Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Thanksgiving Present

I'm not certain how much milk is in this standard-sized cooler, but I think it was around 400oz.  I just sent it off yesterday on a journey north.  It is being transported by a recipient's family member to a little girl just a month older than my son.  She is a tiny little thing who was adopted as a newborn and can't tolerate formula.  Thanks to her mother inducing lactation and a lot of donor milk, she is gaining weight and doing far better than she did during the times she ended up on formula upon running out of donor milk.

This was my 9th donation.  I've donated approximately 3700oz to 7 babies in 6 families since March.  In addition to my own little guy, I've fed three adopted babies, one baby with a low-supply mama, one baby whose mom was unresponsive to the pump, and a pair of twins who needed a little extra for daycare.  I am nearing the end of my pumping era after slowly decreasing sessions since I stopped working.  I only do it once a day now and don't get as much as I used to.  My son doesn't need what I pump except for a very occasional bottle, so almost all of it gets donated.  I still have about 150oz in the freezer, so I'll be donating at least once more. 

My son will be a year old in a couple of weeks.  He is talking but not walking.  We're not weaning anytime soon because it is important to me to nurse him until around two years for more reasons than are necessary to list on this post.  He has no food allergies so far even though he is predisposed to them.  My little vegan baby is full of energy.  He is petite like me, and will likely be a small adult, but he is very healthy and loves to eat everything from cranberries to grapefruit to kale.  His favorite is tempeh.  My milk is still about 90% of his diet, since he is a light eater and solids are just for fun and practice at this point.  We did baby-led weaning, so he has been on finger foods only for months.

He is growing up and getting into trouble every thirty seconds.  I do miss the 6-month old pre-mobile phase where he was interactive but not getting into everything, but he is so joyful now and so curious.  We are moving on to the next phase of his life and this phase is cycling into memory.  It feels like he'll be graduating from high school in a week.  I am so happy to be his mother.  I'm happy that my journey through the first year of motherhood also helped other families.  I give what I have where it is needed and try to live without regret.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Winter descends

The leaves have fallen, the flowers are dead.  The air is beginning to chill.  There is a month left until the solstice, but it is already dark by 5pm and the season has switched from transcendental color to monochrome grey.

I miss the pines.  I miss snow draped over cedars.  I miss the sandy crunch of fluffy snow under skis.  I used to ski for hours through the northern forests, but there are no great forests here.  There are no cedars, no pines which were not planted by humans.  This place is grey and domesticated.  Its winters are slush and fluctuating temperatures, naked deciduous trees, gloom, dormant hibernating death.

The grey buries memories of blinding snow.  It destroys hope with an unrelenting, undulating despair.  The winters here are two months under desolate skies.  There are nothing but death and waiting seeds upon the plains.  The leaves drop, the wind blows, and the winter falls heavy with silent gloom and dormancy.

Northern Michigan winters are a far different beast.  They are not cheery, but they are bright, and the whiteness of the earth competes with a blue-grey sky and the snow triumphs.  Even at midnight, the bitter snow is bright.  It reflects the light of the moon, and absent the moon, it mirrors the stars and occasionally the aurora instead.  You can find your way through the forest by the light of the snow and still view the spectacular glory of the Milky Way above.  I used to go stargazing on the most frigid winter nights.  The sky was always clearest then.  The moon would hang resolute above the pines and the aurora would streak kaleidoscopic across the northern sky.  Twigs snapped, owls hooted, and the symphony of life accompanied the brilliant cosmos in an ambient duet.

There is no music in the winter dark in Kansas.  Life hibernates and the few sounds are urban and incidental.  It is dark so early, but the darkness is not illuminated by snow and galaxies.  Instead, city lights muffle the sky, and only the brightest stars and planets are ever visible.  The visible Milky Way is a myth, and any moving lights are planes and helicopters instead of potential UFOs.  Imagination is lost on urbanization.  The beauty of the universe is packaged and boxed and shown only in school texts and television documentaries.

It is not much improved outside of the city.  There are no lights and the stars return, but the plains are desolate and dead.  Trees are scarce, and they are skeletons instead of majestic evergreens.  They die every fall and are reborn in the spring.  Everything does here.  It snows, but not enough, and the snow is gone quickly.  Ice is far more common, and every snowfall is guaranteed to blanket a substantial layer of ice.  The naked trees are weighed down with it and often break.  Broken, tired skeletons, longing for a spring not soon to arrive.  Everything is wet and dirty, tired and depressed.  Snow becomes slush once grounded, slush becomes ice, ice melts to become mud.

I miss the water.  I miss spontaneous hockey games and skiing through the forest at night to find the perfect stargazing spot.  I miss the thick blankets of fluffy snow that last for months at a time.  I cannot go back to those memories.  There is nothing for me in Michigan anymore.  Some family to visit, but there is no future there, only past.  My present is here in Kansas, but my future is to be determined.  For now, I'm trapped between desolate winters and scorching summers.  The unending flatness is my home now and for the foreseeable future.  I gave up beauty for stability.  I do not regret it, but sometimes I miss it terribly.  Sometimes I dream of snow-painted evergreen bows but wake up to bare branches perched on a lonely stretch of ashen earth.  The northern forests call to me, but I can only listen and not respond.  The calls will remain unheeded for now as I prepare myself for another Kansas winter.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Farewell, Bennu

I kill electronic devices.  No computer, phone, or watch battery has ever stood a long-term chance against my bad machine mojo.  My computers are named so they can be identified on our home server, and not just because I'm odd.

Bennu was declared terminal and Fawkes fell into a coma on the same day.  I haven't had such bad luck since the great Mac and SEM implosion of 2004.  Fawkes (my desktop) refused to boot up after a restart and became nothing but a blinking cursor.  My husband the computer guru still hasn't fixed it, so I've been without a desktop for a month.

Poor Bennu decided to hang on just a little bit longer.  My son has an electronics fetish and yanked on the power cord a few too many times.  My little first generation netbook just gave up on me.  Its power connection had loose and the battery would not charge properly.  It died a long, drawn out, agonizing death.  The last weeks with Bennu were tedious.  I never knew when I would lose power and be shut off suddenly.  I could not work on my book or anything else of importance.  The end had come for poor Bennu.  It finally died completely and I was stuck using my husband's laptop to check email and not much else.

Bennu was a good little netbook.  On its tiny keyboard, I wrote three and a half books.  I used it to play Diablo 2 while I was in labor.  Its screen was tiny and its SD card only 8Gb, but I had become attached to my useful little device.  It is sitting on my desk right now, a corpse of a machine, awaiting removal of its useful files to be transplanted into a living device.

Adarna arrived yesterday and I am still getting used to the larger screen and keyboard.  It's a pretty little thing, and I think it cost me half of what I paid for Bennu.  The keys are noisy and it has an actual hard drive so it runs a bit hot.  Of course, we immediately wiped Windows XP from it's existence and installed Ubuntu.  I'm unapologetic when I say that Microsoft is just not right for our family.  We run Window's partitions on the two desktops, but those OS's are only there in case of a dire gaming emergency.

Adarna still needs essential files pulled from the server before I can really get to work on it.  My goal is to keep my new shiny toy as far from possible from my destructo-son.  His birthday is coming up in a month.  I should find him a little baby laptop he can pound on and not destroy.  Now, I just need to be given a little time to write.   I can't do it while he's awake, which unfortunately is also the only time I'm awake.  The child only naps on accident.  Words are stewing in my mind and I want them out, but it will take a daddy-and-baby-go-out night for me to type out anything.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Stream of Consciousness

Can't sleep.

Too much brain working, too many thoughts.  About what?  Nothing, as far as I can glean.  I'm foggy and wander from one thing to the next.  There is a pile of freshly washed diapers on the floor.  The baby happily pulled them off the couch and I haven't gotten around to taking them upstairs yet.  The cat is sitting on one of them.  Strange little cat, waiting for me to go to bed.  She never sleeps anywhere at night besides on my head.  Has for years.  Furry, purring, obnoxious, kneading away at my pillow.

My family is sleeping.  I left them upstairs playing Angry Birds on the smartphone.  They are dreaming while I am downstairs absently staring and channeling words through my tired fingers.  Is it late?  Not so bad, just before midnight, but such a long day it feels later.  Fasting and blood drawn before I could finally eat, and I've been hungry ever since.  I've been awake too long, and hungry for longer.  I've never been as hungry has I have the last ten months, but still slowly the weight falls off and now my pants are falling off with it.  I need to find my belts again, or at least my smaller pants.

There are toys everywhere down here in the basement.  Drums and gear bugs and plushies and things that make noise.  I am surrounded by drummers and my son is already showing aptitude for the musical arts.  He beats drums, and taps at the xylophone with purpose.  Perhaps it is just me.  We took video of him last night, and he played something beautiful.  Sleepy Time for Solo Vibraphone, composed by a ten-and-a-half month old boy, perceived a genius by his tired mother.  Beautiful and haunting, you cannot be out of tune when you play the vibes and that is part of the reason I love mallet percussion.

I used to be a decent mallet player, but my myoclonus mostly stripped me of that talent.  I twitch too much to be consistent.  I still play, but as a perpetual amateur.  I left the semi-professional group this season.  Too much work and stress and all I had to practice on at home was a vibraphone.  The spacing is different on the others.  I can't play piano anymore either.  My fingers are slow and I can't straighten all of them out.  Damned nerves, damaged by years of self-abuse and a long-misdiagnosed mitochondrial defect.

I haven't slept much lately.  I'm not as tired as I should be, but I am weary.  I can't think straight.  I try to nap, but just lay blankly and enjoy the warmth of my little boy cuddled next to me.  I don't think he is the reason I can't sleep.  He's big now, and I'm not afraid of crushing him anymore.  My husband still is afraid.  I hear noises and they keep me awake.  I solve puzzles and math problems in my head.  I've always done that.  I've always swung between narcolepsy and insomnia.  I exist on my own clock.  I can dream without sleeping and sleep without dreaming because my REM stage is abnormal.  I can dream while wide awake and aware that I am dreaming.  I can sleep while conversing and remember everything I said.

My cat is looking at me with tired eyes.  She taps me with a paw, begging me to stop typing and go to sleep.  I want to, I really do, but my brain has not shut down yet.  I sit, accomplishing nothing, nothing at all.  I breathe, I blink, I type but my motions are meaningless and automatic.  I want to sleep, I want to dream, but mostly I want to wake up feeling refreshed after a good night.  That last dream has never happened to me before, and likely never will.


To a lot of people, I am some sort of freak.

I feel sound.  Sometimes I taste it, but mostly feel it.  I hear it as well, but my senses are both crossed and parallel.  I have no idea why my senses are like this, but it might be a result of childhood epilepsy.  Auditory-tactile synesthesia.

Music can be physical ecstasy or intense pain.  I have near perfect pitch because it hurts me when a note is out of tune.  That is why I would rather be in the band than listen to it most of the time.  Trumpets and piccolos stab at my nerves.   Marimbas are as close as I can get to a massage without being touched.

I have a hard time with names and words.  I won't go into names because the names I loathe are often the ones others love.  Some words are horrendous, like cheese graters being raked along my face.  Many are a slap, a punch, or just a creeping feeling along my spine.  I avoid many words in my speech, and they are fine when written, but hearing them spoken is a different manner.  I have to deal with it and ignore it, but if I pay attention at all, the feeling is still there.  I am still having sand paper rubbed over my hands and needles shoved into my jaw.  I taste what drain cleaner smells like, taste astringent, chemical, disgusting.

These are some of the words I hate.  The meanings are irrelevant.  Maybe I hate them, maybe they hate me.  Perhaps it is mutual loathing.  My love for the written language does not extend to verbalization, and I find it occasionally distressing.

purse, ma'am, panties, slacks, spew, reticulate, regurgitate, plethora, placid, flaccid, squid, squire, square, squander, squawk, smack, fidget, swab, hubby, pew, caulk, junior, scrumptious, squabble, sixth, bifurcate, slap, appetite, spray, colloid, spleen, flake, flub, perpetuate, squabble

Synesthesia can be entertaining and isn't always unpleasant.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, I have lovely words like miasma, solace, crystalline, gravity, adiabatic, attrition, cinder, beryllium, electric, sonnet, and stellar.  Those trigger more favorable tactile responses.  Silky strokes and soft, cottony dabs.  Minuscule massages along my temples.  Sometimes I'll taste something sweet, not overly, just a small grain of sugar on my tongue or a hint of maple.

Sigh...  This is why we are going to have such a hard time naming our next child.