Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Look what I got for Christmas:
 It's the Barnes & Noble ereader, the nook.

I bought it envisioning all the hours I'd spend this year feeding the baby. And how you try to hold the book in one hand, but then there's no way to turn the page, and it's all so awkward you just put the book down.  (I'm all for gazing lovingly into baby's eyes, but there are hours and hours and hours of feeding time and I plan to read for some of them.) Sure enough, this is so light and small that it's easy to hold in one hand. You turn pages by pressing buttons on the sides where your thumb naturally rests anyway.

I've loved it for whipping out of my purse in carpool lines or doctor's appointments. I've especially loved it for reading in bed. You can scrunch yourself down into any position and still read the nook comfortably. You know how when you're lying on your side with a book, one page is comfortable to read and the facing page isn't? No problem with the nook.

According to my research, the Kindle is the iphone of ereaders--coolest, highest rated, but most exclusive. Meaning you can't download library books onto the Kindle (unless you have hacking skills). So I went with the nook. I download library ebooks onto my laptop, the transfer them to the nook. So maybe the nook is the droid of ereaders. I'm a bit disappointed with my library's paucity of ebooks, but I'm thinking that's a problem that will resolve itself over time.

The first book I read on my nook was The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova. I knew nothing about it, just happened upon it in my library's limited e-holdings. It's a strange novel, with three strange, criss-crossing plot lines that drag you around and around Eastern Europe. And it's about Dracula. I felt even more disoriented by the book because I was reading without benefit of all the cues you get from a book's size, texture, cover illustrations,  jacket blurbs, author photo, etc. The book felt like an enigma all the way through its 700 pages.

I've since learned that other ebooks are formatted much better than that first one. But I still miss the actual book. Knowing the heft and size of it. How you gaze at the cover for a moment each time you close the book.

On the other hand, I'm currently reading a real library book (that wasn't available as an ebook) and missing the comfort of my nook as I try to slant it into a comfortable reading position in bed.

Friday, January 21, 2011


I've become one of those annoying people who is always having drama.

Sunday night I woke up with non-stop contractions. And from then on, they have never really stopped.My doctor's advice was to "take it way easy," "stay super hydrated," and "keep your bladder empty." You ladies see the built-in contradictions there. So I've been spending the days trying not to get out of my chair and the nights soaking in the tub to stop contractions. Because little Betsy needs to stay in the oven for at least a few more weeks.

Finally last night, when I couldn't get the contractions to ease at all, Mark and I went to the hospital. I wasn't in full-on labor, but the whole point was that I didn't want to be in full-on labor and wanted to get some help before I reached the point of no return.

Turns out there's a magical test that tells you with 95+% accuracy if you'll be delivering in the next two weeks. My first thought was, "WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME ABOUT THIS BEFORE?" You know, like before I spent a week counting and monitoring and worrying over every contraction and trying to run my household from an easy chair. My second thought was, "How can that possibly work?"

But work it apparently does, and my test was negative. Betsy's firmly ensconced for a good two weeks. Which puts all this in a whole new light. I can tolerate contractions just fine--as long as I'm not worrying that they'll lead to the premature birth of my girl.

I left the hospital after a few hours--but not before being totally violated in ways I shudder to remember. Seriously. I hate getting sucked into the chomping maws of the medical machine.* Turns out the most invasive and horrific test** they did was to check for--of all things--a urinary tract infection. When the test didn't take the first time and they threatened to do it again, I finally said, "I'm pretty sure I'd know if I had a urinary tract infection, so can we just skip this? What needs to happen so I can go home?" The nurse said, "Oh! Well, how about you just pee in a cup while I fill out your discharge papers?" There you go.

Anyway, once again, I return to the land of the living. How long do you think I can make it til the next round of drama?

* In defense of the medical establishment, the point of all the tests was to determine if I had some infection that was prompting my body to protect the baby by ejecting it.

** This assessment from a woman who gave birth to a 10-pound baby with no medication.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Betsy, 32 weeks

If November was the Introduction of Maladies, December was Attack of the Maladies. Sleep deprivation turned me into (cue Nacho Libre accent) a crazy lady. After staging three birthdays and packing for our Mexico trip, I got hit with the worst cold I've ever had. After about ten days, the cold suddenly became much, much worse. I went to the urgent in Phoenix on our way home from Mexico only to be told to rinse my nose with saline. After several more days in bed, my OB finally gave me antibiotics and I started to get better. But the horrific coughing left me with super sore ribs on one side. For a while I thought they must be broken. Then my OB said I was anemic and was testing positive for gestational diabetes.

In short, it appeared that while Betsy thrived, I would be a wreck for the rest of the pregnancy.
But miracle of miracles, here at 7+ months pregnant, I'm finding a little sweet spot (or maybe the eye of the storm). The coughing is gone, the ribs are healing, my legs aren't jumpy, I sleep at night, and I'm not diabetic after all. After all that madness, your garden-variety pregnancy issues feel like a dream.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Rest for the labor, Light for the way

I'm back from a weekend in Dallas for Grandma's funeral. Four of my siblings were there, along with almost all of my 25+ cousins. We spent the first day at the funeral and cemetery, reflecting on the meaning and message of Grandma's life. 

The next day, my mother and her siblings worked to clean out Grandma's apartment and fairly divide her valuable and sentimental belongings. I was tasked with going through Grandma's desk and files. A doer to the end, Grandma had print-outs and instructions on new embroidery patterns, family history research strategies, speaking Spanish, and launching a new business. I found thank-you notes from friends, love notes from Grandpa, and dozens of cards from her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I went through files of notes, journal entries, church talks, and half-written poems from the last 60 years. 

One of my favorite gems was this:
A slip of onionskin paper on which someone typed this little poem. Grandma apparently felt it worth keeping for many years.

Because here's the truth: Grandma's life was not a bed of roses. Her marriage began with a husband at war. Her oldest daughter fell seriously ill. Her infant daughter died after just three hours of life, more because of an administrative snafu than real medical need, and misguided hospital staff never allowed Grandma or Grandpa to ever see that baby. Then Grandma herself fell ill. Doctors said she may never walk again, and for years her children had to do for each other what their mother couldn't. Her oldest son went through a challenging period of rebellion.

This was the family's state when the missionaries first knocked on her door. She followed the gospel not with a naive belief that it would make life perfect, but with first-hand knowledge of the illness, disappointment, and grief of mortal life--all of which can be truly mediated only through knowledge of Jesus Christ, and the rest, light, and grace he offers.

Grandma's funeral program included this scripture:

Come unto me,
all ye that labour and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you,
and learn of me...
and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Grandma Benac

My Grandma Benac loves to tell me the story of how after I was born she came to my parents' San Diego apartment to help. She says she held me in the night trying to compose a poem about how I (her first grandchild) was an extension of her and my Grandpa's love. She says I could recognize the sound of her footsteps and would quiet when I heard her coming.

All my life, Grandma's love for me has been a constant buoy, and it hasn't been hard to love my devoted, spunky granny in return. 

Grandma and newborn me.
Yesterday I sat in the hospital and watched her body slowly, quietly stop. By the time the numbers on the monitor were zeros, it was clear that she was long gone, her body just a shell of the woman.
Grandma was famous for her doll cakes. This one was for my first birthday.
Grandma was an energetic, enthusiastic, busy person who never hesitated to let you know what she thought. She may have been a suburban housewife in the 1950s, but that never stopped her from telling it like it is, sometimes in colorful terms. Also, you were her best friend. Whether you were in line at the store or sitting next to her on a plane, it took her only moments to find a point of connection.

Look at that figure! We Benac girls come by our hips honestly.
Once when I was about seven, my Grandma suddenly snapped at my Mom and me, "Oh, you two girls will never get along! You're too close in age!" It was a mind-blowing experience to hear her berate us both in the same breath. The Grandmother indeed!
Snuggle buddies when I was two or so.

When I was in college--in the days before cell phones--Grandma would supply me with phone cards or set up her own 1-800 number. I was expected to call frequently. Any time she called me was an indictment of my laxity. She visited me at several crazy student apartments and made it clear that just because I was away from home, I certainly was not beyond her purview.

She had expectations for righteous living. It was clear that any poor choice of mine would be a disappointment to her, and I'm grateful for constant, gentle prodding to keep me on the strait and narrow. At the same time, her love was unquestionable. To this day, when things look bleak and hopeless, I hear in my mind, "At least Grandma loves me!"

In 2003, just weeks before my Grandpa died.
Here's some of my Grandma's sage advice:*

"If you're intimidated by someone, just picture them with their pants down and sitting on the toilet." I think I found this one more disturbing than helpful. But she always delivered this advice so earnestly!
Full circle: Grandma watching Roscoe eat his first-birthday cake.
 "A little butt-patting is good for a marriage." She and my Grandpa were ga-ga in love for over 50 years, so she is a highly reliable source for marital advice. And I've found a few friendly butt-pats in passing certainly don't hurt anything.
Summer 2008, playing Hand & Foot, the crazy card game Grandma taught everyone to play. She hated to lose, but she hated unworthy competition even worse. The ideal was to give her a run for her money but for her to prevail nonetheless. From the looks of the cards on the table, I'm about to get a sound beating.
"Keep prayed up." I think this one is her classic. Grandma opened the door to Mormon missionaries, advocated for them to my Grandpa, and devoted the rest of her life to shepherding her now-100 posterity along the gospel path. Of all the love, support, and guidance I've received from my Grandma, I am most grateful for the strong gospel legacy she gave us. She didn't just grow a big family--she built it consciously, purposefully on the foundation of Jesus Christ.
This last May. Haley and I flew to Dallas for a weekend just with Grandma.
Grandma was a lonely widow for seven years. A series of tiny strokes impaired her trademark outgoing personality, and her body's capacity ticked gradually downward. When I saw her in the hospital a few days ago, it was clear that it was time for her to go. Because of the gospel she brought to our family, I share her knowledge that her husband, her parents, the her daughter that was born alive but whom she never saw all were awaiting her. I'm sad for me that my Grandma is gone. But for her, I have nothing but happiness and joy.

*Sibs and cousins: I'd love to hear your favorite Grandma-isms.