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Category Archives: Contemplative

Encampment

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I know I haven’t been around much lately, but most of June was a blur for me because of this place. Please enjoy a brief photographic essay on Girl Scout Outreach Day Camp. (Special shout out goes to Miss Sara Marksberry – my trusty side-kick through the somewhat rocky but always entertaining 2nd week!)

 

In the dining hall – one of the things I love about the camp is the advanced age of many of the structures. Makes me feel like I’m in The Parent Trap. (You know, the real one with Hayley Mills.)

 

One day for lunch we were served hot dogs. On hamburger buns. I understand that they are the same as a hot dog buns only in a different shape (like spaghetti and penne). But try explaining that with any success to a picky 6 year old who is already leery of the “burn marks” on the nicely grilled dog.

 

During our second week the camp ranger was setting this up for a group coming in the week after us. We had no idea that we owned such a thing. Now that the cat’s out of the bag, I think we might be requesting this next year. I think it would make an excellent home base for the directors :).

 

One thing at lunch that nearly everyone ate happily. I say nearly everyone because I don’t particularly like watermelon. (Please send your hate mail to KimKnowsSheIsUnamericanForDislikingWatermelonAndChocolate@yourmom.com)

 

Ahh- tie dye. The craft I have a love-hate relationship with. I run the tie dye station every year. And every year I HATE tie dye while I’m setting up the gallons of water that must be carried from the dining hall out to the picnic tables and mixing the endless bottles of dye which gets EVERYWHERE and soaking and wringing out hundreds of t-shirts in the soda ash solution that dries out my hands and comforting a panicked child who just got dye on her pants after she was REPEATEDLY warned not to walk around the table with the dye bottle in hand and finally convincing skeptical girls to WEAR GLOVES only to watch them take the gloves off when finished with their shirt and then dip their hands into the puddles of dye leftover on the tables because it “looked fun”. And then the next day I start to forget all of that and begin daydreaming about what dye designs I’ll use next year. And when next year rolls around I’ll sign up for the fun all over again.

 

This long and painstaking process which results in to weeks during which we bus girls out to the wilds of camp from their city neighborhoods is so involved and full of stories that I can’t even begin to chronicle it all here. But I will leave you with my most potent memory of camp this year – what will affect ME (not just the Work Me). This year we had a very high number of girls who came to camp without something important that they needed. Particularly bathing suits and/or shorts. A tiny little fire cracker of a girl named London told me she forgot her suit the first day so I gave her some shorts and a shirt we had in our “extras” stash to swim in that first day. The next day she told me she forgot her suit AND the clothes I had given her and could she please have some more clothes to swim in. After some digging we learned that she didn’t just forget her suit – she doesn’t own one. We were able to get her a suit on the third day and when I called her over to give it to her she took one look at it and screamed. “Its PINK! And I can keep it?!?” I nodded yes and the smile she flashed actually gave me goosebumps. She attacked me with a bear hug adding, “my momma’s gonna be SO happy!”

While London’s reaction was by far the most dynamic, her situation was not particularly unique. We’d notice a girl wearing heavy, too-big jeans (the same pair each day) in 90 degree heat and find out from her leader that she also didn’t bring a bathing suit. We’d investigate and learn that she doesn’t own a suit OR shorts. In every case we were able to provide the missing clothing article and allow the girls to feel normal – one of the group. Perhaps the most striking situation we had like this was that of Maria. She was about 6 years old, face-meltingly adorable, enthusiastic, teensy-tiny, and spoke very broken English. She came to camp the first day (90 degree high) wearing a a school uniform shirt, school uniform pants, and heavy sneakers that were at least twice as big as her actual feet. We asked her if she had shorts or a t-shirt she could wear the next day but we weren’t sure how much she was comprehending. The next day she arrived wearing the same shoes and pants and, instead of a short sleeved uniform shirt she wore a long sleeved turtle neck. We found shorts and a t-shirt for her. And this sort of thing just kept happening – at a rate about 9 times higher than in previous years.

Randy and I were discussing this trend, these girls, and I told him about one of our volunteers who helped us get many of the bathing suits we handed out. She is involved in her city community center and with various social programs where she routinely encounters kids who don’t have basic stuff they need (proper shoes, bathing suit, shorts etc.). So she makes it a point in her everyday life to look for kids and teen bathing suits (among other items) at yard sales and thrift stores and whenever she finds them she buys them all up, takes them home and washes them, and maintains a stash to pull from whenever she finds a kid who needs something. We were bowled over by how amazingly simple but potentially life changing this one little act could be. Sure, a bathing suit doesn’t sound life changing at first gander. But think about it. Think about being a kid. At a community center with a pool. And you have no bathing suit. Many pools have rules against wearing street clothes in the water. So you’re out. Ineligible. You will miss out on all of those experiences so fundamental to childhood in the summer. You will feel alienated and deprived. You will feel different. When you think about it like that, a bathing suit can be life changing. And it just takes someone like me, who makes enough money to  buy a bathing suit AND a pool membership AND a trip to Florida to spend pocket change and spare time to make it happen. My question to myself is: Why would I NOT do something like this?!?

I’d Blog…..

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I’d blog and tell you about the eventful week we’ve had, but the estrogen is making me feel like a shell of a person who doesn’t care about blogging. I have zero motivation for just about anything, including writing. So instead I think I’ll just sit here and stare at the lovely lanterns Randy’s parents (and brother and sister) brought over to help bring a bit of brightness to our lives during this dim period. They are helping. 🙂

Unbirthday

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I still miss her every single day and continue to shed tears for her often.

About Vivienne: click here About the necklace: click here

New Year, Same Life

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As 2010 drew to a close and 2011 yawned, stretched, and climbed out of bed I naturally participated in the cliched practice of evaluating the 365 days that just passed us by and imagining what lies in the 365 that are stretched out before us. Randy reminded me that nothing magical happens on January 1 to change the course of our lives – that there is nothing in actuality that makes January 1, 2011 different from December 31, 2010. And I agree. But I’m so programed to think in terms of beginnings and endings – one of the reasons I felt so lost upon graduation from college – I didn’t have a clearly defined next step that included a beginning, middle and end, like a grade at school or a summer on swim team – I just had my whole life looming out there, which seemed daunting. So I ignored the rational argument and continued the time-honored tradition of reliving the year and using that data to (however unscientifically) draw conclusions about what the next had in store for me.

And it doesn’t look good. Because  this time last year I was sure that 2010 would have to be better than 2009. You might remember this un-tribute to 2009 from last year’s New Year’s Eve post. But when I honestly think about the events of 2010 and how they made me feel throughout the year I can say without a doubt that 2010 was worse than 2009, which had been the worst year of my life. So now 2010 is the new worst year of my life (included three significant family deaths, two failed IVF attempts, surgery, a job loss in the family, and of course the end of my dream to be the one to turn my parents into grandparents for the first time). I don’t like this trend. Last year I responded to the end of a bad year by assuming things could only go up – I was due for a good year. This year I have a much more pessimistic outlook. I’m beginning to fear what lies ahead rather than hope for it.

Infertility has a way of causing its sufferers to feel like their lives are standing still, stunted, meaningless. And I feel that more acutely during milestone times – like a new year. For most of my friends, 2011 will mark the year their child took his first steps, or started kindergarten, or got a new sister, or made his entrance into the world. For me, 2011 looks empty and riddled with the same crap as 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007. I’m not progressing. If anything, I’m digressing. Slipping down further into debt, social alienation, and physical and mental exhaustion.

Well-meaning people have told me before that I can still live my life while trying for a family – that I can make progress and have my own path. I can do all sorts of fun things I won’t be able to do later on when the stork does show up! And I’m sure some very strong, very awesome people are able to function in this manner during severe bouts with infertility. But for the rest of us – there are too many roadblocks that stand between us and a life we feel we can really mold to be our own. Infertility colors and affects every decision we make, from mundane to life-altering. Should we replace the old, unreliable car? Or do we need to save the money in case the next treatment doesn’t work? Should I log onto Facebook so I don’t slip into further alienation from my friends? Or will I see a post about someone else who is pregnant that will ruin my day and cost me a good night’s sleep?  Infertility seeps its slimy little way into every area of life,  and there is no option to get away from it. I can hide for a while – behind busy-ness and planning and vacation. But its always there waiting for me.

And with that in mind, I didn’t really make any resolutions, any goals for 2011. That is something hopeful people do and right now I am not among that group. I’m realizing that Randy is right – there is nothing different or sacred about 2011. God/Fate/Chance/Nature doesn’t care that the calendar flipped over and a ball dropped and fireworks exploded. The same problems I had on December 31 were waiting for me on January 1 – I’m just one day older and tireder when I deal with them. For the time-being I guess I do have one goal: to muddle through with my best friend and reason for getting up in the morning and try to appreciate all that we do have going for us (you know, all that stuff that gets pushed to the back burner when all you can think about is your losses). If you’re still reading and haven’t made a gun out of your forefinger and thumb to mimic shooting yourself in the head, I commend you and thank you for allowing me to share the rawness of life during this season. I promise I’ll get back to crafting and food posts soon. 🙂

July 2010

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Once upon a time, there were two sisters – a big sister and a little sister. The big sister liked being bigger – doing things first having more responsibility. And the little sister liked being littler – growing up more slowly and having someone to blaze the trail for her. The big sister had a dream to one day run in a race. She trained for that someday race very diligently and faithfully. After many years of training, when it was finally time to start the race, she looked down and suddenly realized that her leg had somehow become crushed and badly mangled. Stunned, she sought out help from the best doctors, who put her in the hospital to treat her leg. The doctors said they might be able to save her leg and her dream to run – it would hurt a lot and take long time – but in the end she might still get to enter a race. But there was also a chance that the big sister’s leg was too injured to save – and would have to be amputated. So the doctors went to work on her leg, trying every concoction they could think of and the big sister was stuck in the hospital, waiting. There was a big window in her room from which she could see many races passing by. Many of her friends ran in those races and a seemingly constant stream of runners flitted past her window as she lay in her bed thinking about her own racing ambitions. Sometimes it was too hard for her to watch the happy runners so close up – and she would pull the curtains shut. But the curtains were thin and she could still see shadows and hear the excited shouts and pounding footsteps of the runners.

A couple of times, the doctors thought they had fixed the big sister’s leg and they let her go out to join the runners in a race of her own. She was so happy – her lifelong dream was finally coming true. After spending so long wishing to run, she could hardly believe her time had really come, but it had. So she bought a pair of running shoes and headed off,  the little sister happily cheering her on from the sidelines. But sadly, after the big sister had only taken a few steps – barely gotten past the starting line – her leg buckled underneath her, shattering again. She was out of the race and utterly devastated. Luckily, the little sister and the rest of her family was there to pick her up and take care of her as she grieved for what she had lost and began treatments on her broken leg, once again.

After a while, the big sister was growing exhausted from the operations and treatments on her leg. She didn’t want her leg to be amputated, but she didn’t know how much longer she could stand being stuck in bed, stuck inside that hospital room, unable to really move on with her life. She began to have fantasies about what her life would be like as an amputee. Life would be hard at first and she would always miss her leg, but at least she could move on and make a new kind of life. Maybe she would use a wheelchair and really become comfortable with that. Or maybe she would get a sporty prosthetic leg and eventually run in a race or two. Or maybe that next operation she had scheduled would fix her leg and allow her to at least run in one good race. Either way – anything would be better than staying in limbo, weighed down by a painful, useless leg while so many of her friends were thriving in the racing world, leaving her behind.

Just when the big sister was starting to recover from her most recent failed operation, she got a phone call from the little sister – the little sister who she thought wasn’t really interested in running – at least not for a while. The little sister called to tell the big sister that she has become  runner and is registered for her first marathon. The big sister feels like her little hospital room is caving in around her, and her leg hurts more than ever. She wants to be happy for the little sister but she just can’t. She always imagined herself to be the first in her family of her generation to run a race – it was part of her identity – part of the plan – and part of her destiny – and now it can never be. She worries that she will never even get to run a race, let alone be the first. She worries that her leg will be amputated and she’ll be too broken and exhausted learn to run with a prosthetic. And she thinks it may just kill her to see the little sister in running shoes, to see her crossing the finish line, to watch her parents faces as they bask in the glow of this first-time victory, to watch the little sister and her mother share the experience of finishing a race, understanding she may never know this joy.

June 2010

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We said goodbye to Randy’s other grandpa this month. He slipped away holding Randy’s hand – finally departing this world after years with his eyes and heart elsewhere, yearning to be again with his true love who died too soon. His death was bittersweet. We’re sad to lose him but his life was satisfying. He lived well. And now he is done. Ready to move on, with no loose ends left behind.

Randy and I turned inward after the funeral, thinking about our own losses and feeling even more connected through the pain of them. And so we decided to go away alone/together for our brthdays, to Chicago. More and more we feel like we are the only two people in the universe, somehow. Its hard to explain, so I’ll again borrow words to do it for me.

Soul Meets Body by Death Cab for Cutie

And I do believe it’s true
That there are roads left in both of our shoes
But if the silence takes you
Then I hope it takes me too
So [blue] eyes I hold you near
Cause you’re the only song I want to hear
A melody softly soaring through my atmosphere

May 2010

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The IVF didn’t work. I have no more energy to think or do or write photograph. So there are no pictures for May and no essays either. I am borrowing other people’s words to define the month.

Excerpt from The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Cohelo

We had it all, apart from the one thing we wanted most – a child. And so we had nothing.

Soldier’s Poem by Muse

There’s no justice in the world
There’s no justice in the world
And there never was