Saturday, September 25, 2010

Home

My house is filled with half-packed cardboard boxes. Piles of things waiting to go to Goodwill.

On Tuesday the kids and I, with the help of the Grandparents, haul ass back to Wisconsin in a U-Haul and a minivan. On Tuesday Husband has his dissertation defense. He’ll join us the next day.

On Tuesday, everything changes.

We’re moving back to a town we know and love. But we are not the same.

Everyone asks where we’re going to go first. What restaurants do we want to visit? What sites do we want to see? We don’t know. After 6 years, we don’t remember where anything is, much less what’s still there. The place has changed.

The kids are acting up. They know something is changing. Toddler understands we are moving to a new house and she is excited, but it worries her when we pack her things away in boxes, even if she helps. Baby likes the fact that there are packing peanuts for her to eat and exposed outlets for her to stick fingers into.

When we move back to Wisconsin, Husband and I will be back at our college stomping grounds. The place we met. The place we fell in love. The place I said, “Yes, I’ll marry you.”

But it is new.

We are new.

Oh, and also, NO MORE CARDBOARD BOXES (and no more wire hangers, either).

Friday, September 24, 2010

Public Transportation: The Bad

In college, I usually took the bus home on holidays. The ride was only two hours and it was usually uneventful.

Except once.

It was almost Christmas, and the bus was exceptionally crowded. I took a seat on the bus by a window, put my bag on the seat next to me, and did my best to look invisible.

Just as the bus was about to leave, a tall gangly man with scruffy blonde hair asked if he could sit next to me. There were no other open seats on the bus, so I had to say yes.

Scruffy liked a good conversation.

Scruffy: Weed - it should be free for everyone.

Me: Oh.

Scruffy: You know, the government secretly spies on us with satellites. That’s why I don’t have a cell phone.

Me: Is that so? I never knew.

Scruffy: I just moved here from L.A. There are some cool people there. I was the freest man I know. I had a van.

Me: Why did you move back to Wisconsin?

Scruffy: I don’t know. By the way, have you ever dropped acid? It’s amazing.

Me: No, I haven’t.

With each passing minute he inched closer and closer until the plastic armrest between us was nothing more than a metaphor.

Scruffy: We could move back to L.A. together, you know. I still have the van. It just needs a new engine.

Me: eep!

Scruffy: You’re real pretty.

Me: EEP!!!

Finally a very large man in a Green Bay Packers jersey sitting behind me taps (ok, smacks) Scruffy on the head and says, “Leave the girl alone already, man!”

Scruffy says no more and gets off at the next stop. I turn to my savior and said “Thanks, he was starting to creep me out.”

“No problem honey,” he says. “By the way, are you doing anything this weekend?”

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I Can't Believe I'm Posting This

I learned to read because I was constipated.

Let me back up.

When I was three or four I was often constipated, which meant having to sit on the toilet for quite a long time. My mother kept a basket of books by the toilet to entertain me during these spells.

I also watched a lot of Sesame Street. Hey, it was either that or Days of Our Lives.

One day I finally put two and two together, and taught myself to read. While sitting on the toilet. Trying to poop.

I’m not sure whether this is a matter of pride, or embarrassment.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Falling Up

Yesterday I fell down an up escalator at the mall.

Now before I explain about this escalator, you should know that I often take my kids to the playground inside the mall to burn off energy. I know, fresh air and all, but all the playgrounds in town are covered in wood chips, which Baby eats.

Unfortunately, every visit reveals what a spazzy mess I am.

We wander into the mall slightly disoriented, squinting as our eyes adjust to the bright fluorescent light. Before playtime begins, we meander to the Starbucks, where I purchase coffee.

No matter how full or empty the diaper bag is, I can never find my wallet. It has hitched a ride to the Big City, and will never be seen in this Podunk town again.

After finally locating my wallet, we head to the playground.

Toddler is always dirty. I think she manages to bet dirty while bathing. It’s just the way she rolls. Baby is always missing a sock. She leaves the house with two. She arrives at the destination with one. I think she eats them.

I’ve managed to make myself nominally accepted to be viewing public, but have unfortunately messy hair. No matter what I do with it, it always look like I rode in on a tornado.

Now regarding this escalator.

I was holding Baby and the stroller and my diaper bag. Toddler was holding my hand. Three-quarters of the way up, my pant leg snagged on something (probably the stroller). I shook it loose and fell backwards.

The stroller and Baby fell on top of me. Toddler rode the escalator to the top, and I was aided by some patrons and employees who pressed the emergency stop for the escalator, and called 911. A ride in the ambulance is not as fun as it looks.

All I could think of as I was falling was protecting Baby, who came out of the situation with nothing more than a scratch.

I did not fair so well. Lots of scrapes, bumps, and bruises. A stress fractures on my hip and and another on my tailbone. Mr. Hydrocodone and Ms. Naproxen are my friends. It could’ve been so much worse.

Lesson learned: DO NOT TRY TO DO TOO MUCH AT ONE TIME. ALWAYS ERR ON THE SIDE OF SAFETY.

Also, it’s a good thing I’m moving soon. I don’t think I can ever show my face at Elder-Beerman again.

Frauds, All Of Us

Not long after I wrote this post, Backpacking Dad wrote a post about Impostor Syndrome.

According to Wikipedia, those with Impostor Syndrome remain convinced internally they do not deserve the success they have achieved and are actually frauds, regardless of what external proof they may have of their competence.

Who hasn’t experienced this before? No matter what level of education you achieved or the accomplishment you’ve garnered who hasn’t felt like they’re just not good enough?

What is it that keeps us from believing...

...that we’re intelligent, and deserving of praise?

...that we’re a good partner, and deserving of love?

...that we’re a good parent, and deserving of trust?

What is it that makes us believe we’re just frauds, all of us?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Public Transportation: The Good

I spent all of third grade sharing a seat on the school bus with a Jehovah’s Witness.

I wasn’t very assertive. One day she came and sat by me, and said, “Hi, I’m Lisa! What’s you’re name?”

“Angela,” I replied.

“Today is my birthday!” she said with an enormous smile.

“Happy birthday!” I replied. “Are you having a party?”

“Nope!” Enormous smile.

“What about a cake?”

“Nope!” Enormous smile.

“Presents?”

“Nope! I’m a Jehovah Witness. We don’t celebrate birthdays!” Enormous smile.

Blink. Blink, blink.

I was confused. I thought it was sad. But she was older than me, and didn’t have many friends, so we continued to talk about whatever it was 9 year olds talked about in the 80’s. I don’t know, probably something about jelly shoes and which Babysitters Club member we’d most like to be.

The next day she sat by me again. And again the next day, and the next. And before I knew it, I had a permanent seat-buddy. Who didn’t celebrate birthdays, or Christmas, or Easter, and, as a learned during one bewildering school assembly, didn’t participate in the Pledge of Allegiance.

At least she was nice.

Coming Up Soon: Keeping An Open Mind During Public Transportation: The Bad. Featuring the time I was propositioned not once, but twice on a bus ride home from college.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Why Isn’t There A Parenting Aptitude Test?

How do you know when you’re doing this parenting thing right?

Is it enough that, Grandma used to say, you’ve kept them off the streets and out of prison? Is it enough that when I tuck them in at night, I feel satisfied that I kept them alive for one more day?

Yesterday was just too much. Baby did nothing but whine and cry all day long. She cried when she was hungry, and then cried when we tried to feed her. She cried when she was tired, and then cried when we tried to put her down for a nap.

And she only wanted Mommy. She cried when Mommy held Toddler or played with Toddler. She cried when Mommy put her down to eat a meal. She cried when Mommy went to the bathroom. She cried when Daddy tried to help out or intervene in any way.

And then night came. And she screamed and cried and cried and screamed. For four-and-a-half hours she wailed, before by some miracle she fell asleep.

And then I cried. Because she made me feel so inadequate for not being able to help her. Because by the end of the day I was angry with her for not letting me have a break. Because I felt guilty for being frustrated and angry.

So what’s the yardstick? What’s the standard? When do you know that you’re good enough?

Update: Baby has ear infection, and is on antibiotics. She still hasn't slept more than 10 minutes at a time for the past 14 hours. Hopefully the antibiotics will kick in by bedtime.

Friday, September 17, 2010

My, Secret, Shame

I can’t use commas without consulting my trusty copy of Strunk & White.

,

,,,

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Why is this shameful? I majored in English. My mother was an English teacher. In fact, I’m pretty sure she can read my thoughts as I write this and is dying a little inside.

Hi, Mom!

Unfortunately, I do not know where my copy of Strunk & White is. In a box? On the moon? In an alternate universe where I’m a highly lucrative and successful writer? Who knows.

What I do know is that this means that every blog post I’ve written so far has been peppered with punctuation, the rules of which are of my own making and recollection. Because apparently googling “how to use commas” is not part of my internet skills set.

And one of these days, some one will point out my copious and ridiculous use of commas. And then I’ll die of shame.

The end.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Toddler Interrogations

My toddler is heading out of the "what's that?" stage. I fully expected the "why?" stage to come next.

Apparently there is another stage. The "what kind of?" stage.

Me: Here's a banana!

Toddler: What kind of banana?

Me: ?????

Replying "It's just a banana!" does not mollify her. So I have to get creative in my responses.

Me: "A yellow banana!"

See, isn't that creative?

Sometimes it's not so easy.

Me: "We're going to McDonald's!"

Toddler: "What kind of McDonald's?"

Me: "A happy McDonald's!"

Because apparently the sad McDonald's is out of our way. And the disgruntled McDonald's is out of happy meal toys (Yes this actually happened to me once. There were tears all around).

Scene: Toddler is eating crackers on the floor. Baby is trying to appropriate said crackers.

Me: Go sit on the couch so Baby won't get your crackers!

Toddler: What kind of couch?

We only have one couch.

Ah, my mini interrogator. Maybe she'll grow up to be a lawyer, just like her mama. Who doesn't actually practice law, but blogs instead.

Then again, maybe not.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tales of Regrettable Fashion

I’ve never been a stranger to bright colors and new styles when it comes to fashion. But in my younger years my sense of style sometimes went into overdrive.

Example 1:

I didn’t get my ears pierced until I was eleven. Once I was able to take the starter earrings out, I instantly began wearing earrings that could only be described as bizarre. Dangly globes. Troll earrings. Earrings where one is a dog, and it’s match is a bone. The list goes on. Why did I decide troll earrings (with rainbow hair to boot) were a good idea? Why?


Example 2:

When I was in middle school (early 90’s), body suits (like a baby’s onsie but for adults, to be worn in the same manner as a blouse/shirt) briefly came into fashion. Most other girls had already sprouted, what I could only assume were magnificent, boobs and showed them off in all their glory by wearing tight fitting body suits.

Not wanting to miss out on this surely timeless style, I too wore body suits. Except I had no boobs. None. Not even a hint of boob. So on me, body suits just looked like I had tucked my shirt in too much. The fact that I still wore high waisted jeans didn’t add to the ensemble.

Example 3:

The middle school years were not kind to me. I still shopped in the girls 7 - 14 section, and for some reason some one thought that girls of that size should really sport tapestry-style vests such as these:


Fetching, no? And this at the age where I hoped boys would notice me. I even got my 7th grade school photo taken in one of these fine numbers. It had faces of children of all races and nationalities smiling together, in a tapestry woven of peace and happiness and rainbows and polyester.

By 9th grade I figured out that the tapestry vest may not be the most flattering look, so I switched to sweater vests. In fact, I clearly remember strutting my stuff down the hallway wearing a moss green sweater vest over a white t-shirt, jeans, and matching moss green clogs thinking “Yeah, I’m hot stuff!”

No matter what the style or situation, to this day I can no longer consider wearing a vest without dying a little inside.

Example 4:

High school turned into an exploration of the shape and fit of a garment relevant to the length and width of the human body, as well as an introspective study of color and pattern. Some illustrations:

I regularly purchased and wore size large Gap sweatshirts. Never mind that I was all of 90 pounds wet, and Gap made sweatshirts of all sizes, including a perfectly crommulent extra-small. Nope, for me large was the only way to go.

Or consider the time I finally realized I had hips (sort of) and purchased, for the first time from the junior’s section, some tight-fitting denim shorts. Which I proceeded to wear with a size large purple t-shirt. Again, notice the glaring incongruity between my perception of the size I actually am, and the size clothing that actually fits me.

A red and white striped ribbed t-shirt with a denim collar? A turquoise polyester button-down Hawaiian-style shirt, except instead of flowers it was graffitied hearts? Shall I continue?

I also considered it essential to wear a cotton turtleneck under each and every sweater I owned. Considering I grew up in Wisconsin, I owned a lot of sweaters. The only acceptable turtleneck colors were white or black. It didn’t matter if the sweater was fitted or baggy, long or short, crew neck or cardigan or anything in-between. The policy was strictly enforced even if the sweater itself was a turtleneck.

If turtlenecks were wrong, I didn’t want to be right.

Example 5: Hope For The Future

Finally, the summer after I turned 16, something clicked. I finally lost that gawky awkward teenager look, and began to look a little more like a normal person. This didn’t mean I still wasn’t a spaz; I was. I just didn’t look like one. I determined, with reasonable certainty, what sizes the top half and bottom half of my body were. And I knew which patterns would inevitably lead to stares and snickers.

That’s not to say I still didn’t make mistakes. A gold lame halter top. A sparkly black tank top with fringe. A blue paisley sash worn as a belt, hair tie, and scarf. But I at least began to develop my own sense of style.

Coming up in a future post: Hair tragedies - can I be exonerated for sporting the “claw bangs” of the eighties well into 1995? Probably not.



Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Interlude In The Motherland

For the first time in over six years, I will be living in the state I was born and raised, a state I never expected to live in again. Although my profession is pretty flexible, there are very limited job opportunities in Husband’s field of expertise in our home state. Ultimately, we determined that once he graduated, we’d live wherever he’d find the best job.

After college, husband (then fiancee) and I moved to the state-next-door to attend grad school and law school, respectively. It was a “whopping” six hour drive from my hometown. My family was devastated. I might have well have moved to the moon.

After two and a half years, we were abruptly relocated to another state, now a whopping eight hour drive from my hometown and two day drive from my husband’s hometown. This was like ripping a band aid off a fresh wound; me reassuring my family and myself this was the right thing to do.

In the end, my family got used to the distance, and I did too. It was good for me.

No one in my family is shy about voicing an opinion. Always ├╝ber-sensitive and eager to please, and as the baby of the family, I constantly felt under the thumb of the opinions of those I loved.

The physical distance, as well as a healthy dose of therapy on my part, changed this. I now know that my family never meant to judge, never thought any less of me, loved me any less, when I bucked their opinions.

Now that Husband’s schooling is done, we find ourselves in the position where an opportunity has come his way that would be a boon to his career and happens to be in our home state. It is a temporary position, two years tops.

So, in two weeks we will be packing up our belongings and hauling them back to the Motherland.

I am thrilled that I’ll be closer to my family, that my children will finally have ample opportunity to interact with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I’m thrilled to be able to see old friends again.

And I hope that now that I have to ability to love myself more and have more confidence in my life choices, that when others voice their opinions, out of love and concern for me, I’ll have the confidence to believe “That is what you may think. But this is what’s right for me,” instead of feeling that I’m just not good enough for them, a false and hurtful belief to all involved.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why Computers Hate Neglectful Users And Punish Them Harshly For Their Transgressions

Whenever there are new updates to some software on my computer I get a handy little message informing me of said updates. Something along the lines of WE’VE FIXED SOME BUGS! and created new ones OUR NEWEST UPDATE WILL BLOW YOUR MIND WITH ITS AWESOME NEW GRAPHICS AND LAYOUTS! that you won’t like WOULD YOU LIKE TO DOWNLOAD iSOFTWARE 10.9.08.423897243pancake234908 NOW?

Below there are three buttons. One says “Update Now And Your Computer Will Love You Forever.” Another says “Update Later You Malignant Demon From The Seventh Circle Of Hell.” The last says “Cancel, Sadly I Have No Purpose As There Is Already An Update Later Option That Makes This Window Go Away.”

They shouldn’t offer an “Update Later” option. It only gives me an opportunity to hone my skills as a level 10 master procrastinator.

Months go by and after seeing the update message approximately one hundred times, I start thinking, “Maybe I should update my software.” Then I promptly open Firefox and read updates to my 184 favorite blogs.

Four months later I finally get around to clicking the “Update Now” button. In fact, my computer is so helpful as to ask if I want to install all updates for my various i[Software Name Here] programs. Heck yeah I do! Kill 48 birds with one stone. The updates run for a few moments and then with a cheerful “ding!” I’m informed the updates are done, and all I need to do is restart my computer to experience the glory that is iSoftware 10.9.08.423897243pancake234908. All is right with the world.

I restart my computer and open iSoftware with anticipatory glee. Except instead of seeing the bold new interface and earth-shattering features of a properly updated iSoftware, I receive a curt message, “iSoftware is corrupted. Please reinstall.” I open the remaining 47 i[Software Name Here] programs on my computer only to receive the same admonishment.

Now I am forced to pay the penance for my neglect.

I must go to the iSoftware website, download the updated version, restart my computer, locate the update in my Applications folder, unzip the update, and finally install the update. I must repeat this process 47 more times, once for each corrupted program, to cleanse myself of my sins.

And that’s why I haven’t blogged in a week.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Stigma

I don’t know where to begin.

A few weeks ago (ok, so I’m a little behind the curve. It’s still July, right?), AOL News published an article about a South Carolina mother accused of killing her two young children. Police are considering postpartum depression as a possible factor in the killings.

The article originally contained the following statement by investigative criminal profiler Pat Brown:

Generally speaking, I don't buy the chemical imbalance theory for any depression; I believe people just don't want to deal with real life issues and the fact that sometimes life is simply depressing and damn difficult. It isn't about chemical imbalance but tough times and our own issues.

AOL has since edited the article to remove that statement, but the damage has been done.

Ms. Brown also posted the following comments on her Facebook page:

For all those who are angry with my opinion that postpartum depression is not a result of brain chemistry, forgive me; I have a chemical imbalance and cannot control my thoughts and behavior.

Apparently, Post Adoptive Depression Syndrome has the same symptoms and even higher occurrence than Postpartum Depression. What hormones cause this?

What we NEED to do is help women with the overwhelming job of motherhood, not tell them something is wrong with their brains.


There are so many things wrong with this, I don’t know where to begin.

Ms. Brown is not a psychiatrist, a doctor, or even a therapist (nor does she claim to be.) She is entitled to her opinion, but shame on her and shame on AOL for publishing such a statement in a news article (as opposed to the opinion column).

Recently, SSRI’s, such as Prozac, have come under attack. It is said they are over-prescribed, over-advertised, and since the biological causes of depression have not been scientifically established they are nothing more than a placebo for deeper personal issues best left to psychological therapy.

But, although we don’t know how and why a disturbance of the serotonin pathway affects depression, there is a vast body of empirical evidence that it does. Furthermore, there are other types of antidepressants (SNRIs, trycyclic antidepressants), the benefits of which have been proven compared to placebos. And most physicians seem to agree that a combination of drugs and therapy is the best treatment of all.

I could go on and on. About how there are many unknowns in the science of medicine that go unquestioned; we don’t know how tylenol works - tylenol! - but no one questions its validity as a pain reliever. About how victims of depression go to extreme lengths to hide their symptoms; they don’t want people to pay them attention. There isn’t enough space in one post to say all I want to say.

Except this:

Women with depressive disorders already face an internal stigma, which makes it harder for us to seek help. We don’t need doubters, deniers and armchair medical experts confirming our shame.