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When I'm not here, you may find me wandering the pages below. (If I'm a regular visitor to your site and I've left your link off or mislinked to you, please let me know! And likewise, if you've blogrolled me, please check that my link is updated: thisroamanticlife.blogspot.com. The extra (a) makes all the difference!)

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Body: in sickness and in health

I won't lie; this body and I have had our issues with each other for many years. Body image -- sure. Physical and mental overextension -- comes with being a Type A kind of girl. I still struggle with these things, so they show up from time to time in my writing.

More recently, illness, pure but not simple, has added itself to the mix in a multi-system sort of way. And the challenges in figuring out exactly what's gone wrong are many. As problems have revealed themselves in the last few years, beginning with reactive hypoglycemia in late 2008, I've documented them here, partly to gain a little clarity on managing complex conditions but mostly to give voice to vulnerabilities I feel but don't normally share with anyone face to face. Better out than in, they say, right? (Oh yes, humor is one way I deal.)

The links below cover the different angles I've examined (and from which I've been examined) within that experience.

Travel: neither here nor there

When the person you're married to lives two time zones away, you log a fair number of frequent flier miles. And if you blog about commuter relationships, you log quite a few posts en route too.

Since we're no longer in separate places, I blog less often from airports. But we do travel -- together now! -- which is much more fun to write about. So in addition to thoughts on our years of commuting, the links below cover the places we've been as a pair and, in some cases, the adventures that have happened on the way.

Writing: the long and short of it

Why do I do it? Good question. Maybe it's not so much that I like to write but that I have to write, even when the words refuse to stick to the page. Believe me, I've tried doing other things like majoring in biochemistry (freshman fall, many semesters ago). Within a year, I'd switched to English with a concentration in creative writing and wasn't looking back.

After graduating, I taught English for a few years and then worked as an editor, which I still do freelance. In 2007, I applied and got into an MFA program at a place I like to call Little U. on the Prairie. I finished my degree in 2011 and have been balancing tutoring and writing on my own ever since.

The following links cover the writing I've done about writing: process, content, obstacles, you name it. It's not always pretty. But some part of me loves it, even when it's hard. And this is the result.

Heart: family and friends

I'd have a hard time explaining who I am without being able to talk about the family I grew up in as well as the people I've met beyond its bounds. But even with such context, it's not easy! In the simplest terms, I'm a first-generation Asian-American who has spent most of this life caught between cultures. That, of course, doesn't even begin to describe what I mean to, but there's my first stab at the heart of it all.

That's what this group of posts is reserved for -- heart. The essential parts of my life whose influences I carry with me, for better or worse. The links below cover what I've written as I've learned how these forces work within me, for me, against me, in spite of me. They anchor me even as they change me, and they keep life interesting.

Recommended reading

What do I do when there's too much on my mind and my words won't stick to the page? I escape into someone else's thoughts. Below is a collection of books and articles that have been sources of information, inspiration, and occasional insight for my own work.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Scenes from around the table, part 4: prodding

This is the fourth and final post in a series chronicling our last holiday season before baby arrives -- as they say, life is never the same afterward, so in the interest of capturing a few snapshots to remember this time, here are some jottings from moments that have lingered with me over a multi-destination Thanksgiving week.

Dr. Sis is already in bed with her iPhone docked and its music playing when I come out of her bathroom the night before the baby shower. Rolls of teal tissue, turquoise wrapping paper, and silver ribbon lean against one another in the corner amidst shipping boxes I have been instructed not to poke around in -- quarters in Dr. Sis's Boston condo are cozy, leaving few options for hiding gifts except covering them in plain sight. I climb under the comforter, trying not to disturb a second pile of boxes on my side of the bed.

The clutter, some hardly shower-related, spills into the living room in the form of shoes, books, cleaning supplies, grocery bags. In my own home, the mess would drive me crazy, but I respect that this is my sister's space and that she's a junior resident. That she can find time to feed herself is already a feat on her demanding schedule. Preparing to host a party? Unimaginable. And yet, that's exactly what she's been doing all evening, to my amazement. She and Marketing Sis have already wrapped a large pile of packages now nestled on an arm chair in the dining nook, waiting to be opened the following afternoon.

Through my homebody's eye, I see more than just gifts buried in the corners of this condo. It's a part of Dr. Sis's life, which I've lost the ability to inquire about without feeling like I'm intruding. She is, and has always been, someone who gets her joy from being around other people, usually in spaces not her own -- or maybe it's that she immerses herself in that which is outside her home because the world behind her own door is something she'd rather not steep in alone for too long. So things pile up and get left behind as she comes and goes, stopping to sleep but not, I imagine, to be still here. Whenever she is home, she runs Pandora or tracks from her iTunes account, the music, it seems, a buffer against too much rumination.

I want to be wrong about all of that. Except, perhaps, the part about joy -- if she really does find her happiness outside, out loud, out and about, more power to her. Just because I'm a homebody doesn't mean I think she ought to be.

On this night, I'm not sure what kind of mood she's in, but heart-to-hearts have been rare between us, so I don't expect to plunge into any heavy conversation. We have so little time and we both need sleep; it would be unwise to tread too far into those questions I'm dying to ask anyway. What is it to be where you are now, doing what you're doing? Who's in your life these days? What makes you tick? Basic things I thought I used to know about her.

I admit I haven't been forthcoming with the same information myself. When I have offered up those pieces of my life to her, though, I've never felt satisfied with them. The true answers to most of those questions are that I don't know, it's complicated, things are still a work in progress, I need more time to think. And Dr. Sis, an analyst by nature and in her line of work, delves deeper, harder, faster than I can regroup to get more detailed answers out. She has to be direct, efficient in diagnosing her patients. I don't like feeling like a patient when we start talking. Tell her this, and she'll likely respond, "Really. Well, say more about that."

It's like falling into a trap. A heart-to-heart shouldn't feel like a catch-22 -- and yet. And yet. I wonder if having a mind as sharp as hers is partly why she keeps her music running. I imagine a brain like that needs a regulator, to quiet its inclinations to examine, evaluate, spin. I know reflection has been a big part of Dr. Sis's medical training, but too much introspection can be more harmful than helpful. Writing has its similarities.

Dr. Sis is poking around on her laptop, so I scoot down under the comforter away from the light from the screen, even though I'm not quite sleepy. I expect her to drop off soon -- she's just come off studying for and taking a two-day certification exam on top of taking call over part of Thanksgiving weekend and hosting a Turkey Day dinner -- but Dr. Sis turns toward me, a thoughtful expression on her face, and begins prodding at my belly.

After Marketing Sis's unabashed interactions with her unborn nephew, this doesn't surprise me. I'm amused at the difference in each sister's approach, though. While Marketing Sis has talked to, laid an ear against, and even kissed the belly, Dr. Sis methodically examines it for landmarks. She palpates low, just as my OB has in recent weeks, looking for identifiers I can't name. "He's supposedly rotated downward," I say. Dr. Sis nods and continues to press and poke, her other hand now at the top of my abdomen as if to take the measure of her nephew's body.

"There's an appendage," she says as he squirms a little.

"How can you tell?" I ask. Even though my sister's focus is not in obstetrics, she has done a rotation in the field and delivered her share of babies. I'm awed that she can find a fetal heartbeat with just her stethoscope, fascinated that the random movements I feel under my skin make a difference between heel and head to her. The baby, not so much -- he suddenly kicks vigorously beneath my sister's fingers, as if perturbed. We look at each other, both a little startled, and laugh.

"I'm sorry," she says to the nephew. To me: "When those parts are next to each other but you can feel them moving independently, that's how you know." Dr. Sis makes a flippery motion with her two hands as our middle school swim team coach used to show us when we were learning how to execute an efficient flutter kick.

Then she lets the belly be, respecting its resident's protests. Too much, those kicks seem to say. For once, though, I don't mind the prodding.

For more from this series, please click here.

5 comments:

TKW said...

I am such a homebody that I feared for Miss D. Shouldn't have bothered. That girl came out with "social butterfly" stamped on her forehead. She is a mystery.

Miss M. is another matter. She loves home like nobody's business.

ps: How are you feeling?

C. Troubadour said...

Kitch -- isn't it wild how sibling personalities can be so different? I think for the most part my sisters and I benefited in our relationships with one other from being well-distributed on the homebody-social butterfly spectrum. It's a fun mix when we're together.

As for how I'm feeling, I'm getting along pretty well for 39 1/2 weeks(!). Trying not to think too much about labor so it'll just start. (The more you pay attention, the more you dampen that hormonal feedback loop.) Crossing my fingers that this baby is measuring up to size tomorrow at his growth ultrasound; if he's small, my OB wants him out by more aggressive means. Squee ...

Good Enough Woman said...

Your levels of insight and lyrical skill never fail to impress me, CT. I am thinking of you, wondering how you are, and wondering if that little one has entered this world.

((((CT)))))

Sharone said...

I've been reading around here for a while and wanted to leave a comment just about everywhere because there's so much to respond to. (In fact, I'm not sure I haven't? Grad school seems to have taken my short-term memory to a tragic place. So forgive me if I have.) Something in every post hits home for me - the way sisters negotiate relationships, how different we can all be. My sisters live far away from me too, and though we know each other I am always surprised in some way by how we have become different people, not just from each other but from the sisters I carry around in my head with me in the spaces between visits.

I've been thinking of you all week, sure you must have had the baby by now! Hoping all is well for you all, and looking forward to hearing from you again.

C. Troubadour said...

GEW -- thanks. Of the four posts in the series, this one wrote itself. The others were a lot harder to untangle! As for the little one, oh yes. The wee hours are now my time to be awake, as you can see :)

Sharone -- new motherhood's sleep deprivation is taking my short-term memory to a tragic place, so you and I are a fine pair here! I love the idea of the sisters we carry around in our heads. It's so true for me too. The sisters I visit are never quite the ones I think I remember. I'm touched and delighted you've had a chance to read around! Welcome.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Scenes from around the table, part 4: prodding

This is the fourth and final post in a series chronicling our last holiday season before baby arrives -- as they say, life is never the same afterward, so in the interest of capturing a few snapshots to remember this time, here are some jottings from moments that have lingered with me over a multi-destination Thanksgiving week.

Dr. Sis is already in bed with her iPhone docked and its music playing when I come out of her bathroom the night before the baby shower. Rolls of teal tissue, turquoise wrapping paper, and silver ribbon lean against one another in the corner amidst shipping boxes I have been instructed not to poke around in -- quarters in Dr. Sis's Boston condo are cozy, leaving few options for hiding gifts except covering them in plain sight. I climb under the comforter, trying not to disturb a second pile of boxes on my side of the bed.

The clutter, some hardly shower-related, spills into the living room in the form of shoes, books, cleaning supplies, grocery bags. In my own home, the mess would drive me crazy, but I respect that this is my sister's space and that she's a junior resident. That she can find time to feed herself is already a feat on her demanding schedule. Preparing to host a party? Unimaginable. And yet, that's exactly what she's been doing all evening, to my amazement. She and Marketing Sis have already wrapped a large pile of packages now nestled on an arm chair in the dining nook, waiting to be opened the following afternoon.

Through my homebody's eye, I see more than just gifts buried in the corners of this condo. It's a part of Dr. Sis's life, which I've lost the ability to inquire about without feeling like I'm intruding. She is, and has always been, someone who gets her joy from being around other people, usually in spaces not her own -- or maybe it's that she immerses herself in that which is outside her home because the world behind her own door is something she'd rather not steep in alone for too long. So things pile up and get left behind as she comes and goes, stopping to sleep but not, I imagine, to be still here. Whenever she is home, she runs Pandora or tracks from her iTunes account, the music, it seems, a buffer against too much rumination.

I want to be wrong about all of that. Except, perhaps, the part about joy -- if she really does find her happiness outside, out loud, out and about, more power to her. Just because I'm a homebody doesn't mean I think she ought to be.

On this night, I'm not sure what kind of mood she's in, but heart-to-hearts have been rare between us, so I don't expect to plunge into any heavy conversation. We have so little time and we both need sleep; it would be unwise to tread too far into those questions I'm dying to ask anyway. What is it to be where you are now, doing what you're doing? Who's in your life these days? What makes you tick? Basic things I thought I used to know about her.

I admit I haven't been forthcoming with the same information myself. When I have offered up those pieces of my life to her, though, I've never felt satisfied with them. The true answers to most of those questions are that I don't know, it's complicated, things are still a work in progress, I need more time to think. And Dr. Sis, an analyst by nature and in her line of work, delves deeper, harder, faster than I can regroup to get more detailed answers out. She has to be direct, efficient in diagnosing her patients. I don't like feeling like a patient when we start talking. Tell her this, and she'll likely respond, "Really. Well, say more about that."

It's like falling into a trap. A heart-to-heart shouldn't feel like a catch-22 -- and yet. And yet. I wonder if having a mind as sharp as hers is partly why she keeps her music running. I imagine a brain like that needs a regulator, to quiet its inclinations to examine, evaluate, spin. I know reflection has been a big part of Dr. Sis's medical training, but too much introspection can be more harmful than helpful. Writing has its similarities.

Dr. Sis is poking around on her laptop, so I scoot down under the comforter away from the light from the screen, even though I'm not quite sleepy. I expect her to drop off soon -- she's just come off studying for and taking a two-day certification exam on top of taking call over part of Thanksgiving weekend and hosting a Turkey Day dinner -- but Dr. Sis turns toward me, a thoughtful expression on her face, and begins prodding at my belly.

After Marketing Sis's unabashed interactions with her unborn nephew, this doesn't surprise me. I'm amused at the difference in each sister's approach, though. While Marketing Sis has talked to, laid an ear against, and even kissed the belly, Dr. Sis methodically examines it for landmarks. She palpates low, just as my OB has in recent weeks, looking for identifiers I can't name. "He's supposedly rotated downward," I say. Dr. Sis nods and continues to press and poke, her other hand now at the top of my abdomen as if to take the measure of her nephew's body.

"There's an appendage," she says as he squirms a little.

"How can you tell?" I ask. Even though my sister's focus is not in obstetrics, she has done a rotation in the field and delivered her share of babies. I'm awed that she can find a fetal heartbeat with just her stethoscope, fascinated that the random movements I feel under my skin make a difference between heel and head to her. The baby, not so much -- he suddenly kicks vigorously beneath my sister's fingers, as if perturbed. We look at each other, both a little startled, and laugh.

"I'm sorry," she says to the nephew. To me: "When those parts are next to each other but you can feel them moving independently, that's how you know." Dr. Sis makes a flippery motion with her two hands as our middle school swim team coach used to show us when we were learning how to execute an efficient flutter kick.

Then she lets the belly be, respecting its resident's protests. Too much, those kicks seem to say. For once, though, I don't mind the prodding.

For more from this series, please click here.

5 comments:

TKW said...

I am such a homebody that I feared for Miss D. Shouldn't have bothered. That girl came out with "social butterfly" stamped on her forehead. She is a mystery.

Miss M. is another matter. She loves home like nobody's business.

ps: How are you feeling?

C. Troubadour said...

Kitch -- isn't it wild how sibling personalities can be so different? I think for the most part my sisters and I benefited in our relationships with one other from being well-distributed on the homebody-social butterfly spectrum. It's a fun mix when we're together.

As for how I'm feeling, I'm getting along pretty well for 39 1/2 weeks(!). Trying not to think too much about labor so it'll just start. (The more you pay attention, the more you dampen that hormonal feedback loop.) Crossing my fingers that this baby is measuring up to size tomorrow at his growth ultrasound; if he's small, my OB wants him out by more aggressive means. Squee ...

Good Enough Woman said...

Your levels of insight and lyrical skill never fail to impress me, CT. I am thinking of you, wondering how you are, and wondering if that little one has entered this world.

((((CT)))))

Sharone said...

I've been reading around here for a while and wanted to leave a comment just about everywhere because there's so much to respond to. (In fact, I'm not sure I haven't? Grad school seems to have taken my short-term memory to a tragic place. So forgive me if I have.) Something in every post hits home for me - the way sisters negotiate relationships, how different we can all be. My sisters live far away from me too, and though we know each other I am always surprised in some way by how we have become different people, not just from each other but from the sisters I carry around in my head with me in the spaces between visits.

I've been thinking of you all week, sure you must have had the baby by now! Hoping all is well for you all, and looking forward to hearing from you again.

C. Troubadour said...

GEW -- thanks. Of the four posts in the series, this one wrote itself. The others were a lot harder to untangle! As for the little one, oh yes. The wee hours are now my time to be awake, as you can see :)

Sharone -- new motherhood's sleep deprivation is taking my short-term memory to a tragic place, so you and I are a fine pair here! I love the idea of the sisters we carry around in our heads. It's so true for me too. The sisters I visit are never quite the ones I think I remember. I'm touched and delighted you've had a chance to read around! Welcome.