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A friend sent me this link a while back. I’ve held onto it for months, maybe years, read the piece a couple of times. It’s time I shared it.
The author of the piece refers to Ariel Levy’s much-discussed New Yorker piece about her own miscarriage. If you haven’t read it, I warn you that it is devastating, but well worth the read.
So many people have shared their xanthelasma stories on this site. Many have also sent me photos of themselves both pre- and post-treatment. And I have felt horribly guilty for not sharing my own experiences and photos.
As some of you know from my comments, since the last time I shared xanth photos, I treated all three of my monstrosities with TCA.
The first time, I applied it (using the wart remover called Wartners Gel Pen, available on Amazon) myself without thinking or planning at all. I’d been watching TV and suddenly thought, “Maybe I should remove one of these hideous mushrooms from my face tonight!” During a commercial, I sauntered into the bathroom, opened the package, squeezed some of this incredibly potent serum on a Q-tip and put it on my eyelid. (On my eyelid. This stuff is acid.)
When it turned white and started stinging like a motherf*$#er, I freaked out and tried to rub it off, which didn’t work. It did, however, remove the xanthelasma, leaving me with a thin, white scar that, while not exactly attractive, is far preferable to the xanth.
After waiting a few months to see how it healed and after receiving the thumbs up from my dermatologist, who was actually psyched with the results, I had Harlan very carefully dab the Wartners on my other two xanths. The stinging was the same, the three days looking like I’d done a couple rounds with a prize fighter who got the best of me, the two weeks looking a little haggard, the visible scar.
The last time I was in LA visiting my family, everyone commented. Some people said, “Wow! You got rid of those things on your eye!” Others didn’t know quite what had changed, but told me how great I looked.
It felt good.
Anyway, here’s what you’ve all been waiting for: the photos.
These shots were all taken in August.
The funny thing about deciding to post them only now is that over the past couple of months, the xanth have begun to come back. I’ve spotted flecks of yellow around the scars.
So, this week I had Harlan do a bit of the old TCA dab on the one above my left eye, the one shown above. I originally applied it back in May, so it took about seven months to get to the point where I felt like I wanted to reapply.
As I write, I have a scab the size of a pea on my left eyelid. It is getting smaller everyday. I hope by the time I see all my friends on Christmas Eve, my eyelid will be smooth and creamy with only a small white scar to suggest I ever had a xanthelasma there. I’ll keep you posted.
I wrote a Father’s Day piece for the Huffington Post about what I learned about parenting from my awesome dad. You can read that here! It’s a love letter/Dad’s Day tribute to the man I call Poppy, complete with great photos.
Last night in the bathtub, Aidan and I were talking about one of his best friends from school, and he said, “He has three kids in his family.”
“Yes, he does,” I said.
“His mom has to take care of all of them,” he said.
“Yup, sounds pretty hard, huh?”
“Why do they have three kids?” he asked.
“Because his mom and dad wanted three. Families can be all different sizes, like Daddy and I decided to only have one kid.”
“You should have two,” he said.
“A lot of families do have two kids,” I said. “Would you like that?”
“Uh huh, then I’d have someone to play with,” he said.
This is when my heart began to ache. In the past he’s generally said he didn’t want a sibling because he didn’t want to share us. This was new and, as the mother of an only child, it is my biggest concern. As a mother who lost her second child, it is also my greatest sadness.
“Yeah, sometimes it makes me sad that you don’t have a brother or sister,” I said. “But, you know, we did try to have another baby, but she died before she was born. You remember Nina.”
He nodded. “But I wouldn’t want a girl to play with. I’d want a boy.”
“You don’t get to choose!” I said.
“Why did Nina die?”
“We don’t know,” I said.
“What did the doctor say?”
“The doctors didn’t know either. No one could figure out why she died.”
“How did you find out?”
“That she’d died?”
“Well, usually when a baby is in your belly, you can feel her moving, but one day I couldn’t feel her moving anymore so I went to the doctor’s office and they looked at my belly with an ultrasound machine. That’s what they use to look inside your body. And they told me that she had died. They could tell because her heart wasn’t beating anymore.”
“And then what happened?”
“I had to deliver her, which means I had to get her out of my body.”
“How did you do that?”
“They gave me medicine to help my belly contract. When a woman has a baby, the belly contracts to push the baby out.”
I held my hands around my abdomen and squeezed my fingers together to show him what I meant by “contract.”
“This is the way all moms deliver babies,” I said. “It’s how I delivered you, too. Only Nina had already died, so it was really sad.”
“What happened after?”
“You mean after I had her?”
“Well, we saw her and held her and it was really sad.”
“And then what happened?”
“Well, when people die, either you bury them in the ground or you burn them. It’s called cremation, and you can keep the ashes or scatter them somewhere. That’s what we did with Nina. We kept the ashes.”
“Where are they?”
“Some of them are on our altar in a small jar, but not all of them fit, so some are in a box in my bedroom.”
“Did they burn her with a fire?”
“I don’t really know. They did it at a funeral home. I don’t really know how that works.”
“Do you have a picture of Nina?”
“Can I see it?”
“Okay, let me see it.”
“Well, it’s not on my phone, it’s on my computer. I’ll have to show you later.”
“Could you make another baby?”
“Well, we could,” I said, “but Daddy and I sort of decided we didn’t want to after Nina died.”
“Why?” he asked.
“Well, it was so hard when she died. It’s always sad when someone dies, but especially when a baby dies, because they don’t get to live their life and we never had the chance to have Nina in our lives. It was really hard for us and we were a little scared of trying again. And also we thought a lot about what was best for our family and thought maybe it was best to have only one child. It’s hard taking care of children, and we decided maybe one was best for us, but it does make us sad sometimes.”
“How do you make babies?” he asked.
“Well, mommies and daddies make them together,” I said.
“The dad creates something called sperm in his body and when the sperm meets an egg in the mom’s body, together they create a baby.”
“How does it get inside of the mom’s body?”
“I don’t really know how to explain that to you,” I said, officially wimping out.
“Well, you could if you wanted to,” he said.
“I don’t really know how,” I said. “Oh my God, it’s time to wash the shampoo out of your hair!”
“How many buckets?”
“I don’t know: five?”
How do you talk to a kid about death? And, even trickier, how do you talk to a kid about sex? My son seems perfectly capable of handling a frank conversation about death, but would he be comfortable learning about sex? He’s only six years old (as of tomorrow), after all, but maybe he would be fine with it. Maybe I’m the squeamish one and he’d be perfectly fine.
How have other parents handled these questions? It is time to get him a copy of “Where Did I Come From?” I think that’s how I learned the facts of life, but is six too soon?
One of the many things I love about my son is his creativity.
He’s like a mini-scientist in the making. When he sees something he loves, it’s not good enough to simply admire it from afar. He has to figure out how it works, then go home and try to make it himself.
He used to sit silently watching the audio kinetic sculpture at the science museum for hours. Seriously. I couldn’t lure him away with dinosaurs, butterflies, the water play area, not even snacks. Nothing could match that little ball rushing down ramps, spinning wheels, dinging bells. Not surprisingly, he also fell in love with OK Go’s This Too Shall Pass video, for which the band teamed with a group of engineers to make a massive Rube Goldberg structure that included crashing cars and smashing TV screens.
Once he was old enough to realize someone had actually built these things, he started obsessively watching Rube Goldberg and domino run videos on You Tube, then making them himself, using marbles, train and Hot Wheels tracks, cardboard boxes, toilet paper rolls, whatever he could get his hands on—of course we had to run out and buy dominoes…then more dominoes—and enlisting Harlan and me to help.
Same with the “What’s the difference?” games he loves doing with his Seattle grandpa in the newspaper and those Highlights puzzles where you find objects hidden in a picture. He started making his own for the whole family, drawing two pictures that have, say, six differences we have to identify, and then these elaborate drawings where we have to find 10 or 20 objects that he’s hidden. One morning he asked me to set an alarm so he could get up early and draw this crazy beach scene full of hidden objects first thing in the morning for Harlan and me to figure out over breakfast.
The other day we were visiting my friend Courtney and her family in San Diego and there were these hippie chicks making gigantic bubbles with simple homemade bubble-making contraptions at Ocean Beach, so all the kids could chase and pop them. A couple days later Aidan asked me to help him find sticks in the backyard. He wouldn’t tell me what he was up to—it was a surprise—but he had me tie string to the end of each stick and then fill a bucket with bubble solution. When our bubble maker failed, we looked on You Tube, drove to the hardware store for dowels and the drugstore for glycerin.
While the result could use some tweaking—our bubbles pop faster than the hippie chicks’—it’s still pretty impressive.
As he gets older, I assume my little scientist’s skills will only improve and his projects will grow in complexity. As a parent, I encourage his interests, help him cut holes in cardboard boxes and carefully place rows of hundreds of dominoes on the floor and buy him as many Legos as we can afford. We also signed him up for a science class at a local art studio that he’s completely obsessed with. But otherwise, I just sit back and enjoy his passions and hope curiosity continues to drive him and wait to see what he does next.
Since we lost our daughter, Nina, three years ago, my husband and I have struggled to decide whether or not we should try to have another child. And I have struggled to put that struggle into words.
Finally I was able to write a story that expressed my grief, my guilt, my ambivalence, my resignation and, finally, the glimmer of peace and acceptance that has crept into my days. Elle Magazine published the piece in the iPad and online editions and you can read it here.
Thanks for reading.
I haven’t blogged in ages and I definitely don’t have time today because I’m doing National Novel Writing Month again!
So, here’s what I wrote on Facebook:
Today is November 1. You know what that means? It’s the first day of National Novel Writing Month! I may be completely insane, but I’m going for it again. This year I’m what they call a “rebel,” because I’m not starting a new project, but rather aiming to finish the one I started last year. The first time around, miracle of miracles, I did cross the 50,000-word finish line. This time I’ve got some additional road blocks in my path: Two more weeks of single momming. Another school holiday and another early release day before daddy’s return. My parents coming for a week at Thanksgiving. Babysitters who don’t return my texts. Waiting for Godot on the calendar (and Isabel Marant at H&M!). Three big fat delicious-looking library books vying for my attention. A much more jumbled writing plan than last time. And yet, and yet, I’m going for it!
The obstacle that I didn’t mention is that I’m not sure if the book has room for another 50,000 words! Kind of an odd conundrum, but I guess if I hit the end of the book this month and have not completed 50,000 words, I’ll still be pretty psyched.
So far, so good. I wrote more than 3,000 words on Day 1. Over the weekend I had a babysitter come for an hour and a half on Saturday and yesterday my friend Julie took Aidan to his swimming lesson so I could have a couple hours in a coffee shop. Today a mom friend is picking him Aidan from school and I’m meeting them at Lego Time at the Public Library. Very convenient, because that’s where I am writing at this very instant. I brought lunch with me so I won’t have to move my buns all day. Same mom is taking him to the playground on Wednesday. All in the name of giving me more time. To write.
Ran into her this morning and she said, “Have a productive day!”
I’ve written 5004 words so far. That feels very good.
What are you excited about this week? I just can’t wait to write.
It has been a while since I have posted. And whenever it’s been a while, I become overwhelmed. I start to sweat and worry that the first post has to be worthy somehow and put all kinds of pressure on myself.
I went out of town for five weeks this summer. We started in LA, went to a conference in Orange County, flew up to Seattle to see the in-laws, came back to LA and, from there, drove to San Diego, Santa Barbara, Fresno (for a funeral, of all things). I rarely post when I’m on vacation and this trip in particular was so packed, I didn’t write at all.
At one point, Harlan said, “Let’s get up early every morning and leave Aidan with your parents so we can go write for an hour or two at a coffee shop.”
We didn’t do it one single time. I didn’t even make it to a yoga class until the day before our return to Boston. (And the class was so hard and I was so sore afterwards—yay, LA yoga!—I spent the flight cursing myself for being dumb enough to do my first class in a month the day before flying.)
I didn’t write. I didn’t work out. So what did I do?
I ran around with a cute dachshund named Gus, I watched Aidan run around with a cute dachshund named Gus, I played soccer in the park, I hiked up Temescal, I went to the beach (in Santa Monica, in San Diego, in Santa Barbara), I shopped on the Third Street Promenade, I watched a few movies (Blue Jasmine, Elysium and The Act of Killing in the theater, The Sessions and ET on DVD), I steamed and soaked at the Korean spa, I got a Thai massage on Abbott Kinney, I went to an English Beat concert (!), I visited friends, I visited family, I watched Aidan run through a kiddie pool, I watched Aidan fly a kite, I watched Aidan dig holes in the sand, I took him to his first water park (Aquatica, his new favorite place on the planet), I built Lego vehicles, I ate a lot of really good food…
Now that I’m back to my routine, there are lots of things that deserve a blog post:
• Being a single mom since Harlan left for LA to shoot a movie for six weeks.
• The insanity of after-school activities that I laugh at in other people and, at the same time, get completely swept up in myself.
• The joys of the yard sale: Purging the basement! Getting to know the neighbors! The am-I-ready-to-part-with-the-baby-gear debate! People paying me to get rid of my old crap! My kid hopped up on a month’s-worth of cookies and lemonade!
• The joys of fall: Foliage! Sweaters! Yard sales! Getting back to work! Unexpected days of sunshine! Shipping the kid off to school again! Finding inventive recipes for CSA head-scratchers like kohlrabi!
• The publication—finally!—of my essay in Elle (the iPad edition and website) about deciding whether or not to have another child after losing our second.
• All the pregnant ladies/All the pregnant ladies… (They are everywhere. They are as big as houses. They make me grit my teeth and beat myself up and question my resolve all over again.)
• Trying to burn off my ugly xanthelasma with garlic in front of the tube every night!
So many blog posts, so little time. And, more relevantly, so little motivation.
How about this? I did spend a little time last weekend answering the question, “What parenting journey are you on?”
A fellow mom blogger, Annabel Ruffell, posed it and posted my response on her blog Journey for Earth. You can read it here and see that, while I may not be posting as much as I’d like, I’m also not asleep at the wheel.
Yesterday I made the mistake of clicking on the bio of a one-time colleague. Scanning the list of publications in which her work appears, I felt my chest tighten, my temples throb.
Her resume read like my own might if I hadn’t crumpled it up and tossed it once I became a mom.
Sure, I’ve done a few things she hasn’t, like having a novel published and writing a screenplay for a studio. But those accomplishments, along with the bulk of my other professional successes, occurred a long time ago, in the period prior to my greatest creation: my son.
I am aware, of course, that Aidan’s existence and the magnificent work I do as his mom trump any article, book, screenplay or poem I could bring to life. But that fact never seems to help when I’m seething with jealousy.
Yes, this is plain, old-fashioned jealousy I’m feeling and, as always, I am aware that jealousy is an indicator of desire. My desires: I want to write more. I want someone to publish my work. I want, need even, further recognition—and validation—as a writer. Without those things, I end up reading friends’ bios and then spending the first hour of what should be an energizing yoga class feeling grumpy and thinking bitchy thoughts.
It doesn’t help that not so long ago I had a five-star writing week. Within two days, I completed two essays, both of which I’d been working on for a while, and confidently sent them to editors. In both cases, I received promising early responses: “I’d be happy to review it… Nudge me if you don’t hear back in a couple days!” and, even better, “Passing this on to editor in chief…”
That same week, I completed a draft of the first hefty chunk of my book and sent three chapters plus a proposal to my editor.
That week I was simply bouncy with optimism and pride.
Then came the silence. Weeks, in fact, of dead, hear-a-pin-drop-type silence. From both editors and my agent.
“Summer is notoriously slow,” a writer friend said when I called her stressed out. “Nothing happens around the 4th of July.”
Sure, true, but I remained dismayed.
The same friend once told me that she thrives on rejection. It fires her up, inspires her even, so psyched she is to prove the motherfuckers wrong! I tried to harness that energy. In my head I started reworking one of my essays to submit to the New York Times’ Anxiety column, should it be rejected from the national publication where it is currently languishing on an editor’s desk. I enjoyed the exercise actually and started thinking maybe the Anxiety column was where the piece really belongs.
Anyone familiar with the column knows where this is headed.
Just this morning, during breakfast, I was perusing last week’s Sunday Review. At the end of a fascinating piece about anxiety, I came across the following sentence: This is the final installment of Anxiety.
This was a blow I was unprepared to take. It struck me as personal. Almost expected. It seemed like a personal invitation hand-delivered to me to just stop it already with this silly fantasy that I can somehow claw my way back to the land of the working writer.
I was felled. Harlan’s face dropped when I told him. He looked so sad for me. Then he hugged me, comforted me. I was in need of comfort.
Can I return from the blow? Can I channel the energy of my wise friend and get to a place where instead of feeling dejected and sorry for myself, I feel energized, galvanized even to prove the motherfuckers wrong? Can I claw my way back to my writing life? Do I even belong there anymore? Can I get back to a place where I believe that I belong there?
I’m sure as hell going to try.
On the afternoon of the Boston marathon, as my five-year-old son, Aidan, watched Scooby Doo and downtown Boston dissolved into mass panic, I was checking email in Cambridge.
“Did you hear there were two explosions at the marathon?” a friend wrote.
I dove into the early stories in the Times and Globe, watched footage on NBC News online, scanned the mottled tapestry of prayers and love for Boston that Facebook had become. My father and sister called and a rush of “Are you okay?” texts appeared from New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, D.C. The whole world was trying to figure out what had happened and, in many cases, I was the one person they knew in Boston.
Their distress wasn’t just about two bombs going off and hundreds of emergency vehicles descending upon the finish line: Our national confidence had been shaken yet again. Even in a post-9/11 world where we have to take off our sneakers and flip-flops at the airport before we can board a plane, we still bring our children—our precious children—to public events and believe they will be safe.
I was living in New York on September 11th, 2001. After a disorienting morning, I made my way to the office where I worked as an editor for the film website indieWIRE. When I arrived on Fifth Avenue, I joined a crowd of strangers silently facing downtown Manhattan.
“What are we looking at?” I asked someone.
“The World Trade Center,” he said.
I stared down the long avenue, trying to make sense of the building I saw in the distance standing in a cloud of smoke. How could I have recognized the towers that had long graced our familiar skyline? There was only one. The South Tower had just collapsed.
Later that day, I hooked up with two friends and together we wandered the streets, visited a church, tried to donate blood. We hugged, cried and eventually settled onto bar stools at an East Village dive full of other aimless, dazed New Yorkers to watch Mayor Rudy Giuliani give a rousing speech on TV.
New York was my home, my family, the center of the universe. When malevolent strangers came in and stabbed my town in the heart, I felt is as if they had stabbed me in the heart, too. On September 11th, I was young and single. When I wept in that bar, I didn’t truly believe anything like that could ever happen to me. Being close to it, observing it, knowing people who had first- or second-hand stories was as close as I ever believed such terror would come to me. Now that I have a child, the idea that something like that could happen to me or, worse, him, is so awful that I can’t bear to think about it. I have no tears for strangers—or for entire cities. It didn’t occur to me to attend a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Boston attack. My only thought on that day was to protect my son. My son. My son. My son.
After talking to my husband, who called to say he was making his way home from his office in downtown Boston three miles from the bombsite, I called a friend who had gone to watch the marathon with her son who is Aidan’s age. We were supposed to go with them, but opted for a local playground instead. Aidan was getting over a cold and I wanted to stay closer to home. Now all I could think was: it could have been us. My friend, who had been a couple of miles from the blasts shortly before they occurred, was shaken. She was relieved to be home, but sad, frazzled. “Everyone was so full of joy out there,” she told me. “It was a day that was just so joyful.”
When I first learned of the attack, I was horrified that someone could do such a thing, horrified at the desecration of a public event that celebrates strength, endurance and personal achievement, horrified that a child just three years older than my own little boy had been killed. And when Tamarlan Tsarnaev, one of the suspects, was killed and his brother Dzhokhar left alone, I also couldn’t help but feel for this sweet-faced 19-year-old who was being hunted by every law enforcement officer in the Boston area, a kid, really, that a friend’s daughter who knew him from school described as, “the nicest guy.”
I thought about his mother and what she must be feeling—I couldn’t imagine, really. I wanted to understand what had made this boy commit such a bloody act. When he was finally found cowering, bloodied and freezing, in a boat, I found it incredibly sad that this young man’s life would be destroyed by this one reckless, unforgivable, act. It wasn’t until later that I thought about his victims, both dead and crippled, not to mention the endless ripple effect of friends and family of those whose lives would never be the same.
While September 11 left me a walking basket case, on Patriot’s Day, it was only when Cambridge went into lockdown that my emotions kicked in. Part of me believed lockdown was an overly extreme measure that was sure to cause unnecessary panic, as everyone remained inside, glued to the manhunt unfolding on TV, as they searched for a criminal who was “armed and dangerous” and out there, somewhere. But at the same time, as the threat moved closer to home, I was relieved that the local government was calling for maximum security.
As unlikely it was that the suspect was anywhere near my home—and my son—my head filled with images of bullets flying, a desperate, solitary figure crouched in my backyard, a hostage situation involving a madman and my beautiful boy, a stranger holding a gun to my child’s head. When my husband and son sneaked out into the warm Friday afternoon to play cards on the back porch, I forced them to come back inside.
“Lockdown means stay inside with the doors locked,” I said, determined to get them back inside, even as they shot each other “Mom’s such a worry-wart” looks.
It was only when the suspect had been apprehended that I was finally able to relax. The tightness in my chest released and I ran into the living room, where my husband was on the phone with his parents, and announced, “They got him! He’s in custody. He’s in custody.” For a moment, I was elated, because I knew my son was safe, at least for now.