Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Home, full of love.

Remember this North Carolina, my home state of kindness and acceptance and love? That's the North Carolina I visited this weekend. I love my Outer Banks family, the way we laugh and cry together, the way we join forces for celebrations and for sorrow. This weekend, we celebrated. My Aunt Penny and her partner Allison - who fell in love as teenagers and reconnected twenty years later - had a commitment ceremony in their Outer Banks church, alongside their children. I was proud to be there, and prouder yet to call this family my own. But mostly I was thrilled to see my aunt with such a big smile on her face.

Have I mentioned that my dad is quietly the best toastmaster of all time? He is. I should write about his haiku at our wedding; it's legendary. And there was his Forrest Gump toast at my sister's wedding, and his bridge metaphor at my brother's. In honor of my Aunt Penny, he began with farm tales and ended up with my late Aunt Jill, and how her life and her loss shows us how important it is to be happy while we're here. Somehow this was tied together by my Aunt Penny's childhood schemes for ice cream. My dad's toasts should not work, but they do, every time.

I've been missing my Aunt Jill so much lately. I know she's in each one of us, every single day, but some days the loss is still too tender to bear. T and I stayed at her house with my cousins over the weekend, and I found a book I loaned her when she was sick, my note to her still inside as a bookmark. We were both bookworms, both writers, both full of infertility issues, too - but that's a story for another day. She would've loved Penny's ceremony, whose "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" flash mob equaled her own church band rockin' out at her funeral in every possible way. Music unites those sisters, still. Speaking of sisters, my late aunt's daughters amaze me at every turn. (They also crack me up, as demonstrated below.)

I spent a lot of time this weekend thinking how hard family can be sometimes. It's also wonderful and worth it, but family can be tough. In those tough times, I want to do nothing more than to sit in a room with them all and just be. I think that's a good thing.

In our happy moments? I like to give hugs. Liam likes to give high fives. Take your pick.

Photos by Melissa Habit - isn't she awesome?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Happy snippets, busy July

Rather than an annoying post of OMGsobusy, let's look at the happy moments in between the stress instead, why don't we? I hope your Julys are moving along at a carefree pace. Who's on Team August Will Be Awesome with me?

Drinks and oysters at Senart's with my pal Brian
(Him: moscow mule. Me: Hendrick's martini with a twist.)

Beer Stein Night at the Nats game

My new bike! I'm geeky-happy about her.

Neighborhood love

Biergarten Haus with my dad and T

My dad's first authentic ramen! We love you, Toki.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday I'm in Love

This week was emotional on a lot of levels. We have loved ones going through breakups, tragedy striking people around us, and horrors like the shooting in Colorado last night making us realize even more than usual to stop and appreciate each moment. And so that's what I want to do this weekend - turn my brain off, breathe, and just be. On that note, here are three items that embody appreciating the small stuff:

Oh, my heart!

This pig melts my heart. Found here.

Summer Sippin'

These summer cocktails that Cyd featured are perfect for sipping in the shade with someone who makes you giggle. Mmmm, watermelon.

Rob Ryan, Always and Forever

He gets me every time.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

PSA: free books!

I have to tell you guys about this awesome place I found. It's bursting with books inside, and they are free. And you can take them whenever you want, and bring them back when you're finished reading! And then the books aren't cluttering up your already-exploding bookshelves or gathering dust on every surface in your house! And if you don't have time to peruse the shelves of this magical place, you can surf their catalog online and place holds on any book you like, and they'll e-mail you when it's ready to be picked up via a short stroll from your home! And did I mention all the books are free?

I know, right? I am blowing your minds right now. This magical place? It's called the library.


I can't even describe how much retro-awesomeness I feel in my heart when I step into our adorable neighborhood library. I mean seriously. First of all, it looks like this:

Adorable! And second, there are always these hilarious neighborhood characters hanging out on the steps or inside at the computers. And there's that smell of books that doesn't recall your favorite bookstore but instead recalls something utilitarian and civic, like high school research before the internet was invented (not that that makes my heart sing in the nerdiest of ways or anything). I love the signage inside advertising the book groups that have adopted this library, and the childrens' section full of DC-themed books, and the feel-good small-town-ness of it all. My library rocks.

When I got my DC library card last fall, it was the first one I'd had since I was a kid in my hometown. How is that possible? I'm not counting defacto cards in university settings, but the old school applying-for-a-library-card moment at the main desk. That moment rocks. It's not quite the cue-heartstrings moment that voting is, but it's up there. So why did I wait so long as an adult to join this free-book revolution?

Don't be as lame as I was. Go support your public library!

PS: Highly recommended recent reads: The Art of Fielding and The Leftovers

PPS: You can find me on Goodreads if you want to chat about books.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Orange-Blueberry Pancakes

With all of the fresh blueberries arriving at our doorstep via CSA or down the street at Eastern Market, I've been having fun tinkering with blueberry pancake recipes. They're perfect for lazy weekend mornings, which we tend to celebrate around our house given their relative rarity these days. Something about these pancakes feels to me like celebration. Maybe it's the citrus (which I adore in the morning), or maybe it's just eating blueberries at the height of the season like this. Given that my little blueberry bush out back produced less than ten blueberries before hellish summer weather killed it, let's just say I don't take them for granted.

Another note on this recipe: I like to beat the egg whites separately and fold them in last for extra fluffiness (a technique I discovered via these pancakes), but it's not necessary. I also bet using half wheat flour would be lovely, although I didn't have any on hand when I made these. Something about the combination of wheat and blueberries is really satisfying to me.

Oh and... good morning, everyone!

Orange-Blueberry Pancakes
Adapted from "Fabulous Fairhome: Breakfasts and Brunches"

Makes plenty for two - double if you have more mouths at your table

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1.5 tablespoons sugar
pinch salt
1 large egg
zest of 1 large orange
1.5 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)
1 cup blueberries

1. Preheat griddle or skillet on medium heat.
2. Sift together flour, baking powder, bakind soda, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Stir until thoroughly mixed and make a well in the center.
3. Separate the egg yolk from the egg white into two other bowls.
4. In the egg yolk bowl, add in orange zest, buttermilk, and melted butter.
5. Pour mixture into the center of the dry ingredients and gently fold together.
6. Beat the egg white until you have stiff peaks, then fold that into the mixture.
7. Coat the griddle/skillet with vegetable oil or butter.
8. Pour about 1/3 cup batter onto the heated griddle/skillet, about 2" apart. Scatter 10 or so blueberries on top of each pancake.
9. When bubbles are rising to the surface and you have solid "footing" underneath, flip the pancake and cook until golden brown. Repeat until you're out of batter.
10. Serve with your favorite accoutrements,and EAT!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

And so it began.

The 7 a.m. line for bloodwork and ultrasounds at the fertility clinic feels like a cattle call for tired women. Or a depressing “2012 Babies or Bust” party I never wanted an invitation to in the first place. We’re just days into the New Year, and have dragged ourselves into the clinic bundled up like Eskimos, only to sweat inside and peel off layers en masse while we wait to be seen. Scarves and hats litter the hallway.

It’s my first day here, but the ladies in line with me are old pros. They can sense I’m a newbie, and kindly show me the ropes: we wait for our blood to be drawn, then cross the hallway to the changing rooms, where the doctor will call us in for our ultrasounds one by one. As I wait and watch those ahead of me, the speed of the process astounds me. Women go into the exam rooms at a brisk clip and are back out in no time, fully dressed. How could there possibly be time to undress and get probed by a foreign object at the rate they’re coming out of that room?, I wonder. The mechanization of the process is as comforting as it is disconcerting. I’m just one of dozens of women going through this today, I tell myself… my situation happens all the time and is easily fixed. But wait… I’m special! I’m different! I’m not just a number! Fix me! Back and forth, back and forth.

There are many reasons why we were all in that line together. Some of us might have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Some might have Endometriosis. Some might have a reversed tubal ligation or a partner with a reversed vasectomy. Some might have a partner with male-factor infertility. Some might have a female partner, or might not have a partner at all. Some others might be like me, with that (in my selfish mind) most maddening diagnosis: Unexplained Infertility. Sometimes I think I’d rather have something specific to prevail over, like a blocked ovary, rather than this mystery nonsense. I know that’s not fair. I also know that in the big head game that is infertility, unfair thoughts abound.

My first impression of the women at the clinic is that I’m on the younger side of the group. There’s a bit of satisfaction in this, I'm embarrassed to admit to myself. There are a couple of women in their late 20s here, but the majority appear to be older than I am. At 33, I must have a better chance at conceiving than the mostly gray 40-something in front of me, I think. My doctors have never been concerned about my age or my eggs. Yet I can’t help but wonder how many children that 40-something already has. Maybe she has one or two at home, with her heart set on another. Maybe she’s remarried and wants a child with her new partner. Maybe if I’m already having problems this young I’m hopeless. Maybe this isn’t going to happen for me. This is a trick of infertility, by the way: in a second, the game changes inside your head. Pros can flip into cons with the blink of an eye. And why am I trying to “beat” these women anyway?, I ask myself. Her pregnancy doesn’t mean mine’s not coming, and vice versa. We all deserve to be pregnant. We all deserve to be done with this.

Before I know it, I’m in the bloodwork chair, where a friendly nurse tries her best to woo my veins. In the coming months, I’ll get to know her well. I’m here for “baseline testing” that will kick off my very first Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) cycle. They’ll be looking at levels of hormones in my blood, and will use the ultrasound to monitor follicle growth once I begin the injectable medications. I'll be back here two more times that very week alone.

In no time at all I’m in the changing room, wondering why in the world someone can’t make paper sheets wide enough to cover my average-sized hips, when they’re calling me in for my exam. The doctor wields the ultrasound wand with all the efficiency of that line outside. He calls out numbers to the nurse, different ones for the left versus the right ovary. I don’t bother remembering them, knowing that I’ll get a call later that afternoon with a detailed analysis. The exam is over before I know it, and in another minute I’m walking out through the ever-growing line of women who are waiting to do exactly what I just did.

I wonder how many women will go through that line at the clinic that morning. And of those of us here, how many will get pregnant this month? How many of us will ever get pregnant at all? Only time – and a lot more visits to this clinic – will tell.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Family Fourth, beach-style

Despite US Air's best efforts, we made it to Holden Beach last week to meet my nephew Max and enjoy the fam for the 4th. I didn't even bring my work Blackberry. I did, however, bring my puffy, bruised, needle-poked body - the ideal time to wear swimwear, really. But enough of that! A great book, an urgent desire to float in the pool and bop around in waves, and my favorite people all in one place. On to the photos!

Such a sweet guy, this new nephew of mine!

Fourth of July festivities (my family still has approximately 10,000 pieces of our wedding props on hand)

My dad representing the 'hood

My sister-in-law, aka the best-looking "just gave birth nine days ago" woman of all time



Game of Thrones set made of sand?

My sis found this enormous dead beetle on the beach, which my nephew Liam named "Shakin' Bacon 48,000," or just "Bacon," if you prefer. He was gorgeous, really. My sis is framing him.

And one more time for those heartstrings.

We had a family portrait session while we were there with the fabulous (and amazingly sweet) Megan of Genie Leigh Photography (see her fab work from my brother's wedding here). Fingers crossed we get some good ones... we can be a motley crew sometimes, after all. And also, there was a diarrhea explosion involved. Gotta love it!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Time to unwind

One of my high-school favorites just stayed with us as he passed through DC (embassy headaches = unexpected visit to my house = the bright side). We talked, we laughed, we speculated, we celebrated, we drank way too much wine... and life is good today. (Much better than this weekend, for example, when fertility drugs made me feel like I was trapped in one of those medieval torture devices that squeezes people to death. Seriously.) But last night and today: better. At last. And so I'm rushing through the day in order to land in another happy moment by night's end, when we'll meet up with my family at the beach.

Stealing from my sister's Instagram photos for a bit (if you like pictures of cute kids and pretty chickens, you might consider following her), let me show you a little of what's waiting for me tonight oceanside:

I'm sure I'll be Instagramming too (it's a sibling obsession), if you want to see more of these cuties. I can't wait to get down there already. Have a fabulous 4th, everyone!

Some bonus red, white, and blue inspiration - ahhhh, memories:

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