The Pedigree

I’ve been thinking about the women on the family tree, their circles blackened and crossed out. Elizabeth Breast, 31. Elizabeth’s cousin (name unknown): Breast, 30s. Elizabeth’s cousin (also name unknown): Breast, 30s. Diane, Breast, 44. Brain mets. 46. 

Circles signify women, and blackened circles signify cancer. Lines through them signify death.

I’ve been thinking about how we explain and classify these early deaths of four women in my family.

THE H1686R VARIANT HAS BEEN RECLASSIFIED TO ‘SUSPECTED DELETERIOUS’, MEANING IT IS SUSPECTED TO BE A SIGNIFICANT MUTATION AND IS LIKELY THE CAUSE OF THE BREAST CANCER IN DIANE’S FAMILY.

Letter to my father from Barbara Ann Karmanos Center Institute, Dated May 7, 2015, informing of newfound information on my late mother’s BRCA1 gene mutation known as H1686R.

I’ve been thinking about how names on a chart and genetic abnormalities deny a simple truth: cancer over and over again struck the symbol of feminine nurturing and sustenance–the breasts of young mothers–in my maternal lineage. 

I’ve been thinking about the assault on women’s bodies–and male bodies too. To paraphrase Eve Ensler, how patriarchy kills men in their hearts…and women in their breasts. Hearts and breasts. 

Photo of my grandmother Elizabeth

Certainly I’ve been thinking about my late mom (Diane), and the grandmother I never met (Elizabeth), and her cousins (names unknown) on the genetic chart, called a pedigree. I’ve been thinking about other women too.  Debby and Angela, two women I knew and admired, both not much older than myself, who died recently of breast cancer. Circles blackened and crossed out.

I’ve been thinking about the assault on our bodies and our land. Blackened and crossed.

I’ve been thinking about how our vitality as women and mothers is wrapped in the vitality of the earth. That waiting any longer to confront this truth is a pathology.

We can no longer deny the destiny that is ours by becoming women who wait–waiting to love, waiting to speak, waiting to act. This is not patience, but pathology. We are sensual, sexual beings, intrinsically bound to both Heaven and Earth, our bodies a hologram. In our withholding of power, we abrogate power, and that creates war. 

TERRY TEMPEST WILLIAMS, When Women Were Birds

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And the universe laughed!

So about all those posts this weekabout the kid. The coffee. The coffee again. And again.

I’ve Just had a reminder from the universe to not to take everything so seriously. Or to rush to judgement. Not that I ever do any of that!

We’ll start with my daughter. She has been acting out like crazy and not sleeping and it was basically melt-down city (me, not her). I wrote a post about it. I questioned my parenting skills. There was wringing of hands, inner turmoil, the whole nine yards. I tried regrouping and facing it with love. Mostly compassion for myself because I really needed to cut myself a break.

Well. It turns out she was having a reaction to an inhaler medicine she was taking for her cough. She is really, really sensitive to any amount of steroid, even the small doses. Side effects: hyperactivity, extreme thirst. (So that explains her constant whines for water and then potty breaks. Nope, not entirely stall tactics this time.)

Hahahaha. Good thing I didn’t overthink all that and make sweeping conclusions about my parenting skills and my child’s sanity!

And about that lemon with water. The other day I literally wrote a love story about coffee. I mocked the idea that anyone in their right mind would never leap from bed for water with lemon!

Funny thing about this detox cleanse thing…I am discovering I kinda need to hydrate more. Especially first thing in the morning. You know, before I drink my coffee.

Ahem. Ladies and gentlemen, I am sitting here writing with hot water and lemon. Pre-coffee. I am not sure if there was leaping from bed, but still. Slightly funny.

OH, and my child is not a (1000%) hell-raising three-year-old.

(But seriously, the decaf coffee IS brewing. I haven’t totally lost my marbles. I mean have you noticed how much I love coffee??)

Coffee, a Love Story

The biggest realization with my cleanse? That there are certain positive behaviors I regularly engage in that rely upon other actions (say, brewing a cup of coffee…) that when missing from my routine creates CHAOS.

It turns out that coffee is the gear in our household machinery that, when absent, causes the whole enterprise to fall apart.

I am being super dramatic. But only a little!  The thing is, each morning (prior to the cleanse), getting up and making coffee was the springboard to my ENTIRE DAY. With it I would wake up, show up to my computer, write, and then have time to do other positive things like exercise or start work early, or even do a morning sketch.

You might ask, But Sarah, couldn’t you replace making coffee with the act of boiling your water and adding a lemon? Great plan. Yes I also considered this. Guess what. It turns out that leaping out of bed to make hot water with lemon IS NOT A THING. 0ebaefd0-a419-0132-e44d-0e7954aeedc0

I have a week left of the cleanse, which by the way is going very well except for the coffee snafu. I am no longer having headaches. I am not even craving caffeine or sugar. I have a butternut squash in my fridge that I plan to eat in some way or another. Kale has been consumed.

But today I am drinking coffee. Decaf coffee. And I am in front of my computer and writing my day is off to a grand start. The missing gear is back!

P.S. guess who is adding a stash of coffee to the hurricane/emergency preparedness supplies? CRISIS AVERTED.

 

 

 

Things are brewing (but not coffee)

I have drafts in my head that I want to put on page but instead I’m painting so the words will have to wait just a bit longer.

Things are brewing. Not coffee of course. Welp. I made it three hours into the morning and legitimately thought about throwing in the towel. That is how much I was missing my coffee. But instead I brewed lots and lots of hot water with lemon. Then I stared at piles of vegetables and decided to figure out a Plan for them later.

Until my next post–some bird friends I dreamed up and painted yesterday. Birds don’t do cleanses. Smart birds. (Of course they don’t drink coffee either so nevermind.)
 

Pour me some hot water and get me a lemon! Change is in the air.

Today I’m savoring my cup of coffee today more than ever.

First of all I have a cross breeze flowing through my house. It is glorious. I opened the back doors to the lanai and the fresh air is tickling my toes! Oh it is a sight to behold. It is officially the time of year in Florida where you can sit with doors open without being drenched in sweat. Glory be!

And did I mention that I have my cuban coffee? We need to talk a little bit more about that.

Today I will have one cup. One kind of weak cup of cuban coffee. (Ugh.)

And in T minus two days I will have no cup of coffee.

Voluntarily.

For twelve days and twelve nights I will abstain from coffee and other caffeinated substances. I will be resisting the Cheddar Jack Cheeze-its’ siren call. I will give side-eye to the chocolate covered raisins. I might even (gasp) give up cheese.

giphy9

Seriously this is what my hubs looked like in college.

No, I haven’t gone full blown hippy. Please. I love the hippies but they are not my people.

So what is up?

WELL, I may not be full blown hippy but I am a little bit hippy…cuz guess what, I am doing a CLEANSE!

Let me pause to give you time to roll your eyes.

giphy10

Ready to move on?

I get it. I am not really sure any actual “science” backs up all the claims people make about cleanses. Pff. Who needs “evidence” or “research”.  I am doing it because I did one years ago as part of a yoga class. And, it felt freaking fantastic. Like, I was stunned by how great I felt afterwards. Kind of floored by it actually.

And frankly, I blame Jen Pastiloff. I signed up for her online class and as part of the experience we are doing a ton of self-care, yoga, journaling, all that jazz. And while the cleanse is optional I figured, why not? We are not doing the Beyoncé only-drink-liquids-containing-cayenne cleanse. Hell no. This is all about eating actual food. Just the really boring stuff. Vegetables!! BROWN RICE. NUTS. And if you feel crazy, maybe some kelp and wheat grass juice!!

giphy11

But no cuban coffees. Let me repeat: NO CUBAN COFFEES.  It will just be me and my computer at 6:30 am with some hot water with lemon! Oh that will be fun.

Yes, change is in the air. The lanai doors are now open. The fall breezes are blowing. And sarah will soon be decaffeinated. 


Have you done a cleanse? Have you mocked people who have? Share your story.

 

 

 

Changing the Script

Nobody is looking at my upper arms. Nobody is tracking their girth or tone.

And yet lately I find myself at times scowling at them, sighing and fretting about the state of my triceps. 

I am typically at peace with my body. I do my best to practice self-love and compassion when it comes to my body image. After my daughter was born, I wasn’t very phased by the extra weight I still carried. I was grateful for the extra fat my body had to fuel nonstop nursing and to help my child gain the weight she needed as a preemie. Then, I lost my mom later that year and I gained more weight, and for the most part I was ok with that too. Oh, Paula Deen grief pies, I loved you so. Worth every calorie.

All this to say that I generally do not fret about weight.  Except right now. 

My recent miscarriage resulted in more weight gain than I would have expected. In retrospect, I began grieving immediately after the baby’s heartbeat stopped, which was nearly two weeks before I found out that I had miscarried. I ate all the chocolate. All the potato chips. Kummerspeck, if you will.

Well, some of the kummerspeck came off quickly, and the rest, well…it is slow-going.

The other day my sister pointed out that I have been talking about this weight A LOT. She is both a great listener and perceptive. My first response was, what on earth are you talking about?! And then I was like, oh wow, she is right, because now that she mentions it, I can see that not only am I talking about it a lot, I am THINKING about it a lot.

Why is my body image on my mind so much?

Because the excess weight reminds me of the loss. Because removing the excess weight will set a reset button, and magically make it OK if I get pregnant again, protect me from loss…Yes, I think that is basically the magical thinking. 

I need to change the script. 305690403_052ff73cfc_o

Last night I did the seven minute workout. I love this thing. Seven minutes! I feel great after I do it. The heart gets pumping fast and I love that I no longer have to nearly lay my entire body on the ground as I attempt to do push-ups.

I had an a-ha moment where I realized that I feel stronger and have better stamina even compared to several weeks ago. I feel GOOD. I have more energy.

I want these to be the things I think about my body. Which got me thinking about what else can be part of this new mental script. Here are a few to start with:

  • working out makes me feel good, and I love feeling strong. My body is capable of powerful things.
  • When I feel triggered by this extra weight, I want my message to myself to be: this weight is a reminder of the life I was able to carry, however briefly, and I am grateful that I could be a mama to this baby who could not join this physical world.
  • This weight might remind me of the sadness too, and that is ok. I mourn the baby who could not come into this world. This weight makes me sad, because instead of joy at being pregnant, it reminds of sorrow for a baby who is no longer with us. 
  • When I see my large thighs and butt, I want to think, wow, my body was prepared to birth a baby, to carry extra fat to feed this baby. This is both beautiful and sad—beautiful because of the amazing things my body is able to do, and sad because my body was not able to do it for this child. 

 

I like this new script. I rings true, and I hope that it helps me to be gentle with myself. To give myself a mental hug when I need it, and to also celebrate my strength.

Have you had a script you had to change after miscarriage? I would love hear what worked for you. Blessings! -Sarah