Clearing my Email Inbox

A picture of a white woman wearing blue glasses and a preschool aged boy. They are both bundled in winter clothes and are outside.
This picture has nothing to do with the contents of this post. It’s Sammy and me, taken yesterday at the playground.

I haven’t had a handle on my email since the two weeks before my twins were born (we’re talking early July 2019). I spent that time in the hospital with preeclampsia with nothing more than my computer, an iPad, and an occasional visitor to keep me busy. And so I answered as many emails as my swollen fingers would allow before the boys arrived.

Since then, my work life (as represented by my inbox, which has always served as part to-do list for me) has been something of a disaster. First the boys were tiny and getting anything done was nearly impossible. Then the pandemic arrived and I spent two and half years without any outside childcare. I thought things would improve back in the fall when the boys started preschool, but they proceeded to get every single cold, flu, and virus on offer (I got a number of them too).

Things have finally started to look a little clearer for me. We’ve had several weeks of good health (you can’t see me, but I’m knocking vigorously on the table as I type that). The boys are pretty good at playing with one another and leaving me alone for stretches of time. I regularly get seven plus hours of sleep. And so I’m once again trying to turn on the work portion of my brain.

One of the things I did today to facilitate this is that I archived all the old emails that have been hanging out in my inbox for the last three and a half years. I don’t know why I thought I’d get back to them, but I am finally accepting that it’s just never going to happen. I am never going to answer the canning questions that people sent me two years ago. And that to move forward, that needs to be okay.

I actually feel physically lighter having moved all those emails off my plate and into my digital attic (it might have been smarter to delete them entirely, but that was a bigger step than I was prepared to take at this time. What if someone follows up and I don’t have a record of our previous interaction?!).

All that said, I am still trying to figure out what my work life is going to look like as I move forward. The world has changed so much in the last four years. The blogging I did for so long doesn’t really work anymore. I’ve spent the last couple years working with a SEO consulting company to better optimize Food in Jars. And that’s been useful (thought it moves very slowly since my bandwidth is so narrow), but it has left me floundering a little as I try to figure out what my writing life should look like now.

One of the things that the SEO folks have repeatedly stressed is that I should focus on my existing content rather that keep creating more. And while I get that (it’s the best path towards higher traffic and more ad revenue), I also keep wishing for a place for the new stuff. I am considering a newsletter, though I fear that that is now an oversaturated market. So I am here, noodling around, writing about what’s on my mind. Which feels good!

February 24, 2022

Sammy and Declan have recently started making up small, silly stories, and I am loving every moment of it. A couple of days ago, I was changing Declan’s diaper and Sammy hopped into Declan’s crib.

Then Declan said, ” Once upon a time, a little boy appeared in my crib.”

Sammy said, “It’s Sammy!”

Declan said, “He likes Declan and licking!”

They told their three line story over and over again, giggling all the while.

Parenting is hard and takes you to the brink of your sanity, but it also has some really satisfying moments.

January 30, 2022

A few days ago, this little emblem fell off the cabinet where it has been affixed for the last 56 years. It was a feature of the kitchen that would often catch my eye and I would always think to myself, “who’s lifetime are we talking about? I’d prefer that it not be mine”

Just a few days before the fixative failed, Scott and I had been talking about the possibility of replacing the kitchen. Now that we have the added space of the efficiency next door, we’d like to move our laundry over there. That could easily kick off a much needed redo (the kitchen still functions, but there’s so much that is screaming to be replaced).

But now I wonder if the kitchen is listening and has gained sentience. Is it communicating with us, pleading not to be replaced? Or is it simply ready for retirement?

January 26, 2022

I think about writing in this space every day. Sometimes, it’s just a whisper of a thought that passes so fast that I barely notice it happening. Other times, it’s a more insistent urge. Lately, the desire to be writing about my mundane life has been building into a tsunami of need. I can either yield and let the wave wash over me or I can drown in it. And so, here I am.

In part, it’s the isolation. We’re wrapping up the second full year of the pandemic. My days are full of the work necessary to keep two toddlers clean, dressed, fed, and entertained. It’s occupying work, but doesn’t do much in the way of giving me connection with people outside my household. And writing on the internet has always given me a sense of connection (even if hardly anyone drops by anymore).

The other thing that’s propelling me back towards this space is the fact that I just hit my 20 year anniversary in Philadelphia. I don’t remember the exact date I moved back in January 2002 (it’s probably buried somewhere in the archives of this site), but it was mid-month. I can’t quite believe how much of my life I’ve spent in this city (and in this apartment).

When I moved here, I was 22 years old. I followed a quiet nudge from my inner voice that Philadelphia was the place I needed to be. I came with a couple of suitcases and an expectation that I’d be here for three years. But then my grandmother died. I inherited the apartment. I made friends. I started writing. I met Scott. I went to grad school. And on, and on, and on.

I am not at all dissatisfied with my life, but it is decidedly different from what I imagined for myself when I was younger. I wonder what the next 20 years will hold. And will I still be here, in apartment 2024?

Apartment 2024 Expansions

Back in July, Scott and I bought the studio apartment next door to us. It has been nothing short of life changing. I’ve now lived in this apartment for nearly 19 years (wrap your brain around that one), and there’s never been a moment when I did not fantasize about expanding into the unit through my dining room wall. The fact that it has actually happened still amazes me.

Those of you who have been reading here for a while (which is probably most of you, I don’t think anyone just stumbles across this site these days), you might remember that when my grandfather Phil bought this apartment back in 1965, the purchase actually included the second unit that we now own (Apt. 2023).

He died shortly before they moved in, and in a fit of panic, my grandmother sold off that portion of the apartment (for $800), leaving herself with a two bedroom, one bath. Everyone immediately regretted that choice (grief driven decisions are rarely good ones), but the apartment next door never came up for sale at a time when my grandmother was in a place to buy it.

It took us about six weeks after making the purchase to have a door installed connecting the two units. But back in September, we took the boys to the Jersey Shore for a week and while we were away, a very nice contractor named Tom cut a hole and put in a very nice, simple door.

It’s the first time in my adult life that I’ve had a second bathroom, which continues to be an absolute pleasure. Other joys that this expansion have brought include a second small kitchen, complete with an additional fridge, and the ability to move Scott’s office into the new space, freeing up the room that was once his for the boys.

That said, there have been some bumps in the road. There’s so much I want to do to make the new space more functional for us, and I have so little time and energy to make it happen (because of the pandemic, we don’t have any childcare help anymore, and so I don’t have a whole lot of bandwidth for anything extra these days).

And so, while it’s amazing to have more space, it’s also because a bit of a dumping ground, where we tuck anything that the boys might destroy. When they do breach the perimeter and make their way into the annex (as we have been calling it), we have to tail them closely to ensure that they don’t pull down a camera or help themselves to a drawer full of knives.

But there is time for all that. We will eventually put up shelves and get things tucked away. Perhaps someday, we’ll even find the funds to break down more of the wall and build a larger, more functional kitchen out of the two we now have. I will keep dreaming it so.

Two Years Ago

While I was waiting for the transfer to happen, I took a hopeful selfie.

Two years ago right now, I was in a strange, in-between place. A few days earlier, my first round of IVF had resulted in the retrieval of four tiny, precious eggs. Those eggs had been fertilized and were successfully growing in a lab a mile and a half west of our apartment. I was waiting to see whether they would continue to thrive long enough to be transferred back into my body.

I haven’t really written much about my fertility experience. Looking back at it now, with two energetic, sturdy little boys playing a few feet away from me, it doesn’t have the same weight that it did when I was going through it. But before, during, and just after, I lived with a balloon of hope, fear, and anticipation in my chest and throat that was always about to explode open.

I remember the morning I got the call from the lab, telling me that the fertilized eggs were doing well. I was at a busy farmers market and I started crying on the sidewalk. I was wearing my red vest and holding a bag filled with apples and a leafy bunch of swiss chard. In true city fashion, people just kept on walking by as a wept.

The boys’ very first baby pictures. The tech told me that these two embryos were so big that they couldn’t get them into a single image. I found that incredibly hopeful at the time.

On the morning of the egg transfer Scott had a meeting and so I went by myself to the appointment. When I got there, they told me that there were two eggs that were doing really well. One was slightly less good, and one had stopped growing all together.

The advice was to transfer the two most robust embryos, in the hopes that one would implant. I told the doctor (a woman I’d never met before and would never see again) that we really didn’t want to have twins (ha!) and she said that given my age (I was 39 at the time), there was a very slim chance that both would implant. Truly, the odds were against me that even one would stick around.

I watched on the monitor as she slid the delivery tool into my uterus and left two, tiny clusters of cells behind. So much hope. So much worry.

I walked around for the next ten days in a state of wonder and fear and deep curiosity. Would one of those clusters of cells stick around? Would both? Finally, a day before the fertility appointment where they’d test my blood for HCG (the hormone that appears during early pregnancy), I took a home test and the plus sign turned pink within seconds. It was the only time in my life that I’d gotten a positive result from one of those tests (though I’d self administered many with a great deal of hope).

I don’t know how long late November and early December will bring me back to the fertility treatments that brought me my boys, but at the moment, I can’t live through this time of year without remembering and feeling that balloon of desperate hope and anticipation.

Things for Which I am Grateful

african violet flowers

I am grateful that I don’t have to do laundry the way women once did, dragging their soiled linens to a stream and pounding them against the stones.

I am grateful that I don’t have to cook food for my family over an open flame, always worried a wobbly toddler might accidentally pitch forward into the hearth.

I am grateful that I don’t have to preserve food in order for my family’s survival. The weight of the work must have been nearly crushing when it was the only thing standing in the way of starvation.

I am grateful that the work of my hands isn’t what keeps my children clothed. That torn out knee must have been heartbreaking if you raised the sheep, carded the wool, loomed the fabric, and stitched the garment.

I am grateful for this modern age.

I started thinking those first words earlier today when I was piling dirty clothes into our washer. Even with a machine to do the work of washing and drying, I still mumble and moan about the work of gathering and folding under my breath. But suddenly, remembering how far we’ve come made me reorient my thinking and instead feel widely, impossibly grateful for the epic conveniences of modern life.

Six Months of Parenting

The last six months have passed faster than any other phase of my life. These days, I spend most of my time shepherding these two through naps, feedings, diaper changes, and playtime.

I have known from the very beginning that this was going to be my only trip through parenthood. Armed with that understanding, I spend a lot of my time with these babes trying to be conscious and present. To notice the joy and goodness of it.

And there is so much pleasure to be had in these boys. They are really happy little people who are almost always ready to giggle or snuggle. I can’t wait to see who they become.

Pregnancy Complications

Whenever I dreamed about being pregnant, I always imagined I would be like other women, carrying to near term, going into labor at home, and rushing to the hospital in the wee hours between contractions. As it turns out, that is not going to be my story.

Earlier in this pregnancy, I started showing signs of higher blood pressure at the doctor’s office. I’ve always been someone who suffers with a bit of white coat syndrome, so I was told to monitor at home on a daily basis and report in. I’ve been doing that since around week 18 and it’s been going well.

On Friday, I had an OB appointment and my blood pressure was higher than it’s ever been at the doctor’s. This concerned my OB enough that she asked me to have some additional blood drawn before going home. Because of a quirk in our medical coverage, I wasn’t able to have it done at the lab in the medical building and was sent over to the Perinatal Evaluation and Treatment Unit at the Pennsylvania Hospital instead.

I showed up, thinking it was going to be a quick in and out experience. But when they checked me, my blood pressure was really, really elevated (I don’t remember precisely, but I think it was nearly 180/90. Not good). I was given a gown, they inserted an IV, put me in a bed, and got to work.

That first night, I was really hoping that this was an isolated incident and that I’d get to go home the next day. But by the next morning, I’d been diagnosed with preeclampsia with severe features. Going home while still pregnant was no longer an option.

Instead, a new plan started to form. If they could get my blood pressure under control, I was going to stay in the hospital until I got to 34 weeks gestation, at which point I would be induced. Apparently, that’s the sweet spot where the babies continue to get the most good from continuing to grow while impacts on the mom are slim to none.

And so that’s where things stand. As long as things continue as they look right now, I’ll be in the antenatal unit until July 11, when they’ll induce me. This plan could change again if my situation stops being stable, but right now, my blood pressure is responding beautifully to a single daily dose of medication.

I am feeling at peace with this outcome right now, though it took me several days to work through the grief and sadness of having to surrender my initial vision of what giving birth would be like.

From the beginning, finding out that I was pregnant with twins has forced me to keep giving up my vision and expectation for the coming reality, so this is nothing new. But even though I’ve had some practice with readjusting and accepting the new future as it unfold, this one was hard. Still, I’m making the choice (sometimes minute by minute) to flow with this experience rather than resist it.

I won’t pretend that I don’t have moments of regret for how this time might have been (being home, getting to nest, having more time pregnant). But I’m trying to let them go as they pop up rather than let them dwell. And each time, I come back to the gratitude I feel for having been so cared for.

I am incredibly thankful for all the doctors and nurses who’ve been keeping us healthy and safe. They have been so kind and caring. The fact that these babies and I will get through this formerly deadly disease of pregnancy is because of them.

If we’re friends on Facebook, you probably already know most of this story, but it felt like a good idea to gather it up and keep it here too. I’ll be back with more details in the days to come.

Seven Months Pregnant

I realized recently that I see this blog like I did my childhood diaries. Certainly, it is an imperfect record of the last 14 years of my life. It’s been nearly a year since I’ve written here and I realize that I had the false belief that I needed to catch this site up on all that’s happened in that time, much like I often felt during my adolescent journaling days.

Instead of trying to recap a year of life, here’s where things stand right now. I am seven months pregnant with twin boys. I’ve known all my life that I wanted to be a mother and it’s exciting and slightly surreal that it’s finally happening.

At some point, I want to document the specifics of the path it took to get here (one particularly fruitful round of IVF), as well as the struggles and joys of being pregnant, but I thought it was important to drop in and share this news, just in case anyone still follows this site but not any of my other online outlets.

I am hoping to breath new life into this blog as things progress. Scott and I have decided to stay in the apartment for as long as we can, so the site name I randomly picked 14 years ago remains applicable and appropriate.

More soon!