Friday, October 26, 2012

Black Belt

Funny that Little Man has given me a writing assignment coinciding with a long dry spell of writing inspiration. Nothing like an almost 9 year old about to become a black belt, kicking my ass into writing shape (he'll get a kick out seeing the word "ass" here). Perhaps good enough for a blog post. He'll be the judge and you'll know if you are reading.

The back-story - Little Man, as most of you who know him or of him, has been doing Tae Kwon Do since he was 5. More than just going you can say, he's made the place our second home, going an average of 4 times a week diligently and of his own free will. He's always shown good focus and a need to perfect form and it shows as he's progressed seamlessly up the belt ladder in minimum time. Thirteen belts hang on his wall with one remaining as the ultimate goal within reach in just hours from now. One of the obstacles, besides the obvious upcoming physical test was having had to write an essay about what TKD means to him. Not a simple task for a 3rd grader (and maybe he'll let me post his own words here too). Anyway, maybe influenced by this or maybe as punishment for this, but our Little Man wishes no gift for his big achievement, but rather that each one of us (Orit and I) write an essay of our own. A letter, to him, about how proud we are of him and what it means to us. Payback by our altruistic little smart-ass (another "ass" to make him smile) kid, that is willing to give up gifts for a boost to the ego and a pad on the back. We all recognize that as long-term thinking. The stuff of a leader. And bless him for it, he shall be. For that I take my hat off, give myself a slight pad on the back and proclaim out loud my absolute pride in his whole essence and being. This one achievement of reaching a goal set out at the age of 5 when he discovered his focus to become a black belt is but a small part of him at the now seasoned age of 8.6. There is so much more to this Little Man. But that's the homework he's assigned me so that's the subject of my words...

And here I must stop as per his request. I read it to him just before bed tonight. It took him but a second to decide that the introduction to this point is for all your eyes. The letter I subsequently wrote him as my "homework" from that point, he chose to keep private for himself. Then he walked up and gave me the kind of hug the moment required. What else can I say, that kid is smarter than I'll ever be.

In the morning it's black belt time.

Friday, June 15, 2012

POLAROID - guest blog piece for Jeremy Cowart Blog

In being asked to write a guest blog piece, I'm stepping into new territory. I write as meditation. I'm a photographer and artist by trade. Writing is a mental challenge that stimulates, yet relaxes me. I write in solitude. Introspective and personal. Some rants end up on this here blog of photos and words. Visual and written stories uploaded with a click of the mouse. It's out there, intended for some, yet exposed beyond to all. It always amazes me who it reaches. So this is new to me. An assignment, of sorts, to inspire other “creatives” such as ourselves. I find the best way to do that is to keep it personal. Either shoot or write about what's around you. Tell it in story and put it out there. It will touch someone.

Thank you Jeremy for being interested and providing a platform.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Lioness

My step grandmother was my grandmother. I knew no other. I was born well after she had cemented her place in the family when my Mother lost her mother as a teenager. Younger than my Grandfather - somewhere between his age and my Mother’s. She was never Safta (Grandma in Hebrew). Just Levia. Her name meaning lioness in Hebrew. Though not by blood, by birth she was my Safta, regardless of how I grew up addressing her.

Unlike all the rest of her grandchildren, I did not really grow up with Levia. I left when I was 4. I would come to Israel every summer on my yearly visit from where it was that we were living. I'd sleep on a mattress on the floor of the room that served as her painting studio. Levia was an artist. A painter, a sculptor, a jewelry maker. Every piece of art in the apartment was hers. I am afflicted with a similar disposition. She was not much of a collector of other's work. She lived amongst her creations. Paintings of oils, acrylics, watercolors, sketches of pencil and charcoal covered all walls and sculptures on shelves and other surface areas. Constantly changing as it took on a musical chairs quality for my yearly viewing. Even the main sewage pipe running up and down through the building, in their portion, in their bathroom, was covered in a plaster sculpture of a female nude. The room I'd sleep in was packed with supplies and storage for works that are not on display. Much of the work was still life and figurative. Very classic painting school. Portraits. Lots of nudes. The female form. I would occasionally find 4x6" snapshots of naked women posing as subjects for her or in art workshops. She worked from photographs. Always interesting for a curious young boy/teen to stumble upon on some easel shelf. I'll let your imaginations wander to wherever you'd like to go with this. Back to topic. Later she experimented with more abstract paintings and jewelry, which though rough around the edges in form and comfort, I was a big fan of it’s boldness of design.

Levia talked about her art. I had a certain connection with her on an artistic and creative level that grew stronger as I matured into my craft. Unfortunately it was already in her later years. I would have loved to have had the same conversations in her youth. She could talk about her art tirelessly. As much as her prolific art making itself. Though, I never really got to see it in the making. Which is something I only now realize in hindsight. I was around for very short spurts on summer vacations. Given the tour of latest materials, ideas and results in summary. Besides that, it was about the meal and the hosting and making sure all visitors were happy. Adults talked and discussed, whilst I explored and got to know my Safta from behind the scenes. Through her space and stuff.

In recent years Levia had been living in a home. Her mind delving deeper into the Alzheimer's disease that was overtaking her. I saw her on 3 separate occasions over the past 3 years that I've visited. Each time, Little Man remained in the lobby with my dad. My mom and I went up to see her, sitting in the common area of her unit. Engrossed in the group activity of the afternoon, she’d notice us walking up and she’d light up for a moment. Always remembering my face. Wanting to show off and share something with me. Dance and sing and talk about how pretty she used to be and is. After another full year and a thicker beard, she always recognized my eyes. Three similar experiences, though progressively seeing her be taken further away from us. They were difficult moments for me, but necessary. I live thousands of miles away and have most of my life. The rest of my Mother's family bucked up, went on rotation and united around making her feel loved. She was not alone. My grandfather, my Saba, the solid rock of the family. 96 years strong - sharp as a tack and independent. Nurturing and present everyday of her life, before the home and after, without fail. Even when she forgot. He remained her daily friend, until the end, the other day.
Goodbye Lioness. I'll miss you and will always love you.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

January 2nd 2012

The day Baby Aaron was born and what was to be the end of our "adventure" as I've been calling it. As so many things in life, this end is not quite as finite as ends are defined to be. The post period, we're realizing, is just a continuation of the adventure. And maybe this adventure doesn't ever really come to an end. Maybe it's meant to continue indefinitely as does life, with ups, downs, turns and twists. Maybe it extends itself throughout our lives and Baby Aarons' and his new parents' lives. Like the passing of the baton. It's in their hands now as we recover from the first leg. But we shall stand hand in hand together in victory on the podium of life. We said from the beginning that we'd play it as it comes in regards to a future relationship with J&R and Baby Aaron. That playing as it comes has already cemented a bond and friendship long before this day. That future is now here and our future from here is assuredly intertwined.

So yes, Baby Aaron arrived in this world at a healthy 8lbs 9oz and 20"L at 2am four days after his original due day. He took his time growing and making sure he was to be a 2012 baby. We all expected him to be early, prolonging the anxiousness of awaiting his arrival.    Orit was so beyond ready to get him out (and I mean that in a more sensitive give birth way) that we resorted to all the old wives tales about inducing. The first piece of advice EVERYONE seems to want to offer is "they say if you have sex..." That comes out of the mouths of a large cross-section of people, including all the ones you don't want to hear it from. Yes, yes, I know, I know. And we did. And did... But he didn't arrive (notice here how I didn't use the alternative verb). Finally after speaking to a doula who recommended a particular recipe that would guarantee baby results, we set out to give it a shot at 9:30pm on January 1st. After a quick trip to the drug store, 2 tablespoons of Castor Oil were blended into a milkshake and consumed. Not me. Followed with a hot shower and topped off with 15 minutes of stimulating/massaging one breast at a time and alternating for an hour. Again here, not me. There was nothing romantic about this recipe. We joked along the way about the awkwardness of it all. Hoping skeptically it would do something. Boy, did it. Shortly before midnight the labor contractions came on strong. No need for a stopwatch or timing anything. It was obviously time to get the plan in motion. Calls to J&R, hospital, midwife, doula and Aimee, Orit's Assistant. By 12:20am, Aimee was at the house ready to stay the night and/or how ever long it takes with Little Man. By 12:30 we were on the way, driving fast on the wide open freeway.

The first scene from a movie we encounter was pulling into the valet underground parking lot of the hospital. We get out, I give one of the two guys the keys as I explain that my wife is in labor. They look at me absolutely freaked out and tell me to get myself and my in-labor wife back in the car and drive around to Emergency. As if I'm asking them to delivery the baby. Along comes a helpful employee who grabs a wheel chair from the entrance and tells us it would be faster this way. Come. Thanks lady! I get my valet ticket as I say to the guys "it's not an emergency, it's a labor." And we roll on up to Labor and Delivery. We'd been to this exact department during an orientation at this hospital and still the place seemed like a maze.

We get into the delivery room and the show wastes no time in beginning. Right away a contraction and undressing and gown and bed. Orit does not let them get her laying down on her back as they'd like her but rather opts for the all fours position. I explained that this was her birthing position with Little Man. This is her birth, she chooses the position. We raise the front of the bed to give her something to lean on and prop it up with some pillows. They try to strap her to a fetal monitor and she swats the nurses hands away several times until it's understood that she's not having it. Who'd want a big synthetic Velcro strap all around your bare stomach as you're pushing a baby out? Sounds uncomfortable, but it's hospital norm. So instead, one of the many nurses walking in and out of the room ended up holding the monitor every so often to hear the heartbeat. A small victory - no strap. A nurse mispronounced Orit's name while trying to comfort her, and she turned around and corrected her - "it's O R I T. Like do you want to go to a movie or eat?" and went right back into a contraction. Movie moment #2. And on we went. She came in fully dilated and ready to start pushing. But the water hadn't broken yet. To speed it along and let her start pushing they gave it a poke. And she started pushing. Everything gets a little foggy here so forgive me if I'm not exact, but my guess is about 7 or 8 good pushes. The midwife, resident, doula and I all doing our part in encouraging as Orit seemed to know exactly what to do. And she did her thing. And did it right. And did it loud. And finally pushed the plump little guy out and it was amazing. And his mom and dad and all of us were there to share the moment. And he was beautiful. And J&R were in shock and awe. And J cut the cord. And we were relieved. And Happy. And Orit nursed him and he took to the nipple like a champ and then he was handed to his mom. And it was to be that. Then the placenta came out. After that, the shit hit the fan.

I'm not going to relive the rest of what happened in great detail. The serious bottom line was she was hemorrhaging and they didn't understand from where and why. At this point the midwife took a second seat to the medical team and what started as a natural birth turned into a most unnatural after birth. It came in three stages. Stage 1. Where it was just discovered and it was being dealt with manually, invasively and painfully to the point of unbearable. Feeling around deep within, trying to find something to feel. The drugs began. Prodding and poking. But they did not help. And she did not deserve this and they had to stop and move on to an OR where an anesthesiologist can make the pain go away.

Stage 2. The 45 minute wait where they wouldn't let me go in and be with her. A miserable wait and recognizable as another movie moment. Seen so many of these scenes, with varying actors and results. Inside, Orit was under general anesthesia. Her uterus had not clamped back up and shut the exposed blood vessels. A few placenta membranes remained behind not allowing nature to take its course. So they scraped out the remains and cleaned up and inserted a ballon to keep pressure on the wound. And though she had to have 2 units of blood transfused, at least it wasn't an operation. No cutting. No stitching. A small relief in an otherwise bad moment. At least she's asleep and there's no more pain. Yet.

Stage 3. Recovery. The slowest and most difficult stage beginning with coming to consciousness and to terms with what happened and it's consequences. For about a day and a half she was unrecognizable. Swollen. She had so much fluid pumped into her it had settled throughout. She was hooked up to so many tubes and was receiving another 2 units of blood. It was rough. She made the mistake of looking at herself by taking an iphone self portrait. Little Man came in to see his mama. And he was so caring and concerned and nurturing. I took him to meet Aaron and hang out with J&R in the room next door.  He's been waiting to meet him for a long time. There will be more to write about those two I'm sure. By day 2 we were  having moments of making fun of the swelling, calling her a Jewish Asian Margaret Cho. Her cheeks and forehead bounced the few moments she chuckled. And despite the uncomfortable and difficult situation every half day got better and better. The balloon was partially deflated and soon thereafter came out. The bleeding had stopped. All the vitals and blood numbers where normal. No more poking and prodding. The medications, blood transfusions and fluids ceased. She was no longer on bed rest and hooked up to anything. She could walk and go to the bathroom. That was big. Immediately she was better and back to looking like herself.

On day 3 they said go. Home with the boys is a more peaceful prospect. And in coming home she was looking forward to showering and brushing her hair and being in her own bed. And having a good long cry. Cause it was scary. 

We're home now and it's past.

There is active work in any healing. And if you know Orit, you know she's gonna be an active participant in her healing and spearheading the path. Now nature is back on course and her body is producing milk. We had earlier decided Orit would pump breast milk for them for one month. During recovery we reassessed that her body had gone through quite enough unexpected trauma and it would be best if she doesn't. There is a back-up alternative source of milk so it only made sense. Let her heal and not have the burden to provide any more. And that was consensus among all parties. The milk is coming in nonetheless and the breasts get engorged. It's painful. So old wives tales come back and currently we are working with cabbage. Covering them in cabbage under a tight bra. Little Man particularly likes this idea. Thinks its funny. And funny enough its working. And what the hell, there's nothing to lose but pain. And so every new day is better than the one before. And that's a good direction to go in life.

What happens now? Orit gets better and back to normal within two weeks. And we shall discover our roles in the life of Baby Aaron as well as move on to whatever adventures lay ahead. So don't dwell on what was out of our hands and move forward. You'll be hearing from us...