December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas to you, too, sweetie.

This morning, as I got dressed:

Anna: "Mommy, what are you doing?"

Me: "Getting dressed."

Anna: "Oh. What's that?"

Me: "That's my bra, honey."

Anna: "Mommy, when my boobies get really long, too, then I'll wear a bra."

Me: ---- @!*%$!!&!

Kurt: "HAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA!"

Laugh it up, tough guy. These here long ladies are the only ones you'll get 'til kingdom come, so- Laugh. It. Up.

December 12, 2008

What to say and where to say it

This whole double-blog thing has me all turned about, practically paralyzed in a confusion of words. Here's the problem. On this here site, I usually write about my life, terribly fascinating inner workings and attempts at problem-solving. Or at least problem-identifying. On the MA! site, my directive is to write about life, parenting and the intricate blending of personality and parenthood.

What I am finding, what is freezing me up, is that I can't clearly delineate my role as a mother from my role as a person. It's all one and the same. My internal workings, struggles and even humor seem to revolve more and more around trying to identify what's me and what's mommy. It's a troubling thought. The truth that I don't really know who I am aside from a parent leads to a lot of fumbling about in the dark. Mostly because, I won't always be the mom of preschoolers. Soon enough, they will both be in school most of the day and then what? I can't exactly sit about all day, catching up on Grey's Anatomy and planning what's for dinner. Well, I could, but that doesn't really sound like a fulfilling or useful life.

What I write is, for the most part, what I do and what I am. It's not always pretty or noble, but I try to be honest. Distinguishing parts of myself for two different arenas just seems practically impossible. A conundrum, to be sure.

Perhaps I should just set up a system? Monday's at MA! and Thursday's here? Completely NOT exclusive, just randomly offered up according to the play of the day? Not that I have huge followings anywhere, a point to consider. That'll take the pressure off for sure... I bet my three people could manage to read both sites with little trouble, if they so desire. You know who you are- think managing two feeds is expecting a little more interest than is deserved?

Oooh, I know. I could just develop a completely NEW personality for the MA! site. Be a new woman, start from scratch. Maybe be a travelling adventurer. The next post could be all about my recent climb up Mount Everest. With the girls strapped on my back, of course. It's important to share these experiences with their growing intellects. Or a race car driver- though since I'm timid to change lanes in congested traffic, that'd probably be hard to invoke.

Ugh. I know this is all fascinating. Have to write in order to be able to write, can't promise any level of quality or charm along the way. Perhaps next time, somewhere, I'll find something more alluring to say. Stay... posted?

November 25, 2008

Tired much?

I hate it when I get like this. I'm tired and grumpy and short-tempered with the girls. It's only 11:30 in the morning with at least six hours more left before Kurt gets home and I'm desperately trying to think of something, anything, to keep them busy and stave off the cabin fever whining. At the exact same time, I'm completely disinterested in leaving the house or doing anything that doesn't involve a pillow and my bed. To say I'm torn doesn't quite cover it.

Silvia woke up at 2 A.M. last night and somehow ended up hogging our bed with her tiny little figure. She officially defied all the laws of physics with a simple horizontal stretch as Kurt and I balanced precariously on either side of the king-sized mattress. I've been fighting off a free-floating exhaustion for over a week now, struggling to keep my eyelids propped open most of the day (I'm about to resort to toothpicks). Add on top of that a miserable night and I'm. Not. Perky.

I don't want to be detached and snippy mommy. I don't want to stare longingly at the television, wrestling with the urge to drown the hours of the day in PBS Sprout. (I have so far managed to resist. Today.) I have good kids, and when I'm on my game they are better than good. They reflect my mood and behavior, though, so when I'm obnoxious, disconnected and lacking in volume control... so are they. Which helps tons with lifting my mood, don't ya know.

Now to try and convince my four-year-old to take a nap that she absolutely doesn't want and quite probably doesn't need. Am I in great form or what?

November 21, 2008

Naked

So this past week, I started writing a guest blog, one of several, for my friend's wonderful company. The hope is that it will be a feature that starts off in its own direction and draws new eyes to the very cool MA! Motherhood with Attitude philosophy.

I love writing, I do. But I have yet to confidently label myself a "real" writer. Having an online journal does not make me a writer- everyone has an online journal (e-column). Reading up on writing technique, style and mechanics, (which I do, lots... this is the best book!) does not make me a writer. I will concede that it does makes me sort of weird, though. I've been published all of once and that was years ago and unpaid. My point is that I feel very exposed now suddenly being a "writer" with a blog (e-column) in a pseudo-professional sense.

The MA! guest blog (e-column) feels so exposed, like I'm walking naked across a busy train depot once a week, waiting patiently for called-out critiques. I'm hopin' for a "nice ass!" but afraid there will be more than one, "jeez, lady, put a bra on and help us all out!". It's not like I'm all super restrained on this here site, keeping my goodies under wraps. But there is a distinct lack of comments on this blog (e-column) that cushions me with a certain sense of anonymity, like maybe no one's looking at the naked girl in the station.

Honestly, it's probably just stage fright. I will be playing to an audience of strangers and I am, for them, an unknown and untested commodity. Here, I have history; there, I'm still the very new girl. It's okay to hang out in the buff with your pals if you want, but at work? That might very well get you fired.

Or promoted, I guess. It depends on the job.

November 14, 2008

Operators are standing by

Okay, so to the eleventy-one people who read this outpouring, I just want to reassure you that we are back up and running again. All systems ... umm... normal. Sure thing, as long as "normal" means "completely screwy as usual".

And by the way, I've been giving this some thought in the middle of the night while the world sleeps: I hate the word blog. Hate it. It "hangs in the sky," as the inestimable Douglas Adams once described, "in much the same way that bricks don't." Which is to say, it's an ugly, heavy, clunky word. Perhaps some blogs fit that description, but I'd like to think that this shining gem does not.

So, in honor of my self-important midnight musings, let's just go and call this an e-column from now on. Doesn't that sound nicer? Sort of professional and whatnot.

Stay tuned for our regularly scheduled e-columning in the coming days. (Cuz that's not clunky sounding at all!)

November 10, 2008

Tightrope

It's been a wacky week.

Remember the "bi" part of bipolar II? That's right, friends and neighbors, she swings BOTH WAYS! (insert "har de har har" here). I know it seems like a little hypomania would be good times and it certainly starts out that way. A few days ago I woke up early, alert, motivated and giggling. I'd started a new medication, and while the first night was like drowning for eight hours, by day two I was a peppy puppy. I've spent the past few weeks trying to dig myself out of an every expanding hole. That burst of energy and purpose felt not so much like a breath of fresh air as like an all-expense paid trip to Bermuda.

There's a catch, though, isn't there always? It starts out deceptively and then creeps right up and bashes you on the head like some Roadrunner cartoon. Sure, it's great to be super-efficient and goal-oriented. Yeah, having a seemingly endless well of energy is "da bomb". And hey, lots of famous people are hypomanic when they are at their best, so I'm in good company.

But then the energy starts to turn into speediness. And the speediness edges it's way over to anxious and pressured. Activities become more frantic and less reasonable. All those warm fuzzy giggles start coming out as words... lots of words. Talking, talking and no filter in sight. That can just be downright embarrassing. Here, let me share some more.

I was having so much fun, you guys. The laundry was done, the kids were exhausted from play. Anna actually said to me the other night, "Mommy, that's enough tickling forever and I am so tired." I, 31 year old mom of two, wore out my daughter, 4 year old pinnacle of infinite vigor. I woke up at 5 A.M. yesterday so I went to the kitchen and planned out our dinners and groceries for the rest of the month. Itemized list. With coupons detailed and preferred brands noted.

Sounds too good to be true and dammit all to hell, it is. Today I just jittered away the hours until my kids fell asleep in the car at 5:30 P.M. and my husband gave me The Look and said I should call the doctor tomorrow. And I hate it that he said that. And I hate it that he's right. No matter how many times it happens, or perhaps because of how many times it happens, I despise being reminded of my "illness", my flaw. Of course, I'm even-handed in my reaction- whether it's too down or too up, I feel equally ashamed.

Now's when everyone pipes up, "It's not your fault, it's like having high blood pressure. You wouldn't feel ashamed if you needed to treat that, would you? This is the same thing, an illness with a treatment plan. End of story, don't be so hard on yourself!"

I saw a card from Storypeople.com while we were in Santa Fe that summed it up nicely. It said, "Most people she never tells about the tightrope because she doesn't want to listen to their helpful comments from the ground."

The official diagnosis is Bipolar II disorder with postpartum onset and it's NOT the same as high blood pressure. High blood pressure has a quantifiable set of test parameters and is treated according to those results. There is no such thing in my world. We guess. Try this, not that. Take this and that, but that other may not be right. Let's wait and see. What it means, for me and everyone who so kindly puts up with me, is that there is no solid ground to stand on. I am, in a word, unpredictable. And I don't want to be, uber-efficient housewife notwithstanding. I just want to be like all the other kids.

So, today, I jitter. Tomorrow, maybe I'll get all caught up on my two year backlog of scrapbooking while I entertain the children with my rhythmic dance mojo. Or maybe I'll crash and cry. The trick with my days is that they're only days. I don't have weeks or months. Years are figments of fancy.

Mostly, today was a good day. Whether or not tomorrow is different is for tomorrow to decide. I'll call the doctor and we'll try again.

October 24, 2008

The cure

Things that make me feel better:

Cleaning the house. This used to never be true. In fact, since I'm being all honest and whatnot, I confess that much of my life I've leaned towards slovenly: a sit-on-the-couch-and-let-it-fester person. Now, I clean. I clean to set things right, to prove I can do more than sit, to control a small part of my environment when maybe every other part is tired or throwing toys or screaming at me because the cup is the wrong color. When I am numb and staring out the window as if maybe the window might suddenly fill with bright, shiny electric displays of magic inspiration, I do toilets and vacuum.

Coffee. It is warm and tasty and psychically energizing. Coffee makes me pretend that I have energy, just because I drank it. Then I pretend that since I've had this hot infusion of energy I should probably clean the house. See above.

Other people's children. Here's a big one, but not for the reason you may think. I adore other people's children because they fill the world view of my children. More simply, when other people's children are around, my children are too busy with them to haunt and taunt and generally attempt to crucify me by sheer force of will. I love other people's children, I am not picky, I do not discriminate. If I go to the park and there are children there, any children at all, I say to mine, "Look! Your friends are here! Your very best and favorite friends!".

My husband and I don't mean the obvious cliches from the Hallmark collection. After being home for a few moments, maybe an hour or so, I can see his frustration bloom. For every time he flinches at the escalating screaming, a warm glow takes root in my heart. He feels it, too. I am not alone, I am not over-reacting, my tension is not all crazy out of proportion to the circumstances. I am not delusional and spiralling again into madness. They really can be lemon juice poured out on 100 paper cuts all over my skin.

It's been a long week on top of a long month and possibly mitigated by a very extended year. On the bright side, Anna will be four in a couple weeks! This milestone will, I am sure, cure her of all her woes and trip the cord of peacefulness and balance within her. At least, that's what I hear.

From the voices in my head.

October 17, 2008

Pike's Peak!




After 17 years of living in its shadow, I finally made the trip to the top of my mountain.
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September 24, 2008

Hallelujah, my friends!

I have post-goal fizzle. It's pretty much like the week after your wedding, when all the excitement and build up of adrenaline has peaked and now real life resumes its natural courses. In my case, it seems like my whole life I've struggled with my weight. That goal became much more obsessive after the birth of my first child and downright demoralizing after the second. (Everything was demoralizing at that point, but we don't need to go there.)

In the past year and a half, though, I've made a concerted effort. I've done all the things that everyone knows they need to do with food and activity and lifestyle changes. I had a little "help" this summer when I sort of stopped eating for about a month, but over all, my successes have been my own. And now here I am, comfortable in my own skin. I am not so thin that my body rebels in hunger and fatigue. My regular lifestyle has become routine and unconscious, though not rigid, in the maintenance of my health. I know some people will think I'm still a bit too soft around the edges and some people will think I've gone and wasted myself away, but what actually matters is that I am happy right here where I am.

So here I sit, my weight loss goals behind me, healthy and relatively balanced. Now what? I'm not saying that my achievement is not fulfilling or that maintaining it will not be a lifelong endeavor. I'm simply stating that it's not something I focus on daily anymore. At this point, the question begs, where do I go from here?

The trouble with having a goal like losing weight is that it focuses on a negative- changes that are hard to make, what things I'll need to give up, in both time, energy and comfort. Shifting those goals from a struggle to unconscious action has been the hardest part of this whole "journey" for me. I was in the home stretch when I hit the point where I didn't have to think about it anymore.

Instead of making my days about what I will not do (not stay inside all day, not even walk past the dessert aisle at the store, not snack in front of the TV, etc.), it's time to look forward to what I will do. Honestly, for me, I think this will be harder than losing that first or last five pounds ever was.

I'm a big wuss, I don't try new things, I'm afraid of heights and completely bound to my routine. I hesitate and equivocate whenever we're out for the night if I have to stay up past 10 P.M. I won't eat sushi or mushrooms or escargot or really anything that I haven't been eating in some form since I was three. I've been to approximately three concerts in my entire life and only when dragged by someone else. I have lived in Colorado more than half my life, but I've never been to the top of even the mountain right over my head. I've never even taken a long day's hike up a challenging trail. I always stick the ones I know won't take more than an hour or two and will be fairly level in the deal, careful to turn back in case I get too tired. I tried to ski once and was absolutely terrified the entire time, sure that I'd run into some 5-year-old pro on the bunny slope and kill us both. Don't even talk to me about the chair lift. Eek!

I'm a healthy 31 year old woman and I've never really tried anything new. So, here we go, internets. I am going to have an adventure. Or two or three. I'll hike a difficult trail in the area that I've been avoiding for YEARS. I will try once again to (gulp) ski down a hill (oops, I first typed "kill") that can only be reached by chair lift. CHAIR LIFT, people! High up in the ski with no 5-point harness and you have to get off by JUMPING! I will eat a meal completely of my husband's choosing. I will go on a nice long date and not once look at the clock (hello, Sante Fe!). And, here's the biggie, I am going to make it to the top of a 14-er, of which Colorado has several to spare, come hell or high water.

It's time for some new goals and this time, it's not going to be what I will lose but instead what I will gain. Can I get an "Amen"?

September 10, 2008

Never say never

Hypocrisy, I bow to you.

Last Christmas we all invaded my sister-in-law's house for over a week, spending most of our time watching the kids run amok. That is, everyone else watched the kids. I watched and worshiped the coffee maker.

Monica had this new amazing machine, a Keurig, that makes one perfect cup of coffee at a time. It was awe inspiring. You turn it on, pop in a little pre-packaged cup about the size of a creamer cup, close it and press a button. Voila! Perfectly made, perfectly measured, perfectly perfect coffee in less than a minute.

Poor Monica was left staring hopelessly at her quickly dwindling stash of k-cups (as they are called) because I could not stop myself. I had at least two cups every morning and usually one in the afternoon and then one "to relax me" in the evening. The best part was that each cup could be a different flavor or roast, even tea, each time. The only drawback? Those little k-cups are not recyclable, a fact with which I struggled.

When we got home, I started my search for something similar, but with recyclable filters. Thus did I discover the coffee pod, a little pre-portioned pack that you insert in a single serving machine. Oh, how I expounded to everyone who'd listen (and not many would) on the virtues of recycling and being less wasteful than using the "other" machine.

Except the pod coffee kind of sucked. And the machines kind of didn't work very well. And all the pods came wrapped in non-recyclable packets, which pretty much defeated my original ideals anyway. I kept saying I couldn't wrap my head around the thought of those little k-cups in the trash.

Well, I have now wrapped. Today, with complete humility, I traded in my crappy pod machine and picked up the fabulous, wonderful, amazing and practically mythic (in my tiny world) Keurig coffee maker. I love it and I am not ashamed! Oh, Keurig, you complete me.

Once again, I have learned an important lesson. Never ever say never. At least not out loud where people can hear you.

September 06, 2008

One woman is the same as any other

Okay, I know I'm getting all political here, but this whole Palin debacle has me riled up. I keep hearing over and over, from the news pundits to the mass emails I get, that there is some serious concern that Hilary Clinton's disillusioned supporters will now turn, with relief, to Sarah Palin. You know, because they are both women, a fact which erases any other minor differences between the two. Apparently, the obvious and undeniable gender of Sarah Palin was one of the deciding factors in McCain's choice.

One woman is the same an any other, right? We're all practically interchangeable. Pamela Anderson or Susan Sarandon; Ruth Ginsberg or Monica Lewinsky; Hilary Clinton or Sarah Palin. Who could possibly be expected to tell the difference?

September 05, 2008

Oh, truthiness, how you must love Sarah Palin

This is my favorite article to date regarding the upcoming elections (a big thanks to dooce for bringing it up). It is an AP (Associated Press) circulated piece, as opposed to Fox News, a program with considerable and notoriously conservative bias. To be fair, it also is not from The Daily Show, where fake, comic and liberal-leaning news runs rampant (It's my favorite show!).

Have a gander, absorb, think it through. Oh, and by the way, in case there was any doubt about the absolute horror I feel at the McCain/Palin ticket... Vote Obama 2008.

September 04, 2008

Bravery

I did three brave things this week. On the surface, they were nothing, minuscule, unworthy of note. But for me, inside my routined and nearly rigid life, these were big things. Brave things. I stepped outside of my initial instict, the moment of "no-thanks-can't-go-probably-busy-umm-my-toenails-need-emergency-attention". I went beyond my wants and jumped into the unknown territory of my needs.

First, I went out with some girlfriends. I went OUT. I met them in PUBLIC. I hemmed and hawed before I stepped out the door, I turned around once on my way there, and I dialed and hung up the phone twice to make a lame excuse so as to return to my cocoon. But I made it there and you know what? I had a good time. I laughed, I talked, I listened and sipped coffee and talked about my kids. (Note to self: next time come prepared with non-kid topics!)

The next thing took an ever larger effort of propulsion, mostly because it involved a long-term commitment as well as spending time with people who walked with me every step of the way this summer. I joined the choir at church. I almost, again, didn't go. My mom came to babysit and as I drove out, I very nearly turned in at the local Starbucks to have a chai and sit for an hour. But again, two days in a row, I made myself go somewhere that I had no initial desire to be. When I first walked in and saw Melanie, the pastor's wife, choir leader, and my friend, my eyes filmed over with tears. She was just so happy to see me.

The second level of this bravery, of course, is that I actually sang in the choir. With my voice. And, you know, notes and pitch and stuff. Everyone was very kind and one lady said that I'd be fine after a few practices. Ha! I simply haven't so much as hummed along, much less raised my voice in song, in a long time. Suffice it to say I am very, very rusty. Oh, well. There's always lip-syncing. The more important part, the scary part, was just returning to a community with a promise to stay involved.

The third brave thing came on a more literal and understandable level. There was this bear, you see. And I neither screamed nor jumped up and down or had lady-like vapors. I just cursed at my husband and backed away. Slowly.

We were on one of our evening walks up through the neighborhood when some people came running out of their house, yelling in stage-whispers for us to STOP and COME INSIDE and NOT GO THAT WAY. BEAR!

"Huh?", we replied.

"BEAR!!!!!"

And, indeed, there was a bear. A big, ambling brown bear, making it's way from behind a parked car and crossing the street about 15 feet from where we stood with the kids. The bear looked at us, I kid you not, and my husband, (OH MY GOD), grinned back at it, overjoyed at his exciting proximity to said wild animal.

"Hey, girls, Look! A bear!"

I had already started backing away, while murmuring vile threats under my breath at the man standing there like a rodeo clown. The bear stopped in the middle of the street to check us out. Kurt, with my children, stood for about 30 seconds, or six hours, before finally pulling the stroller back down the street. You know, away from the BEAR. Sheesh. It was of course not very interested in us, as we had no berries jars of honey, and headed off in the other direction.

So, see? I am brave! I have faced a book club, a church choir and a bear! All in one week, no less. That makes me practically Beowulf, really.

August 29, 2008

Every Saturday, after waking leisurely, watching cartoons and enjoying a few (dozen) cups of coffee, our whole family heads to the gym. The girls love the Kid's Club which is full of climbing and bouncing and everything playful and fun. While they play, Kurt and I work out.

We start with abs, groaning our way through crunches and whatnot and I can never do as many as he does. I usually end up giggling at the focused expression on his face and pretending to stretch. This may explain my continuing battle to conquer the remains of my baby belly. Or it could be the ice cream, I may never be sure.

After the ab fiasco, Kurt runs me through a weight training routine. He is more of a task-master than any personal trainer I've ever experienced. I often end up with a heavy bar hanging over my head, my face turning red and my arms trembling near collapse as he smiles and says, "Come on, just one more, push through it." He always saves me from dangerous skull crushing with the barest hint of an assisting lift with his fingertips, grinning all the while. I am positive that he enjoys these moments as pure vindictiveness. I should also mention that he always, always lifts at least three times the weight that I do, the whole while pretending that I am not a huge wuss.

Afterwards, we head over to the cardio "theatre", a ridiculously named section that would more aptly be described as "The Zone of Sweat and CNN". On adjacent machines, we huff and puff our way through 20 minutes. The entire time, I keep a close eye on his calorie count. It is a matter of my deepest pride to always and without fail stay at least 5 calories ahead. Kurt finds this hilarious. I think he lets me win on purpose.

When all this masochist effort has come to an end, Kurt leans in to kiss my sweaty cheek and says, "Good workout, honey, you really did great!". I roll my eyes and tell him he's lucky my legs are too shaky to kick his ass. We pull the girls away from toys and babysitters they love more than us and head immediately to Jamba Juice for a smoothie treat. My body is usually totally spent by this point. I always have to sip my drink sitting down and I usually succumb to a nap by mid-afternoon.

All things considered, it is my absolute favorite time every week.

August 25, 2008

Effects of sleep-deprivation from watching the Olympics

Squinting at each other through sleep-fogged eyes, we kissed briefly, careful to turn our heads ever so slightly to avoid the wrath of morning breath. That particular tilt of our heads is an unconscious habit, like so many things in marriage, born from years of daybreak kisses.

I splashed my face with cold water and reached for the towel. I wasn't going to mention it if he wasn't. But he turned to me sheepishly, shaving cream dotting his face in spots.

"Sorry about last night." A self-deprecating grin hid just at the corners of his mouth, ready to jump out at any moment.

"Hmmmm?" I looked at him, not sure exactly which part fell under the apology and so not sure which part to bring up. The sheepish grin won out, leaping across his features and carrying a light blush with it.

"I, well, sort of... fell asleep, didn't I?"

Ah. That part.

"Mmmhhhmmm. Yes, well... it was a bit slow-going there. I noticed you faded in and out." I put on my best attempt at a diplomatic face while trying not to laugh. It was really funny. We both knew it. "Still, it all ended well, for the most part, I suppose. And you were really tired."

But then...

"It did? End well, I mean? Really? I don't-", he stopped as Anna ran into the room. Glancing down at her and walking towards the closet, he finished, "I don't really remember an ending."

Silence fell. Then, after hugging my 3-year-old ball of energy, I asked her, "Sweetie, do you know how old daddy is?"

An indignant laugh sounded from behind me.

"Daddy's 39, mommy! He's older than you!"

"Good girl."

August 22, 2008

Mommy Moment

A while back, at a particularly low point in my life, I learned that sometimes it's the most disgusting things that can renew your self-esteem.

It was my birthday, actually. We'd just pulled through some of the most harrowing moments of our marriage and craved some kind of normalcy like balm for a wound. With the girls in the stroller, we slowly walked to a local restaurant. The evening breeze cooled our anxious minds, bringing us down slowly from the past days of excruciating adrenaline.

Of course, that peace lasted about two minutes after we were seated. Silvia wanted out, then in, then out of her high chair. Anna wanted grilled cheese, no, spaghetti, no, why didn't they bring her grilled cheese!? We ate quickly, each of us thinking that we had been idiotic to venture out in the first place. Finally, Kurt headed up to the front to grab the stroller. I went to lift Silvia out of her chair and realized very quickly that she was awash in... yuckiness. Of a personal nature. To whit, poo was oozing out all over her, up her back, down her legs and covering her tummy.

And, oh yes, let's not forget. I had no diapers, no wipes, no spare clothes and there was no changing table in the bathroom. We had left the house completely unprepared. Without thinking about it, I whipped into action. Pulling off my sweater for her, I laid Silvia down, stripped her, tossed the whole mess (including her clothes) in the trash and popped her in the sink, rinsing her off as best I could. During this swift maneuver, in walked a woman mid-sentence, head turned to tell her daughter to remember not to touch the door, put the seat cover on the toilet and hold herself up to not come in contact with anything in the public restroom.

She stopped dead in her tracks at the sight of my poo-smeared baby sitting in the sink, surrounded by suspiciously murky paper towels. Anna, ever helpful, piped up, "There's still poo-poo's on her back, Mama. And there's poo-poo's on you elbow."

"Sorry," I said to the germaphobe, shrugging my shoulders in a isn't-motherhood-fun-we've-all-been-there-right kind of way. Her eyes wide and appalled, she backed away, trying to smile around the look of horror of her face. She pushed her daughter away as if the room had been filled with well... feces.

I dried Silvia off, pulling my sweater over her head and wrapping it all around her like a full-body diaper, washed my hands with her propped on my hip, tossed everything else in the trash, grabbed Anna, and headed out. Disaster averted.

We found Kurt standing out front, looking puzzled. "What took so long?"

"Oh, nothing. Silvia had a little diaper issue."

"Where's your sweater?", he asked, referring to my chilly figure clad only in a thin tank top (thankfully. It would have been embarrassing to walk home in my bra). I pointed at our giggling offspring, who flapped the huge sleeves up and down, trying to find her fingers. In that moment, I felt my confidence return in a rush. I knew that Kurt would not have handled the situation with anywhere close to the equinamity I had exhibited. This was a moment that had required me, specifically.

I stood taller, my face cracked into a long-unused smile. With nothing but a stack of paper towels and my own clothing, I had completely and skillfully defused a toddler bomb with mere seconds left on the poop timer.

I was the MacGyver of moms.

Shoulders back, I grinned at my husband, finally feeling that maybe, just maybe, everything was going to work out just fine.

"Come on. Let's go home."

August 06, 2008

A New Baby to Welcome!

Ha! Gotcha. Bet you thought I meant ME! But no, (HELL no, to be perfectly clear)...

Wayne's little boy, Benjamin, was born this past Saturday. Which, in turn, leads to an incontrovertible fact. That is to say... Wayne is now a dad. For those of you who know him, that's... well... WAYNE!
WOW. I'm so excited, I'm about to pop! Not have-a-baby kind of pop, just so-happy-for-longtime-friend kind of pop. The child in question, is of course, incredibly cute. Adorable. Small and floppy.
Congratulations, my friend! I hear birth is the hard part, from here on out it's a cake walk.


August 04, 2008

It's all part of the show, folks!

Equivocation: A technique by which a magician appears to have intended a particular outcome, when in actuality the outcome is one of several alternative outcomes.

The part where I differ from your standard illusionist is, I don't know which of the alternative outcomes are coming, either. Makes for an even bigger surprise, right? Still, I can't resist attempts at the whole deceptive appearance part. I am constantly forcing myself onward without ever having any true idea if it will play out. As usual, I know there are several possible outcomes to any given situation. As a true performer, I do my best to prep for each. Pulling it off, however, is another trick entirely.

Take this weekend, for instance. I've been agitated for the past week or so; reclusive, easily flustered. Phase 1 of 2 for my special needs. I knew, however, that we had a close friend's birthday party to attend for their 3-year-old daughter. We had the gift, we had an excited 3-year-old of our own, we even had the time and date straight (two years ago, we showed up a full day early, this coming weekend we were planning to show up a full day late for a wedding).

What we didn't have was me. I was in a never-leave-the-house-again-and-talking-to-people-is-so-overrated kind of mood, though I was pretending the opposite. Kurt saw right through me, as usual, and kindly offered up several opportunities for me to back out. But I was all about putting on the show. Must not appear weak! Go! Socialize! Put a smile on that pretty face, dammit, and get in the ring!

This party was a triple-threat, actually, and I should have known better. There were people there who knew I'd had The Big Breakdown this summer but that I hadn't seem since Before. It was a pool party so I was nervous about the swimsuit exposure as well as the kids who can't swim thing. And (here's the biggie) my oldest child is Queen o' Drama at parties. There's cake, there's presents, there's kids, there's a pool, etc. She twists herself up like a rubber band and then, just at the most inconvenient time, let's all that suppressed tension fly free.

Just like her mommy.

I think I pulled it off fairly well, actually, though with some flops. As soon as I had my swimsuit on, I felt like I was walking naked through the halls of Congress on national television. I changed back into street clothes less than 10 minutes later to confused looks from my husband. I hid my discomfort with concerned acquaintances by simple means- misdirection and disappearance. Ah! Magic! Look, over there, a baby with cake-face! *slink away*

Where I really lost it was with Anna. Every time I take the kids out to an event, the more stressful the situation becomes lately. I don't know if she's feeding off my nerves or vise versa, but together, we are a MESS. She starts with the defiance, pouting and tears. I start with the harsh-but-under-the-breath threats, control freak demands and excessive time-outs. This sets her off, which sets me off, which sets her off...

And through all my (not so) inner-drama, there's Kurt, holding the baby, smiling and chatting, totally oblivious to the impending firestorm from his wife and daughter. I was so envious in that moment of his gracefully comfortable demeanor that it burned a hole in head. Honestly, I heard the sizzling. I'll have to wear hats for months.

"It's. Time. To. LEAVE." My teeth gritted as I failed a smile completely. Anna hit the floor, tantrum in full swing because, "that girl said "no" to me!". Something to do with bubbles, I believe; nothing more than the last straw, for certain.

Gathering up, screaming child et al, I felt embarrassed and defeated. I should have known. All my attempts at equivocation were in vain. There was ever only one possible outcome to this situation. I knew it, I always know it, but I can't quite accept this change to my social skills. So I pretend, beforehand, that it will be different.

But in hindsight, I always know, I'm no good at this show, folks. I need to stick to what I know; reading, writing and hiding out until the tents are down and the crowd's gone home. No more circus tricks for me.

July 30, 2008

Proof of Life

Any talk about my girls being in school has turned into a sort of mantra. "It's important for their socialization. They are learning the skills of interaction and team work."

Oi vey. This, for the children of Queen Hermit, Mrs. Haven't-Spoken-To-Anyone-Outside-My-Dance-Space-In-97-Days. Perhaps I need to go to preschool?

It's been a weird summer. I've evened out and enjoyed the comforts of our local psychiatric establishments. I have absorbed, through sheer force of will, ways to cope with what ails me. Mostly, in boils down to simple preparation and avoidance of over-stimulation. I'm starting to wonder, though, if I haven't taken it a bit too far. My whole existence now revolves around The Schedule. I work on The Schedule every Sunday night and stick to it like ketchup in Silvia's hair.

Planning out my week is part of my overall stress mitigation. First, I set up my workout routine. Sometimes I get all flustered trying to figure out if The Schedule balances working upper body against lower body with enough rest between each muscle group. My exercise routine is the entire foundation of my week, a key factor for peace of mind. Following closely behind that are planned activities with the girls. I now passionately avoid watching the carpet in the living room grow all afternoon.

Dinner is easy since I started with the fabulous frozen dinner extravaganza. What really sets me to a flurry of erasing (I do the whole Schedule in pencil, of course) is the quantity of events entered each day. Is it too much? What if I have a workout AND a walk AND a play date? Will it be fun or will all my hair turn white and my eyeballs pop out? Deviations from The Schedule after Sunday Planning are rare and nerve-wracking.

By the end of every day, I often feel like I've reached capacity. The days are pleasantly but sufficiently full. While this is a happy change from overwhelmed and incapacitated, it does have a social drawback. I find myself each night ensconced somewhere, reading or watch TV with Kurt. I entertain not even a thought of anything outside my cocoon. To whit, I do not go out. I have, on occasion, even declined a trip to the ice cream shop(pe).

(Side note: I just scoffed at the very concept of turning down ice cream and accidentally spit coffee ALL OVER my laptop.)

I know all this sounds extreme, especially for a housewife with no other job. But consider my sudden burst of anxiety last night when all my planning went astray for over AN HOUR. We were playing outside and the older girl across the street came over to play with Anna. On a whim, holding Anna's little hand in her own, they headed down the street to visit another girl. All of a sudden, I was whirling in an impromptu play date at the house of a woman I hardly know who already had company. She was about to run out the door with her friend, the two other 6-year-olds were ignoring Anna, and I stood like a fidgety statue in an unknown kitchen with two near-strangers.

All I could do was take my shoes on and off, four times, aghast at the pristine white carpets (how do people DO that?). Anna, not ready to be alone but unwilling to leave, followed the older girls around like a puppy. Silvia, covered in bubble solution and potting soil (don't ask), crawled all over the buttery soft leather couch and delightedly wrestled the spotless silk pillows.

While this situation would have been only mildly awkward for some, I was near panic. After about 10 minutes, I corralled two whining and teary-eyed children out, pleading that Kurt was probably home (it wasn't even 5 P.M.) and I had to make dinner. My heart pounded and a nearly painful tightness squeezed the air from my lungs.

All I could do was backtrack and plop myself back down, weepy children and all, into the framework of The Schedule. Then my breath returned and I was safe.

I am a balanced person, on the whole, seriously. My equilibrium, both through hard work and medication, has returned in ways that never existed before. I have confidence in myself and the strength of my little family. But, from time to time, someone's snowy white carpets can throw all that to hell. Planning against this is what keeps me on an even keel.

Still, while all this proactive living and whatnot is effective at keeping me level, perhaps, only perhaps, I should find a way to leave a tiny, itty bitty portion of it up to chance. See my friends for an evening of adult interaction. Make a phone call or two. Attend a local function. Maybe.

Or, and now I think I've hit on it: I could schedule the opportunities for chance! Brilliant! Barring of course, any future possibilities of landing myself again in the house of Older Children and Weekly Steamed Carpets. A woman can only take so much.

July 23, 2008

Instinct

This morning, after snapping at my husband, rushing my kids and pounding down my coffee like a saki bomb (with about the same amount of mess, sadly), I decided to skip the discipline of the gym and just go for a walk. You know- stepping out the front door, putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward. While I love the gym and all it has to offer, there's something demoralizing about those treadmills and stair-steppers, like I'm a gerbil on my wheel: I never get anywhere.

Anyway. So, here I am, walking uphill, soaking in the sun, calming down, breathing, all that good stuff. My mind starts to clear the farther I walk. At at hearty pace (Ha! Get it, hearty? I'm so clever.), I begin to feel restored as I reach the top of the neighborhood. Finally, I start to look around.

Everywhere, there are flowers. Pots and pots of them all around people's houses, bushes and plants in every bit of landscaping, wildflowers taking over empty lots. At first, I just enjoyed the view and scent of this summer cornucopia. Then I noticed a phenomenon, a kindred vitality to each and every bloom.

They were all, down to the last daisy, turned toward the sun. Even the trees seemed to be leaning every so slightly, branches and leaves straining upwards. I later learned, they follow the sun across the sky every day, drooping slightly and closing their petals in the darkness until it returns.

Amazing. It got me thinking about all the time we, in the most general terms, spend inside. There always seems to be something more to do, some comfort or bit of responsibility that requires attention.

Here are these flowers, though; basic, simple life, valued more for decoration than any other quality. Yet a genetic yearning toward an enigma of vital light fills each and every one, while we stay in our cars and buildings- windows up, curtains drawn.

Makes me wonder.

July 16, 2008

Things to remember

I almost always think things are going to be more difficult than they really are. Picking up the girls this afternoon raised my spirits like a bounce from hard rock to a trampoline. Silvia was dozing when I got to her classroom, and she blinked her eyes open and started smiling with her tongue sticking out even before she was fully awake. "Mama! Hi-llo Mama!", and then big big hugs. After I picked her up, she waved bye to her teacher and started patting my arm comfortingly with more, "Mama, hi!".

Anna came dashing across the room, hitting me at knee level and nearly knocking me over with her exuberance. As we walked to the car, she quizzed me for what we were going to do, what to do, what, Mama? What are we going to do? As always, slowed her down with our shared mantra, "One thing at a time, sweetie. Let's get to the car first."

I realized, at that moment, that my pulse had slowed and with it, my mist of constant tears. One thing at a time, indeed. Perspective is an amazing thing. It is so sweetly humbling when my little carefree children adjust mine with no effort at all. As we settled into our afternoon, I switched from lacking and low to grateful and guided. What would we do? Walks, parks, library, playdates, sprinklers, baking, stories, coloring... there were so many things. Good things.

I need to remember that.

P.S. By the way, I finally figured out how to get the comments link to show up for my posts. I used my amazing powers of technical savvy-tude. That's why it took me months. Leave a note if you like.

July 15, 2008

What's a girl to do?

I'm sitting here and the countdown to pick-up time is eating away at the clock. I've been crying on and off all morning, whenever I stop for a moment from whatever distraction I've filled with my purpose.

But now the laundry is finished and put away. The kitchen is spotless. There's no real point in scrubbing the floors since the cleaning lady did it just yesterday. I've changed my clothes three times, given up on my hair entirely and finished my book on tape. And I'm still crying, little fits that last a moment and then pass. I know that keeping busy is my solution, but there's not much left to physically do around the house. If I could go to the gym I would, but the daycare there is closed from 1 to 4, so I can't take my girls with me.

I'm tempted to call and have the daycare keep them the rest of the day, but I know I won't. For one thing, I promised Anna that she wouldn't be taking any more naps at school. It's very important to me to keep promises I make to my kids. Mostly, though, I know that I'll feel terrible the whole time they are there, just as I feel terrible now that I left Silvia for the morning when today she is supposed to be home, having mommy all to herself.

Having them with me certainly gives me a thing to do, there is no question about that. But I hate these little cloud bursts of tears and hate even more for the girls to see me in the midst of them. So, here I sit, amorphously weepy in a sparkling clean house. The minutes are past and it's time to go gather my children, tears or not. We'll take to the fresh air, water the plants until they drown and blow bubbles until I pass out. Staying busy is not a problem with two toddlers. Keeping my mind busy, though, is another matter entirely.

July 03, 2008

Excitement and a fully stocked freezer

I'm easy. (scrub out your dirty minds, I didn't mean that. Heck, I don't even remember what that looks like!) It takes very little for me to get excited about something new and when it happens, I tend to jump in with both feet and little concern for where I land. Some may say that's part of my "diagnosis", but I say it's just my touch-a-wacky personality.

Right now, I am very excited. VERY. I just purchased 12 dinners, prepped fresh, frozen and ready to go for the cost of less than one week's meals. By that, I mean the cost of one week of frantically running at the last minute to the store, or the pizza place, or the Chinese food joint. It gets pricey when you have no idea what's for dinner and the hour of doom approaches.

But, now my freezer is stocked, FULL, with dinner. Yummy sounding dinner. Easy to prepare dinner. But, most importantly, dinner I didn't have to make myself. Ah! Feel the sigh of relief circle the world! I went to a local place that I really like, What About Dinner?. I know there are establishments like it, however, all around should you care to look.

Aside from fabulous dinner excitement, I am also very thrilled with Revlon's new Beyond Natural Lip Tint. My favorite color is Neutral Pink. I know, it's shallow and ridiculous to find joy in glorified lip balm, but there it is. Sometimes it really is the tiny, little, fits-neatly-in-your-purse things for which I'm most grateful.

To redeem myself from the image that I am just a greedy tummy and shiny lips, there's one more item to add to my excitement bonanza. Jack McDevitt. OK, actually, I do not even know this guy, so don't worry that I'm having an affair with him or anything (remember, I don't even recall how to do that). However, I am having a love affair right now with everything he's ever written. He writes totally enthralling and completely escapist Sci Fi (science fiction for those of you not in the cult of fandom). It's all, or mostly all, set in the very distant, deep future. I love that it is full of everything and anything that is NOT my day-to-day life. Plus, bonus, he's a prolific writer; I get to keep on reading as soon as I finish a book!

Therein lies my happiness for the day. Let's all offer up a moment of thanks that I have finally put aside the stack of totally overwhelming self-help books for the moment. Bring on the future in a distant galaxy with a tasty cheap dinner that I can enjoy through my pretty pink and moisturized lips. Ahhhh.... now that's what I call REAL self-help.

Heck, maybe I'll even give that a try while I'm on such a roll. (Once again, every is welcome to send Kurt emails of sympathy and commiseration.)

July 02, 2008

Living Out Loud

A friend asked me once why I keep an online journal. She has a daughter close to my age who also keeps a blog and she just doesn't understand the concept. At the time, I couldn't really explain my reasoning, but I thought I'd give it another try here.

Basically, it's a process of living out loud. I first came across this idea when reading other people's blogs, most notably Crazy Aunt Purl. For so many aspects of life these days, and maybe for the history of civilized society, we are required to put up a front, maintain a facade of polite behavior and situationally correct expression. Since I am neither always polite nor hardly ever situationally correct, I often find myself stifled, with no acceptable outlet.

Then was born the blog. Cue the angelic chorus. This blog, this online journal, is my link to sanity, especially as I've faced some of the difficult and necessary hurdles of growing up and getting a grip. In the past year, and even longer than that, I've begun to embrace the idea of living out loud. Perhaps not in the middle of a dinner party, but certainly here in this virtual place. It has simply become too hard to keep up all the facades of polite society all the time without having a way to let them all go, too.

It's a place to think, to vent, to belly-ache and belly-laugh, whenever and for whatever reason I need. As I've grown more reclusive in the past months, it's a way for me to still communicate without the weight of social niceties. In this place, too, I am free to say what I please and how I feel without worrying what anyone else thinks. That doesn't mean that I go out of my way to be offensive and obnoxious, just that I find a freedom of expression online that does not always exist in the real world. If someone doesn't like it? Then the way out is just a click away.

Mostly, though, I keep a blog because I like to write and sometimes I want people to read what I write, for any vast number of reasons. I also have a private journal, handwritten purges of thought that are not meant for public consumption. But this journal is my way of sharing, communicating and reaching out.

In a lot of ways, it's simply a way of saying, "Hey, I'm still here."

July 01, 2008

Hey, wait a minute... this place looks familiar

The walls of this room lean slightly in and that feeling of mild hypoxia pushes on my head and chest. A headache starts to bloom in my temples like a rampant and vile weed. The color has been leached from the surroundings. Everywhere I look is pale or dark, like something out of the Twilight Zone. It's as if some idiot invented a spray-painter vacuum that works in reverse. Then he went around like a jackass and sucked up all the brightness. You know, just because he could. And of course, in this room and in this place, gravity is not the same. There is, at every moment, the heavy constant weight of my own flesh against my bones. My eyes are burning and there is a scream struggling to get out just behind my lungs.

Oh, I've been here before, that's for certain. And you know what? I really have to say, with all my heart and with no reservations; fuck this place. I mean, really. Someone needs to come in here with a huge yellow bulldozer and tear all this bullshit down and put up a nice park.

June 18, 2008

I don't care if it's half full or empty, I'm just glad I have a cup

Things that make me feel good:
  • Wearing spring dresses and skirts
  • Kurt's smile when he sees me in the spring dresses and skirts
  • Keeping up in a tough exercise class even though I'm worn out and drenched in sweat
  • The weight on my body of a child sleeping in complete trust within my arms
  • Coloring, writing and reading, sometimes all at once.
  • That first moment of potential and excitement that flows over me when I step inside a library and know that my holds are in!
  • Receiving handwritten letters and cards in the mail- so much better than email!
  • Sending cards, too. Just taking a moment out of everything to surprise someone with some heartfelt appreciation
  • Listening to relaxing quiet music
  • Clean sheets when I go to bed at night
  • Family walks on summer evenings

June 16, 2008

Rainy Day Blues

It's June. It should be sunny and breezy and the air should be filled with the hanging scent of over-ripe blossoms and...

Well. "Should" gets me just about nowhere, so I suppose I'll just toss that out the window, right into the foggy, rainy, cold day that it is. It's Colorado, folks, what can I say? We like our weather capricious here, you never know what you're going to see when you open your eyes in the morning.

In that sense, I feel a strong affinity with this unpredictable weather, having been decidedly unpredictable myself in the recent past months. As for this week, I've been blue. Melancholy. Dreary. Glum. Morose. Gloomy. (I believe I've mentioned in the past that I have a thesaurus and I'm not afraid to use it.)

All morning, I grumbled at the gray skies outside, hissing under my breath, "This is not helping me! Go away! I need some sunshine, dammit! Don't make me come out there and... and... and... OK, I don't know what I'd do, but it'd be rough, mister, so don't make me come out there! I want my June-tastic rays of light and I want them NOW!"

Of course, talking to myself, however discreetly, in a public coffee shop doesn't exactly win me any sanity medals. Not that I'm looking for approval, but it'd be nice if maybe the whole coffeehouse community and all their cousins didn't find out how far from normal I actually fall most days.

There's all sorts of clinical definitions and qualifications and minimizations that the doctors like to use to describe me, but I'll sum it up for you a little more simply than that. I'm moody, y'all. I am downright erratic. We can take a positive view and call me whimsical, though on the other side of that coin, there's always aberrant.

In the past few months, I've been so unpredictable we had to start keeping a chart, seriously, a mood chart for the docs to hem and haw over. Doctors are very good at Hemming and Hawwing. And most of them love charts.

I knew I had finally found the right doctor when he, *gasp*, didn't even want to see my chart! His clinical mumbo-jumbo was practically understandable, even to little 'ol me, and his revolutionary treatment plan just about had me jumping for joy (if I had been feeling any joy, which I wasn't, but there was a definite scent of relief in the air). The plan? Get this poor girl off the pills that make her wacky, and get her onto ONE MEDICATION that will help her even out into average mid-life-stay-at-home-mom wackiness. You know, the acceptable kind.

The up side to all this is that my very, very, very rapid and unpleasant mood swings are slowing down. The down side? Well... I think I mentioned earlier? I feel blue, have for days now. I'm worn out and easily overcome and occasionally start crying at just about the weirdest moments possible.

BUT. There has to be a qualifier, right? I don't like it when I write these long depressing no-hope-life-sucks posts. Hate that. So, my qualifier is this: I am gloomy and weepy, yes, but I am not hopeless, I am not desperate, I am not lost. And, for me, that's really saying something. This little depression of mine right now is like a pathetic Yorkie compared to the Big Black Dog that was haunting my every step recently. Things are getting less extreme as my brain struggles for middle ground. That makes me feel hopeful. Weepy and gloomy and exhausted, but hopeful.

This mood will pass, just as this foggy, rainy day will lift, and then I'll feel better. And each time, the better parts will last longer and longer and eventually, God-willing and the creek don't rise, I will be (drum roll, please...) ME again. Maybe I'll even get to define "normal", won't that be fun? I haven't been it for so long that I think I'll need a whole new set of parameters should I ever get to it again.

So for now, I'm hanging in, hanging on to my Kleenex box, doing the simple chores that occupy my mind but require little effort (like posting on the blog, hahaha!), making sure my kids are safe and sound, (and reminding myself that this full-day daycare situation is helpful, necessary, and temporary, even though it feels terrible). I'm drinking decaf in the hopes that the flavor alone will kick in some Pavlovian endorphin rush to pull me out of this funk or at least wake me up a little.

Rain, rain, go away, come again another day- preferably a day where I have vast wells of energy and good intention to carry me through your wet-and-clamminess with a smile on my face.

Please?

June 11, 2008

Home

I never really miss my home until I have to be away from it for a long while. I get cabin fever a lot, wanting to go out, be somewhere else, see other people, do other things, break the mold. Turns out, no where else is half as nice and no one else is anywhere close to as great as my family. I'm saying it now, out loud to the wild world of the internets for all to hear and see: there will be no more unplanned departures away from this life that I love and the people in it.

Time to start over. Again.




June 03, 2008

The Hourglass

It's so unpredictable living in my own head. I feel like an hourglass, spilling sand, and I never know if I am filling up or emptying out until something flips me over.

Today I got flipped, who know why or by what. The goodwill, positive thoughts and hopefulness of the past few days where just one side filling up and now.... FLIP. I'm empty. I almost cracked, I really did.

After I dropped the girls at school I had a vast and nearly uncontrollable urge to go home and be alone, possibly in the closet in the dark ("with Clark", hahaa... thanks, Dr. Seuss). So I took my magic happy pill, my emergency happy pill, drove to the coffee shop and sat it out in public.

That's my worst fear, really, that I'll have a screaming meltdown in front of the whole world and everyone will stare and no one will understand (I don't even understand, right?) and someone will call the police or something. The fire department? Get that girl out of that crazy tree?

So I sat. I typed. I talked online to a friend and tried like hell to laugh it off, find the funny, GET OVER IT. When the crying shakiness wouldn't stay at bay I called a friend with experience in these things, cried a little in a public forum, and now I am feeling better. It's sort of like when you have to throw up and you HATE throwing up so you try and try not to... but then eventually you do and you always feel better afterwards even though it was gross and awful.

So now I'm a bit better. Not positive and excited and hopeful, no. More exhausted and diminished and frustrated and even a little bitter. But not on the edge. And my friend is coming to have a coffee with me and we will talk and understand each other and hopefully that will push some sand more quickly though the glass, filling me up again.

May 14, 2008

Twisty, twisty, twisty

So here's the thing about recovery. Every day, EVERY DAY, I've got to adapt. Good day? Wow, now I can make plans, get things done, achieve some goals. Bad day, damn. Guess I have to scale back, take a breather.

What about dizzy days, ever had those? Today is a dizzy day and this week has been full of dizzy evenings. Twirling when I stand, spinning when I lay down, nauseated when I walk kind of days. Time to adapt again; no driving, no coffee (oh, no!), stillness ad infinitum. Create a day of sitting, internal movement, typing and thinking only. It's boring, it's frustrating, but it's part of the whole uphill road I'm on. If I want to get to the top of the damn hill, I've got to keep climbing.

When you first hear the words "post-partum depression", you picture little tiny infants and a woman still in her maternity clothes, unshowered and overwhelmed. But my baby isn't a baby anymore and my maternity clothes are long gone. I'll give you the unshowered, but it's still morning. The overwhelmed comes and goes. In my opinion, (and, hell, this is all about my opinion, right?), the long-term reality of recovery is flippin' ridiculous. There's the medications, the disturbed sleep and appetite, the exhaustion; all of it playing into the roller-coaster of consuming doubt that I'll ever be myself again.

And then? Then, just as I'm starting to get my feet solidly on the ground, my brain starts spinning like a top at every movement. Just as my family is starting to believe again in my stability, the foundations around me... tilt. That's the worst part. Not only do I have to shake it off, call it a new day and adapt, but so does everyone else around me. If I can't drive, someone else has to take the kids to school. If I'm too dizzy to stand and move around, then it's a sure bet I can't take care of my girls by myself since all they do is move around.

I'm frustrated. I'm irritated. This is so OLD, and DONE and FINISHED that I can't believe I'm still even talking about it. On the bright side, I am trying to revel in the heat of my irritation. At least at this point I have the self awareness to see that this is not me, this is not my fault and it's really fucking inconvenient.

Soon, all the Brain Chemistry of Wackiness will again lay placid and calm and helpful. Soon, my husband will be able to leave for work without wondering what on Earth is he going to do to take care of me. Soon, I will be myself again.

I live in the constant anticipation of "soon". But today, I adapt.

May 10, 2008

Eroti-can't

So awhile ago, I went out with some girlfriends and they came up with the idea that I should write erotic stories. My friend Jennifer said she thought I'd be awesome at it, that I could really hit that nail on the head, so to speak.

Of course, my initial response was complete disbelief. I mean, don't you need to feel erotic in order to write erotica? I'm sitting pretty here in my mommy-jeans and I haven't taken a shower. I put on perfume once in a blue moon and my legs haven't been regularly shaved since before the Iraq war (no connection, though, purely coincidental). My language filter is usually in overdrive, as my three-year-old daughter tends to repeat everything I say, for days and days and days. For example:

Me, stubbing my toe on the chair the baby has just pulled out: "OUCH, DARNIT! GOSH IT ALL TO HECKEROONIE!"

Anna, gleefully: "Heckeroonie! Heckeroonie!"

Still, as a writer, I do like a challenge, so I figured I'd give it a (very brief) shot. Here's what I can come up with erotically, but with my mommy-filter still intact. (At this point some extreme sympathy for my long-suffering husband would be appropriate).

"Stepping over the cast-off, ketchup streaked bibs in the front hall, Francesca opened the door to the delivery man on the front porch.

"Yes?" she whispered softly at him, her voice still raw from the series of colds her toddler had brought home that month.

"I just need your signature right here, ma'am." Holding out a pen and clipboard, his eyes roamed over her figure, briefly taking it all in. Her every so slightly unkempt hair was pulled back in a sensuous ponytail, the high-waisted jeans straining slightly against her skin. Coffee stains on her off-white t-shirt drew his gaze to her full-figured bosom, like a moth to flame. One breast seemed slightly lower then the other. He realized with a rush of excitement that her nursing bra had come unclasped on that side, unleashing the fullness of her flesh.

The door knob was sticky against her skin. Probably more ketchup, she thought. Seductively, she wiped her palm across the back pocket of her jeans and reached for his pen..."

So? What do you think? Should I call HarperCollins?

April 29, 2008

awake

The down side of a nightly sleeping pill is that, well, I SLEEP. Deeply.

I know that doesn't seem like much of a downside, but I'm finding that I wake up earlier and earlier every day. I think my poor mommy-trained brain just doesn't know what to do with a full 8 hours of sleep anymore, so it kicks me back to consciousness as soon as it can. Without the pill, I toss and turn all night, mind racing and muscles aching. With it, I woke up this morning, and the past several mornings, at 4 A.M. Today, I lay there for about half an hour, then had to get up out of sheer boredom.

There are lots of upsides to waking up early; bright sides, if you will (ha!). I can catch up on my recorded shows without any interruptions, same with email and (apparently) blogging. The silence of the house is glorious. All I can hear right now, aside from my own typing, is one little bird singing just outside the window. The sun is rising and painting every house in the neighborhood a soft pink of new light.

But there are downsides, too, like knowing without a doubt, come 9 A.M. I am going to go crash, bang, boom with tiredness. It'll start with a yawn and gently progress into a delicate concerto of blinking and drooping eyes. By 10 A.M., though, that proverbial piano will come crashing down on my head with blunt force exhaustion like some Roadrunner cartoon of days past.

I am fortunate, so fortunate. My children are both, for the time being, in morning daycare. My husband is home for the week and generous with his compassion. I can go lay down, supposedly without responsibility.

But I hate to do it. I feel like I've been laying down a hell of a lot lately and I don't want to waste any more daylight hours, child-free hours full of opportunities, laying down. So I'll probably push through, have some more coffee, read my books, write my essays, think my thoughts and heck, maybe even do some chores.

But by 8 P.M.? I'll be too tired to go on. I'll take my nightly medications, brush my teeth and fall into a deep, assisted, sleep. After which, of course, it'll all start again.

Anyone want to meet for coffee at 4:30 tomorrow morning?

April 19, 2008

The blessing of long life?

Indiana Woman, Oldest Known Person, Turns 115 on Sunday

I don't know why, but I was very moved by this story of Edna Parker. She was born in 1893 and is, to date, the oldest living person in the world. The article itself is mostly about how this could be possible; what vagaries of genetics, lifestyle and good luck have allowed this woman to live through more than a century of human life.

After scanning the whole story, I was struck mostly, though, by what went unsaid. It says her husband died in 1938. She spent the next 55 years living alone on their farmhouse before going to live with one of her sons. It says she outlived both of her children. How someone could write a story about a 115 year lifetime and not mention the effect of such loss, I have no idea. How did she cope? What did she do on the nights, year after year, alone in the home she once shared? How did she get through the days of the funerals of her only sons?

Both her sisters lived long lives, too, into their late 80's and 90's, and I imagine and hope that they leaned on each other for those moments. Then, eventually, they also passed away. I wonder if after so many years of being the one left behind, it hurt less? Or more?

The main interest of the article was on research being done of such "supercentenarians" like Mrs. Parker, an upwelling of eager enthusiasm to uncover their secrets so that everyone can live and live and live. But I think the article missed one key point: Nowhere does anyone ask Mrs. Parker her own perspective.

I wonder about that, if this "holy grail" of anti-aging, should really be sought at all. Edna Parker, from the little I could glean about her in this story, is a happy woman. She laughs and smiles at her birthday celebration and enjoys looking over a scrapbook of her life. The only real reason behind her extended years given is that she "appears not to dwell on stressful events".

Her grandson Don Parker, himself in his late 50's, had this to say about her. "We don't know why she's lived so long. But she's never been a worrier and she's always been a thin person, so maybe that has something to do with it."

I enjoy what he doesn't say about her, though, and of course this is only my own interpretation. But he doesn't seem to care why she's lived so long. Maybe it's her lack of worry, her ability to handle stress, maybe it's her body type. Who knows? Why give it thought? To him, as I see it, what matters is not why she is still alive, but simply the fact that she IS still alive, that she's celebrating with three generations of grandchildren, and still recognizes the pictures of her lost family in an album. It is not the long life itself that matters to her family, but the woman who lives it.

I wonder if she feels each year as a burden, like a slow-moving clock on the last day of school for a child, eager for summer vacation. She wasn't a worrier, so perhaps not. Perhaps, I hope, the real story to be learned from Mrs. Edna Parker is not in her genes, but in her spirit. She has lived for over a century, seen many wars, seen a country grow and expand to amazing dimension. She has endured the loss of everyone close to her and still continues forward in her life, forging new loves, new purpose, new reasons for each day.

Of course I do not know the woman, though I would dearly love to meet her. But it seems to me that she has managed to perfect the art of living in the moment; neither dwelling on the past or dreading the future. This is, to me, her real gift that should be studied and admired for future generations.

April 13, 2008

Discipline

The summer I turned 12, I discovered plums. I'm sure I had eaten them before that time, but that summer is when I really just fell in love with that particular fruit. I have this dream-like memory of the exact moment of discovery and delight. We were at an outdoors event, camping with a group of friends, and my mom had brought along a variety of snacks and nibbles. Sitting there in the sun, stretched out on a plaid blanket with the warm breeze on my skin, I picked up a plum.

Over the course of the next hour or so, without thinking about it, I slowly and deliberately polished the skin of the fruit with a napkin, buffing it in small circles up to a glassy shine. I was so intent on this process, so focused, the memory is still clear and small in my mind; the light and warmth and breeze, the feeling of the blanket under my legs, the coolness of the small fruit turning against my hand.

The moment I was finally ready to eat was full of anticipation. I even recall turning to my mom and trying to impress her with the shiny results of all my care, (though now, as a mom myself, her bored response of, "Yes, dear, how nice," is completely fitting. I mean, come on, I was holding up a piece of FRUIT, y'all.) That first bite, for me, crystallized all the good sensations of summer and family and carefree days.

I cannot remember the last time I took an hour to soak in to something so small and mundane and inconsequential. Most of my time seems to be spent in planning or reacting and, more recently, recovering. What focus I have now is directed to stay on top of all the things that must be done, all the tasks and roles that must be fulfilled.

However, this overwhelming sense of responsibility must have been learned. That 12-year-old girl of a summer long past wasn't bothered by what else she should be doing. I was completely encased inside that one sun-filled moment, lacking intention, guilt or anxiety. Watching my children now, I can see the same instinctive ability to simply live inside of a moment. It is a skill that I must have unlearned as I grew older.

The idea of discipline has always meant, to me, being able to buckle down and accomplish set goals and tasks. But I think what I need to remember is that sometimes, discipline needs to be focused, not on doing, but instead on NOT doing. On letting go of all the frenetic energy and minutiae of daily life and simply existing in one moment, however small.



On stillness.

March 18, 2008

Sleep

I love all these new sleep studies that show that sleep-deprived people have brain patterns similar to people with severe mental imbalances. This cracks me up for some reason, as if it's only just now been discovered. As if it's new and fascinating idea.

Ask any parent and they'll tell you, without the need for any research or study, the exact same conclusion. Being sleep-deprived makes you crazy. It makes you hostile, inept, confused, emotional, hostile and also... grouchy. You find that you put the milk back in the pantry and the cereal in the refrigerator. You lose your keys 99 times a day.

But more than just the clutzy, half-drunk-in-a-not-fun-way, feeling, sleep deprivation effects your ability to function in society. Staying organized, maintaining relationships, keeping chores done and food prepared, driving, parenting... it all becomes harder than string theory to comprehend. The frustration you feel can boil, build and explode in strange ways and places.

I once went to the grocery store late one evening, shortly after my first daughter was born. I had not slept for more than 2 hours at a time in weeks, literally. I got to the store and made it halfway down the produce aisle when I glanced up and caught the eye of an older woman who had been looking at me.

Instantly, INSTANTLY, I was fighting back tears. I gasped for air, abandoned my cart and made a dash for the car. There was no reason, no reality associated with my onslaught of humiliation, but that's what I felt. I bawled the entire way home and walked in to my completely befuddled (but well rested) husband, who simple held me for the next 30 minutes until I stopped crying. Finally, as my hiccups subsided, he asked what had happened.

"I don't know, exactly," I mumbled into his shirt. "This woman...", I started to whimper a little, "This woman sort of... LOOKED at me."

Oh, dear.

March 17, 2008

What's in the Basket?

Some of my favorite memories from childhood include Easter morning. Sneaking out in the pre-dawn light, still clad in sleep-wrinkled jammies, my brothers and I would head straight for the dining room. Setting aside the whole religious aspect of the day, we never doubted that the Easter Bunny (aka MOM) had come by in the night with our baskets full of treats.

Jelly beans, candy eggs, Peeps, solid chocolate bunnies for each of us. All nestled snuggly on a bed of that ubiquitous green "grass" that stuck to everything and could be found clinging in the corners of the house all year round.

Was it the excitement of the moment that made Easter so fun? That thrill of knowing a treat was coming, the first sight of the baskets, brightly decorated and waiting just for us?

Or did we just want the candy, and want it NOW?

As a mom now, myself, I try hard to give my girls a balanced perspective on food. Nothing is verboten, we still all have our treats, but in general, the house is filled with relatively healthy fare and we leave the candy at the store. For me, especially, this is important. I have a massive sweet tooth and it's been a real struggle to stick to a balanced diet in order to lose these last few pounds. So the idea of bringing baskets full of delicious and indulgent treats into the house, you understand, has given me some pause.

I want my girls to have that same excitement for Easter morning that I so clearly remember from my childhood. But I don't want the whole season to start off with the big bang that would be my sugar-high daughter's head exploding. And I don't know if I should pass on the tradition of holidays being centered around treats. Not that it's bad, necessarily, but...considering my own struggles with weight, I don't want to set up any more hurdles for my girls than I have to, you know?

I suppose I will try, once again, for a balanced approach. One easter basket that we all share as a family, some candy, some toys and hopefully a nice long walk to enjoy the beginning of a new season together. An emphasis on health, happiness and togetherness would be slightly shallow, I think, without the touch of shared pleasure at enjoying a special sweet, too.

But, just in case you think I've over-exaggerated the dangers of bringing candy into my home? As I've typed, I've been thoughtfully munching on the bag of jelly beans that I purchased for the family easter basket this morning.

No wonder that Easter Bunny hops so much. He's trying to burn off all the noshing he does between deliveries!

March 12, 2008

Momentum

"Oh, no. I'm going to throw up, I really think I'm going to throw up."

Sitting curled into the chair in the corner of the bookstore, a paperback protectively sheltering my face from sight, I saw her. The thought raced through my panicked mind as my insides suddenly clenched into a one ton brick.

She looked the same, exactly the same. Slim and spare, her small and yet so powerful figure was unmistakable.

We had scheduled this "accidental" meeting, this opportunity to finally look into the other's face and move on from the past. But my heart had been pounding a staccato beat since I walked in the door and my breath was short and compressed from the weight of anxiety on my chest.

I watched her, from my chair, for a few more minutes. Then, taking a deep breath, I folded the book into my purse, straightened my shirt and walked over.

"Hey..."

When she turned towards me, her eyes, blue-green and bright and completely clear, undid me. I started to cry.

"Hi!" We hugged, laughed nervously, hugged again, and joked at my impromptu theatrics. I tried in vain to hide my suddenly shaking hands and voice.

We talked until the store closed, then moved to a new location and talked some more. Nervous laughter punctuated the brief pauses as we both tried to find a place to start. I listened to her, rediscovering her humor and vulnerability and trying so hard to learn her again without the taint of what I once thought I knew.

The biggest impression of the evening? I was happy, so HAPPY, so unbelievably joyful to simply be where I was; with my friend.

It was late, nearly midnight when we finally admitted that it was time to go. Sitting in my car in the empty lot, a brief silence fell between us.

"I just want to say...", I stumbled. "For the record... about everything... I'm sorry for..."

She waved her hand through the air, sweeping my words away. "I know. It's so far under the bridge, it's.... Me, too."

"I just wanted to make sure you-"
"I totally feel the same-"
"Okay, well, as long as you know how I-"
"Yeah, I do, really, it's-"
"Okay."
"Okay. Good."

There we were, alone in the dark in an abandoned place. We hadn't seen each other in a year and a half, at least. Hadn't really talked in even longer than that. Yet, after only a few hours together we were once again completing each other's thoughts.

In some ways, I've always resented the burden of all the years in our history together, as if that time of shared stories held us back from progress or new potential. Today I am grateful for that anchor because it holds me, will or nil, to a person I honestly want to know anew.

February 16, 2008

Prom Night

Oh, man. I sat down tonight to draw some complicated analogy between fake nails and renewed friendship, I kid you not. Seriously, where do these thoughts come from in my head? As I pseudo-plotted it out before I started writing, it seemed like a good idea. It would have gone something like this:

In high school, my best friend and I both got acrylic nails for Prom and it was awful and we couldn't hold pencils and when we finally couldn't help it anymore, we ripped and tugged them off. Our real nails were all torn and brittle and papery underneath and it took a long time before they healed and grew strong and straight again. And that's just like how that same friend and I ripped away at each other and were left all broken and fragile too. But today I went on an leap of faith and got fake nails again and it's not bad, I really like them and now I know how to take care of them and that's the same thing with that friend, we took a leap of faith and now we are talking again, but it's with more respect and care and knowledge of how fragile and delicate things are underneath. Just like the nails.

I mean, COME ON! That's pretty pathetic and cheesy, even for me and my love of analogy.

So I'll just say it right out instead, with no drawing of likeness and trite conclusion. My friend and I are talking and it's wonderful and exhilirating and very fragile. All those things, and the knowledge of what it feels like not to have those things, make it precious. I will be careful and hopefully it can grow and we can learn from our past mistakes.

And not, you know, end up with papery, broken, and shattered hearts. Or fingernails. Hee.

February 15, 2008

Someone else's kids

Anna got beat up at playdate this week. Not face-crushed-and-bleeding beat up, more just beat ON, I guess. A little boy with a toy, but solid, hammer whacked her on the head with it several times before I got there. I yanked it out of his hands, said, "Hitting is NOT ok," stalked over to his mom, gave her the hammer, and then headed back to cuddle and comfort my totally shocked child.

And I'm still furious, almost surprisingly so. I mean, it's not like Anna doesn't have scuffles with other kids all the time, of course she does. The nature of children is to lack impulse control, so it's a given that things get a little wacky from time to time. And Anna is, though I love her, a total drama queen. Sometimes she has fits because, I kid you not, someone looked at her. It's frustrating to have a child who has such easy tears because sometimes it's hard to tell when something is really wrong and when she's just having an Anna Moment.

But this incident was not one of those moments. This is the same little boy who decided to stab her repeatedly with a stick last summer at another playdate, leaving scabs on her tummy. This is the same little boy who pushes, shoves and grabs from her (and other kids) every chance he gets. This is the same little boy who I stopped moments before he shoved Anna off the top of the play equipment last fall.

And yesterday, he just walked up to her, gave her a shove and, when she didn't move, just started HAMMERING ON HER HEAD.

But what gets me the most riled up is that his mom didn't DO anything. She didn't get up, she didn't say anything to him, she just gave him a little hug and sent him on his way again. The she told a little story about how cute it was that he was always trying to fix things with the hammer, even other kids.

What?! It's cute that he hits other kids with a hammer? Huh?!

But here's where I have to take a deep breath and back down from my Mamma Bear instincts. Because we are talking about some else's child. This means there are different standards, rules, regulations and expectations. Fragile ground, indeed. This topic makes walking on eggshells sounds sturdy.

What to do? At the time, I said nothing to the woman, which I regret. Instead, I simply comforted my child and tried to diffuse the situation. She cried for half an hour, screaming and completely hysterical. She talked ALL DAY about being scared and being hurt and not liking playdate and the mean boy who hurts her. This morning I said we had to get ready to go, and she said, "I don't want to go to playdate, Mama, I don't like playdate." She was relieved when I said we were just going to school!

I know I can't protect Anna from everything, I know she needs to fight her own battles and stand up for herself. I didn't expect her to have to actually, physically, defend herself at the tender age of 3, though, and I don't think she should have to. Is it wrong to expect other parents to hold their child accountable for unacceptable behavior? What if they don't agree with you on what is unacceptable? What if they think your child was "asking for it"?

In my opinion, (cuz ya know, this is my blog, right?), it doesn't matter what someone did to irritate the attacker. Hitting is not an acceptable response. I'm even hedgy about hitting back in self-defense, but that may change as my girls grow up. At this point, I simply tell Anna to say, "Stop it," and walk away. If the other kid won't let her leave, she is to get an adult.

She's still working on standing up for herself and more often then not responds emotionally (and loudly). Occasionally, though, she has really diffused situations with good words and actions and it makes me proud. Yesterday she was too surprised and scared to do anything. She just lay on the floor, trying to cover her head and screaming.

I'm still upset because playdates verge on sacred to me; they offer time away, time to talk to other moms, time for my kids to interact, and time to get them as tuckered out as possible so they'll take an extra long nap. So when my daughter tells me she's afraid and starts crying when I say we're going to playdate, it really upsets all of us.

What to do, indeed?

January 14, 2008

This is my dance space

We moved into this house about two weeks before my oldest daughter was born and so, this has always been a house of children. Every room, every space, reflects some aspect of their existence.

No room shows that more than the playroom, which is as it should be. But the playroom is also, by default, my room; my office, my desk and craft area. My Place. Until recently, My Place constituted one desk crammed into the corner of the room with a messy bookshelf . It was surrounded by toys and constantly pulled apart by curious little fingers. I have a vivid memory of trying to "organize" my desk and bookshelves when Anna was just a baby and being thwarted, (yes, thwarted!), at every turn by her never-ending ability to removed everything in sight from it's place every time I blinked.

This week, it all changed.

No, sadly, I didn't get my own office with my own door. And no, I didn't get rid of the children, either. How then, you ask, could the two polar opposites of work space and play space co-exist?

It was a two-step plan. First, I completely re-arranged everything in the room. I set my desk and craft table into a U-shape in one corner of the room and arranged the rest of the room to respect those clear boundaries. Now my desk faces the play area, but the play area is NOT IN AND AROUND AND BEHIND my desk. Awesome. The kids love it because it is different and new, and therefore exciting. I love it because I am now facing them as they play and I work and because my little area is separated from theirs. However, my baby girl still always seemed to find it fascinating to come pull on the power cords under my feet and topple the trash can and unwind every ball of yarn she could find. But, as I said, it was a two step plan.

The second step? A ginormous wraparound baby gate. The only way in? Stepping over. And hey, guess what? Turns out, my 3 year old and my 1 year old? Too short to step over, darn it.

THIS is my dance space, y'all. Hell yeah!