January 23, 2011

Большой снег! Bolshai Sneg! Big Snow!

We arrived in Yuzhno very late on the evening of January 13th, 2011.  It was a tad bit chillier than the temperatures in Virginia.  I was able to do a bit of shopping on Friday morning up at the store in Olympia (our neighborhood), but saved the majority of it for Saturday, when Matt and I were planning to head to town.

Then a few things changed.

I was hanging out at Amanda's house that afternoon when all of a sudden she gets a call informing her that the kids are stuck at the school because the main road is closed due to snow.

Um, what?

Sure, it had been snowing that day, but only about half a foot or so...maybe more if you take into account the fierce wind we'd had all day.  Still, not enough for the roads to be closed up here in the cold, cold, north.

We raced around calling everyone who has kids in school, informing all of the Moms that their kids would have to go to town and stay with the Dads at work (there was just a bit of laughing at that plan) and then I quickly came home to tell Galina (our nanny) that she would not be able to get home as the roads were closed and the buses were not running.

Now, I don't speak much Russian, and the little that I learned I did not yet recall as I had only been home one day.  Galina knows a very good amount of English and yet it seemed that the more that I explained things to her the more she looked at me like I was crazy.

Finally she told me "Paige, this little snow.  Not big snow.  Maybe school.  Maybe bus work."  Basically, she thought I had lost it because hello, this was not enough snow to close the roads.  She thought that the school had made some silly decision to not run the buses or something and she promptly put on all of her winter gear and headed up to the security gate, telling me that someone would take her home.

Uh huh.

She was correct, of course.  Apparently there had been an accident of somewhat sizable proportions (as far as how many vehicles were involved, not how damaged they were) and therefore the officials who hold the power closed the road.  This is a normal reaction, when warranted.  They clear the vehicles, then the road, and then all is opened up again.

It just would have been nice to know the accident part of the equation when I was talking to Galina; then perhaps she would not have thought I was looney.

It continued to snow all weekend.  We had about 72 hours of snow total, I believe, and it was fabulous.  The flakes were huge and made for some fabulous snow-filled hours.  The whole place is beautiful because of the snow and it makes for some fun new activities (for us, anyway).

Mama, bolshai sneg!!  Mama, big snow!!

"Do you want to get out?"  "No thanks."

Once you get a bit of melting going on, things can get a little hairy.  The men who spend all summer making things look nice and spreading dirt, mowing lawns, etc. spend the entire winter moving snow.  When the snow on the roof starts to hang over precariously, they get up on the roof and remove it.

They come in through the house, go out through the window, tie themselves off for safety, and proceed to scoop and toss until the roof is cleared...you know, so that it does not fall off and bop you on the head at some inopportune moment.

The snow is still around this weekend (as it never really melts that much all winter) and yesterday we went into town to purchase some sleds.  Matt and Miss Thing hiked up the hill just beside our house and took a run down.  Matt had to go one time all by himself so that Miss Thing could see just what was going to happen with the sled and the snow.

Then they took a trip down together, slipping sideways and getting a bit of snow in their snowsuits.  Miss Thing enjoyed herself, but then informed us that she did not need to have another turn.  In literally those exact words:  "I just have a turn, Mama; I don't need to have another one."

Later that afternoon the first winter street hockey game of the season began.  The men-children get together and play in the street.  No worries, folks, safety glasses are worn, so eyes are safe.

Not that they do much to protect the remainder of their bodies.  To say that a little checking goes on would be an understatement.  In the bottom left of the above photo, you can see our head-boss-man, Mr. Jim, giggling.  This would be because he is the chief mischief-maker.  It IS all in fun, and everyone seemed to have a lot of it.

Of course, Matt can hardly move today, but hey: no pain, no gain...right?

We are all having some fun getting used to to snow.  Miss Thing, since she has never before experienced it, is having the most adjusting to do.  Here is an example of her not quite being able to get up.  The shoes, they just don't always grip like you'd like them to.

Soon she will be able to traverse the snow with ease, but for now it is really a tough job.

Especially if you want to be king of the hill.

The best purchase of the day?  A sled, approximately $100.00 US (things DO cost a tad bit more over here), that allows us to cart Miss Thing around with ease.  Oh, yes.  This is a stroller-replacement vehicle.  She sits, we pull, and we can go anywhere.  At least for now.  Since she weighs 30 pounds, it is a nice workout for the legs as well.

Of course, pulling her up to the Community Center on this has its perks, mainly in the form of getting to ride it back down to the house.  One adult can fit on here with her, and we've taken quite a few rides.  During out first, we were both giggling like crazy and at one point she shouted "Wheeeeee doggies!!!!!"

Can't wait for the two of us to visit Miss Amanda...should be fun getting there!

January 21, 2011

I Must Emote...And Tell All About It

Here is something I posted on Facebook yesterday afternoon, Sakhalin time:

So, it really sucks when you're one big failure and your contribution to the world is death. I'm pretty sure no one thought that would be my accomplishment when they voted me "most likely to succeed" in high school, and yet here we are.

Here are a few things I have to say about it:

1. The feelings associated with grief are all over the place. There are these so-called "stages of grief", but even when introduced and explained by the experts all are very sure to tell you that you can experience any of the stages at any time; there is no order nor do they always make sense. The only way I can think of to explain it (right at this moment) is to compare the emotions with the stars in a galaxy. There are millions of them, when you take into account all of the nuances, and they are scattered in a hap-hazard yet logical (because they are all necessary) way. At any moment you could be on any star. And at any moment you could be whisked away to another. Sometimes you are only on one long enough to identify it; sometimes you do not even have enough time for that. You are zapped from one to the next never knowing where you'll end up. Sometimes one looks familiar but isn't. Sometimes you visit one on one end of the galaxy only to be beamed over to one in the middle and then you're suddenly right back where you started at the beginning. You never get any warning as to what you will feel, nor do you have any control over it. Since, obviously, if you could control that, you would.

2. I posted what I felt at the exact time that I was feeling it. It was a snippet. A brief moment in my day, an even smaller moment in the week and I could go on. It is not something that consumes me. I am not on the crazy train, or you'd all be well aware. I wrote my feelings at a particular time. It is the limitations of that method of communication that allow everyone to judge and assume and so forth. It is the judgements and assumptions that make me think perhaps I should not post what I feel as it can so easily be misinterpreted.

3. To not declare my feelings would be worse. Oh, sure, I could spend all day every day acting like and pretending like all is well with me. I could put on a happy face and only write uplifting messages that ignore what has happened and is happening in my life. This would be completely unhealthy and I would be lying. I don't think people talk about what has happened to me enough. It is much more common than you think and it happens to anyone and everyone. Additionally, I think it takes a lot of courage to admit it when you aren't feeling great. I think it takes even more to admit that you feel something as silly as like you are a failure. Those feeling are real and true and if I cannot admit them, then I cannot deal with them.

4. What I feel is normal. It does not make me depressed or crazy or selfish or anything else. I am allowed to have my feelings and to express them. If I did not feel these things or if I could not own them, then, and only then, would there be cause for worry.

5. My feelings of failure have just as much to do with my living child as my dead one (amongst other things that have nothing at all to do with children). Not my emotions nor my life are consumed by my dead baby. I get up every day, I have happy moments, I laugh, I live my life. I am not giving up on anything or removing myself from the world (quite the opposite, since I posted that for all to see). To decide otherwise about me based on one moment in my day is, well, not a good thing to do. Again with the faults of facebook communications (which are mostly mine as I did the posting); you just do not get the whole picture. I doubt very seriously that I could give you the whole picture...

6. I would also venture to say that most people have felt like a failure at some point or another in their life. Go ahead, those of you who have never felt like that, raise your hands. Be honest, now. *searching the interwebs* Um, I'm having a difficult time seeing those hands, people.

7. Judging me for having feelings is not helpful. Being angry with me for having honest emotions and for being brave enough to tell the world is not helpful. It is not supportive and it is not okay. I have to talk about how I feel. I have to write about how I feel, even if my thoughts and feelings are wrong in your eyes. I cannot censor myself because someone doesn't like what I am saying. If I do not talk and write about things, then there will be a major problem.

8. Was my posting on facebook harsh and over-the-top and in itself a little unfair? Yes it was. Is what I am experiencing in general all of those things as well? Absolutely. My comments and my writing and my feelings are matched to my experience, and that is the only way I know how to play it.

9. Grief, and therefore the emotions associated with it, is not something to get over, move past, be done with, etc. It is something you have to own. It must become a part of you; otherwise it will conquer you. I have to own my feelings, and this includes telling them to the internet...because many times that is more comfortable for me than just talking one-on-one. All I need is support. I just need people to listen and to empathize and to tell me it is okay to feel all that I feel. If I get stuck feeling something, then THAT is a time to worry. Otherwise, I think I am doing pretty good dealing with all of this, if I do say so myself.

Perhaps I Should Clarify.

I do not think that I caused this to happen.  I do not think that it is my fault.  I did nothing to make this happen.  I did not want, wish for, believe I would have or pray for a dead baby.


And/or: Duh.

It IS what happened, though.  I DID have a dead baby.  My body, with some help from Matt's, made a baby, grew it, carried it for 36+ weeks, and in the end what it produced was a dead baby.  That was the end product.  So my body failed; it absolutely did.  Operation: Have A Baby was a compete and utter failure.

Unless of course someone thinks that having a dead one was the implication in that mission statement.

Let me assure you that it was not.

So I get to feel like by body is a failure.  Whenever I want to.  A whole, entire, two legs, two arms, torso and head all attached dead baby came out of my body.  I carried her, dead, inside of me for a whole week.  Then I went through labor for eight hours and I delivered a whole, entire dead baby.

A beautiful, pink, muscles tensed, ball of live screaming baby was supposed to come out.  One that cries and sighs and sleeps and eats and poops.  One that makes me happy and want to tear my hair out, one that grows and smiles and does all of those things that makes everyone love and want to hold babies.

Instead a whole baby body came out of me.  A completely silent baby.  One that was all floppy and neither felt nor looked nor smelled anything like a baby.  Instead of life there was skin falling off, blisters where she had taken on water, a very bulbous and deformed head and blood seeping out of her nose.  Her ears were bent over, never to be straight, and she was completely the wrong color and smell.

Epic failure.


In addition, I have not done much in this world.  Yes, I am a mother.  Of one little girl and one dead baby.  I do not define myself entirely by that job that I do.  I do it and that is that.  To be clear, I do not mean anything negative to anyone who's great satisfaction in life is that of being a mother.  Everyone is entitled to their own "this is what fulfills me" thing.  Being a mother is not who I am.  It is something that I do.

And let's see how that's been going:

My child cries every day.  Usually there is some screaming involved.  And some throwing herself bodily somewhere.  Occasionally, or more often than that, this occurs in public.  Regardless, my child cries every day.  Every day.  There is something wrong with that and since I am the primary caretaker, since I am the mother, that failure falls to me.

Just in case you're thinking that way, no, she does not cry because she has a dead sister.

However, she does occasionally say things like: I just want to hold my baby sister.  I just want a baby.  I just want to be God (because we had to give her little sister to Him so that He can take care of her).

Also, now that she witnessed my sadness at the graveside, etc., she constantly asks things like: Are you happy?  Are you mad?

Yes, mad.  Why?  Because if I tell her I am not mad, then she proceeds to do something, anything, that she thinks will make me so.  Isn't that awesome?  That is the kind of person I am apparently raising.  One that looks for ways to upset people.

Again: FAIL.

Please do not misunderstand me.  I know (do I ever and more than most) that I am incredibly lucky to have my one living child.  I am just also acutely aware that right now I am totally failing her.  I am not sure how I am, but it is abundantly clear that I am.  Which is why it is a failure: I don't know what I am doing wrong so it isn't like I'll be able to fix it or change it.

And no, I am not talking about grief because overall I am doing okay there.  People think that if I have even one negative thought that it must be because of my grief from having a dead baby.  Um, nope.  If you knew me before then you know that I am not all sunshine and rainbows.  Nor am I all storm clouds and tornados. I'm just normal.  And I feel all of the things that normal people do.  If something I feel is not on the happy side it is not always going to be"because of grief".  Sometimes, but not always.

I get to have not-so-happy thoughts.  I get to have more than some people and less than others.  I get to have them.  I do not have to show this facade of happiness all the time just because people will assume that if I am unhappy is it solely because I had a dead baby.  Sure, that makes me sad every day.  But it is not the only driving force in my emotions nor is it my only emotion.

I guess I am just trying to say that I am normal to feel these things.  Not strange or depressed or in need to psychiatric help - I'm a normal person feeling completely normal things in regard to my life as I live it.

Again, please do not assume or misunderstand me.  I like my life.  I enjoy living in the cold, cold north.  I like living all over the world.  I am very lucky to get to do so.  But let's get real.  It is not I who makes these opportunities available to me.  It is my husband.  So while I like and enjoy my life in the world very much, I am also very aware that nothing that I have done has made this happen.  I am living this life by default, by hanging on his coat-tails.  It is like cherry-picking in basketball.  Not a grand appreciated thing.

So that is how I am feeling right now.  I think these thoughts and feelings are normal for me.  In my life. Doing and experiencing what I do and experience every day.