My Non-Audience

My blog makes my brother cringe. Interesting.

My blog makes my brother cringe. Interesting.

“I wrote about that on my blog — did you read that post?”

“I can’t read your blog,” my brother said as he visibly cringed. “It’s too much — it’s too personal.”

“I get that,” I said as I nodded my head.

This conversation happened over the holidays between Brother #2 and I. While some writers might feel offended or unsupported by a family member who refuses to read their work, I wasn’t at all. In fact, I was relieved.

I know I’m an emotionally intense person. It’s not like I scream and cry and have melt-downs all the time (well, okay, it happens occasionally), but I do exhaust language to investigate my emotional response to just about everything that happens in my day. And using language means I’m either talking or writing about it.

So some poor souls have to absorb my madness.

(Let’s face it — it’s usually my husband, Lou.)

But as revealing as the catalog of blog posts on iguessiwriteforfree may be, I frequently hold back on my blog. I’m sure my close friends and family can confirm that I’m WAY more intense in real life. So I was surprised to find out that my writing is still too raw for some…especially those who are close to me.

I really meant it when I told Brother #2 that I understood. Not only was I relieved, but I was oddly flattered. Because if this blog is too intense for him that’s a shred of evidence that my writing touched him. And I’m always looking for evidence to indicate that I’m not a shitty writer.

Plus if I write a book someday that includes family stories, I’ll be able to write what I want without fear of causing a family fight.

What freedom!

I’m Telling

Someone else's baby at 10 weeks that would look pretty much identical to my baby now. Just hang in there, little guy (or gal)!

Someone else’s baby at 10 weeks that would look pretty much identical to my baby now. Just hang in there, little guy (or gal)!

I guess there’s a million different ways one can announce their first pregnancy. I opted for a hiking blog post, why not?

And of course, I feel there needs to be a little follow up on this. You see, I’m only ten weeks along. According to many, it’s not recommended that I share this news until after I’m well into the 2nd trimester (after 12-14 weeks).

I’ve totally blown that. I probably told about 25 people when I first tested positive at five weeks. Since it was mostly family and close friends, everyone reacted with generous excitement. But as I continued to share the news with acquaintances or colleagues at work, I was met with mixed reactions.

“Oh, only x weeks?” someone said. “Well, congratulations…but take it easy, okay?”

To my overly-paranoid mind, this translates to: “You shouldn’t be telling me this because I don’t want to hear about your upcoming miscarriage.”

(For the record, I intellectually understand that this person was just being kind and that my interpretation is a result of my nut-jobbery.)

But I find it particularly aggravating that a miscarriage is something a woman should try to avoid having to share. So it turns out the best way to avoid sharing the news of a miscarriage is to wait to share the news of your pregnancy.

“If I lost my foot,” I explained to Lou one day, “I would want the support of my family and friends through that loss.” After he stopped laughing at my comparison, Lou agreed.

But I think this has deeper roots than just wanting support.

Because every time I deliver the news in this early stage of pregnancy, I feel a bit of shame.

What is that all about?

I’m shooting from the hip here, but I don’t think I’m the only woman who has feelings of shame intertwined with the idea (or the experience) of a miscarriage. And this, I believe, is left over from time periods in cultural history when a miscarriage was interpreted as a total failure. It meant a woman could not fulfill her purpose. And it meant the husband had made a poor investment.

I don’t want to perpetuate a behavior that references this unfortunate history.

So I’m spreading the news about my pregnancy.* And if I have a miscarriage I will be sure to get the word out about that as well. I know there are other women who experience this in silence. And if they can’t lean on family and friends, maybe they’ll quietly find my miscarriage blog and feel some comfort.

(Christ, I feel squeamish about describing that scenario but this whole topic is a superstitious trap so there’s no winning here.)

When contemplating the decision as to whether or not to tell “early”, I’ve often thought of an email exchange I had with a friend a few years ago.

“It’s okay…we’ll catch the next one!” was her response when I congratulated her on a pregnancy. Her polite message revealed that I hadn’t received the news of her miscarriage.

I still admire her for that. She handled it with grace and a positive attitude. She wasn’t ashamed.

Because she (and we) shouldn’t have to be.

*I absolutely respect anyone who makes the decision to wait to share their news. For some, it’s as simple as a matter of personal privacy.

Papago Park Doesn’t Suck

I dig the Buttes. Big time.

I dig the Buttes. Big time.


“That trail SUCKS!” my husband Lou said the other day as we drove past Papago Park.

He was referring to the Eliot Ramada Loop on the west side of Galvin Parkway. The trail offers a paved portion for the first half mile until you reach the Eliot Ramada, a large shady structure poised between the massive, erosion-pocked red rocks called the Papago Buttes.

The trail is easy.

Easy for us anyway. Because, save a few creaky joints and Lou’s “arthritis” in his toe (eye roll), we are young, able-bodied hikers in the prime of our lives.

Not everyone has the luxury of hating that trail, however.

About four years ago, I convinced my grandmother’s caregiver and a few family members to meet up for a hike. With a heavy blanket tucked around her limp body and gray curls poking out from under her fuzzy beanie, GJ (our nickname for her) felt the chilly December air as we took turns (okay, brother Alan did most of it) pushing her wheelchair along the paved trail in Papago Park.

It was hard work.

Shortly after our family hike, GJ had another stroke. A big one. And it pretty much kept her at home for the rest of her life.

After my mother’s stroke earlier this year, we ventured to Papago Park once again for weekly hikes. Mom could walk okay but I had to keep a hand on her belt so I could yank her straight if she started to lose her balance. We started with the paved portion, taking breaks at each bench. We made it to the ramada. After a couple weeks, we braved the uneven terrain of the surrounding dirt trails. Eventually, we could walk the whole park.

That's Mom. Dwarfed by the amphitheater in Papago Park.

That’s Mom. Dwarfed by the amphitheater in Papago Park.

Today, Mom is hiking the Quartz Ridge Trail 8A, a much more challenging trail, three times a week by herself.

Papago Park is where my GJ got out of the house for one of the last times. Papago Park is where Mom healed from her stroke. Papago Park doesn’t suck.

This is the very same speech I gave Lou after he made his callous remark. Needless to say, he recanted his comment.

Nobody fucks with my trails. Nobody.

Check out more photos, gps information, and other details of  this hike on my Everytrail.com page which shows a loop we created one day. A detailed review of a Papago Park hike is featured in my upcoming book, Take a Hike Phoenix, which hits bookstores fall 2013 and is now available at barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com.

The Hike That Makes Me Want to Have a Baby

This makes me ovulate.

This makes me ovulate.

Every trail in this town has a unique and personal meaning to me.

As I’m sure you know by now, the Quartz Ridge Trail 8A turns me into a lesbian (as evidenced from this post in which I got super gay over my dear friend Kristina).

The North Mountain National Trail 44, however, makes me want to get pregnant…and possibly buy a dog.

That’s because this trail is filled with families. Families with toddlers, tweens, and adolescents climbing the wide, paved access road that constitutes most of the trail. With the families come the dogs and I’m often cooing over the chihuahuas, Labradors, and baby pit bulls. Sleeping babies are frequently seen with Mom laboriously pushing the stroller up the merciless incline. And we usually spy an old couple holding hands as they shuffle their way to the summit.

On this short trail that has zero flat parts, we’re all flushed and sweaty as we huff our way up the mountain. To see so many people turning this shared struggle into a family event is, well, it’s just nice.

As a rule, I admire anyone (no matter their age, size, or hiking shoe choice) who hits a trail. Especially this trail…it may be short but, man, it can hurt if you’re having an off day.

We climbed up to the summit the other night after a rainy day and the place was packed with the usual suspects. And just as I do every time I hike this trail, I imagined myself as the new mom shedding off the baby weight, the proud parent watching their energetic 9-year-old jog ahead like it’s nothing (seriously, how do they do that?), and the wrinkly old lady hiking with her wrinkly old husband.

It’s reassuring. Especially at a time when women my age fear losing so much with marriage and family (independence, career, identity, exercise, and hot rockin’ body), it’s nice to know there’s a trail that’s waiting for me — no matter which stage of life I’m in.

Check out photos, gps information, and other details of  this trail on my Everytrail.com site. My book, Take a Hike Phoenix, is hitting bookstores November 19th and is now available for pre-order at barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com.

Good Day The Other Day

Yes. Like this.

Yes. Like this.

So today was an excellent day. Excellent like in the way Bill and Ted say it (enthusiastic and innocent), not the way Monty Burns says it (chilling and devious).

This must be recorded so that, in the future when I inevitably have a horrendous day, I can reassure myself that good days can still happen.

Side note: Writing that sentence made me instantly imagine that inevitably horrendous day. In this morbid vision, Lou was tragically killed in a car accident and I was alone in the house, reading this entry while sobbing into his iPad (which would then be my iPad because he’d be dead). And I’d be thinking, “How arrogant I was back then! Flippantly mentioning a horrendous day like it was nothing! See what you get for being arrogant?!?!?”

Anyway, back to the good day stuff…

Last night, I discovered that my book is already available for pre-order on Barnes&Noble.com and Amazon.com. I’ve been smiling about this all day!

Today, Mom spent her very first full day as an independent person since the stroke. She didn’t have myself or Alan (aka brother #3) with her at any point. She didn’t trip, slip, fall, have a stroke, or die. Phew!

Tonight, I get to meet the triplets for the very first time. My friends had triplets. That sentence still hardly registers. But they had the triplets just three days before my mother’s stroke so I missed the beginning of this chapter. Now I get to meet them and I’m insanely jazzed.

A really great thing happened for my team at work today but that’s all confidential so *zipping lip gesture*.

On a whim, I punched out two blog posts today. This has alleviated my fear fantasy in which I would lose the urge to continue writing after I turned in my book manuscript.

And now, I wish you a good day, too!

Blog written during my lunch break on Wednesday, April 24th.

Knock, Knock…

©iStockphoto.com/Raycat

Who’s there?
©iStockphoto.com/Raycat

I just spent the last two hours researching sex on the internet.

Lou and I have been married for 2 1/2 years. I’m turning 32 in July. So I guess it’s time to get knocked up.

Now that we’ve started this discussion in earnest and set some dates for doctor appointments, I’ve been struggling with the urge to write about it.

As a side note, I wish I would just not write about it. But if I could keep myself from it, I probably wouldn’t be able to call myself a writer. As it is, I’ll write about it and deal with the stresses that come along with this exposure.

What if people from work read this and are disappointed? Why do I feel like pregnancy is a betrayal to my employer?

What if I can’t get pregnant? What if this blog turns into a depressing journal of my infertility-related mourning?

If I post this blog, do I have to keep blogging about every step of this pregnancy thing? Am I being tacky?

And, as usual, writing about myself means I’ll invite everyone to witness the less-than-pleasant sides of my personality. As an example, I’m already feeling bitter about the whole thing.

I assume a good future-mom would never feel bitterness. A good future-mom would softly mention her intentions to a few close friends. And when she spoke of it, she’d gently grin, brush her abdomen with her hand, and be magically bathed in morning light. Her soft-spoken announcement would be private, beautiful,  and (in my opinion) hideously vaginal.

Today, my announcement is made via the low-brow blogosphere. And as I blab about a decision that’s supposed to be private, I will express my disgusting fears of stretch marks, big nipples, constipation, weird underwear, the surefire compromise to my career, and the reality that my vag is going to literally rip open.

In all moments when I’m lacking grace, I rely on the advice of other women. Today, I must remember my mother’s words from a few years ago:

“It’s not fun. But at least you get to bring home a cute little baby afterward.”

Goal for this week: Start taking a multivitamin.

Update: Just to be clear, I’m not pregnant. We’re researching and arranging the preparations necessary to become pregnant. Just want to be 100% clear on that, thanks.

My Mom Had a Stroke. And How Are You?

I'd rather not see this again anytime soon.

I’d rather not see this again anytime soon.

When my mom had a mild stroke almost five weeks ago, I turned Lou and said, “I think I need to blog through this. It will help me. And maybe it will help someone else.”

Jesus. I’m really glad I didn’t.

First of all, now that my mom is walking on her own, fixing meals, and completing chores, it seems like a real whiny thing to do. Writing about my “struggles” during this experience is insulting to anyone who has had to endure a normal or severe stroke. Heck, it’s insulting to describe MY struggles at all. I’m not the one who can’t use her left hand.

Five weeks ago, however, I didn’t know everything would be okay. I completely lost the ability to imagine improvement. I guess that’s why they call it a crisis.

But things have improved. Including my attitude. And to celebrate, I’m capturing some of this crazy business in a list.

Ten Things About My Mom’s Stroke (in no particular order)

1. “Don’t freak out.” That was the lede when Brother #1 called to tell me mom was in the ER. I didn’t freak out. Not until much later.

2. My freak out. On her first night in the hospital, she assured us all that we should go home to sleep in our own beds. Lou, after picking up takeout for me, scooped me up from the hospital to take me home. By the time I arrived home, I was sobbing hysterically. Lou simply gathered a few things for me then drove me all the way back to the hospital so I could spend the night with Mom.

3. I ate a sandwich. This, in itself, is not memorable. But when you eat a sandwich on the drive back to the hospital mid-freak-out, it’s quite a sight. Sobbing with tears and boogers streaming, I moaned, “Why the FUCK did this happen?!?!” over and over. Meanwhile, I was shoving a sandwich in my mouth as avocado and tomato slices slid out from between the bread. I picked up the avocado slices with my fingers and ate them. I didn’t have a napkin. (This item would also make my list of top five most unattractive moments of my entire life.)

4. I forgot. Lou tells me that in the days following the stroke, he managed to sneak me away one morning for a hike on North Mountain. I have absolutely no memory of this. None.

5. Hair is down. When I arrived with Lou and Brother #3 in the hospital, Mom’s hair was down. Gray, wavy, and thick, it covered most of the pillow. She always wears her hair in a french braid because she hates having it in her face. As soon as we walked in, she burst into tears. Then she asked me to braid her hair.

6. I learned how to french braid. “Who did your braid?” I asked Mom the other day. I figured it was her friend, Sammie (the other frequent braider). “You did,” my mom answered. I felt proud. It was a fine braid.

7. Mom squeezed my hand. On day one, her left hand couldn’t do anything. One morning during week three (or so) I put my hands in hers. She looked me right in the eyes, scrunched her brow, and squeezed my hand. I squealed.

8. Spring training. Mom spent two weeks at Scottsdale Osborn Hospital. While I stared out her window, endless families flooded the streets to watch spring training baseball games. They were wearing ridiculous hats, drinking beer (or whatever), hopping in pedi-cabs, and having a blast. I was in hell. But I was happy for them.

9. I became a lady. Sorry to be gross, but this was total bullshit. The day of the stroke, I unexpectedly got my “lady-times” while we were all at the hospital. Whatever!

10. I got mad. I wish I could tell you that I handled this entire thing with grace, love, and patience. I didn’t. Not even close. But I’m not ready to write about that yet.

Dad Knows Best

And here it is...still limping along.

And here it is…still limping along.

I should not be blogging right now. I should be writing my book.

I’m in the total-freak-out stage of this writing project. Now that I’m settled into my corporate job (I’m very happy there), I’ve developed a new discipline to devote 9-10 hours per week to this book. I can only hope this is enough.

I’m stressed to the max.

But I’ve been writing this blog post in my head for months and it’s time to get it out.

It’s about my camera.

When I graduated college in 2006, this Canon Power Shot A540 was my Dad’s gift to me. I’m going to send the link to this blog to my dad later today so he’ll soon learn that this was so not what I wanted. At the time, I had given my then-fiance very specific instructions to tell my dad that I wanted an iPod.

Instead, I got the camera.

“I figured that, with your new job at the New Times, you could use a camera for your work when you’re out reporting stories and such,” Dad told me.

Then I started my job and quickly accepted the assignment to take pictures of party people once a week for a column called Club Candids. I despised the gig but the money was way too good to pass up. This camera was with me all the way. It somehow survived bars, clubs, and dance nights each week for three years solid.

Today, the lens is missing its cover. The screen on the back is scratched to hell. The flash only works if you flick the bulb five times with your finger before you take the photo. The wrist strap is so caked with dried booze and grime, the woven threads are now all leathery and gross.

I promised myself I’d buy a new camera so I could take excellent photos for my book. I planned to use my sad, sad Canon only for the first few hikes. But I got busy and lazy and I didn’t want to do the research needed to buy a new camera.

Today, I’m more than halfway done with my list of hikes and this beat up little thing has captured some gorgeous photos…some are even good enough for the cover (according to my publisher’s Graphics Coordinator).

Dad knows best!

Had to Stop By

I don’t like blogging without a picture. This beautiful image of a painting by Henri Rousseau was on my computer desktop.

Each time I drive by my mother’s house, I feel guilty if I don’t stop by. Even if I’m on my way to an appointment, it doesn’t feel right to just cruise past her home without letting her know I’m around.

I imagine her in the house, working on a sewing project in silence (this is actually how my mother spends her time) and it makes me sad to think that I’m robbing her the opportunity to see one of her kids. She’s an excellent mother and she’s always happy to see her children.

Likewise, I just logged into WordPress for the first time in a month. I’m here to find another document to help me write a press release for these wonderful people. But it felt rude  to stop by and not post a blog.

That’s all.

Moms on Facebook

It’s time.

Some people hate Facebook. I think this is a waste of energy. Why bother? Hating Facebook is like hating email.  Facebook is just another part of the social landscape in which we now live.

My mother has a Facebook account, but she never checks it. Not because she hates it. She just doesn’t know how to use it.

This morning, she emailed two links to me.

One linked to the video of the dancing baby twins:

 

And the other linked to the Lady Godiva Program, for which our friend, Sam, is a semi-finalist.

(Vote for her here! She’s incredible!)

A good 24 hours prior to my mom’s emails, I shared the same two links on my Facebook page.

“I think it’s time you were more active on Facebook.” I just wrote to my mother in an email. “Let’s make sure to have a ‘Facebook lesson’ next time I come over for family dinner. After all, you’re retired now so you don’t have any excuse to NOT be on!”

I’m still waiting for her response.