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Sunday, December 27, 2009

33 Years, 33 Pages

Greetings, KuKd/TTC Regulars and Guests!

Nancy Pearl, a Seattle-area book reviewer and general literary guru, has a great rule for deciding how much of a chance a person should give a book: read until you reach the page number of your current age (in my case, a whopping 33), and if you're not into the book by then, toss it.

On the one hand, I really love that rule because it gives me a valid, mathematical excuse for giving up on a book without feeling like the Attention-Deficit-Disordered-Slacker that I am (an excuse that even Nancy Pearl - with her smart, aging librarian-voice - approves of!). On the other hand, I usually can't even make it to the page number of my current age. If a book doesn't grab me by page...oh...five or so, I'm done with it and back to reading Real Simple Magazine again, last-page fluff first and working my way forward to the more serious stuff. Deep, literary stuff, like how to make better use of one's closet space (just don't tell Nancy Pearl about that, please).

Not that I pick up many books to read anyway. Over the last few years on the KuKd track, I've done a lot of filling my life with "mandatory" crap and fictitious deadlines. Like: must create blog! Must sit down to write! Must plan happy hour with friends! Must visit parents! Must socialize dog! Must go lapswimming! Must eat more probiotics! Must, must, must! Which means, I really haven't had much time to kick back and throw myself into something as non-productive and decadent as a nice, juicy novel.

Well, this holiday beach vacation was largely about "flossing my brain," as I called it - that is, shutting down all those imaginary little things that I've felt myself responsible for these past few years, and doing nothing whatsoever. So before heading to Puerto Rico, K and I stocked up on a bunch of used paperbacks for the journey. With great fanfare, I got through three (3) of these decent-sized books - not War and Peace sized but respectable nonetheless - in a week.

Fleetingly, I thought it would be nice to review them here. But I've never been great at reviewing books. That's because, like I said, in order for me to get past page five or so, I have to really, really like the book. The second I stop liking it, that's it - I'm done reading it. Why waste precious life with a mediocre book that may or may not get better? Likewise, if I manage to get through a book at all, it means that of COURSE I like it. Reviewing books on a regular basis, for me, would be like a film or food critic who absolutely loves everything he or she reviews. Not exactly "critical."

Nonetheless, here are my Puerto Rico beach-reads (a few of which are now dog-eared and scattered around Vieques Island for other book-seeking tourists to discover) with a short blurb surrounding each.

Let's start with the bad: Lost and Found, by Carolyn Parkhurst.

Blegh. I got through page five before tossing it into the hotel waste basket - right alongside a couple of used Q-Tips and an empty tube of sunscreen. Yes, my dislike of the first few chapters really was that dramatic. It was the characters - the whole scenario itself - that got on my nerves from the get-go.

In a Nutshell: I've really pushed this one out of my mind, but here's what I vaguely recall in terms of plot: a teenage girl has a baby in her bedroom after having hid the pregnancy from her mother for nine months (either I missed the memo describing how on earth it's physically possible to hide a pregnancy right up until the due date, or this is something that only lithe, skinny young teen girls are able to accomplish). The girl and the mother aren't on the best of terms, needless to say, and they decide to go on a reality TV show together, I suppose as a way to patch up their relationship. This reality TV show involves, from what I can gather, traipsing around the world to do certain somethings in competition against other teams. Don't quote me on that, though, because I hardly read enough to know for sure.

My Highly Critical Evaluation: This book switches back and forth between the mom and daugher's perspectives, which would be fine if the daughter didn't act and talk like a total piss-wad. One of her first lines is something like, "Being in Italy (or wherever) wouldn't be so bad if I weren't on a fucking game show. With my fucking MOM."

Oh boo-hoo.

Maybe she improves in her attitude and general character as the story goes on, her pissy teenage voice quickly became so unbearable that I couldn't even afford her that opportunity to become less irritating. Nope: she blows it early on. Not only that, but the concept of reality TV-style game shows with people roaming the planet in search of secret objects or whatever is so...overdone, so mainstream, so pop-culture-y, that I just wasn't drawn in at all.

Oh, I should add that this book somehow involves parrots. Not sure how parrots come into play, but I sense that they do, somehow, somewhere, some way. Read the book (if you dare) to find out.

* * *

Next: Stones from the River, by Ursula Hegi.

In a Nutshell: A bunch of random people living in a small German town before, during, and after World War II have all kinds of wacky drama. The central character is named Trudi, who happens to be a dwarf. I still haven't Googled that term to confirm how a dwarf is different from a midget, or what it actually means to be a dwarf. At any rate, Trudi is a small gal. That much I picked up on. This book has lots of themes and mini-stories woven throughout - Trudi's insecurity with her physical difference being one of the primary elements. There's also some German guilt, some Nazi nastiness, some Jews hiding out in people's cellars, some love triangles, some pregnancies, some sex, some bombs falling on cities, and other things of that nature.

First Few Lines: "As a child, Trudi Montag thought everyone knew what went on inside others. That was before she understood the power of being different. The agony of being different." These lines pulled me in, making her character accessible, her thoughts suddenly universal. Who hasn't felt "different" at times?

Random Line from Page 33, In Relation to Nancy Pearl's Rule: "Her mother smelled like the lobby." This line is actually from the top of page 34, but who cares. I like this concept of people smelling like places. It's the very reason why I can't stand Subway sandwich shops: everything inside of a Subway and within a 100-foot radius (people, tables, food items, napkins, breeze, fire hydrants, trees) smells exactly like the inside of a Subway sandwich shop. Blegh.

My Highly Critical Evaluation: Of course, by virture of having read the whole damn thing, it means - of course - I liked it. Oh, there are probably nuanced little flaws I could pull out if I was feeling really bitchy and critical, but why bother. Overall, I liked it a lot. I really admire fiction writers who can come up with this crazy, harebrained scheme of a tale, complete with all sorts of wacky characters, and develop those characters in a realistic way and make them interact with each other coherently. How do people come UP with this stuff?? A German dwarf-girl hiding Jews in her cellar? There's a lot of interesting historical perspective in here, which was cool. Trudi's character isn't totally lovable all the time, but she keeps it real.

* * *

Moving on, Broken for You, by Stephanie Kallos.

In a Nutshell: Wanda, a young woman with lots of emotional baggage, rents a room from an elderly woman with lots of emotional baggage. They start to open up their emotional baggage and scatter it all over the place, kind of like what all of my belongings from our beach trip still look like, spewed all over the bedroom floor, still wrinkly and salty and unwashed. Shit happens: romances, deaths, car accidents, lots of flashbacks to unsavory times for both Wanda and the elderly woman - and through all this baggage and shit happening, the women manage to forge a deep connection. At least that's kind of what the back of the book suggests.

First Few Lines: Don't know'em, because I left this book on a table next to my empty virgin-Pina-Colada glass at the hotel. No point in carting this one home, because I knew Kevin wouldn't read it. Not that I'd recommend it to him: this is definitely more of a human-relatiohship-ish chick-book, which by now has probably been swept up by some middle-aged woman traveling alone to Puerto Rico in order to find herself.

My Highly Critical Evaluation: I liked it well enough. The writing was solid and filled with amusing human moments. Lots of feelings and emotions, and cool descriptions of sights and sounds and thoughts. The main character, Wanda, annoyed me at times; she just seemed kind of self-centered in a sulky teenage kind of way. It was the kind of book which - unlike Stones from the River - left my head immediately after I'd finished the final page. No lasting residual "ah-ha!" moments or deep philosophical epiphanies. Still, it was a page turner for me, I think largely because the writing was just so pleasant to soak up, and ultimately I wanted to know how the story ended.

* * *

Finally, A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russel.

In a Nutshell: Another World War II-themed story, purely coincidental. A bunch of Jewish refugees sneak over the Alps into northern Italy in order to escape German-occupied France. The central character, sort of, is a Jewish teenager named Claudia. This is another one of those epic tales that spans lots of years during and after the war, with all kinds of other random characters and sub-plots thrown into the mix. Ultimately, the story drifts away from Claudia herself and toward this much larger, more complex web of Italian Jews, Italian Catholics, Nazi fuckheads, Italian resistance fighers, Jewish refugee sympathizers, and others.

First Line: "This is what everybody would remember about his mother: her home was immaculate." Not a bad first line. This type of line, though, always makes me think to myself: I'd better find out pretty dark quickly who this passage is referring to, or I'm going to lose interest. In fact, this information doesn't directly come out, but one can make a fairly educated guess by page two.

Random Line from Page 33, In Relation to Nancy Pearl's Rule: "He limps as quickly as he can through an apartment filled with generations of dusty furniture." Can't you totally picture that? This World War II-era dwelling crammed with large, antique tables and chairs and what-nots, some dude navigating his way through there, trying to avoid smacking right into the sharp wooden corner of a clunky wooden writing desk? I like that kind of detail.

My Highly Critical Evaluation: This book swept me up into another world, and taught me a lot about history. I liked the historical perspective, the epic-saga nature of it, and the constant suspense running throughout every chapter. This was the sort of book that made me talk Kevin's ear off afterward, as though I'd just walked out of a movie theatre and was still in this sort of northern Italian, World-War-II brain fog for the rest of the day.

Oh, and if you read this book, you'll be glad to have the little cheat sheet provided on the first few pages, listing the names of all the charaters and classifying them in various ways - Jewish, Catholic, Italian, German, French, Nazi deserter, Nazi fuckhead, etc. Believe me, this little reference was a life saver for me.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Thwarting Terrorist Attacks With Belly

Hello Holiday Revelers,

It all started while waiting in line to board a Denver-bound United Airlines jet. We were in Miami, the largest city in Florida, which is where lots of flight schools are located, and where - in the fog of my memory - I vaguely recall the 9/11 hijackers having trained to fly.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

A young Middle Eastern guy who Kevin and I presumed to be Saudi, having taught English to Saudi exhange students in the past and therefore considering ourselves Young-Saudi-Male-Identification-Experts, elbowed his way past everyone en route to the front of the line. He was college-student-ish in jeans and a striped polo shirt half-tucked-in, tousled hair flopping a wee bit over the boyish face.

"Excuse me," he repeated as he passed, looking flustered. "My friend is up there and we're checking in together." Kind of silly, this need to check in "with your friend," but whatever. 'Tis the holiday season, a time of giving and cross-cultural understanding, a time of forgiving others for bumbling ahead to the front of the line.

Still, the fleeting thought crossed my mind: why does he need to sit with his friend? And why so desperately that he's willing to cut in front of everyone else?

But the question swirled away within a few seconds as a cinnamony-sweet waft of Cuban buffet scent hit my nostrils. I knew this would be the last time I'd smell that heartwarming aroma for a while, since not many airports do shredded pork wrapped in plaintain leaves like Miami International.

We arrived at row 21 near the back of the plane, and Kevin began dutifully stuffing our carry-ons into the overhead compartments. As requested, we were each given an aisle seat directly across the lane from one another. Before sitting down, I scanned the faces of our seat-neighbors, bracing myself for what one always must on a nearly four-hour flight: someone overly chatty, sweaty, large, or otherwise invasive of personal/physical space. Generally I'm not an airplane socializer. Nope, I prefer to keep to myself, burying my nose in Sky Mall Magazine and taking a nap, reaching across the aisle to affectionately cajole Kevin every so often.

Lo and behold, seated in the middle of my row - right next to me - was no one other than THAT GUY - the young Middle Eastern dude who had brushed his way up to the front of the line "to be with his friend." And across the aisle, next to Kevin's seat, was a sullen-faced young man dressed in a white, cottony-silky religious-looking outfit with a religious-looking cap on his head. Presumably, "the friend." And obviously Middle Eastern too. And next to him, by the window, was another dark-featured guy - quite possibly, if not plausibly, if not certainly, of Middle Eastern descent too.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Still, my as I lowered my fat, cumbersome self into my seat, I couldn't help but notice my own heart rate picking up a wee bit, my mouth feeling ever so slightly drier than a few seconds earlier. Because all of a sudden, rather than seeing harmless young boy-faces of some studenty-looking guys, here's what I was seeing in row 21:

Three of 'em, with me and Kevin sandwiched in the middle. Hoping to distract myself from what I knew was my own ridiculousness, I nervously examined the barf-bag to assess its true barf-holding capabilities, studying the label. But the vision wouldn't go away, and before I knew it, this vision had morphed into:

All three guys in our row were typing madly into their I-Phones as we sat on the tarmac, awaiting take-off. Texting each other, I thought miserably, plotting their attack, coordinating when and how they would slit my and Kevin's throats before pouncing into the aisle. I wanted to warn Kevin that the dudes next to him might have knives and box-cutters hidden in their jackets, but didn't want to give away my own embarassing paranoia. So I sent him a mental message instead to watch his back, as my hand rose up to my own neck, feeling the skin there. It really wouldn't be hard to cut through that skin.

* * *

In a mad attempt to save myself, I instinctively turned to face the polo-shirted one beside me, hoping to engage him in conversation. My voice sounded tauter, higher, louder than usual to my own ears, my sentences punctuated by occasional nervous giggles.

"Hi! I'm Monica! Where are you from?"

He glanced at me sideways. "Saudi Arabia. But I'm studying here in the U.S."

Uh-huh. I gripped the armrest and swallowed hard. "So, are you, um, traveling by yourself?"

"No, I'm with my friend over there. We're going to Portland." He gestured to the religiously-white-clad kiddo next to Kevin.

"Oh, so not the guy by the window?"

"No. It's just the two of us." Better two of them than three, I thought. From a defense-perspective, anyway.

"That's your husband, right?" he said. "I can switch places with him so you two can be together, if you want." (So I can be closer to my friend, so we can form a more unified attack)

"OH NO," I said a bit too quickly. "This is fine. We prefer aisle seats. So, um, what were you doing in Miami?"

"We were there for a few weeks on vacation." (Intensive flight training?)

"Interesting. So, what's in Portland?"

"Oh, we're students at Portland State University. I'm in the electrical engineering program." (Good for bomb-making?)

"Wowsers! That's fascinating!" By this point, my voice was really loud and brittle in its faux holiday cheer, almost desperate-sounding, and Kevin was giving me odd looks from the top of his magazine. I knew he was wondering what strange social bug had bitten me between now and five minutes ago. Of course, how could he know that I was only using my keen social skills as a weapon, protecting the safety of us, of the baby, of this whole flight, of our country, of our whole damn planet???

"So, um, that Portland weather must be a bit of a shock to your system," I continued. "How're you handling the cold rain?"

"It's not good," he said. "I prefer annoying heat to annoying cold. There are some disadvantages to living in hot climates, though. The heat affects people's moods, and makes everybody angry and irritated all the time. Like, in Saudi Arabia, everybody's angry all the time."

That did it. By this point, nothing he could have said would have sounded un-terrorist-like to me, nothing he could have done would have alleviated the rapidly growing blob of panic in my head. I was certain, almost certain anyway, that we were all about to die. Just then, the fetus began to flail madly inside my belly, as he always does before and during take-off and landing. The baby: my last hope in this game of terrorism-survival.

Acting on some crazed emotional impulse, I suddenly grabbed the Saudi guy's hand and yanked it toward me desite his obvious surprise and resistance, and pressed it firmly against my belly, right below my bra-less boob. "THE HEAT GETS EVERYONE ANGRY?" I said. "WOW! BUT FEEL THIS, RIGHT HERE! THE BABY'S KICKING!"

As if a kicking fetus had anything to do with short tempers in the scorched desert.

The baby went WHOPP right against the Saudi dude's hand and I watched him closely, waiting for him to morph into a human being instead of a turban-wearing, knife-wielding murderer. If a baby's kick couldn't soften up a terrorist, then I was going to officially give up and start praying to the powers that be. The guy's eyes grew wide as a grin spread across his young face.

"Wow!" he said. "I've never felt that before! That's so cool! Is you think he's rotating? In our cuture we say that rotating babies make good leaders."

And WHOPP - another kick right against his palm, and his smile got even bigger. I held his warm hand there with relentless force, pressing mine on top of his. Kevin was staring at me now across the aisle, clearly wondering what on earth had gotten into me.

"Yeah, he's probably rotating," I said. "Maybe he'll turn into a leader, like you say."

And finally, after several strange minutes in this position with the fetus wriggling around spastically inside me, BOOM - the young Saudi man turned into an ordinary harmless college student. Just like that. As my shoulders relaxed, spit filtrating into my mouth again, I released the still-surprised guy's hand, feeling more than a tad bit silly. Feeling like a bit of a shit-head, actually.

I glanced down at the I-Phone still in his hand. There wasn't a half-written text message with the words "knife" and "slit...throat" in there, but a frozen game of solitare. "Actually, yeah," I said. "Let's switch so you can be by your friend."

He smiled and shook my hand. "It was nice talking to you! Thanks for letting me feel the baby - that was awesome!"

I tugged on Kevin's shirt sleeve and we all got up to change seats, Kevin not saying but undoubtedly thinking: what the fuck was THAT all about? I figured we could discuss the whole episode later, in private.

* * *

Fear and prejudice: now I can totally see where it comes from. How it starts, escalates inside our minds to irrational proportions, leads to holocausts and civil wars and bombing abortion clinics, makes whites and blacks gravitate in separate directions. It's like, you get this one impression of a group of people from a single unsavory incident and some media coverage, and suddenly they all become like that. And once you get it in your head that they're all like that, then it's not hard to take every single one of their words and actions and drop it into this preexisting slot inside your mind where stereotypes get confirmed. SEE? I KNEW HE WAS A TERRORIST!

Twenty minutes into the flight, the two Saudi boys, now sitting beside each other, had their headphones on and were watching the movie Elf on the small screen overhead, laughing uproariously like normal college kiddos. This cemented my final, joyful conclusion: we were not about to die .

And: I'm the freakin' weirdo, not them.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

To Be on Reality TV

Hola, Holiday Readers...

First, the superficial: regarding my last post, I rocked it with the two-piece bikini-bikini (not the tankini-bikini). It was fine, except for the mild sunburn on my moonlike belly. I'm not home yet but getting there, with a couple of vacation pictures forthcoming. Man oh man, how I needed this time to lie computer-less on the white beach like a lazy (bikini-clad) whale. Everybody should do it - in fact, I think we should have an agreed-upon two weeks of "blog-cation" per year, during which nobody on the planet is allowed to read or write blogs. Just imagine!

Second, the conversation of the week:

"Primero?" (pointing to belly)


Exchange of smiles.

You know, it's just one of those dang questions that doesn't have an answer - and of course I was asked it at least five times. I could go on explaining what I mean, why that question poses such a conundrum, but I know I don't have to - not with most of you. First pregnancy? No. But...first child? As in, do I have any other children? Well, si. And besides: "no" might lead to something like "how many others do you have?", which would lead know.

It used to matter so hugely, so achingly, that others knew the full story - even innocent strangers asking innocent questions. But the need to tell all has subsided, I now know how to swallow it down and keep it there, and just give the quick-n-easy answer:

"Si. Esta mi primero."

I'm just not good at being that forthcoming. I've always known there are bigger, stronger, more in-tune-with-themselves women out there who can say more effortlessly: "well, this isn't my first pregnancy - but my other children are in heaven." I mean, how hard can that be? I envy those KuKd mommas who can intertwine past and present so seamlessly, bad with good, death with life. As for me, the few times I've tried being this honest, I wind up feeling self-concious and weird about it.

Not that I don't still crave some kind of strange cosmic "credit" for my KuKd experiences. It's war veterans crave credit for what they've been through? Breast cancer survivors? Survivors of any sort? How do THEY handle their past dirt, those life-changing experiences that make them stronger and more seasoned people?

I told Kevin, life would be easier if I were a reality TV star, or even a character in a book or on the big screen. That way, I could act all non-chalant and dismissive of such questions, issuing a short-n-sweet answer of "si!" without divulging the full, multi-textured truth - but at least my audience would know the real dredges of the story. All those people watching or reading about me would think to themselves, "look how STRONG AND SELFLESS she is! How neatly and tidily she handles her problems - how she just says 'si' to save everybody face. But WE know the truth!"

I'd feel okay with that, just having a big cloud of audience following me around, knowing everything there is to know, giving me credit for stuff. In fact, we might all enjoy that - having a hovering peanut-gallery to pat us on the backs for good deeds and any sort of hardship-survival.

But heck, nobody gets that fun privelege except for...well...reality TV stars like:

Jon and Kate Who I Hate Plus Eight. Those lucky bastards!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bipolar Bikini

Greetings, Guests-n-Regulars!

Warning! This is a bipolar post. Rather, an Attention-Deficit-Disorder-Inducing post with two polar opposite subjects combined into one scroll of text. The first part consists of silly fluff - stuff that would be of utmost importance if we all lived...say...on the set of Sex and the City. The second part will bring us all back down to earth, where we'll shove our feet into the cool, damp mud together. Please, please, please read the whole thing. I really need you to get to Part 2 of this post, because it's actually more important than the first part.

Why am I cramming two polar different topics into one post? Well, I will be away from the entire godforsaken Internet (yipeeee!!!!) for a full week starting tomorrow, which means I've got to cram all of this week's thoughts into one chunk of language. Where am I disappearing to for a week? Why, thanks for asking! I was hoping you would. How to say this in a way that sufficiently explains why I am buzzing with fluttery excitement today?

In a nutshell, Kevin and I are going from here:

to here.

Need I say more? It's an island called Vieques off the coast of Puerto Rico. See that white tourist dude hangin' under the palm tree? That will soon be Kevin. And next to Kevin will be me, leisure pawing little pits in the sand and watching warm Carribean water swirl into those pits, reveling in the feeling of doing nothing at all.

And now, Part 1: The Fluff

Okay, let's all pretend we're girly characters on Sex and the City, like I said, and that the most important issue of our lives besides getting laid guessed it...FASHION. Okay, are we there? Good.

It was Kevin who first suggested that I purchase a bikini for our trip to Puerto Rico. I don't understand what he has against my stretched out, dark brown one piece swimsuit from the JC Penney sale rack - but his reaction to it has always been luke-warm at best. Perhaps it's that the material is now stretched to the point of hanging baggily on my boobs. At any rate, he saw me unwadding it from my gym bag, he politely mentioned that I should splurge on something new. Something a bit, maybe a bit more comfortable.

Now, let me start by saying I have never owned a bikini in my life. No, no, no. I'm a one-piece-swimsuit-with-constant-towel-covering-up-my-thighs kind of gal. Why put myself or anyone else through the anxiety of a bikini? Totally unnecessary, not to mention impractical. Still, I had this sudden sense that if I am ever going to get away with wearing a bikini, then now would be the time - what with my bulging belly stretching out the existing stomach flab, making the stomach flab look mercifully like a mere extension of my prego belly. I would fool the world into thinking that my WHOLE BELLY is comprised of innocent and womanly pregnant-ness, not sculpted from beer and nachos!

So I went to the mall - the same mall where I ventured to make my bold, recent first-time purchase of lingerie - and reluctantly bought TWO suits to try on at home. Gawd, is there anything worse than pulling a swimsuit over one's pasty, flabby body under the fluorescent lights of a Target dressing room, especially knowing you look nothing like the beanpole-thin 14-year-olds trying on skinny jeans around you? That, plus the thought of peeling off my several layers of woolen winter clothing only to have to put them back on five minutes later, was enough to compel me to buy both suits, try them on at home, and return the one I hated least.

I tried on my new purchases today to parade them self-consciously in front of Kevin and seek his opinion. He has a favorite, but I'll withhold that information. Perhaps you can take an unbiased look, and let me know which you hate least? It's imperative that I know tonight, because we leave early tomorrow morning, and one of these suits shall stay here! And if you hate them both, then GOOD. I'll tell Kevin I should just wear my brown one-piece as originally planned.

The first, obviously safer option is techically a two-piece, but a more conservative variety.

I sort of like the fact that it's not a total string-thing, but that the lower portion has a thicker panel of materal to hide the...I'm not sure...hip fat? And I think the plaid design has a particular...I don't know...1950s wholesome quality to it that I like.

The next one is much more of a traditional, scary bikini type of bikini - the kind that horny 8th-grade boys would try to yank the strings of and make your top come off at the water park. This one makes me nervous.

OK, I admit wholeheartedly: there are bigger problems I should be brooding about, much more important things going on in the world that matter more than this particular issue. Still, a two-piece suit's a BIG DEAL in my book! It's like getting your first training bra, or kissing your first boy! OK, not THAT big a deal, but big nonetheless.

PS - no comments from perverted, dirty old men please. These are pregnant-lady pictures, not photo-ops from Playboy magazine, for fuck's sake!

* * *

Part 2: The Deep Stuff

Totally, utterly, irritatingly unrelated to the bikini bit, but here goes. Even as I prepare to write this, I'm getting choked up. It is soooo not about bikinis. I want to put this out here, because...well...I just think it's important. I think it's important to temper the bikini fluff - the prego belly popping out all frivolously - with the hard, earthy reality of life as a TTC/KuKd'er - and to do what I think blogs are really supposed to do: throw back into readers' faces what we already know deep down (with a new twist every now and then).

Ever since I announced my knocked-up-ness on this blog, I've gotten e-mails from readers expressing various states disarray over my pregnant state. I mean sure, public blog-etiquette dictates that the announcement of something fortunate - like a pregnancy - requires comments like, "I'm so happy for you!" and "Gee, that's great!" I like hearing those, of course - but all along I've known that there's a whole lot more going on than what those surface comments reveal. I'm talking about thoughts that aren't being said, because of this fragile social realm that we live in: fragile feelings, fragile people, fragile situations. I know, because I've been there.

The message I got most recently really shook me to tears, in part because I've been a certifiable see-saw of emotion lately, but also in part because of the sheer brilliance and honesty of it. What's extraordinary about this particular reader, however, is her courage to be really straightforward with how she's feeling. The best way to convey her meaning, I think, is to give you a brief abridged clip from her message. Here, give it a read.

And no skimming; give it the nice, thoughtful read it deserves - because it's brimming with little gems of truth.

Hey Monica; I feel kind of ridiculous writing to you with 'hey, monica', like we actually know each other, and this next line might freak you out but don't worry, I am going to pay you the ultimate compliment.

I sat and cried and cried this morning, blowing stupid snot bubbles into my husband's freshly washed and newly put on tee-shirt as he was trying to get ready for work. I blubbered on about your words, your experience, and how I felt so stunningly left behind. Usually your words provide a quite reprieve, your bitterness is somehow comforting, your honesty a place to be comfortably uncomfortable. I felt like... you understood. You understood more than me, you were beyond my own experiences, my own pain, my own sense of loss.

We've gone through a 9 week miscarriage and two early miscarriages and I know that's nothing compared to your journey. But we can't make it happen again. And it hurts. I have counted many women who have endured dead babies (of some stage or another) and gone on to have non-dead babies. In fact, I am the only one I know who is still amazingly, stunningly barren. Unexplained infertility. Except for those three wanted-to-be babies who never existed.

And now that you're pregnant, and for some stupid reason, I feel so fucking alone. And I don't even know you, yet I clung onto your fear, your pain, your loss and somehow my own was less intense because of it. I lost my misery mentor. I can't relate to what you write now... to being happy about pregnant friends and the spark of hope you have burrowing into your belly, kicking and squirming and living and growing. I depended on your stinging honesty, your fuck-you attitude and your pain and the raw expression of it to deal with not only the loss of our baby, but the loss of not having another.

It's kind of like being on a close-knit team of underdogs, always gamely fighting against the odds and never really making it... but cheering each other on, wrapping wounds and screaming encouragement when someone really bites it...... then one cool evening, you show up for the game under the bright lights... and slowly realize as you look around and you're the only one left and there is no team. Just you, on the field, alone, and everyone you knew has moved on to the majors. Somehow, in my warped little online world... you were not only the team captain, but the only other member left.

Monica, how selfish of me.... I was comforted knowing someone had been hurt more than me. Human I guess, but I hate to admit to that downfall of my personality. There are few people who I believe deserve the joy you are feeling, and you are pretty much in the top three on that list. Please just be flattered. I don't mean to be hurtful. You are an amazingly strong woman and your words are important, and they are real. A good author takes something right in front you and makes you see it in a whole new light. I wish you the absolute best and a wonderful, easy birth and freakishly healthy baby who goes to Harvard, marries the most beautiful woman in the world and gives you six grand babies (with not even the whisper of a miscarriage) who surround you every holiday with shouts of 'grandma!'.... I do wish that for you.

I'm going to send this because I think you might find it refreshingly insulting(?), raw(?) or just plain weird(?) and you seem to be a person who appreciates all that.

OK, breathe. Isn't this message just so...I don't know...brutally, awesomely truthful? Doesn't it make you want to light candles and blast Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve?

I do in fact find her message "refreshingly insulting AND raw" - not at all weird. She reminds me, and reminds us all, what I think is the hardest and most hurtful aspect of KuKd/TTC: the fact that the people we bond with oftentimes move on, leaving others behind. We move on to different places in our lives, mentally and emotionally, and we move on in more tangible ways - like having non-dead babies. You make friends in the IF/KuKd community and sometimes, yeah - you look around and realize that the people who were with you, right in step beside you, suddenly have leapt forward through time and space into a different place. I would liken it to losing a best friend in high school: you suddenly aren't having the deep talks you had in the past, sharing the same fuck-you attitudes about everything that you used to.

I've been there so many times in this KuKd journey, and in fact I'm still there in certain ways. There is nothing in this reader's message that didn't make me nod and go, yup. I get it. And nothing that didn't make me feel profoundly sad that this is how the world has to work.

I felt it important to put this message out here, now, in light of my "problem" of choosing the right bathing suit. It's a problem that many people, I realize, wish they had: how to look good on the beach insi de of a pregnant body. The fact is, by virtue of being pregnant, I've alienated some readers - and I've always known and felt deeply troubled by this inevitible fact. I've been on both sides of this weird line several times in my life: on the left-behind side, and the moving-ahead side.

I guess what I want to say, what I want to remind people of, is this: that neither side of that "line" is a happy and wonderful place, that the loneliness oozing forth in the message above goes both ways. Pregnancy - yes - will automatically set a woman apart from the very people she's counted on to connect with and share that fuck-you attitude. It's happened with me. It was hard for me to even keep this pregnancy, let alone announce it publicly. I knew - again, having been there lots of times before - that it would turn me into someone else, someone with a growing belly and a different outlook from that of many of my readers. I knew it would help me deal with others' babies. I knew it would propel me to some forward place - but that this moving forward would be a bittersweet journey, because it would effectively take me away from the very core thing that's helped me survive my own journey: the vastly supportive commuity I've found through the blog-o-sphere.

But I also think that - even despite the hurt caused by this difference - women in this IF/KuKd community share a special bond that really can't be broken even by pregnancy. The amazingly strong person who wrote this message: nope, she surely can't relate to pregnant bikini-shopping, or the mental embracing of my friend's new baby, or the optimism that comes with a burgeoning fetus in the belly. But I so want to believe that even the sudden, sharp difference created by pregnancy can't take away the supportive bonds formed in the IF/Kukd community. If that were the case, we'd all be royally screwed.

This pregnancy isn't easy for me, even as I slice up sugar-cookie dough and prance around in a bikini like nothing at all is awry. Of course, I'm optimistic; I can't pretend not to be. But it's a weird, lonely journey in its own way, and I've really not found other prego-friends who I can truly talk shit with about my everyday concerns. I keep up this blog because, frankly, the readers who have been through KuKd loss before are the real people I feel most connected to even still - not the clucking group of new mommies or prego-gals at Motherhood Maternity. What the fuck do THEY know about how hard, how important, how precarious this whole business really is?

The truth is, I'm really not a Misery Ring Leader (although I think that would be a cool thing to have on my resume) - I'm just as much of a needy and clueless follower as the rest of the class. So I don't want anyone to think the Misery Ring Leader has deserted the squad. I'm not in the clear, no way Jose. There are three months left to go on this pregnancy, and if/when this baby comes into the world, I'll STILL not be in the clear. So you can count on me for ongoing cynicism, if nothing else. I say my thoughts here, and hope a few people understand. And usually, at least one person gets it. And then I get to feel like a normal human being.

So thanks, to that lovely person, for sharing those thoughts, for saying things that I was thinking and feeling just six short months ago, for tuning me into how this blog has helped and affected you, and for reminding me to walk the line as skillfully as I can. That is: being the Prego Me and the Knocked-Down me, and figuring out how to do both without having an identity crisis.

Maybe I should just stick to the one-piece stretched brown swimsuit. I'm starting to think the bikini itself might be cause for an identity crisis...


See yous in a week!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

To Be Human

Greetings, KuKd/TTC'ers and Inquisitive Guests...

Pardon if this middle-of-the-night post sounds choppy. It was a long day of partying, followed by the hearburn and hyperactive sensation that comes with over-partying. So rather than thrashing around in bed and sighing loudly every five minutes in a covert effort to arouse my snoozing husband (what the hell is the fun in being wide awake at 2am alone??), I did the civilized thing: quietly got out of bed, padded into the kitchen in my moose slippers, gnawed on a cold pepperoni stick, and resigned myself to not sleeping. Which means I'm up, alone, listening to the thunks and creaks of our old house, and hoping to god it isn't the sound of a serial killer climbing through the basement window.

In my last post, I made reference to this super-hoardworthy friend of mine who -after years of infertility struggles and some KuKd brouhaha of her own - just delivered a healthy baby boy. By "hoardworthy," I'm talking - of course - about that tiny handful of peeps that stick by you and hold your hand for months and years to come, even when the others have all drifted away. Here is the friend who - even as she herself was struggling to get pregnant at all - shoved her own problems aside and became sort of like this grief sounding-board for me, a constant listener and supporter (and still is). She sent me, on Mother's Day the year after Zach's death, a silver handmade necklace engraved with his name. Not many people would have the balls to do that, and she did. She also pushed me harder than anyone else to write my book.

Through insomnia-induced brain fog, I remember how it used to feel when friends had babies: this weird robotic numbness combined with the sense of hugging a porcupine or a cloud of nails. I won't go on and on about this to you, who - because you are reading this - probably already know so well this barfy feeling I'm referring to. One could say it like this: KuKd robs a woman of her ability to feel that normal, happy, congratulatory feeling that traditionally comes with a newborn infant. Actually, let me retract that blanket-statement and speak only for myself: I oftentimes felt like I'd been shaped into this subhuman, hypersenstive monster by being propped up with a baby on the way, and then allowed to fall on my face multiple times. Babies - pending babies, just-born babies - reminded me of that invisible shell of a baby that wasn't in my life.

But my point here really isn't about that age-old topic. Rather, it's about reaching...what...a turning point, maybe? Feeling like a human being, finally? Looking back to where I was, and realizing with certainty where I am now in contrast, and sighing in relief that I've reached this point?

When my friend's newborn baby boy was on his way into the world this past week, I found myself feeling distinctly different from how I have in the past: not running away, but running toward. It was this oddly emotional experience to hear about this little boy's overdue-ness, the dramatic race to the hospital after a looonnnggg time in labor for a homebirth, and finally his safe delivery. Rather than feeling that detached, porcupine-hugging feeling (oh noooo! another friend is having a baby!), I felt this rush of investment, hugely afraid that something might go awry, and hugely, happily, ecstatically relieved when everything ended okay. It was one of the happiest, most emotional moments in recent memory - and it's not even my damned baby!

Again, my point: this seems new to me, strangely human, refreshingly normal and un-KuKd-monster-like. Just feeling normal feelings - the worries, the nail-biting suspence, the relief. Isn't that more akin to what one is supposed to feel when a baby arrives? I hope so. Perhaps it's being pregnant myself that helps me shed my baby-related "issues" of the past few years. Or, perhaps it's that combined with the simple passage of time: two years and four months since Zachary left us, almost to this day. That's a lot more than a day or a month or a year.

So I'm just pleased as punch that my dear, loving, ever-selfless and supportive friend now has her moment in the sun, especially knowing all that she's given me. And I'm pleased as punch that I'm pleased as punch, because a year ago, I might not have felt this pleased. I might felt pleased, but with odd swirls of weird and helpless sorrow mixed in there, sorrow for myself, and wondering fearfully if and when I would ever return to normal. Not that I'm there - not that I'm normal (in fact, never have been and probably never will be) - but my friend's son's birth reminds me what I often forgot:

I'm human.

* * *

OHHHHH, I think that's the sound of Kevin getting up to take a middle-of-the-night piss! Now is my chance to run in there, tap him on the shoulder, and ask him to come out here and watch denture-infomercials and Home Shopping Network with me! Or we could just talk. Or go out for midnight breakfast. Whatever. I'm up for anything. At this utterly awful time to be awake, my social schedule is wide open.

To my hoardworthy friend, I love you and that little, perfect boy of yours. And your husband's pretty hot, too, in sort of a vaguely ethnic kind of way.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Baby

Hello from Heartburn Hell (dang V8 juice),

The concept of "all babies are miracles" has always struck me as slightly odd. When I think of a miracle, I think of some rare occurence like winning the lottery. Excuse me, but isn't the earth's population...what...six billion? Seven billion? Something like that. At any rate, that's a lot of babies - far too many to classify each one as a "miracle" in my book. It seems like all most people have to do is get their genitals together to exchange high-fives, and BOOM - an infant materializes.

Of course, all of that goes out the window once you enter the TTC/IF/KuKd universe, where a baby suddenly is - really now - a miracle. A good east-coast friend had a baby within the last 48 hours. She's worked so hard for this baby, which gives his birth a special miraculous quality. More deets later on that friend, once she's stepped out of her baby-delivery daze and brought the little guy home from the hospital. There's a lot to say about her.

In the meantime, that fuzzy mobile-phone picture of her little guy made me wonder suddenly what I simply haven't the brain-capability to wonder very often: will our baby come too?

Will we have our moment in the hospital, just over three months from now? Will I push and scream out strings of profanity as Kevin holds my hand with that wide-eyed stricken look of a jacked-up wild animal? And moments later will there be the shrill cry of a newborn, as is supposed to happen? Will I be taking pictures of that squinty-eyed baby to send to the world? Will I walk into my office building and get bear-hugs from everyone? Will our phone be ringing as casseroles pile up at our doorstep? Will somebody throw me a baby shower? Will there be sunlight slanting through the windows at my baby shower, and chicken-salad-croissant sandwiches arranged beautifully on glass plates, served with chilled champagne? Will I sit perched and glowing on our green Ikea chair, opening presents and holding up little onesies? Will Kevin and I do a celebratory shot of whiskey, ensuring our little Irish guy gets a high-end first dose of breastmilk?

Of course, I have to believe that yes, it's all on its way like a freight train in the distance rumbling toward me with unwavering certainty. How can I not believe? When so much of what I injest, think, feel, shit, say, and do relates in some way to this kickboxing, penis-toting gymnast now inhabiting my body cavity, how can I not freefall into expectant hope? I'm not reading any baby books or doing any childbirth classes, no reading up on parenting strategies or nearby preschools, no talking incessantly about baby-this and baby-that, no postulating on where the baby will sleep or how we'll work out the logistics of whatever. Nope. I trust those thoughts and conversations to come when they have to. Right now, the hope and belief are deeper and quieter than all those surface elements of pregnancy-craze. It's more like a subtle little dialogue inside my head between me and him. The fetus, that is.

You're coming, aren't you?

If he comes, when he comes, he'll fit - I'm pretty damn sure - my narrow definition of a miracle, as does my friend's newborn boy. He'll be a miracle to me because he won't have come easily, or without an earlier price. And if on the off-chance he doesn't come, well, that's beyond what I can remotely imagine. So let's not even go there.

Let's take a Tums and go to bed instead. :-)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Normalcy, Interrupted

Greetings, KuKd/TTC'ers and Inquisitive Guests!

Forget those last few posts about advice-giving. Advice-giving my ass! Who am I to give it? I'm certainly not homefree in all this or above anyone else on the KuKd healing front, let me tell you. I was reminded just yesterday about its presence in there: that murky and tangled ball of messy emotion, buried farther each year. It rose up suddenly to the surface to interrupt otherwise normal holiday cheer. Perhaps it was Zachary hitting me with a reminder from the Stillborn Babe Penthouse up above: HEY MOM! Hellooooooo, rosy-cheeked lady wtih the fake-wine sloshing in a glass! Remember me? That other baby boy from a two-and-a-half years ago? The ORIGINAL numero uno that came waaay before that other little growing half-baby in your belly, the one you now think about dreamily all the time. I was here first, and don't you forget it!

* * *

The week began normally.

First, a brand new camera. As a pre-Christmas gift to myself, I went in for the $99 Fuji on sale, but they sold me on the $279 dealio with promises of better close-up shots, a cash rebate, AND a gift card for a fancy seafood restaurant where Kevin and I could go on a date some day! A real date! Which I'm certain we'll do as soon as I stop lying on my side and groaning like a beached pregnant whale. How could I resist? So I came home, sheepishly telling Kevin I spent "a tad bit more" than the original intended amount. He knew better than to ask "how much more." Some things are best left to the imagination.

Next, the holiday baking spree. Still just normal behavior, no bleak KuKd relics rising up like bile in the mouth. My good friend M, makes the baddest-ass sugar cookies on the planet when he isn't reviewing Seattle-area restaurants: chewy, sweet but not too sweet, and ever-so-slightly salty. His talk about sugar cookies reminded me that as long as I can remember, my mom and I have made that very thing each Christmas. Good'ol sugar cookies, rolled and cut into shapes and then frosted. I usually make them on my own now, with the occasional venturing into something else. This year, I started with that "something else," which - despite being openly frowned upon by sugar-cookie guru and traditionalist M himself, were these chewy molassas spice cookies.

(And of course, I took the opportunity to try some close-up shots with my new Fuji camera . I'm not getting paid to drop product names into my blog - although a million bucks per mentioning would certainly be welcome, Fuji executives!)

First, the butter, sugar, and molasses:

Then came everything else, mixed-n-formed into little dough blobs and rolled in sugar, as Tebow watched with great interest:

...and into the oven they went. Pure holiday pleasure! Meanwhile, it was time to make sugar-cookie dough. I realized, though, I'm sick of rolling and cutting sugar cookies into cheezy dork-wad shapes like Santas and gingermen and stars. So I decided to venture out and shape my cookie dough into a rectangular log-shape.

Sliced it into squares:

...And baked'em. Eight minutes at 375 degrees, taking them out still slightly undercooked as M recommends, allowing them to finish baking outside the oven and remain moist on the inside. As you can see, Tebow approved wholeheartedly.

My fresh-baked cookie squares got stacked next to their chewy molasses counterparts to be photographed by my eager, now butter-fingerprint-covered Fuji camera.

And then, frosted-n-decorated (and re-photographed, of course):

So I rode this wave of holiday-high for most of the week, reveling in the joys of my new camera and baking adventures.

* * *

Here's where Zachary's spirit dropped down on this bungi-cord thingy from up above, and reminded me - I guess - that despite the frilly joys of consumerism and photography and mixing sweet goodness in glass bowls, one can never take away one's KuKd status. Which is to say that he - that boy who never became a boy - will always be there in some form or another.

It hit me when a couple of old baby-lady buddies came over to visit - N and C, the originals. By "originals" I'm talking, of course, about those two kindred-spirit friends who were prego alongside me back in the day, their babies due at the same time as Zachary. We stood around in the living room and chatted amicably, eating cookies (of course), co-marveling at my now eye-popping belly size, all of us laughing at raunchy things with our heads tossed back as usual.

This time, however, the conversation veered into what used to be forbidden territory, as dictated by an unspoken rule: baby talk. I mean, breastfeeding and backaches and sleeping patterns and daycare and all those baby-talk things that mommies and almost-mommies talk about. It was cool for the most part; I got into it. If you look closely at this blurred shot, you might even see the glories of my double laughing-chin:

But there was one moment when it wasn't cool, just a fleeting moment.

It was like this sudden, acute sense of two universes intersecting. The old one, where we used to talk about this stuff all the time - except as mutually eager and inexperienced innocents. Not talking about what it was like to have your nipples chaffed by a gnawing infant, but what it was going to be like - because none of us had ever done this before. Now, enter new universe: in this one, N and C have been on a two-year odessy of new parenthood together, so our positions are different. It's me as eager and clueless learner/listener, and them as seasoned knowers and tellers.

How can I not recognize this shift? And once I think about that, how can I not begin to consciously remember what caused this shift, the big dark event that I always think is safely ensconced in some hidden place in my heart where it won't resurface at inopportune times? How can I have this conversation with N and C and not fleetingly re-feel old feelings, yet again coming to terms with what's been the hardest, harshest form of social exclusion I've ever dealt with: my friends continued down that motherhood path without me?

I can't. As a living, thinking human being, I can't stay robotically and emotionally neutral as our society seems most comfortable with. It wasn't a break-into-tears-and-run-into-the-bathroom-while-everyone-shuffles-awkwardly-out-of-the-house kind of moment, but rather a private and subltle little swirl of emotion that swept over me like a cold chill, even as I nodded and laughed at N's penis-joke. Zachary, tapping me on the shoulder from his bungi-cord, reminding me. The feeling vanished quickly as I got distracted by more cookies and picture-taking opportunities, then came back later after everyone had left. And by morning time as I munched on my muesli cereal, it was gone. Pretty soon I was all holiday-smiles again, playfully bumping bellies with my friend G:

And the fine-ness has managed to stick around.

Isn't it weird, how unpredictable and actually long-term grief really is, how it's here one minute and gone the next? Making cookies, feeling in a funk all of a sudden, then POOF - funk is just gone into thin air. I think I'll ride this thin-air wave while I can, go eat some frosted cookie-squares and watch a few episodes of 30 Rock. :-)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

KuKd Assvice: Perils and Responsibilities

Greetings KuKd'ers, TTC'ers and Inquisitive Guests!

Thank you, first, for indulging me in that last post. I'm talking about the one with the totally unscientific holiday assvice for the Newly Knocked Down. It was a weird and new endeavor for me, even a bit scary, trying to write that post. So I thank you wholeheartededly for playing along.

That post was kind of an experiment, really. Here's what writers and politicians and anyone else with a public persona seem to do: they use words, pictures, fashion, music, and other things to create an identify for themselves. It's like: if you walk the gangsta walk, you become a gangsta. If you talk the politican talk, you become a politican. Likewise, I thought if I said the precise right thing in the precise right way, I could become - literally - someone who knew what she was talking about. Imagine that! All I had to do was act the part, and BOOM - I'd be one of those wise, crusty old KuKd veterans with something marvelously insightful to say to my "younger" flock of fledgling dead-baby'ers.

I should say up front that when I wrote that post, it wasn't my intent to fool anyone. Those were honest things that I was thinking and feeling. They were things I wished I could go back in time and say to myself, frazzled and shellshocked person that I was 2.5 years ago. Things I would say to our future daughter-in-law, if we have a daughter-in-law, if she - by chance - got knocked down. They came to me from wherever it is in our hearts where newfound knowledge begins to form, and crytstalizes into something we're certain of.

But it got me wondering, with KuKd, is there...I there really and truly any advice, assvice, whatEVer, that is appropriate to give to the Newly Knocked Down or the chronically Trying-To-Conceive, both of which I percieve to be particularly vulnerable groups? And are there, in fact, some people who legitimately have more advice to give than others, simply by virture of their experience? And what makes me think I am, or could be, one of those people - any more than any other person of average intelligence out there?

During the lowest points of my KuKd days, there wasn't much that anyone could say to make me feel better, except for when my mom said: "you'll get through this." I believed her, and needed to hear that. But moreover, I remember going to a support group and leaving in a state of irritation, because the facilitator kept cutting everybody off to slather us with assvice. She had lost her baby son about twenty years earlier, so I suppose she had a right to tell us how everything would/should be, and what we should all be doing. But man, did that lady piss me off. I vowed right then to never be that person if I encountered a Newly Knocked Downer - the talking head that interrupts just hear my own obnoxious voice, pelting everyone compulsively with un-asked-for advice.

So in that last post, going back and reading it, I began to wonder: did I just break that vow? Crap. If I did, I'll be resting my embarassed head on Kevin's chest in front of our now-working fireplace tonight for comfort (actually no - the gigantic tumor-like appendage coming off my torso keeps me from lying in any kind of intimately girly pose with my husband, the poor guy).

It makes me wonder about my role in the public sphere, and how I might shape this blog into something more beneficial for the Newly Knocked-Down than merely, "check out this olive-oil bath I just took!" I wonder if I can give something back to the world that's truly useful, or if that would only come off as arrogant and irritating and saturated with unwanted assvice. Blegh.

* * *

There's also this, perhaps more pressing immediate issue.

This past week, I've been trying to write the final two pages of my book manuscript, and I keep hitting a brick wall of writers' block. This waiting-to-be-written section is essentially supposed to be a teensy-weensy, tongue-and-cheek advice section for pregnancy/infant loss. It's called, for now: "Appendix: Field Notes for the Newly Knocked Down."

Now, it's the worst feeling to sit in front of a blank Microsoft Word document, cursor blinking at me expectantly, and be literally unable think of a single solitary thing to say. Even after I go clip my toenails, pet my dog, eat a pickle, do some jumping-jacks, and pee a few inches of pee into the toilet, the words STILL don't come to me.

Which is why I wrote that last blog post. I felt the words were there in me, the advice-like things I wanted to say to the world - just a few of them. I just wanted to try out this particular persona and see if I could say such things in a serious way, without annoying myself to pieces. Could I write something that I myself would have looked at through fresh, tear-soaked eyes a few years ago and felt just a teensy bit better, not worse? Just writing it was a good exercise, because the very next day, the words started coming to me like a flood - and BANG - I began typing out that last section of my book manuscript like a keyboardist on speed. Ahhh, relief.

Maybe, just maybe (warning: I'm really pulling this part out of my ass, so bear with me), we all have a responsibility on our blogs, websites, books, cocktail party conversations, to give back to those "fledgling KuKd newbies" by telling them what we know in our hearts, in as non-intrusive and non-annoying way possible. I mean, those things that we ourselves wished we had known back in our lowest of low days. If there's a silver lining in all this, perhaps it's just that: when we go through traumatic shit, we learn. When we contribute what we learn to the general pool of knowledge, we help others. Some people, like Cara and Stirrup Queen - are at a point in their lives where they're ready to help others who are still just trying to survive the worst. Maybe my time for that is now.

Or, maybe there's no place for real advice in the land of KuKd and IF: perhaps it's all about how we find our own way, following our instincts and muddling through.

Oh, it all sounds so hippy-happy, doesn't it? Then again, 'tis the season to look for silver linings...or in the case below, aliens flying inside of silver linings (seriously, doesn't that one cloud look weird??)