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!

Wednesday Afternoon, Mid Summer

I spend a least a few seconds every day wishing I could find a way back to regular writing on this blog. A thought will dash across my consciousness and I’ll comment to myself, “that would make a good blog post.” Or I will read something that I long to share. And then the moment passes and I go back to answering emails or making jam.

Today, I decided that when the moment struck, when I longed to write just of the pleasure of putting words down, I’d do it. Of course, now that I’m here, the clamor inside my head is such that I can’t settle on a single topic. So let me tell you about a book I read recently.

Over the last year, I’ve been working my way through Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series. It’s also known as the alphabet mystery series (A is for Alibi, etc), and despite being a lifelong lover of female driven detective novels, I’d always dismissed it because of its naming convention.

Late last year, Sue Grafton died and I found myself reading a number of obituaries and tributes to her work. The resounding message was that she was a remarkable writer and her 25 book series was worthy reading if you like well-realized lady detectives.

So, starting at the front of the alphabet, I started reading. In the last six and a half months, I’ve read 19 of the books (along with a collection of short stories mostly set in the same world called Kinsey and Me). Every single one has been highly entertaining. Some have been thoroughly engrossing.

And the most recent one I read, S is for Silence, was truly and utterly excellent. It adopts a different narrative convention than most of the other books in the series, sharing the point of view with other characters rather than keeping us inside Kinsey’s head. It moves back and forth in time in a way that feels natural and expertly crafted. And the story is damned good.

While I highly recommend the entire series, if you’ve never read anything by Sue Grafton and just wanted to dip your toe into the world she created, this novel offers a stand alone entry point that I really loved.

Happy 2018

I’ve never been one of those people who picks a word for the upcoming year. The idea that a single word could encompass the efforts of a 12 month period just didn’t ring true for me.

Then, about three weeks ago, a word starting knocking on the edges of my consciousness. When I would take a moment to quiet my brain before digging into work, it was there. Each time I thought about how I want to be in relationship to my life, I heard it echoing in my thoughts. Laying in bed at night, it moved along with my breathing.

Allow. ALLOW.

For so long I’ve related to life with effort. I’ve believed that anything of value I had or could create needed to be born out of great toil and strain. It was a teeth-clenching, vein-popping, drenched with sweat way of being alive and productive.

There was no gentleness. There was no sense of flow or movement. It was laborious, joyless, and exhausting.

Over the last several years, it’s all felt so hard. I’ve accomplished a lot over this time, but every inch of professional ground I’ve claimed feels like it has been born in struggle. It has left me exhausted and dreaming of a means of escape from the endless efforting.

This awareness has been building for a long time. Both of my existing belief in effort, and my hope that there’s another way to approach all this.

And so, I am working hard to not work so hard. To maintain my production (and with seven weeks until my next book deadline, continuing to move forward is imperative) without feeling like I am pushing and straining with every muscle and nerve-ending.

I will continue to practice allowing the work to come rather than forcing it into being. I will keep you posted.

The House Hunt Continues

We tried to buy a house in West Philadelphia this week. After nearly three years of looking and we finally found a dwelling that we both liked enough to offer vast sums of borrowed money for. But it didn’t work out. Another offer was accepted and the reason given was the terms.

Our agent thinks that must mean that someone came in with cash (because no person in their right mind would waive the inspection. It was being sold by an estate so there was no seller disclosure. No matter how good it looked on the surface, any number of ills could have been lurking below)

We don’t have nearly half a million dollars in cash, so we could not compete with that.

Despite having some lingering sadness that this house won’t be where I get to live (it had all of its original quarter sawn oak woodwork! The kitchen was dated but usable and enormous! There was a second staircase!), I can see that the exercise of making the offer has been useful.

On a practical level, all our financing is in place for next time. We’ve figured out more clearly what we will and won’t compromise one. I have a lovely letter to the sellers that I can tweak to go along with a future offer.

It was also helpful on a more interior scale. I’ve really struggled with the concept of leaving the apartment since it’s such a tangible tether to my grandparents and I’ve lived here so long myself. However, I could feel how the prospect of this house broke down many of my attachments. That process of detachment is going to be useful no matter where we end up living.

I still feel a little sad. But I also feel hopeful and excited for what comes next.

Updates and Musings

I just discovered a feature in my feed reader (Feedly, if you’re curious) that let me sort my various RSS subscriptions by how recently they’d been updated. As I scanneds through the list, I was horrified to realize that it has been more than seven months since I posted here. I’ve started and abandoned a few posts more recently, but I last posted in early January. I don’t think I’ve ever let this site go fallow for quite so long.

The other thing that I found striking as I scanned through the list of blogs that had gone dark was how many of them were my blogging people. The folks I discovered when I was just getting started and with whom I struck up real friendships. I miss those early days of blogging, when you didn’t need perfect pictures and a post didn’t require a vigorous social media campaign in order to find some readers.

It makes me sad.

I can’t imagine that there are that many people reading this blog (since it’s been inactive for most of 2017), but here are a few quick updates. I’m working on my 4th cookbook. I’ve become a morning workout person (this took quite a lot mental energy at the start, but is working out well now). Scott and I are still living in Apartment 2024, though we are ramping up our house hunting efforts. We recently spent two weeks out on the west coast, celebrating my mom’s 70th birthday and hanging out with my family. It was lovely.