Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Acupuncture All the Time, Please

Yesterday was day one of acupuncture, and while it's only been one one hour session, I have to admit, I think it is making a difference.

I've had acupuncture before. Once in awhile I get a spasm thing in my upper back, located just off the left shoulder blade. The first time it happened, I literally could not move. I was awake all night in pain. That's some serious pain-- the no sleeping kind. Partner had to practically lift me out of the bed, and when the sun came up in the morning, we went to urgent care. "No," I told the nurse, "pain killers aren't touching it." She thought I meant Tylenol; I meant Vicodin. I still get the spasm every now and then, and probably need something in my neck adjusted. But since I am pretty fearful of the chiropractor, I have no idea how it will get fixed. It's probably a hold-out injury from years of playing front-row rugby. The scrum (pay attention to the first three seconds of that video) can wreak havoc with one's neck. (If you looked at that list link, I played either loose-head prop or hooker my entire rugby career. See how my head was locked in there. Ouch.)

In any case, a few days after visiting the urgent care clinic, my father referred me to acupuncture. Apparently the anesthesiologists at his hospital had undertaken some training in acupuncture to add to their arsenal of pain management skills. I went twice to these guys. They also used acupuncture with electric current, and it was pretty phenomenal. This is apparently called "electroacupuncture." At one point, it felt distinctly like someone was stroking the inside muscles of my back. And that felt damn good, I can tell you.

Yesterday's trip to the acupuncturist was a little more traditional. We don't really know that I have problems with fertility, so to speak, since I have never tried to get pregnant, so she's not giving me traditional fertility acupuncture. I do, however, have some serious problems with getting stressed out and as I've noted before, my GERD is back with a vengeance. I've always had stomach issues, so the acupuncturist is treating those and trying to get my mind quieted.

Getting the mind quieted means a needle at the bridge of my nose, which I thought would be rather unpleasant, but it wasn't it at all. In fact, it's probably the one needle I consistently did not feel. I am almost sure I could feel my energy moving around while I was in there, and when I left, I was totally exhausted. I felt like I couldn't drive, like I should take a nap in the parking lot. Everything seemed to be moving very fast. But it felt good, and later in the evening, I perked right up. So much so that I thought I wouldn't be able to sleep again, that insomnia was back as an unwelcome house guest. But, wrong-o! I was asleep in minutes and slept, unbelievably through the night. Straight until 6:45, which is my usual waking time. It felt great.

So far, I believe. I loved it. I loved it so much, I'd consider walking around with those little needles poked into me, but that would probably defeat the purpose. I am looking for excuse to continue seeing this woman after (if) I get pregnant. But then again, I've only been once. Maybe there's some drug on the needle I don't know about? I don't want to be too excited too early. But so far, I can't complain. (No GERD this morning either... Hm...)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


This semester on the first day of class, one student introduced himself and said that sleeping was one of his favorite things to do. That he might even go so far as to say it was a hobby.

I slept like shit last night.

When we got the Lupron shot, the nurse said that insomnia might be a side effect. It hasn't been until last night. I hate being awake, wide awake, in the middle of the night. The night stand light on and my book across my chest. Staring at the ceiling, at my sleeping partner. The dozing cats. I could almost hear the skunk, deer, and fox snoring outside. The world was asleep, and I was awake.

But then I would doze a little, slip off into the land of nod for a brief visit only to be awakened by a hot flash. A big sweaty hot flash. A oh-my-god-I-need-my-clothes-off-right-now hot flash. Followed, of course, by freezing since we are nuts and still have bedroom windows open even though the nights are bona fide chilly now.

When you are wide-awake at night, every worry of the world comes to rest with you. It's as if the worries fly around at night, looking for the tosser or turner and then instantly they all flock there and roost in that poor sod's brain. And last night it was me. Once that happens, sleep gets even more elusive. My only saving grace was that last night's worrying somehow seemed to steer away from myself (odd, since worrying often is a very self-involved activity) and centered with my friends. I love my friends fiercely. I want them to be happy. But as soon as I would be in full-fledged worry, it would happen again: hot flash! Worry gone-- sweat began!

(Seriously, these hot flashes! Partner is not having them at all. On Saturday night as she was cooking dinner, I was making an apple spice cake. I had to butter and flour the pan, but the only butter I had left after whipping up the cake was in the freezer. Great, I thought, this will work well. I cut a hunk of the butter off and then, whammo, hot flash. Let me tell you what: the butter melted in my hand like it was hottest summer day. Partner was amazed-- "You really are having a hot flash! Look at the sweat dripping!" Growl.)

Personally I think the insomnia, one night only now, is more related to excitement/worry about the next few weeks. We bought the "goo" last night, which was almost more excitement than I could handle, and I think it stayed with me. I start acupuncture today, and hopefully this can calm me down a little. Then, just like my student, I too can go back to claiming sleeping as a hobby.

Friday, September 23, 2005

A Chloe Update, Plus Some Other Etcs.

Three of the four. From right to left that is Maya the Aggressive, Eli the Sweet, and Chloe the Neurotic. The only one missing there is Noah. Some place I have a cute photo of Noah at our old house sitting in front of the fire. With his paws crossed. I'll have to scan it soon. After all, what is a lesbian blog without photos of cats?

I had lunch today with a good friend and told him about Chloe being on anti-depressants. We both agree that is a little pathetic and that there is something so American about it all.

It's been very hard to give Chloe her pills. The vet is very matter of fact about the whole thing-- but that's a lot of horse shit. It is not easy to give a cat a pill. We're supposed to keep her on the meds for 45 days to see if changes anything. Partner thinks that Chloe is overdosed. I have to disagree, and I think I have a good reason.

This morning I imagined I'd sleep in, wake up, maybe do some ironing, and then get to sit down and watch Martha's new show. (I love Martha.) Unfortunately, when I awoke for that early morning pee, Chloe was sitting right next to me on the outside edge of the bed. This is unusual since she usually sleeps perched up on Partner's hip. When I moved and petted her, she growled at me. I sat up. She growled more. Her tail was a-swishing. By this point, Partner was awake. "I need to go to the bathroom," I said.

"So go." (See how pragmatic she is?)

"I can't get up. Chloe won't move and she's growling." I made Partner get up and went out her side of the bed to avoid the scary six pound cat. (I'm easy enough to bully.) When I came back, Partner was picking her up, and Chloe was still growling. We sat on the edge of the bed and Chloe started pawing at the sheets on my side. "She's going to pee right in front of us!" I gasped. My theory was that Chloe really had to go too, but wouldn't get off the bed for fear of Maya. The litter box was at most eight feet from the bed. Partner wasn't too sure of my theory, but humored me by picking up the little cat and carrying her into the litter box in the "safe" room. Right away, the cat went. But didn't bury anything, which is odd.

Three days in and the drugs don't seem to be calming her down.

And two days in for us, and no side effects from the Lupron thus far. I hope it keeps up. I had terrifying nightmares about both of us on this crazy drug at the same time, but it's been nothing but a love-fest here. We're very gentle with each other.

The other smallish good news is that I think we've finally picked the donor. I am in love with him and I think Partner is too. We decided it was probably time to make the decision since we've got about three or four weeks until we need the goo. Nothing like leaving it to the last minute. But this guy is new, and I think it's fate we waited so long.

There you-- pre-weekend update. I'm going to try and keep my posts more up-to-date. Even if they are hodge podge like this one.

Who's watching the new IVF show tonight? We're out for dinner, and I can't decide if I want to tape it or not...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Depot Lupron Story

I don't feel any different.

It hasn't even been 24 hours, I know, but so far, so good. Granted I think I had three hot flashes between the doctor and this morning, but even before we had the shot, I was already having some "sweats." One of last night's flashes started when the cashier read me the total of our delightful Costco trip. There's nothing I love more than Costco; nothing I hate more than hearing the total.

But the story of the shot itself-- a whole different story. When we got there, Partner was given a little sheet of paper and asked to fill it out. For the CDC records. "How come I don't get one?" I moaned to receptionist. No one knew. I think it's because I am technically not undergoing IVF treatment, Partner is. I am the term I loathe: the surrogate.

A nurse came to the door and called Partner's name. "Me too?" I piped up. The nurse looked at me blankly and I looked at her blankly. Who was this woman? Where was my nurse?? Then I remembered-- It was Wednesday and not a day where Dr BusyBusyBusy is in the office. I totally forgot about this, and so did Partner. The receptionist stepped in and handed my chart to the nurse. She tried to explain, "They go together."

Unfortunately the nurse did not get this.

She took us into a very small room and glanced down at the charts. "Why don't you two tell me what I am doing here today for you?" This is the point where I could feel my body start shaking. I kept telling myself not to cry and scream. Instead I said, "Well, we are kinda of hoping that since you guys are the experts and we've never done this before, you tell us what we're doing."

She looked taken aback. And then she did the thing that has been happening to us non-stop, she called Partner my name. "No," I said in very measured tones, "I'm Katie." I proceeded to give her the short version: "We're taking Partner's eggs and implanting them in me."

Her mouth rounded into an O. "Let's go into a different room," she suggested, "one where we can spread out." Since I felt I was being suffocated in the tiny closet room we were in, I readily agreed. The new nurse looked at our charts for a few minutes. "We usually put the two charts together," she tried to explain, "in a situation like this." I nodded, but really! Our charts don't go together because we are TWO different people. Arg.

We had all our drugs because we thought we were learning how to do shots. We weren't. Really we were only there to pull down our pants and get jabbed. I made her explain why we only got one shot of Lupron when other people I know were doing Lupron shots every couple of days. (Different type of Lupron-- we're on the Depot-Lupron, which apparently lasts a month. Super.) When it came time for the shot, I popped right up and threw down my pants. (I'm easy like that.) Partner got ghastly white. "Are you alright?" I said as I mooned her.

"I can't watch." (Seriously? You look at my bare ass every day?)

Meanwhile I did everything I could to crane my neck and see exactly what was happening. I have to tell you-- I didn't feel a thing. I couldn't believe I had gotten the shot. It didn't hurt? At all? Oh, the advantages of having a fleshy ass and hips. I got one over on the skinny girls there!

Partner almost passed out during her shot. She only got half a dose of the Depot-Lupron, and I got the entire vial! I was, of course, right there with my face at her ass watching the whole thing. Man! The nurse, she really jabs it right in. I bet she's good at darts.

When we left, I was euphoric. Partner said, "Let's just go home and sit for a minute before going to Costco." At the house she beelined for the couch, whereupon she cried and cried and had a little anxiety attack. I think it's because I process so much of this shit on here, and she hardly talks about it at all. We also figured out she doesn't like the needles. We always knew I'd be giving her the shots, but now she thinks she'll need to be prone on the bed when we do it, in case, as she says, "I pass out." (You are not going to pass out, I told her. But oh well, we can do it that way.) I may have to figure out how to give myself the progesterone shots when the time comes because I don't think she's going to be able to do it. And if it all works (fingers crossed) those progesterone shots keep coming until week 12. That's a lot of damn shots. If Partner could get over it, then it would be like immersion therapy. (Which sounds crappy to me, because I am terrified of spiders and I certainly don't want anyone throwing them at me until I get over my fear. Shit. It's giving me the heebie-jeebies right now.)

So, there's the story. I still feel good, slept great and just can't wait to keep moving forward.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I'm Scared.

Tomorrow is the all dreaded and all revered Lupron shot. It marks the start of something, and in my most hopeful moments, I call it the start of pregnancy. I think the Lupron shot symbolizes that our lives will never ever be the same again. Sometimes you know how you think you need a shot in the ass to get going? Well, literally, we're getting that shot in the ass. Something will start; something will change.

But what's starting? Pregnancy? Maybe not. I can't quite put my finger on it. While we've been "trying" for over a year, this is the first hard try, so to speak. This is essentially the first time I will have ever actively attempted to get pregnant. Actively. And even that's not the right word because we certainly have been actively trying to get a baby in the belly for 14 months. See how hard it is to nail this down?

So this Lupron shot tomorrow has become highly symbolic to me. As I said in the last post, I am unduly excited for this drug that I am pretty sure is going to make me feel like shite. But still, I can't wait.

Do I need to tell you that we've been talking about names for months now? How I can imagine vividly how it will feel when a baby first moves in my uterus? I want desperately to buy clothes and nursery furniture. Little booties. Hats. A sun-shade tent for visits to the beach house. I feel like by just having the shot, I'm qualified to buy this.

But I know I'm not. Sure, I'm excited, but the deeper part of me that has trouble getting out is deathly afraid. I threw up this morning. Flare-ups of my GERD. I'm tense in my shoulders. I am so nervous that the myriad of things that could go wrong will. And that's just worries about the cycling stuff: will the drugs work? Will Partner yield a good crop of eggs? Will my uterine wall bulk up? Will there be healthy embryos at all? What on earth will we do if any step along the next few weeks is missed and the cycle tumbles down the narrow, steep set of stairs we've been climbing for the past year?

This is the pretty honest part of me. I'm so excited about it working, but can't shake the fear I don't even like to admit I have...

I'm scared.

Coming home from camping this weekend, Partner and I had a talk in the car, driving home under the full moon from the most glorious weekend. I told her I was also afraid we pushed to the IVF option too fast. When Dr. BusyBusyBusy told her she couldn't have children, did we accept his diagnosis too fast? It's true, his partner who gave Partner the HSG said the same thing: no babies for her uterus. Did this count as two opinions? Did we give up on Partner as the birth parent too quickly? Did I push it because of my own desire to have a baby? "No, no, no," said Partner. She didn't think that was case.

But then I looked over at her--tears again. She told me she couldn't ever answer the gift I was giving her by agreeing to have children this way: her eggs, my body. And she said she didn't know what she'd do if this didn't work. That it would mean another whole period of mourning for her.

And it was an honest and wonderful conversation that put many of my fears to rest, but gave me a new set: What if it doesn't work? What if my body betrays not only me, but her too?

Christ. Am I neurotic or what??

So I am sooooo excited for the gross Lupron, but I'm deathly afraid too. I wonder how normal this is for IVFers? How in the world am I going to calm down?

So the Lupron is starting something different in our one year of trying-- a new set of fears and hopes. And even if we don't have a baby or babies from this cycle or future cycles, we will be changed and nothing will ever be the same again.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Why... I unbelievably excited about being poked in the ass by a big needle full of a drug that will make me feel like shit?


Friday, September 16, 2005

Quick Update

In any minute Partner will be pulling into the driveway and we'll be taking for a weekend in the woods. I feel really badly that I haven't updated at all this week and I promise next week will be better. Plus, the emotions should really start heating up then too since we have Lupron on Wednesday.

Oh good Lord-- here she is! I must tally forth, but I will post again soon.

Quick update: We're putting Chloe on anti-depressants.... So sad.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Lost & Found

I grew up a Christian, and therefore I've heard the Prodigal Son story so many times that it has been at various times in danger of losing its meaning. But suddenly the story shifted for me: I stopped identifying with the prodigal and started seeing myself as other characters, in particular the bitter elder brother. This served to soften me to a certain degree, and it challenged me to think about how to be more open and receiving of the differences we all have. If I'm a "Martha," I should only be so if I can appreciate the "Mary."

In any case, yesterday I heard the story again in a Gospel reading during a funeral. "There was a man who had two sons," the priest started and I closed my eyes. I could see two sons. One was lying in a casket at the front of the church, and the other was sitting in a pew next to his brother. You know the story, right? The one brother goes away, squanders life, and returns home whereupon his father kills the fatted calf. Fawns upon the prodigal son.

As the priest read out the story, I could see in my mind's eye exactly why it was chosen. Except the prodigal here didn't return to his parents here in Michigan, he returned to something greater. I could almost see God embracing this young man after his death, soothing his needle ravaged body, bathing him and anointing him with oils, soothing him. I imagined a table being set for him and I could see this young man finally at peace. I could hear God so clearly addressing those in the church yesterday when the Gospel said, "we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." I opened my eyes as the priest ended his reading, the tears that had been collecting there spilled out, drenching the front of my shirt.

Later, the remaining brother gave one of the eulogies-- an 18 year old kid eulogizing his 20 year old brother is too tragic. Too too tragic, but, oh my friends, was he brave. I don't even think he realized how his eulogy followed the Gospel reading, but he talked about how his heart had become dead to his brother over the years. He talked about how one of the only ways he could cope with his brother's horrible addiction was to gradually shut him out. Everyone in the church knew the struggle and knew what he was saying. One of the Missionaries of Charity who was there told his mother what we all knew to be true: at least now she'd know where her son was. She'd know he finally found peace. And then the brother told us how he had opened his heart again to his brother. Can death bring a gift? Yes, clearly. One of the reasons the funeral was so sad was that it so unfortunate that it was death that brought that gift and not recovery, but I learned so much yesterday.

I don't think I'm finished learning about it either. I had a very hard time during the funeral, was visibly shaking and was held tight by both my parents who were flanking me. I will forever be haunted by the cries of his sisters and brother as they closed the casket. I will remember what his father's face looked like, hugging people as they came through the door, but never taking his eyes off his son.

But after the funeral, I will also remember the way their family stood together outside the church, comforting the rest of us.

This morning at church the readings were largely to do with forgiveness, and I thought about this family. Clearly they have forgiven their brother and son the grief he gave them. They could stand up in front of all of us and tell us honestly about his life and their relationships with him. And you could see the love, the total unconditional love.

What magnificent things I've learned this weekend about God's love in our life if we're only open enough to see it. And like most true learning about life (and it ain't book smarts I'm talking about here), it's been painful and wrenching and necessary. And even though we could have all done without the lesson, I'll never regret the learning.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Chloe Conundrum: Help Needed

I'm trying to post very quickly right now because I should be at work, but since posting usually makes me feel better, I thought I'd give it a whirl this time.

We have four cats: Eli, who as you know is my baby, Noah, Chloe, and Maya. It's Partner's work-- she rescued Maya and Noah from some dire circumstances. Noah was fished from a storm sewer when he was a kitten. He was saved from the flood, hence his name: Noah. (By the way, I love the name Noah and it would be a potential kid name, but how could we name the kid after the cat? Too weird.) Maya was one of three kittens that lived in our old neighborhood. Some fool dropped a pregnant cat in our sub and kind neighbors rescued three of the kittens but couldn't catch the other three. So Partner did and found homes for two of them, but Maya stayed with us. There's more of a story here, and I should post it-- but I wanted to be quick, right? Right. In the interest of time, we'll skip that story for now and tell it later.

Chloe and Eli were obtained by more conventional grounds: Eli was an ad in the paper. Someone's pure-bred Siamese had gotten out in heat, and they wanted the rogue litter gone fast. By the time Partner had gotten there, only sad Eli was left and she thought for a minute about not taking him. The runt. Maybe something was wrong with him? But then she scooped him up and I can't imagine that there was ever a better cat. Thank God she got him. A week later she drove to Wisconsin to get Chloe who was born to a barn cat. Chloe looks like the twin of Eli, but half the size. She's a dolly cat: only about six and half pounds. We have some friends who always lament we're not feeding her enough, but we are. She's just a little girl.

Awhile ago, some months now, we started to have a problem with someone peeing. On the bed. On my side of the bed. And then on the couch in the sitting room off our master bedroom. We suspected Noah, since he's the most neurotic. We took him to the vet and she said, "He's fine physically-- no infections, etc." We got the beads that you put into a litter pan and we were instructed to test all the cats. If it was physical, it was the best possible outcome, you know? We isolated Maya: she's a wee bit aggressive, so perhaps it was her? Maybe she was peeing on the bed to get possession from Chloe?

When Maya was isolated, we figured out really fast it was Chloe. She practically peed on the bed in front of me. We tested her urine. No physical problems.


I've admitted Eli is my favorite-- and Partner has admitted Chloe to be her favorite.


The vet recommended isolating Chloe, and she has been the sole resident of two bedrooms connected by a bathroom for a month and half. Eli and Noah visit often. Not Maya. We decided we needed to start re-socializing Chloe upon our return from the August trips. We've been taking her out at night to sleep with us again in the master bedroom, the site of her previous crimes. It's been okay for three nights. This morning I left her in the room while I came to check email, read your blogs, etc. When I returned to the master bedroom, I found pee on the couch. Pee so fresh it hadn't even sunk into the cushion. Mind you, Maya, her nemesis is not in the room with her at the time. She has water, litter, and food.

What the fuck??

What are we going to do? She can't stay in these two rooms like this forever. Number one: this "office" is going to be turned into a baby room (hopefully) and containing her to the back bedroom seems too cruel: it's just not big enough.

Partner has read and read and read about all of this. We've talked to the vet. But she's not doing what she's supposed to be doing: stop peeing on our furniture. And I don't know-- I know some people just live with cats who pee on their stuff, but I can't do that. It's not really an option for me.

What are we going to do? It should be noted that I am totally looking for assvice here. In fact, I'd even go so far as to call it advice. Any ideas? I'm listening for humane and kind and knowledgeable words here.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


On Friday morning, it was tough chez WannaBe, so Partner came home early and we had a great night out sitting in street cafes and generally being light and blithe. It was the most wonderful evening, one that we could ill afford, and as much fun as we were having, I was a little troubled about it too. (Spending money! Baby to pay for! Rotten real estate market! Ack! Ack!)

Then we were driving home, down the pretty and dark road that leads to our house, keeping our eyes peeled for deer, which now have horns and I haven't seen these newly mature deer yet but Partner has. The windows were down in the car and evening's chill slipped around our necks and hair.

Then my mobile phone rang-- an unknown number,and it was marked, "Louisiana call." It didn't take me two seconds to pick it up, something I usually balk at if I don't know the number. It was our friend who owns this place, where we have always stayed on our trips to New Orleans. It's just as gracious as it looks, and our friend is the most wonderful host. Over the years, our family has really looked up on the Claiborne as a home away from home, and we love this friend. I look forward to our visits to New Orleans as much as anything to talk with her since her opinions are always well thought out and she's such a great conversationalist. Don't you know people like that? People who can string out a conversation and talk about what could be the most mundane detail but make it incredibly interesting and you walk away from your chat and think, "Wow, do I feel alive and vibrant," and then you realize you were talking about something like, oh say, green peppers, and that only makes it better? Yes, then you have this friend too.

She stayed in the city until 3:00 am on Sunday, when she decided it was too scary, packed up her dogs and got out of Dodge. I told her to come stay with us, dogs and all. I told her to go to our family house outside of Charleston. And she said, sweetly, she knew she wouldn't even have to ask to do either, but decisions weren't easy in the middle of all of this. And it was hard to think about being so far away. Something I hadn't necessarily thought about-- how hard it would be to go states away from your home where you have left everything behind on the off chance you might be able to get back.

I told her we were glued to the television, and she said, "Oh you can see it? We have no power-- we didn't know if the rest of the country even knew what was happening down here." When I told her about all we'd seen and how sick we were about it, she sighed, "Oh thank you. Thank you for knowing."

Thank you for knowing. Clearly, we can all act in very concrete ways to alleviate some of the suffering going on in that part of the world, but for all of us who have felt that we weren't making a dent or a difference with our donations or offers of bedrooms or whatever, just think about our friend who was breathless with thanks that we were even paying attention.

Let's just keep paying attention, eh?

Friday, September 02, 2005

Wild Vitriol

I won't be eloquent, but I am mad. Just as my singing got breathy with performance, my typing and writing skills go to pot when angry.

Partner hasn't been to be bed with me for two nights now. That's not why I'm angry-- she's glued to the television watching images of NOLA, the horrible depressing inexcusable images. She keeps saying, "We've walked down that street. We were just there. We parked there." She's floored. Who isn't?

One brother of mine left New Orleans a little over than a year ago. He hated it by the time he left-- but admitted on our recent trip that he missed it for all its poverty and crime and partying (which was mostly what he got sick of). But still he missed it. His girlfriend hasn't heard from her mother in two days. They're safe in Tennessee, but she has no idea if her family's home outside of the city is still there. And no one has anyway of knowing.

My other brother moved back to Michigan only three months ago after graduating from Tulane. He considered staying on, but his girlfriend got a job here in Michigan, and thus he came back too. God bless her. Now he and his girlfriend have friends still stranded in apartments in the city. The last text message he got from a friend noted that a tree had just come through the roof. He hasn't heard anything since then. They are both heartbroken and sick. Her family is still in Louisiana, not in New Orleans, and all safe, but none of this can be easy for her thinking of her family down there.

They're all lucky. We're all lucky. Everyone is alive and accounted for. And they all possessed just enough money to shield them somewhat from what's going on.

We all made numerous trips to visit, and we all fell in love with NOLA. How could you not? I always said it was like we weren't even in America anymore, walking the streets with our Bloody Marys, sitting by the river. We all have friends there now.

I can't stand the images. It's so wrong. I can't stand that no one seems, until today when I heard the head of the NAACP say it, to be talking about the race and class issues here.

My head spins when I hear politicians say, "Well... we told 'em to leave, and they ignored us." Implicitly this statement says, "They deserve what they got since they didn't listen." Don't tell me it doesn't, because it does.

I commented on this at Republic of T, but that particular statement pisses the living hell out of me. First of all, as a politician in the region, if you didn't know that some of your constituents did not own vehicles or were too poor to get out, you already failed in your job as a public servant. You failed. You were out of touch with the people you were meant to represent. Secondly, if you did know it, but didn't arrange for any type of evacuation for these impoverished people, you failed. Again. You failed in your job as a public servant. You let down the very people that you were meant to represent.

No matter which way you look it, failure. So I invite the politicians to keep saying the above, and hopefully people will start to realize how the politicians indicate their own failure with such a comment.

Secondly, if you, Mr/Ms politician, knew it was going to be disaster, and begged people to leave, why in the world didn't you use some of the pre-storm time to gather up basic supplies like water and basic food stuff, like rice for God's sake? Certainly there was rice-- It's Louisiana! For the love of God! I myself have two five pound sacks of LA rice!! I mean, really! You knew it was going to be bad, you say, you begged people to leave. You begged. Big fucking deal-- what did you do? What are you doing now? Saying you sympathize isn't fucking enough.

And Jesus, Mary, and Joseph?! What can I do? What am I doing? I feel so freaking impotent.

When I was in grade school, a Catholic school, we went to Mass once a week. One of my favorite songs to sing was, "And they'll know we are Christians by our acts, by our acts..." [etc]

Act. Act!

When the tsunami hit, why did I feel more confident about people being taken care then I do right now? Doesn't this strike the majority of people as awful?

And finally, I am going to tell you all something-- I think they'll rebuild NOLA, but it's going to be under the supervision of some Halliburton type of company. They'll be a federal grant, and a private enterprise will get it. God bless America. Or wait, God Bless [corporate] America. That's it. In my estimation, the government should set up some public works type of organization, not unlike the CCC, WPA, , and CWA. [See New Deal]

This way for some people who've lost their jobs, everything might not be lost. There's potential there for a wage, and rebuilding the city can only engender some pride and investment in the place, and how could that be wrong?

As for the people who think this is some sort of Divine Punishment: Well! Seriously, if these people know God's mind so intricately, how could I tell them anything otherwise? Personally, I believe to make claims about God's motivation is pretty blasphemous and treacherous. How can anyone presume to know the will of God in that way? Peuh. Please. Don't. Make. Me. Laugh.

Anything helps, and I know that most people who read this blog probably already have donated something to an organization or cans to a drive or even prayed. I guess we all just have to keep doing the same. And we have to try and promise each other that we won't be silent about the inconsideration that the people of NOLA have gotten. We have to make sure we get some answers, when the time is right, to the gross neglect this whole region has seen.

I told you I wouldn't be eloquent, but I had to get a little of what I am thinking out. And believe me you, this is merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of what I'm feeling.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Laudate Dominum

As an undergraduate, for a brief while, I took some formal voice lessons. I did the same in high school. I think about doing it again every now and then, but my aspirations tend more toward jazz lately.

It happened in college like this: Someone mentioned at the dinner table one night that some people she knew had to find students for their pedagogy class. This particular mentioner was a graduate student at the music school. I told her to pass my name on. I had no idea what I was getting into.

My teacher, a marvelous tenor, met me in one of those little box rehearsal rooms. I've always hated these rooms. The painted cinder blocks. The buzzing fluorescent light. If I'd ever gotten more serious about singing, I would have practiced in the dark instead of in that horrible light glaring against pale painted yellow walls. At our first meeting, we talked, went through scales, etc. He was kind and noted that I was very breathy. Too true; when I get nervous, I feel like I can't breath and it's clearly obvious when I sing.

At the end of the lesson, I joking did one of the exercises a la operatic diva.

"Wait a minute," he said, his eyes suddenly alight. "Can you do that again, or was it a fluke?"

"Yes, I can do it again, but I'm not going to." Suddenly my high school voice lessons flashed back to me. My voice teacher in high school realized with just as sudden alacrity that my voice was potentially more than breathy renditions of old show tunes and folk songs. She made me practice breathing, would try very hard to make me sing "full." Now, as a bona fide nerd, I've always liked opera, but at sixteen and very attuned to the fact that this would set me apart in a way I didn't want, I reacted very passive-aggressively against singing in this manner. When it didn't work, I stopped voice and my evil choir teacher, not the voice teacher (who insisted on being called a voice coach) neglected to promote me to the chorale. I stayed in the choir since I liked to sing and when we had to choose solos to learn and perform to the class, I always chose pieces that were far to far beyond me in an attempt to convince the evil choir teacher I belonged in chorale, not choir. The selections I chose required me to sing with the formal voice I knew was in me, but I never did that. Occasionally in church, I would belt our hymns or carols in the opera voice, and I almost always got complimented from those seated around me.

Still, the whole thing felt incredibly stupid. I couldn't even (and still can't) read music.

And my "rejection" from chorale has always stayed with me. My role in the choir quickly became the clown, and adopting a serious voice was antithetical to my singing experience.

All these things and more I thought as the college voice teacher exhorted me to please please please sing like that again. He kept hitting a key on the piano and looking at me hopefully. Pling.......silence.... "C'mon, Katie, one more time." Pling........ silence. So much for the pedagogy of hope, eh? He finally got my number. "You must not be able to do it again," he said disgustedly and closed the lid on the piano. And without him looking, although he must have been smirking while facing away from me, I let another opera Katie out of the bag. "HA!" he exclaimed turning rapidly to face me. "You will never, ever, sing that old way when this comes out of your mouth."

We had our second lesson on the spot. His previous kindness had changed into excitement and seriousness: here was a student he could mold.

I stopped half an hour into the lesson. "When I sing like this," I told him, "I can't hear myself singing. It's like plugged up."

He took his hands off the keys. "You can't hear yourself?" he said softly. I shook my head. "Oh my GOD! That's perfect!" At the end of the two hour lesson he told me I needed to practice everyday. I practiced exactly once before the next lesson. After that, I practiced not at all between lessons. One day he told me I should think twice about going to the bar; all the smoke was bad for my voice. I nodded, but knew my habits weren't about to change. He continued to be enthusiastic. And then he decided he was taking me to his professor-- And I agreed.

Jesus. It was like a salon-- her office was huge with a baby grand in the room, soft couches lined the walls and grad students lounged about. After hearing a few others practice, she took me up the piano. She went through some exercises. She looked around the room. "Like a young Maria Callas," she said. I felt a tingle. Maybe, just maybe I could do this? She put a piece of music in front of me. "I don't read," I said. A few students around the snickered. She waved her hand in the air, "Neither does Pavarotti." The laughing stopped. I sang with a chopstick between my teeth. "Why do you open your mouth like that?" she questioned me. "Your mouth never needs to open like that. You must have been singing with a choir." She forbade me to sing with a choir-- choirs were in her estimation, a bastion of bad singing habits. She made me sing my scales with a white handkerchief, rolling it out to the back of the room with each note. "Make your notes follow the handkerchief," she yelled at me. My own music teacher smiled gleefully. I was scheduled to appear before the whole class and he'd run through a lesson with me there.

On the day of the class, he met me outside the room. "How do you feel?" he asked. I peeked into the room. I wanted to tell him I could hardly talk, but instead I nodded, which was meant to be an affirmation to him. Really I couldn't even open my mouth to say "I feel like puking!" The lesson was disastrous. The teacher's professor was aghast. "But you can do these things," she said to me as my own guy floundered and I kept making breathy attempts to sing like Maria Callas again. Finally she dismissed me and shortly afterward I ended my lessons.

I've flirted with lessons again since that time-- formal voice sounds interesting, but it's freaking hard work. I even had someone who said he'd work with me on jazz and blues, but I failed to follow through. I'll karoke at the drop of a hat. I'll belt out with the best of them in the car alone, or with partner, but put my brother in the car and I'll suddenly be a quiet singer, worrying excessively about the notes and if I've got the words right.

I'm not sure why I'm telling you this story, other than this morning was glorious and pure and I put on Mozart's Laudate Dominum and thought about singing it. I listened to it three times through and remembered all these emotions: my rejection from chorale, my disastrous forays into classical voice, breathing through straws, singing arias with a chopstick between my teeth, the anxiety ridden rehearsal rooms. And then about the second time through the Laudate, this all got lost and the music felt like the perfect answer to the green and blue outside the windows. "Laudate Dominum omnes gentes: laudate eum omnes populi."

And so I sang.