Tuesday, September 20, 2011

new york: from a to z

I'm back home, and I have so much to write about. I would have written sooner, but I brought the plague back from NYC with me and spent most of my time back in Orlando in bed or on the couch. No fun. But now that I'm finally recovered, it's time to start filling everyone in on the events of the last week and a half. Let's just start with the part that I know everyone is anxious to read about: the trip.

Day 1

The flight was at the ass crack of dawn on Saturday morning. This was my genius idea, which turned out to be not-so-genius considering I'd spent the night before drinking sangria on an empty stomach and crying heavily (yes - crying) at my boss's memorial. Separate post to come. I ended up getting about two hours of sleep before getting on a plane. Unfortunately, the flight attendants did NOT make it up on time from whatever they were up to the night before. We were 45 minutes late taking off.

We arrived at JFK pretty much on time, though, and we took the shuttle ride from hell to our hotel. I'd spent a lot of time watching hotel/flight package deal prices on Expedia during the months leading up to the trip, and I managed to get us an awesome deal at none other than the Waldorf.

We couldn't check in until 3, so we grabbed lunch and wandered down to 5th Avenue, where the FDNY was holding its 9/11 Memorial Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. After lots of pictures, a little bit of window shopping, and some actual shopping, we went back to the hotel, checked in, power napped, showered, and dressed in time to meet my aunt and uncle at the hotel bar for a drink. They took the train down from Connecticut to hang out with us for the evening, and I'm so glad they did. We had a great time catching up, watching football, and eating amazing food at Trattoria Trecolori near Times Square.

Needless to say, we slept VERY well on Saturday night after no sleep the night before and all of our traveling/walking.

Day 2

This was 9/11. We woke up early, grabbed some coffee, and took the train down to Wall Street. We weren't sure how close we could get to the memorial service, but we ended up going down to Battery Park and walking back up toward Ground Zero - getting close enough to hear the names of the victims read by their family members. It was a surreal experience. We passed so many members of the FDNY and other fire departments from around the world who were there to honor the dead. And we passed family members, too, holding up images of their loved ones. Heartbreaking.

We took the train back up to SoHo and walked around the shops before heading over to Brooklyn for lunch and a tour of the Brooklyn Brewery. We had an awesome brunch at The Counting Room, and made it over to the brewery in time to catch the 2 pm tour. The best part of the tour, of course, is the end where you can buy tokens and try some of their beers. If you've never tried Brooklyn beer, I highly recommend it. We had it for the first time last year while we were in New York, and we swore we'd go on the beer tour if we ever went back.

We cabbed it back to the hotel and took a quick nap before going back down to SoHo and meeting my college friend Allison for dinner at Dos Caminos. If you like guac and good margaritas, GO HERE. The meal was delicious, but I'll pretty much eat any kind of Mexican food you put in front of me. It was great catching up with Allison, and she walked down to Ground Zero with us after the meal, since we wanted to catch a glimpse of the new tower lit in red, white, and blue.

We took the train back up to Times Square and briefly contemplated shopping or maybe getting a drink. But it was late and the freaks were out (no joke), so we took a cab back to the hotel and called it a night.

Day 3

*cough cough*

Yes, this is what I woke up to on Monday morning. A sore throat. BUT, I wasn't going to let that stop me from exploring more of my favorite city.

We headed back down to 5th Avenue to do some shopping. And not like the Tiffany's and Cartier kind of shopping. More like the H&M and Gap sale racks kind of shopping. We ended up getting a ton of clothes (which barely fit in our suitcase when it was time to leave), including some stuff for winter. I know. I live in Florida. The odds of these sweaters sitting in the back of my closet for the next three months are high. But they were cute and cheap, so I couldn't resist! For lunch, we went back down to the Times Square area to check out this pizza place a few of my friends told me about. John's Pizzeria lived up to the hype. They make the pizza right in front of you, too, which made the experience that much better.

After lunch, we headed back to the hotel for spa treatments. Joey wanted a massage, and I got a mani and pedi for the awards. We were going to take showers and get freshened up for dinner after the spa, but - SURPRISE - the hotel had no hot water. Soooo, both of us went and had our dinner sweaty. Awesome, huh?

We chose Marc Forgione for dinner. We wanted somewhere that was reasonably priced but still well recognized for their menu. We picked the right spot. We started our meal with barbecue oysters and crab with watermelon and jalapeno (it sounds iffy, but I promise it was delicious). Then we split what was pretty much an entire chicken with roasted potatoes. Delish. Dessert was banana cream pie sundae.

I pretty much had to be rolled back to the hotel.

Day 4

Awards day! And still coughing.

My best friend took the bus down from Lake Placid to visit us in the city. She met us at the hotel, and we headed back down to the NYU area for lunch. I was craving a burger, and I am incredibly picky about the quality of hamburgers I eat. So I found us a place that had organic and all-natural burgers and sandwiches: Bareburger. I WISH we had one of these in Orlando. Or maybe I don't, since I'd be eating at least a hamburger a week. :) We walked off some of the food before heading back down to Ground Zero. Candice had never been down there, and she wanted to see it while she was in the city.

After Ground Zero, we took a cab back up to the hotel. I needed a nap before the Night of Hope after all that food and walking! We were dressed and ready to go by 4:45, and took some photos down in the lobby. Then, we grabbed a cab (hard to do at rush hour on a weekday) and went over to the venue, Guastavino's.

To be honest, the Night of Hope was a blur. I feel like the night was split into two halves. The first was pre-speech, where I was so nervous about getting up on stage that I could hardly focus on anything else that was happening. The second was post-speech, where I was so relieved that my speech was over, all I wanted to do was get into my PJs and crawl in bed.

It truly was a beautiful event. I'd guess there were about 250-300 people there. The food and service were both wonderful. Everyone from RESOLVE came up and congratulated me on the win, and it was nice to match names with familiar faces. The best part of the night was meeting up with Jen at This is More Personal and her husband. Talk about feeling like you've known someone your whole life. It was so great to have someone there who I "knew" and who shared my same sense of humor.

We sat with Sherri Shepherd and Alisyn Camerota at dinner, as well as other members of Alisyn's RESOLVE support group and Tertia Albertyn, winner of the award for Best Book. I didn't have much of a chance to speak with Tertia since we were sitting at opposite ends of the table, but I can tell you this: she has a beautiful accent. I could listen to her speak all day!

The speech went as well as it could, considering I'm probably one of the world's worst public speakers. I got shaky and emotional toward the end, but I managed to hold it together and not fall. Which, really, was what I was most worried about. I had pictures taken backstage with the award presenter, Doug Weiss from Attain Fertility, and went back to my seat. It was over in less than 5 minutes. And I could not have felt more relieved!

We left fairly early. I think I was the second or third awardee to take off. We went back to the hotel, changed into more comfortable clothes (hi, I live in jeans... heels and dresses are not my thing), and met Candice at a bar around the corner for a quick drink to "cheers" the night.

At this point? More like cheers to SLEEP.

Day 5

Here is where the sickness sets in. I arranged the flight so that we wouldn't need to leave for the airport until 2:30, but I woke up so incredibly sick that I had absolutely no desire to walk around the city. I spent most of the morning in bed until we had to check out of the hotel. Then we met Candice for lunch at a deli on 7th before she headed to the Museum of Natural History and we made our way back to the hotel - where I sipped a drink at the bar and tried desperately not to fall asleep before the shuttle arrived.

As much as I love the city, I was happy to be back home on Wednesday night. When you're sick, you want nothing more than to lay in your own bed. And that's what I did for pretty much the rest of the week/weekend.

If you've made it through all of this, congratulations. You're probably bored to tears, right? Don't worry - tomorrow will be Wordless Wednesday: photos of the trip.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

the speech

I am currently at the Night of Hope. And while I know some of you will physically be there, I also know that this entire community will be there in spirit.

I went back and forth about whether I would share my speech with everyone, and I ultimately decided to post it. Because if it weren't for all of you, I wouldn't even be in New York at this moment.

So, here it is. And I hope that, while you're reading this, I'm not stumbling too badly on stage.

I've always loved writing. I was the kid who wrote short stories for "fun." I majored in English. I even worked as a book editor. But never in a million years did I imagine that writing about my OVARIES – of all things – would lead me here.

There are so many people to thank for this opportunity:

  • RESOLVE for selecting me as a finalist.
  • The readers who voted for me.
  • My friends, both real life and virtual, who have stood by my side these last 3.5 years.
  • And, of course, my family; most importantly my husband, who managed not to file for divorce, despite all of the hot flashes and mood swings.

But while I am truly humbled and honored to receive this award, I want to emphasize that I am not unique. I am one of hundreds – maybe thousands – who write about infertility. And for every one of us who blogs about this journey, there are dozens of others who suffer in silence. They don't have the support that led me to stand here in front of you tonight.

So I'd like to dedicate this award to those people. They are the reason why we are here. They are why we support organizations like RESOLVE, to help bring awareness to our cause and our community. And they are the reason I keep writing – to let them know they are not alone, and they never will be.

Thank you.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 years later

This morning, while you read this blog, I am standing near Ground Zero. The first time I stood in this part of Manhattan, it was not Ground Zero. It was the twin towers. It was World Trade Center 1 and World Trade Center 2. The summer before 9/11, I stood at the base of both and looked up, searching for the top. I couldn't see it from the sidewalk.

When we went up to the observation deck, I opted not to go up to the roof. Instead, I sat at the window and stared off to the north, admiring the city from above. I'd been to the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago years earlier. But this? To be up so high overlooking my absolute favorite city? It felt like being on the top of the world.

Heaven. It felt a little bit like heaven.

I was 16 years old when the attacks took place a little more than a year later. Young enough for a piece of my innocence to shatter. Old enough to understand the implications of what was occurring - to know that nothing would ever be the same.

A couple of years ago, I blogged about my experience that day. Ten years later, I can still remember it as clear as crystal. Every year around the anniversary, the events of that day play in my head like a movie. Because that's exactly what it felt like: a drama of horrific proportions. If it felt like that for me, I can't imagine what it was like standing beneath or within the twin towers or outside of the Pentagon.

Hell. It must have felt like hell.

In November 2002, I was standing at the wrought-iron fence between St. Paul's and what was already being called Ground Zero. The posts were still covered in memorials. Flowers. American flags. Candles burned quietly on the sidewalk. It was like being in a cemetery. Despite the hundreds of people wandering the streets, you could hear a pin drop. Reverence.

I've been back to the city a couple of times since then - most recently on our anniversary trip last May. It's interesting to see how much the area has changed since the attacks. To watch it evolve.

Many things have evolved since before that day. In the weeks that followed, I remember the unity. The compassion. The pride of watching the rescue workers at Ground Zero raise the American flag. And then? I remember not feeling as proud of that flag. The hatred. The racism. The politics. The polarizing. 10 years later, it continues.

I often wonder how the family members of the victims must feel. It's not like losing a loved one in a car accident where, after the funeral is held, you are left to cope in private. Instead, your child or spouse or sibling or parent loses his or her life in this national tragedy. One that's spawned wars (military and political), museums, monuments, documentaries, and books. One that's changed history books. A tragedy that's claimed by millions - even though its your own. How do you cope? How do you move forward? How do you ensure that your loved one's legacy isn't somehow caught in the rhetoric that surrounds 9/11? How do you "share" that grief with so many others who don't know and don't understand your loss on a personal level? They seem like impossible feats to overcome.

We, as a country, will never go back to what we were before that day. I imagine none of the families whose loved ones died will, either. Collectively, we lost. We lost hope. We lost innocence. But, most of all, we lost people.

That's what I'll be thinking about today: people. The people who were lost and the people who lost. People who were someone's "someone." People who were loved. People who loved. People who didn't get to leave this earth peacefully. And the people who will never get to mourn their loss in private. I will never share your grief. I will never understand your pain. But I will mourn for you.

We all will.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

ready to go

I still haven't cried. I wish I could say that it's due to some medication. But I'm not taking anything that would make me "numb." It's been weeks, and it doesn't feel like the floodgates will be open anytime soon. Therefore, I'm accepting the fact that I may never cry again. That's right. No more tears for Katie.

(Let's see if that tricks my tear ducts into exploding.)


The long weekend was adoption-centered. We went out and reordered the crib. It should be in late next week when we return from New York and the Night of Hope. We picked up a crib mattress and the changing table/dresser combo, which is currently sitting in pieces on the nursery floor. (Long story.) My mom offered to order the crib bedding for us, so that's on its way, too. I also spent the weekend moving everything non-baby out of the nursery closet and organizing all of the hand-me-down baby items that our friends Brittany and Glenn kindly offered up.

And you know what else we did this weekend? FINISHED THE PAPERWORK. True, I still need to go to out and make copies of everything - including our insurance cards, Danica's shot records, etc. - but the last of the questions is answered, which means the hard part of trying to fit our parenting philosophies in three lines is over. I think I'm going to take pictures of us dropping the packet in the mail.


We leave for the Big Apple on Saturday. I'm ready, in every sense of the word, minus packing. But I'm nervous. I found out last week that I have to give a speech. And speeches pretty much scare the hell out of me. It's written, and I'm trying not to look at it. The more I look at it, the more I'll want to change it. So, I'm letting it be - or trying to, anyway.

I probably won't live post again until I return from my trip. We have so much to get done before we leave. The A/C still needs to be fixed, for one, and my boss's memorial is this Friday. But I do plan on scheduling a few posts for when I'm gone. My next update will be a recap of the trip and the Night of Hope!

"See" everyone next week. :)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

the pregnancy game

Late last week, there was a short-lived Facebook "game" that stirred the pot in this community. If you haven't read about it by now, people were posting status updates that said something to the effect of, "I'm ___ weeks along, and I'm craving ___." Now I have absolutely no idea how this got started or exactly what the rules were, but none of that matters. The game upset me.

The strange thing is, I was never truly upset about the pregnancy part of it. Yes, as someone who is infertile, it stung to read the fake pregnancy announcements on Facebook. I've made it clear that I don't find fake pregnancy announcements amusing. Not on April Fools Day. Not on any day. Real pregnancy announcements sting enough. Fake ones only add salt to the wound.

Instead, it upset me more that this "game" was supposedly meant to bring awareness to the fight against breast cancer.

As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, I am not amused.

This year marks the 11th anniversary of my mom's fight against breast cancer. Some of you longtime readers know the story. For those who don't, I'll retell it as best I can.

My mom found the lump in the lymph node under her arm during a routine self-exam in early 2000. When she first went to the doctor, he was worried she might have an infection - causing the lymph node to swell. He placed her on antibiotics and told her to keep an eye on it. When the lump didn't go away, it became clear she needed surgery. On February 14, 2000, my mom underwent a lumpectomy to remove both the lymph node and the tumor. Four days later, she was diagnosed with cancer. It was stage 2.

I was 14 years old, and I remember having to carefully walk my mom to the bathtub when her chemo treatments became so painful that she could barely bend her knees. I remember sleeping on the floor of her room in a sleeping bag when she was too sick to be alone in the middle of the night. I remember her losing all of her hair, picking out scarves and hats for her to wear when we went out in public, and giving the death look to the people who stared at her in stores - as if they'd never seen someone with cancer before.

I also remember when her oncologist told her she was cancer-free. It was one of the happiest days of my life. 11 years later, she's still not "out of the woods." She goes in for regular scans and blood work. The tiniest spot on a CT scan gets her doctor ordering 10 more tests, just to be sure. I'm not sure the fear of the cancer coming back will ever go away for her. Or for me. Or for my brother. At 14, it was my wake-up call that my time with her wasn't forever.

And last year, at 24, I faced the same fear when I went in to have the tumor removed from my right breast. The fear of a life cut way too short. The fear of not having enough time to do everything I wanted to do.

Now maybe you can understand why I felt angry that someone would start such an immature, childish game to bring awareness to such a serious disease. I'm not sure this person considered the feelings of the survivor community. Does this person realize that many breast cancer survivors are also infertile - unable to become pregnant after going through massive amounts of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, or even hysterectomies? Better yet, does this person realize that, by posting a Facebook status, they are doing absolutely nothing to help find a cure for breast cancer?

That was the point behind my own, retaliatory status on Thursday:

Fake pregnancy Facebook statuses don't lead to a cure for breast cancer. You know what does? Self exams. Donating to legitimate organizations like the American Cancer Society. Getting a mammogram. Playing a status game on Facebook didn't save my mom's life. I'm pretty sure it won't save anyone else's, either.

Posting your bra color. Posting that you're pregnant. None of it matters. If you really give a damn about breast cancer, do something about it. Because in the three minutes it takes someone to play that Facebook game, another woman in this country dies from breast cancer. Another woman loses her life to an illness that we could prevent. Breast cancer is not a game. Breast cancer is real, and it hurts. I don't expect people to understand unless they've been through it as a survivor or a caregiver. But I do expect people to be sensitive toward it.

So for once, I'm not the angry infertile. Instead, I'm just the angry daughter who doesn't want to see people make a mockery over the hell her mom went through.

My absolute favorite organization that benefits cancer research is the American Cancer Society. Please visit this link to learn more about what they are doing for cancer research, how they aid cancer patients on a personal level, and what they are doing in your area in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

cry, cry, cry (or not)

I can't cry.

No really, I can't. I cannot cry.

It's not that I'm trying to cry on a regular basis. But I am used to crying on a regular basis - as in at least once per week. I've always been an emotional person, and crying tends to help me with my stress. I'm generally less agitated when I cry regularly.

Lately, though, my tears seem to be missing. I've had some extremely stressful days, and I FEEL like crying. Yet nothing happens. My whole chest hurts, I have the lump in my throat, and my eyes are as dry as can be. The other night it got so bad, I actually tried to find a sad movie that would make me cry. How pathetic is that?

I know this is going to sound weird for some people - especially my husband, who is obviously not a woman - but I need to cry. Crying is my release. Crying is the way that I get all of the bad stuff out. Sure, going to the gym and having an extra tough workout helps. But tears? Tears wash everything away. There's nothing like having a good cry. AND I CAN'T HAVE ONE.

What's wrong with me?