Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Considerate Smoker's Manifesto

Day before yesterday, I was standing more than the required 25 feet from any doorway and smoking a cigarette while waiting for the bus. I purposely stationed myself as far away from any human activity as possible--away from the sidewalk, away from any buildings, away from the bus stop.

About halfway through my cigarette, I notice a frumpy woman walking down the sidewalk in my direction, and she clearly has me in her sites. She comes right up to me and says, "I'm not sure you are aware, but this is a smoke-free campus."

I am aware that the campus soon will be smoke-free, as our office has been involved in publicizing this change, but I also know the campus is currently still smoke-full.

"I believe the change is not going into effect until April 2nd," I say.

"Oh, you're absolutely right. Well, good luck!" she says brightly, and continues on her way.

"Um...thanks?" I say after her.

This woman is obviously very psyched about the no-smoking policy, so psyched that she can't wait another five weeks for the power trip. Someone this psyched would HAVE to know that the policy was not yet in effect, so I figure she just assumed I looked like someone who didn't know about it. Or maybe she just figured that people who smoke can't read.

I particularly enjoyed the "good luck" she tacked onto the end of the exchange. This comment provoked a real moment of esprit de l'escalier (for those who are not familiar with this term, as was I until about a month ago when it came to me via dictionary.com's Word of the Day, this is a great expression that means 'In the original it refers to that infuriating situation in which you leave a drawing room and are halfway down the stairs before you suddenly think of that devastatingly witty comment you could have made.') At the time I just threw out a half-hearted, questioning "thanks" because I couldn't figure out why she was wishing me good luck; upon more reflection, I realize she probably just assumed that I would soon be attempting to quit in order to be in line with The Policy. Silly woman.

Anyway, here's my "esprit de l'escalier" -- the witty comment I should have made.

"Good luck!" she said brightly.
"Oh, that's kind of you...it'll be tough, but I'm sure I'll still be able to find somewhere to smoke after the policy is in effect!"

I wish I had some kind of a badge or a certificate I could show proving that I am a Considerate Smoker. I understand that not everybody wants to breathe my smoke. I understand that there are many people who do not participate in my love affair with the burn in the throat and the rush of nicotine in the blood. Therefore, I do my best to be a nuisance to no one when I am indulging in my vice. Usually I smoke on the top floor of the parking ramp next to my building, because there are very rarely people there and it's the top floor--i.e., no roof and lots and lots of ventilation. I never smoke next to a door or a window, and try to remove myself several feet from sidewalks and other thoroughfares so people will not have to walk through a cloud of smoke. If I see someone coming and it looks like they will intersect with the mushroom cloud, I hold the cigarette down and do not exhale until they are out of range. If I'm in a smoking section of a restaurant and there are kids there--even if their parents are smoking up a storm--I usually refrain or seriously limit my puffing because of the guilt factor. In the summer, I even have a fan placed on my screened-in porch to blow the smoke away from my neighbor's house just in case they might catch a whiff when the wind is blowing that way.

Yet I know this doesn't matter to the Smoking Police. It seems that in the crazed puritan/public health/big brother war on smoking, the message has gone from "smoking is bad" to "smokers are bad." (By the way, I hate the word "smoker" because it labels a person as their bad habit. I prefer "people who smoke. But sometimes it's just the easiest word to use, so I've had to relax my rules here. We smokers are rule breakers anyway, you know.)

Yes, in general, we smokers are a surly bunch. I mean, why do you think we're smoking? We've got issues, man! Do you think we enjoy being ridiculed, discriminated against and looked down on? C'mon! Do you think we'd choose to be smokers? No! We were born this way!

Seriously, just because a person smokes doesn't mean he or she is the antichrist. It doesn't mean we are horrible people. You can still be friends with us. We won't try to convert you. Chances are, we don't even smoke in our own homes, so you can come over without being subjected to it. And, chances are, we have some interesting shit to say. Ever notice that at a party, everyone ends up hanging out with the smokers (or, if they aren't, they're the ones nodding off on the couch?) There's a reason for that. We're fun!

Usually, the Smoking Police legitimize initiatives like the smoke-free campus by calling it "a public health issue" or because of their overwhelming "concern for smokers." As far as the public health issue argument goes, I highly doubt that my cigarette, smoldering by its lonesome, outside, more than 20 feet away from any person, is as dangerous as the black clouds of exhaust coming from the back of the fifth bus that just pulled away from the stop. It seems to me that this kind of zealous enthusiasm would be better spent lobbying the government to require smaller, more efficient, "greener" cars, or working for greater production and use of clean energy sources. Likewise, if you're going to rag on my smoking, then make sure you don't stand too close to bus stops while you're at it, or walk through a parking ramp.

The "concern for the health of smokers" argument is especially bothersome. First, it's patronizing. Please don't be concerned for my health when I'm not! Secondly, it's bullshit. If they were that concerned about other people's health, they'd be reprimanding every person eating a Big Mac, having an alcoholic drink, riding a bike during rush hour or trying to raise a toddler.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not proud to be a person who smokes. I wish I'd never started and sometimes I wish I had the inner fortitude required to quit (more often, I just give in and enjoy it, sorry). I admire efforts to prevent kids from starting and to help people who want to quit succeed. I just get pissed off when it becomes more about a power trip than anything else.

Things That Would Be Awesome

*To come home to a clean house after a fun evening out with my niece.
*To not have to smell the trash when I walk in the kitchen.
*To be able to walk to the bathroom without navigating Wedgit land mines on the floor.
*To be able to go bathroom to pee (after my fun evening out with my niece) without having to pull my pants back up and go out to the car to retrieve the only toilet paper we own, especially since I asked my husband to bring it in three hours ago before I left.
*To come home after my husband has been responsible for our son all night and see some kind of evidence that they did something, anything, besides sit in front of the television.
*To look in on my son and see that he had been put in his pajamas before bed rather than left in his clothes.
*To see him in his pajamas and then know that he had been lotioned before bed--especially since his eczema is flaring up and especially when I've had email correspondence with my husband about this specific topic earlier in the day.
*To have nights like this be an anomaly.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Have you ever seen The Shining?

My weekend bore striking similarities to the good old Jack Nicholson movie, except for the fact that unfortunately my house is much smaller than the Overlook Hotel and Danny Torrance is a lot quieter than my kid (and not half as scary).

Most of my predictions came true. I was sick. Bubba was kind of sick. LilCherie’s boy really was sick. Girls’ Night was cancelled. The worst winter storm of about 30 years descended upon us and we lost power for a total of about 8 hours. Luckily, four of those hours happened after Bubba was asleep. Of the other four hours, approximately two of them were spent trying to explain to Bubba that the TV was “broken,” that there would be no “Thomas mooo-ie” or “Cars dee-dee-dee (DVD),” that there were, in fact, other fun things to do in the house besides stare at the idiot box, and in the end, just listening to him sob, yes, sob, about the lack of television. At risk of boring you, dear readers, I feel the need to describe my weekend in a little more detail, to purge it from my memory in the hopes that this weekend will be repressed in my memory and that there won’t be too much in the way of PTSD fallout.

For your skimming convenience, I’ve labeled each section so you can skip.

Bitching About the Weekend In General

Friday Night
Typical night; storm starts slowly with just a little rain/sleet mix.

5 a.m.: Bubba’s up, therefore we’re all up. My left ear and the left side of my throat are killing me.

7:30 a.m.: We set out early to keep our commitment to be research subjects for a friend of J.’s, who is involved in a study of TENS. J.’s appointment is at 8 a.m. and mine is at 9. We get set up in a physical therapy student lounge that is complete with comfy chairs, a massage table, and a life-size model of a skeleton. Bubba and I had a great time with the skeleton. He wanted to shake hands with it, which was really cute.

10 a.m.: When we leave the building, there is a thin coating of ice over everything with more coming down. We get home without too much trouble and hunker down.

11:30 a.m.: My cold-turned-ear-infection-and-sore-throat gets the best of me, and Tingle pisses me off by making fun of my saggy tits, so I give up and take a long nap.

3 p.m.: I awake to what sounds like someone scraping a very heavy snow shovel across the roof above our bedroom. I stumble out to the living room to find the house quiet and J. and Bubba napping together on the chair. Still looking for the source of the sound, I venture out to our back porch and see that the branches of our tree are so laden with ice that many of them are hanging about 8 feet lower than they should be, and the hellatious wind is whipping them across our roof—thus the otherworldly noises that woke me up. More ominous are the branches that are sagging across the electrical and phone lines running into our house. Soon, the noises wake J. up—Bubba, thankfully, remained asleep for another hour and a half—and after whacking the branches with a machete to no avail, heads out into the storm to buy a set of tree nippers to take down the branches.

Approximately five minutes before he returns, the power goes out—not due to our tree branches but instead a neighborhood-wide issue. J. trims the tree to avoid any further issues and we set up house with candles, flashlights, and some tunes on the radio (before the radio stations went out, that is). For supper, we enjoy a can of Chef Boyardee ravioli, slow roasted in a cake pan atop a contraption designed to heat a pot of coffee with a small candle. I was really kinda proud of that idea.

4:30 to 6:30 p.m.: “I wanna watch Car moo-ie! I wanna watch Thomas dee-dee-dee! Mease! Meeeease! MEEEEASE!” Sob, scream, cry.

6:30 to 8:30 p.m.: We decide to build a fire in the fireplace downstairs, and Bubba finds this fascinating which thank god distracted him from the TV issue. We’re actually having fun by the time the power comes back on. As soon as the lights come back on, Bubba runs for the stairs yelling “I wanna watch Bob mooo-ie!”

8:30 to 10:30 p.m.: We put on the damn SpongeBob DVD and hope against hope that Bubba will fall asleep without a fight. Nope. Finally goes down after the usual crying and numerous escape attempts.

11:20 p.m.: Bubba has coughing fit; pukes all over himself. Change jammies, change bedding, squirt cough medicine down crying mouth; peace is restored.

11:30 p.m.: Power goes out again. J. and I, desperate to salvage some sort of enjoyment from the day, stay awake for awhile; I draw by flashlight while J. watches a DVD on the computer (yes, I know…we didn’t break it out for Bubba because we didn’t know how long the power would be out and we knew if it pooped out on us in the middle of the dee-dee-dee it would be worse than not having it at all.)

12:30 a.m.: I cuddle up with Bubba and go to sleep.

1:30 a.m.: Bubba wakes up crying for Daddy and physically pushes me from the bed. I rouse J. off the couch to come sleep with Bubba and I curl up in my own bed.

2:30 a.m.: Bubba wakes up, jumps out of bed and runs around the house sobbing, having “one of his fits” as J. calls them (I’ve since diagnosed them on Google as confusional arousal episodes. Which you can’t do anything about. Just another fun thing he will supposedly grow out of.) After about 10 minutes he is subdued and the house is quiet once again.

3:30 a.m.: According to my bedside clock, this is when power was restored. I didn’t wake up for it.

8 a.m. to 1 p.m.: The ice is gone and now we just have rain interspersed with sleet now and then. Ear and throat still killing me, and I have a headache. We lounge around and have a decent morning, even though I have to force myself to work through my pain to do dishes, multiple loads of laundry and make lunch because J. is apparently going through a lazy mode lately and is basically doing jack shit around the house. We all watch Wizard of Oz, which Bubba quite enjoys, then switch over to Gone With the Wind, which he tolerates. He is practically falling asleep at his little table so we decide it’s nap time….

1 p.m. to 2 p.m.: Bubba will not go down for his nap. He cries, he screams, he demands a “krabby patty with cheese” and insists he’s hungry (not surprising, since he ate no lunch) so we make him a peanut butter sandwich only to have him refuse it. After half an hour of this nonsense I decide enough is enough, Bubba WILL take a nap. I spend about 10 minutes in the bedroom, physically restraining him to prevent him from crawling out of the bed. He yells, screams, cries and thrashes about. Finally I lose it (I believe the words “Fuck it!” escaped from my mouth….possibly followed by a crazed “Can you say that, Bubba? Can you say fuck it?” as I stomp to the kitchen). I blame J. for Bubba’s awful sleep habits; he blames me for not stopping him from doing them. He finally gets Bubba down and I go to my happy place—i.e., sleep—for the next three hours.

5 p.m.—present: Not too horrible. We ate, watched the Oscars, I did laundry, we didn’t even attempt to put Bubba down, opting instead for letting him play until he drops and then letting him fall asleep in J.’s arms, which happened at about 10 p.m. At 11 p.m., Bubba wakes up and comes out for comfort. At 12 a.m., he demands that J. come to bed with him, and that was the end of my day with the family. Now it’s 2:30 a.m. and I’m not tired at all. And tomorrow’s Monday.

Bitching About Bubba's Sleep Issues
Bubba’s sleeping is completely out of control, and I don’t really know what to do about it. I don’t understand how to do the “crying it out” method if he just keeps getting out of bed as soon as we put him in it. I mean, there’s not even enough time to get to the door before he’s up. When we’ve become desperate enough to hold the door shut so he can’t get out, he screams and cries so violently that he starts gagging and coughing like he’s going to throw up. Eliminating his nap does nothing to prevent the bedtime struggles and nighttime awakenings. We’ve adhered pretty strictly to our “soothing bedtime routine” of jammies, quiet play, brushing teeth and stories for months until recently, when out of desperation we’ve pretty much been doing anything to prevent the nightly struggle.

Bitching About Motherhood Overall

You know what? I’m sick of being a mother to a toddler. I’m sick of catering to the needs of a tiny tyrant all goddamn day. I’m sick of preparing meals he won’t eat, I’m sick of cleaning petrified corn kernels off the floor, I’m sick of sitting down only for Bubba to ask for more juice, more milk, for me to fix his train, get him the orange car, put on the Bob movie. I’m sick of listening to another human being cry multiple times every single day. I’m sick of being sick, of him being sick, of trying to figure out whether or not he’s sick and if so, whether or not he needs medicine, or whether or not he needs a nebulizer treatment, or whether or not he needs to go to the doctor. I’m sick of reminding J. to lotion Bubba’s skin and to take the yellow blankie back to daycare and to limit Bubba’s juice so he doesn’t get the shits. I’m sick of refilling humidifiers and cleaning nebulizer parts. I’m sick of watching SpongeBob and playing with Thomas the Tank Engine. I’m sick of trying to figure out how to get him to sleep.

I feel overwhelmed by the whole thing. I feel like a child myself, wishing that someone would swoop in like a fairy godmother-nanny and say, “Depressionista, it’s going to be all right now. I’m here to take over everything. I will raise your child to be an intelligent, well-adjusted, productive member of society and all you have to do is pop in now and then—and only, of course, when Bubba’s in a good mood.”

I’m sick of feeling inadequate and not up for the challenge. I’m sick of feeling guilty about not enjoying this and bewildered at people who seem to truly get some kind of pleasure out of raising their children. I’m sick of feeling like every time I complain about Bubba I am tempting the fates to take him away from me, or that I am betraying the sisterhood of women who are infertile and/or have lost a child.

When does this get fun? Ever? Or is that just a carrot people dangle in front of us so we won't kill ourselves? Because a lot of the time, it's just pretty unbearable, and I find it difficult to believe I did this to myself.

Friday, February 23, 2007

90 percent chance that I'll need to get sloshed this weekend

How did Friday get here so fast without me posting at all? I think it had something to do with...
Monday: Bubba returns home with the sniffles.
Tuesday: Bubba has bad cough, stuffy nose, mild fever...a really nasty cold. I stay home with him all day and enjoy lots of cuddles, along with the occasional spray of spit and mucous as he sneezes on me. About three hours into the day, I hear some mild whimpering and come out of the kitchen to see Bubba sticking his tongue out at me. "Tongue hurts!" he says. "Owie....kiss!" Throwing caution to the wind in order to comfort my son, I kiss his tongue, then move swiftly out of his line of vision to rigorously wipe my mouth. Tuesday night I meet my old work spouse for cocktails. I have two of my new favorite--the chocolate martini--then bend Tingle's ear while I sober up enough to drive home. I fall into bed shortly thereafter.
Wednesday: Bubba still really sick. J. stays home with him. I start feeling not-so-great that afternoon. We take Bubba to the doctor at 6:30 p.m. and get the official diagnosis, which is: Bad Cold. At 9 p.m. I fall asleep next to Bubba. I wake up the next morning sick and still in my work clothes!
Thursday: Bubba's getting better; I'm getting worse. Wait for my mom to come out to watch Bubba on his last sick day at home, then get a ride to work from LilCherie, who is in town to get a massage. That was so nice! Later she comes and takes me to lunch, which was also lovely. All in all, other than the cold, not a bad day. I rallied yesterday evening and J. and I watched "Little Miss Sunshine" which was AWESOME. I felt bad that the title put me off of it for so long.
Today: Woke up feeling like a small rodent had crawled into my mouth and died during the night. Lots of congestion. Extreme fatigue. Managed to get myself to work and here I am...being really productive as you can see.

So that's my week. It looks like the gods of illness and weather are converging to ruin any chances of a Girls' Night this weekend, as LilCherie's little guy is now down with a fever and runny nose, etc., and we're under a winter storm watch from now until Sunday afternoon, with phrases like "ice pellets" and "90 percent chance of precipitation" and "ice accumulation of up to a quarter of an inch" in the forecast. Looks like it will be a weekend full of runny noses and temper tantrums...and that's not even counting Bubba.

I better get to the store this evening before the big storm and stock up. Hopefully there won't be too much of a run on cream, chocolate syrup, and creme de cacao.

Monday, February 19, 2007

If only I were five years younger, beautiful, single, thin...you get the idea

I was up until 4 a.m. and still managed to haul myself out of bed before 11 a.m. this morning, all by myself! And, I'm feeling pretty decent, which is also unusual and pleasant.

It's a veritable heatwave in Iowa today. My morning smoke on the porch was actually enjoyable! We're at 43 degrees already. What a relief.

Over the past two days, I've been nursing a crush on one of J.'s friends that I met for the first time on Saturday when he came over to the house for the guy's night that turned into a party. J. warned me before he came over that he was "pretty good-looking" and that he was going back to school for "literature or something like that" (turns out he's studying to be an English teacher). I joked with J. that I couldn't be responsible for my behavior in this situation and that maybe he'd better think twice about having him to the house, but J. decided to risk it anyway.

He was the first to arrive, and I immediately saw that he was not "pretty good-looking" but, in fact, downright HOT. He looks like he's about 27 or so but is actually 31 (thereby making it possible for me to fantasize about him without feeling like a pedophile). He has close-cropped reddish brown hair and a nice scruff on the face. He has a soap opera name...man, I wish I could just write it here but oh my god if he Googled himself and found this he'd probably never come back to our house, and we do not want that to happen. So let's just call him....Nate, since I've always thought that name was sexy.

Nate's one of those people, like another friend of ours, Don, who we say "has the vibe" -- the irresistible combination of boyish charm, bad boy rebelliousness, and confidence that is like a, well, for lack of a better term, chick magnet. Unlike Don, this guy didn't have an asshole component, which made him all the more attractive.

It's been awhile since another man (or any man, really...let's be honest) had the effect of actually giving me a...physical reaction...just from looking at him. Nothing outlandish, now, but certainly a "fire in the loins." Not only is he physically attractive and engaged in the study of one of my favorite things--words--he also was completely laid-back, funny, and easy to laugh at my jokes. When everyone else was giving some pretty lackluster responses to my favorite party game , which is Let's Ask Fun, Embarrassing and/or and Difficult Questions to Get to Know Each Other, he was enthusiastic and into it. "Keep asking the questions, I wanna hear what you've got," he said.

As an added bonus, he "got into a lot of trouble" when he was in high school and early adulthood--minor stuff like getting into a fight or stealing something small--and has spent a night or two in jail. Hot, I tell you!

He brought my husband three books to read. Poetry by Leslie Marmon Silko; The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri, which includes the phrase “In a fevered state, Vishnu looks back on his love affair with the seductive Padmini and wonders if he might actually be the god Vishnu, guardian of the entire universe,” on the back cover; and Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, which includes the review “the most romantic novel in years” on the back. I mean, could it get any better?

Well, it turns out that it could. He spoke freely about how he lost his virginity and how he once had sex with a “voodoo chick” in an empty church. He was funny and ribald, two of my favorite traits in a man. I was so smitten that I ended up using him as the muse for one of my erotic drawings, as well as a semi-depressing poem focusing on the fact that I'm old, fat, and ugly, and that my chances for getting this kind of action are pretty much completely gone for good. I'll include it here for your reading pleasure:

Middle Age Crush

When the first bird began chirping at 6:34,
I was sketching you in crayon and Sharpie
From memory and imagination.

You crushed me with your grin as you looked at my yearbook.
I was amazed at how swiftly you knocked me back to 15 years old and lip gloss and initials sunburned into my skin,
And how that made me feel every one of my 35 years more sharply:
Every extra pound more burdensome;
Every scar more sad and used.

In two days your energy will dissipate.
In four, I’ll laugh at my foolishness.
But this morning I picture you sleeping,
Your whiskered babyface drooling on the pillow,
And I just long to be next to you,
To bask in your adoration for just one night,
To feel the thrill of a longing fulfilled,
To be restored to what I might have been,
To be wanted for who I am.

I have been known to occasionally lust after someone on the bus or a group of college guys working on construction sites during the summer. But when the combination of attractive physicality mixes with my favorite things like humor, a sense of naughtiness, a willingness to reveal oneself and be interested in others’ revelations, and an appreciation for the written word, well, I honestly can’t fault myself for turning into a junior high school kid again.

It’s fun and only slightly painful. Do any of you have secret (or not-so-secret) crushes, or am I alone in my freakitude? Inquiring minds wanna know.

This is why moms need breaks

Depressionista's Helpful Hint of the Day: When blogging in the middle of your frigid living room, keep a hot rock nearby to warm your typing fingers. It works like a charm!

Status Report: Possible PMS as indicated by libido level (high), tolerance level (low), zit category (nasty, oil-filled hideous bumps, or "under-the-skinners" as LilCherie and I call them) and distribution (big nasty on the chin and two more along jawline). It would be a little soon, since I just had a period a month ago, but every once in awhile my body throws me for a loop and does something the way it's supposed to.

Bubba spent yesterday to today at my sister's house, and is spending tonight at my Mom and Dad's (they all live in my old hometown). I had grand plans to organize my clutter, be creative and finish the next chapter of Sex and the Silos, change all the sheets, make a little scrapbook for Bubba, maybe even have sex...and I accomplished none of it. Instead I got together with some friends, have been reveling in the quiet, puttering around, and pretty much doing whatever I want, including pulling all-nighters and sleeping all day. For some reason I love the middle of the night, so whenever I am left to my own devices, my sleep schedule flip-flops to the exact opposite of what is necessary to be a productive member of society. I've decided to not spend the time worrying about the next day and instead enjoy it until I get tired and deal with the fallout later. Luckily, except for going in for a one-hour meeting in the afternoon, I am taking tomorrow off since J. has it off for President's Day. Bubba will return somewhere around 3 p.m.

I miss the little bugger. I know, I know...I complain about him all the time here and then when he's away for a day I talk about how much I miss him. What can I say, I'm never happy! I think it's just easier to remember what you like about your child when he or she isn't screaming "THOMMMMMASSSS MOOOOOOVIEEEE" in your ear.

I know I don't mention it here nearly enough, and I don't remember it nearly enough in real life either, but we are so incredibly lucky to have our Bubba. When I have the peace to stand back and look at it, I realize how much I am learning by being his mother, and how much more I need to learn. It's odd to think of Bubba as my teacher, but he most definitely is. And the toughest one I've ever had. It's even harder than algebra II.

While he is often a holy terror at home, I take solace in the fact that he is most definitely charming, which I think will get him out of a lot if he keeps learning how to work it. Almost every report we get from daycare says "Bubba had a wonderful day!" or "Bubba was in a great mood!" Everyone who sits for him is amazed at how "easy" he is. I can already tell that the study of people is going to be a lifelong hobby for my son, who takes every opportunity to interact with others, adult or child, family and friends or strangers. When we started riding the bus when he was just about two, he became the personal greeting section of the bus, waving and saying "Hi!" cheerily to every person who came down the aisle. At the park or--much to my inner germaphobe's chagrin, at the doctor's office--he goes right up to whatever little kid happens to be there, sticks his hand out in a kind of reaching wave, and throws them the cheery "Hi." If he's rested and not sick, he will even share his toys without prompting.

Because I can never enjoy anything without worrying about it, I worry sometimes that he is too outgoing and will someday be a) abducted, b) hurt by rejection (well, who isn't, I guess) or c) is exhibiting the signs of some kind of social interaction disorder. But after I give each fear its obligatory 10 seconds of anxiety, I can step back and see how adorable this side of his personality is. I think the thing that really tugs at my heart is that you can tell that he just assumes that everyone is his friend, and god, that's sweet!

He also is such a demonstrative little guy. He will play a game with me where I give him a kiss and then I say his favorite phrase, "one more time?" and he kisses me again and I keep saying it and pretty soon we're just smooch-smooch-smooching as fast as we can. Other times he will just cuddle up with me and as we nuzzle each other he will say "Awwwww," in his cutest voice and tilt his head over to the side and smile. He'll also give me a hug just about every time I ask...but only as long as I say the magic word "please." He's a stickler.

He must have all ouchies kissed which amuses the hell out me, especially when they're on his butt. He finds certain parts of his favorite movies hilarious, and will bellylaugh at Shrek and the freaky scarecrow on Bob the Builder. The other day, J. farted in the bedroom and Bubba said, "Daddy poop!" "Did Daddy poop his pants?" I asked. "Yeah," Bubba said with feeling. "Daddy poop...potty!" Clearly, although he hasn't mastered it for himself yet, Bubba is realizing that poop goes in the bathroom.

Now if I can just teach J. :-)

Thank god I have family members who love my child so much and want to spend time with him, and family that he wants to spend time with (he was so excited to go yesterday that he barely could stop long enough to kiss me goodbye). It's been wonderful having some time alone and I'm still enjoying it, but I am looking forward to getting a hug and a kiss tomorrow from my Bubba.

Anger, Part II

First, thanks to Nicole, Aurelia and Vixanne who commented on my last post. I appreciate your support and the thoughtfulness of the comments so much. I found myself thinking quite a bit today about Vixanne's question of why I lurk around on infertility/loss blogs and boards. I don't do much on the boards anymore--I broke my addiction to SHARE a few months ago--but I still can't help but search out and read people's personal stories of their journeys through loss.

Like Vixanne said, it is like picking at scab, and at first I couldn't come up with a good reason why I do it. As I thought about it though, I remembered the words my therapist has uttered so many times--"it's coming up for a reason; to be transformed." I think because I haven't been able to come to terms with the anger, because I haven't been able to transform it into anything positive, it needs to keep coming up, and I facilitate that by seeking out things that will do it for me. The problem is that I don't yet have the tools to transform it. That's what I hope I will gain from therapy and from my own internal reflection.

Vixanne commented that "I can't really imagine that it happened to me." I really have been feeling this way a lot lately. I look at Hope's photo on the bookcase and her little urn and it seems so surreal, so unreal. My life has changed in so many ways since that day in 2003. In the course of two years, I went from infertile to pregnant to grieving to infertile to pregnant to mother of a living child. I met Tingle and we walked together through some of the worst of our grief. I watched LilCherie's son grow into a little boy and stood by as she lost her dear grandma. I got close to divorcing my husband and am working on rebuilding our relationship. All of those events were (are) impacted in one way or another by my experience of having and losing Hope, a lot of them in positive ways--but it remains stunning that it was me who laid there in the hospital that day losing my child. Sometimes I feel like I am fighting against the part of me that tries to protect my psyche from damage, the part that wants to bury the trauma and not let me access it anymore. I need to be able to access it, not only because it's my daughter and I have a duty to her--not to dwell in a mire of pain, but to remember--but also because there are riches there that are mine if I am courageous enough to keep going back to get them.

Friday, February 16, 2007


Have you realized yet that I am kind of an angry person? I mean, not all the time, but often. Anger is a big part of my personality, my reaction to things. It's one of the main things I'm working on in therapy.

But I am angry right now, this minute, about losing my daughter, and about how I lost her.

The anger surrounding my daughter's death has been the single-most intense and lasting emotion from that time. Yes, I think, even greater than the love I feel for her, although it's hard to admit that. I know that the anger is so great because the love was/is so great, but it saddens me that this is the emotion that is still hanging in there.

It pops up rather unbidden. I lurk around a lot on infertility/loss blogs and sometimes that triggers it, but usually what triggers it even more is the story of the "miracle" that I didn't get to have. The 11-ounce baby who lived, the woman who actually got some treatment when she went into premature labor and now has her child.

I work for the major university in my state and that's where I went for care. I've written a bit before about it. I work in public relations for the health colleges here. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., I'm supposed to trumpet the amazing, cutting-edge research, education and clinical care that goes on at this university, and I do it, all with a bitter taste in my mouth, because I know the reality of this place. I know my reality of this place.

I know there are people who get their miracles here. Recently, through the course of my work, I became aware of this woman. She got her miracle (so far; she's still battling the cancer, of course). As I sat in our staff meeting I wondered...how is it that this woman from North Carolina can have a tumor half the size of a golfball on her cervix, end up here, and end up with a healthy baby, when I, an employee of this place, a PR person nonetheless, went in with a much more common complication of pregnancy and left with nothing but a bereavement envelope?

The whole truth of my experience here on June 9, 2003, is that I could have stayed at home. That is honestly the true amount of help I got from them. The only thing I got from this "cutting-edge" facility that I couldn't have gotten at home was two shots of Nubain.

If I had stayed at home I wouldn't have had to hear the minutes-old healthy babies crying in the rooms around me.

If I had stayed at home I wouldn't have had a nurse hand me a bedpan when I told her I thought I might be having the baby. "It's probably just a bowel movement," she said. "The only doctor here is in a c-section. These babies are so small, sometimes they just come out so fast that nobody can be here when it happens," she said.

If I had stayed at home I would have held my daughter during her 9 minutes of life, instead of being told there was no heartbeat. Two hours after her birth, when signing the birth and death certificate information for her, we saw that the birth and death times didn't match. That's how we found out she'd lived, if only for a few moments and if only by the most technical definition--a heartbeat. Apparently, it was not important enough for them to tell us. I can only hope they didn't lie to me when they told me a nurse held her the whole time. I can only hope she didn't live her few precious moments on this earth lying alone and naked on a cold metal counter.

If I had stayed at home, maybe, just maybe, when my contractions stopped at 2 p.m. that afternoon, they would have stayed gone for a week and a half more, and my cervix may have stopped opening for a week and a half more (like it did with my son), giving my daughter a chance at life, instead of being coerced into hurring up "the inevitable" with a drip of pitocin.

If I had stayed at home, an ignorant and arrogant nurse would not have told us that our child was a boy, in spite of our doubts and our repeated questions for confirmation. We would not have named our son, we would not have cremated our son (complete with a Star Wars t-shirt that was my husband's when he was little and a letter to "my sweet boy Jack William" that I tucked alongside her little body), we would not have dozens of cards in our child's scrapbook expressing sympathy for the loss of our son.

I am angry that I didn't get to see a licensed doctor for four hours after I came the hospital bleeding. I am angry that nobody did a damn thing to even try to save my daughter. I am angry that I didn't get any drugs to stop contractions, that I didn't get even an attempt at an emergency cerclage, that I didn't even get compassion from most of the people we dealt with that day. I was just another woman losing just another fetus. Just another day at the "premier" health care institution in my state.

How do I come to terms with this? Yes, I've made progress since that day. I've gotten very good at pushing it into a part of my brain and heart that I refuse to let myself access most of the time. I won't say the anger has diminished because I don't think it has; I think I've just gotten really good at burying it and staying away from the grave because I couldn't function otherwise. Feeling that anger could be a full-time job. A lifetime isn't long enough to feel all of it.

At home, I have a little treasure chest my father made for me when I was 12 or so. A year or so ago I cleared it out and filled it with the papers, medical records, and audio tapes I made from phone calls with my OB and the head of the OB/GYN department, things I gathered when I was consulting with lawyers. Every so often I am tempted to listen to them, but I instinctively know that I cannot endure the pain of them. I know hearing the endless suffering in my voice would unearth that grave full of seething rage that I have worked so hard to keep covered.

On our answering machine, we have three messages. They all begin the same way. "Um, Depressionista? Um...." And that's all I hear because both J. and I skip past them every time we're clearing it out. But we save them, and have saved them for almost four years. They're messages from my old OB, calling to tell me the results of the genetic tests we had done on Hope. I don't think they say much, other than "The results are in, please call me," and stuff like that. But neither one of us can bring ourselves to erase them. It somehow would feel like erasing our daughter. Those messages prove that she lived, and they prove that we forced a doctor to think about that for at least a few minutes.

I hope we show up in her dreams, my daughter and I.

I hope we show up in her nightmares.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The rant of a bitter, angry, depressed mother

Well, I couldn't let the One Year Anniversary of My Blog go unrecognized, now, could I?
Yes, folks, its been a year since the scintillating tales of Depressionista and Co. began gracing the Internet. To those of you who read, thank you; to those of you who comment, thank you even more. It makes my day to see comments here!

I have lots to blog about but not enough time, so I'm limiting myself to an article I just had to laugh at. It appeared on CNN.com today. My comments will appear in italics. My comments are bitter, angry, and completely down on motherhood, so be warned. I'm just in that kind of mood today, okay? I'm feeling so rebellious, in fact, that I'm not even going to write the obligatory, "Don't get me wrong, I love my child...." disclaimer. I know, I'm NUTS!

How to Be a Happier Mom: 8 Ways to Focus on the Positive

by Robert Barnett
(Of course a man wrote this!)

Ask a mom if she's happier now that she has a child and she'll usually say yes. (Of course. If you say no, people think you're a bad mother, which is the next worst thing after Hitler and al Qaeda). In fact, around the world, children top the list of the most enjoyable things in life. (You've got to be kidding me.) But psychologists who study happiness -- a new field in the past decade -- often report a different picture. (Happiness is a new field. Interesting.)

Being the mom of a young child (especially one under 3) is rich and rewarding, but also a real strain on your mood. (I'm still waiting for the 'rich and rewarding' part). "Moment to moment, you may be exhausted, frustrated, sometimes angry," (sometimes ready to kill yourself. Sometimes crying, sometimes rocking in a corner, sometimes curled in the fetal position) says Peter Ubel, M.D., a professor of medicine and psychology at the University of Michigan. "You may be squabbling with your spouse more. (and threatening to divorce him or have an affair). You have more negative emotions." (Yeah, that all spells 'rich and rewarding to me...how about you?') The time you spend taking care of your child may not even be the high point of your day. (No shit, sherlock.)

On their list of pleasurable activities, moms rank it lower than eating, exercising, or watching TV, according to a University of Michigan study of 900 women. In fact, kid care rates only slightly higher than housework, working, or commuting! (Umm...I like housework, working and commuting more than kid care, in general. Oh my god I'm a terrible person). "This finding shocks people," says Daniel Gilbert, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Harvard University and author of "Stumbling on Happiness." (I'm not shocked.)

"They think psychologists are saying you don't love your children. Of course you love your children beyond measure! And kids do bring joy. They bring transcendent moments in which you feel so happy that it outweighs all the hard work you've done. It's just that children do not increase your average daily enjoyment." (Do you guys agree with this? I mean, yes there are transcendent moments...but does it really outweigh all the day-t0-day crap? I guess what I'm asking is, is it worth it? I haven't figured that one out yet.)

The Happiness Paradox

One reason for the discrepancy between moms and experts: selective memory. When psychologists ask moms in a general way whether they like spending time with their kids, the overwhelming majority say they do because they're thinking of fun activities such as reading a book or playing in the park (or they're thinking that if they say no, they will be judged and shunned). When they're specifically asked to describe their actual daily routine, they remember the hours they spent struggling to get their child dressed or ready for bed. (Because that's what the day usually consists of).

Maybe, though, the cold calculus of psychological science is missing the intensity of joy that time spent with your child can bring. "There are little moments that are grand-slam home runs," says Gilbert.

Luckily, those moments can overcome your daily frustrations. "Happiness is more than just that smiley feeling," says Karen Reivich, Ph.D., a research associate in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. "It's also feeling a connection to something larger than yourself. When people are in service to something bigger, they describe their lives as filled with meaning. It's not the smiley face, but when it's all over, you realize you'd do it again." (Or, in my case, it's feeling like you're really fucking up something big, so during those times when your child isn't annoying the hell out of you, you just feel worried and guilty that you're scarring him for life).

And being needed is a rewarding experience as well. "You get back tenfold everything that you put into it," says Elizabeth Howard, mom of Reilly, 2, in Anaheim, California. "I don't think people should have a child just to make them happy, but it's opened up a whole part of my heart that I didn't even know was there." (Okay, I'll concede to the opening up of the heart part. The tenfold part...not so sure about that yet either).

The first step to being a happier mom, then, is to value what you do -- to feel that it's important. The next step is to find ways to make it more enjoyable. Not only will you be doing the best thing for yourself, but you'll also become a more effective mom.

Say you're with your 2-year-old and she wants her juice in the red cup, but the red cup is missing. "If I'm in a grumpy mood, I may just say, 'Drink it in the blue cup,'" says Reivich. "But if I'm feeling more positive, maybe I'll take some red construction paper and tape it around the blue cup. I've transformed something that might get ugly into something playful and fun." (Give me a fucking break!!!! Construction paper around the cup??? Jesus Christ! Anyone whose ever taken care of a young child knows the real answer to this dilemma--you look around like a crazy person for the goddamned red cup so that you don't have to hear a) whining about wanting the red cup or b) complaints about how the kid doesn't want any construction paper on the cup. Gawwd!) The good news for all moms is this: You can learn to focus on the positive -- and learn to make it a daily habit. Here's how:

Admit when you're stressed

Ironically, once you stop expecting motherhood to feel warm and fuzzy all the time, life as a mom gets easier. "It really helps to realize that it's OK to feel frustrated, angry, tired, or irritable sometimes," says Dr. Ubel. (Please clarify 'sometimes'--greater than or less than 12 hours a day?) "You're not a bad parent. It's not even a bad parenting experience. It's just normal." (Can't normal still be bad? For instance, getting colds are normal...and they still suck.

Get enough sleep (Yeah, right. That's all I have to say about this section.)

Most of us know that money can't buy happiness, but who knew that a good night's sleep just might? That's a key finding of that University of Michigan study. "Making $60,000 more in annual income has less of an effect on your daily happiness than getting one extra hour of sleep a night," says study author Norbert Schwarz, Ph.D., a professor of psychology. So how can you sneak in that extra hour or two?

Misha Sauer, mom of 1-year-old Riley, says her husband is good about taking over on the weekends so she can sleep in or nap. "It absolutely makes a difference in the way I feel," says the Culver City, California, mom. "And I'm more willing to do something active, like take my daughter to the park. If I'm tired, the most I can do is sit there and read to her."

(Re)consider your priorities

It may sound simplistic, but one key to being in a more positive mood is to structure your day so you do more things you enjoy. "It's how you spend your time, not your money, that counts," says Dr. Ubel. "If you have any financial flexibility that lets you maximize your family time, use it now. For instance, do you really need to be the one to clean the house? How about paying someone to help out? And if that's not an option, think about how clean your house really needs to be -- do you need to make the beds, or is bed-making time better spent drawing pictures with your kids?" And if you work outside the home, consider exploring whether you can afford to go part-time rather than full-time. (So what about those of us whose priorities are paying for the house, electricity, and food? I don't have the option to go part-time, I don't have the option to get a maid or a cook. Yeah, if I did, I'd probably be a whole lot happier. Duh!)

Go with the flow

Time seems to slow down when you're doing what you enjoy, whether it's gardening or running laps. People who experience this level of engagement -- which psychologists call "flow" -- are happier than people who rarely do. And you're lucky to have a master of it right before you: your child. "To you and me, every leaf and ant is pretty much the same, but not to a two-year-old," says Reivich. "So try to actively notice things as your child does -- that ant is dragging a big piece of bread, for instance." (Fascinating!)

Bringing more of your best qualities -- your strengths -- to the often mundane tasks of child rearing can also help you feel more engaged. "One of my strengths is humor," Reivich says. "I was making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for my kids one day, and I started talking like it was a cooking show: 'Now I'm browning the bread, now I'm applying a thin layer of peanut butter.' It transformed a mundane task into something all of us could enjoy." (Okay. This is a good idea.)

One mom she knows loves architecture and got passionate about explaining the history of columns as her 4-year-old made sand castles. Her preschooler may not have gotten all the references, says Reivich, "but it was entertaining for both of them." (I can't wait until I can teach Bubba all about the finer points of "drinking coffee," writing erotica and the benefits of the Magic Bullet.)

Savor the moment

One way to nourish positive emotions is to take a moment to appreciate, well, the moment. Just map out two- or three-minute activities that you can do that day to relish that time.

In the morning, for instance, instead of trying to do ten things, take your cup of coffee to the window and sip it while your child watches a video. Notice what's going on. Will it change your life? No, but you'll probably feel calmer.

Gilbert has an even shorter version: "Take ten seconds every hour and look at what you're doing from a higher place." While you're at it, appreciate what a wonderful child you have -- those chubby cheeks, the endearing things she says -- and share that joy with someone who'll rejoice in it with you. That's another way to grab on to the good stuff and prolong your happiness.

Take the long view

Having a sense of perspective will also improve your attitude. "It gives you more patience, and it certainly awakens you to the preciousness of the moment, which is fleeting," says M.J. Ryan, author of "The Happiness Makeover" and mom of Anna, 9. She remembers the times when her daughter wanted to sit on her lap and watch SpongeBob. "Yes, I had other things to do. But I said to myself, 'How long will this last?' I'm grateful for that time with her."

If the drudgery is getting to you, think about life without children. (Yes, keep talkin'...) "You've signed on for a hard job -- it's not supposed to be fun most of the time," says Gilbert. "It's easy to get caught up in the details, but you need to step back and realize how empty your life would be without these people in it." (Okay, I'm good at that. I'm good at imagining the death of my child in order to feel grateful to have him here. Just another one of the "up-sides" to losing a child).

Reconnect with your spouse (When?)

A supportive group of friends and family is one of the cornerstones of a happy life, and for many moms, the center of that social circle is their partner. That's why it's so important to keep the lines of communication open, especially during the "diaper years" -- from infancy to around age 3 -- that experts say are the most stressful (THANK GOD...WE'RE ALMOST THERE!!!) (until your kids become teens, that is!) (Oh.) on a marriage.

"You can't say, 'I'll handle the relationship later,'" says Reivich. "A healthy and realistic goal is to ask, 'What are some small, manageable things we can be doing to keep our connection to each other strong during this rough time?'"

For instance, she and her husband try to have a glass of wine together at night once a week, after their four kids (all under age 9) are in bed. "It's not a date-- we don't need a baby sitter-- it's just 15 minutes. But it's a change to sit together and unwind, and sometimes a chance to dream." (About life without four kids under the age of 9).

When she works with couples, Reivich helps them figure out what they can do for a couple of hours together that interests both of them. With one couple, one partner was very curious, the other really appreciated beauty, so they spent an afternoon museum hopping. (Wow...I wish I could get paid $175 an hour to tell couples to go to the museum together. I wonder if they were also instructed to go to the movies and eat dinner at a restaurant! That's some pretty original stuff!)

"It can be as easy as going food shopping together," she says. Once you make little steps, it's easy to move on to bigger ones, like a night out. Even discussing how stressed you both are can help. "It's affected our relationship a lot; we've both noticed it," says Sauer. "If you can both just say, 'Raising a kid is hard,' putting it out there diminishes the strain." She and her husband are working on having more time together-- by themselves. "We just went on our first date since the baby was born," she says.

Another way to strengthen your connection is to practice what shrinks call "active constructive responding." When your spouse comes home and shares some good news, don't just say, "That's nice." Ask questions that let him tell you about his day, even for a minute or two. At least for that minute, the two of you will be celebrating what's good about your lives.

Say thanks

Feeling grateful is a mood booster. It can be as simple as saying grace every night or finding new ways to acknowledge others.

"When our extended family gets together for a birthday, we go around the room and say one thing we appreciate and the one thing we like best about that person," says Elizabeth Howard. (We do something like this at Thanksgiving, where we all go around and say what we're thankful for. My family always complains about it, so last year I just gave them cards explaining how I'm grateful for each of them. At least one person then said, "I'm grateful we don't have to go around and say what we're grateful for this year!)

Another effective way is to put what you're thankful for down on paper: Write the three best things that happened today. It might be something positive that happened to you, your kids, your spouse or friends, or in the world. It might just be something funny that your child said at breakfast. Experts say that if you do that every day for two weeks, your feelings of well-being will increase. (My therapist wants me to do this too.)

Of course, even if you do all of these things, you'll still have bad days. But at least you'll be less likely to think there's something wrong with you. And the more you engage in positive thinking, the more you'll realize how much happiness is under your control. Not all of it, but perhaps more than you were aware of.

"When I started to research happiness, I thought it was a feeling, and you had to wait to have it happen to you," says Ryan. "But feelings follow thoughts -- they don't precede them. I think of happiness as three things -- enjoyment, satisfaction, and fulfillment. Mothering can give us any one of those at any given moment -- if not necessarily all of them at the same time!"

Robert Barnett is the former health editor of Parenting.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Enriching activity goes horribly awry

First, a disclaimer: I had a really rough day today, and took appropriate pharmaceutical measures to calm myself this evening, so I'm in a rather chatty frame of blogging tonight. Try to hang in there. There's a funny story for you as a reward if you get to the end of the post.

Odd things have been happening lately. Occasionally I've found myself thinking, "I'm happy." Just fleeting moments here and there, but there nonetheless.

Other than last Saturday (which will come later in this post), I've been really handling Bubba very well. Better, even, than SuperDad, I think. I have actually been more patient with him than his father (at times). This has never really happened before. I've been coming up with "creative solutions" to Bubba issues that have actually helped (at times). For instance--and these sound like small things but to me they are some pretty major accomplishments--when Bubba wouldn't try his cream cheese and toast because he was wary of the cream cheese, I explained that it was "just like frosting." And he ate it, and liked it as I knew he would. I also managed to get half a grilled cheese sandwich down his gullet by using little cookie cutters and making his sandwich into a star and two hearts. When he had a meltdown because he couldn't take his Thomas train to daycare, I suggested he pick out a Thomas sticker and wear it to school on his shirt instead, and he was totally excited about it.

Best of all, last week I started using a motivational tool that just came to me like a bolt of lightning, although it sounds pretty obvious. Instead of trying to demand that he do things, like "Come over and get your shoes on, please" (I had to put the please in there because even when he's driving me nuts I'm usually pretty good about phrasing things politely--even if it comes out between my clenched teeth), I started saying "Can you show me what a good listener you are and come over and put your shoes on?" And his little face lit up and he did it, I praised the hell out of him, and the trick actually worked several times.

I'm actually having moments where I feel like I'm a good mother! As my therapist said last week when I told her about all this, let's take a moment to just realize what an accomplishment this is and feel good about myself.

Before you start gagging on the saccharin, here's the slimy underbelly of the week. A coworker (I've blogged about her before--formerly The Breastfeeder, now The Bragger, "Nigel's" mom) had told me there was a special storytime/movie/dogs for petting/crafts event for toddlers and preschoolers at the public library on Saturday morning. Since J. was working and Bubba and I were on our own, I thought hey, let's just do it. I'll do a fun, enriching activity with my child."

Saturday began promisingly. I had Bubba bathed by 9 a.m. and had managed to get some laundry and housework done without totally ignoring him. He was happy, and I figured the event would pump him up enough that he'd be able to push through for a half an hour past his naptime at 11:30 a.m. (at daycare he doesn't go down until noon and sometimes not until 2 p.m. or so at home, so I figured we were safe).

We got to the library on time, Bubba managed to wait in line for the room to open (I played Simon Says with him--another creative mother moment! Yeah, I was rockin' it.) We settled down, saw a couple people we knew, then the movie started and Bubba was rapt. A little more restless during the story, and then practically jumping out of his diaper to get to pet the dogs, but still well within the realm of decent behavior. Things started getting a little dicey toward the end so we skipped the craft stuff and went out to get our coats on. There we ran into Nigel and his mom, who asked if we'd like to go to the noodle place a couple blocks down for lunch. Great, I thought--Bubba and I will get some mac and cheese and he'll be all set for naptime.

As I stuffed my resistant toddler into his parka, Nigel stood in perfect obedience after his mother asked (one time, mind you), in her 'I'm teaching my child how to enunciate clearly' voice, "Can you stand like a statue and not move a muscle?" While she walked and alternatively carried her tiny toddler to the noodle place, I chased my hefty little guy until he refused to walk at all and then hauled his 35-pound body through subzero temperature, feeling every step in my lower back.

At the noodle place, Nigel sat down in front of his disposable placement and the supplementary cup of milk and peach his mother had brought, while my guy begged for a piece of Nigel's cookie and then ate it from the table sans protection (not a problem for me, but probably disgusting to Nigel's mummy). Then he decided he was done. He jumped off the chair and ran down the full length of the long hallway down to the bathroom area. I caught up with him and, still in the "I can handle this/patient-mother mode," I calmly brought him back to the table and resumed trying to bribe him into eating a single noodle, only to be met with "More cookie mease, more cookie mease, COOKIE MEASE!!! MEEEEEASE!!!!" until I just gave in and gave him the damn cookie, which he snarfed down at record pace.

Then, he jumped up again and took off down the hallway. At this point I told him he'd have to sit in a high chair if he couldn't sit at the table and he agreed, so I hauled him in one arm and the clunky wooden high chair in the other down the hallway to our table, removed his chair and finally got him settled in it.

I ate two bites of my macaroni before he began climbing out of the chair, getting his leg stuck with his knee up by his face, twisting and turning and whining. Meanwhile, Nigel is quietly enjoying his tortellini soup and watching my child as if he's a baboon at the zoo. Which he kinda was, really.

Finally it's time to go so I put Bubba down, put his coat on, then turn to grab mine and he takes off running. In spite of my attempts to navigate the crowded restaurant--not especially easy when you weigh 240 pounds--he is gone. This has never happened before. The panic stopped my heart just one second before Nigel's mom yelled to me that Bubba was over at our table again. He'd circled the room, dodging out of site behind a partial wall for part of the journey.

As soon as we left the restaurant, Bubba put his arms up and did the "uh, uh" that of course means "carry me." I tried to explain that I couldn't carry him, that he was too heavy, but of course ended up hefting him anyway. Then he started whining about something, I don't remember what it was exactly, but he kept it up until halfway back to the car when I put him down, physically unable to carry him one step further. I tried to explained that I was too tired, that he had to walk like a big boy. He crumpled to the ground and started wailing. I set him back up on his feet, at which point he dashed away from me and ran down an alley.

Here's where I really lost it. I did the arm-jerk. The horrifying arm-jerk that we've all seen in WalMart and that we've all sworn we'd never do. I jerked the arm, knelt down in front of him and in my sternest, most serious, mother-slightly-on-the-edge-and-one-step-from-insanity voice said "YOU DO NOT RUN AWAY FROM ME!" I grabbed his hand and basically dragged him back down the sidewalk. All the while, he is screaming "NO NO NO NO NO!" I finally picked him up but the screaming continued. I can't believe nobody stopped me to ask if I was kidnapping him; in fact, it's a little disturbing that nobody did.

Then I couldn't find the car, so we carried on this way through two different floors of the parking ramp. The entire morning got put into perspective when, after starting the ignition, I looked into the backseat and he was asleep already. Poor little guy, right?

I'd gotten him into his bed and almost out of his coat before he woke up, and then nothing but "Thomas train movie" would pacify him. In a cruel twist of fate, J. was half an hour late coming home from work. He bounced in the door, cheerily asking "How was the library?"

"It was a horrible nightmare!" I responded.
"Because our kid is an uncontrollable brat!" I said.
"What happened?"
"I don't even want to talk about it. I'm going to take a nap, take a shower, and leave." [I was going to LilCherie's for Girl's Night that evening.]

And that's exactly what I did. Thank god my hubby is willing and able to pick up the duty at times like this because I was fucking burned out.

My other bad motherhood moment for the week? It's short and sweet, unlike the story above. I was heading out to the porch to have a smoke and I had my cigarette and lighter in hand. J. was on Bubba duty but apparently was going to the bathroom or had gone into the other room for something. Bubba comes running up to me and wants to go out on the porch too. I tell him it's too cold, and then he grabs my cigarette out of my hand, runs away, and says "MINE!" Yep, that just warms the heart, doesn't it? Really makes you feel like you're setting a good example.

Obviously, it would be nice if I'd quit, but since that probably won't happen, I refuse to hide it. My mother hid it from us kids but we all knew from the billows of smoke that poured out of the bathroom and the occasional butt floating in the toilet. When I was younger I always felt uncomfortable about it because it was just something none of us ever talked about; we all just instinctively knew it was supposed to be a secret, and of course that's weird. As I got older, my friends would ask me why it smelled like smoke in our house and I always felt I had to cover for her and just pretend like I had no idea, and the whole thing was completely embarrassing. As a teenager I moved into occasionally sneaking one from the towel drawer. So my smoking habit, as disgusting and bad-exampley as it is, will not be a secret from Bubba for those reasons. I can only hope that he'll grow up to be one of those militant "my parents smoked so I hate it with a passion" kind of people (like Tingle).

To leave you on a high note, however, there was one shining moment of hilarity in the whole library debacle. In between movie and storytime, Bubba and I were sitting face-to-face on the carpet when all of a sudden he said "Arrrrr! Pirate!" and crooked his finger at me. He was a pirate for Halloween and you know how sometimes they just regurgitate this stuff with no obvious prompt, so I just did the "Uh huh," and kept looking around for people I knew to see what their kids looked like. With more urgency this time, Bubba said "Ma! Pirate! Arrrr!" and pointed to the area behind me. I looked behind me and saw a little girl, no more than a year older than Bubba, who had a cheery little blue and yellow, cartoon-laden eye patch on. I was simultaneously mortified and filled with the strong desire to laugh out loud. I contained myself, however, and explained, hopefully loudly enough for her mother to hear, "Oh no, Bubba, she's not a pirate. She has an owie on her eye and has to wear a Band-aid." It was pretty freakin' funny. I've gotten a lot of mileage out of the story already. I can already tell it will be one that goes into the Bubba hall of fame. We'll be telling this one to his girlfriend at Thanksgiving in 20 years.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Itchy Sour Milk Smelling Breasts

Hey, everyone, thanks for the info on efforts to thwart the raunchy Googlers. That makes total sense. I'll see what happens here and if there are untoward effects I might go that direction.

On a similar note, I've had some pretty funny keyword searches over the past week so I thought I'd list them here for your amusement. People got to my blog by searching the following phrases (if one of these is yours, welcome to the blog, and I'm sorry I'm making fun of you, but since nobody will ever know it was you, please don't be mad! I'm glad you're here no matter how you arrive, and would love it if you'd say hi in the comments!)
*i feel needy and jealous is this part of depression
*got her period, cramps, panties, heating pad
*don't you just hate when scott cohen
*itchy sour milk smelling breasts
*oprah's legends ball red dress
*horny neice
*did you ever wonder night
*sisters teaching how to masturbate
*son likes to wear his sister's dresses?
*bandaids for thumb
*funny big purse
*oprah's earrings
*i hate sex and the city
*touching herself

Pretty funny, huh? I think my personal favorite is "itchy sour milk smelling breasts." I've been there, honey. Most disturbing would have to be "sisters teaching how to masturbate." Unless we're talking nuns, and then it's kinda kinky.

Tonight I discovered something called "the chocolate martini" --vodka, Baileys and Godiva Chocolate Licquer. It was so good I went straight to the store after leaving the restaurant and got my own...only I found Godiva White Chocolate Licquer so I got that instead. I'm enjoying my homemade creation right now...let me say, it's excellent. You can't go wrong with this combination.

A few updates are probably in order. Let me summarize thusly:
*Bubba's lump--swollen lymph node, no big deal. Thankfully.
*My mammogram--not painful at all and normal results. Thankfully.
*I haven't blogged much this week because I've been crazy-busy at work, which, due to its rarity, completely drained me. I've also been having a lot of headaches this week...either stress, sinuses, or the cold, dry air are having their way with me. gggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg

That string of "g"s (hey, that would make a great band name, a play on G-string, you know...) is what just happened as I dozed off at my computer. The chocolate martinis are taking their toll on me, which really sucks because it's only 11:30 on a Friday night! I should have at least two more good hours in me, but I don't think I can rally from this one. Nigh-night.

Sex and the Silos: Chapter 4

(Editor's Note: I've always wondered why some bloggers deliberately misspell words, etc. (like bre@sts) to deter raunchy Googlers from finding them...I'm not sure what happens when raunchy Googlers find you and why it's bad. So I guess I'll find out now. I'll let you know.)

Chapter 4: Justina Gets Laid

As it turned out, Justina didn't have to wait much longer to be rescued from her tower of celibacy. Two weeks later, to her surprise and delight, she found herself literally rolling in the hay with her brave knight. He'd shown up at her doorstep that afternoon wearing a leather apron instead of shining armor, carrying a hoofpick rather than a sword, and driving a horse and buggy instead of a riding a white steed.

"Justina, you are so pretty," he said as they tore each other's clothes off in the barn. "You feel so goot," he said in his German-tinged voice, burying his face in her generous bosom.

"Oh yes, Amos, suck them, suck my tits," she groaned. They fell to the hay beneath them and kicked off the pants that had gathered around their boots. Amos' beard scratched her ribcage and the hay pricked her bottom, but the impressive bulge in Amos' homemade underwear kept her distracted. Contrary to popular belief, not every woman is all that keen on a huge cock, but Justina was the exception. Maybe it was being around horses all the time.

"Vill you suck it?" he said as he finally unleashed the beast. Justina gasped. Laying Down the Law had nothing on Amos.

"Oh yes!" she said enthusiastically, lunging for it. Unlike the rest of Amos, it smelled of soap rather than horses, sweat and sauerkraut. She went up and down on his spicy summer sausage like a starving refugee. 'I could founder myself on this cock,' she thought, but before long, the burning in her loins could no longer go unattended.

"I'm going to ride you like Man of War," she told him as she pushed him back into the hay. He chuckled with anticipation as she climbed on top of him and lowered herself onto his raging kielbasa. Her breasts bounced up and down in a gelatinous fury as she pounded against him again and again.

'Ohhh," he moaned in ecstacy. "Ohh, Justina, vat a marvelous voman! Oh, don't stop, don't stop!"

"Oh don't worry, I'm going to ride you to the finish line!"

Just as she started to feel the first shudders come from his body he laid a thick finger down above his cock and started tickling her every time she met it. "Oh, oh, oh, oh," she said.

"Oh, I'm kommen, I'm kommen," he announced, and that did it for Justina as well.

"Oh my god, Amos, where did you learn to do that?" she panted afterwards, not caring about the straw sticking to her sweaty back or the fact that Ace in the Hole was taking a steamy piss in the stall next door.

"My vater alvays told us boys that du can't get the eggs vitout tickling the chicken," he said.

"Well, thank your father for me, Amos," Justina said, still trying to catch her breath. Basking in Amos' afterglow, she realized for the first time the sexual goldmine that was sitting just down the road in Homesteadville. For some reason she had never directed her vibe to the male members of the little town 15 miles away.

"You know, you're the first Amish guy I've ever made love with."

"Doesn't surprise me," he said. "Most English think ve are either married or that God doesn't let us have sex."

"And that's not true?"

"Ha!" he laughed. "Vell, it's true that ve are almost all married, but ve aren't so strict about that. It's good for everyone to air the feathers vonce in avhile. But how can anyone think God doesn't let us have sex? Look how many kids we've got!"

Justina decided not to ask Amos how many kids he had. "I think you're delicious," she said, kissing his hairy face. "Can you come back and see me again?"

"How vould I stay away, knowing you are here?" He pulled her face toward his and kissed her forehead. "I vill be shoeing the Yoders' mares on Thursday afternoon. I'll swing by on my vay home. Maybe you could make me a pot roast?"

Monday, February 05, 2007

Dear Abby: You Suck

Today I checked in on Aurelia's blog and found mention of an infuriating Dear Abby question and response today. I clicked over and ended up sending my own letter to Abby. I know Abby is a moron, but unfortunately a lot of other morons listen to her advice, so I felt compelled. I'm including it all here.

The offending letter and response:


DEAR ABBY: I am writing on behalf of my friends at work. We have a co-worker, "Madge," who had a stillborn baby last year. It was tragic. Our problem is, she keeps a photo of the deceased infant with its little eyes sewn shut on her desk in plain view, so that if we must interact with her (we have an open cubicle layout) we have to see it.

Is this appropriate? Ninety percent of the employees here are women. Most are appalled. Others say, "Well, it's all she has."

Madge is expecting again, and we are rooting for her and the baby. However, in addition to all this, she is mean and gossipy. Madge tells everyone what to do and how to do it -- which is not in her job description. I hope that when the baby arrives she will soften and not be so bitter. But, Abby, how on earth do we blow off that photo? -- APPALLED IN THE MIDWEST

DEAR APPALLED: While a person's desktop is usually private territory, I agree that the photograph you describe is inappropriate in an office environment. Because Madge feels the need to keep the picture of her stillborn baby close, it should be kept in her purse with other family photos, or in her desk drawer.

How very sad that poor woman must be. The person who should deal with this delicate problem is the boss or the supervisor.

And my response:
Dear Abby:
I was saddened by your response to "Appalled in the Midwest," whose coworker keeps a photo of her stillborn child on her desk. You advised that the photo is "inappropriate in an office environment" and that the coworker should keep the photo hidden.

I had a daughter who was born at 21 weeks gestation and lived for only nine minutes. I keep her photo on my desk at work alongside the photo of my subsequent, and thankfully healthy, son.

To "Appalled in the Midwest" and the other 90 percent of her coworkers who are "appalled," I say suck it up. Any awkwardness or distress they feel when looking at this photo pales in comparison to the devastating pain this woman has experienced and is still experiencing.

Perhaps rather than being concerned about how to "blow off that photo," Madge's coworker should direct her energies to understanding what it must take for Madge to just get up in the morning, let alone come to work with such insensitive coworkers.

One of the most distressing things about losing a child in pregnancy or infancy is the thought that people will forget that this child existed. Keeping photos or other reminders hidden adds to this distress and implies that there is something shameful about our dead children.

My daughter is not grotesque and is not shameful. If people aren't able to see the beauty of such innocent little lives when they look at our photos of them, then they are the ones who should be ashamed.

Furthermore, whether or not this woman is mean, gossipy or bitter is irrelevant. I sincerely hope the woman's current pregnancy is a success, but regardless of the outcome, some understanding, sensitivity and compassion from her coworkers would go a long way toward making Madge more agreeable at the office.

There are organizations that help educate the general public about the emotional effects of pregnancy and infant loss; one of the best is SHARE Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support, Inc. You can access information at their website, www.nationalshareoffice.com/ I suggest that "Appalled in the Midwest"— and you, Abby — start learning about how to really help those who have suffered the tragic loss of a child in pregnancy or shortly after.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sex and the Silos: Chapter 3

Chapter 3: Ohidoa City Truly is a Great Place to Live

When Ann told me about her day I completely understood where Joseph was coming from.

"I know, I know," Ann said. "Trust me, I know how important Xanax is!"

Like myself, Ruth and Justina, Ann also was on mood regulating medication. Ann was old school and was still on Prozac. Justina was using a cocktail of Celexa and Ativan, while Ruth was holding steady on Effexor. I'm currently on Lexapro maintenance, with clonazepam when necessary.
I've been a card-carrying member of the crazy club for about five years. Before that, it took me five years to figure out I actually had an illness and that it wasn't just how life is, another three to realize it was bad enough to need help, and the final year working up to making the appointment. It was important to me that my therapist know that I wasn't really sure I even needed the medication and that I wasn't one of "those people," you know, the real wackos. A couple years later, at my psychiatrist's now because my medication needs had become more complex, my doctor gently ended that fantasy. "This is probably something you will need to manage for the rest of the your life," he said sympathetically, so sympathetically I could almost picture myself at his vacation home in Hawaii.

Being on "happy pills" as they still call them around here, puts you in the company of at least 75 percent of the rest of the adult population of Ohidoa City, but only 10 percent will actually talk openly about it. Shame is one of our birthrights.

Later that night, as I thought about Ann and Joseph and the great Xanax incident of 2006, I wondered why we all seemed to need medication to simulate contentment and happiness. Were our lives really that bad? What would life be like if we couldn't chemically alter our brains to make it more tolerable?

I decided to start with an expert. My mother, like many native Ohidoan mothers, was a martyr who never passed up an opportunity to let us know exactly how we were failing at making her happy. She raised three kids while my father spent most of his time at work and the rest of it trying to stay out of her way. As far as I know, the only time she ever really took for herself were the three or four times a day when she would retreat into the bathroom to sneak a cigarette. She would emerge from the bathroom in a great cloud of Chantilly powder in an effort to disguise the evidence.

"I know I was depressed, but I didn't have a choice," my mother tells me as we sit down to chat over a cup of instant Folgers. Her use of the past tense amuses me. "What could I do? I had three kids to raise and there wasn't anyone there to take over."

"Did you ever think about seeing someone?"

"Hmmph," she snorts. "I didn't want to tell a stranger my personal business. What could they do? They couldn't make me happy. Besides, I always had your father to talk to."

"They can help give you some perspective and some tools to help you deal with your problems," I say. "It's never too late to go, you know. I think you could still get some benefit out of it."

"Oh, I'm okay now," she says quickly. "I've dealt with my problems. I've decided that I'm just not going to let things bother me so much anymore." Sure, she started crying three months ago when the Christmas turkey didn't cook, and rated it a "10" on the crisis scale, but really, she's fine.

So maybe the problem isn't that our lives are that much worse; maybe we just aren't as good at denial. Would we all be happier if we just pretended our problems didn't exist?

"I don't think so," Justina said as we walked out to feed her horses. "I mean, how can you really be happy if you don't deal with any of your problems?"

Justina's problem, for the moment, was an inability to get laid. She'd been going without for more than eight months, and it didn't help that the animals were definitely feeling spring coming on.

"But are we really dealing with it if we're taking medication to make it all better?"

"The medication helps us deal with it." She hefted a bucket of oats into the trough. "If I wasn't on meds, I would just be sitting around thinking about how unattractive I must be since I can't find anyone to go to bed with. But instead, I'm out here taking care of my horses, running my business...." She paused for a minute. "And thinking about how unattractive I must be since I can't find anyone to go to bed with me."

"C'mon, Justina. You aren't unattractive, there just isn't that much of a choice in Ohidoa. That's not your fault. If we lived in New York City you'd be getting laid all the time."

"Well, we don't, and I'm not," she said. "It really sucks. I am so horny Lynn! I'm jealous of my horses for God's sake! I mean, have you seen the schlong on Laying Down the Law? He's flaunting it at me, I can tell."

"There, there," I tell her as we walk back to the house. "It'll happen. Just try to be patient and put the vibe out there when you can."

"Yeah, right," she says, pouring two glasses of wine. "You know, my mom and dad used to have a cocktail before supper, wine with supper, and a nightcap after supper. They may not have had Prozac, but they were just as medicated as we are, if not more. Denial my ass--they just went through life shitfaced."

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Girls' Nights, lumps, and magical cupcakes

Time for an update. We got back from our trip to Cleveland without incident. It was a wonderful trip and I want to thank Tingle and her hubby again for hosting us. The week after visiting Tingle is always tough because the missing her is so fresh. I'm hoping we will be able to see each other much sooner than the six-month stretch we just finished.

The trip was noteworthy for the fact that J. and I did not argue at all. I'm not sure this has ever happened in the history of our relationship. I am really proud of both of us and especially amazed by the fact that it didn't even seem to be that difficult. It wasn't like I was actively forcing myself to be patient...it just seemed to happen. It's almost like J. and I are really making real, positive changes in our relationship!

On the downside, we did have an argument today, the first real argument we've had in quite ahile. It was about Girls' Nights, and it's still kind of going on--he's at a SuperBowl party now (ironic, isn't it?) but I know we will have to talk about it when he gets home. He tends to begrudge/guilt-trip me about Girls' Nights, sometimes I think it's just because he knows how important they are to me and that sometimes they're pretty much all I look forward to in my life. We'll see how it goes. I wrote out a point-by-point discussion guide to help us when he gets home.

In other news, tonight when I was reading Bubba a story I was stroking his head and felt a hard, pea-sized lump behind his right ear. He said "Ouch!" when I touched it. Of course my first thought was cancer and then I figured it was the universe punishing me because the other day there was this Kids With Cancer Radiothon thing on and I turned the channel because it made me so sad and then I thought "What if it was my kid with cancer and somebody just changed the channel because it was too much of a bummer for them" and I felt guilty.

Then I googled "toddler lump behind ear" and now I'm fairly certain it's probably a swollen lymph node but I'm still going to take him to the doctor anyway, especially since he just had tubes put in a couple weeks ago. I've already decided that should anything happen to Bubba (the phrase "should anything happen to Bubba" is my gentler version of "if he dies") I'm just killing myself, which is actually very comforting to me. It is, however, a real reason (of many) why I will not have another child. If I had more than one living child, and one of them died, I wouldn't be able to kill myself because of the other one. Anyway...nothing like the searing reminder that death can steal away your child at any moment to brighten up an evening. Jeez.

While we're on fun subjects, tomorrow I have to go have my first mammogram. My mother had breast cancer 15 years ago, had a radical mastectomy and thankfully has been okay since; because of my history I have to have the baseline on the younger side of the 35 to 40 realm. I'm not real anxious about it, but when I make that realization, I then become anxious about my lack of anxiety. Like the hammer always falls when you least expect it to, so I would be wise to expect something bad to show up because then I'm not tempting fate. Fate (or whatever) and I do not have a friendly relationship, so I'm always waiting for it to bite me in the butt (again).

Speaking of biting, our high temperature today was 0 degrees. Yes, zero degrees. The HIGH. Right now it is 10 degrees below zero, and the projected low tonight is 15 below. That's not wind chills, that's not "feels like" -- that's actual temperature, folks. My hubby always says that one of the things he likes about living in Iowa is that the temperature extremes, both in the summer and the winter, have the ability to kill you. I don't know why he likes that--maybe it makes him feel tough or something.

Speaking of hubby, he just came home and we discussed the 9-point Girls' Night list. He admitted that some of it was just the way I had cavalierly assumed that we would be doing G.N. next Saturday, and some of his issue is that I am pretty non-functional the next day because I've stayed up too late and then have to sleep all day. Unfortunately I can't argue with that point. The discussion was pretty calm, and he's going to explore the issue more with his therapist to see if there's something deeper. I'm cool with that. So anyway, maybe I'd better start taking a clonazepam at the end of Girls' Nights so I can get some sleep. Could you make a note of that, LilCherie? :-)

Speaking of LilCherie, just in case I forget to tell you, Tingle told me she LOVED your "Physical Manifestation" card, said she "would totally buy those to have on hand" and said you should print them and sell them. I wholeheartedly agree!

While I'm giving shout-outs to my peeps (hee hee) I just wanna say hi to Pioneer Girl. We just can't seem to get it together on the phone, but please know that I will make a point of trying to call you or answer my phone when you call this week, and that I hope you're doing okay!

Speaking of Pioneer Girl, I'd like to tell you about the "Pioneer Girl moment" I had today with my cupcakes. Bubba and I made cupcakes today as an "enriching activity" that helped assuage my guilt for letting him watch hours and hours of Thomas and Shrek. I was without the car so I had to make do with what I had on hand. I had everything I needed except enough powdered sugar for the icing. So...I got out the coffee grinder and ground up my granulated sugar and voila! I made my own freakin' powdered sugar. They are delicious! I tried a different icing recipe from my 1960s era Better Homes and Gardens cookbook that used brown sugar along with the regular icing ingredients, and it definitely lends a different flavor to the cakes. Unfortunately the color was a kind of pukey golden color, so I dumped in some blue food coloring which turned green when mixed in, and then sprinkled green and yellow crystal sugar on top. They look like magical leprechaun cupcakes. I'm pretty proud, can you tell? Bubba wanted one so bad that he actually acquiesced to my demand that he eat one, count it, ONE, noodle with tomato sauce.

That's about all I can muster up tonight...but I promise I'll come back if I have an inspirational moment. I've been bad about blogging lately, and bad about commenting on other people's blogs, but I'm going to try to remedy that this week. I think it must be the cold. I'm shutting down into survival mode which means I have to conserve the small bits of energy that would otherwise be expended on blogging so that I can maintain enough body heat to smoke three-quarters of a cigarette every 90 minutes in the frigid garage.

I am pathetic.

P.S. Sorry about all the parentheses in this post (it's just a parentheses kind of day).