Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I'm Going To Hell In A Hand-Basket. Or Possibly A Kohl's Shopping Cart. Whatever.

I hate going to Kohl’s. Don’t get me wrong - the high quality goods and wares and the low prices combined with the ubiquitous 20-30-40 percent off additional sale price savings are alluring.

Once, I purchased a blouse that was originally $18.99 on sale, but due to a small tear in the seam was marked down by $9.00. It was on a rack marked LUDICROUSLY SUPER SAVINGS! A MILLION PERCENT OFF ORIGINAL SALE PRICE!!!!!

Ok, maybe it was actually 80 percent. But by my calculations (20% of $18.99 minus $9.00) Kohl’s owed me $5.20. For some reason, the clerk didn’t agree. Whatever, I’m still waiting for my cheque to arrive in the mail any day now.

No, the reason I hate Kohl’s is because of their damn shopping buggies. You see, my oldest can walk, but insists on riding. My youngest cannot walk, and refuses to ride. Had I the power of Thrud, Norse goddess of strength, I could not push a buggy with one seat while holding the baby. Thus, I must face the doom that is the double seat stroller. This never ends well.

Unlike a regular shopping cart, Kohl’s buggies have the kids facing forward one behind the other. This is fine with the toddler, but absolutely unacceptable to the baby.

Now, my husband will only wear jeans from Kohl’s and his pants had become so worn that I was afraid he’d be mistaken for a pauper, get locked up in debtor’s prison, and we would not see him again unless we immediately paid off the $180,000 in student loans we incurred in an effort to be smart.

Note to self: Spending $180,00 to obtain official papers saying you’re smart may indeed not be smart. YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

I was forced to go to Kohl’s. And because we live 3 states away from any reliable babysitter I resigned to taking the kids with me.

The minute I put the baby in the buggy seat, she screamed as if I had ripped her out toenails out with pliers then dipped her in a tub of hot oil. And took her nuk away to boot. TREMBLE BEFORE THE HORROR OF THE KOHL’S SHOPPING BUGGY!

I put the toddler in the next seat. She immediately began screaming because the baby was screaming. Oh, my tenderhearted one! Still, she steadfastly refused to walk, so off I traversed to menswear pushing my two inconsolable children in front of me.

Soon, I began to garner attention of other shoppers, some sympathetic, some annoyed. Shushing the children was as effective as teaching a chicken to read, so I grinned and beared it. Actually, I smiled maniacally and ignored them until the shopping was complete.

It reminded me of the time the toddler climbed too high on the jungle gym and had to be rescued. Though I safely returned her to land, I attempted to jump off the third step and fell flat on my face in front of the other mothers.

Or the time in college I was walking home from class, and stopped on the highest hill to take in the scenery of the fresh spring day. Then I slipped down the hill becoming covered in mud and grass and scraping my elbows and face. Subsequently I was forced to walk home to my downtown apartment looking like I had a close encounter with a mud-wrestling bear.

So when is it OK to pretend like everything is A-OK when it is clearly not? Shopping with screaming kids, sure. Falling down, why not so long as no exposed bones are involved. Depression, not so much. I learned that the hard way. I existed like that for way too long.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

In Which I Reveal Myself To Be A Giant Dork and Also A Bookworm

The sweet rush of air conditioning when you open the door, the musty smell of secrets archived and forgotten, the reverent silence; I’ve always loved libraries. I went with my mom to the library whenever possible, and by the time I was nine or ten, she’d just drop me off at the door and pick me up one or two hours later. The freedom of being left to my own devices for an hour or two was only magnified by the freedom I found in books.

Nothing was left untouched. I read all varieties of fiction, non-fiction, even encyclopedias. I loved flipping through the index cards in the card catalog to find just the right title (yes, I’m that old.) P ----- Pandas ---- BAM! I was off and running. I read whatever caught my fancy.

Eventually the distinction between children-young adult-adult fiction blurred and faded into obscurity. Anne Rice and Jean M. Auel sat side-by-side my stack of Babysitter’s Club books. Gone With the Wind next to Where’s Waldo.

Here’s where the dork part comes in. What kind of 14 year-old spends 3 straight hours on a Saturday at the library, checks out a stack of books, and returns the next week to begin the process anew? Me, that’s who!

Tonight I watched my husband and daughter read “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go.” They found Goldbug on every page. My heart sings.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dinnertime Chronicles

4:30: “Mama, I’m hungry” “Eat the bagel you asked for (one and a half hours ago).

4:45: “Mama, I’m hungry” Said bagel has been looked at, but not consumed. “Eat the bagel you asked for.”

4:50: “I’m hungry, Mama.” Said bagel has been torn into 3 pieces. “Eat the bagel you asked for.”

5:03: “Is supper ready?” “Supper will be ready when Daddy gets home”

5:11: “Is Daddy home yet?” “No he’s not.”

5:17: “Supper ready now?” “Supper will be ready after Yo Gabba Gabba”

5:18: “Supper ready now?” “Not yet.”

5:21: “I’m hungry.” “I know hon, just a few more minutes.”

5:25: Supper is presented.

5:27: Toddler consumes one bite.

5:29: “I’m done now!”

5:45: Supper dishes are cleared away and washed.

5:50: “I want a snack!”

5:51: My head explodes.

The End.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Responsibility 101

Husband and I have a love-hate relationship with responsibility. Which is why we have two kids 22 months apart. Same goes for housework.

Every couple weeks we’ll agree that our apartment is some sort of biohazard, and maybe we should clean it before we get scabies or ebola or something. Then we go on a cleaning frenzy. Everything is vacuumed and dusted. Laundry is completed, folded and put away. Dishes are washed, floors are mopped. Toilets are scrubbed.

The apartment stays in this state of sterilization for exactly 3 days. By then some dishes have piled up and there’s something sticky on the floor. The conversation goes as follows:

“We should do the dishes tonight.”

“Didn’t we do dishes, like, 3 days ago?”

“Yeah. I’m tired.”

“Me too. Hey, I’ve got an idea! Lets watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy!”


Nine hours later the apartment is still a mess. But we can now speak a smattering of elvish, so we feel accomplished.

We behaved like this even after our first was born. You see, my first child came from the logical-responsible side of my uterus. She never stuck things in her mouth. Seriously. She was all, “Food? That’s not food. That’s a toy. What do you think I am, some sort of idiot?” She learned her letters and numbers by 18 months. I’m pretty sure she’s going to grow up to be some sort of philosopher or maybe champion of the universe.

Apparently she inherited the responsible and intelligent qualities of husband and I. The qualities that allowed us to successfully complete post-college education and also not buy ponies because ponies are expensive and you can’t turn your closet into a stable for the pony because your landlord will possibly find out when the neighbors complain all their oats are missing and then you’ll be evicted. Also, she’s approaching 3 years old and still isn’t potty trained, possibly because she knows she’ll catch scabies or ebola or something from our toilet.

My second child, though also very intelligent, apparently came from the risk-taking-experimental side of my uterus. She always sticks things in her mouth. She is all, “Is that food? It might possibly be food. I better eat it just to be sure. It tastes like paper! Is paper food? If not, it should be!” She gums our ottoman. Today I caught her trying to gum a wall. I’m pretty sure she’s going to grow up to be some kind of analyst (Cancer? Is that a cancer? It might possibly be cancer. I better eat it just to be sure.)

But now our youngest is mobile and putting everything in her mouth. And because letting your child choke on a guitar pick she found on the floor is generally frowned upon by polite society, we are forced to be real adults and do things like vacuum every day.


Is Anybody Out There?

Hi, my name is Angela and I have bipolar depression.

The manic episodes don’t cause me to go on wild spending sprees, or sleep with every man who crosses my path, or believe I am the Queen of Albania or anything like that. They just make my drive to succeed go into overdrive. Like when I was in college and I’d spend three days in a row studying for an exam or writing a paper on only three hours of sleep, and not feel tired. And then I’d get an “A” and feel super-accomplished so I’d join 3 student organizations and become president of all of them. Because I really should be more accomplished.

Then I’d get to the point where I’d feel sad. Really sad. And I just wouldn’t get it because if everything in my life is going so well, why do I feel so sad? Like I didn’t have a right to be sad. Or to feel like despite my accomplishments, I was really quite worthless and any day now everyone will come to that realization and stop loving me. So the depression would kick in and though I’d still do things like go to class, I’d feel utterly empty inside. And I’d begin to imagine ways, not to kill myself, but to just make myself disappear so I wouldn’t have to deal with anything anymore. Like maybe go into a coma or become a cave-dwelling hermit or something.

What’s worse is I was terrified someone would find out how I felt, and realize I was not perfect after all. So I’d wear a mask, and smile a lot like everything was ok when really I was withering away.

Pregnancy only exasperated the manic-depressive cycle. After my first was born, the manic episodes manifested themselves in different ways. For example, I’d become hyper-accomplished at work, teach my baby sign language, make all the baby food by hand, bake homemade bread every week and generally work towards the goal of being the best worker, mother, and wife EVER. Oh, and I wouldn’t sleep. But I didn’t really feel like I needed to anyways.

Then the depressive cycle kicked in, and I panicked at the idea of going to work for fear I might mess something up. I wouldn’t feel capable of doing any housework or hobbies - I was clearly a worthless piece of shit that was terrible at everything. I’d stop communicating with my husband and draw inwards because I just felt incredibly sad and guilty that he had to deal with being married to someone who just couldn’t deal with life. And 3 months, then 6 months, then a year went by and I just couldn’t shake the guilt I felt at having my daughter in daycare.

After a year of this, I finally broke down into a sobbing mess. My husband convinced me to go to our family doctor and get some drugs, which I did. I was put on Effexor and it helped. Somewhat. At least I could function again.

And then my second was born. And a few months later I could feel the depression kicking back in, so I went back to my doctor. And she kept giving me higher doses of Effexor, and higher doses of Effexor, and higher doses of Effexor, and it wasn’t working, it wasn’t working, IT WASN’T WORKING.

Eventually it got so bad that I seriously considered downing the entire bottle of sleeping pills my doctor had prescribed. And the only thing that stopped me was the knowledge that my girls needed a mother, and it would be terribly unfair to deprive them of a mother at so young an age. But I was scared. So I called my husband and asked him to come home immediately. And he was scared. Because he didn’t know what I would do. Neither did I.

So, I got myself to a psychiatrist, who recognized that I didn’t have just depression, but bipolar depression. So we slowly started the process of weaning me off the antidepressants and onto mood stabilizers.

Now, for the first time in nearly 10 years, I feel relaxed. I didn’t realize how on edge I always was until I started the new medication. I was literally in a state of fight-or-flight all the time. And for the first time in my life I could forgive myself for not being perfect, and let go of the impossibly-high standards I had always imposed upon myself. I still have manic-depressive cycles but they are comparatively mild, and increasingly less frequent.

Yet I feel so solitary in this condition. And though I absolutely do not want the struggle I went through to thrust itself on anyone I know and love, I wish that I could meet someone new in real life who has gone through what I went through. So I won’t feel so alone.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


After several years working insane hours in a high-pressure job, I now find myself in the roll of stay-at-home mother. It is quite an adjustment. I’m not exactly sure what I expected. I knew it would be both difficult and rewarding, but I wasn’t prepared for how intense the low points would be, nor how sweet the high points would be.

I was prepared for the constant demands. The incessant wining. The never-ending diapers. Never being able to finish a task without being interrupted. The inevitable tantrums.

It’s not as though I didn’t experience any of this when I was working. It’s just that, after a day or two, I got to leave it for a while and go to work. Where I interacted with other adults, exercised my mind, got promotions. There is no promotion from mother.

It’s ironic that, when my first was born, I’d have given anything to stay at home. I was so heartbroken leave her at daycare, a feeling that was only exasperated by postpartum depression. It didn’t ease until I had my second child, and learned that my children were not only well cared for at daycare, but thriving at daycare, that I was released from the guilt.

I wasn’t prepared for the loss of identity.

I’ve worked, at least part time, since I was sixteen. I didn’t expect to feel inferior to my husband due to transitioning from being the breadwinner to bringing in no paycheck at all.

I went to school for a total of 21 years. I didn’t expect to feel like the accumulated wealth of knowledge obtained through years of education and experience was slowly leaking out of my ears.

Since working full time I never had enough time to keep the house in order or engage in any hobbies. I wasn’t expecting to be bored after only three weeks.

But there is sweetness. Hearing my two-year-old regale me with her observations on life. Hearing my 11-month-old babble in a language only she understands. Watching the two play together.

And I’m able to be there for them. When they’re sick. Without worrying about how to negotiate time away from work. To not worry about how to get them to daycare in time, and who to pick them up. I’ve already said more times than I can count, “Thank god I’m not working.” Not because I hated work, but because juggling two full time working parents and two young children was impossible at times.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Building Character. One. Push. At a time.

I have two daughters. You may hear about them here from time to time. I cannot help it; they are my heart.

It is only natural for a parent to want to protect their child from harm. Not just physical injury, but emotional injury as well. I understand that they will inevitably be hurt in numerous ways. I accept this, and encourage a certain amount of risk-taking. It builds character. I just with I could prevent them from repeating the mistakes I made growing up.

I was a passionate child. While this trait has its benefits, it can quickly sour one’s interactions with others, particularly when someone gets hurt. For the record, I’m certain that I had interactions with other children that did not involve someone being either embarrassed or maimed, but apparently they were not remarkable enough to be stored in the historical annals of memory.

The earliest of these memories begins when I am about 5. I had a neighbor, Julie, who was a couple years younger than I was. She had the awesomest swing set ever. It had swings, a slide, AND a seesaw. She also had a sandbox made out of an old tire that the neighborhood cats regularly pooped in. Then we’d scoop out the poop with plastic shovels. We were just that cool.

Since she was only 3, I’m not sure Julie ever knew who I was, but I went over there often to play with her on the swing set and in the sandbox.

One beautiful summer day I was pushing her on the swings. She gleefully laughed and screamed, higher, HIGHER!!! I was filled with pride. Look how happy she is! I’m such a good friend! Surely the arc and trajectory of her flight on the swing correlates with her happiness factor and proves what a good person I am!

Taking this theorem to heart, I gave her one almighty push. So powerful was my effort in that push, that I managed to push her OFF the swing. Instead of soaring majestically through the air, she rose approximately two inches and then fell flat on her face onto the gravel.

She started screaming in agony. WHAT HAD I DONE??!!! My act of supreme friendship had gone horribly awry!

I knew I had to do the right thing, to nobly find her mother, admit my transgression and face the consequences due to such fiends who pushed three-year-olds off the swings.

Instead I ran back home and hid in my basement.

Shortly after that Julie’s family moved away, probably because there was a mysterious serial killer lurking in the neighborhood trying to do away with their precious daughter. One. Push. At a time.

About 6 years later I ran into Julie at a summer bible camp. I’m pretty certain she didn’t remember who I was, as she introduced herself by saying, “Hi, I’m Julie. Who are you?” I certainly didn’t want to remind her that I was the Mad Pusher who haunted her childhood nightmares, so I replied, “Angela.”

She looked at me cock-eyed and asked “Have I seen you at church before?” Me: “mumble....mumble.....No.” It was true, I hadn’t attended that church before. I went to that bible camp only because the most popular girl in school had invited me, and I wanted to impress on her my piety and pureness, lest she find out I was actually an unbaptized heathen who pushed her friends off swings.

This was only the first of many instances in which my attempts to impress had backfired, revealing my true identity as a neurotic spaz who ought not be let out in public unsupervised. And now I’ve went and procreated.

I’m sorry.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Why blog?

I suppose this is a question that should have been resolved before I began blogging. But, as you will eventually realize, I tend to over-think things. Usually I over-think so much that it prevents me from any action whatsoever. And I didn’t want this to be one of those situations where I thought so much about the consequences of doing something that I end up missing out on the experience and never doing it at all.

For example, I really wanted to study abroad while in college. I was an English major, so the United Kingdom seemed to be a perfectly crommulent place to study, and that was my dream. I thought it would make me seem all intellectual and worldly and stuff. Or at least I’d get to hang out with people who had interesting accents, and maybe I could pick up an interesting accent myself. Having grown up in Wisconsin my current accent is a mix between Minnesotan, Chicago, and Yooper. It is not so interesting as it is comical.

Anyhow, I was all set to undertake this adventure when I began thinking. What if the classes were too difficult and I failed all of them? What if I got sick? How would I find a place to live? And food? How would I pay for it? Never mind that thousands of students study abroad in countries all over the world every year, even countries more exotic and primitive than England, and most if not all of the programs are designed to make things as easy for an ignorant American student as possible.

I expressed my worries to my equally-neurotic mother, who was less than thrilled at the prospect of her youngest child leaving the country for a whole year and she heartily agreed that I should not study abroad. Thus, I kept my feet firmly planted on American soil.

I’ve regretted that decision ever since.

I had similar concerns about blogging. What if someone reads it and thinks it’s dumb? What if no one reads it, because it’s dumb? Do I really want to expose my innermost thoughts on the internet where they will last for eternity? After all, if I had done so when I was, say, thirteen, all the world would’ve known that OMG I LOVE TODD SO MUCH HE IS SO HOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!EXCLAMATION POINT TO INFINITY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I didn’t want this to be an experience I missed out on. I’ve always loved writing, and I’ve always been too afraid to let anyone read my writing. My writing has always been fairly translucent and to have someone else know EXACTLY what I think left me feeling naked and exposed.

After many years of therapy, I’ve decided to take some more risks in life. This blog is one of those risks.