June 30, 2007

A cure for what ails you

A thin, staticky wail breaks through the dark stupor in my head.

Cracking one eyelid open with difficulty, I turn my head towards the sound from the baby monitor. Oooooh, a mistake. As my head shifted, so did the world.

The room is spinning. I close my eye. The room spins faster. Ugh.

The baby's cry goes up a notch, making the transition from tired and confused to hungry and awake.

With a crusty groan, I roll over and pry both eyes open this time. The clock says 6:15 A.M. My (equally crusty and spinning) husband next to me struggles out of bed to go get the baby. He brings her to me, I roll her close and as she latches on, fall asleep again.

Now it's 8 o'clock. I've gone from spinning and incoherent to painfully amused and slightly nauseated.

The night started with a bang, literally. "Saki, Saki, Saki, BOMB!" We slammed the table with our fists and tossed back the deceptively mild drinks.

The drinking and the laughter increased steadily through the night. Under these cicumstances, normally, I'd wake up with post-party-mortification, certain I had embarrassed myself beyond redemption.

But not today. Today, I'm hung-over and I'm tired. But strangely enough, I'm also relaxed and ever so slightly rejuvenated. Because it wasn't a night of pressure to impress or a contest of coolness. We went out with our friends (Hi!!) who have two kids about the same age as ours. And we drank with them and laughed with them and threw off the load of our normal lives for a few hours.

Charlotte and I regularly checked our phones for missed calls from the babysitter, groaned about losing the post-baby weight and laughed at our husbands. Tryg and Kurt snuck off, without actually sneaking, to smoke and roll their eyes at the eccentricities of women.

I don't even remember what we all really talked about, specifically. Fart jokes, karaoke, marital quirks, White Snake, the unholy joys of a toddler out of their bed in the middle of the night. What stands out the most is just that for a few hours last night I didn't feel like a worn down mommy with tragic hair, a jelly roll around my waist, a toddler crying at my ankles and a baby on my hip. I felt funny and feminine, a piece of a greater whole, included and wanted and happy.

We were home by midnight, happy and horny and re-connected as a couple. Waking up at 6 with a throbbing head, the last death throes of my mascara congealing under my eyes and a mouth that tasted like... well, like last night's beer, was totally worth it. Because aside from the ravages of liquor and a late night, I feel great and there's a smile on my face, even as I'm wincing in the horrifically bright morning light.

Thanks, y'all. I'm sure my baby thanks you, too. She's been strangely sleepy all morning... a little bit of leftover Saki Bomb in her breakfast, I'm thinkin'.

June 25, 2007

Self-Help

If you dig through my desk and shelves, (which I actually hope you never do), you'd find several small notepads, spiral notebooks, a few daily/weekly/monthly planners and a couple "get organized" self-help books. All of them will have some writing on them. Lists, appointments, meal plans, phone numbers. And the planners, oh the planners. The planners will be used, conscientiously, for about 2 weeks, and then there will be several blank weeks, and then one full week, and so on.

It's because I'm an optimist. I really believed when I bought those papers and lists and books that they would turn me into something I'm not. They would complete me, use the raw material of my scattered mind and make me... organized.

When I first start a new fix-me program, I'm all a-twitter. Gung-ho and over-bearing, I usually tell everyone who'll stand still for two seconds about how this new book/planner/lifestyle has CHANGED me and how it's PERFECT and also totally AMAZING. I stand taller, walk faster, feel strong and motivated and purposeful... for about 2 weeks. Sometimes three.

And then I fall off the wagon, the wagon has left, there is no wagon anywhere. Just me, in the dirt, surrounded by the dust-cloud of everything I stirred up and didn't finish.

After all these years of giving in to impulse fix-your-messy-self purchases, you'd think I'd learn. You'd think I'd catch on that this just isn't going to do it for me. I'm just an inherently non-linear, chaotic person. But I don't, I never learn. Today I came across a website for a special daily planner just for moms, and I started to drool. Just a little, but still.

My mind started to whirl with all the possibilities. With THIS planner, I'd finally get it together! My kitchen would be perpetually clean, the pantry well-stocked. I'd have our meals planned out every week, I'd have all of our social events neatly scheduled so that nothing took us by surprise. My daughters would always have clean laundry, the beds would be made. I'd lose ten pounds because I'd FINALLY get into a workout routine that I could stick with into perpetuity. Life would be neat and tidy and altogether perfect. Organized.

I clicked on the "Buy Now" button... and then stopped. Opened the desk drawer, looked at the mortal remain of some of my other failed attempts to achieve Type-A-Control-and-Contain status.

And then I closed my laptop and walked away.

Because the thing is, I kind of like my wacky come-what-may-who-knows-what-we'll-eat-tonight lifestyle. It's stressful, it bogs me down sometimes, but it's also kind of fun. It's what makes me, me. My entire identity is all tied up, literally sometimes, in my procrastination, piles of whatnot that I can't live without and panicked 5:35 P.M. freezer scrounge to find something edible for dinner.

I'm just starting to learn that there's no real point in trying to be anything that I'm not, that instead I just need to embrace and improve on the things that I already am. I'm not someone who's ever going to be neat and tidy, but I can learn to be less messy overall. I'm never going to have the willpower to sweat and strain and diet and starve myself down to a super-model size 2, but hey, curves are hot, too.

I try to eat right and keep moving, I try to stay on top of the daily minutiae, to keep in touch and return calls and remember birthdays. I try not to forgot doctor's appointments, to make sure there's at least the makings for grilled cheese sandwiches in the house, if nothing else. I try to get the laundry done. Hell, I even try to workout 3 or 4 times a week. Sometimes I get there. Sometimes I don't. Self-help can only take you so far... then you just have forget the help part and just stick with the "self" that you've got.

And yet... I just remembered this one organizer I have, I only used it for a few weeks. It's practically new and it has a pull-out list for meal-planning and grocery shopping. Maybe I should dust it off, I bet this time I could really stick to it.

The eternal optimist... or the eternal fool?

June 24, 2007

Detachment Parenting

Check this out. I'll wait a sec while you read the link.

Okay. How do you feel? If you threw up a little bit in your mouth, then we had pretty much the same response.

What is going ON? I'm all for technological advancement, believe me. I am at this very moment basking in a wave of cool air coming from my brand new air conditioning unit. Life has been vastly improved in many ways by modern conveniences.

But human beings are good at nothing if not taking a good thing too far. Cell phones were a great invention, but now you see people walking down the street, in groups, each one talking to someone who's not there rather than the people they are with. I love my mp3 player, but come on, do you really need to be listening to it in a restaurant instead of interacting with the people at your table?

It's this whole idea of distance that bothers me. E-mail is a perfect example. I love my e-mail. I can quickly and cheaply stay in touch with friends far away. I'm also much more coherent in writing rather than in person. If I've ever left a voicemail on your phone, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

But e-mail lends itself to a sense of false bravery and many people end up writing things that they'd never say to someone in person, good or bad. You can build up a sense of intimacy with someone you've never met, or you can say horrible things to an old friend that should have been kept to yourself.

And then, what happens when you have to see each other face to face? Ack! Eeek! Run, run, hide! Some people end up choosing, consciously or not, to simply hide behind the technology and never have to deal with yucky, messy reality in person. The detached friendships of the computer become more real than the people right in front of you.

It's this exact detachment that's seeping into all the high-tech parenting "tools" that are now available. Most of it, (chairs, swings, toys, car seats), is harmless and incredibly helpful in raising a child. It's what you do with it that makes the difference. A tool that was developed to help preemies in the NICU, babies who couldn't be held and touched, is a just not meant for the general public.

Seriously, y'all. We've got to start drawing the line. Detachable fake arms to comfort your baby and assist "in his need of feeling protected"? Ummm... I don't think I'm going out on a limb here to say that if your baby needs to feel protected, maybe, just maybe, you should, oh, I don't know, PROTECT HIM. Be there, touch, reassure, hold, rock, cradle, soothe. That's what parents are for. Can't be bothered?

Don't have kids.

June 20, 2007

Uranus

When I was about 12 I survived (the first) Absolute Worst Day of My Life. It was humiliating and excruciating. For weeks I just wished that the earth would open up and swallow me whole, showing a dusty mercy for my pathetic existence.

It all started with a book report. It was the end of the Spring semester, just before summer break, and we were wrapping up our Reading class with book reports on everyone's all-time favorite book.

I'm a reader, from a family of readers, so asking me to pick my favorite book was sort of like asking Imelda Marcos which shoes she liked best. Where would she begin? First there's the seasonal shoes, and within each season you've got different styles to choose from: formal, casual, open-toe, sling-back... qualifying a "favorite" is a very subjective thing.

It's the same with books. I liked all kinds of different genres: I read children's books, classics, sci fi, fantasy, mysteries. And then there was the ever-present pressure to appear "cool", and also, "with it". No way was I going to admit, in front of 30 other 12 year-olds, how much I loved and idolized the Chronicles of Narnia. I mean, come on! Talking animals? I'd be immediately dismissed as a baby and probably followed around with people making "googoo" sounds at me.

Although, when I think back to what actually happened, that doesn't seem so bad in comparison. But moving on...

I chose, after lengthy review, Jane Eyre. At the time, I was seriously into Bronte and all her dismal yet spare darkness. I figured that choosing a classic novel proved how mature I was and then having it also be a love-story, of sorts, showed how romantic and feminine I was.

Plus, I figured it made me look smart and stuff.

So, there I was, at the front of the class, presenting my report. I stood in front of 30 or so other students, three of whom I had serious crushes on. (Of course. It was, after all, 7th grade). It was summer and hot, so our teacher had lowered the blinds and turned off the lights to keep things cooler. The room was dimly lit through the row of windows in the back.

I wore a new pair of acid washed shorts, rolled up at the hem to mid-thigh. The waistband came up to just below my rib cage, that was the style, and I had on one of those change-color-with-heat t-shirts that were all the rage, tucked in and fluffed out at the waist. My hair was in a pony tail and my bangs were poofed to the max.

I was standing behind a wooden podium, giving my summary of the book and saying how much I liked it and why I thought it was so great and all, and then, out of no where, with no warning at all...

I farted. Loudly. In front of the whole class, three of whom I had serious crushes on.

OhnoohnoohnohnoOHNO.

There was a moment of silence. Then, a giggle and a snicker. Then all of sudden everyone was laughing. Loudly. At me.

The rest of that day is a blur, mostly because I just wanted to die, die, DIE of embarrassment. I know that I stumbled out a little, " 'scuse me..." and hurried to finish the report, sat down and stared at my notebook for the rest of the class.

To understand my shame in that moment, you have to know where I come from. It wasn't just that I was 12 and I farted in front of the class and everyone laughed. That would have been bad enough.

But in my family, the way I was raised? There was no farting. There were no bathroom jokes, no one had gas and you never, ever giggled when you heard someone say the planet Uranus.

That Just Wasn't Done. My parents were liberal in the extreme, with lots of wild and interesting friends with open and interesting love lives and they talked about sex all the time and it was all a big retro-hippy life.

Without gas.

Or that's how they wished it to be. Because, as many of you may know, gas is human, part of the digestive system, totally normal and EVERYONE HAS IT. But in my house, it just went totally unacknowledged. No one was ever constipated or had diarrhea, it was always just "an upset stomach". My step-dad was the major culprit, he'd let out loud and totally stinky farts during dinner, even going so far sometimes as to lift up a little bit in his seat, and...

No one said a thing. Not one word. He never said, "excuse me", no one looked up, there was no pause in the conversation. It just moved along as if the wind had never broken, or in his case, died a putrifying death.

So to be standing up there, in front of friends, enemies and crushes, and just let one fly... it was devastating. More so because no one pretended it hadn't happened, too. I was ill-prepared for public displays of noxious fumes.

They tormented me for a week or two, until someone else's misfortune eclipsed mine. Poor Dawn Cauley wore white shorts to school on the same day her period started. It's not just a cliche, kids really can be cruel.

As I've gotten older, I've had to develop a thicker skin about such things, but I still tried for a long time to avoid any kind of bathroom humor and to hold everything, EVERYTHING, in until I could... deal... with it privately.

That all changed when I met my husband, of course. He delights in poop jokes and tends to save his gas just for my personal amusement. Walking down the street, he likes to let one loose and say, "Hey, did someone step on a duck?" or look at ME and say, "Ooooh, nice one, sweetie." As if.

And there's also the matter of my two little girls. Sometimes I cannot believe the smells that are created from those adorable tummies. Once you have kids, poop becomes dinner table conversation. You're excited that they pooped, or they haven't pooped enough, or it was green or yellow or loose or rocky. All these details become fascinating.

I remember the first time I tried to tell my mom about how stinky my oldest had been lately. She shut me down but (hmmm... butt?) quick. My parents still hold strong to their complete denial of all things fart-related.

But I've loosened up. Literally and figuratively. I'm not going to raise my kids to think there's anything wrong or weird about things that their bodies just do naturally, though I do hope they'll have some discretion and manners.

Mostly, though? I'm just looking forward to the day when my step-dad lets out something ripe and juicy at the dinner table and my little daughter says, "Grandpa, you have to say excuse me! You tooted!"

June 18, 2007

It's a Sweet Thing

Sunday morning dawned much the same as all Sunday mornings in our house. We got up with the kids, made coffee and breakfast and then settled in to watch CBS News Sunday Morning. It covers with integrity, the arts, literature, personalities and interesting story topics without totally bringing down the house in an overload of death and disaster.

As I stood in the kitchen fixing my coffee, this story came on: Is America Too Sweet on Sugar? Hmmm... I glanced down at the dark and steaming cup of coffee, into which I had just added 3 teaspoons of that exact ubiquitous white substance. And that was just my first cup.

Perhaps here was a story I should give some attention.

The piece included all sorts of vaguely horrifying facts, like that the average American consumes 142 pounds of sugar a year. That's like eating a solid-sugar PERSON every year!

This is when I began to realize I had a problem, because as soon as I started thinking about sugar-people, my brain went, "mmmmmm... yummy sugar people! Tasty! Would I start at the top and work my way down or vise versa? I could go for a sugar-finger right now!"

The there was the footage. Throughout the story, they kept scrolling shots of donuts, candy, chocolate, lattes, pastries, bagels. Apparently, every single thing that I love and adore to consume in vast quantities- sugar disaster.

Unfortunately, the message was just lost of me. Instead of seeing this footage and, as a result, the error of my ways, I just got hungry.

"Oooohhh, those donuts look good. Maybe I can run out and get some donuts. Or bagels! I love bagels! On my way back from getting the bagels, I could stop at Starbucks, too, and get a Mocha, yeah!"

Hello, my name is Megan. And I am a sugar-addict. I can't say no.

I have sugar fantasies, moments where I sit, feeling vaguely unsatisfied and start to dream up all kinds of possibly tasty concoctions that might fulfill me.

Maybe it's an ice cream cone or a latte, maybe it's cake or cookies or just a good old-fashioned Snickers bar. When I'm feeling hungry or thirsty or bored or anxious or nervous or... (you get the idea), the absolute first thing my brain reaches for is sugar.

The trick, the one I am still struggling to master, is keeping my hands from reaching for the same thing.

June 14, 2007

Crazy

Apparently, I'm crazy. I thought I was just a little stressed out, a little on edge, maybe dealing with some return of my depression, but nope. Nothing so simple.

I'm full-on bonkers. Good to know.

I went to the doctor today for a physical and to talk about some returning symptoms I've been dealing with the past few weeks. Nothing as bad as where I was after Silvia was born; just a nagging disquiet, anxiety, fatique, that kind of thing.

The woman I saw, the office P.A., was a nightmare in deep purple.

Seriously, I walked into the building feeling like a healthy thirty-year-old mother with some minor issues; I walked out feeling like a basket case who should be monitored at ALL TIMES.

Or at least that's how I felt for about an hour. Then I got mad. REALLY mad.

Among other things, like a terrible bedside manner and a nervous giggle, this woman was completely unprofessional. She made me take some depression quizzes and then added up my points, without even talking to me in depth at all, and said, "Well, you're clearly severely depressed, (giggle, giggle), I guess having that baby made you a little crazy, (giggle, giggle)".

After the quizzes and the diagnosis of my insanity, she asked me, "So, are you having any thoughts of suicide or homicide?"

"No, no, no. Not at all. I'm just a little anxious and tired, nothing severe like that. Just some stress."

She regarded me with complete scepticism. "Mmmhmmm.... are you sure? Really? (giggle, giggle). Even with the kids, you aren't feeling anything like that with them?"

I paused for a heart-beat, completely thrown that she could possibly be suggesting, after talking to me for less than 7 minutes, that I had homicidal feelings towards my kids. Then I decided, no, she's just playing it safe, covering her bases, being thorough. "No, really, absolutely not."

"Are you sure? Maybe like that woman in Texas who drowned her five kids(giggle), maybe some thoughts like that?"

OHMYGOD. Seriously!?

"NO. ABSOLUTELY NOT. I DO NOT FANTASIZE ABOUT HARMING MY CHILDREN IN ANY WAY. NEW TOPIC."

It just went downhill from there. As I left the office after having my blood drawn, she pulled me into a back office, dug out her purse from under a table and handed me a private business card labeled "Holistic Medical Professional".

"You should call me and do some hypnotherapy instead of taking the anti-depressants. There are no side-effects at all and it's totally wonderful."

I wandered to my car, in tears, and called Kurt. "Hi. I'm severely depressed and I'm going to drown the girls and I have to take a new medication and get hyponotized and she says I'm crazy and I feel AWFUL."

Being a practical and sensible man, my husband responded, "Huh? What?"

After talking it over with him and then with my girlfriends, as the day passed I got more and more angry. MAD. Furious. How dare she? How dare this stranger, this little fat crone in a violet stretch suit judge me, call me crazy, compare me to a baby-killing madwoman, and then try to poach me for her side business? HOW DARE SHE?

Strangely, though, as my temper soared, so did my confidence. I know, without a doubt, that I am NOT crazy. I am not hopeless or pathetic or weak-minded.

Yes, I've been feeling down and confused lately. Yes, I'm more anxious than I used to be, more sensitive, my skin has lost some of its thickness. But that doesn't make me crazy. That doesn't even make me severely depressed. I know the difference, I've been there, I've seen the darkness and I know this is NOT it.

And some stupid little cow of a pseudo-doctor is not going to make me believe otherwise.

Gee, I wonder how happy her boss is going to be to find out she's soliciting patients on the implied endorsement of his good name?

June 13, 2007

Over-compensation

I'm a shy girl, seriously. When faced with social situations, large and small, my first instinct is to run, followed closely by urges to hide and then do some first-class cowering.

Now, I know that those of you who know me are thinking, "Huh? Shy? Megan? But she's so... LOUD."

And I am. Sometimes I even surpass loud and make it all the way into just thoroughly obstreperous. It's called over-compensation. Here's how the basic thought-process goes.

"Oh, no, here we go again. People. People, everywhere. And they want to talk. Oh, look, it's the funny guy, he's so funny! He's always on the ball. Crap, everything I say is going to make me sound like a fourth grader. Oh, no, it's the cool girl, the girl who's so smooth and together and always, always, ALWAYS on top of EVERYTHING. I'm going to come across like someone out of Little House on the Prarie."

And then...

"Come on, you can do this! Just smile! See, you smiled, they smiled, everyone's smiling. Go ahead, say something, anything, it'll be fine. These are nice people, they invited you here, for goodness sake, I mean how bad could it be? Just say the first thing that comes into your head. Go with the flow..."

Sigh. And THEN...

"OH MY GOD. WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? THESE ARE NICE, NORMAL PEOPLE AND YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT (insert some totally inappropriate topic for the occasion, i.e. brazilian shaving technique, reproductive and/or digestive system irregularities, my parent's open marriage, girl-on-girl love, how much I hate the president, etc)!! Good God, woman! Save yourself, play it off, somehow!"

And that's when the over-compensation begins. Instead of just wincing slightly at my inevitable social gaffe, I start to roll with it, as if by elaborating on the embarrassing topic I can somehow make everyone see how totally NORMAL it actually is. I get louder, too, and usually can be depended upon to really dive in with some big arm movements. Depending on how nervous I was to begin with and how socially staid the situation is, I can sometimes work myself up to a full Jerry Lewis-worthy scene of disaster in less than 30 minutes.

So I keep going. And going and going. I'm the Energizer Bunny of social awkwardness.

Unfortunately for those around me, I don't just leave it with the awkward conversational faux pas. I'm known in many circles for my inappropriate hugging and kissing and wild laughter as well. Throw in some alcoholic treats and all bets are off.

I expect my children to ban me from attending school functions by the time they hit 1st grade.

This is what happens when a natural introvert attempts to mix with the trendy extroverts of society. Complete and total over-compensation.