourselves, our families, our childhoods, adolescences, adulthoods, how we became who we are, how we found each other and become us. We were interviewed separately and together, our home was inspected, we provided photographs and floorplans, immunization records for our dogs, blood tests and Tuberculosis tests, cholesterol measurements... It was as thorough an application process as the Air Force Academy's, and they screened me like a patio door, as I recall. All that took us to early August, and then we were "on the list" and waiting.

I just don't know what to say about the wait, because "it was hard" is the best I can do right now, and it's woefully inadequate. It's something like the dead tedium of sitting in the kitchen in the cold dark, waiting for the coffee to percolate, and screaming at the stove to hurry. Nothing is happening as far as you can tell, but every once in a while, that splash of almost-coffee up into the percolator lid lets you know that soon, good things will arrive. Those little splashes of coffee in the percolator lid came in the form of phone calls from the agency, asking if we wanted to be referred, to have our profile shown to someone looking for parents for their baby. Over the four months, we got two of those calls, and neither of them worked out, but they kept us focused on the percolator for signs of action.

Nearly two weeks ago now, Dec. 10, we got a referral call full of more promise. A hospital referral has always been my preference, and this was one. A baby girl had been born in the wee hours of the day and needed a home. Her birthmother was well and healthy, she was well and healthy, they were going to discharge her from the hospital the next morning and show profiles to the birthmother. Did we want to be shown? Rose was out of town but I didn't even need to call and consult her. This was our perfect situation, and our social worker thought it looked very good for us, something she'd never told us before. Four months of waiting were no competition for the intense anticipation crammed into that one night, wanting so badly to hear the phone ring, dreading that it would fall apart just like the others.

The next morning, I was a zombie with a phone-shaped dent in my cheek, but calm. Rose was pacing her hotel room in Austin like a cranky old lion in a zoo who knows someone is about to chuck a steak over the wall. At 12:30 Saturday, our social worker called to give us the news... we'd been selected, would we like to see photos of the baby? By then, Rose had gotten too impatient to sit alone in her hotel and had checked out and loaded up. I was gripping my heart hard with both hands to keep from throwing it to this child I'd never met. Uncertainty made our path slippy, kept us fearful and guarded, but joy bubbled up at every turn. We still had to wait for the birthmother to relinquish the baby, but we had the promise of pictures, the hope of a meeting with her if the foster mom was available.

Every phone call after that was torture. We checked our e-mail for pictures obsessively, and we'd both spasm in unison whenever the phone rang. The disappointment when it turned out to be anyone other than our agency turned us snappish, but we kept coming back to hope somehow. Another night crammed full of sleeplessness and antsy conversation in the dark and checking our e-mail over, and over, and over again came and went and passed us well into the next day. To help pass the time, my awesome middle sister took me out for some therapeutic baby shopping. Rose and her sister did the same, and Rose's inner gay man, Emmitt, popped up to help them pick out a Christmas outfit for a girl we'd never even met.

Sunday evening around 6 we got word in an e-mail that the birthmother had signed the relinquishment. Unless and until she had signed that, everything was just fluff wrapped around a dream. She could choose to parent the baby and we could go back to the list and back to waiting. But she didn't. And the photos arrived, revealing one beautiful, perfect tiny baby. That was about the time my heart wriggled out of my grip and went flying to her crib.

From there, it was a whirlwind. The only obstacle between us and our daughter was the relinquishment from the birthfather, but he couldn't be found. In one conversation, we'd hear that everything looked good and placement might happen a little early; in another, we'd hear that the birthmother might be obfuscating and that we'd be delayed while the search for him continued. The timeline and the plan were doing fair imitations of Mexican jumping beans, and our hearts with them. I called my awesome baby sister and sobbed out my fear that he'd pop up at the last minute and carry our daughter away from us. And then I put my game face on and went to the agency to meet her for the first time.

It was Monday, three days after she first entered our consciousness, and we were able to arrange a visit. She was soft, and sweet, and snuggly, and sleepy, and she filled our noses with baby smell and our hearts with shaky hope. I fed her, Rose rocked her back to sleep. That hour was one of the best of my life and it went so fast I barely recall it. We took lots of pictures and asked lots of questions. The foster mother cares for infants in just such situations for a couple of agencies in town and she was just amazing. The folks at Hope Cottage call her The Baby Whisperer, and I believe she merits the name.

More phone calls, more meetings with social workers, more jumping the timeline, more palpitations and flat dread on our side, more welling hope, and we had one more visit. This time, Tuesday, we had a match meeting with the birth mother. She was so quiet, but very sweet, and she handled herself well in that gawky, tenuous situation. For the first time in my life I regret that I don't watch horror films, because that was the only thing she talked at any length about, and it was to one of the social workers who shares her appreciation for the genre. After the visit with our birthmother, we had some shared time with our daughter, and then some time with just us. It was devastating to have to walk out of there that day and leave her behind! We knew the only thing remaining was a go-ahead from the lawyer certifying that the birthfather search had been diligent enough and we could proceed without actually locating him.

A whole other kind of terror stalked that night, because with everything going so well in all other aspects of the placement, we were petrified that the birthfather would show up at the last minute and send us back to the list. I know our daughter is better off with us than with someone who didn't want her, but I struggled with conflicting wishes for this man. I wanted him found, on the one hand, so his daughter could speak to him someday, have a photograph, and know who he is. I wanted him to stay lost, on the other hand, because I didn't want him disrupting the placement. I vacillated between the two and dreaded the bad news that might come until our social worker called us at 5:30 PM.

And then the "Whew" feeling set in, because the lawyer had approved the diligence of the search, and our baby girl would be coming home with us the next morning. Everyone advised us to get "the last good night's sleep you'll get for a while" but we spent the sane hours of the evening mailing, phoning, texting, and Facebooking our news. No sleep was there to be found in our house that night. All the anxious days, the spasms over phones ringing and calls missed, the dead hours with no news were coming to an end, and motherhood was about to begin. That's where the "Alleluias" start.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Updates edition

Can I tell you people how much I just don't want to write these days? I had insomnia last night, and in lieu of coming back to the office and jotting this post down, I decided I would count sheep. I did set myself a limit... if I got to 600 sheep, I'd come in and write. Like magic, I dropped off in the mid-500s. That's my insomnia coping mechanism: I set myself to counting sheep and set a limit, if I reach the limit I get up and do something not fun. Usually, that's the dishes, or folding laundry, or cleaning out the fridge, or rearranging the pantry. Last night, I used writing. I don't know why I'm so resistant to keeping up with writing just now, but I am.

I don't feel like I have much to say, and that makes inspiration damned difficult to find. Life is really, really good right now, but it's quiet. I've been working out, I've been keeping busy with organizations I'm part of, plans I've made with friends, and reading escapist fantasy novels because I'm off the junk food I used to put in my body. But none of it is very thought-provoking, or if it is, the thoughts are so primordial that I'm not ready to write about them yet. Think of my brain as raw banana bread batter and you've just about got it right.

Speaking of banana bread, let me tell you how much I laughed at something that happened with Rose over the weekend. She was looking up a recipe for banana bread in the Mrs. Veteran's Vittles cookbook. This awesome cookbook was something my Granny Tootsie worked on when she and my Papa Dell were heavily involved in the VFW. Consequently, it reads a lot like a family scrapbook, with fully 1/3 the recipes entered by my mom, or my Aunt Becca, or my Big Mama Dolly, or my Granny Tootsie, or someone else whose table I ate at plenty when I was still catching fireflies and keeping them in jars by my bed at night. And it is a thorough cookbook with desserts, drinks, entrees, veggies, breads, appetizers, salads, and even a section of Mr. Veteran's Vittles with recipes for stuff like baked beans and barbecue. And Rose announced to me, after perusing it, that she couldn't find the Banana Bread recipe and she felt ripped off by Mrs. Veteran. "How could any decent 50s housewife NOT have a banana bread recipe in her cookbook?" she ranted. I was confused about all this, because I could've sworn I'd looked up the banana bread recipes IN THAT VERY BOOK early in the week when it started to look as though we wouldn't be able to finish all the bananas before the fruit flies set up immigration lines down the chimney. It turned out, after about 5 or 10 minutes of head-scratching, index-consulting, perusal of other cookbooks, and general stomping around the kitchen that those Mrs. Veterans had had the audacity and gall to stick the banana bread recipes (all 3 of them!) in the Bread section of the cookbook, instead of the Dessert section where Rose was looking. And I don't know if that's as funny to any of the rest of you as it is to me, but I figure if something says "bread" in the name of the recipe, you look it up in the bread section. I know it's more like cake, given that it comes from batter and is sweet and you don't exactly make sandwiches from it or use yeast to make it. I get all that, but still... it's called Banana BREAD.

Newsily, I did quite well in my last triathlon. It was the same one I had to drop out of when I had an asthma attack during the swim the year before. I came in third in my division this time around, so that was a real vindication. The lesson here, kids, is that inhaled drugs are not ALL bad for you. If your pulmonologist tells you to suck down aerosolized steroids twice a day, well, your pulmonologist is probably on to something. I'm finally at ease, mostly, about taking asthma meds all the time. At any rate, they seem to work and I'm not one to argue with results. This triathlon had the distinction of being the first one ever to leave me with sore muscles. Usually, my ability to participate in these endurance events is sharply limited by my ability to exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide. I just can't breathe well enough to really PUSH for any length of time, so I finish races pleasantly exhausted but not feeling as though I've worked my muscles much. This time around, I was able to work hard enough to come home with a pair of sore legs. It's probably baffling to the average user human that I'm happy to be sore, but it represents progress in my cardio fitness and my battle with my lungs, so I embrace every sore muscle fiber and celebrate this for the milestone it is.

Finally, I have to crow about how very proud I am of Rose. She just started riding a bicycle this spring. Her first couple of rounds, she couldn't go 4 miles. But gradually, her fitness improved, her confidence improved, her bike skills improved, and now she goes out and rides by herself. This weekend, she took on her first long distance ride, a 30-mile route that was a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish foundation. We both have a soft spot for this group since they granted my niece a wish this year. She not only made the entire ride at an average pace somewhere near her usual training speed, she was a real cheerleader and shepherd for other riders who needed help, inspiration, water, and sometimes a kick in the seat. She talked people into going one more rest stop down the road before giving it up. She escorted an 11-year old who was out on the 30-mile route alone with no water. She convinced folks who were waiting for the van to ride to the finish line with her. I just can't say enough good things about her and about how significant this is for her. She's awesome, and I'm not just saying that because I'm married to her. She did a Good Thing, both physically and socially this weekend, and I'm not surprised, but I am amazed.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Run, Thalassa, Run!

When last we left our intrepid Amazonian/wannabe triathlete, she was assuring you that it's not emphysema, it's just asthma, and that she was taking on a very non-intimidating triathlon at the end of her upcoming training class. And then she went away and never updated again. I'm one of those "no news is good news" types, it seems.

Yeah, sorry 'bout that. It drives me crazy when people do that to me. The intervening months have been really good to me, but full of mini events, none of which were big enough to blog about. Or, none of which inspired even slightly readable blog posts. I hate reading those "then I said this, and she said that, and then I had lemon chicken for dinner and watched Mythbusters. see you tomorrow" posts, so I don't write them.

So, to recap, that first round of meds the pulmonologist gave me helped ... a little bit. I always had to bail out of workouts a little early, or go a little easier than everyone else. But I was doing 90% of what my classmates were doing, and that beat hell out of the 60% I was doing before the pulmonologist.

Best news? I did that mini-sprint triathlon that I mentioned, and I finished the whole thing without crashing into the brick wall of asphyxiation! About two weeks later, I went down to Austin and did another short tri with my sister. The tri itself was pretty awful for me. I spent most of the run on the verge of an asthma attack; teetering on the edge of asphyxiation is only slightly more fun than crashing headlong into it.

Rose and our friend Bea and my sister and her friend Leah all met up and we did the tri together. I'm sure our soccer-mom-mobile looked like a clown car as we unloaded all five of our Amazon selves. When it was all over and we got back to our hotel, we were a good 2 hours later than we expected to be. I am nothing if I am not running late, however, the delay meant we were an hour late for lunch with my dad for Father's Day! So, with a haste that mocked our race performances, the five of us checked back into our room, each of us showered, dressed, primped and packed, and we were back out in our cars just 25 minutes later. It was a feat of logistics the likes of which have not been seen since at least the last Superbowl Halftime Show.

Since then, I've been back for another round with my pulmonologist. This time he didn't send me for any scary tests, he just gave me a couple of new meds to try, and it's been working AMAZINGLY well. I can now breathe like Mr. T can talk smack. It's epic Opening of the Alveoli up in here.

I did another tri just days after going on the new drugs, before they'd really had time to build up to efficacious levels. But that was my best one yet, and it was also the longest. I didn't spend ANY time on the verge of an asthma attack that day and I turned in personal bests in all three events!

And now, in the updatery department, I'm training for another tri. This is the same one that kicked my ass last year. But I'm confident I'll be able to tackle it this year and do well. How am I so confident? When we did our fitness test in the swim at the beginning of the class, I e-mailed my time to my coach so he could record it for comparison at the end of the class. He's the same coach I had for the previous two classes, so he's seen me struggle with this from the start. He wrote me back and asked if I'd been doping. Yup, it looks like this crazy concept of taking medication to treat your chronic illness is working for me. Why I had to be so stubborn about doing it in the first place is anyone's guess.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dinner before Dessert.

First, LOOK! A POST! Betcha'd almost forgotten I did that.

Second, I'm making myself do this before I go visit Facebook tonight, because if I go visit Facebook first, this blogger tab sits up at the top of my browser window all night, collecting electronic dust bunnies while I follow the infinite, pointless, endless trails through the intarwebs that are presented there. It's like eating dinner before dessert, to make sure that you actually get the brain-food you need before you fill up on junk calories that will only make you fat and hyper in the end. And intellectually LAAAAAAZY.

Third, this might be pretty short. I was in a wedding over the weekend for a straight friend of mine, and I found myself participating in a number of unaccustomed grooming See? French Manicure of Typing Doomrituals that lesbians are blessedly free from most of the time. Foremost is the French Manicure of Typing Doom. I keep clacking my acrylic-coated fingernail lengtheners into the keys I don't mean to press, and I'm spending a third of my time backing up an correcting typos that I wouldn't have made if I were typing this with my fingertips the way God intended.

Also, and really - STOP THE PRESSES! - but I shaved my legs for this. I haven't shaved my legs for anything other than funeral attendance and my sainted mother in about 12 years. It's surprising how little leg hair I accumulate. Dudes seriously have the hormonal upper hand on that one. Anyway, I've been doing triathlons for a year. This is a sport in which even big, burly dudes shave their arms and legs. Supposedly, it's to make the wetsuits come off easier and to prevent it getting caught in your bike chain. Which, OK, OW!!!!! But I'm not sure it's not just an aesthetic thing that carries over from other speed sports, either. In any case, I've been a hairy-legged, system-bucking triathlete for a year now, and I shaved for this wedding.

Also? Wore makeup. I had to buy makeup for my own wedding two years ago now because I threw out the very old bag I was toting around. I hadn't opened it in about a year, maybe two, and that stuff has a shelf life shorter than fresh peaches, really. I've worn my "wedding makeup" maybe 5 times in the two years since. A professional wedding makeup artist came and painted my face, though. This totally saved me from having to figure out whether my wedding makeup had gone dodgy. Another one foofed my hair. And I have to tell you, there's something silly about brushing my hair out straight and then curling it up again with a curling iron. Incidentally, I didn't know curling irons were still in vogue. I thought everyone was flat-ironing these days... But - whatever. I wasn't in charge of planning the efficiency curve, or I'd have done things differently. I hear it looked good, but all the foof was in the back, so I didn't really get to see it. You'll have to take my word for it, because I have no photos.

Anyway, all that to say that i really pulled out all the stops to make this a very special wedding day and very nice looking wedding pictures for my friend. And she's the sort of friend who deserves it. She has probably earned it all a thousand times over for looking after me on rugby trips over the years. I don't shave for just anyone, but you're worth it, Janna. Even the manicure.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Transformative Experiences

First, I am not dead. Second, I'm writing something. It seems that traveling is good for the blog-idea-generator. Third, it's about burping, so I apologize right now, but I'm writing it anyway because I finally thought of something to write, dangit!

Recently, I started taking a new medication. Never fear, gentle readers, it's not for anything squicky or life-threatening. One of the side effects listed on the little package insert for the new med is "may affect digestion", by which I can only assume they mean "give you a chemical sex change." This right here is about to get hip-deep in sexism, y'all, so brace y'allselves: Dudes belch more often, and more foully, than women. And they comment on it more, but I think that's social and not biological. Also, don't bother commenting with examples that disprove my assertion. I just told you I'm being sexist, here, but I'm also generalizing. So, insert all the "on average" and "generally" and "as a group" disclaimers you need up in there to feel comfortable with the accuracy of the statement, and let's roll.

Right. So. Belching. The new medicine "affects my digestion" in much the same way that the flippin' Napoleonic Army affected Russia in 1812. For one thing, aside from the occasional swallowed-air-while-drinking-Dr-Pepper sort of thing, I've been a very low-volume belcher all my life. I am presently belching about once per 10 French soldiers after every meal. For another thing, I've never belched flavors before. These new ones taste like the thousand marching feet of snow-bound, unwashed French mercenaries. So, as far as I can tell, my gut has been turned into a man-belly.

This brings me to a completely unsurprising point that probably seems unrelated just now. I don't like having a period. Don't get me wrong, I love being a woman, and I like all the symbolic, spiritual and otherwise intangible implications of that state of affairs. But I can safely say that I hate the visceral experience of having a period. I don't like the headaches, the mood swings, the bloating, the hormone roller-coaster, or the inconvenience.

Which brings me back to the belching. I would gladly trade the hassle of having a period to forgo the stompy, gassy, smelly French army feet marching across my tongue right now. *buuuuup*

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Open Letter to the Lady who Accidentally Forwarded me a Petition today

(For context, it was a petition request from the oh-so-ironically-named Family Research Council asking me to protest the plans to allow homosexuals to serve in the military. Except that it's really a protest against the overturn of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, because CLEARLY there are already homosexuals in the armed forces, not even counting the one from The Village People.)

I suspect you were trying to send this to another Thalassa. But I'm going to take this little e-mail-mixup as an opportunity to remind you that homosexuals have been serving in the American military since we HAD a military, and in the British and French and Spanish militaries before the Revolution. And, stunningly, the thing still functions. Also, military forces in civilized countries around the world, like Israel and Britain, do not force their gay soldiers into a life built on lies. And, stunningly, they all still function, too. You're entitled to your opinion, of course, and that's one of the super-neat things about that military... Even while you're here trying to force 10% of them out of their livelihoods and their callings, they are out there defending your right to do so. Think on that for a bit, the next time you decide that your fellow Americans aren't just-like-you enough to protect you.

Tha (the other one) lassa

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Weird food

I walked into Whole Foods the other night to pick up milk and pastrami. On my way in, the first produce table I saw had berries and kumquats for sale on it. I've always been curious about kumquats and I'm trying to eat a healthy variety of things these days, so I picked up a bucket, intending to research them once I got home. Before I had time to do research, I ran into my friend Bea, who is a weird food connoisseur. My friend Bea knows all about food. I asked her the other day if she'd ever had kumquats, and she not only had eaten them, she had stories of her dad's parrot eating them and her family making kumquat-ade out of them, and generally surprised me completely with her knowledge of things kumquat-related. We started talking about what I was going to do with my golden bucket of kumquats, and she suggested I make some of them into mustard and serve them with pork chops by altering a raspberry mustard recipe that she had.

Tonight, we were supposed to grill with our friends Kristen and Jake, but their refrigerator became belligerent and quit working today, so they were busy salvaging their perishables and waiting on the repairman. I hadn't had time to buy all the necessary things for the real raspberry mustard recipe, so I altered the recipe and improvised AT THE SAME TIME. If you've ever seen me cook before, this is nothing new. In fact, I'd say it's the reason I bother owning cookbooks in the first place, so I can ignore their instructions and make their food my own way.

Anyway, Test Kitchen recipe #1 was a resounding success.
Kumquat Mustard
2/3 c. whole kumquats
3 Tbsp. deli-style or brown mustard
1 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
1/3 c. orange juice
1/3 c. rice vinegar (any mostly-sweet vinegar would do)
1/4 c. chopped onion
1 clove minced garlic
1/3 c. honey (to taste)

Put all ingredients together in a blender. Start with half the honey. Blend well on high until smooth. You want to make sure any kumquat seeds and peels are thoroughly blended in. Taste, add honey if needed. Once desired flavor is achieved, transfer to a saucepan over medium heat and cook until thickened, about 5-10 minutes.

Rose grilled the pork chops to medium and we served them on a bed of this sauce with a drizzle of sauce on top and a green salad on the side. Yum!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Relax, it's just Asthma...

I finally got my followup from the pulmonologist, and then I promptly left town and started running at a pace too frantic for blogging. (Metaphorically, alas!) So, I apologize for leaving you all on that cliff where I thought I had emphysema, or something.

I have exercise-induced asthma, and that is all. I don't have "regular" asthma, at least not when I'm on my preventive inhaler. There is this lab test they do that's intended to test that. And the description sounds worse than it is: they give you an inhaled irritant and then wait to see if you blow up. Sound like fun? Yeah, I kinda had myself worked into a tizzy over it, honestly. Because asphyxiation, even if it's only partial asphyxiation, is about as far from fun as you can get without crossing over into near-death experiences. Perhaps because it feels so very much like a near-death experience.

Anyway, the test wasn't bad. It's called a methacholine challenge, for those of you who may ever find yourselves facing it. And they don't actually try to trigger an asthma attack with their inhaled irritant. They take careful measurements of your lung capacity throughout, and if you start reacting to the irritant, they give you a rescue inhaler and stop the test immediately. Also, if you find yourself doing this test? Take a book. There are stretches of 2-5 minutes where you just have to sit there and wait, and your technician has stuff to do while that's happening, so they may be unable to chat with you.

So, with that said, I'm taking another triathlon class this spring. It starts tomorrow. At 6 AM!!! The triathlon I'm taking on at the end of the class is a lot shorter than the one I tried last time. In fact, the swim is about half the distance I made before my asthma attack during my first attempt at a tri. I figured that wouldn't be much of a challenge, but it would also not be very intimidating. I want to have a good experience with this one, and if it goes well, I'll try taking on longer sprints later in the season.

Monday, March 01, 2010


It's been a long time since I posted that I was fretting about something. I've had a fret-free life for a good while now. I've been enjoying that! But now I'm worried, and as these things typically go, it's not something I can ameliorate, prepare for, accelerate, decelerate, or change in any way. I've thought for a long time that I have asthma. Since my early college days, I've had shortness of breath when exercising. It's gotten worse over the years, though, and that's unusual for asthma. I've moved around a fair bit as an adult (though not as much as I did in my early years!) and so allergies have taken the blame for the increasing trouble. New city, new allergens, new reaction.

I went to a pulmonologist last week because I got tired of having asthma attacks while I was trying to get through the freaking WARM UPS for rugby practice. I've been on a new medicine, and I was hoping that would help, but it didn't. So I went in to the pulmonologist and he took my history and asked how, exactly, I was diagnosed with asthma. I explained that I went in to the doctor complaining of difficulty breathing when I exercise, and they started prescribing inhalers and that was pretty much that. I've been on increasingly larger doses of preventative inhalers for the last year or so, but that only helped for very low exertion levels. I could jog, which I hadn't been able to do before, but the triathlon workouts I was trying to do were triggering asthma almost every time. Only the very lowest-grade "recovery" workouts were safe. Anything that was meant to increase my cardiac capacity, or build my base fitness, was causing me to crash into the brick wall of asphyxiation. And, if you've never been there, I can assure you that it's as comfortable a place to crash as your standard issue, non-metaphorical brick wall.

This is where we get to the fretting part. Because he mentioned that I might not actually have asthma. I was pretty much expecting him to say, "Oh, yeah, when people don't respond to what you're on, we try them on this other drug and that usually clears them right up." Or even to scratch his head, and say, "Hmm, that usually works. Let's try this particular combination. If it's not right, I'll try a couple of others until we get this fixed." Instead, he mentioned this totally other condition and ordered some diagnostic testing to figure out what it is I have, REALLY. The other condition is what is keeping me mopey and awake nights. It's basically emphysema. It's very rare and not likely that I have it. Except, if you made a Venn diagram of My Family and People With Rare Medical Conditions, the overlap zone would be HUGE. And the progression of the disease sounds like my life's story.

Nothing I can do but take the tests and wait for the results. It's hard. And I'm fretting.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Gap Acceptance

Humans are funny little critters sometimes. We have this tendency to want and strive for the very best. If we're actively working on our goals, it's pretty easy to keep waiting. We feel like we're making progress, so we keep working and waiting. When we're waiting for something that we can't work toward, something for which we can only wait, it's different. We start to get impatient. We start to think about settling for something less than our ideal.

I'm sure you've seen this in people you know, or yourself, even. Someone's just gotten out of a bad work situation, or a bad romance (RRRRRRRRoma roma maaaa!) and they are TOTALLY NOT DOING THAT AGAIN. But a couple of months go by, they're still single and dateless, or unemployed, and waiting. There isn't anything they can do to get closer to a job or a date other than going places, putting themselves out there, waiting for someone to reciprocate their interest. After their sharp memories of the previous bad situation have had time to fade a little, they start thinking they'll take a bad job, just to have some money coming in. They'll go on a bad date, just to get the mojo moving. The longer the wait, the lower the standards, until the inevitable repetition of the previous bad job/romance/etc.

Of all the people in the world to have a great, simple phrase to describe this phenomenon, it's the Traffic Engineers. Yes, the people whose sexiest contribution to society is the traffic light that switches to a blinking light just in time to confuse people driving home from IHOP after closing down the bar summed up in two concise words an ancient and baffling complex of human behaviors. They call it "gap acceptance" and they have to deal with it, too. When you first pull up to an intersection to make a turn into busy traffic, you won't jump into the first tiny hole in traffic that pops up. You will only accept a nice, long gap in traffic. Your "gap acceptance" is low, you're holding out for a good one. The more that busy traffic rolls right by you, the later you get for your very important date, the higher your "gap acceptance" gets and the smaller a gap you're willing to settle for. If they can't time the traffic lights such that you can find a safe gap, you'll jump into an unsafe one. Also, they work hard to make sure that from your vantage point, you can tell whether or not the gap is an acceptable one, meaning your view of oncoming traffic isn't blocked.

It would be nice if life would take that last precaution, no? To ensure that as you sit waiting for whatever it is you're helplessly and impatiently waiting for that you could see swirls and eddies in the probability field approaching you. It would be pretty awesome if it looked like swirling smoke. Red might mean high probability that your desired outcome was approaching. Every time a big blob of red swirled your way, you could get excited about it. But when you were in a fog of blue, green, yellow, purple, you could just sit back and know that there was a patch of red over on the horizon. It might drift your way if you just take a nice deep breath in and hang on.