December 28, 2009

Day 7 with 20? to go

There are a few classic blunders, cliches that are given to comfort the grieving. If someone has died, these include: "They're in a better place", "At least the suffering is over". The reality is, there is nothing that can be said to make it better. All one can say is, "I'm sorry for your loss" and then remain present for any stories the griever might want to tell.

For a miscarriage the classic blunders include: "There must have been something wrong with this one, the next one will be (better/healthy/etc)", "Next time, make sure you (keep your feet up/rest/don't walk too much/take vitamins/etc)", "At least you know you can get pregnant!"

The reality is that I've been looking on the bright side myself, but it's one thing if I'm giving myself a pep talk and another if someone else tries to do it. Again, a loss is a loss and nothing can be said to make that go away. You don't say to a widow, "At least you know you can deal with marriage, I'm sure the next one will be better!" Granted, 7 weeks of knowing a possibility is definitely NOT on the same scale as knowing a person for years, but I think you get the point.

Mom K made the classic blunders within the first 20 minutes of her visit. The next morning she started to give me advice about what to do the next time (see list above). I interrupted the litany and said, "Mom, I did all that". She tried to launch back into the list (the Korean method being to repeat until lecture subject yields), but I interrupted again (playing my 'white girl' rude card), saying even more firmly, "Mom! I did each one of those things. It didn't matter." Fortunately, I think that got it out of her system and she hasn't brought any of it up since.

Actually, the visit has gone very well. She's thoughtful, quiet, courteous, and does the dishes! Of course, she used the liquid dish soap in the dishwasher, but we brought our wet/dry vac with us from Baltimore, so I was able to clean up the soapy water that spouted all over the kitchen. Now she's convinced I'm just like Dad K: organized and mechanically inclined.

We took her out for a fancy dinner on their wedding anniversary. When I asked for stories about what she misses about Dad K, I got the weirdest repetition, she launched into this and repeated it word for word 5x in a row, "I was such a bad wife. I did so many things wrong. I told God if He gives me a next life, marry to Daddy, I will do it. I want to do everything right. I feel so bad. I was such a bad wife..." I tried a bunch of things to derail the perseveration: "Mom, there IS forgiveness for you. That's the whole reason Jesus died for you, so you don't have to carry guilt like this". She nodded, "I know. I feel so bad. I was such a bad wife..."

Then I tried to meet her where she was at, "Mom, I hear what you are saying. I know Dad was a very good man underneath everything, but he was also like a 7-year old boy. It felt like no matter how many gifts you give him for Christmas, he always wanted more. There was a need in him that couldn't be filled by one person. I don't know what you do when that happens, but when I run into that with someone, I put up walls to protect myself. I don't want to give and give and give until there's nothing left."

She agreed, "You right. That's why I feel so bad. I know Daddy mentally young, I try to make him older all the time. Next time, I will just love him. I was such a bad wife..."

After a while, I was able to ask her questions to get her talking more about specifics or actual memories rather than just repeating the litany. Jrex told me a while ago that his mom carries a pathological level of guilt. I believed him, but it made me so sad to see it in action.

It looks like she might be with us through most of January. She has to go back to NYC for a ceremony in early February and then she wants to stay out east through Lent and Easter.

December 23, 2009

I feel so loved

Reason 1: Jrex went to the airport to pick up his Mom without me.
He told her what was happening in a "Good news/Bad news" way. She was really excited that we'd conceived without any medical help. (Jrex's sister had to do multiple invitros and had a couple miscarriages.) Within the first 20 minutes after she arrived at our place she'd given me a couple pep talks and a story of a Korean Christian guy who waited through 15 years of marriage before he had his son.

Reason 2: One friend loaned me her car while she's gone for a week.

Reason 3: Another friend gave me a key to her apartment. I'm going to pretend to have to work tomorrow and have a little alone time. Plus, I've told Mom K I have to water my friend's plants, so every couple days I have a reason to go grab some time alone.

Reason 4: Many emails and phone calls from friends and family.

Reason 5: I thought we were going to have to spend Christmas Eve with Jrex's extended family up in San Francisco. His cousin owns a restaurant and we all gather there. Usually everything is in Korean, so the food is good, but it's usually tedious. NOT how I wanted to spend Christmas Eve. Found out this morning that we get to go up there next week instead. I'm actually looking forward to going to church. I don't think Mom K has gone to church since staying with Jrex's sister, so she's looking forward to it as well.

Tonight is Mom K's anniversary. She wants to go out to dinner. I found a good sympathy card and I'll write in it my fond memories of Dad K. If we have time, Jrex can add a couple as well. I hope that Mom K feels loved during her time here.

December 21, 2009

No idea how to write about this follow up on the previous post.

When I wrote that last Tuesday, I was 7 weeks pregnant and due to have my first ultrasound on Wednesday. A week and a half before that, I spotted lightly. The doctor's office had me get my blood levels checked. There's a hormone that indicates the progression of a pregnancy, hCG (no idea what that stands for!). Anyway, it's supposed to double every 48 hours. My levels were low and weren't doubling. Blood tests Monday the 7th, Wednesday and Saturday. By Monday the 14th I was wrestling with faith/hope vs. brace for the worst. My normal reaction is to brace and I was trying to choose hope instead. Thus the blog post.

The problem was that as of Thursday the 10th, I woke up feeling completely normal. Before that I was fatigued, peeing constantly, and getting mildly nauseous. I knew that feeling normal and energetic was probably a bad sign.

Jrex came with me for the ultrasound. The doctor found the embryo with no problem. It was in the right place and all the right pieces were present (I took her word for it, since all we could see on screen was a circle that had a slightly wider 'diamond' on one side). The doctor pointed out the diamond and said that's the baby. It was 3 mm long (it should have been 5-6 mm). And not fluttering; which meant no heartbeat. My doctor was great. She'd had two miscarriages at the age of 38 (after 5 years of trying) and then had three children. The fact that everything was in the right place and that we'd gotten pregnant without any need for intervention means there's great hope that the next pregnancy will be fine. We scheduled a follow up ultrasound for the next Wednesday (the 23rd) and went home to wait. Somehow, once I knew there wasn't much hope, I felt much calmer. Wrestling with whether or not to live in hope had been much harder than accepting this pregnancy wasn't going to result in meeting a kid.

By Friday I told Jrex I would be totally shocked if we went back and had a heartbeat since I felt zero percent pregnant. When I was still in hope-land, I told Jrex that I didn't want a D&C. After I started feeling normal and after the flutter-free ultrasound, that changed. I could tell nothing was happening inside me anymore and I was fine with the idea of a D&C just to get it over with.

Well, it's not relevant.

Yesterday afternoon I miscarried. I thought I'd be sobbing in the bathroom, freaking out at what was happening to my body. Instead I was shocked by what a relief it was. After two weeks of waiting, it was good to be getting it 'over with'. I was surprisingly grateful that it started before Mom K arrives (tonight!). I didn't want to deal with her fussing and praying over me to heal the baby or whatever. Now we don't need to deal with that option.

I think the other reason I was able to deal was church on Sunday morning. No one said or did anything specific, but during the worship a bunch of things happened. I basically made a decision that I wasn't going to allow this circumstance to separate me from His love. Sure, I'll wrestle with my frustration and anger that He allowed this, but I'm choosing to NOT plant the seeds that will grow into bitterness and separation. When I asked Him if He had anything to show/tell me, I saw a picture of a dark mine with gemstones. The sense was that treasures are found in darkness and gemstones are mined from deep places. That if I press into Him instead of withdrawing, He has good things, even in this.

Jrex is hanging in there. He's been really supportive. I've made room for any sadness he might be feeling, but he admitted that even though he was excited, it all felt somewhat theoretical. The best part is that he and I share the same morbid sense of humor, so he's not at all thrown when I crack jokes in the middle of all this.

The other thing that has really helped is the people who've been on this journey with me. I figured I'd only tell a person if I could also turn to them for comfort if it didn't work out. That's what's happened. After the ultrasound, I just texted/emailed the bad news. While I was in limbo last week, I didn't want to talk or answer questions or analyze how I was feeling. Now that the end of this particular story is known, it's easier to think about talking.

December 15, 2009

Hope and the difficulties it causes

“I can’t trust the Lord to do me good.”

One of the refrains of my childhood. Repeated over and over by a mother who loved nothing better than worshiping God. Who was a full-time minister. Who told me that the story of her life was not the story of the abuse she’d survived, but the ways the Lord had redeemed her life and used every one of her hurts to heal others.

“I can’t trust the Lord to do me good.”

My husband was one of my spiritual heroes during college. A senior to my first-year status, he led a mind-exploding Bible study that first year of college. After moving on to do his MD/PhD, he’d come back for retreats with our church and we’d quickly dive into the deep end of theology and philosophy. Dive into the heart of Who this God is that we worship.

Over the years, he’s been through disappointment after disappointment. Unanswered prayers. Frustrated hopes. He’s gone out on the faith limb only to have it break off and leave him bruised on the ground.

“I can’t trust the Lord to do me good.”

I find that I don’t lean on anyone, really. I share things with my friends. I tell people what’s going on, but I don’t cry with anyone (only with Jrex after Mom died and I couldn’t hide the tears). I tell Jrex the details of my day, my silly/trivial thoughts, sometimes I try to tell him what’s going on with me spiritually, but I don’t share the deepest things. The places that feel fresh, or tender, or tentative? I wait to process them alone. When I feel needy, I’m more likely to curl up with a novel, or write in my prayer journal than I am to call someone. Angry emotions I can share with friends, just not sad/needy emotions.

I’ve realized more and more lately that I’m afraid to really trust or hope. I pray for changes or for the future. I trust that God does love me, but my Mom’s refrain echoes in the background. I DO trust that the Lord will bless me and that he’s there, but when it really comes down to it, I refuse to lean on Him far enough to risk the branch breaking. One foot on the branch, one hand reaching out, yet one hand on the trunk, one foot close to safety. I am terrified to risk all by praying all, hoping all, believing all. I don’t want to fall. I don’t want to get hurt. I don’t want to have to wrestle with doubt or despair the way my mother and husband have.

I’m trying to trust that the Lord has good in store, no matter what the present circumstances might look like, but it’s hard. The sad truth is that I don’t think I knew this was in me this deeply. As I’m trying to rest in the Lord and explore our relationship more deeply, I keep hitting these walls.

Numbness is easier than hope. Yet I know I’m not called to live numb. In my mind though, hope equals pain. I know it’s wrong, yet I’ve rarely really had it modeled differently. My father and I tend to be optimists, yet I don’t know how deeply either of us delve into our deeper emotions on a regular basis. I can easily hope to do well at work, to excel in tasks, to find good friends. There are other more hidden, less-visited places in my soul where I just can’t risk hope because disappointment might crush me.

December 11, 2009

Because it's true

We told our families we were skipping Christmas presents this year. Yeah, we got some for the nieces and nephew, but figured there's enough stuff in our lives, we don't need to add to the piles.

I'm kinda wishing we could take it back! Someone showed me a catalog today from I know it's still tchotchke, but it's funny and clever.

Can't you see me wearing this shirt while standing next to Jrex?

And, for the chemist in the family (hint: NOT me), wouldn't it be comforting to be surrounded by one of your favorite things?

This one isn't junk at all. It's a magnetic LED tool that helps you pick up the stuff you dropped down the drain, or wherever.

This clock might even remind me of some of the rudiments of math. Or just make me later than usual.

I guess I can pretend that Jrex is the geek in the family, but I'm not that far behind! He just KNOWS more of the 'usual' geek things (math, computers, coding). At our supper club over the weekend, the guys started swapping 'remember when' computer stuff like "Remember using punch cards for 'memory'?". I don't go that far back, but I do remember programming new game levels for our Lode Runner game on our Apple IIe.

All I can say is, whenever we have a house again? Be afraid, be very afraid.

Or, as they say at Think Geek:

"Come to the dark side;
we have cookies.

December 8, 2009

There's no There Here

Life continues to meander along. I don't have any nice, tidy blog stories. No ongoing drama to keep updating. It's a great change of pace!

Little tidbits:

Absolutely, totally dead at work. I updated my portfolio and resume today. Might work on my personal website tomorrow. Not because I'm afraid I'll get fired (there's PLENTY of work coming in January), but just to prevent total brain atrophy. I'm not complaining though! I've been waking up at 4:30 AM the last four nights or so and haven't been able to fall asleep until 6 AM. If I were busy at work, I'd probably just stay up and gut through the day, so it's been lovely to fall back asleep and gradually wake up around 8:30. Getting in to the office at 10 and leaving by 4:30 has also been lovely.
We had Lovey over on Saturday to make CRABCAKES. It's crab season and Whole Foods actually had steamed, cracked crabs for $3.99/pound. Lovey is a Baltimore native so we had a great time trying to figure out some Old Bay recipes. When I say 'we', it was really Lovey and Jrex going to town. Poor Dovey is in school and needed to study all weekend and I just hung out and chopped salad ingredients.
On Sunday night, we had a casual supper club. Pizza, wine and salad. The real purpose was to break open Civil Engineer's new game: Settlers of Cataan. It took and hour to set up (or that's what it felt like). Once we started to figure it out, it got interesting. It's an egaletarian, board-game version of Civilization. You get two settlements and two roads to start. Then you roll dice to determine who gets what commodities. If your settlement touches a hex shape with the number on it, you get the wheat, sheep, coal or brick pictured. There are knights, robbers and merchant ships. We all started to get into it, but then it was too late to continue. Next time we'll start in the afternoon. Has anyone else played? We still haven't figured out what to do with the ships and trading.
Jrex and I are sorting through the financial stuff. I think we've come up with a 'middle way'. Rather than splitting accounts and dividing up our income, we've set up a separate account for the stuff I spend money on: train, tithe, haircut, spending, gifts. That way, I'm not bleeding into money he had set aside to put in our savings account. And I can tell exactly what I have to spend without dealing with his massive spreadsheet method. (Me+Excel=misery) We just started on Saturday, so we'll see how it goes, but I'm hoping it simplifies things for both of us going forward.

AND last but not least: I can see SNOW from the windows at work! I haven't seen snow during ordinary life in three years now. It rained hard the other night and in the mountains that line the East Bay, the top elevations are dusted white. It finally feels like winter. (I know, I know, I'm not going to be getting much sympathy from most of you, but seeing snow makes me happy.)

December 4, 2009

Working from home

After all my posts about busy work, we've had a totally dead week. I got so tired of twiddling my thumbs in the office, I decided to 'work from home' today. Thus far? Cleaned rooms, doing some laundry, talked with my sister. We have more work coming in January, so it's not like we're in danger of layoffs, it's just going to be a very slow month.

Which is a nice change of pace!

Of course, as soon as work slows down, we start packing in the personal events. The next two weekends are already booked. Then on Monday the 21st, Mom K comes to town (on a one-way ticket!!) We both have to work that week, at least through the morning of Christmas Eve. Then that whole next week, I'm required by my job to take PTO. Which means Mom and I will get lots of time to hang out together. Thankfully, Jrex is planning to take most of the time off as well, so we're already planning some fun day trips and restaurants to enjoy.

I need some advice though. Mom and Dad K's wedding anniversary is December 23rd. We both will be working that day (which leaves her here in the apartment alone). What should we do to acknowledge her first anniversary since his death? I was a horrible daughter for my Dad in this. I always thought of him on November 1st, but never emailed or called. I literally had no idea how to handle it. What do you say? "I know you're thinking of Mom and it's a hard day." Obviously. I didn't even do that.

Do we do a special dinner? Have a candle-lighting ceremony? Tell stories about Dad? I know the principle that we're supposed to follow her lead, but I want to also give her permission to remember and grieve if she wants to do that. I suspect that my sister-in-law's focus has been to help Mom avoid thinking about Dad. I know that's not really a good solution and not a healthy way to grieve. I just don't know how to do this in a way that's cross-culturally sensitive and not just my family's version of 'how to grieve' (in which my special gift seemed to be to get people to cry).

Any suggestions? Anyone who's lost a spouse, what should we/could we do?

December 2, 2009

Make it consistent

As many of you know, in California Proposition 8, that marriage is between one man and one woman, passed by 4% of the vote.

At work the next day one of my gay coworkers declared, "If marriage is that sacred, I propose we add a ballot measure to outlaw divorce." I thought that was a very logical extension of the law.

Looks like it's in the works!