We brought Lucas home from the hospital a year ago today! After 8 helpless days in the NICU, we could finally be together as a family for the first time. The NICU experience is one that I hope to never have to go through again. Lucas's stay was short, but nonetheless difficult. It's tough when you have no control over your baby, and all you have is basically visitor privileges. New Year's Eve 2007 was a joyful day indeed!
You always hear people say that a baby changes things, and you think "yeah, yeah, yeah, I know." Well, you really don't know until you have that baby, how much things really change. Priorities change, feelings change, lifestyles change. I never really understood the feelings of love for a child before I had one. It's unique, strong, binding. It's like no other kind of love. Everything changed the moment I gave birth. Life became about all about him, and I wouldn't change it for the world.
When I was pregnant, I remember being anxious for the first ultrasound, because I knew that in addition to determining the gender of the baby (which we weren't successful in finding out the first time anyway), any red flags for the baby's health concerns would be raised. I remember asking the technician... "so my baby has 10 fingers and 10 toes?" Yes, she replied. I was relieved, as if that was an indication that my baby would be healthy. WRONG! I was so oblivious to the fact that anything could be wrong with my child, least of all his hearing! We did everything right - he was perfectly planned, I stayed away from everything that I thought could be potentially harmful to him... I didn't drink any diet soda (because of the aspartame), I wouldn't even pump my own gas because I was afraid of the fumes, I took all of my vitamins as prescribed, ate salmon at least once a week, had excellent prenatal care... very textbook. And 5 weeks early my water broke, and my baby was born with more than one health concern. Yeah, things definitely changed.
January was fun. I used to take a picture every day of Lucas to send to Nate at school. I think I took 180 pictures that month alone. But that month, we had 3 follow-up specialist appointments that caused a lot of anxiety.
February was a disaster. It was then that we were told that Lucas was deaf. It was then that I began to feel incredible amounts of guilt, wondering what I had done wrong. It was then that I could not fathom returning to work in April. I spent so much time crying. I don't think that Valentine's Day will ever be the same.
In March, Lucas (who had been completely healthy, other than his congenital issues up until that point), developed RSV and spent 5 days in the hospital. More guilt, lots more guilt. Early Intervention also came out to the house, and we established a great relationship with them and Lucas's therapists. I am so thankful for everything that EI has done! It has been a terrific experience. Lucas also got his first pair of hearing aids.
On April 4, I returned to work after 15 weeks. I was miserable. It was really, really, really tough on me (and still is to this day!). Again, pre-baby, I thought it would be no big deal. Boy was I wrong.
May is kind of blurry. I went to work, and returned home as quickly as possible to spend time with Lucas. I was counting down the days until June.
In June, I began 10 weeks of summer vacation and time with my baby again! Lucas spent another 5 days in the hospital, that should have easily been prevented, but we won't go there. He only had a summer virus, but the doctors had suspected meningitis, and it was better to be safe than sorry. I started this blog in June, and met so many incredible people through blog networks, that have taught me so much about hearing loss. I am forever grateful to my blog friends.
July was fun! We spent a lot of time at the pool! Nate was in grad school, so we didn't get to spend that much time with him, but life was pretty carefree for the first time in 6 months. I think that I finally lost the guilt of Lucas's hearing loss being my fault. That was really important. Lucas had a sedated MRI in Lancaster, although it was for nothing. It had to be repeated at the end of August, because they didn't get the film they were supposed to have. Lesson learned - just go to CHOP, period.
In August we went to the beach in the Outer Banks of NC. I really enjoyed my week there, I still look back on it fondly. I think it was an escape from all the crap I had to deal with at home, even if I wasn't really away from it, it certainly felt like it. At the end of August, I returned to work again with the beginning of the new school year. I thought it would be easier than in April. Nope. We also began the CI candidacy process. Lucas had his second sedated MRI. The good news was... from a physiological standpoint, he was a candidate. It was music to my ears.
September came and went with one very exciting event... Lucas signed milk at 9 months and bridged the communication gap. It was my happiest moment of the year! (Don't forget he was actually born in 2007, so that doesn't count for the year.)
October came and went. November came and went. Those months were pretty uneventful - there wasn't a lot of extra time to do much. Working full time is rather time consuming. All extra time was devoted to Lucas, and to his therapies. We worked 6 hours a month with them. But without access to any sound at all, we were just kind of waiting. Thanksgiving was well spent with family and friends and a week of vacation.
December was an exciting month! I love Christmastime! We also had a birthday party, a first birthday, Christmas and CI surgery.
It was a crazy year indeed. It was the most exciting, joyful, and sorrowful year of my life, all at the same time. Life has changed for the better. We have the most beautiful little boy, who keeps us challenged and brings us incredible amounts of joy. Life will never be the same, but I wouldn't want it any other way. Could it have been worse? Absolutely. Could it have been better? At times, maybe.
I look ahead to 2009 with lots of hope and optimism. I look forward to 8 months away from my job to help my baby learn to listen with his CI. I hope that by this time next year, he will have a second CI, have seen some success with the first, and he will have said "Mommy". I look forward to the positive change that a new administration will bring to our country and a hopeful beginning to the end of the war in Iraq.
Wishing you and yours a happy New Year and a prosperous 2009!
I laid prone as the world took care of me. I slept at the Desert Springs Memorial Hospital, the closest medical facility to Joshua Tree National Park, where I fell a hundred feet climbing without a rope. I spent the first few weeks in a semi-comatose state, sedated by drugs. The hallucinations of my subconscious entertained me. A sequin suited ice skater sashayed towards me delivering me my dinner of crackers, my aunt sat in a casino wooing Sammy Davis Jr., and my immobile body rested on a dock, watching the boats come into harbor, and waiting for someone to move me with the other cargo.
When I finally came to, I wanted to go back. The ice skater never put a tube in my penis, but the doctors did. They spoke stoically when they discussed the operations- the damage to my occipital lobe, the vena cavity filter, the compound fracture of my ulna- I never understood what they had done. Arthur Clarke wrote, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
I was Frankenstein’s monster, confused, alone, and sewn back together wrong. I tore the IV out of my arms. I did not want to be there. What did the doctors do to me? Why was I there? I wanted to get out of bed, pull on my jeans, and crawl to the base of El Cap. My identical twin brother held me down and a nurse sedated me while I called her a cunt.
Eventually, I calmed. The thick calluses of my hand were peeling away, I was losing what identified me as a climber. I had shed twenty pounds off my thin, fit body. The nerves in my right foot had been destroyed and my foot hung sadly. Long rods held my back and ankle together. Pins cemented my elbow. My body was a jigsaw puzzle of welded metal. It hurt.
A constant stream of friends, family, and climbers visited; they wanted to make me feel better. I did my best not to spill my urinal on the bed. An ex-girlfriend held my hand, and watched me puke in a napkin. John Long, the climbing legend, visited. A notable encounter only in that he was a regular guy who wanted to talk about his family. He gave me some meditation tapes that helped him recover from some of his injuries. A Yosemite climbing friend, Sanam, brought Lisa Rand's climbing movie Hit List. Before she left, she did the sweetest thing. She brought her lips close to my cheek and kissed me. I did not wash my face for a week. I was immobile in a bed; I could not clean my face if I wanted to. Other visitors came and sat awkwardly. They never knew what to say or do so I put the twenty minute Hit List on repeat. Eventually, my twin- my most consistent visitor- complained.
“I have never been to Black Mountain. I have never been to Bishop. I have never even been to Yosemite,” Matt told me. “And I still know all the moves to that dumb Thriller problem.” For him, there was nothing different about me.
At a stroke and spinal care facility, my roommate was a former Los Gatos school district super-indent named John. His wife came in to take care of him after his stroke. Most of the time she was nice but sometimes she yelled. He was a sixty-year-old infant, a former man who had become helpless overnight. His wife struggled with John’s transformation to infancy more than he did. He wore a diaper and the room often smelt like shit. One night, John left his bed and wandered around the room, mumbling about the bathroom. Unable to find the door to the toilet, he came closer and closer to my bed. My biggest fear in life is that someone is going to shit on me and I will not be able to do anything about it.
“John, the bathroom’s over in the corner,” I wanted to help him. Give him some direction. He ignored me.
I stabbed the red button on the white caller, trying desperately to call the nurse. My nightmares were coming true. I was paralyzed, I could not get out of bed, and John was going to crap on me. The nurse came in as John stood at the foot of my bed. Later, I learned to laugh about it.
After a few more weeks of laying in bed, worrying that John was going to shit on my chest, I was transported to a physical rehabilitation center where I would learn to walk. My first physical therapy session, I stood. Seven seconds passed on the watch. It was awesome. I wanted to put it on my 8a card. I sat, rested, and then tried again. My legs wobbled precariously at five seconds. I felt uncertain at six. Was I going to fall? I bore down and fought through the crux of it, watching the clock tick off a long fifteen seconds. I onsighted the extension. The technology of the fusions was magic. Later, I tried to brag to my twin. Matt sat in my hospital room playing Fable on my Xbox-a gift from my oldest brother, Chris, a dorky guy who loves video games. As I sprayed about how hard it was, how exciting it was, how it made me feel like I was climbing again, he looked at me and asked, "How do I get the combat multiplier up for my hero?"
My parents had six children. Their first came when they were barely old enough to take care of themselves. They divorced when my youngest brother was 10. My father needed a break from the overwhelming amount of work. He needed to work on himself. He still barely had enough money to fly out and visit. My mother spent a majority of her savings on the transportations costs of moving me from a hospital near Joshua Tree to a stroke center near my home of Santa Cruz. She sat by my bedside praying for me fanatically. I had spent my last bit of savings to go climbing in Joshua Tree for winter break. The majority of the hospital bills were being paid for through the mandatory insurance I had as a University of California. I could barely stand up, working was out of the question. Going back to school in Santa Cruz was my only option for fiscal support; I needed the financial aid.
My occupational therapist explained the importance of maintaining neutral spine precautions to me. "You have to keep your back straight at all times. Your knee can not bend to ninety degrees. That means no stairs."
So what? I could never scramble around in the boulders. I shrugged. Lifting my feet high over the talus always annoyed me anyway. He droned on about the correct way to move my body and how to deal with my physical handicaps.
"I do not know how you are going to ride the bus," he said.
What was he telling me? How would I get to campus?
"I have to go to school," I said. For the first time since I fell, I cried. How could I take care of myself without financial aid? He kicked my only crutch.
"You know, you can still have sex." He said meekly. "I can explain how to do it while maintaining neutral spin precautions."
I shuffled my ass to the side of the hospital bed, tentatively swiveled my hips, and fell into my wheel chair. I wheeled my way back to my hospital room and stared out the window, dreaming I was climbing.
I stood on the sidewalk of Highway 1 on Mission Street in Santa Cruz. A few days earlier I had been walking along the same road wearing a new t-shirt. A friend had ironed on a picture of a walker and a caption reading, “Walkers are Irresistible.” A random girl drove by and waved at me. I felt tough. So I stood on the sidewalk again. Both the northbound and southbound cars sat at a stop light a quarter of a mile away. I had two minutes. I prayed that the magic in my body would make me move like lightning. I put my walker down off the curb, shuffled my right foot forward, weighted it, and matched it to my left. Then I advanced the walker again, shuffling, and matching feet a thousand times. As the cars barreled towards me, I focused on the repetitive motion, and climbed El Cap in a day.
Slowly, very, very slowly, I learned how to walk without assistance. After more surgeries and more physical therapy, I shrugged off most of my handicaps. 381 days after my fall, I climbed again. My life as a 23-year-old baby sucked. People always ask me what I learned. It annoys me because the experience merely reiterated things I already knew about myself.
I want my independence. I want to do things for myself. I have a hard time asking people for help. The hardest part of the whole experience was dealing with those basic things. This was a huge cry for help. Some days I feel like it is unanswered. On the better days it feels like I am answering it myself.
Surgery started around 8, Nate and I went to surgery waiting, then I pumped and went to Au Bon Pain for breakfast, and returned in time for our first update. It's sooooo nice - they have nurses who go around to the operaring rooms hourly to give parents updates. I guess she wasn't allowed into Lucas's OR though because of the highlly sterile nature of the implant. But she called in and everything was going fine.
Shortly thereafter, the CI program social worker came to chat with us. Then the CI audiologist brought us the stuffed Cochlear koala (with a toy CI) and news that the surgeon had gotten a full electrode insertion and the implant was working well from his perspective. It's nice that they always test the implant before finishing up. We also chose a silver processor with a beige coil for him.It will look like this, except that the very top round part will be beige, to blend in with his hair. Soon after the audi left, Lucas's surgeon came to tell us everything went well. About 15 minutes later, we got to go see him. He was sleeping and cranky, and I held him for about 2 hours while he slept on and off.
Lucas was discharged around noon and we were back in Lancaster by 2 or so. It was a pretty long night... Lucas and I slept on the couch together, because he wouldn't let me put him down. He also threw up twice from the anesthesia, surgery to the head, or a combination of both. We've kept him comfortable with pain medications and he has slept a lot in the past 24 hours. He's actually sleeping in my arms as I type right now. He really rallied today around noon, when my parents came to visit, playing on the floor. We got a little smile last night from Tickle Me Elmo, and a big smile later this morning when he saw one of our fluffy cats.
We took the bandage off around noon. Surprisingly, he hadn't tried to pull it off before then. The nurses seemed to think it would be off before we left the hospital yesterday. There are no sutures, but rather dermabond holding the incision closed, which is nice, so that he doesn't pick at it, and no bacteria can get into it. He'll be on an oral antibiotic for the next 10 days to help prevent infection. Here's what the incision looks like. (And really messy hair, poor guy!)
It really has been a good experience, much better than anticipated. The hospital is top notch and took very good care of him, I am very pleased. I also think that he'll be back to himself tomorrow. Yay for a pretty quick recovery! Good news too - activation is 2 weeks earlier than expected... January 9. We are now combining our equipment orientation with the activation on the same day. Thanks Faith!!!!!!! Here's to our bionic baby boy. There's no looking back!
Thomasina and I met five years ago in Squamish. We did not talk much. I borrowed her Rubik’s cube for a few weeks and returned it with slightly peeled stickers. I offered to buy her a new one but she said she did not mind. I still feel bad about it.
A few summers later, I was back in Squamish. Thomasina was pregnant and was hanging out more than she was rock climbing. As I biked from the grocery store to the library, I saw Thomasina kicking the curb near the bus stop. I stopped to see how she was doing.
Thomasina was worried. She needed 600 hours to receive maternity benefits and had only 130. The baby’s father was not helpful. She kicked the dandelions that were growing through the concrete of the sidewalk.
“I tried to call him. The answering machine was in French. It takes so much courage just to call.”
I looked for the Greyhound. I did not want her to be late to meet with her midwife in Vancouver. I did not know what to say or do so I kept listening.
“Why do men stick their dicks in you and leave?” she asked.
Thomasina broke my heart. Was I an asshole man too? Had I done that to women? I wanted to cry. Instead, I kept listening. After half an hour her breathing relaxed, the stream of tears stopped, and Thomasina calmed. The bus arrived and I hugged her.
“Thanks, James,” she told me. I was not sure what I done but I smiled anyway.
“Anytime Thomo.” I watched her board the bus and waited until she had started down the road to Vancouver before I returned to my bike and headed to the library.
Two years later, Thomasina grabbed the perfect granite crimps of the Camp 4 classic Thriller. She bore down, pulling herself through the moves of the twenty-foot Yosemite boulder problem. I made a few meager attempts at the climb but I was barely able to get off the ground, I gave up and paid more attention to the little girl running around.
Cedar was bored. She had spent an enormous amount of time in the boulders during her two young years. She summered in Squamish, hanging out below the Chief. She had been to Hueco and just returned from a long trip to Bishop. Watching people climb was getting old already. I took her little hand, told Thomasina we were going for a walk, and we headed down the trail.
A hundred feet away was a puddle. Cedar wanted to throw the stick in the puddle. So we did. I tried to keep her pants from getting too wet and staying out of the water too much. It was fun. She was really independent and at times hard to direct. I followed her moves and kept playing her game until she got tired of throwing the stick in the water.
Eventually we wandered over towards the trail. She wanted to throw some more sticks. I chased after them walking like Charlie Chaplain, the little tramp. I would get the stick, try and pick it up, and then kick it. Whoops! How could I ever pick up the stick? Cedar loved it. Her face cracked open and she screamed with laughter. I had never made a girl so happy before.
We started to her to her home, the minivan she shared with Thomasina. As we walked back and forth from the car Cedar looked at me. She waved her hand back and forth. This was her sign language telling me she needed to use the bathroom. I did not know what to do. This little girl needed me to take her pants off and hold her while she peed. Fuck. I started epicing.
“Let’s go back to your mom,” I said.
Cedar ignored me and grabbed the strap to her overalls, trying to take them off.
“Let’s go back to your mom,” I repeated. I did not want to force her and bring her but it was not working.
That’s when she peed herself. I fucked up.
I desperately wanted to make things right with Cedar. When she needed me, I failed her. I was just another irresponsible man.
“Do you want to go back to your mom now?” I asked her.
Cedar’s deep brown eyes stared at me. I picked her up and carried her towards Thriller.
“I am sorry, Cedar. I am so sorry.” I did not know what to say. I was a complete fuck-up. I needed affirmation that things would be all right. “Can I have a kiss Cedar? Please?”
Cedar stared ahead, looking towards the boulders for Thomasina. When we reached the base, a dozen other people had shown up below to watch. I handed the wet Cedar to Thomasina. As the little girl moved from my arms to her mother’s, she turned her head, looked at me, and pressed her lips on my cheek. I melted. It was the sweetest kiss ever.
And that’s the story of Cedar’s kiss.
Merry Christmas! One year ago today, I was discharged from the hospital without my baby, who spent 6 more days in the NICU after being born early. That was really tough on us, and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy (if I had any). I felt guilty about having delivered 5 weeks early, as if it were my fault, and then he had to be hospitalized for 8 days. While in the NICU, they kept giving us bad news too: a heart murmur, a failed newborn hearing screen (3 times), among other things. It had never even occured to me that his hearing could be a problem. We left the hospital with 3 follow-up specialist appointments in January, and a lot of despair. We weren't that worried about his hearing, because they told us it was probably fluid or something (sound familiar?). We were much more worried about his heart, because the neonatologist scared the heck out of us in the hospital, telling us that our baby could die soon! I'll never forget the meeting with that doctor, and how incredibly sick I felt after talking to him. He should NOT be allowed to work with NICU parents. I never would have predicted a year ago that his heart condition would be manageable, and his hearing loss significant.
In January the audi got no response on any level from him, but told us he was too little to get accurate results, and that we should return in another month. On February 12, we returned. It was a snowy day, and Nate came home from school early because of the weather, so we headed to the appointment early. It was on that day that we found out Lucas was deaf. They (of course) called it "severe-profound hearing loss" but never called him deaf. I think for a while, I thought (and secretly hoped) that that level of hearing loss was in a different category than actually being deaf, but I soon came to realize it was one in the same, just some fancy politically correct term. They then referred us to CHOP, because of the CI program. That was also the first time we'd every really heard the buzz word, CI. Look where we are now.
This Christmas, I'm just really glad to have a beautifully happy, healthy baby boy. I am so in love with this kid! I never knew that I could feel love like this! He was our Christmas gift last year, and this year, we are giving him the gift of hearing. Isn't that amazing? Now, we just have to get through tomorrow...
::a full heart, full belly, full mailbox::
::when a*love comes home from work and luc says, "i'm so happy to see you!"::
::the happiest christmas growing up memories ever::
::yearly pecan logs from amy::
::the comfort of an old true friend::
happy winter from the stoyan family. we wish you full hearts, too...
I pedaled down the Squamish Chief’s parking lot, feeling good. I had just sent my boulder problem project and I could rest a day before heading back to California. I balanced on my bike, taking my hands off the handlebars, and adjusting my backpack. That is when I hit a speed bump. I flew over the handlebars. My face met the pavement in a very intense kiss. The North Face sunglasses I wore smashed into my cheek and split my face open. When I stood, there was a hole in the shoulder of my shirt, and ta bleeding gash on my face. People approached me.
“I am okay,” I said. I thought of Monty Python, “It’s only a flesh wound.”
Someone handed me a roll of climbing tape and a bit of tissue. I bandaged my face together.
“You are going to need stitches for sure.” Another passerby good Samitarian said. I groaned. I knew that Canada had universal health care but I was an American and dealing with the bureaucracy of the hospital in a foreign country worried me. I wondered if I could get some help from climbers.
Noah had just finished his residency in emergency medicine and wanted to go bouldering before he got board certified. Siemay was working temporarily in an internal medicine office. She had climbed well in Squamish the summer after her residency ta few years earlier, so the two packed their dog and crash pads. They drove their fifth wheel trailer to Squamish and parked it for a few weeks. Holding my hand to my cheek, I found the couple in the granite boulders below the Chief.
“Uh…” I watched Noah walk down from the top of a difficult boulder problem. “Umm…”
Fuck, I have never known what to say when I need help.
“What happened to your cheek James?” Siemay asked.
“I fell off my bike.” I pulled the gooey bandage off and showed the big wound. “Check it out.”
Noah walked up, and examined it. “Hmm. Looks like you might need a couple of stitches. We are going to finish bouldering then you can come by the trailer. We will stitch you up.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Yeah, stop by around seven. As long as the wound does not sit for more than twelve hours, I can stitch it up.” I smiled and Noah went back to bouldering.
I bounced down from the boulders elated to be getting stitches from a climbing doctor. I grabbed my bike, straightened the handlebars, and rode back to my camp, a small tent I had set up in the woods behind the recreational center.
At seven o’clock, I stood at the door to Noah and Siemay’s fifth wheel trailer. I gave a tentative and wimpy knock.
“Come in,” Siemay said. I opened the door, letting the warm smell of rice drift into the summer air. “I am just cooking dinner. Noah is in the bedroom.”
“Noah. Noah!” She called. “James needs stitches.”
Noah stumbled out of the bedroom. His pants were covered in chalk.
“Let me wash my hands.” Noah stepped around Siemay to the sink. He scrubbed his hands with soap for thirty seconds, rinsed them, and dried them on paper towels. Moving to the dining room table he pulled put on a pair of latex gloves, and examined a set of syringes on the table. After squirting fluid out of one of the syringes, he told me to lay down on the floor.
“This is for the pain. I am going to make your cheek numb so that you will not feel the stitches.” Noah bent over me and slid the needle into my face, slowly releasing the fluid. “Now, we wait for a minute.”
I felt a tingling sensation in my cheek. Arthur Clarke wrote, “Any sufficiently advance technology is indistinguishable from magic.” That’s what happened in the little RV. Magic.
“How’s the rice coming?” Noah asked.
“Fine,” Siemay stirred the pot and continued chopping vegetables. “What sort of thread do we have to stitch him up with?”
“I can’t open the closet door,” Noah held his hands in the air and waved his gloves. “Can you get it?”
Siemay walked over, sorted through the closet, and grabbed some thread. “This is all we got.”
Noah groaned and looked at me. “This thread is bigger than what I would normally use. You are going to have a scar.”
I shrugged. I was happy just to get stitches. Who care’s about scars?
“That’s okay,“ I said.
Noah put a needle through my face, pulled the thread, and stitched me back together. There were six stitches when he was done. My eye was black and blue. I looked like I had just gotten in a bar fight; the pavement had been pretty mean to me.
“Okay,” there you go.
“Thank you so much,” I smiled. I was nervous. They had already given me a lot and I did not have any money or really anything to give in return. “I do not know how to repay you.”
“Dinner’s ready,” Siemay finished the meal. “Here’s a plate James. You can sit down over there.”
“Pull the stitches out in two weeks,” Noah filled his plate with rice and corn and peppers and chicken. “It will be easy. Just give them a little tug while you look in the bathroom mirror.”
And then I ate. Noah, the emergency room doctor, had dealt with my wound and then Siemay, the internal medicine doctor, fed me dinner. I have met hundreds of doctors because of my reckless climbing: neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, physicians, trauma doctors…but these two were the best.
Years later, I was sitting in the house behind the Yosemite medical clinic playing poker with Noah, Siemay, and a few other boulderers. Noah was staring at me. I thought he was trying to figure out how many aces I had in my sleeve. He opened his mouth and said, “That scar is a little big.”
I kept my poker face and never told him that the half moon below my eye is my favorite scar.
Yesterday was Lucas's wonderful 1st birthday party. I'm really quite pleased with how it went. I wanted it to be special, unique, memorable, and I believe that it was. We had mostly family and a few close friends, about 25 people. The video is of everyone signing "Happy Birthday" to Lucas while we sang. It was very emotional for me. On one hand, it was really cool that everyone was willing to learn and sign it, but on the other hand, Lucas had no idea that we were actually singing to him. In fact, he has no idea what singing is. Next year will be a different story, I hope! The video is a little long... I just didn't know how to shorten it. It will probably get boring after about 1 minute. The rest of the time is him slowly digging into his cake. He puts everything else on God's green earth in his mouth right away, but was quite dainty with the cake. Go figure. It was almost like it wasn't as much fun to get into, because he was allowed to get into it!!! In the end, he still got pretty messy, but it just took him a while. I think he just enjoyed the texture too. Don't forget to turn the playlist off first, before you watch the video.
Lucas got some very nice gifts... thanks everyone! We always seem to have therapy in the back of our minds, and Lucas got some toys that will complement his work with his speech therapist quite well. His Oma (my Mom) bought him a bunch of Snappy Sound books, based on the recommendation of Lucas's speech therapist. They're really fun! He also got a bunch of Little People toys, also based on her recommendation. She said that they provide lots of opportunity for descriptions and narration. So, we're set! Now we just need to turn on that hearing. 5 days until surgery, but whose counting?
This is a picture of the really cool lamb cake that my Nanny made for him to dig into! She made one for me on my 1st birthday too. It will be a tradition.
This is what we were left with!!! The long sleeved "shirt" bib worked really well!
The theme was "The Big 1"! I had these pictures printed in wallet sizes and gave them out as favors. They were a big hit! Lucas's birthday is on Tuesday (the 23rd). What a week we have ahead of us! I'm hoping and praying that surgery on Friday goes as well as his birthday party did!
For my mother, religion was the only escape from alcoholic parents, a shotgun wedding, and a banal life. She searched feverishly for her lottery ticket to heaven in between Genesis and Revelations but Christianity merely cemented my mother, thoroughly mixing her up and permanently setting her in Pentecostal beliefs. She herded my siblings and I into a small Vermont church to have us learn the value of Jesus’ teachings.
The parishioners of Living Water Assembly of God congregated in the Addison County town hall every Sunday morning. The weathered colonial building sat in the middle of the metropolis of Orwell, a village of a thousand inhabitants and a small country store. Services were held upstairs amid rows of metal folding chairs and oversized windows, which allowed the humming fluorescent lights to be kept off during the long days of summer. The seats were filled with farmers wearing worn jeans and oversized belt buckles while the wives wore soft flowered dresses and wrapped thin arms around their men. They stood when the preacher began the service with a prayer and fell back to their seats when he began his sermon.
“Salvation.” The preacher was a slight man with a copper beard and a balding head. He spoke softly into a microphone so that the congregation could barely hear him above the shuffle of church bulletins and crying babies. “Salvation is our reward for attending to the will of God. When we accept the Lord into our lives, when Jesus becomes our savior, our guiding light, we are granted true wealth. Please open your Bibles to Romans 6:23.”
Chairs scraped against the wooden floors as husbands whispered silent questions to their wives regarding the location of the family Bible. In the back row, Nick, my youngest brother ripped the church bulletin in half and began making a paper crane. The fields behind the windows held little interest and I was forced to listen to the preacher.
“Let us read. ‘The Wage of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ Romans 6:23. This is the gift granted to us when we accept Jesus; we will have everlasting life and glory in God. Now, by no means is salvation easily obtained. Great gifts require great sacrifice. The Lord will test you at times.”
Heads nodded among the congregation. The farmers were no strangers to floods, droughts, and poverty. Fall’s early rain had caused much of the alfalfa to be baled wet. The hay grew mold over the winter and the warm days of spring caused many of the bales to smolder. It was ruined for feed. A dry summer was anticipated and many families had already eaten through their stores of frozen corn and peas. Though many were hungry, the coffers of the church were never fallow. Generosity is not a plight of the poor.
“Just as the Lord tested Job, He will surely test you, but recall Psalm 37:24; ‘Though he stumbles, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.’ During our times of famine and pain we must be steadfast in our faith in Jesus. Only through Him will we receive salvation.
The sound of spit hitting the microphone echoed through the room as he stuttered out the word salvation. My brother flapped the wings of his paper crane. A lighthouse decorated the tiny bird. My mother looked at us, hoping that we were listening. Her own salvation depended on that of her children. She lived through us. This would be one of many sermons.
Outside a honey truck passed, its side coated with manure. The truck headed for a nearby field to fertilize the soil. Some of the farmers were still planting even this late in the season. In Vermont, everyone sows barren ground.
It came in a small envelope delivered to my brother’s house in Berkeley. I had been sleeping in Matt’s laundry room, bouncing at a nearby bar, and writing. The letter was two weeks late for my birthday, a few days short of my four year anniversary of falling in Joshua Tree, and a week and a half early for Christmas. I tore the envelop open. Inside was a small, plain, lined, index card with my Father’s scrawl on it.
“Guys: Hope you like this fancy card. You can hang it up. Love, Dad.”
Behind the card were two checks, one for my brother and one for me. The checks were for a hundred dollars each, a colossal amount of money for my constantly broke father to be giving.
“Thanks for the gift. The best part is the card!” I texted him. I love my father’s wit. The joke meant more to me than the money.
“I was going to wrap it but I did not have a Walmart bag,” my father wrote in return.
“Ha!” I wrote back. I did not want him to hide behind a joke so I wrote, “The first part was funny. No need to keep going with the joke- it ruins the sentiment. Thanks again.”
I finished my text with strong words, “Love you.”
"Hi," he said with the confidence of an old friend. I assumed he knew her but my head tilted looking at him. He blended in too well and my spider senses tingled.
Jessica smiled. She had left the small town of Leavenworth for a month long road trip. In between Washington and Bishop she had dyed her hair bright orange. By the end of the trip her body ached and she was not climbing well. She had met a boy on the trip and had gotten worked over.
“He played games with me,” Jessica told me. Her turmoil went beyond just her body. Jessica often dreamt of Lynn Hill. Usually Lynn gave her things but lately the strong climber woman had been very mean. Jessica had a couple more vacation days before she returned to work so she came to Bishop to rest and recoup before heading home to Washington. She needed to be around a few friends.
Jessica said returned his greeting and went back to climbing with me. We tossed around on the boulders until we were worked and then we headed over to watch join Dominick and watch Charlie on his project.
Charlie stood under the Spectre boulder, grabbing the holds of the sickness, planking his body, and ripping through the moves. A crowd had gathered.
With all the people around, I wondered if Charlie could really concentrate.
“It’s time for some Jedi training Charlie,” I said.
Charlie tilted his head at me as I grabbed a few small pebbles. As Charlie gripped the beginning holds, I nailed him with a rock.
“Focus Charlie.” I said and I beaned him in the back.
“You’re throwing rocks at me! How am I supposed to focus?” Charlie fell off the problem, furrowed his brow and stared at me.
“I don’t know Charile. There’s all these people around. I am throwing rocks at you. You are trying to climb. Why can’t you focus?” I asked. Charlie tried again and made it a little further before he stalled and got nailed with a rock.
"Shit, there he is again," Dominick said, turning our attention away from Charlie's Jedi training and towards a man surrounded by a group of boulderers.
"Who's that?" I asked.
"The porn star. That's Jared Diamond coming over. He's a nominee for the Adult Film Award's best up and coming actor."
The perfectly kempt Jared strut to the group, nodded at Jessica, and ripped off his shirt. It was the guy who had flirted with Jessica.
“Do you know him?” I quietly asked Jessica.
“I just met him a few minutes ago,” she whispered back.
"A little cold out.” I said loudly. In between burns, Charlie wore his oversized black parka. Dominick paced the base of the boulder to stay warm, and I pulled my red knit cap tight around my ears. “Maybe too cold to be walking around with your shirt off."
"I know,” Jared smiled. “Check out these diamond cutters," he grazed his hand over his erect nipples and stared at Jessica.
I rolled my eyes, wondering if the sleaze ball was gonna start licking his lips and grabbing his crotch too.
Eventually, Charlie stopped making progress and I stopped throwing rocks at him. We headed back to camp and crashed for the evening.
The next day, Charlie, Dominick, and I decided to have some fun with al;l the Buttermilk Boulderers. we started the People Enlightening No-one, PEN, group as a joke. We wrote the group initial's on the backs of our hand along with the our membership number. Dominick was Pen 12. Charlie was Pen 13. I was Pen 14. And we spent the day trying to recruit a 15th member.
At the Buttermilks, we howled like monkeys swimming in bananas. We had three PEN15 victims and it was before noon. It was a mean and immature joke but who said we were grown-up? Besides, it was outlandishly funny. Our momentum for the prank was peaking when the porn star strolled by.
"You should join the PEN club." I blurted as Jarod sashayed towards us.
"What do I have to do to join?" He asked.
"Well, to join the People Enlightening No-one club, you have to be bad ass." I said.
"I am definitely that." Jarod flexed his pectoral muscles so they danced under his overly tight shirt.
"And you have to write PEN on your hand with your recruitment number. I am PEN 14," I showed him my hand.
"I am PEN 13." Charlie thrust out his hand.
"I am PEN 12." Dominick showed his hand.
"You can be our 15th." I said.
Jarod stared for a moment.
"Listen, we're raising money for testicular cancer. If twenty people join our group Charlie is going to donate a hundred dollars to the American Testicular Foundation," Dominick said.
"I want people to know I care about their balls." Jared smiled. "Do not just write it on my hand. Print it real big across my shoulders but be careful. You know what I do for a living?"
I grabbed the pen and I wrote across his back. On everyone else, I had laughed while I wrote. The joke’s punch line came when I started writing. I had tricked them and the writing was a mere formality. This time was different.
"You know what I do for a living right? Make sure to keep it small."
"The ink washes off easily,” I said remembering that he fucked people for a living. The ink stalled coming out of the pen. I scribbled on my on hand and shook the pen to help the ink flow better. As I finished writing PEN, the ink ran out.
“Does someone have another pen?” I asked.
Charlie dashed over with his own pen and I finished writing PEN15 on the porn star’s back.
“There you go,” I said. “I hope you like it.”
Jarod beamed and grabbed his camera so he could see the tattoo we had given him. He tried taking a few pictures of his own back before someone walked over and offered to take a picture of it for him. They snapped the photo and handed the camera.
"Oh,” he stared at the tiny display screen on the camera.
“PENIS. I get it. I knew it all along," he lied. That’s when we started laughing.
Just before dusk, Jessica waited for me in her truck. We were planning on going to watch Charlie try another one of his projects. Charlie needed lots of pads, a bunch of spotters, and obviously, more Jedi training. Jarod swaggered to Jessica’s car.
"I hear you are from Leavenworth." He put his forearm on the open window of her truck. His eyes batted.
"I am waiting for a friend. Are you heading to Charlie's junk show? Maybe I will see you up there." She said, waving him off. She had heard we had labeled him as what he was...a penis.
*me. 5:30am friday. mittens, scarf, boots. britney's rolling stone cover. all by myself. on an airplane to my mama's house.
*the prettiest bowl of oatmeal brulee at 'eggs in the city.'
*dinner in my sister's new apartment. penne rosa made by nat. cinnamon rolls made by steen. snuggles from pretz.
*scaredy cat faces on me and my mom at the creeeeepiest antique store in the world.
*a room full of different kinds of folks. at the obama 'change is coming' house meeting. briana, mom, me. heads nodding. tears streaming. hope brewing. feeling like i had a 'seat at the table.'
*me and cath leaving 'the children's hour' with beautifully wrapped christmas packages for the kiddies.
*mom, dad, me. i'm an only child for the weekend. eating yummy spaghetti at the kitchen table together. dad reading the paper and me and mom chatting about holiday card visions.
*a prenatal with my mama-midwife. in the pretty yellow bedroom. big round belly and swishy-swooshy happy baby heart beeps.
*staying up waaaay tooo laaate printing and snipping and tying and wrapping our christmas cards.
*me and red dog fast asleep on the couch downstairs. me and red dog climbing the stairs for the comfy bed in the wee hours with sleepy eyes.
*an early bowl of cereal with my dad before he left for work.
*me. 4:00 pm monday. two suitcases stuffed full of wrapped presents. a carry-on with the few items of clothing that still fit. hugging my mama and our yearly holiday adventure good-bye.
*picking up my lukey boy at his cousins. his "i-missed-you-tears" and the biggest snuggle hug. ever.
i better get this memory catching machine fixed. soon.
"I do not want you to work there." His face was buried. "I have enough identity issues as it is."
Imagine a world where you are constantly mistaken for someone else. People talk to you like you are an entirely different person for long stretches of time. Sometimes they call me Matt, the Thai kick boxer. Sometimes they call me James, the ladies man. I never know if I am a lover or a fighter. So what should I do? Should I roll with it or should I correct them and identify myself?
Underneath the black cotton of her sequin Bebe shirt, her breasts poked out towards my face, staring lecherously at me. Her knockers scared me. She walked up, grabbed my bicep, and said, "Oh my god! How are you? Isn't the Christmas party awesome?"
Jupiter's annual Christmas party was a large event gathering two other Berkeley area restaurants into one bar off of San Pablo. The bartenders at Albatross mixed and poured free drinks all night while the restaurant employees ate a taco buffet and got really, really, drunk. I knew a few people from bouncing at the bar a few years ago but most of the drunkards were friends of my brother's and not mine as was the case with this chesty girl.
She gave me a hug and I shuddered. Then she pushed the boy she had in tow into my face. "This is my boyfriend." she said.
"Nice to meet you," we shook hands. This was getting annoying. Why the fuck was she talking to me. I wanted to peel my face off. "I am James. Maybe you have met my twin brother, Matt? He's over there." I pointed towards the bathroom. I wanted her to leave me alone.
"Oh my god! You're like not Matt," she chortled. "I am like so sorry and like sort of so embarrassed and all."
This would be the part where I stabbed her in the thigh. If I had a knife and if I was into lying in my stories. But I did not stab her I just said, "That's okay. Nice to meet you. I have to uhh..."
Then I ran to the other side of the room. I am so awkward. I tried to think of what I should have said. I wanted to say something witty, and weird. Something that would have ended the conversation.
"Yeah, I am Matt's brother. My mother went to have an abortion and instead of destroying the fetus, the doctor split it in half. That's why we are twins," I wanted to tell her, "What do you expect-It was the early eighties."
As I stood nursing my beer, cowering behind a table near the women's bathroom I thought," Damn it. I can never think of the right thing to say. Oh well, this time I will be pigeon holed as the socially awkward twin."
I called CHOP today to request the make, model and color for Lucas's car, I mean ear. I'm still not totally convinced, but have chosen the beige/skin-toned Cochlear Freedom. Blue would be fun, but maybe not when he's 15? I saw on the website that you can buy stickers to jazz it up too, so there's an option. I've been getting a lot of questions lately from friends and family about what it will look like, whether you'll be able to see the implant, whether it will need to be replaced as he grows, etc., so I'm going to make some educational posts. I've gotten many resources from other blogs, so thanks. Check out this cochlear implant explanation. It has a very comprehensive explanation about how the CI works.
Well, enjoy your own countdown to Christmas, as I look forward to a birthday party, Christmas, and the gift of hearing for my baby boy.
45 meter 9.5 yellow Beal Dynamic rope, cut a dozen times, much of its elasticity is gone, definitely would make a good rug
45 meter 9.8 blue Black Diamond rope, cut a half dozen times, much of its elasticity is gone, may make a good rug
50 meter 9.5 yellow Beal Dynamic rope, cut a couple times, much of its elasticity is gone, probably still usable but might make an okay rug
70 meter 9.4mm Red dynamic rope. Stolen from The North Face's Athlete of the Year Cedar Wright. Would make the best rug.
North Face Red and Grey ~40 Liter Back Pack- great for cragging. A bear in yosemite loved this bag so much he took a big bite out of the side of it.
North Face Sliquid Hydration Pack- streamlined version- extra buckles and straps have been cut, excellent small pack for the second or for solos
Lowe Alpine Fanny pack- Blue and Black ideal for short hikes or for filling with weed and running from rangers
Double Length Quick Draw- Left as a toprope anchor on Kurt Smith's heady testpiece Blackout, South Whizz Dome in Toulumne, believed to be the property of Ron Kauk. Petzl sling and two oval carabiners
Rope Tarp- Black square rope tarp, foldable with red and green tie on straps on the corners
Ballooon Pump- Used to blow up balloons for clowns. Also may be inserted in mouth to pump up deflated ego.
Black Diamond Quickdraw-bent gate bottom biner, D upper biner. Some beer spilled on it at Nason Ridge in Washington. Do not bring glass beer bottles to the crag.
Petzl Caldris Harness- Perfect for a new sport climber. Bottom tie in loop worn and may fail if used.
Belay Device- Trango blue square belay device best used as back up to hip belay.
Set of Large Stoppers- Black Diamond stoppers #10 and up with an HB offset and an unknown stopper. One of the stoppers has burn marks where it was used to smoke hippie lettuce out of.
Big Old Hex- about 3 1/2" tech cord attachment, doubles as cowbell
Metolious #10 SLCD- Blue, fist size
Metolious #9 SLCD- Maroon, cupped hands or small fist
Metolious #8 SLCD- Purple, big hands
Metolious #7 SLCD- Light Blue, hands, slightly creaky, needs some love and will work well
Metolious #6 SLCD- Green, small hands, a little worked will perform well though
Metolious #5 SLCD- Black, thin hands, very worked.
Metolious #4 SLCD- Red, slightly creaky, big fingers
Metolious #2 SLCD-Yellow four unit camming device
Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women by Claudia Goldin
Black Diamond 4.5 SLCD- Red Stacked hands, never used
Black Diamond 1 camalot- Red Newer style bent cams may have been dropped off of El Cap. Belonged to Alex Honnold Own a piece of fame.
Shoulder Length Slings- 4 grey black diamond slings, two other fancy type of slings
Gold Petzl Ascender-Found at base of Salathe Wall with hand still attached.currently separated some blood marks
Rock Exotica Wall Hauler- belonged to Mike Corbett, seen 28 El Capitan ascents, none by me, still works well.
Metolious 5 Step Aider- Yellow
Metolious 5 Step Aider- Green
Yosemite Lodge Cutlery- two knives, one fork, and one spoon
Black Diamond Talon- three hooks in one unit slighty rusted
Leeper Bat Hook
Leeper Cam Hook- Forged iron, smaller size
Leeper Cam Hook- Forged iron, larger size
Black Diamond Hook- Small size hook
C++ By Dissection by Ira Pohl- The Essentials of C++ Programming- Perfect for tackling the intricatcies of wall climbing
Acopa Spectres Size 9- Red and black lace up shoes, soft last, left shoe is worn, right shoe has more life
La Sportiva Testarossas- Men's 39.5, Ronald McDonald colors, aggressive lace-up shoe, well worn
Boreal Ballet Golds- Men's 8.5, Blue and gold, stiff high top shoes, some use, lots of blood stains around the ankle
Metolious Chalk Bag Belt
Worked Chalk Bag- Comes with zipper pocket, fastex buckle belt, a number of tears, and a bit of old chalk at the bottom
Solved Rubik's Cube- Worn stickers and center slightly worked from being greased
Tums- Regular strength antacid with calcium-two rolls
Soft back brace- fits 45"-62" Made in Mexico, feels like a girdle, ladies love tearing this thing off.
Collapseable Walker- Standard walker no tennis ball modification. Feet have seen wear
Light Weight Toilet Paper- 8" by 12" lined single sheet piece of toilet paper specifically designed for alpinism comes with written description of Franco-Argentine route
Thermarest- long, self inflating, slight leak. You'll be sleeping on the ground by morning probably fixable
North Face Light Weight Tech shirt- red on shoulders grey on chest and back red North Face Logo across breast
North Face Long Underwear Top- Long Sleeve, grey
North Face Hyvent Jacket-Small, three ply blue and grey storm jacket needs to be washed with dry water treatment to help reinstate its waterproofness
North Face Men's Convertible Pants-size 32 dark grey some paint stains but in good condition
North Face Men's A5 Cargo Pants- size 32 khaki paint stains
North Face Men's Muscle Shirt- Light weight technical tank top grey size large
North Face Collared Short Sleeve Shirt- Men's Medium yellow checkered
North Face Me's Long Sleeve Safari Shirt- Button up dark blue collared shirt zippers under the arm pits
Patagonia Capilene- Men's Small feather grey
Patagonia Capilene- Men's Small grey
Mountain Hardwear balaclava
Garbage Bag of Blown Out Shoes:
Mountain Masters size 9.5 delaminated toe and no insole, 1 pair of North Face stiff approach shoes sat in the ran a little, 3 pairs of La Sportiva Miuras, 2 pairs of La Sportiva Katanas, 1 pair of La Sportiva Testarossas, 2 pairs Five Ten Velcro Anasazis, 1 pair of Five Ten mid tops, 2 pairs of Acopa slippers, 1 pairs of Acopa Spectres,
Box of Bills
Sierra Nevada Summerfest beer box of bills- Lots of really, really, really big medical bills I am willing to trade all proceeds from this sale in exchange for someone to take care of the papers in this box. Burning is not an option. Thanks!
Matt strode around the ring clockwise, tapping the four turnbuckles three times: top, middle, bottom. The Wai Kru, a customary Thai tradition before a fight, seals the ring denoting that the fight is only between the two opponents. Matt didn't seal the ring; he marked it as his. His blackened shoulder, the rings around his elbow, as well as the dark lines on his forearms contrasted with his sinewy frame. Across his shoulder blades was a newer tattoo, a phrase he had scrawled into his flesh in dark black letters when he began fighting. Matt slunk around the ring towards his corner, the tattoos rippled along his body. His opponent, a stocky bearded man, hung his jaw as his trainer poured water into it. He bounced, spilling the water onto his bare chest. His eyes locked onto Matt as my brother finished the Thai ceremony.
The judge motioned the two fighters forward, and spoke lowly to the men. "Clean," is all that could be heard. Matt pounded the shorter man's fist and backed away as the bell rang. His opponent rushed towards him with fists of fury. Matt's arms shot to his face as a deluge of jabs pummeled him. Dancing around the ring, Matt tried vainly to check the aggressiveness and block the punches. He shot a jab at his opponent and missed. A right hook was returned in kind. Another jab blasted towards his opponent. This one landed. Matt stepped forward and became a Muay Thai fighter.
Versatile, brutal, and straight forward, Muay Thai is the science of the eight limbs. Fighter's employ their shins, knees, elbows, and hands to destroy each other. The traditional aspects of Muay Thai were followed for the fight at the Fairfax Gym in San Francisco albeit gloves, headgear, kicks and punches were included- normal procedure for a modern fight.
Matt had trained extensively and this was his third smoker (non-professional fight). "He looks like a cancer patient," a friend quipped. In two months Matt had lost all of his body fat. Though we are identical twins, he was twenty-two pounds lighter--a shrink wrapped Bruce Lee. He stopped eating a day before his fight, to weigh in as light as possible. Matt tipped the scales at 140 lbs/63.5 kilos and fought as a junior welterweight. The daily regiment of heavy bag work outs and calisthenics not only trimmed him down but made him fit to become a Nak Muay, a traditional Muay Thai fighter.
Matt's desire to fight is hereditary. Our paternal grandfather was a fighter. After work he liked to drink and beat his wife and kids. Our father, Don, was also a fighter. Forty years ago he had his first fight. After school, he caught his father dragging his younger brother Rick upstairs by the ankle. Rick's head bounced off each step. Don won his first fight and hospitalized his father. As part of the legal procedures that followed, Don served community service and enrolled in the Police Athletic League, an association where the local police force coach youth in an attempt to build community relations. For four years in high school Don fought in PAL, training once a week at a gym in Albany, New York, and running along the country roads of the Catskills. In college, he graduated to Golden Gloves and a short-lived professional career. Don fought as junior heavy weight, weighing 185 pounds and standing 6' 3". However, Don was no Rocky Marciano. He woke from his first fight in the hospital discovering he had a glass jaw. He woke from the hospital after his second fight, discovering that professional boxing wasn't for him.
He kept his gloves, hanging them from the wall. The leather cracked and the gloves fell apart. Rambunctious and young, Matt and I would toss the gloves on and spar. The loser of Rosh ambo would be the south paw. No face hits and nothing below the belt. Bruises covered our biceps and chests. Matt graduated from the single glove and began scrapping. His senior year in high school he attended a World Trade Organization protest in Washington D.C. When a police officer began to pummel a protester, Matt snatched the officer's oversized Maglite and smashed the butt of it into the officer's cranium. Matt's next fight was in Las Vegas when an irate motorist attempted to run him and his friend off their bicycles. The motorist was bludgeoned by a bicycle lock. His third fight occurred when he was jumped by some thugs in Oakland. They stole his wallet and bike. Matt decided he needed to protect himself in case he was assaulted again. "I need a Glock," he stated. I encouraged martial arts. "Why do you need a gun anyway? You can just fight 'em off?" "But," Matt responded, "What if they're a cop?"
Matt's Muay Thai training began in Oakland when he and two anarchist comrades got together to learn some basic self-defense. They trained in a small basement but Matt migrated south to Santa Cruz and then later to Las Vegas. His desire to fight stayed with him as he traveled. In Santa Cruz, he attended weekly sessions at a small gym. In Las Vegas he worked out at the commercial Master Toddy's. When he returned to the Bay Area, he began to train in earnest. Pacific Ring Sports in Oakland has served as his home five days a week for the past eight months. He signed up for monthly smokers and fought as much as possible.
The plasma screen TV's that hung beneath the San Francisco gym's ring showed my brother's fists. They were jets; as soon as one took off another landed. His opponents head snapped back. Matt kicked him in the ribs. His opponent stepped forward and they clinched, grabbing each other's shoulders. This form of stand-up grappling is conducive to kneeing one's opponent in the stomach. Matt's patella jack-hammered into the fighter's belly button. Trying to protect himself, the other fighter moved his elbow in front of his abdomen. Matt's knees bruised the man's forearm. After two three minute rounds, a well placed kick, and a dozen knees to the stomach, Matt's opponent was worked. The victory was clear.
Stepping out of the ring, I stared at my twin brother. His latest obsession was sticking. He talked of going to Thailand for 3 months to train. The conditioning was religious. He stopped drinking. His shins were covered in speed bumps from kicking heavy bags. Still, his next fight wouldn't go as well; he'd be momentarily knocked unconscious. But this fight he won. I congratulated him, as he stood next to me. A veneer of sweat covered his body; he looked strong. The swelling from the hits hadn't set in yet and he smiled. He turned slightly showing the block letters between his shoulder blades INCIPIT TRAGOEDIA. I suspected the Latin translation but asked anyway.
"It's Nietzsche," Matt smiled. "It means the tragedy begins."
I rolled up to a stop sign and sat for fifteen minutes waiting for it to turn green.
I flashed Evilution on the Grandpa Peabody boulder. Every hold felt like a jug. I am not sure if it feels that easy to everyone or if it was just because I was jumaring.
I have a small penis. It is not a laughing matter. I have gone to great lengths to deal with my shortcomings. I have used pumps, pills, and clicked on a thousand internet banner ads. Finally I figured out how to make my dick six inches-I just had to fold it in half.
I just bought a time machine. It was on Craigslist for $600. It does not go into the past and it only moves into the future at regular speed. But it works. I stepped inside of it, closed my eyes, and when I emerged I had advanced 8 hours into the future. Not only that, but I felt surprisingly refreshed.
at 31 weeks my baby weighs about three pounds and five ounces. he's turning a nice pink color and his fingernails probably reach the end of his fingers. his iris's can now dilate and contract in response to light.
"...my belly is full of light and love"
from an email i sent out this week:
"...thank you so much for sharing your words with me. they are powerful and very valuable to me as i'm navigating my coarse. the insight that you shared with me is something that i was hoping the women reading my blog by the hundreds would take away from this weeks worth of birth stories. a little bit of empowerment.
this week has been so theraputic for me. there was something that clicked in me once i said my fears outloud and sent them out to the universe. a circle of loving women that came out of the wood work to share their birth piece/peace with me. i feel braver. still scared. yes. very much. but the fact that this babe will come how he needs to is sitting better with me. i will do my part. the rest will turn out how it turns out..."
lucas and i have a story. he was born in the wee morning hours of my birthday. it's our day. i worked really hard for him. a labor of love. he wanted me to remember that everytime we share our day. i love him for knowing that i would need that. my sweet boy. such an old soul.
soulemama's home birth
nienie's "i'm a queen - look what i just did"
leslie keating's sweet baby mae is finally here
the lovely midwife briana and the birth of her baby brother
a beautiful birth anthology by tamara of today's modern mother
the birth of a mother - holly and her baby natalie
thank you for sharing this healing week with me.
dear miss jessie: watch your mailbox for your first issue of MOTHERING magazine. i couldn't be happier to be sending it your way.
Tiny hummingbirds buzzed between California fuchsias, pollinating the brightly colored flower. A dozen turkey vultures circled the nearby jail, looking for road kill. Small hawks and crows soared by, swarms of cliff swallows rushed about, while osprey and blue herons fished in the waters of Tulloch Lake. During the afternoon a golden eagle glided towards a five foot nest perched on the basalt cliff. The bird soared by, catching the currents of air with its wings open and extended. As the eagle moved towards the nest, the wings folded into a neat V shape, compacting into its body, and the bird skirted the hanging sport draws. At the last moment the eagle tilted its wings, caught the wind, and plopped soundlessly into the nest.
In nearby Chinese Camp a group of monkeys sat around in a tiny wood shack, huddling around a former YOSAR wood stove. I complained of the ache in my forearms from sport climbing. Flying would make it easier. The struggle to the summit would be a flap of the wings, a gentle upward arc of the wind, a casual affair. I thought of the birds.
“Flying is awesome. “ Stanley bounced his knees on the couch. For three years Stanley had been making a transition from full-time Yosemite dirt bag to base jumping fanatic. “I went to Lodi a bunch, did a couple tandem jumps, bought a chute, and just got into it. People die every once in awhile but not that often.”
“Why would you huck your carcass out of a perfectly good airplane? As good as flying sounds…” My voice trailed. I pictured the birds at the crag. Beautiful. Free. Then a slight shutter ran through me. Scary. How could I ever evolve into flying? Monkeys were made to climb not fly.
“You can link up long formations in the mountains once you know how to fly. Base jumping is rad. Besides, it is safer than soloing, James.” Stanley smiled.
Columbia airport, located outside of Sonora California, parks fifty single engine airplanes on the field of asphalt while a dozen more planes reside in nearby hangars. Coiler swiped his card and a metal chopper gate swung open, letting his Ford mountain truck onto the airstrip.
Coiler’s red and blue striped Cessna 150 sat on the far side of the air strip and we pulled out a couple cans of gas, and filled the tanks. Coiler walked around the plane, inspecting the flaps, kicking the tires, and spinning the propeller. After the safety check, I climbed in the cabin and sat in a bucket seat. He handed me a pair of huge headphones equipped with a microphone system.
“The plane gets loud Peaches. Here’s the volume.” He turned a knob on the side of my head.
“It’s tight in here,” I reported through the microphone. For the past few months I’d been climbing in Sonora and staying at Coiler’s on the weekends. The overhanging basalt sport climbing had transformed my body into that of a gorilla; I had huge shoulders, a pizza slice back, and dragged my knuckles when I walked. Coiler’s body was that of a chimp with his dark hirsute body, long arms, and small stature. I felt claustrophobic with the headphones bearing down on my skull and my shoulder rubbing with the chimpanzee pilot.
Seeing the birds, Stanley’s talk of flying, Coiler’s day off, a rest day from climbing, and cool, clear weather all lined up for a flight around Half Dome and back. Coiler’s long standing threat of taking me flying were matriculating.
“Watch the door. It always opens up.” Coiler fired up the engine and taxied down the runway. I tightened my seat belt until I couldn’t feel my legs and then grabbed the sides of my pants, letting my sweaty palms squeeze the denim out of my jeans.
“Do you have a watch to measure our airtime? We need to know how much gas we’ve used.” I shook my head. “Well the trip usually takes an hour and a half anyway.” I nodded and stared at the ground. We were going to run out of gas. I wanted out.
Coiler turned the plane onto the runway, gassed up the engine, and ten seconds later we were the flying monkeys of Oz. The world is a different place from the sky.
As we soared over Foresta, just outside of Yosemite, the growl of the engine became a sputter. Poot! Poo! Poot! I gripped the sides of my pants, and looked at Coiler.
“Houston we have a problem.” Coiler whipped the plane around and eyeballed for pieces to land. His hands darted to knobs and he pumped and primed as the engine sputtered and whined.
Enter terror. I should have stayed on the ground. John Denver, Buddy Holly, and the 1961 U.S. Olympic figure skating team all died in small planes. I would surely join their ranks. Another victim of the old crash and burn. But no. No, I was different. I was not a singer or an ice skater. I would not suffer a horrible plane crash. Would I? Poot! Poo! Poot! The engine coughed. Oh god! Soon, the ‘61 Olympic figure skating team and I would have more in common than our penchant for wearing sparkly Lycra. I wrapped my hands around my face. Imagining the ground rushing towards me made my stomach queasy. I waited, terrified counting the seconds slow.
After forty-five seconds, I peeled my fingers from my eyes, looked around the tiny cab, and listened to the lawnmower that spun the propeller. Coiler stared out the window, his eyes gazing dreamily at Mount Clark. My visions of death by flaming inferno dissolved; the engine’s growl had returned, and we were back on course.
“A little ice in the carburetor. Happens sometimes when the temperature’s between forty and seventy. I diverted some heat into the engine. It’s not a big deal Peaches. It’s the heinous carbineer shift of flying.”
“Heinous carabineer shift?” Over the years, high on El Capitan, or dogging on the sixty foot sport climb, I have experienced biner shift. My weight made the carabineer shuffle and I fell two inches. Unnerving stuff but it never made me think about my eulogy.
The rest of the flight went smoothly. El Capitan, the mighty granite cliff, dripped into the Valley floor. Half Dome stood on a pedestal, elevated and regal, high above the Merced River.
I fell out of the plane, puckered my lips and bent down to the asphalt to dry hump the ground. I would never leave my sweet mother earth again. Coiler chuckle.
“Peaches you were a little gripped up there eh?” I nodded, dusting the dirt off, and hopping into Coiler’s mountain truck for the drive back to Chinese Camp. I looked at my pants. Two hand prints were stained on the sides, where I had gripped the cloth, terrified.
The next day I went back to the sport crag. The eagle soared around the cliff. The hummingbirds buzzed. The vultures lurked. The hawks and crows flew about. The osprey and heron fished. I climbed. Stanley and Coiler had their ambitions to evolve. Monkeys were made to climb. Flying, that shit’s for the birds.
I smiled. "How's this for a text Matt? 'Three weeks to explosion? Where's my radioactive suit? Can't wait to see the baby."
My doppelganger took a pull of his beer. "Take out the last line about the baby. She'll know what it means." I nodded sent the message, and finished my beer. Earlier in the day, my buddy and I had made the fourteen hour drive from Moab, where we'd gone climbing for 5 days. The travel and a slight beer buzz knocked me out and I slept soundly until I heard my phone vibrating next to my head at 8 am.
"Who am I talking to?" An authority filled voice asked.
"Uh..." I contemplated hanging up but figured it was probably one of my douche bag friends and played along.
"This is Steve Thompson of the Arizona State Police department. We have some questions for the owner of this phone. Is this your phone?"
"Yes," I meekly responded. I tried to remember the last time I'd been arrested. Luckily, it'd been awhile and I hadn't robbed too many banks in the last month. My record should be clean but still, I was apprehensive. Police questioning always makes me feel guilty even when I'm innocent. Fucking tools.
"Have you been in possession of your phone all evening?"
"Do you know anything about some terrorist threats made from your phone?"
My groggy head could not connect the dots. Terrorist threats?
"Where you in Utah recently?"
Fuck. Some Mormon stole my phone and was sending out death threats to anti-polygamists across the US. They were gonna blame me for it. The FBI would bust into the house any minute, armed with riot gear, billy clubs, and a straight jacket to take me away to San Quentin, where I'd serve life without parole. Oh man I was so fucked.
"Yes. I was in Utah."
"Do you know anything about a nuclear explosion?"
My brain sputtered, coughed, then suddenly kick started.
"Oh," I laughed. "My sister is pregnant. I sent her a text message last night about having the baby soon. It was something about her exploding and me needing to wear a radioactive suit."
"Well, apparently you sent this message to the wrong person. I suggest you refrain from texting random messages to people you do not know." The cop did not sound pleased. "I'll let you go this time but take this as a serious warning young man. Do not send mixed messages."
I hung up the phone, and started to fall back asleep but couldn't. I needed to go to the store and buy a radioactive suit.
Birth; the emergence of something new. I love it. The birth of a woman as a mother as her baby is delivered is the most sacred, powerful thing I have ever witnessed.
For as far back as my conscious memory goes, I have had an awe and fascination of the process of growing and birthing new life. As a 4 year old, I loved the pictures of a growing embryo in our family encyclopedia. I stuffed my baby dolls in my shirt and “birthed” them and of course they were nursed. Until I was 9 years old, I received baby dolls every Christmas and can still remember their names and beautiful little faces. The shape of their little baby fists, chubby, dimpled feet, the texture and color of their hair and the new baby doll smell are still clear memories that can take me instantly back to that idyllic time in my girlhood. This very moment I am taken back to 1964. I’m in the back seat of the family car with Baby Christy, a full sized Madame Alexander with long, blond hair. She’s wearing a hand-me-down blue corduroy jumpsuit and snuggled in a soft receiving blanket in my arms. The little mama and baby doll bond was strong and magical. I mothered instinctually and no one interrupted.
Although my childhood dolls were put away, I never outgrew my love of birth and mothering. My early childhood experiences were the seeds of a passion that blossomed when I was born as a mother 33 years ago. Although the labor was long and came with the challenges common to a first birth, I was ecstatic with this new wee one. His beautiful face, wisps of brown hair, little fists, long toes and newborn smell are still fresh memories to me as I picture him in his aqua colored gown and thermal receiving blanket. In contrast to my childhood play, my instinctual parenting impulses were not respected. From the flat on my back labor to the nurse who rolled her eyes when I expressed my desire to breastfeed, I was hindered from doing what seemed intrinsically best. Still, I loved my boy with all my heart and looked forward to having another baby someday.
Five years later, Lindsay was born. I knew to stay away from the hospital as long as I could. Laboring at home, I ate, drank, walked around, rested, showered and talked to my friends and family. I arrived at the hospital at noon. Remembering my previous long labor, Chuck left me to go out for lunch. I was alone in a small triage room, strapped to a narrow gurney. There was a red Craftsman toolbox for ambience. A nurse came in and did the standard prep of the day, shave and an enema and left me in the bathroom. I called for help. No one came. Finally someone helped me back on that gurney and I tried to say, “My baby is almost here.”
“Couldn’t be”, they said. “You were just 5 cm. when you came in.” My husband came back, the doctor showed up as did an uninvited anesthetist. I was given an epidural with no information or consent, just the instruction to curl up in a ball. Within minutes, I was wheeled to a big, bright delivery room and was coached through pushing my baby out. I heard a cry and someone said, “It’s a girl.” I felt so joyful to have a daughter and wanted her in my arms. She was taken somewhere else. At least my husband gave me a report. “She doesn’t look like Jeff.” I was taken next to a recovery area behind a curtain. I asked for my baby to nurse. “We usually wait until you are settled back in your room”, I was told. “No! I want my baby now.” A most beautiful round faced bundle was placed in my arms. Although my legs were not my own, I could sit up and nurse and my sweet baby was eager and able to suckle without any trouble. We were left alone and it was peaceful at last.
I remember my mom coming to the hospital shortly after I got to my room. She exclaimed what a beautiful little girl we had and we chose her name then. Lindsay Ann. I ached to go home. I missed Jeff and wanted him to see his sister. Young siblings weren’t allowed in the hospital. I spent the night there and asked to go home the next day. My doctor came in and told me it wasn’t common procedure to be discharged so soon. Did I have a plan for birth control?? When I assured him I would figure something out, he said I could go. Off we went in our yellow VW. Home at last. Those first days are foggy to me. I remember what Lindsay wore home because I had picked it out weeks in advance. Fortunately she nursed like a champ and was an easy little one to care for. It took me several weeks to clear the fog and feel like myself. I know now that it’s a common post epidural complaint as the body rids itself of the medications.
Fast forward 5 years to the birth of Natalie Brynn. Maybe it was the confidence born of experience or maturity or both. This time I would make decisions regarding my baby’s birth. Chuck and I attended a childbirth class held in my OB’s clinic. The teacher was a mother of 10, the last 2 born at home. She was beautiful, articulate and spoke respectfully of mother’s instinctual knowing and the sacred nature of the newborn. I could feel the empowerment taking hold in me AND in my husband. My OB had a birth suite in his office. I knew it was an option but my earlier experiences had left me feeling inadequate to birth without intervention. Although the thought of the hospital made me uncomfortable, that’s where I pictured myself having my 3rd baby.
On a Wednesday evening, just days before my estimated due date, I felt different somehow. I put my children to bed, cleaned up the kitchen and made plans for childcare the next day. During the night gentle contractions came rhythmically and I knew my labor was beginning. In the morning, I sent Chuck off to work. Labor made him nervous and I wanted calm, peaceful energy around me. I called my friend Stephanie to come over instead. We went to Albertson’s and walked around the neighborhood. I ate lunch and rested. I called Chuck to come home in the afternoon and we went to the OB’s office around 3 PM. I was 5 cm. An office nurse brought me a gown and said, “The birthing suite is ready for you. Your baby will be born soon.” I couldn’t believe I would be having my baby out of a hospital! I was so excited. I had also asked a friend from work to come to my birth. Pam was a nurse with the sweetest, peacefulness about her. She arrived as I was in full transition. She knew what to say and what I needed. We walked and she helped me in the bathroom. I didn’t get in the bed until I felt ready to push and then I laid on my side with Pam supporting my leg. A little baby girl was born just before 5 PM. Chuck and I were surprised at how quickly she came and how peaceful and trusting those around us were. I was able to hold my baby and nurse her right away and we called for Jeff and Lindsay to be brought in. My parents arrived and it felt like a festivity. Her name was announced and pictures were taken. You could see the glow and feel the bursting happiness on all of our faces. It just kept getting better. I was home, showered and tucked in bed in my own home before 9 pm that night! Something was so right this time.
The people around me
Support to follow my instinctual, maternal knowing
A peaceful environment
Respectful care of me and my newborn
Trust in the process of birth, my own, my husband’s and the care providers
A belief that birth is normal, not an illness or an emergency waiting to happen
If I wasn’t already passionate about the incredible power of women’s bodies and the sweetness of undisturbed newborns, well, now I was a hopeless birth junkie. I continued to read and study everything I could about birth. I had 2 more beautiful baby girls within the next 3 years and learned very valuable lessons from their birthings too. My heart and hands were ready when my babies were old enough for me to begin training to help other women have optimal birth experiences.
As a new doula driving through a strange neighborhood in the dark, I wondered what I was getting into. Trish was 39 weeks pregnant, a single mom and worried sick about the approaching birth of her third child. When I found her house, she welcomed me in and we embraced like old friends. This soulful woman shared her birth history with me; a cesarean birth at age 16 for failure to progress and a traumatic vaginal birth three years later. She was shaking as she recalled her experiences. For this baby she was seeing a different doctor but the prospects of a better birth sounded dismal. Her doctor had been suggesting for weeks that another cesarean would be the way to go and nightmares about being cut again kept her from sleeping. The next day, I accompanied her to a prenatal appointment and met her doctor. He was rough, disrespectful and mentioned the likelihood of another cesarean. She was in tears by the time we left. On the ride home, I suggested she talk to a midwife. Not knowing that she had any options at this late date, she was more than willing. We stopped at a CNM’s clinic and for the first time, Trish was treated kindly and listened to. I saw her stand a little taller and step into her power. She personally requested her records from the doctor and hand delivered them to the midwife the next day. Two days later after a good night’s sleep, her labor started. Trish had found her safe place and peacefully birthed a beautiful baby boy.
The childhood seeds that blossomed with the birth of my first baby, reached fruition when I began catching babies as a homebirth midwife 4 years ago. The path was made clear and doors were opened that allowed me to answer the calling to midwifery. There is no one right way for a woman to birth her baby; each birth and baby has its own story. I do believe that every woman deserves to be informed and respected. The birth environment and the people in the birth space can make all the difference. If knowledge replaces fear and respect replaces uniform protocols, women will come into their power and birth their babies in the very best way. An empowered woman can strengthen her family. It’s a beautiful thing.
do you feel like sharing your own story? today is the last day to post it on your blog and email me the link to email@example.com. i will post a list of all of them tomorrow afternoon to end this birth story adventure. and don't forget to leave loving comments here - as many as you wish. invite your friends to this women's circle. i will collect all the comments you leave and the birth stories you link to and pick one of you for a year of MOTHERING magazine, my favorite and will be announcing the winner tomorrow afternoon also.