Loss

On Monday we attended a memorial service for my Aunt, who died on December 18th.  I don’t really know how to write about it.  I don’t even know if it is appropriate to write about it.  I certainly don’t want to be disrespectful.  But this blog is about hard things, and this qualifies. 
For an Italian/Irish Catholic clan, the Cordanos are pretty small in number.  My father is the youngest of 3, those three had 9 children, the 9 of us have 13 and counting between us.  And almost all of us and our spouses were there for the service.  I wouldn’t say we are terribly close in a day to day way, but when we need to be we are there for each other.  And I can honestly say to a person these Cordanos are good people.  I am grateful that they are my family. 
It goes without saying that we are all mourning the loss of my Aunt.  I ache for her, that she will not see her grandchildren grow up, that she will not be here to continue to parent her boys.  Now that I’m an adult I understand we need parenting as much as we did when we were children.  Most of all, I am so sorry that she will miss those well earned years of retirement with my Uncle. 
Her boys are, of course, men now.  And she has so much to be proud of concerning them.  They are the kind of men I hope T will become some day.  As someone who doesn’t have any firm beliefs concerning the afterlife I feel more and more like what we leave behind is our legacy.  And she left behind so much goodness, which in my book makes her life a victory. 
As an agonistic I really don’t know what the hell I believe.  Organized religion mostly turns my stomach.  God and an afterlife don’t seem terribly plausible.  But at the same time every civilization on earth seems to have developed belief in deities, even those that didn’t get far enough along to make clothing.  Are we all deluded in the same way?  Do we all need something else that badly?  Or is there really something out there?  Again, I don’t know.  But I hope there is something.  I hope she does continue to exist.  I hope she is able to somehow watch as her children and grandchildren grow and I hope she is able to continue to love.  I hope she is waiting for my Uncle and her boys somewhere.  I hope it for her, I hope it for them, I hope it for myself. 
And then there are the completely selfish feelings.  Her death has frightened me to my core.  Watching my cousins grieve has broken my heart.  Because the idea of losing either of my parents is completely inconceivable to me.  I desperately need them.  While I’m an adult with a kid of my own I also am terribly irresponsible and they bail me out over and over, they are my never ending safety net.  I wouldn’t know how to function without them.  Here’s a stupid little story of how my dad regards my responsibility level:  because of the traveling my father does he has frequent flyer memberships for my sister and me to a huge number of airlines as a just in case thing.  Recently he handed my sister physical possession of her cards for the first time.  He told me I still couldn’t be trusted to have mine. I wasn’t even offended, he is totally right.  If I can’t keep stupid frequent flyer cards safe how can I get along without a parent?  I pray to any and every god that might be out there that I don’t find out for a very very long time. 
And I hope my Aunt is in peace.  I send my Uncle, cousins, and their families love as they begin to navigate life without her.
I almost didn’t include a picture, but it seemed a bit of hope and happiness was in order.  And the little man is definitely a Cordano.
Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith.

Obsessing About T’s Poop

It doesn’t take much for feelings of extreme insecurity to well up and start to take over.  When my mind is presented with a scenario I assume I’ve done something to bring about the negative side of the story.  For some reason T failed to have a single solid poop in the month of November.  We went from dumping his turds in the toilet to not having that option at all.  I sort of assumed the looser poop was happening because we traveled the entire month.  As I’ve mentioned before, little man is a creature of habit.  When his schedule is messed up he starts to melt down.  When we arrived back in Syracuse his damn crap still didn’t firm up.  But for some reason in the last few days it has.  We are flushing about half the time.  I should be celebrating. 
But here is what I’m thinking instead.  When he was traveling without his dad in November he had loose poop because I was stressing him out.  When we got back to Syracuse his dad was still working and he was upset because he was spending his days with me.  Now that we are at Z’s folks house and Z is with him every day he is relaxed and happy and can achieve solid poop.  Because when Z is around T doesn’t want to give me the time of day.   And it hurts my feelings.
If I stop for half a second I realize a million holes can be blown through my “theory”.  1.  Z was with us for a week of the November trip and little dude still didn’t take a solid crap.  2.  Z was with us a lot during the several weeks at home.  There were the weekends and a snow day and there was a trip to visit him at work.  3.  T spends almost every waking moment with me.  I’m boring.  I’m old hat.  Daddy, on the other hand, is an exciting change.  Of course he wants to hang with Z when Z is available.  I felt the exact same way about my awesome dad when I was a kid.  I’m feeling pretty guilty when I remember how easily I would drop mom for him when he came home from work. 
And when I told Z my “theory” last night he said, “Dude.  You are crazy.”  His patience was already worn pretty thin because I’ve been spending a lot of time proposing causes for my miscarriage over the last few days.  For some reason he doesn’t find it useful to talk about my harebrained speculations about that event. 
Me, “It could have been the cold I had.” 
Z, stony silence.
 Me, “I let myself get really dehydrated, and they say that can cause miscarriages.”
 Z, stonier silence. 
Me not getting the hint, “I think it was because I had runny egg yolk.” 
Z, “I think it was the imaginary bed bugs.  Or the early onset Alzheimer’s you insist you have. Or the cysts in your arms and legs.  Or a pulmonary embolism.  Or that heart attack you had in August.  Do you know you are batshit crazy?”
Me, “Yes.  And shut the fuck up.”
Z, “Um, you shut the fuck up.”
When we tell each other to shut the fuck up, we mean it with love.   I don’t know.  It works for us.  Actually, it is really useful when he calls me on my crap.  Sometimes a person needs to hear they are batshit crazy.  My mind is often my own worst enemy.  Z helps me remember the hateful and self destructive thoughts can be challenged and fought.  I don’t think I’ll ever completely be able to silence the ugly and hurtful thoughts that constantly whirl in the back of my brain, telling me I am worthless and unlovable and a terrible person.  But I’ve had enough therapy to be armed with tools (Oh, the pretentious and annoying psychobabble!) to fight back.  At least when I have someone who reminds me I’m letting them take over. 
And the truth is I love having Z around every day.  We are getting some fantastic family time in, not just with the three of us, but with the whole Leonard gang.  I couldn’t have asked for a better time. 
I love closeups of his sweet squishy face. 

We were lucky enough to have dinner at a couple’s home who are very close friends of the family last night and T was given this awesome truck.  I love visiting with this couple because the wife is an extraordinary cook and the conversation is always interesting.  They live in the most amazing rambling Victorian home.  When we got home last night I was telling my mother in law that I look up to the wife so much.  “I want to be just like her when I finally grow up” I told her.  My mother in law laughed and said, “Me, too.”

 And I thought a shot of the little dude copping a squat was pretty appropriate for a post in which I discuss his poop.

In Which I Complain About My Petty First World Problems

When Z and I were first dating the holidays were my favorite time of year.  Though I am not a person of faith, I have always reveled in the secular parts of Christmas.  I love giving gifts.  I love getting gifts.  I love to eat, especially cookies.  What’s not great about this Christmas thing?  Z, on the other hand, was a humungous scrooge.  He feels resentful about any situation that forces him to be cheerful on a timeline and he’d rather give gifts when the spirit hits him instead of an arbitrary date in December.  The fact that my birthday is exactly one week before Christmas only makes things worse for him.  During our first holiday season Z combined my birthday and Christmas and gave me one gift, and let’s just say I didn’t handle it with a lot of grace. 
In those first few years I had to beg and stomp my feet (I was a delight) to convince Z we should have a Christmas tree.  I’d make a huge deal of the holidays and he’d be grumpily dragging his feet behind me.  I think he soon realized my love for the holidays had an upside.  He no longer had to think about what to get his family for Christmas, I’d just take care of it and whisper to him what people were getting as they’d unwrap the gifts.  And finally he stared to come around.  There was a year that I was working crazy hours at the bakery and I just didn’t have time to go get a tree.  My sister was visiting and she and Z got one to surprise me.  We were in Brooklyn at the time, so they went to one of the many places that pop up on street corners at the holidays.  The kind gentleman who sold the trees thought that they were a couple and gave them a very sweet Lovebirds ornament free of charge.   They just couldn’t tell him they were siblings-in-law, so they awkwardly put their arms around each other and thanked him.  Z and my sister are both wonderful people and they are great friends, but they are also about as mismatched at it is possible to be and for that reason this little story almost made me pee myself when they told me.
I turned 30 a few months after we moved to Providence.  I’ve never had big parties because my birthday is so close to Christmas, but I was particularly bummed because I was still conflicted about moving away from the city and our friends.  All I wanted was to be in Brooklyn for such a big milestone, but I’d recently started working at Whole Foods and the night before the 18th I needed to work inventory.  I was at the store until about 1am and I needed to be back at 7am on my birthday.  When I got home from work in the early hours of my birthday Z had decorated our whole house with 30th birthday stuff and he had made me the Christmas tree cake my mom always made me growing up.  I couldn’t stop crying.  I think it was the nicest birthday I’ve ever had.
That was the first year I was working retail.  And retail throttled the Christmas spirit right out of me.  By the time I left Whole Foods I just couldn’t get excited about the holidays anymore.  The holidays can bring out the best in people, but they often bring out the worst, especially in retail establishments.  In one particularly lovely moment of my first holiday season, a customer told me that Whole Foods and I were RUINING her Thanksgiving because we were out of that well known holiday staple, Spelt Bread.  It was the first time in my life someone had accused me of ruining her holiday.  There was the haughty new Assistant Manager of another department who obviously didn’t know I was the manager of the bakery and asked if I knew who she was when she had to wait a few minutes for her order like everyone else. Um, yes.  I know who you are.  You work at a grocery store.  Don’t get me wrong, I do, too.  But please excuse me for not being impressed.   It’s not like you are the Queen.  I was actually sort of grateful for that interaction.  I’ve learned to judge people by how they treat those below them in the food chain, and from then on I had her number.  I learned a lot about what kind of parent I didn’t want to be during November and December.  I watched a mother instruct a fellow team member to tell her children Santa wouldn’t bring them presents if they couldn’t behave themselves.  Again, WF employees are great with customers, but they are not paid to discipline your children.  When it was time to write the schedule there were always team members who seemed to forget they chose to work for a retail operation that made a large chunk of its money during the holidays and who would act shocked and cry when they couldn’t get time off.  So clearly I wasn’t dealing with the worst stuff ever.  Just constant pettiness and annoyances that made me dread the end of the year and that slowly eroded my holiday spirit.
Over time buying presents felt like a chore, and frankly going to another retail establishment during my precious time off was unpalatable.  I’d just watch the customers being mean to the employees and be infuriated.  I couldn’t travel for the holidays because of work and we didn’t have family nearby. I didn’t even care if we had a tree.  The last year in Providence  Z was the one pushing for it.  I was hoping the grinchyness would evaporate once I’d left retail, but it didn’t.  T was 4 months for his first Christmas and we travelled south to be with my family.  And it was really nice.  But that super excitement and happiness that would pulse in my chest and send tingles out to my fingertips was gone.  Historically that excitement didn’t have to do with the stuff I was getting, it was the togetherness, the stuff I was excited about giving, the traditions being played out that gave me such satisfaction.   It was the best part of family distilled into a short period of time.  This year we are with Z’s family for the big day.  Last night I spent hours wrapping gifts.  And it felt like a chore rather than a delight.  I wish I could snap out of it.  Particularly because it is appallingly spoiled to not revel in the holidays particularly when we have it so good. 

Z, on the other hand, had developed an appreciation for the holidays.  He was the one who insisted we get a miniature tree at home both last year and this year.  He loves the family time and the holiday spirit and he has that sense of excitement.  He doesn’t care if I haven’t made the candy and cookies I wanted to.  He’s just happy to celebrate togetherness.  I could learn a thing or two from him.  And next year T will have some comprehension of what is going on during the holidays.  We can start to tell him about Santa.  We will develop our own family traditions.  T brings so much joy to my life that I am hopeful that watching him discover the wonder of the holidays will help bring back my Christmas spirit.  

Z and T reading on my birthday.
Adorable T on the drive down south.  He bucked tradition and did a fantastic job in the car.  Z and I were braced for 11 hours of tears, so it was a really pleasant surprise.   


Little man playing at Grandma and Grandpa’s.

Lessons From the Kid I Will Never Meet

Parenthood is the worst heartache you’ve ever experienced mixed with a heady and intense love.  T didn’t teach me that lesson, the baby we lost did.  Don’t get me wrong, I think T will remind me plenty of times over the years.  But somehow I’m glad that I’ll be a little more prepared for it.  Because the first time it hits you the pain is unbearable.  And for me, that first time pain will never be associated with T.  I will always be grateful to the baby we lost for so many reasons.  When I get pregnant again I will not experience the pure joy and hope and delight I had with that pregnancy.  The fear of losing the baby will color everything.  That joy certainly wasn’t there for me when I was pregnant with T, I was too scared.  Every pregnancy is, of course, unique; and my little lost baby gave me so much happiness in the few weeks I carried it.  So in a tiny span of time that baby gave me so much joy and taught me I could bear the unbearable.  What an extraordinary teacher it was, every day I grieve that I will never get to meet who he or she was supposed to become.   
As we head into trying to have another baby I’ve been doing a boatload of thinking.  I want a baby just as fiercely this time, but the want is tempered by my realization that the reality won’t be a fairy tale.  I was the one who initiated our attempts to conceive this past summer.  And my motivations were not in any way reasonable.  My hormones were fluctuating because I was breastfeeding less as T started eating more solid food.  The moment my period came back I couldn’t think of anything except having another baby.  I was mourning the loss of my infant’s transition into a baby and then a toddler.   I was delighted he was developing so rapidly, but at the same time it was all too fast.  In my desire for another baby I didn’t want to replace T, I wanted more time with him.  And the desire was so strong I couldn’t even think straight.  I couldn’t remember how much is sucked when T was brand new and I was nursing every three hours for months on end.  I couldn’t remember his never ending crying in the night when Z and I would take turns walking in circles around our first floor sometimes crying in frustration ourselves.  I couldn’t remember how lonely I was because Z had just started a new job and we lived in a new place and most of my waking hours were just me and the kid.  I had tunnel vision baby fever in the most clichéd way possible. 
Well, my hormones have stabilized and I do remember all that stuff.   And T is such a good time right now, he cracks me up every day.  I wonder why I was so anxious to give up my solo time with him.  Our lives have stabilized tremendously.  Z is around much more this year.  We get to sleep through the night the vast majority of the time.  We have settled into a blissful domesticity.    The great thing is I want a baby just as much despite realizing how hard it will be.  I want T to have the gift of a sibling close in age to him.  I do want to have another chance to delight in a newborn, especially now that I know how fast it really does go.  If I successfully carry another baby to term I think being prepared for the difficulties will make it a happier transition for all of us. 
Little man wandering around Kinkos as we waited for our second batch of Christmas cards to be printed.  Have you not received a card from us?  Send me your address and I’ll put one in the mail! 

 That’s my hat he has on…

Grandma got him the awesomest hoodie ever.

Yes, I’m Perfectly Aware That I’m an Ass. And Yes, I’m Trying to Work On It.

I’m an ass.  I’m a jerk.  I’m a selfish and self involved twit.  Yesterday’s post has been on my mind a lot and the more I think about it the more I am disappointed with myself. 
Of course Z has every right to privacy in our relationship.  He has been incredibly generous to me by being cool with how much of our life I share.  I just rewrote that sentence.  I started to write he has been incredibly generous to let me share so much of our life.  And there is the problem.  To let me.  So very loaded.  The thing is, Z has never acted like his ideas or his actions should be weighed with more consideration that mine.  He has always treated me like an equal.  He was the one that suggested we take the word obey out of our marriage vows.  He told me it would actually make him a little uncomfortable if I took his last name after I told him I wanted to keep mine.
And I feel like his equal.  I know I am just as intelligent as he is, and I have proven I can provide financially for us as well as he can.  Yet I have deep insecurities about how I am perceived in our relationship.  I am defensive and jealous that he went to grad school and I have not, even though he has told me over and over again that he would support my choice to go back to school.  I worry what people think of me because I am a stay at home mom.  When offering my opinion in the presence of his co-workers I almost always qualify my thoughts with, “I’m just a stay at home mom so I might not know what I’m talking about, but…”  My insecurities are not his fault, and they are not caused by him in any way. 
A very casual acquaintance referred to her role in her family (married with children) as second in command once and I wanted to shake her.  Why sell herself short?  Why consider herself of less import than her husband?  Why not approach family life as a team?  This particular person is the primary care giver to the kids, so I also wonder why the person doing the heavy lifting in regards to the child rearing would subjugate herself to someone who spent a lot of time away from the home.  I think the reason I was so angry with her is because I fear others will see me as she sees herself.  And for some reason it is of paramount importance that I am seen as second in command to no one. 
All of this is by way of explaining why I was being such a hard headed jerk.  And all of this is stuff I really need to work on.  In response to the commenter on the last post: Of course I agree that just writing my thoughts down is a great help.  And my brand of over sharing is going to be distasteful to some.  But I am sure there are others out there like me who are helped by knowing about the private struggles people go through.  Those folks like me who find comfort in knowing that sometimes people don’t behave perfectly or have trouble coping with life in general, not because we wish others ill, but because our own struggles seem less horrible and overwhelming when we realize everyone goes through them.  I guess the hope that those folks might magically come across my blog is the reason I do want to put my stories out there.  Delusions of grandeur, I know.  But those delusions come from a good place of wanting to reassure people that they are not alone.  My task will be to try and accomplish that without making Z uncomfortable at the same time.
Waiting to see Santa the day after Thanksgiving. 

He was really confused by the whole thing. 

 The water table at the Children’s Museum we took him to was the hit of the day.

This Blogging Thing is Hard

Blogs are enormously and unavoidably self indulgent.  They can be lots of other things as well, and I might go so far as to say all creative pursuits are self indulgent on some level, so I do not mean to condemn them.  Heck, I enjoy working on mine and I also enjoy regularly reading many of them.  My blog is particularly confessional.  It’s certainly not an original theme.  I feel compelled to write because I find it personally helpful, and because I think life would be easier if “private shames” like mental illness, miscarriage, marriage trouble, and parenting challenges were destigmatized.  I don’t have any delusions of grandeur that my blog, with its tiny readership, is going to engender this change.  I’m just trying to add my two cents to the dialogue. 
The problem is when I write about my life I am also writing about the lives of people around me.  Certain family members have made it clear to me that I need to OK it with them before I post about them, and I am sensitive to that.  Certain family members seem pretty cool with it.  Out of respect for Z I ask him to read posts that concern him and our relationship before I publish them.  He has been extremely generous about me airing our dirty laundry. 
Yesterday I wrote a post that concerned marital hurt and how our fighting has evolved over the years.  He was in his car for a long period, driving back to Syracuse from Ithaca for work so I read it to him in the hopes of getting the all clear.  When I was done he told me for the first time that he was completely uncomfortable with me publishing the piece.  He was very kind and said it was honest and fair, but he said it was too raw.  He just didn’t want it out there on the internet.  To me it was a pretty redemptive story, about the unavoidable fighting that happens in a marriage and how through a lot of work and self awareness on both of our parts we have been able to learn to fight constructively.  That isn’t to say we don’t hurt each other big time, but we have come a long way in how we navigate that hurt.
We went back and forth about the post a lot last night.  And we realized we were in a terrible position where one of us would feel guilty and one of us would feel angry not matter what the outcome was.  I also worried that I had opened the door for my content to be censored.  Z worried about the details of our life that he would like to remain private ending up on the web for anyone to find with a little digging.  Ultimately he suggested that the specific story was not necessary in writing about emotional growth in a marriage.  He said there isn’t just one way to do anything.  At first I was dismissive, particularly because the piece was already written exactly how I wanted it to be.  But then I cooled off a bit and understood he was right.  The same problem can be solved in any number of ways.  It will be a challenge, but I will try and rewrite the piece.
The balancing act of being true to myself while not making my husband uncomfortable in my writing seems a little harder.  He was so frustrated last night he said he just wants me to post what I post without talking to him about it first, and let the chips fall where they may.  Can you tell he hates confrontation?  I don’t want to do that because I do respect him, and I want him to treat me with the same respect when it comes to other issues in our life.  So I really don’t know what to do.  Tomorrow I will try and rewrite the post.  I will continue to write honestly about our marriage, motherhood, being crazy.  But I have no idea how to strike the balance between writing with uncensored honesty and making those I write about comfortable.  I’m unpardonably naive, but this whole blogging thing is a lot more complicated than I thought it would be.   

Sunday morning. 

T found Z’s old drafting brush and felt the need to brush everyone’s hair with it.  


No More Excuses to Stay Home

The snow has stopped, the roads are in decent shape, we got less than an inch yesterday after I shoveled, there was no reason for T and me to stay home all day.  And the little man needed some snow boots.  We got a snowsuit for him, but realized we didn’t have anything appropriate for his feet when we got him suited up on Monday.  So I decided we needed to get out and take a trip to Target and the grocery store. 
When T went down for his morning nap I was totally on track.  I made sure I could get the car out of the driveway and did a little more shoveling right where our drive meets the road.  I was nervous because a car parked in front of my neighbor’s house got stuck pulling out in front of our drive last night.  Poor guy’s wheels were spinning like crazy and he didn’t get out for almost an hour.  I couldn’t even offer help because Z was still at school and I seriously can’t leave T alone in the house when he is up at this point.  The shoveling was a quick job, I did not even get soaked with sweat.  T woke up at about 11:30 and I fed him lunch.  Then I started freaking out.   
I hadn’t left our house (or yard) since Sunday.  Even though I wanted to get out it suddenly seemed like the hardest thing to do in the world.  When it is hard for me to leave the house it manifests itself in a very physical way.  I think the best way to describe it is my limbs start feeling heavy.  No, I think it’s better to say it feels like there is an incredibly heavy weight on top of me.  I also start to feel dizzy and really tired.  Yet somehow my heart also beats too fast and I feel agitated. Talk about not making sense, tired and agitated all at the same time.   And this is the good version of anxiety because I know I’m going to a “safe place”, so there isn’t any fear of diarrhea.  I dragged my feet until almost 1:30, which was a problem because T’s afternoon nap is at 3pm.  I almost gave up on the whole thing, but we are having friends over for dinner tomorrow and I really needed to get to the store for that.  And damn it, I wanted to not let myself down.  I still don’t know why sometimes I’m able to get myself out of the house and other times I just give up.  I think at this point I just need to be grateful that it happens. 
So we went.  And it was uneventful.  We got his boots and all the food I need for tomorrow.  And T missed his second nap and was cranky.  And the world didn’t end.  To celebrate I had my first drink since October with dinner.  So I was drunk by dessert.  Perfect.  

T loves trucks.  This was the day before we left my sister’s place. 

I believe this was the highlight of his day.