Some things should be sacred. I would like to believe that at some point a marriage has lasted long enough that one partner should be free from the fear that the other would suddenly end it.

After my mother died, a family member became like a mother to me. We always had a special relationship, but it became even more so after my mother was gone. And now, my heart is breaking with hers at the news that her husband of 35 years has suddenly decided that he does not want to be married any longer. Her heartbreak is compounded by the fact that he has chosen to pursue a relationship with someone who came between them 22 years earlier. Wounds that she thought were healed have been ripped open anew.

I am also grieving with her children. Although I have never suffered through a divorce, I know full well the sadness that comes from having your family ripped apart. I understand the death of the dream of happy future gatherings with both your parents and your children. I comprehend the pain of knowing that your life will never be as it was only a few moments before.

Once again, I am asking myself, even though I know, what can I say? Words seem so insincere, even though they are far from it. There is nothing that I can say to rectify this wrong. There is little that I can do beyond just being. I can let my family know that I am grieving with them. I can listen when they want to talk. I can be with them when they are ready for company. And someday, when they are ready to hear it, I can tell them that it is possible to accept a new reality – even one that you don’t want – and move forward.

I love summer for so many reasons.  But, in-season, local vegetables and fruit top my list.

Two years ago, we joined a CSA.  In fact, we got our first share on the day that Bear was born.  Once I got home from the hospital, at my request, my mother-in-law made me a salad from local lettuce and homegrown asparagus that, along with cheese and an olive oil vinaigrette, tasted better to me than anything I could have imagined.  My body was spent from a long labor and probably depleted of nutrients thanks to a hungry Bear, and I began craving fresh vegetables.  I nearly ate nothing else for several days, and my mother-in-law became worried that I was not getting enough calories to make milk, so she began boiling eggs and roasting chickens.

Admittedly, I am less inspired by grocery store vegetables.  Even the vegetables and fruit at Whole Foods, although better than that at our local grocery store, can hold nothing to the bounty that comes in our share every week.

Today, a little over a month into the season, we received a carton of tiny strawberries, four ripe tomatoes, a bunch of green onions, two good-sized zucchini, a carton of snap peas, and a large bag of green beans and new potatoes.  Over the past month, we have been living off of a variety of kale that looks nothing like any I’ve ever seen in a store, various herbs, Swiss chard, onions, bags of lettuce, rhubarb, strawberries, and eggs and more eggs.  We had so many eggs at the beginning of the season that I ran out of ways to cook eggs.

This year, our friendly farmer, Betty, includes a recipe list with our weekly share in case we need some direction in cooking our goodies.  I love that her recipes read like those in my mom’s old cookbooks.  The finished products remind me of casseroles and salads that my grandmother used to make for church potlucks.  A lot of them include little quips, such as “put a little flour on your nose so they will think that you slaved in the kitchen” and “did you know that there has been a scientific discovery that tomatoes are good for the skin?  I’m going to eat two a day.”

Lately, Thursday evenings have become CSA dinner night at our house featuring mostly vegetables, which has been just fine by me due to the extreme heat and a slight, pregnancy aversion to meat.  Last Thursday, I made baked, stuffed tomatoes, tabouli, and a pasta salad with broccoli.  Today, my dear husband pulled steak out of the freezer to defrost.  I got the point.  Even so, he still is going to get a snap pea salad and green beans and potatoes with his meat tonight.

See this shirt?

Yesterday, it was brown.  Although the picture doesn’t do its new color justice, today it is orange.  It was my favorite shirt, and now, it is an attempt at deep-cleaning gone wrong.

See this bread?

This morning, it was a whole loaf that I had slaved one Saturday in the kitchen to make.  A few hours ago, it was the dog’s snack while Bear and I were at music class.  He is still hiding in Bear’s room.  For good reason.

And see this?

It’s just because.  Happy Friday!

P.S. Dear friend whose birthday is today, that is your birthday card is under that destroyed loaf of bread, and it is still waiting for a stamp.

My dad called a few days ago while I was getting Bear ready for bed. My husband answered the phone and brought it to me as I struggled to force kicking legs into pajama bottoms. I tried to listen to my dad as I worked on Bear, but the reception was not clear and Bear was not compliant. I could tell that Dad’s voice had an edge of concern that he was attempting to hide. I had heard this tone before, and it had only brought bad news to me.

I left Bear with my husband so I could focus on my dad’s message. He had gone to visit my grandmother at the hospital where she was recovering from a broken hip, and when he arrived, he could tell that something was not right. Grandma could tell it too.

He didn’t offer much in terms of details, but he said that he was following the ambulance carrying my grandmother as it raced her to a larger city hospital about an hour away.

Five years ago, he called me in this same manner to tell me that they were rushing my mother to this same hospital after she began coughing up blood and having heart problems related to what we later learned was a systematic strep infection. At the time, he told me that the trip to the city was precautionary. I think that was trying to convince himself that this was true.

Fortunately, unlike with my mother, my father’s concern turned out to be justified but resolvable. My grandmother is doing as well as can be expected. She had two small strokes that were likely related to the fact that doctors had decreased the amount of blood-thinning medication she was taking due to her recent hip surgery. I have not yet been able to talk with her, but I have been assured that she is quickly returning to her stubborn, spit-fire self.

I worry, however, that the events of the past several years are beginning to break my grandmother’s resolve to keep fighting. Four and half years ago, my grandfather died. He and my grandmother nearly had been life-long loves, and for the last five years of his life, she was his primary caregiver as he struggled through the throes of dementia that robbed him of his memory and eventually his life. Before he became sick, she waited on his every need and desire, as was characteristic of many women of her generation.

After he was gone, Grandma didn’t seem to know what to do with herself. She struggled to find an identity independent of him. Even as she told my father that he needed to stop grieving my mother and move on – a sentiment that, as much as I love my grandmother, didn’t surprise me since she had never warmed to my mother’s independent personality – she could not do the same for herself. I once pointed out this discrepancy to her, as she shared her thoughts that my dad should leave my mother’s memory behind, but she could not – or would not – see the parallel.

We are all human. My mother was human. I am human. Certainly, my grandmother is human. And, as her granddaughter, I love her for who she is, and sometimes, in spite of herself.

A year and a half ago, my grandmother began experiencing severe back pain. Doctors told her that her only hope of recovery was to undergo a painful spine surgery. She had the surgery in April of 2010 and then spent the rest of the summer with an open wound. Several days before she was slated to go home, she fell in the middle of the night and broke her arm. This injury required more weeks in the hospital.

When she finally moved back to the small, farming community where I grew up, my father convinced her to move into an assisted living facility. Although reluctant to give up her perceived independence, she agreed and after several months, she seemed to revert back to her old self.

A few weeks ago, I traveled with Bear to my hometown, and my grandmother seemed sharp and healthy. She still struggled with mobility, but otherwise, she seemed well. The day after we left, she decided to sweep her own floor and broke her hip with the twisting motion required by the sweeper.

And now, strokes. My grandmother is clearly human, and her body is frail. Each illness and injury seems to lead to another. I hope and pray that she can pull herself out of this down-spiral and right herself to recovery.

While at work on Wednesday morning, the sky clouded over and rain began lightly hitting my window.  It was cool outside, and nothing like the day before when weather forecasters had predicted that huge tornado-bearing supercells would form and cause massive damage over most of the Midwest.  We expected storms and even tornadoes on Tuesday, but they never came.  On Wednesday, though, we were almost caught unaware.

When the tornado sirens sounded, most of us kept working, despite the fear instilled in most of us by the continued news coverage of the massive devastation in Joplin.  Frequently, the city tests the tornado sirens on Wednesday mornings.  This just seemed like any other test.

On Saturday evening, I had awakened from a half-sleep and shook my husband awake.  We could barely hear tornado sirens sounding in the distance.  My husband shrugged and fell back asleep, but I immediately turned on the television.  Within minutes, the sirens were sounding locally.  I was prepared to grab my shoes and to wake Bear so we could go to the basement when the meteorologist explained that there were no tornado-producing storms over the metro.  Rather, a tornado had been sighted approximately 50 miles away and had just crossed into my county.  I got back into bed, and watched the news until the storms had passed over us with only a little wind and rain.

It is no wonder that sound of tornado sirens has lost its power over many of us.

About five minutes after the tornado sirens began sounding on Wednesday, a co-worker popped his head into my office.  This is the real thing.

What?  I grabbed my phone and my purse and followed the small crowd forming in the hallway.  We headed into the stairwell, and after a few minutes, our business manager burst through the outside door talking incoherently about how the post office had forced her to leave.  She began sobbing.  Her grandchildren had lost their house in Joplin.  Fortunately, they were not there at the time.

I called my husband.  Like the rest of us, he had continued working, oblivious to the situation.  He assured me that he would go somewhere safe, although others in his office opted to stay on their 20th-something floors and continue billing hours.

In the stairwell, we all began searching for news about what was going on.  I texted a teacher in Bear’s classroom at daycare.  I didn’t want to bother her, but I couldn’t imagine where they would take the kids, and I needed to know that Bear was OK.  I received a brief reply that everyone was OK, but then I heard that a tornado had been sighted about 30 blocks from Bear’s daycare.  Other reports indicated that other tornadoes had touched down elsewhere in the city, mostly a little Southwest from Bear, but then word came that tornadoes had been sighted near my home and apparently, were headed toward my office.

Employees of a bank on the first level of my building ushered us out of the stairwell and into a bank vault.  There, we all waited for something to happen.   Because cell phone service was not good, many of us had to leave the vault to get a signal, and every time I stepped outside, I searched for word from Bear’s daycare.

People worried aloud about their homes and their kids.  I realized in that moment, that I didn’t care if my home was destroyed, or sadly, if even my dog got blown away.   I only wanted to leave and pick up Bear so we could be together.  I needed to know that she was alright.

The next time I stepped outside the vault to check for messages, I discovered that Bear’s teacher had called.  The message was a little unclear, but I thought that she said that Bear had gotten hurt.  I quickly called her back, and when she answered, she explained that Bear was not hurt, but that she had gotten “ahold” of some crackers that they were using the placate the kids during the sirens, and these crackers had soy in them.  Oh, thank goodness.  Despite the exposure, Bear was happily drinking both milk and Benadryl, and they thought that she was OK.

I was relieved.  I can handle a food allergy.  And Bear was OK.  Although the sirens continued sounding, a weather report signaled that the tornado warning for our county had expired, and most of us went back to work.  The clouds above us had rotated, but fortunately, no tornadoes touched down near my office.

Later that day, as I drove to get Bear, I was amazed to see no damage at all, even in areas where a tornado had supposedly touched down.  When I picked up Bear, she seemed oblivious to what had happened, expect that she had a lot to say about the crackers she had eaten.  For a kid who gets very little processed food thanks to a soy allergy, she must have thought that those crackers were the best things she had ever eaten.  It was all she talked about that night, and I was thankful that she had been spared the fear that other older children must have felt when asked to crouch in a hallway.

I kissed her and held her that night with a perspective that I rarely have.  Still fresh in my mind are stories from Joplin about a little 16 month-old boy being ripped from his mother’s arms while they took shelter inside of a bathtub, or one told to me by a friend about her former classmate who took his two young boys on an errand to the Joplin Home Depot that Sunday and left his wife without a husband or her two precious children.

I cannot imagine.  We are so lucky.

This post was written a week ago, but my computer problems were not as resolved as I thought.

* * * *

I’m back in business!  Our computer problem was not caused by a virus.  On the contrary, it was caused by too much security! A very helpful IT guru named Gunnar determined that we had too many security programs running at once, and they were so effective that our computer would not even function.  That is certainly one way to keep viruses away!

In the spirit of offering a quick update, I am almost out of my first trimester.  I’ve been doing lots of sleeping, eating, and throwing up.  In other words, this seems like a completely normal pregnancy, and so far, an easier one than my first.

I am knocking on wood as I write those words, though, because yesterday, I received a call at work from Bear’s daycare to say that several children had been sent home with suspected Fifth Disease, and they were concerned about Bear’s bright red cheeks.

That morning, she woke up with cheeks that were flaming red, but not hot to the touch.  I thought that she must have been hot at night, and I took off her sleeper and dressed her in cooler clothes for daycare, but still, the color did not fade.  I mentioned her cheeks to her teacher as I dropped her off, and I told her that I thought that the color was related to an irritation from another child’s sunscreen that I was fairly certain Bear was wearing when I picked her up the day before.  Along with Bear’s food allergies, she also has eczema, and several times this winter, she developed a bright spot on her cheek after being exposed to something her skin didn’t like.  Considering that Bear was wearing someone else’s pants and her diaper was on backwards when I picked her up the day before, it didn’t seem like a stretch to think that someone had applied the wrong sunscreen.

However, the call from daycare that afternoon concerned me.  If other children also had a rash, then Bear very well could have Fifth Disease.  Although Fifth Disease is a common and fairly mild illness, it can cause complications with a fetus in pregnancy.  As my doctor put it to me this morning, “the good thing about getting Fifth Disease early in pregnancy is that either you go on to have a perfectly normal pregnancy or you don’t.”  I must have given her a look with that remark, and she explained that the alternative is a rough pregnancy with complications to the fetus.  I wanted to ask what was good about the “you don’t” alternative, but I decided to keep my mouth shut.

Regardless, by the time I picked up Bear, she looked completely normal.  Her cheeks were not red at all.  If it weren’t for the signs warning parents about a “viral rash” going around the building and the city, I wouldn’t be concerned at all.

This morning, I had blood drawn to see if I am immune to Fifth Disease, meaning that I have had it previously.  If I am immune, then I have nothing to worry about.  If I am not, we’ll learn from the test if I have recently become infected, and if not, we’ll test again in a few weeks to be certain.  Hopefully, I’ll just be immune.  I’d rather not learn what could possibly be good about my doctor’s “you don’t” comment.

* * * *

Update:  I am still waiting for those test results!

We think.  Our home computer is no longer functioning, which creates a whole host of problems, probably the least of which is that I cannot update my blog.  I’ll try to keep up with all of my readers’ blogs from work and my phone, but I won’t be posting again on my own until we get our computer fixed.

I had a complete post written about my recent ultrasound, but that will have to wait.  I will say that it confirmed that we do have a baby in there!  And, one with a heart beat too!

Hope all of you are well!

Bear’s two-year molars have started coming in.  She is still a few weeks away from her 2nd birthday, but they don’t seem to know this.

All week, I watched her perform all manner of tasks with one or two index fingers hanging from her mouth.  She’s developed a rash around her mouth, and for the past two days, she has moped around the house with a low-grade fever.

Owie, Mama, she has been saying all week.  Then, she asks for apple.  I’ve been giving her frozen pineapple cut into small bits for her to chew on, and she seems to agree that the cold helps.  Yesterday, she even let me put my finger into her mouth to feel her sore gums.  The small, sharp corner of her lower, right molar had already cut through.

Last night, she woke up crying.  I went to her and found her standing in her crib with her fingers in her mouth.  I held her for a little bit and told her that if she slept, her mouth would feel better.  I put her back to bed, but a few minutes later, she began crying again.  This time, my husband went to her with our tiny bottle of compounded, non-soy containing pain reliever, which cost us nearly $100.  When he came back to bed, I asked him if she took the medicine.  Yeah, he said, and I gave her a drum stick.  Not the chicken-kind, mind you, but apparently he handed her a plastic toy drum stick from the floor and she plopped it into her mouth.

Either the medicine or the drum stick did the trick, because she slept the rest of the night.  Unfortunately, she woke up this morning feeling just a poorly as she did when she went to bed, and several days of pain has put her in a bad mood.

She asked for a morning snack, and when I insisted that she sit at the table to eat it, she responded by twisting and turning in her new booster seat.  I told her that I was worried that she was going to fall on her head, and she replied, Thank. You.

Then, she told me to eat her foot.

She clocked me in the head this morning, when she was upset with me for some reason.  My glasses went flying and left a red mark on the side of my face.  When I picked her up to explain why we don’t hit, she hit me again.  So, I put her down until her daddy came inside when she ran to him looking for the good guy.

I decided to let her stay with The Good Guy while I went to the grocery store.  When I returned an hour later, she was watching a movie on the couch (another reason why he is The Good Guy), and when she saw me, she got off the couch, and ran and hit me on the leg.

Sigh.

Let’s hope that all four of those two-year molars bust through in the next several days.  Otherwise, I am fearful that none of us are going to survive.

Today’s lunch was fodder for the ongoing food stories that my husband likes to tell about his pregnant wife.   He still talks about the time in my last pregnancy when I mixed peanut butter, bananas and Rice Krispies together in an attempt to satisfy a craving.  It wasn’t very good, and I admitted that the concoction wasn’t quite right.  He thought it was strange.

The only thing that sounded palatable this morning was rice pudding.  So, I set to boiling milk and rice and had another pot cooking eggs for decorating later, when I decided that rice pudding really isn’t a nutritionally balanced meal.  Since it was not going to be ready in time for lunch anyway, I really needed an alternative.

I had made roast on Monday, and the plan had been to eat it again last night, but I just couldn’t stomach it.  Somehow, I convinced myself then that I would be better able to eat it today for lunch, but when lunchtime arrived, I still couldn’t find it in me to eat that meat.

As a young girl, I remember my mom taking leftover roast and grinding it through a Kitchen Aid Mixer attachment to make a wonderful roast beef salad, similar to tuna or chicken salad.  Shortly after I got married, my grandmother gave me the semi-practical gift of a food grinder attachment for my mixer, and amazingly, it survived through Bear’s infancy without me pulling it out to make baby food.  Honestly, I forgot that I had it, but there’s nothing like strange pregnancy cravings to remind you of the obscure kitchen gadgets that have been hidden away in storage for too long.

So, I pulled out my very-own food grinder, found that it was amazingly simple to attach to my mixer, and after microwaving my beef to kill any bacteria, I began stuffing it into the food grinder.  Bear cheered as long ribbons of meat billowed out of the machine.

I’ll be the first to admit.  Ground-up roast beef looks disgusting, and in my last pregnancy, it would have sent me running for the toilet.  But, strangely, the sight didn’t bother me at all today.  I pulled out a brand-new tub of Miracle Whip, since the last one was still in our fridge from Bear’s pregnancy, and chopped up some really great homemade pickles that I bought from a local farmer (as though this ingredient were going to redeem the grossness of my creation).  I mixed them all together and tasted it.  It was pretty close to the roast beef salad that I remembered my mom making.

I would have preferred some of that white, processed fluff that we used to call bread, but I had to make do with a more rustic variety.  Even slathered with Miracle Whip, though, I couldn’t stomach the bread.  So, I heaped a large pile of roast beef sludge onto my plate and ate it happily with a spoon.  Bear seemed to have lost her enthusiasm for the meal, and after a few bites, she scooted it around on her plate with her fingers and then planted the side of her face into it.

I briefly considered taking a picture of it to text to my husband, but I decided to spare him the details.  If only you were so lucky!

The plan for dinner tonight is to make some really good ribbon pasta, but since I have developed a strong aversion to tomato sauce (I can hardly think about it without shuddering), I will probably resort to making Alfredo sauce, which I usually do not like at all.  Alternatively, if I can stomach garlic, I could probably use only olive oil.  I may attempt some asparagus, but there are no promises.  With the rice pudding, it’s going to be a white, and nutritionally unbalanced meal.

And this, folks, is probably why Bear was a huge newborn.  I survived on chicken nuggets for the first 14 weeks of her pregnancy.  I didn’t want to do it again, but I’m in survival-mode.  Can I just promise to eat better in a month or so?

On the day that my morning sickness kicked in, I began spotting red. Ironic, I thought. I finally begin to feel really pregnant, and then I see red. I spotted throughout most of my daughter’s pregnancy and have had five days of implantation bleeding with this one already. So, spotting isn’t unusual for me. But, no matter how many times you see it, that first glimpse of blood during pregnancy is always a heart-stopper.

It was 5:30 in the evening that day, and I had to leave work to pick up my daughter, so I didn’t have time to worry about what I had seen. On the way to the daycare, I had a half-hearted phone conversation with my father. Even if we had that kind of relationship, which we don’t, my husband and I haven’t shared news of the pregnancy with anyone yet, so I wouldn’t have explained why I was so distracted.

I was in a daze by the time I picked up Bear. The teachers in her new classroom had thoughtfully cleaned all her food containers for me, and although this was pointed out to me as I was gathering Bear’s things, the best that I could muster was an “oh.”

My husband wasn’t answering his phone, so I was more or less left alone with my thoughts. Bear seemed content to watch Sesame Street while I sat on the couch and attempted to answer all of my internal questions with Google searches. Just like Google cannot answer the question, “Am I pregnant?” it also couldn’t answer the question, “Is this bad?”

The next morning, the spotting turned brown and then mostly cleared. I called my doctor’s office, just as I did with every other spotting episode throughout my last pregnancy, and as I suspected, a nursed suggested that I have more blood work since I was not yet six weeks along, which is when she said that they started doing ultrasounds. I didn’t tell her that I had several ultrasounds before six weeks with my last pregnancy, because it didn’t really matter. Ultimately, I didn’t think that blood work or an ultrasound would provide any answers other than “looks OK.”

I was already feeling more confident, but I decided that more information is better than less, and went in for more blood work over my lunch hour.

The next day, I was too busy at work to even contemplate calling in for my tests results. I was hastily preparing for a client, when my doctor’s office called.

“Your numbers look awesome,” Amber, my favorite nurse mused. “Your beta is over 29,000.”

“Really? Oh, wow.”

She wanted to know if I had an ultrasound scheduled, which I do – two weeks from now. Since I was in my office and had not closed my door, I knew that ears were listening to our conversation. So, it ended, without me asking any questions about the spotting or the beta or anything.

After she hung up, I wondered if I had heard her correctly. Did she say 29,000? Maybe she meant 2,900. Surely, I wrote it down wrong. After all, words are my thing, not numbers.

Since I was so busy, I had no time to contemplate anything other than to appreciate the message that everything is as it should be.

Two weeks from now, we’ll know more.