30 November 2016

Sicily: Seaside in Cefalu

Cefalu by Night

After a harrowing journey to get there, Cefalu was a very welcome sight!

It is a small resort town about thirty minutes from Palermo. Quite a bit of the town is off limits to cars -- though the rules are rather ignored, including by us! It was a bit easy to get lost, and ignore the signs, and no one seemed to care much...but be warned.

Cefalu was a darling beach town, and a nice change from the inland mountainous area where we'd spent the first few days. We parked the car, checked into the hotel, and meandered around town to grab a drink and decompress from the drive. We found ourselves in this lovely little town square at the base of a church, and since it was a Friday, there was a wedding going on. There was also a very happy happy hour, where we enjoyed prosecco and spritzes for a while, and maybe a bite or two.

There is a hike you can do that will take you above the town -- we chose not to do that. We chose instead to have a bit of vino on the roof of our hotel and watch the sunset, then to grab some food. Cefalu is small enough that you can walk from end to end during an evening passeggiata. 

The next morning we decided to take our time getting into Palermo, and to enjoy the Tyrrhenian Sea. There is a public beach, but your best bet is to spend a few Euro and rent a beach chair. We chose to stay right in the middle of Cefalu -- there are beaches a little further out, as well. We bought a towel in one of the shops (which came in handy later!), and rented chairs. Ours were probably about 10E a piece for a few hours of lounging. They have umbrellas should the sun get too intense, and most have a bar and some food, and will come to your chair and take/bring your order.

This was a fun, relaxing part of the trip -- it was interesting to watch all the beach goers from around the world. Like many places, there were "vendors" trying to sell their junk as we tried to relax; most of the time they were asked to leave by the beach chair company.

I'd highly recommend a day and night in Cefalu during your Sicily trip. Sicily is an overwhelming place -- the craziness of rural driving and the wildness of the cities really earn you a day or two of relaxation.

24 November 2016

Why We Shared

On this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful for what I got to experience over this past year. I got to experience a tremendous amount of love, support, and patience (including from myself!) and for that I am grateful.

It's been my experience that many women, and their partners if they have one, choose not to share the news of their pregnancy until they are at least out of the first trimester. The thinking is that you wait until you are in the "safe zone."

But...there really is no 100% safe zone. People experience losses at all stages of pregnancy, and there is one common thread through it all -- we all need support.

Keeping a pregnancy secret is really, really hard. Especially when you find out right at the start of the holiday season...there are a lot of parties, and a lot of people watching every thing you put into your mouth. I was very tired, as well, so trying to stay up late enough to even go to a party was difficult (my apologies to everyone whose party I flaked on). Even without that, you are excited and scared and need to shout it from the roof tops.

J & I discussed quite a bit whether or not we should tell everyone. We knew our families would be together on Christmas, and, after all, the doctor had told us we could. If we shared early, we figured, the worst that could happen was we'd have to go back and tell people it didn't work out.

So we shared.

And it didn't work out.

We were so glad we shared. I will never forget the smile on my mom's face when we told her. I will never forget her tearing up when my nephew walked out in front of the family with a "Big Brother" shirt on Christmas Eve (yup, my brother & sister-in-law were also pregnant, due two weeks or so before we would have been)...and I will really never forget the whoops and tears, so loud my ears were ringing, when we lifted my nephew's shirt to reveal a sign that said "and big cousin." It's now made even more special because I'd not seen a smile that big on my Uncle B's face in a while; he is no longer of this earth, and I carry that smile with me. I will never forget J's mom needing to hand the phone off because she was so happy, the texts we got from his family, and his little sister being so excited when we called her. I wouldn't trade those memories for anything.

But we are mostly glad because when all was said and done, we needed their support. Some people were uncomfortable, some didn't know what to say, but because we'd shared, they were in our corner, they were there to hold us up as we wobbled down this road. And we didn't have to hide or be secretive when we had our bad days. No one questioned when I had to beg out of a party because of a slight emotional breakdown on the way. We could talk about it -- both me with my friends and, equally as important, J with his friends. And many people let us know that they, too, had been through this (but hadn't told anyone).

There is a sense of shame that many of us carry -- especially with women -- when a pregnancy becomes non-viable. Because we don't talk about it, the shame is compounded because we feel abnormal. We need to talk about it, because we are not abnormal, we did nothing wrong, and we are not alone...it is estimated 20-30% of pregnancies become non-viable, that is one out of every three people.

I am not suggesting we introduce ourselves to strangers by leading with, "Hi, I'm Annie, and I have had a non-viable pregnancy." But I am hopeful that we stop hiding. That we stop waiting until another friend experiences the same and then we tell them. And that we stop being uncomfortable when a person talks about their own experience.

It is not an easy thing, but it is not a rare thing. And support can truly make a huge amount of difference.

Ok, let's eat.

19 November 2016

A Different Type of Devastation

The toughest thing for me was not that the pregnancy didn't proceed the way we would have liked. For me, it was the incredible loneliness that was associated with it and the ensuing events.

Physically, I was not alone. I have a wonderful husband by my side who was also dealing with his own grief. And, since we had made the choice to tell so many people, we had a lot of support.

But emotionally, I felt stranded. Everyone was treating me like I should be devastated. Tiptoeing around, both wanting to bring it up and not wanting to bring it up at the same time. All of this was out of love for me & J, this I knew. But I wasn't devastated, not by this. Devastated was what I felt when my dad passed away, like the rug had gotten pulled out from under me and beneath it, the floor was missing. With this, though...I was sad, yes, but intellectually I knew this was the way my body was supposed to work. And I was very sad for J.

And the hormones do nothing to help this sense of sadness, the sense of feeling like an oddball, nor do they help make sense of much. (postpartum depression, I learned, can happen even when the pregnancy doesn't proceed)

I spent a few nights googling "not devastated by miscarriage," or "non-viable pregnancy but feel ok." And I found very little. I found pages and pages of women who wrote they could barely function -- was there something wrong with me?

J told me to get off the internet. And it was true -- all it was doing was making me feel worse that I didn't feel that bad. I was shaming myself to feel something I didn't. Which is dumb. And it was just exacerbating that feeling of loneliness.

But here I am writing on the internet, and you are reading on the internet, so let me say this. The truth is, there is no right way to feel. We all have different reactions, and none of them are wrong. For me, I know that if this pregnancy had been right, it would have remained viable. Instead of feeling devastated, I choose to see this as my amazing body doing what it was supposed to do. So I was not devastated by my miscarriage*. Instead, I was confident that next time it would be different. Or, if it wasn't, my body would again to its job. I chose appreciation and awe.

*yes, I hate the word miscarriage...but this is to help other women who may be searching for that particular phrase, like I had

13 November 2016

Sicily: Navigating the Island

Driving around Sicily is not for the faint of heart...especially when you do not have the option of the autostrade.

The day after our great wine adventure, we decided that we would head to Cefalu, a resort town outside of Palermo. It would be fun, we thought, to cut through the middle of the island. The truth is...there is no easy way to get to Cefalu/Palermo from the Etna region. To take the autostrade would require going back towards Taormina, then skirting the edge of the island -- quite a bit out of the way.
See those little squiggles? Those are all twists and turns. This may not be our exact route...I think we went further west

Off we set on what we thought would just be a few hour drive. We expected to see a few small towns, find a nice restaurant and have a good meal, and soon enough be relaxing in Cefalu.

These asses were blocking our way
What we did not expect was hairpin turns, a harrowing, suck-in-your-stomach trip down a very narrow street on a very high hill, and a bunch of asses in the middle of the road. There were also some crazy drivers that rode our tails for a good part of the way. We found out that what you hear about the drivers in Sicily was true -- they are kind of crazy drivers!

We also ran into quite a bit of construction. They are working on some roads to better connect where
we were to the main autostrade. I am sure everyone who lives in those areas will very much welcome these new roads!

Once we got to the autostrade, we flew to Cefalu (look at that, it rhymes!). The autostrade allows you to go very fast. It is a toll road, so there is a cost, but if you don't want to pay there are other options through the parallel roads. Both J & I were amazed by all these infrastructure projects -- the tunnels were new and efficient, and rather empty.

After our rather insane drive, we were very, very happy when we saw the exit for Cefalu!

07 November 2016

So Wrong it Could not be Righted

I was not that shocked to learn that our pregnancy was not viable. A part of me had felt that it'd all been too easy -- we had "pulled the plug" on my IUD just three months earlier, and had only really been trying for a month (trying = tracking my cycle, taking my temperature, watching when the moons aligned, yadda yadda yadda). This easy barely happens -- especially not to women my age (or so I thought). Then once the doctor started giving us subtle clues that things were less than ideal, I started to prepare myself.

Still, as I prepared to leave work to go to our ten-ish week sonogram, I was optimistic. The waves of nausea, while mostly gone, had happened. My boobs still occasionally hurt. I was still tired all.the.time. So I was caught a bit off guard when I made one last pit stop before the drive, and found I was bleeding.

My heart was racing as I got into my car for the long drive to the doc. I debated calling J -- why worry him if it is nothing? (I called him) Throughout the drive, I waited for the big cramps, for the pain, the gushes of blood that you see/they describe on TV or in the movies. (Never happened)

When we did the sonogram (and, I should note...early in pregnancy, these are mostly trans-vaginal, not like on the belly -- much more invasive!), the doctor confirmed our fears. We could see the little gummy bear, but we could see no flutter, which by then should have been more than a feather. I think J was a bit gobsmacked...me, I immediately wanted to know what was next.

Indulge me for a moment as I step on my soapbox about some common terminology. I do not like the word miscarriage -- it implies that I did something wrong. I did not "lose the baby," I did not misplace it (and in my case, it wasn't quite a baby yet). The word abortion takes on a whole new meaning when you see it on your medical records -- and once you go through the D&C procedure often used when a pregnancy is terminated, you realize the importance of keeping it legal and safe. So much of the terminology feels, when you're going through it, like you are to blame.

Which I was not. I prefer to say our pregnancy was non-viable. Because my body is so amazing it could tell there was something so wrong that it could not be righted, and the safest solution was for it to cease support. The female body is truly incredible.

02 November 2016

Sicily: Wine Sippin' Around Etna

One of the main purposes of our trip was to discover the world of Sicilian wine -- specifically around the Etna area. The morning after we arrived, we were excited to get going on our adventures...but Mother Nature had other plans.

The rain we had encountered upon our arrival had not left us yet -- we had a slight reprieve on our first evening, but it came back with a roar our first morning. Luckily the scenery was worth staring at for a while.

After the torrential downpour in Taormina that confined us to our hotel, it was time to head out to the Sicilian countryside to sip some vino and watch the volcano. After a harrowing journey back down Taormina's windy roads, we were soon en route!

Unlike most places in the wine country here in northern California, most of the wineries in Sicily require reservations. Unfortunately, thanks to the storms, we were running terribly behind. We decided to swing by one place, any way, in hopes that they still might entertain our visit.

Outside of our room -- vines creeping over the wall
Tenuta delle Terre Nere produces one of the wines J really likes, and just happened to be pretty much across the street from our agriturismo (which actually sat amidst their vineyards, which was gorgeous!). We hunted around the grounds a bit, then finally a very surprised winemaker popped out -- he wasn't still expecting us. But, we got lucky, and had one of the best wine tours we could imagine. He gave us a tour of their vineyards, which included going off roading into the hills to see some of the unique, volcano-side terrain. Once we got back, we got to taste their wines, and walked off with several bottles as well as some olive oil.

On our second day, we awoke with a mission...get to Mount Etna, and drink more wine! While it was a beautiful day at the base of the mountain, as we got higher up, it got decidedly chillier. We climbed up as far as we could by car, to an area that in the winter serves as a ski resort. That particular day it was too foggy to go any further, so we climbed around a bit on the volcanic rock, then figured we'd had enough of that type of nature.

Food and wine pairing -- YUM!
Soon enough we were experiencing another type of nature, the red, white, and juicy kind. We arrived Gambino Winery, where we'd had reservations the day before but had missed due to the rain. They were pretty forgiving about it -- they told us that there had been flooding in the area and they couldn't blame us for not wanting to drive up there.

This was quite a different experience than the day before -- this tasting room is much more of a destination and polished. The view was amazing -- Gambino is set on the side of the hill, so you can gaze at the valley below while sipping on their wines. It had a good deal of charm, largely thanks to everyone who worked there. We did the food and wine pairing, thankfully because we were pretty hungry! This is a big place, and we were invited to take a tour of their grounds and production facility. The winery was rather crowded, as was the tour; people from all over the world, it seemed!

Mountain View from Patria
Once we were done there, we were left with the tough decision of where to go next?! With no reservations anywhere, we decided to take our chances and stop by places that we might encounter on our way back to the agriturismo. We soon found ourselves at Patria, where they were surprised when we knocked on the door of the office and asked if we could taste. They were very accommodating, even though they weren't expecting us. As we wandered over to the tasting room, we were greeted by the winery dog, an older lady who made sure to guard the door as we drank. At Patria they had bubbles, which of course I loved! They offered us probably six more varieties, as our pourer talked about her love of California. We were lucky to be the only ones there tasting; we got lots of personal attention and learned quite a bit about their wines.

Sandro & J
We weren't quite ready to head back to our agriturismo, but we were ready to eat something. As we Cave Ox, which would end up being one of my favorite experiences! The kitchen sadly wasn't open yet, but our new friend Sandro kept us plied with wine as we waited. He brought J into the wine cave, and talked us through his inventory. We got to taste more local wine, and we sat there for a few hours enjoying the company, and eventually the pizza. As we carefully made our way back to our place, we were grateful that Cave Ox was just two turns down the road.
were driving back, we arrived to

Our trunk was full of a few newly-acquired bottles -- I'd say it was a very successful day!

Tenuta delle Terre Nere
Contrada Calderara
95036 Randazzo CT

Gambino Winery
Contrada Petto Dragone
95015 Linguaglossa CT

s.s.120, Km 194.500 |Solicchiata
95012 -Castiglione di Sicilia (CT)

Cave Ox
Via Nazionale Solicchiata, 159
95012 Solicchiata (CT)