Thursday, November 30, 2006

Holding on, letting go, and other stuff

I'm emerging from the haze of last week's sore throat/fever/stuffy head/sinus infection, and I'm not real sure what I'm going to blog about here, but I felt an obligation to post something. I guess this will be a general update.

J. and I had a very good night on Tuesday. I don't know exactly why, but it was really nice. I'd gotten off the phone with Tingle, who is feeling down, and I was then feeling down because of course I wish I could make everything better for her. I went out to the living room where J. was just channel surfing and I started talking to him about her and then asked my favorite question, "Why is life so fucking hard?" We talked a little bit about how we could make our lives happier. We discussed the allure of just packing up and moving and starting over somewhere but quickly dismissed it because I couldn't and wouldn't take Bubba so far away from his Nana and Papa, aunt, uncle and cousins, and obviously there are things we enjoy about where we are living, especially our friends LilCherie and her husband and son, my friend H., and J.'s softball/movie buddies.

Anyway, we just had a nice chat, with a little humor thrown in, about life. Then we both went downstairs, J. got on the computer and we updated our Netflix queues and in the process we talked about movies and stuff. We actually genuinely enjoyed being around one another. It was energizing--we've both been a little less grumpy toward one another this week. It's the good times like this that make me realize why I'm still with J. -- but they are also what makes the matter so complicated when we are not getting along. Sigh.

Bubba is getting to be so funny. I really need to start writing this stuff down--maybe I'll post Bubba updates here (even if they are boring to you, poor readers) just to get it down. Last week when I was sick he came over and brought me his blankie and threw it over me, then brought me his other blankie and threw it over me, then brought me his bunny and kitty and a car, and finally he rubbed my arm, looked into my eyes with concern and then felt my forehead! It was so cute.

It is fascinating to see him work on expressing himself. His speech is still half-babble, half words, but every day it gets a little bit easier to understand him. The other day we were sitting down to dinner and he refused to eat it, saying over and over again "geen bos! geen bos! Mease!" Translation: "Green box! Green box! Please!" Finally I figured out he was referring to the green and white box of Junior Mints on the table. We gave in and gave him a couple and then he was happy.

He says "bye-bye" to everything -- people, cars, animals, SpongeBob, even the moon. He loves looking at the moon and always says "Big moon!" when we're driving home in the dark. One day about a month ago he was looking out the window and said "Big moon! Big moon!" Then he ran over to the door and said "Outside. Big moon!" I wrapped us up in a blanket and we went out the front door and stood on the sidewalk for a good two minutes or so, just staring at the moon. Then he was satisfied and we went back in.

He also loves to say "Cool!" to anything he finds, well, cool, like a big truck or a nice dog we encounter on one of our walks. On Saturday, we put up the Christmas tree and his first words when we plugged it in were "Cool tree!" Then he said "Yellow, blue, green, red, pink!" as he looked at the lights. Even now when we come into the house at the end of the day and plug in the tree, he says "Cool tree!"

Looking back over the last few paragraphs, I realize that Bubba speaks mostly in exclamation points. Wouldn't it be great to have such passion for everything?

I have to say that I am enjoying motherhood more now than I ever have. I still find it incredibly challenging -- oh hell, fucking hard -- and just about every day I feel that I'm failing at something. That he's watching too much TV, that he never eats vegetables and hardly ever eats meat, that we aren't consistent enough in discipline matters, that we don't do enough "enriching" activities with him. Dressing him is like wrestling a wild beast covered in Aquaphilic and usually results in at least one time out or a toy being taken away. Most days, even though he's been at daycare all day, I'm still ready for him to go to bed at 8 p.m.

On the flip side, though, are the moments like the ones I wrote about -- moments when I can see his budding empathy for others, his triumphs at getting what he wants, his pure silliness and desire to make us laugh. And there are moments like last night, when we put him to bed and he began his regular evening cryathon. We really try not to go in there after we've said goodnight in order to reinforce that bedtime is bedtime, but last night he called "Mama!" -- one of the few times he's called for me instead of his dad -- and I couldn't resist. I went in and he was standing up and said "Hi ma. Rock," and went over to the rocking chair. I rocked his 33-pound body, smelled his just-washed hair, and rubbed his back that's getting bonier as he slims down and morphs from a chubby baby to a little boy. He fell asleep and I just kept rocking for awhile, enjoying the feel of him on my shoulder and already feeling sad that there will come a day when he won't fit there anymore.

When I was trying so hard to get pregnant I didn't think about the sad part of being a parent. When I lost Hope, my love for her was so wrapped in my sadness over losing her that the feelings were almost one in the same. And you know what? I realize that my love for Bubba isn't really that different. With every new skill Bubba masters, I'm filled with pride and joy at his accomplishment -- and at the same time, an ache for what's just been lost.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Excuses, explanations, and confusion

I'd like to say thank you to everyone who commented on my "I hate J." post. I'll try to answer a few questions here and also provide an update.

I am afraid to show J. this post, even in an edited format, because I fear he would take it simply as an attack and not see the truth of what I write. I don't want to do something that will result in a yelling match rather than a constructive discussion, and that's what I fear. But I know that he needs to know and really understand how I'm feeling about things. So I'm still working on that.

About 10 months ago, I did consult a divorce lawyer, and came away so sad that I was determined to somehow keep things together. Plus, the financial part of things didn't look so great--since I make more money than J., I'd have to pay child support, and I would also receive less from selling our house because we used J.'s inheritance from his parents for the downpayment. However, I know that no financial obstacle is insurmountable if I really, really decide that we need to end the relationship. I know somehow I would get through. I appreciate the suggestions to contact the bar association. If we get to that point, I would prefer to do as much as possible ourselves, but I'd have to wait for J. to get to that point too.

I appreciated the comment from anonymous who said "It was hard to let go but I learned that I was mourning the loss of what I wanted with this person which was different from what we had and what he was willing to offer." That rings very true with me.

It's just so very hard to make such a huge and ultimately sad decision, and I will be processing it here quite a bit, I imagine. I have been with J. since I was 15 years old. It's hard for me to imagine life without him...but as you can tell, it's hard to imagine staying with him too.

On Thursday night I had a talk with J. and told him some of what I wrote here. I told him how if it wasn't for Bubba, I'd probably be gone already, and told him I felt like we didn't love each other anymore. After J. tried to set me off track by arguing about some minor squabbles we'd had the week before, we started really talking. J. said he felt that he was taking out his frustrations about work and life in general on me. He said he would look for a different therapist and would recommit himself to working on his issues. I felt slightly encouraged by what he said, but also realized that he's said these things before, and we always end up here.

I think right now, and over the past year or so, I've been trying to work through my feelings of attachment and security with J. versus my desire to live a good life. Tingle was correct when she commented "I get the feeling that your relationship with J. is the element in your life that keeps you from being a whole person." I feel that way very often, but then I wonder if I'm not using him as the scapegoat for my dissatisfaction with life in general. It's confusing. I don't want to end up initiating a divorce and then realize that it wasn't him at all--it was me making me unhappy.

I talked to my therapist about this on Thursday, just hours after I wrote that post. She was encouraging me to "look at his heart with my heart" and suggested that if I worked on being happy within myself, it could spill over and positively affect our relationship. I was honest with her and told her I didn't feel confident about doing that, but that I would try.

As of right now, I've seen a little improvement in J. He was very supportive about Lorenzo and did some stuff around the house. It was a crazy weekend so we'll see how it goes from here.

The fact of the matter is, I don't know what to do, and I'm hoping that someday I will somehow "know" what the right course of action is. I guess I don't really trust myself to make the decision. I'll keep you posted...but please try not to get too impatient with me as I complain and complain and yet do nothing about it.

Thanks, everyone, for reading and commenting. Now I'm going to go home and lay down, since what I thought was post-crying congestion from our experience with Lorenzo has morphed into a real cold with a sore throat and feverishness.

Goodbye, good kitty

Yesterday, we said goodbye to our good and loyal friend Lorenzo--our kitty.

Last Thursday, Lorenzo was diagnosed with diabetes. Things initially looked manageable, but as we started to switch him to a diabetes management diet, he stopped eating, and when we tried to lure him back to his old Friskies, he still refused to eat. He drank and drank and drank, but grew weaker as he went without sustenance. By Sunday, he was looking sunken and was very weak, wobbling around on his feet when he tried to get yet another drink, laying listlessly in the hallway, his breathing labored. Animals have a way of telling us when it's time, and Lorenzo was letting us know.

Our regular veterinarian, whom we really adore for his kind, compassionate and dedicated care of Lorenzo over the last 8 years, was unfortunately out of town yesterday, so we called one of the emergency numbers he provided on his message. The emergency clinic was open 24 hours, so we could take our time getting prepared. We called my parents to take Bubba overnight, and while we waited for them to arrive, I found an appropriate-size box and covered it with white wrapping paper that had little raised flowers all over it. I punched two holes in each of the flaps on top of the box and threaded black ribbon through them to close it. Inside, I lined the box with a towel and over it, a large piece of a soft brown dress of mine that Lorenzo loved to bat at in the closet, one that he had pretty much ruined. I figured he must have liked it a lot. We also included one of his fuzzy feather toys and a new catnip toy that Tingle had gotten him. J. tried digging a hole in the catnip patch, but it was too thick with tree roots, so instead we picked a spot between the flower garden and the vegetable garden.

With all of our preparations complete, J. and I took turns holding Lorenzo quietly. I picked him up and just held him in my arms for most of the afternoon. He was so listless and didn't purr, but he flopped his tail a few times and I could tell he was happy to be there in my lap. He simply laid there with his eyes half open, looking peaceful but weak.

After my parents picked up Bubba, we spent another hour with Lorenzo before finally heading over to the clinic. Usually, Lorenzo needed to be crated for any kind of car ride, but we assumed correctly that he was too weak to really care this time, so I held him on the way over, wrapped in a soft pink blanket to keep him warm. The sun was close to setting, and it was a beautiful sunset, one where you can see the perfect round circle of the sun amidst pink and yellow clouds. When we got to the clinic, Lorenzo was so still and heavy in my arms that I thought for a moment that he was already gone, but then we could see his breathing, now shallow and rapid.

The veterinary office had a special room for this kind of visit that had a small couch, so we sat and held and stroked Lorenzo for several minutes while we waited for the doctor. It seemed meaningful to me that on the wall of the office was an artist's rendering of a veterinarian with a dog, and the dog looked just like my beloved shih tzu Sasha, who died about 14 years ago. The doctor and her staff were very comforting, didn't rush us at all, and let us tell them a little bit about our kitty, the cat they were preparing to euthanize.

When the doctor gave him the sedation shot, she observed that he was very dehydrated, even though he'd been drinking like crazy the last few days--another sign that his body was failing. Lorenzo didn't even move when she gave him the shot. The doctor left us alone for a bit for the sedative to kick in, then returned and we laid him on the table so she could find a vein. They found one easily, and inserted the anesthesia overdose as I stroked Lorenzo's head and recited our favorite endearment over the years--"good kitty, good kitty." The effect was almost instantaneous and before I even realized it, it was over. We gathered him up and laid him in his box. It seemed almost too small until we arranged him in it, curled up and snuggled tight like he always was on our bed.

Through my tears on the way home, holding the box with my still-warm kitty inside, the sun had set, leaving a beautifully illuminated pink horizon against the darkness of the night. When I carried the box in, I instinctively looked down the basement stairs to see if Lorenzo was waiting for us, even though I was holding his dead body in my arms.

I opened the box up one last time and stroked his now cooling fur, and gave him one more kiss goodbye. J. also came over and put his hand in. "I just wanted to touch him one last time," he said. We wrapped him back up and carried him to the spot we had prepared for him. We did the job mostly in silence. When we were done, I stood for a moment and just said, "Sleep well, kitty."

I came back in and laid down on the bed and really cried for just a couple of minutes, then I got up and gathered his things together to toss or give away. We took the cat door that my father had made for Lorenzo out of the frame of our sliding-glass door and put it in the garage. The absence of the cat door was almost more jarring than looking at it and knowing there was no longer a kitty to use it.

Lorenzo came to us as a stray kitten when he was about six months old. We put a box out for him and started feeding him, as it was a cold November. He endeared himself to us by always "thanking" us for his food, rubbing up against our legs even though he must have been starving. One night as we sat down for dinner, he jumped up on the screen of our big window and hung there looking at us. That was it--he was ours.

To me and J., he was the most loving cat you could imagine--too loving, in fact, always wanting to be with us, always wanting attention. He loved to jump up on us and lick our faces, he loved wrestling with J. on the floor, he loved to sleep in J.'s arms while he played PlayStation or to rest on my chest while I laid on the couch.

To almost everyone else, Lorenzo was a psychotic, aggressive, even dangerous animal. He'd had chronic stomatitis, a gum infection, since we got him and by the age of 3 had had all of his teeth removed, but he still had claws and he used them to attack anyone who came into our house, even people who visited multiple times, like my family members or friends. He often drew blood and always instilled fear with his low growls and chilling howls of warning. In the end, he had come to mostly tolerate my family and even show some affection toward my mother and my friend LilCherie. He mostly stayed away from Bubba but would sometimes allow a little bit of petting from him. One famous Lorenzo story involves a meter reader who happened to cross Lorenzo's path while trying to read the meter one day. He had to use the lid from our grill to shield himself from the cat, and even had to climb over the edge of the deck to get away because Lorenzo wouldn't let him down the stairs. He was a good watchcat! He defended his home against any stranger, human or otherwise.

This last summer, he really got into catching rodents, and left multiple presents for J. and me in the living room or kitchen. When he started bringing them in still alive, we had to limit his access to the outside, but he still left an occasional gift on the deck stairs, and always looked so proud when he presented them to us.

Now, of course I wish that I had been more patient all those times when he was driving me nuts--scratching on the walls for us to escort him to his nightly lair in the basement, getting under my feet when I was trying my best to get him fed, jumping on the computer when I was trying to write or laying on top of the magazine I was trying to read. But I know that many of those times, I did give up what I was doing to give him some love, and I know that he had a good life with us.

As J. said yesterday, there won't be many people who will miss Lorenzo. Many of our family and some friends, who had been attacked numerous times, had stated on many occasions that they were looking forward to him being gone, and even offered to have him put to sleep for us. I can't blame them for their feelings; Lorenzo was really, really mean to them. But I always feel that they just didn't know him. Lorenzo, for whatever reason, wouldn't let them get to know him. He had chosen J. and me to be his humans, and that was all he wanted. I'm glad that we could be there for him at the end. I'm glad we didn't wait until he was crying in pain, and that his spiral downward only lasted a few days. I'm glad his death was peaceful and painless and that he didn't seem to even be aware of what was happening.

Today I woke up and looked out the window, expecting to see him prowling through the yard getting ready to pounce on a mouse. Instead I saw the fresh dirt of his grave. As I prepared to leave the house, I went to throw the blanket over my bed to keep it clean from Lorenzo's hair and debris from outside, then realized I didn't have to do that anymore.

I didn't think it would be so hard to let go of him. He had been getting more and more annoying over the last couple years, and besides, I've lost a child--losing a pet wouldn't even compare. And it doesn't. And yet, it still hurts. He still filled a space in our lives and in our home--in our hearts--that is empty now.

Lorenzo, we will remember you. And we will miss you.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I hate J.

This post will be all about my shitty marriage. At first, when thinking about this post, I I really want other people to know all about my shitty marriage? Then I thought, well, what's the point of having a blog if you're going to only write about 'safe' topics? I mean, the whole point--in my opinion anyway--is that blogs are used as a release with the hopes that other people will provide you with some support or new ways of thinking about things. If all we wanted to do was write about it, we'd do it privately. What we bloggers really want is someone to read us and understand us and support us.

So anyway...if you've read any of my past posts about my relationship with J., you'll know it's not the greatest, and right now I'm at a real low point as far as my attitude toward it. I could probably write pages and pages about all the ways my marriage sucks. In fact, right now, I don't even know where to begin.

It's more than just an annoying thing he does here or there. It's like our relationship has been poisoned somehow and there's returning it to anything healthy and good. Of course, my writing here will focus on all the ways he has ruined things; I'm not in the mood to try to analyze my fault in all this, and truthfully, I feel he is more to blame. And I know laying blame is not productive, but I don't really care. So there.

This is how I feel about our marriage. Lonely. Misunderstood. Angry. Disgusted. Frustrated. Bored.

J. and I now officially sleep in separate rooms. I couldn't stand the disgusting mess that our bedroom became again and again within days of when I would clean up all of his junk and make it liveable. I told J. that he needed to keep it cleaner or I would have to just sleep elsewhere. He made no effort. So I packed up my alarm clock and moved into the guest room, where I've been for at least a month. It made me sad today to hear J. tell Bubba to go find me "in her room."

We don't have interesting conversations about fact, we don't talk much at all. We talk about Bubba and how he is doing; J. makes me listen to really boring stories from his work even when I don't even feign interest; and that's about it.

We don't have sex. There are some other issues there that are complicating things, like my recovery from crotch surgery in July which has led to some fear and issues with sexual function--but I think the number one factor in my lack of desire and 'performance' is the state of our marriage.

A real injury to our relationship began after Bubba was born and I had postpartum depression. Even after being 'educated' about what PPD is and how it affects the sufferer and her family, he still would say things to me like, "I expected you to be a better mother than this," or "I just can't believe you don't enjoy it" or "After seeing how you grieved after losing Hope, I just didn't expect you to be this way." I don't know that I've really gotten over that. It really affected, and affects, the way I view myself as a mother, and therefore, as a woman and person in general.

J. seems to expect that my actions are engineered to piss him off or be malicious in some way. We were having an argument awhile back about housework. I'd asked him to take some TV trays to the basement, and he didn't until I'd asked him three times. During the argument, in all seriousness, that he said he felt that I'd put the TV trays there to 'set him up for failure.' Nevermind the fact that if he would have just taken them downstairs at the beginning, there would be no 'failure'--nevermind the fact that I was fucking exhausted from working all day, running to WalMart to get Bubba a toddler bed because he'd fallen out of his crib the night before, taking care of Bubba all night AND putting together the bed with Bubba's 'help' while J. played softball, and rearranging and Bubba-proofing the entire room.

These two kind of go together for me. In short (or long, we'll see how it goes) I'm angry about J. never doing a damn thing around this house. I'm angry that every night when I come home I have to do the dishes, laundry, bathe Bubba, straighten up the house, go through piles of J.'s mail and assorted crap so that once every three weeks I can actually see the countertop. I'm angry that he plays Guitar Hero while I clean Bubba's humidifier, straighten up the bathroom and clean up after the supper I cooked the night before that J. was supposed to clean up after and didn't. I'm angry that J. sits in front of the TV set with Bubba and feels that he is contributing something valuable to the household. I'm angry that J. won't discipline Bubba, so now Bubba cries and cries at bedtime and I have to be the bad parent who makes him behave, even though it doesn't work very well because he knows Daddy will give in.

I'm disgusted by J.'s laziness and his lack of desire to do anything except play video games and smoke. I'm angry and disgusted that J. actually agreed to go to counseling because he was depressed, and then reveals to me that when he goes to therapy they "really just shoot the shit" the whole time and don't work on anything of any importance.

I'm frustrated that I can't count on J. to do anything. That my father cleans out our cat box every week when he and my mom come to watch Bubba because it's so disgusting he thinks it's unhealthy. That my father mows our lawn, takes back our recycling, fixes our clogged drains and has even cleaned out our gutters because J. can't get his lazy ass out there to do it.

I'm frustrated that J. will tell me he's going to do something and then never does. I reminded him three times on Friday, Sunday and Monday to make an appointment at the vet for our cat, who is drinking and urinating way too much and has a big sore on his mouth. J. made the appointment for today at 2:30. This morning when I said, "So you're taking the cat to the vet today?" His response was "Dammit! I'm going to have to reschedule." He just doesn't have time to do it, he says. Too much to do at work. So I'm taking the day off work so I can have time to go to my therapy appointment and then take the cat to the vet. Oh yeah, I will also be picking up Bubba's meds at the pharmacy because I know I can't count on J. to do it.

This is pretty self-explanatory. We don't talk, we don't do anything fun, we don't have sex. We don't have anything to say to one another.

I dread coming home at the end of the day, to the point where sometimes I need anxiety medication just to make it through. I fantasize about jumping in the car and just driving away. Sometimes, images pop into my head of my self, my body, just falling down and breaking into a million pieces, or of myself just screaming at the top of my lungs. Sometimes I fantasize about killing myself, but realize it wouldn't be fair to Bubba.

Oh Bubba. I feel so terrible that we tried so fucking hard to have him and now he has to grow up with this. I cannot wish away Bubba's existence, but how I wish J. and I had realized the state of our relationship before we had a child. We were so focused on having a child that we missed it. Having a child was our joint project, our sole focus. When we finally achieved it, we came back to our lives, and they aren't pretty.

I think about divorce and am overwhelmed. I don't make enough money to support two households (neither does J.), so how do I even begin to extricate myself from this? I can't imagine being able to get an apartment, let alone another car, let alone attorney's fees. And I know that if I am the one to leave, that will reflect poorly on me when it comes to custody stuff. I don't want to keep Bubba from J., but I also don't want J. to keep Bubba from me, and I really fear that he'd try.

I feel stuck, sad, desperate. I don't know what to do but I know I have to do something. I really don't think I love him anymore. I really don't think he loves me anymore. Our marriage has been in real trouble for a long time--some who know us would say it's been in trouble since the beginning. We always fought, we always had issues. But years ago, there was also love and respect that brought us back to one another. I think that's gone now.

It makes me sad to think that we've failed. I feel sorry for myself when I think about what my future without J. might be like--seeing Bubba a couple times a week and listening to him cry for Daddy, living by myself (that doesn't seem so bad but I know it would get lonely sometimes...although I'm lonely now anyway), never finding love again because I think I'm too disgusting and fucked up for anyone to ever find attractive. But I also feel sorry for myself when I think about spending the rest of my life working like a slave to pick up after this man who couldn't give two shits about me, feeling ugly and unloved, coming home every night to the home that feels like a jail.

I don't know what I need to do to find happiness. I just know I'm not going to find it here. I'm giving up that dream. I guess I need to find a new one.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Public humiliation+crappy teachers+math disability=this post

Note: The image you see with this post is one I created to show you, dear readers, the original Depressionista-created math survival strategy. This is how I viewed numbers (sometimes even altering them on the page for ease) so that I could count up the dots and add or subtract them without having to use my fingers. Each number had a dot pattern that would equal its value. This, my friends, is an image of desperation!)

It's no secret to those who know me that I have problems with math, that I have always had problems with math. One of the most liberating and wonderful things about being an adult is that I am rarely asked and even more rarely required to use my head to do math, and that I am never subjected to a "time test."

When I think about my math career it is a series of traumatic moments, beginning with the horror of the first math worksheet I ever got. I was in first grade, and I still remember exactly what it looked like--probably because I spent the better part of an hour just staring at it not knowing what to do. It had a green jungle-themed border on the top of the page and continuing down the right side, at which point a colorful parrot was perched in the foliage.

I remember having to play "Around the World." Are you all familiar with this ritual act of humiliation game in which a student is chosen to start, stands next to the first desk in the row, the teacher presents a flashcard and whoever answers correctly first gets to move to the next desk. The loser sits down in shame.

For awhile, I hated this game with a passion, becoming increasingly anxious as the "traveler" got closer and closer to my seat, hoping against hope that maybe the problem would be one that I knew, and then every time being shot down by the math whiz who was arrogantly hopping from desk to desk. It only took me a couple years to realize that I shouldn't invest so much emotional energy into the whole thing, and from that point on, I simply stood up, let the other person answer, then sat down again and daydreamed for the rest of the game.

Then there was junior high. I got through my entire 8th grade year of math by copying the assignments of a tangential acquaintance who for some reason allowed me to to do this. I failed the tests, but my homework was enough to carry me through.

In high school, I took the required year of algebra before grasping hungrily to the bone thrown out by our guidance counselor, who told me that's all I needed to graduate. Even though he knew I was going on to the university, he never told me I would need more math to get in. I realized this on my own during my junior year, so I took Algebra II in my senior year. It was hard pill to swallow, let me tell you--sitting in a room full of juniors at the end of the day while my fellow seniors had early release. I believe it was Algebra II when I got my first and only "Progress Report," letting my parents know I was failing. I went tearfully to Mr. Townsley and begged him to give me a D with the promise that I would bring the grade up the next semester--which I did, by having hour-long tutoring sessions from my sister EVERY NIGHT. When I took the ACT test, I got a 13 on the math section.

The final math trauma of my student years was in college. The university let me in on the condition that I complete a high school-level geometry course, for no credit, before I could graduate. No problem, right? I didn't worry much about it until my last year, at which point I signed up for a correspondence course thinking I would just do it on my own. Yeah, right. That was $300 of my parents' money down the drain. Finally, I was done with everything....except that geometry course. I ended up taking it over the summer, with much tumultuous tutoring from my explosive math genius brother, and finally graduating a semester late.

I always thought I was just dumb. No math teacher ever looked at me as a challenge but instead either showed actual distaste for having me in their class or regarded me as invisible (interestingly, almost all my English teachers really liked me). While students who were having trouble reading were sent off to "remedial reading" and got extra help during class, I floundered, seemingly alone as everyone, even the "average" math students, soared beyond me.

We've all heard of dyslexia, and I suppose that would be a bigger problem to deal with. People with that disorder probably have all kinds of horror stories about having to write papers or read out loud in class, and reading and writing is usually pretty essential once you get out of school, unlike math, which you can really avoid quite well if you want to.

Until recently, I never realized that I have a disorder too, that I'm not just dumb. It's called dyscalculia, and here are the symptoms, with comments added by me.

•Good at speaking, reading, and writing, but slow to develop counting and math problem-solving skills. Yes. I now work as an editor and write here and other places for fun.
•Good memory for printed words, but difficulty reading numbers, or recalling numbers in sequence. Yes. I can read numbers alright, but recalling them in a sequence is nearly impossible. Words, no problem.

•Good with general math concepts, but frustrated when specific computation and organization skills need to be used. Hell yes. I completely understand what division is, but please don't ask me to do it.

•Trouble with the concept of time-chronically late, difficulty remembering schedules, trouble with approximating how long something will take. More so lately; don't know if it's dyscalculia or having a two-year-old.

•Poor sense of direction, easily disoriented and easily confused by changes in routine. Yes, yes, yes. J. makes fun of me because I will actually forget what direction to go when coming out of a store in the mall. I have a terrible sense of direction and am frequently lost if I'm left on my own outside of my normal comfort zone.

•Poor long term memory of concepts-can do math functions one day, but is unable to repeat them the next day. Yes! This is why I could do my homework alright, but sucked on every test. I could do 6x7=42 one day but the next day it was like I'd never seen it before. By the way, I had to use the calculator for that little example.
•Poor mental math ability-trouble estimating grocery costs or counting days until vacation. Completely.

•Difficulty playing strategy games like chess, bridge or role-playing video games. I've never played bridge and have no interest in role-playing video games, but I'm an okay amateur chess player.

•Difficulty keeping score when playing board and card games. Yep. Just ask Tingle about playing dominoes with me. They had to go out and buy me the set with the colored tiles just so I could keep up, and at the end of the game, I just pass them over to someone else to add up and just trust that they're not screwing me over.

•Mistaken recollection of names. Poor name/face retrieval. Yes.

•Difficulty grasping the concepts of formal music education. Difficulty sight-reading music. Yes. I love music and have a good ear; I can pick tunes out on the piano pretty easily. But I only lasted one year in band, and it was torture. I pretty much faked my way through it by listening and watching my fellow clarinet students. I never, ever understood sheet music.

It's a developmental disorder. I'm not just dumb. And that's good to know, even though I haven't been required to take a math test in years. The way we think about ourselves is formed, in large part, during those early years in school, and I think part of the way I felt about myself and presented myself was affected by feeling "dumb" in this area, feeling singed out for my failures. It certainly had a big impact on my life--I chose my majors and my career based on the fact that I couldn't do math and I could write. My whole life I've been interested in medical stuff and even thought about becoming a nurse at one point....but of course, the math part of it all scared me away.

For the most part, I'm okay with how things turned out for me--I mean, I'm not a homeless person, I have a good job (although it bores me to tears) and a decent life. But when I do take the time to think about it, I wish a teacher had realized I had a problem, rather than ignoring me or just thinking I was lazy or stupid. Sometimes I wonder where just a little bit of math confidence would have taken me.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Pared-down purse, day 2

Okay, I'm posting this in the hopes that you all can help me figure out where I'm going wrong with the small purse trial.

Today, on day two, I list the current contents of my bag:

•One umbrella
•Baggie of BandAids and meds
•One bottle DreamAngels "Heavenly" perfume
•One prescription for pulmicort for Bubba, rec'd this morning from the doctor
•One letter with a check enclosed that will need to be deposited
•Two receipts from the pharmacy that will need to be submitted to my flex plan
•One receipt from HyVee
•One bottle of Aromatherapy Body Splash
•Three used tissues
•One receipt from Walgreens
•One eyeshadow compact
•One bottle of foundation
•One eyeliner pencil
•One hair elastic
•One lipstick
•One rogue Cert
•Five tampons
•One pad
•One pen
•Two quarters, two dimes and a penny

Allow me some explanation. Tonight we (Bubba, J., me, and my college-age niece A.) are going to see my other niece play at a junior high honor band event that is being held about 45 minutes away. J. is picking me and Bubba up and then we are off to pick up A. and continue on to see the show. The rest of my family is also going to be there, so that incudes my mom and dad, sister and brother-in-law. There won't be time for me to go home and refresh myself, so that explains the makeup, and I'm always trying to disguise my smoking from my family even though they know I do it, plus I'm wearing my smelly Clark shoes, so that's why I have various smelly things in my purse.

As I was going through the contents, I straightened up, so we'll see what happens tomorrow. But let me ask you this: Is it just a matter of daily maintenance? Do you all go through your bags at night or in the morning and straighten them up? Or do you have little tricks (like the one Tingle mentioned in her last comment) that keep you on track? Truly, people, this is driving me nuts!

Monday, November 13, 2006

It is nice to carry just a small bag.

Today I came to work carrying only my "pared-down bag."

The contents are as follows:
•Small Ziploc baggie with medication and bandaids for thumb
•One pad and 4 tampons

Observations so far:
It is nice to carry just a small bag.
I feel lighter.
I haven't been in need of anything that I would have had in the big backpack except for a Q-tip to itch my ears, but that could easily be remedied by bringing a box of Q-tips to work.
It was easy to find my money and my bus pass.
So far, I like it.

Exciting stuff, huh?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

I really am THAT FAT.

Good morning. I've aroused from my coma-like slumber on LilCherie's amazingly comfy couch, poured myself a cup of coffee with gratitude to LilCherie's hubby for making it, gave LilCherie's angelic son a mint, had my morning cigarette...

...and then was blasted with the post-traumatic like flashback of the image of myself captured by LilCherie's camera during events taking place over the past six months or so. LilCherie had gotten 8 rolls of film developed and innocently, we broke into the pile, mentally salivating over the fun and frivolity that surely lay within. I think it must have been there, but my eyes and brain were immediately scalded with the image of myself in all my fatness staring back at me. It was unbelievable! I simply cannot believe I am really that fat!

But, as LilCherie and discussed, it has to be true, because everyone else in the photo looks just like they do in everyday life. LilCherie looks great, J. looks great, Tingle looks great....and I look like a walrus sunning myself on a rock. LilCherie said that she, too, felt that way when looking at herself.

That led me to think about what kind of self-delusion I must unconciously participate in in order to get myself out the door every morning. The sad fact of the matter is, when I left the house for those events--a wedding in LilCherie's family, the Halloween party, sight-seeing at Niagara Falls with LilCherie and Tingle--I honestly thought I looked pretty damn good. How did my brain make that jump?

I have heard of body dysmorphic disorder, where people with eating disorders think they are fat even though they weigh 72 pounds and are 6 feet tall. I must have the opposite. When I look in the mirror, somehow I manage to look past the last 120 pounds I've gained and still see the normal-sized Depressionista from 15 years ago, and moreover, do it without conscious thought.

The most horrifying irony of it all is that I not only look fat, but in many photos, I look at least 7 months pregnant, which especially touchy for someone who has struggled with infertility and lost a baby mid-pregnancy. THANK GOD nobody has (recently) asked me when I'm due. How it's possible, I don't know, but it kind of explains some of the dirtier-than-usual looks I get when I smoke in public. People probably think I'm subjecting my poor fetus to asphyxiation. Nope, folks, I'm just FAT! That's not a fetus in there, it's just the physical manifestation of my insecurities, my self-medicating through food, my general lack of concern for myself and my fuck-it attitude toward life. No wonder J. doesn't want to do me would be like fucking a huge Pillsbury Doughboy with zits. I need to get some kind of placard or big patch for my coat that says "Not pregnant...Just FAT! Now leave me alone while I smoke!"

I've never deluded myself into thinking that I was ever going to be some lithe, slender beauty. But I also never believed that I would look like a white Nell Carter.

Sadly, even in my horror, I am pretty much unmotivated to do a damn thing about it. I guess I really just don't care a whole lot about myself, and that's a pretty deep realization to deal with.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night...

It's 9:39 a.m. and dark as night outside my office window. Yesterday was a balmy 65 degrees and sunny; today is windy, dark, rainy, sleety, and cold.

It goes to figure; tonight is a Girls' Night.

Ahhh, Girls' Night. Girls' Night began years ago as an occasional get-together with my best friend, LilCherie, and maybe one or two other mutual friends, usually our former friend L. or our current friend H. Somewhere around the time I lost Hope, Girls' Nights became more frequent, and as my friendship with Tingle blossomed she became a part of the event whenever she was in town and often, by phone. In fact, LilCherie and I once took a trip to Tingle's place (well over 500 miles away) just to have a Girls' Weekend (thank you, Timmy!)

Anyway, Girls' Nights are now, in general, a weekly occurrence. Often they are just a casual get-together with LilCherie; sometimes they involve H. or others. This is a sacred night. There are certain rules we've established regarding Girls' Nights. One is that whoever is the visiting guest has no child responsibilities whatsoever. For instance, if LilCherie is staying at my house, and Bubba wakes up in the middle of the night, her role is to lie there and try to go back to sleep until one of us takes care of it, because it's her night off, and vice-versa when I visit her.

Basic requirements for the evening include coffee, snacks, journal entries or collages to share with one another, and that's pretty much it, but can include such luxuries as foot soaking, hot rocks, facials, and decadent treats like three-milk cake. And, of course, Oprah-bashing/adoration (LilCherie and I went halfsies on the Oprah 20th anniversary DVD box set specifically for this purpose). We usually begin the evening by making a trip to Walgreens for our supplies, perhaps getting some dinner somewhere, and then settling in for an evening of fun, laughter, sometimes tears, and always, the luxury of connecting with one another as adults and people and women in our own right--not mothers, not wives, not employees...just us.

Girls' Night has really gotten me through the darkest days of my life. It was at Girls' Night that I poured out my grief again and again over my little girl, my fears about my pregnancy with Bubba, my shattered illusions of motherhood and my postpartum depression, my concerns about my marriage and my depression and my anxiety and any other thing that was going on my life. It was at Girls' Night that I learned how to laugh again and, later, that it was okay.

I have driven through a blizzard to get to Girls' Night. LilCherie, Tingle and I have all traveled hundreds of miles for Girls' Night. H. has driven 45 minutes through deserted country roads at 3 a.m. to return home from Girls' Night. We have worked through colds, sinus infections, ear infections, throat infections and tonsillitis, surgeries, broken limbs and stitched fingers for Girls' Night, and let me tell you, we're pretty darn good at it. There is little that can stop us from our evening of adultitude. We've even been known to have a Girls' Night by phone in the rare instance that circumstances keep us apart.

So, as it thunders and storms outside my window, I worry and fret about the 35 minute drive tonight, hoping there's no snow, hoping there's no sleet...but knowing deep down that I'm going anyway.

That's just the Girls' Night way.

Let's try for Monday

My experiment in simplicity--i.e., the "pared-down bag" will have to wait until Monday. I actually just forgot about it and without even thinking about it, lugged my portable trash can in this morning.

Just in case you all were holding your breath worrying about how it was working out for me!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A tiny house of dreams

Lately, I've been fantasizing about tiny houses. Have you all heard about the tiny house phenomenon? As far as I know, it was founded in the late 90s by Jay Shafer, Shay Salomon, Nigel Valdez, and Gregory Paul Johnson. The group built a small house, Johnson parked it in his parents' backyard and started living in it, and thus, a movement was born. Now, Shafer and others manufacture these houses, and there are lots of people making and living in tiny houses, most between 50 and 500 square feet.

The idea behind this, from what I've read, is that we can only inhabit a very small amount of space at any one time--so why do we need to live in houses that are 1,500 square feet? These houses are designed with foldaway beds and tables and smart, economical use of space so that it's not like you're sitting in an outhouse. The homes are good for the environment, cheap, and reflect an attitude of "less is more."

I'd heard about this several years ago, but my interest was sparked again by an article I read in, I think, Newsweek magazine (can't find the link, sorry). Since I read that article a few months ago, my thoughts have turned again and again to how lovely it would be to have my very own tiny house in my backyard. I could store all my sentimental junk in my real house, but actually live in the tiny house, all by myself. I particularly like the "XS House" on the Tumbleweed site.

Of course, I'd make regular visits to "the big house" for interaction with Bubba, to make sure Bubba wasn't living in squalor because J. won't clean anything, and probably to do my laundry. But otherwise, I could live in the small house, listening to music....writing...reading books. No constant blare of the TV that J. refuses to turn off, no listening to the maddening "tap-tap-tap-tap-tap" of J. playing Guitar Hero for the 5th hours straight. No piles of clutter, no dirty socks on the floor...just me, my journal, and my tiny house. The idea of it is so freeing.

It occurs to me as I write this that pretty much what I'm looking for is a way to get away from J. while still living at home, not getting a divorce, and having regular time with Bubba. I would still like to see J. on occasion--I mean, he is a pretty funny guy and he manages to soothe me sometimes when I get really scared about stuff. And he is a great dad. But living with him? I think maybe I've had enough.

You know, maybe a tiny house is the answer to my marital issues. Why not? There are weirder situations our there, I'm sure. And this sure would be a hell of a lot cheaper than a divorce.

An experiment in simplicity

Wow! Two new readers yesterday! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read my stuff!

In honor of this recent rush of activity, I'm redoubling my efforts to be a regular blogger, thus--this post.

Lately I have been having a problem with organization, or rather, the lack of it. Despite numerous attempts over the past couple of months to declutter and simplify my life, I just can't get my shit together. I can't tell you how many minutes/hours of the average day I spend looking for something. This morning, I missed the bus because I couldn't find my wallet--which was hiding in the bottom of my backpack. My backpack is like a portable trash can that I carry with me wherever I go. At least 85 percent of it is old receipts, used tissues, and other crap I don't need. Another 10 percent is stuff I think I might need, but really only use it once or twice a year (but who wants to be caught without A&D Ointment when they really need it?) The final 5 percent is the essential stuff--wallet, checkbook, anxiety pills. Stuff that could easily fit into a tiny purse. Why can't I let go of all this stuff??? I feel more secure carrying it, but it's a real burden at the same time.

Hmmm. All of a sudden, I realize that this is a very obvious way that I live out my inner neuroses and emotional baggage in a physical way. You know what? I think it would be a good experiment for me to go to work tomorrow just carrying my wallet, checkbook, pads and tampons (yep, it's that time of the every three months for me). It will be scary, no doubt about it....but maybe freeing? Tomorrow I will post the final pared-down contents of my bag and some updates about how it's going.