Monday, March 30, 2009
What I want to know, though, is if he bought me this hi-tech gadget to keep me occupied while he's away. I mean, is his departure related to this gift in any way?
Men are weird :)
And now I've done my first Blackberry post!
PS. Miss you, Pythagorus!!!!
Saturday, March 28, 2009
It's important to remember what's important.
I take my job very seriously. I love what I do and put in 100% every day. I think I'm a pretty good addition to my workplace and have made every effort to be there not just for my students--which is, of course, vital--but also for my coworkers. Getting to know people well, having discussions about educational philosophy and teaching methods with them, and then having them be let go ...
All I know is, I feel like an asshole. Like, a hard-core asshole. How am I supposed to look at these people--one in particular--without them thinking, "If they hadn't hired her, I'd still have a job?" And they'd be right.
Yet I feel badly for the administration, too. These decisions are never easy, and I think it must weigh especially heavy when "laying off" an employee will impact a large number of children and not just the employee (personally and professionally) and the workplace (not great for morale).
If I was allowed to drink at this point in time, I would have gotten very drunk last night.
Friday, March 27, 2009
That's why I cried--literally had tears--when I read this story. Basically, a little girl of seven was hit in the head with a baseball, and she was fine for a couple of days. After learning of Natasha Richardson's accident and consequent passing, her parents decided to call the doctor. It's a good thing they did, because the child had an epidural hematoma and ignoring the situation could have had catastrophic results for little Morgan and her family.
There are those that wear the mantle of celebrity and the accompanying responsibility proudly and should be commended. Richardson's husband Liam Neeson as well as her extended family should definitely fall into this category. The family has suffered a tragedy from which they may never recover, and yet they are somehow channeling this into some sort of positive. The strength and grace of Ms. Richardson's family speaks to the type of celebrity she was ... one of the good ones.
Rest in peace, Natasha Richardson. You provided entertainment and photographs of a gorgeous woman to the multitudes. However, with your tragic passing, you have opened the eyes of many to a potentially deadly medical emergency that is often ignored.
Many celebrities focus on clubbing, drinking, partying, looking good at all times, adopting various children when you're maybe not in the best position to be doing so, and conceiving children with the many and varied.
You lived quietly and under the radar. You clearly loved your family deeply, and it was by all accounts recripocated. It's a tragedy that you were taken from them at such a young age, but your death has not been in vain. You will probably impact the medical futures of many.
Thank you, Ms. Richardson. It seems crass to call you, "A good use of celebrity", but based on what I've read about you, I think you'd be pleased that your death was not in vain.
Rest in peace, amazing lady : )
Thursday, March 26, 2009
In many ways, Pythagorus is a really great guy. He is. Unfortunately, however, the best parts of him are often intentions. Grrrr.
Now, I realize that having a wife in the hospital is unquestionably stressful. We have the added stress of a daycare fiasco, so he had Belle with him while he worked from home Monday and Tuesday. Four days straight of "all Belle all the time" is also pretty stressful--kind of borders on insanity-inducing. I get that. I do. And his job is extremely stressful. I'm the first person to admit that, I really and truly am.
However, I've spent my "day home recuperating" folding laundry that I did before I went into the hospital and doing more. I cleaned the microwave (which seemed to be growing something ... please don't go there) and counters in the kitchen because I didn't want my children to contract something. All of this (and I can just now see the floor of the laundry room) has taken me less than five hours. I mean, in spite of all the stress (and again, I get that there's been a lot lately), wouldn't you think that he could find five hours between Saturday morning and Wednesday night to do some of this really basic stuff?
Pythagorus is currently on my crap list not because of this, though, but because:
1. He is not answering his phone and/or e-mail. This drives me crazy!!!! I have been trying to get in touch with him for over two hours to figure out when we can go to the hospital to pick up the other car. I have Belle home with me today, and she was not enthused about the lunch options (they were minimal) ... since he almost always comes home for lunch, I thought he might be willing to stop and get something at the store (or even McDonald's or something) for her. Instead, though, I can't get him to acknowledge my existence. I realize that he's at work, but how many seconds does it take to hit reply, type "I'm really busy", and press "send"?
2. I went to take a shower with Belle, and there was no shampoo. Before I left to hit the ER Saturday morning, I took a shower and used essentially the last of the shampoo. What the hell has he been using to wash his hair all week? And even worse, I went dripping down the hall to Addie's bathroom and her shampoo was on "E" too. So my husband is dirty, my children are dirty, and Belle and I spent a long time in the shower mixing water with empty shampoo bottle residue (and I kept dropping them and yelling, "Son of a bitch!" which made Belle laugh hysterically and me feel like a horrible mother) to get moderately clean hair. We also have no trash bags. Or all-purpose cleaner. Or food.
Okay, I hate nagging wives. I try very hard not to be one, although Pythagorus might disagree with that. There are enough real things to get upset about without bitching about shampoo or not responding to e-mails. Still, where does that line of minor irritations unspoken turn into the dreaded term "marriage problems"?
Deep breath. Out of my system. Vita e bella. Teeth clenched. Smile forced.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I've spent the past five days in the hospital (this is not yet another hospital post ... I'm being discharged tonight, and then I'll be free of any last vestiges of medical flotsam on this blog), and I've met a lot of nurses, doctors, nurse aides, secretaries, dieticians, and strangely enough, other patients. I have been unbelievably touched by the kindness and respect I've been shown here--it far surpasses what I've experienced at any other hospital. However, these people are in the business of kindness and respect. I'm not naive enough to think that they'll remember the crazy bleeding IV site (don't ask) or the overflowing pee hat (really don't ask), yet these are things I suspect I will always remember. In a way, it makes me kind of sad that these memorable events will exist only in the annals of my memory.
I once thought that I would remember the name of every single kid I've ever taught, and for the first couple of years I did. However, it wasn't long before they faded away into a larger group with only a few standing out as particularly memorable in the long term, for better or for worse. I saw a former student recently, and the first thing she said to me was, "Mrs. L.!!!!!!! I still miss your class! I will never forget your story about jumping off a moving train." I couldn't remember the poor kid's name, but she remembered my class (okay, scintillating as my class may be, she really remembered a story that was 100% true, 100% unbelievable in spite of that, and 100% the fault of my brother-in-law Jon). This made me sad in much the same way, probably more sad because I felt pretty awful for not remembering what had once made this young lady unique to me (all of my students are unique to me ... at least while they're my students, I guess ...).
When working at a water park, I was checking a guy's cooler for glass or alcohol (neither were allowed inside the park, and he had tons of both). When I told him he had to either toss his stuff or bring it back to his vehicle, he tweaked out and threw a bag of hamburger rolls at me. Does that guy ever remember the fifteen-year-old girl he hucked baked goods at? Does the woman I caught shoplifting at a department store still curse my name the way she did on that day? How about the lady I will always remember for telling me I had a perfect nose and a beautiful hair part (my friends and I started giggling, naturally, and the lady was embarrassed as hell)?
How many people have I touched that I have absolutely no idea about? (I think because of my career path, the number is larger than it would be otherwise, but still ...)
And then I think about the blogs I read, the friends I'm in touch with on Facebook that I haven't seen since high school or, in a couple of cases, even earlier. I've actually become friends with some people on Facebook that I met through similar comments we left on mutual friends' walls. How magical is it that this can happen? And some of the blogs I peruse on a regular basis, I connect with the people that write them, people I've never met in my life, more than I do with many of my real life grab-a-drink-on-a-Friday night buddies.
I guess I've been reminded to always be the best I can be, to do whatever I can for anybody, to live life to the fullest and laugh loudly the whole time because you never know what someone can take away from an interaction with you.
My mother's pot roast, unique because of the onion soup mix (and other stuff) that she adds, making it an olfactory delight as well as a dietary one. My sister's green beans (sounds weird, but she does something magic with sea salt). My husband's repertoire of French cuisine, each dish better than the last. Cheeseburgers cooked on the grill. Lobster in any of its manifestations (drawn with butter, mixed with a little mayonnaise and served on a roll, cooked as a pie with Ritz cracker crumbs and a lot of butter, et cetera). The bouillabaise my stepdad made, brimming with scallops and shrimp underscored by a base of clam. Pizza made from scratch by my father. Peanut butter pancakes. Chef salad with a little bleu cheese dressing. Ice cream with peanut butter sauce. New England boiled dinner. Caramel martinis.
My breakfast this morning, consumed after a fasting period of approximately four and a half days, consisted of:
* Chicken broth with no salt
* Cherry-flavored Italian ice
* Orange Jello
* Coffee (with sugar but no milk or cream)
* Ginger Ale
It was among the best meals I've ever had.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Have you ever noticed that, when something is on your mind, you seem to see it everywhere? Like, when I was pregnant with Belle, it seemed like the mall and the streets and the entire world were full of pregnant women. Today, it's food.
When I was waiting for my ERCP, I was in one of eight or ten little cubicle rooms, so I could hear a bunch of conversations going on around me. I kid you not, virtually every conversation revolved around food. The people in the room next to me had gone out to breakfast, and every time someone came into the room, they were like, "Have you ever eaten at Young's? Their French toast is to die for!!!!!!!!!" I'm sitting there salivating, trying to figure out whether to laugh or cry. (I ended up going with laughing, by the way ... if it had just been one person, I would have cried, but since the whole freaking endoscopy unit was enchanted with edibles, it became funny).
So then the nurse came in and started asking me questions that were clearly obvious. First, she verified my name and birthdate with my hospital bracelet. I kind of wanted to say, "Trust me, I'd rather be anyone but me right now." Why would someone fake an identity to get surgery? Well, I guess life is full of strange people. Next question was whether or not I have any allergies. My hospital bracelet (which she'd studied at length) has a red tag on it that I've been told is code for "Patient has Medical Allergies", plus the list of antibiotics that make me break out in hives and stop breathing was clearly noted on a red sticker on the front and spine of my hospital file that came down with me. Finally--and this is what got me the most--she asked if I was pregnant. I told her no, and she said, "Is there any possibility you're pregnant?" I told her again that it wasn't remotely possible--and like this is something you want to admit to a complete stranger--yet she made me take a pregnancy test ... just in case. Wow ...
I was under anasthesia for the ERCP, obviously, so I don't remember any details, but the results were good. I didn't have any pseudocysts like I've had with pancreatitis in the past, and there was no blockage. This was good news. I felt like dancing.
Instead, I took a shower. And I direct you now to go back and reread the first paragraph of this post ... ah, bliss : )
As you've probably figured out by how long-winded I am, I'm starting to really feel better. With any luck, I'll be going home Thursday and, being me, will probably doctor the doctor's note so I'll be back at work on Friday.
Thank you to all that have read my recent posts and left comments. Being in the hospital stinks, and the loneliness is probably the worst part ... even when people visit, you don't really have anything to talk about other than blocked IV tubes and peeing into a hat (the medical kind, not the one that goes on your head) and my visitors have been kind enough to avoid talking about food and the fabulous existence out there beyond these hospital walls, so it's kind of like ... blah. So reading your comments and well wishes have meant a great deal. Thank you : )
Anyway, I can't wait to get out of here when I can think about (and blog about) the workings of the world instead of the sorry state of my digestive system.
Anyway, the word was that I couldn't have anything to drink or eat (drink is more important at the moment ... my tongue feels like a wad of cotton) until I went an extended period of time without IV pain meds. So last night, I decided that I wouldn't have IV pain meds ... I didn't care how much it hurt, I was going to have a freaking glass of water in the morning. I made it through the night without taking anything, and I was pretty euphoric when the doctor came in.
Until he told me that I'm having an ERCP at some point today and my state of fasting (including H2O) needs to continue.
Basically, he thinks that my pancreatic duct has partially closed (this has happened before ... I've had numerous surgeries to fix it). Theoretically, he can open it during the ERCP if this is the case.
At this point, I just want to go home. I'll go home and not eat or drink anything, but I'm just done with this whole scene.
Sigh. Sorry about the melodrama ... it's been a long three and a half days.
Monday, March 23, 2009
What I mean is that everything is extremely structured. Of course, since I can't eat or drink anything, my structure is probably less than what other patients are experiencing, but it's kind of neat to observe. The food cart comes at the same time (within five minutes ... it's really kind of amazing) every day. The nurses go on and off shift. The LNAs come and check vitals. If you need something, you press a button and somebody comes. It's very strange.
Everyone has been extremely nice to me here, actually, to the degree where I have to comment on it. I ended up going to a different hospital than usual because it's smaller and their ER isn't ridiculously crowded all the time. Everyone keeps saying to me, "Why aren't you at the hospital in your hometown?", but I think it's kind of a blessing in disguise that I ended up here. I get very grumpy a) when I haven't had caffeine for over two days, b) when I haven't had anything to eat or drink in over two days, c) when I'm not at home, d) when I don't know what's going on, e) when I'm in a significant amount of pain, and e) when I'm away from my family. Put it all together, and you can imagine that I'm not exactly the ideal patient. Yet everyone continues to be nice. Yeah, I know it's their job, but I've been to a lot of hospitals and it's not always the case.
So I'm having a CAT scan at some point today, and then hopefully I can have some water ... I feel like I'm living in a desert.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
I woke up at three in the morning Friday night/Saturday morning with hard core abdominal pain. I went to the emergency room at eight or nine Saturday morning (I was hoping it would go away), and I was admitted with pancreatitis (my lipase was 1200--normal tops out at 200). I'm still here and still in a fair amount of pain, but it's a lot better than it was. Still can't eat or drink anything (even water), but hopefully that will come soon. Just getting a computer here is making a huge difference in my attitude lol. Will post more later.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
I have chronic pancreatitis as the result of a liver situation, and every time I wake up in abdominal agony, my mind starts racing that I'm on my way back to the hospital for another week (or two weeks ... or, God forbid, another month) on a morphine drip. Having that medical condition--that degree of pain always a potential hanging over my lives--has in its way scarred me more than anything else.
In light of what happened to poor Natasha Richardson--taking a hard but seemingly not too hard fall while having a nice day of skiing with her kids, never knowing that she would be dead for most intents and purposes in just a few short hours--I can't help but reflect on the fragility of life. You never know when it's coming for you, where it's waiting for you.
I guess I'm not making much sense. It's three in the morning, give me a break : ) I'm 99.9% sure that my abdominal pain (fading now, thank God) has nothing to do with my pancreas or liver. I mean, my entire digestive system is screwed up beyond reason because of the surgeries and stents, so it's not like pain is infrequent. It's just not usually this bad. It's usually only the monster of pancreatitis that wakes me up crying in the middle of the night.
Well, I'm going back to bed now. Just figured I'd share my dubious wisdom on the subject of life's fragility ... but I don't think I did a very good job with that either ...
Good night : )
Friday, March 20, 2009
I have to, though. She is just that remarkable (I'm not putting a picture of her here, though ... she might well kill me, plus it would embarrass her). Anyway, Addie isn't her real name, so I guess that lends her enough anonymity. Well, hopefully.
Basically, Belle has been sick this week. She hasn't been able to attend day care this week, and Pythagorus and I have taken a lot of time off this week (not a good time of year for either of us to miss work). Addie has today off from school (her district has a teacher workshop day), and when I asked her if she would babysit Belle, she was happy to do so. She didn't complain or whine or discuss her preference to sleep in, like every other fourteen-year-old in her grade no doubt did.
I've talked to her once, and we've been in e-mail contact (she's been e-mailing me links to attire from those annoyingly expensive mall stores that she'd like for spring), but I'm just touched again by how responsible and willing to pull her weight in the family she is.
I won't brag about her all honors classes and writing prodigy status and musical talent and how just beautiful she is (okay, I guess I just did) for right now ... Addie is without a doubt one of the kindest-hearted people I know. I have so much respect for her. I am so proud of her.
If you read this, Addie, know how much I love you and how much you are appreciated.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
I hate missing work. It's very possible that this is due entirely to the field I'm in, but I suspect that doesn't have as much to do with it as I once thought. I didn't work last summer, and I almost drove myself insane, never mind what I did to Addie, Belle, and Pythagorus (also the dog and cat).
Of course, I can remember enjoying days off when I worked in other fields, but that's more than likely because I didn't really love my job. It's weird, but Belle has been pretty content without me hovering over her, and I'm finding myself at loose ends.
Also, there's so much going on at work that I feel wrong for not being there. My family always comes first with me, but days like today are kind of difficult. Belle is too sick to go to daycare, but healthy enough to eat a Burger King kid meal with great enthusiasm. My black lab, Sonja, is pretty pumped because we have to crate her during the day when we're all gone (she does things like eat socks and underwear when she's out ... that surgery's pretty expensive) and instead she gets to run wild with Belle.
All I can think about are the things I should be doing at work. What is wrong with me?
With that said, sometimes you get involved in pissing contests that are really out of your control. The most obvious I can think of that I can put in a blog without offending anybody centers around our mailman.
Okay, I'm a teacher. A public school teacher. I'm pro-the little guy, pro-union, pro-it's a dirty job but someone's got to do it so thank you so much for doing everything you do (and under crappy circumstances, too), pro-all those things.
However, I'm also a strong believer in doing the best you can at the job you have. Whether you're a doctor or a people greeter at Wal-Mart or a factory laborer or a car salesman, do the best that you can and be the best you can be. I would always have a lot more respect for a hardworking and honest car mechanic than a lazy, corrupt business executive. In my six and a half years of teaching, I've seen people that I wouldn't allow to teach my dog. It drives me crazy.
But anyway, we live on a cul-de-sac, and the nature of where our house is located on the circle means that the plows empty out in front of our house. We've had ultimate snow banks since December, and it's been a long and icy winter here. For some reason, the mailman decided several weeks ago that it was too much trouble to deliver to our mailbox.
A couple of things here. First, yeah, it's icy. And steep. And it probably isn't a lot of fun to navigate snow banks in a mail truck with an open window. I hear that. I do. What I don't understand, though, is how he was able to deliver mail--in rain and snow and sleet and hail and hard-core snow bankings--until a couple of weeks ago. I mean, it's not like it's gotten higher or bigger. If anything, it's started to melt and would theoretically make his job easier.
Well, Pythagorus has been out there with an ice pick whittling it back, and I've been able to drive my little sedan over it to access the mailbox for a week now. There's just been nothing in the mailbox. Pythagorus then has to go the post office and put a hold on our mail so the mailman doesn't take it just to not deliver it, then he'll take the hold off because he assumes that if a little hatchback can manage braving the snow bank, then of course a post office truck can. Nope. It was actually really annoying at first, but now we're just laughing about it.
Anyway, we haven't gotten mail all week, although there's no reason in the world the mailman couldn't deliver it beyond the pissing contest he's for some reason created. I guess he decided to throw in the towel, though, because Belle's home sick today, and I just watched him deliver mail.
The snow banks are no less high today than they were yesterday, but I guess he decided to let it go. I'm glad he did. Going to the post office is kind of an inconvenience. But I still wonder why it came to that at all ...
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Belle is upstairs coughing and, at first, I went running up every time to make sure she was okay. Pythagorus is with her, but he'd sleep through kingdom coming. Even Addie, usually only concerned with how many AIM conversations she can have going on at once or where she's going to charge her iPod now that the main computer is out of commission, poked her head out and asked if Belle was okay.
Yeah, Belle is okay. Like both Pythagorus and Addie, it appears that Belle has allergies. They get worse at night and, again like both her daddy and her sister, they aren't characterized by just a runny nose or tender sinuses ... she gets a hard core cough. She sounds like a chain-smoking drunk the morning after (except, of course, it's still nighttime). She has a physical coming up, and I'm sure she'll get an inhaler of some sort (we can put it in the medicine chest with Addie's and Phythagorus') or maybe they'll put her on Claritin or Zyrtec (although I suspect she's still too young).
Belle is a very neat kid. She actually plays board games better than many adults (she has a sense of strategy that I find both amazing and a little frightening) and is obsessed with the idea of reading (and very close to doing this on her own). I was hoping she'd avoid the curse of the allergies but, if that last cough was any indication, no such luck.
Oh, my little Belle ...
I'm at home now, and I left my Quickwrite paper at work. However, I do remember the gist of what I wrote. Basically, it was about how my beloved stepdad died of lung cancer several years ago. It was an awful way to go, lingering and weakening and in agonizing pain all the time, and ... Well, the last week or so of his life, when he couldn't really walk or do anything but cry and basically wish to be dead, I actually thought of this quote a lot. The idea of losing my stepdad--more a father to me than my biological father is--was devestating ... almost as bad as watching him suffering horrifically and dying a little bit every hour. Knowing that he left, hopefully for a better place, that his pain and torture was over ... yet missing him beyond words every single day since? Yeah, sweet sorrow indeed.
More pragmatically, though, I wrote about the oxymoronic nature of "sweet sorrow" and how parting, saying goodbye, is definitely an apt example of that phrase. If you are saying goodbye to someone that you love, even if it's only for a short time, it's sorrowful. Even if you're saying goodbye under bad terms, there's usually at least the last whiff of something that was "sweet" at some point.
Most of my students got it as well, which made me feel pretty excited as we're going to be tackling Romeo and Juliet in a few days. I did feel like a jerk, though, when I realized that the quote I chose could easily be interpreted as playing to the recent tragedy mentioned in the last blog. That was not my intention, although it was neat in a way since a lot of the kids chose to interpret the quote in terms of that event.
Catharsis comes in strange forms sometimes, and I don't think the quote could have been better timed. Life is strange.
Monday, March 16, 2009
There are some terrible things in the world, and I just wish there was a way to protect kids from this ugliness. Obviously, this isn't possible, and certainly working through horrible events can be character-building and an opportunity for growth. The greatest devastation can ultimately give the most valuable lessons.
I just wish you could get those things without the pain. Or maybe I just wish there was some sort of age line so it doesn't happen to kids. Or some sort of warning. Maybe a little heads-up.
My heart and thoughts and prayers are with your family, both biological and the greater community.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Last night, I went out with some of my girlfriends to a hockey game that was "mullet-themed." This included an eighties cover band, great snippets of music, an overall great time ... and mullet wigs.
One of the ladies is a season ticketholder for the minor league hockey team, and she thought "Mullet Night" would be the perfect time to take our friend Josie out for her birthday (it's funny how the stars align like that sometimes ... Josie is a hard-core child of the eighties, and this was just completely her element, so how cool was it that Mullet Night coincided so neatly with her birthday?)
I had a ball, of course, but I also made an interesting (well, to me it was interesting) observation. With virtually every song that was played, a huge percentage of the audience--and we're talking a range of people from four to eighty-four--sang along. What was it about the eighties that struck a chord in so many? Was the music truly so much better?
It's not like the sixties, for example, where the music was kind of a code for deeper messages. It's not like the music of today, a disjointed collection that appeals to small groups but doesn't appear to have that sort of decade-defining power. I don't know anybody that doesn't know the chorus to "You Shook Me All Night Long" or who can't hum along to "The Final Countdown" once it gets going.
What made it such a special time in terms of music ... and mullets?
Speaking of which, here's another pic of me in the mullet wig, just to leave you with a smile : )
Saturday, March 14, 2009
For a long time, Rosie has used a variety of either invented or exaggerated medical ailments to get attention. It seemed to be her only means of getting pity or any sort of attention that wasn't focused on, "Why are you such a difficult bitch?????????"
For the past six months, Rosie has had a legitimate medical beef. She's been going to a specialist in our area, but blatantly ignores the medical advice she is given because that might--gasp!--make her better, and then she'd lose any sort of power given to her by actually having a real problem. The doctors give medical orders, she ignores them, and then she gets to complain. Genius! Automatic attention!!!!!
Rosie's doctors wanted to admit her into the specialty hospital twenty minutes away from here earlier in the week. Rosie refused, instead going to the little country hospital right near her hometown up north. The little country hospital finally mandated her transfer to the specialty hospital since there's not much they can do for her. I'm sure she was driving them crazy, too.
Anyway, here she is. Pythagorus is down visiting her right now, so I'm sure she's in her glory. The problem is, the specialty hospital is very good. They'll get Rosie taken care of and back up to speed, discharging her more than likely in a matter of days.
And then she'll ignore what she's supposed to do and, once again, continue the cycle.
I do not understand Rosie. I never have, and I never will. Perhaps because I've experienced some fairly significant health issues myself (including a month-long hospitalization where I cried every day for the doctors to just let me go home), I cannot imagine bringing this upon yourself.
Does anyone know a person like Rosie? Can anyone relate to Rosie? Am I just being heartless here (there's a whole novel I'm leaving out, of course, since I'm trying to give Rosie a degree of anonymity)?
And, most importantly, what is the best way to handle Rosie at this point in time?
2. Even though you could conceivably sleep in past 5:30, you're awake by six. You lay in bed looking at the alarm clock (you've already turned off the alarm) until it reads 6:30, the time you actually physically leave for work. With a sigh, you get up and head downstairs. And feed the dog and cat, let the dog out, turn the heat up, and reflect that these are all chores someone else does during the week--and would have done this morning if you could have just slept in past six.
3. It's common to forget the power cord from your laptop at work. This is especially true when you're working on something very intense (working on a novel that you've had writer's block on for months, in my case) and your laptop starts flashing you the, "Battery power is about to fail" message. This is even more so when your at-home desktop has had a nervous breakdown and won't even turn on. There is always the dreaded "family computer", of course, but that means you have to leave not just your warm bedroom but also your warm bed and go down to where the heat has already been turned down and your husband is watching a really bad movie on the SciFi Channel and you'll never get your writing groove back.
4. You have two drinks when you go to laugh at your husband for being a crappy bowler at a company fundraiser. You then have another drink when you go out to dinner. However, for some reason, you still think it's a smart idea for some reason to take an Ambien. The strange dreams showing up as a result are kind of life-scarring.
5. You're going out with the ladies on Saturday night, but it's to an event with the word "Mullet" in it. You aren't sure if that means you're supposed to break out the '80s attire or just come as you are. You know that you're going to do internet research to figure this out, and you wish you could just let it go sometimes--you do not have to be perfect.
There's my top five ... what do you think? Please add your own, because everyone, I'm sure, sees this differently.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Quote: "The obscure we see eventually. The completely obvious, it seems, takes longer." (Edward R. Murrow)
My two-minute Quickwrite response:
It's funny to think about things that are unclear or vague being easier to see than things that are right in front of your nose. I guess it's kind of like the difference between "street smart" and "book smart". I, for example, have absolutely no common sense, but there are very few pieces of literature I can't analyze and not much I can't write. Except poems : )
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
A week ago, I watched the sun rise in my rear view mirror on my way to work, and the darkness settled like a blanket as I likewise hunkered down for the night. As of Sunday, it's dark when I leave to go to work, and my inner clock is completely screwed up because it's still light outside when I go to put Belle to bed (something that she doesn't understand ... not a pretty scene).
I think this is really getting to me today, though, because this morning was sleeting and/or freezing rain (or both, I'm not always clear on the distinction) and the sun never came out all day. Instead, it was a foggy, gray mess. I was just blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah all day.
It's funny, when I told my students this, one very astute young lady opined that it was because it was so dark outside. As soon as she said that, I was like, "Eureka!" (except I didn't go running around naked yelling what translates roughly to, "I have found it!" like Archimedes).
What's the point of Daylight Savings? Can I start a petition or something?
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I have an opinion on this, of course. I wouldn't be me if I didn't, right : ) ? More importantly, though, is why this question (and the either/or mentality created around this drama) continues to be a hot topic. It's slowed down some, to be fair. Even in New Hampshire, though, I saw a few "Team Jolie" and "Team Aniston" t-shirts and, yes, even buttons.
I guess now's as a good a time as any to confess to one of my less noble past times--I have a major obsession with celebrity gossip. I read the magazines, I follow every gossip blog (here's the best one, if you're interested), and I spend far more time than is probably normal agonizing over how many years before Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes break up (considering his track record with Mimi Rogers and the infinitely better off now Nicole Kidman) and why Miley Cyrus' father allows her to pull all the nonsense she does.
But I think the Jolie/Aniston issue, a fairly long-lasting "feud" for one that hasn't really been directly addressed by either party, is perhaps the most interesting to talk about here.
Oh, and why does Brad Pitt seem to get off scot free?
I haven't been on MySpace for ages (I upgraded to Facebook ... I'm such an internet junkie), but I recently remembered that I had done a little blogging there, so I figured I'd go through it. Most of it was obsolete, embarrassing, or just plain lame, but this one, ironically the first blog post there, struck a chord in me. Therefore, I'm putting it here. Just in case I ever get famous : )
I just finished my novel. July 14, 2006 at 12:22 a.m. was a landmark minute for me
When I was in seventh grade, I had a dream about a bunch of kids getting tormented by a witch. That dream grew into a novel that I started writing while still a middle school student. It wasn't that good in retrospect.
However, that juvenile attempt at the "Great American Novel" gave birth to the novel that I just finished, a piece of writing that I am exceedingly proud of.
Even if it sucks, at least I can say that I wrote a novel. It might not be a very good novel, might not ever get published, but I finally finished something I started.
I'm going to bed now. It's very late, and I'm very tired. I wasn't going to start this blog until I had something worthwhile to write about, and now I'm too tired of writing (I wrote twenty-five pages today) to sound remotely literate or intelligent.
Oh well. I finished my novel after over fifteen years. That must mean something
One day, while reading Romeo and Juliet, one of my students raised her hand and informed me that the vocabulary footnotes in the book defined "bauble" as "penis". The defining line was:
Mercutio: For this driveling love is like a great natural that runs lolling up and down to hide his bauble in a hole. (Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. New York: Barrons, 1984).
You can probably imagine what happened at that point ... Every little thing (i.e. the servant named "Peter") became fodder for perversion.
Suffice it to say, I think my students' interest in Willy Shakes has improved a bit. Along with this is my ability to teach the great bard since that occurrence several years ago. Maybe I'm just a dirty soul at heart ;)
I don't remember catching a lot of sexual innuendo in Romeo and Juliet as a student, either in high school, college, or my own reading. I was either stupid, naive, or not paying attention (I vote for door number three, but I someone managed to stick out three years of Honors and one year of Advanced Placement, so I obviously fooled somebody).
What makes Shakespeare so revered, so "where it's at"? I love his stuff, I really do, but who made the judgment call that he is so much more valuable than any other writer?
The closer I come to finishing my second book, the more I just want to sit in my room in the aptly-named Salinger Space and write.
We recently read Edgar Allan Poe's "Cask of Amontillado" in one of my classes. Is madness a requirement for literary genius?
But seriously. When I was a little younger, it was kind of cool to be "the writer" with the random hobby. Some of my friends would harass me for the next chapter, hell, even the next page.
Is it possible for something like writing to go from being an enjoyable pasttime to a freaking addiction? Is that when you know you're the "real thing" or does that just make one delusional?
Monday, March 9, 2009
Stephen King (of course, he had to come into this) wrote, "Friends come in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant, did you ever notice that?"
Sometimes I think it's absolutely true. Other times (less frequently) I think there are a lot of factors that lead to it, yeah, usually being true. Today, I hope it's a load of shit.
What makes someone a friend? Is a similar life necessary? Similar interests and hobbies?
Or is it all about Ka. Oh, I only wish I knew ...
But still, it's kind of interesting, and certainly a lot to think about ...
Do you think the meetings were different before they were televised? Is there more or less truth? Transparency? Is there something comical about the facade some (not all, but some) of these local politicians put on when they know the cameras are running?
Or am I just strange? (Wait, don't answer that :0) )
My main issue here is for the health and safety of these babies. They've been in the hospital for well over a month, and their release doesn't seem to be imminent, to say the least. They were born at just thirty weeks (a normal pregnancy is 38-40 weeks), and between their premature births and the strain of being one of eight inside a womb, they've got a long road ahead of them.
There are a couple of things that really boggle my mind here. First, these babies were conceived via in-vitro fertilization. Now, I know that this is the only option for some couples, and I completely respect that. The nature of in-vitro fertilization is such that frozen embryos are implanted in the mother's womb, and I guess the odds of success are increased the more embryos are implanted (I'm obviously not an expert in this). For some reason, a doctor implanted six embryos in this woman (two of the embryos ended up dividing into twins) ... a woman who already had six kids (yes, I said six--ages 7, 6, 5, 3, and 2-year-old twins). Am I crazy for questioning the legitimacy of this doctor ... and the sanity of this woman?
I have two children. Two is a good number for me, particularly when you consider the nine-year gap in their ages (they almost never fight, which is nice, and they don't clamor over the same toys ... Addie's attached to her laptop, Belle plays with Barbies). While I understand and appreciate that some people would rather have many kids and that some people leave the decision up to God (or whomever), I cannot fathom why a single mother receiving public assistance would choose to have more children (in a manner that she knew would more than likely be multiple births).
Further, I cannot imagine why a single mother receiving public assistance was permitted to have more children.
This does, of course, open a can of worms. For example, look at the popularity of "Jon and Kate Plus Eight." Did this crazy woman view her frozen embryos as a blank check made out by some sensationalized television network?
Who's to blame? The mother, for being nuts? The doctor who approved this? Society, for making single parenthood via public assistance acceptable? Science, for creating IVF? The media, for sensationalizing the biggest and most outlandish stories? Nadya Suleman's family, for her dubious morals? Other places? Other people?
I don't know the answer to that (I suspect it's like a pie chart, with varying pieces of blame going to different places), but what I do know is that my heart aches for those babies. Aches!
Sunday, March 8, 2009
I am so refreshed by the concept of thought. I want to share it with everybody, find out what everybody's thinking--I want to learn and grow. I'm no doubt naive and overreaching, but I guess those are two things I always have been and always will be, so what will be, will be.
I leave you with this, a quote from Socrates I had my students respond to recently:
"As for me, the only thing I know is that I know nothing."
Ah, the author's introduction. Who even reads them, anyway? Well, if they're written by Stephen King, I can assure you that I do. I'd even argue that some of King's best works are introductions to other pieces. He just gets this voice ... it's like he's talking directly to you, and it seems like everyone, no matter who you are, can relate. Uncanny, really.
King reworked the first DT book, The Gunslinger, because there were things that came up as the epic progressed that he felt needed to be addressed. One of the strongest themes/symbols/whatever you want to call it is the recurrence throughout the saga of the number nineteen. I did a quick search on the historical context of the number nineteen and found that it is
* The atomic number for Potassium
* A prevalent number in the Koran
* The number of months in the Bahai calendar (a group focused on uniting all religions in the world)
* A prime number
* A 1985 anti-war song by one-hit wonder Paul Hardcastle
* The number of years between the major events and the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
* The number of minutes given to a school shooting in Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes
* the name of the first Soviet nuclear ballistic submarine (K-19)
* the year (BC) that the Roman poet Virgil died
* The year (BC) that Herod the King began rebuilding the Temple of Jerusalem (Herod played a role in both the birth and death of Jesus Christ ... the death place of Christ was also known as Golgotha, a name familiar to DT aficionados)
* the year (1855--1+8+5+5=19) that Robert Browning's "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came", the poem King used as a jumping off point, was published
* the year (well, 1919) that Mussolini created the Fascist Party
* the year (1919) that the Red Cross was founded in France ("Little Sisters of Eluria", anyone?)
* the year (1919) Einstein's Theory of Relativity is confirmed
* the year (1919) Congress approves the 19th Amendment to the Constitution (Women's Suffrage, in case you're interested)
* the year (1919) the Treaty of Versailles is signed, basically ending World War I
* the year (1919) J.D. Salinger, Jackie Robinson, and a crapload of other noteworthies were born
* the year (1919) L. Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz, died (Baum's story plays a major role in DT-IV)
* the main part of every year in the twentieth century (1900s). According to Wikipedia (not the most reliable of sources, says the English teacher, but I found this interesting), "The century saw a remarkable shift in the way that vast numbers of people lived, as a result of technological, medical, social, ideological, and political innovation. Terms like ideology, world war, genocide, and nuclear war entered common usage."
But back to King. In typical self-deprecatory fashion, he begins by talking about the impact of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings on his own potential epic, what he believed would be the magnum opus he was one day known for. Tolkien's creatures came to life for him, so to speak, when he heard about the number of hippies at Woodstock dressed up as hobbits, Frodo in particular of course, but even more those that took on the likeness of the wizard Gandalf. Known as Gandalf the Grey in the early part of Tolkien's work, Gandalf embodies one with great power, great wisdom, great knowledge of when sacrifice is necessary. Gandalf sent these little barefooted creatures on a seemingly impossible quest, and he did so with a heavy heart. He was always on the edge of what Tolkien called "The Fellowship of the Ring" but which King would undoubtedly call "The Ka-Tet of the Ring" because the prospect of getting close to the others, of being part of a betryal as he so easily could have been, was too overwhelming.
The hippies got Gandalf, man. They totally got him. And Stephen King was a hippie.
The greatest message I got from this introduction, though, was King's constant reference to "Patrol Boy", something sent out by the world to "slow your progress." According to King, it's a good thing that nineteen is a time of arrogance and a feeling that you're bigger than life. You need to dream big; after all, "if you start out small, the mean Patrol Boy" will leave you with pretty much nothing--he'll essentially eat you alive. King's advice? "Let it rip, regardless of what anybody tells you."
The Patrol Boy came for King in various ways--through drug and alcohol addiction and, even more dire, a life-threatening accident involving an automobile. King gave the Patrol Boy the proverbial bird when he wrote his accident in to his DT epic, making the questions of who or what or why in terms of power completely wide open. The accident gave King the jump start he needed to finish the series, started when he was a boy of nineteen. His part in saving the tower was to finish Roland's story, to use his art as a means of removing "the threat to the Beams that hold the Tower up."
It's easy to dismiss The Dark Tower as the work of an immensely popular author who, it has been accused, could publish his laundry list and make it a bestseller. The thing is, though, whatever level (pun definitely intended) you read it on, these books will change your mindset. They will open up a whole new world to you, or at least make you view the one you inhabit differently.
I wish that I was nineteen again. On a personal level, I met someone when I was nineteen that I believe was my "Patrol Boy" (to use King's terminology). He shaped who I am, in many ways, and he opened up the door for me to look at things in a different way. My eyes were opened (and blinded for many years), my heart was opened (and shattered), but I see things so much more clearly now.
Of course, now I wish I possessed the courage to think big, to live what is in my heart and dreams, but I exist in a society with social norms and a hundred different roadblocks ("Patrol Boys" in their own right, I suppose) to my own deepest desire.
Still, being there with King--no, with Roland and his comrades, his ka-tet--has made it bearable. I can live vicariously through them in a world (well, worlds) where anything can happen. And, as King put it with regard to writing DT, "As for me, I had the time of my life."
I'm not that person.
The good thing about being home for the past two days is that I love spending time with Belle. I mean, nobody makes me laugh like that kid. That being said, she usually has an extremely active week. She plays outside relentlessly at her daycare, and then her three hours at pre-school provide her with interaction with kids her own age and a great deal of age-appropriate thought opportunities. After teaching her the concept of strategy through Connect Four, I almost got the chessboard out of the closet ... my area of expertise as a teacher is clearly not the pre-school aged child :-). I'm sure if I'd spent my life as a stay-at-home mother, though, I'd probably be better at the crafts and stuff.
The thing is, I love my career. Educating children, analyzing literature with them, watching them improve as readers and writers and thinkers ... that is what makes me whole. I don't mean that as any sort of shot against my family--my daughters mean more to me than anything--but I think I'm a much better mother because I work, if that makes any sense, because my work is so intrinsically fulfilling. It also makes me appreciate the time I have with Addie and Belle a great deal more.
Belle's daycare is run by one of the kindest human beings on earth. She loves her daycare children like they are her own, and I'm the first person to say that she is a huge part of why both my girls are so well-mannered and kind. She takes them out to lunch and bowling and mini-golfing and to the movies and to museums and story hour at the library and all the things a stay-at-home mother does. She also only takes care of a few kids at a time, so a slot at her daycare is sort of like winning the lottery. She has a waiting list a mile long because she's so amazing. We pay whatever she asks because our kids are safe, happy, learning, safe, and anything else you'd want. If anything, the only problem is that she's too considerate--she has a young baby and a pregnant mother both very sensitive to Belle's brand of contagion--so that's why I'm home ruminating on why I'd be an awful stay-at-home mother instead of at work.
We also send Belle to a private pre-school for three hours a day four days a week. She learns an amazing amount of things at "school" (she knows a song that names every penguin, which I think is just the coolest thing), and she is on the cusp of reading, something that I'm incredibly excited about. Anyway, we pay a lot for her to go to there as well because giving our children the best possible educational experience is like the MasterCard ad--priceless. That's why we wanted desperately for Addie to go to private high school, but she made the choice to stay at the public school with her friends (and I'm the first to admit, by the way, that Addie was right on this one ... she definitely made the right decision for her).
Anyway, a lot of people I know are moving toward home-schooling, which I have to bite my tongue about. I mean, there are pros and cons to everything, but I am a certified teacher and I wonder how in the world I would structure the "school" part with the "home" part. I'm sure there are people that do a bang-up job, though. I just also know there are some people that don't. Perhaps with me the problem would be that s-word--no, structure, you sicko : )
So I guess I'm mulling over two thoughts at this point in time. First, is it better for children to be home with a parent? (And I have to say that, despite my stir-craziness at the moment, if I were ever a stay-at-home parent, I'd take it very seriously, figure out some routine, probably be able to pull of a halfway-decent job) I mean, does it make a child less "loved" if they are sent to daycare instead of home with Mommy or Daddy every day?
Secondly, and I suppose this is really why I started this post in the first place, is there something wrong with a person that values her career over staying home to raise children? I will never get rich teaching high school English, but a part of my heart would always be empty if I wasn't doing it. I think in some ways it makes me a better mother, too, since I always look at Addie and Belle with a gentler eye in large part because of my students.
I don't know, I'm just feeling guilt, I guess, that I'm home with my little treasure and I'm almost wishing I was at work. I think it must be the whole sick thing, though, since being home last week with Belle and Addie for February vacation was idyllic. It's kind of interesting (and disturbing, in a way) to think about.
To wit, I had plans to socialize twice this week. The first--a shopping day with the ladies--was disrupted by a migraine. The second, a dinner party given by a friend, I begged off of at the quasi-last minute because Pythagorus and I had been fighting all day and I couldn't stop crying.
So anyway, I'm starting to feel like I'm a very dull person, something I never would have expected. Is it true that this comes with old age? I so don't want to be one of those people repeating the story about fixing the chain mechanism in my toilet to a falsely enraptured group of people ...
What does it mean when you get along better with yourself than with other people?
I am thirty-two years old. I'm married with two children of my own. I have a successful career, and I pay my bills on time (mostly). However, the mere thought of my mother coming to stay with us for four days while Pythagorus is in the South on business has me cleaning my bedroom in details that haven't been reached for ... oh, I'm going to say years. For some reason, my mother being in this house brings out the child in me.
I guess the reason for that is obvious. She lived in this house for almost fifteen years. What is now "my" bedroom used to be hers. The fact that it wasn't exactly clean on a regular basis when it was her room will no doubt be lost in her memories. Oh my God, the wainscoting is dusty! (I have a black lab and white wainscoting ... it's always going to look dusty).
What gets me, I think, is that you always want better for your kids, and I think that's why my mother is so quick to pass judgment on my (lack of) housekeeping skills. In a recent conversation with my sister, we came to the mutual conclusion that Kay (my mother) is "special", for lack of a better way to put it. She has a good heart and would do anything for anyone, but she has eccentricities that impacted us adversely when we were children and have made her the subject of many eye rolls and inside jokes she will never understand as we've gotten older.
I love my mother dearly. After the girls and Pythagorus, she is the most important person in my life. She knows this as well as I do. In fact, she was the first person to whom I e-mailed the illustrious first edition of the brand new school newspaper. In much the same way, I am the first person she comes to with things both good and bad. My mother, the bane of my existence for the first twenty-three years of my life, is now pretty much my best friend. Life is strange.
Which is why I can't figure out why I'm reeling on Klonopin as I clean my bedroom in anticipation of her arrival. This should be a photograph from earlier years, and I find it intriguing that it's still the case all these years later.
Is there some point in time where that magic parent/child role reversal takes place? Although I guess it's true, once a mother, always a mother ...
During my ride home, I couldn't seem to get enough of the scenery. Now, I've lived in New Hampshire my whole life; it isn't like there was anything there that I hadn't seen a million times. Perhaps my "drink" of air made me more aware, I don't know. Whatever it was, though, the snow-covered mountains in the distance, the snow dripping from trees, the ice-covered ponds (I randomly drive by a lot of ponds between work and home), it just made me want to be a part of it. I wanted to go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, neither of which I've done in ages, and just absorb.
When I get caught up in nature, it's usually at or near the ocean. You can taste the salt water in the air, and watching the tides is to me a constant reminder of how miraculous the earth is. There's a state park in Wells, Maine with really cool hiking trails that I very much enjoy, but it's based in an estuary area, so there's still that ocean connection. Then, of course, there's Bar Harbor, where ocean somehow coexists with mountains (this is strange for a New Hampshire beach native like me) and everything is just unspeakably gorgeous.
It's funny, but I got thinking about how I always seem to end up commuting to work. The drive to Nashua was almost all highway--that was the best part of commuting to Nashua, and that was the worst part of commuting to Nashua. Although I'm kind of a vehicular speed demon who truly enjoys highway driving (I know, I'm weird), there's not exactly a lot of impressive scenery on Route 101. My present commute through some legit New Hampshire backwoods takes my breath away every day, even when I get pissed off because I'm stuck behind somebody that feels it necessary to go twenty miles below the speed limit--and there's nothing I can do about it because there isn't a single passing zone.
I don't know if today's epiphany will change my irritation with some of the people that drive my route, but I do know that it was so amazing to be so blown away by nature that I was physically shaking.
It's a beautiful world.
When Belle was initially sent home from daycare for having a fever, Pythagorus was able to call up his work and say, "I'm not coming in today." He has the flexibility to get on his company-provided laptop and work from home (not that he did a lot of work, but you know what I mean). There will be no dip in his paycheck.
I found out via an e-mail from Pythagorus that Belle was home sick. Before I left work, I made arrangements in case Belle needed to be home for another day. I was hoping that this was one of those cases where, if I actually took the time to do it before I left, I wouldn't need it. Unfortunately, she was still pretty sick the next morning, so I made that phone call and focused on making my little girl as comfortable and happy as possible.
All I could think about was that there are thousands of people who don't have this luxury. Back in my days as a single mother, I worked at jobs where, if I had to take a day off because Addie was sick, I didn't get the paycheck that I was expecting, the paycheck I was often depending on. In addition to being a heart-wrenching decision (never mind the fact that some jobs--the infamous gas station/convenience store combo comes immediately to mind--had a policy where you COULD NOT miss work unless you found someone to cover your shift), it's pretty hard to find someone willing to take care of a sick child if a) you don't live close to your family and b) your family members have a similar absence policy at work.
Beyond the health care disaster that our country is facing is this very real issue. Because I'm me, I thought about it even though it didn't directly impact me. I felt guilt for laying in bed an extra hour and a half, my little girl burning like a hot coal next to me.
But mostly I just felt fortunate.
This woman is, in many ways, fiercely independent. She always has been, in a strange sort of way. The best example of this I can give is that, when my dad left and things got tight financially for a couple of years, she worked full-time as a school nurse during the week and then added in both weekend days as well as some evenings as an occupational health nurse. That's seven days a week of working, often sixteen hours in one day. She's a Hampton princess, but I've seen very few people match her work ethic. Despite her eccentricities, she is an amazing lady.
When she met then married my stepdad, my mother got to relax a bit. She was able to live a very happy life, and I can truly say that my parents (meaning my mom and stepdad) were madly in love throughout their marriage. I know how rare this is, and I'm fully aware of how much both of them cherished what they had.
My stepdad's diagnosis of lung cancer--a death sentence, as my mother knew right away--was a nightmare. Because of my mother's medical expertise, she did a lot of things that most would have had a visiting nurse or hospice or something take care of. I don't know how she was able to survive his eight-month convalescence when so much of it was on her shoulders, but she did, and she managed to keep her sanity and sense of humor intact for the most part (the fact that he was able to do the same is probably a major factor in that).
Anyway, after his death, she very understandably had some adjustment issues. These have continued for years now, as she's read books about coping with her situation and changed jobs and moved to a different town. She's internalized everything, but she's been reluctant to change many things from the way things were when my stepdad was alive and she was dizzily, gloriously happy all the time.
The most visible--and the most annoying, frankly--involved her computer/internet set-up. My mother saw absolutely no reason to give up the Gateway desktop my stepdad had bought in (I think) 1998. She felt that changing her dial-up internet was completely unnecessary. Using the computer and e-mail program that she had shared with him was, of course, some sort of connection that she was hanging onto. I can understand that, truly I can. All the same, it's gotten to be a bit frustrating when she has a problem or a program that needs to be downloaded or a picture file to open or whatever. She'd call Pythagorus, and he'd go over there and do his best to help her out. He's been mumbling about her technological issues for years.
Pythagorus mumbled quietly, though. I'm not as nice, and I started giving her a hard time about it when I was at her house and wanted to check my e-mail or look something up online or something. Addie, a technophile in her own right, added her voice to the choir, as did my sister Mary when she and Jon stayed at my mother's over Thanksgiving.
Evidently, we finally wore her down about the internet. She had Comcast install a new cable jack in her main living room and also bought a start-up kit for cable internet. Pythagorus was more than happy to set it up for her and he did so ... but when he went to plug it into the dinosaur Gateway, he found that it didn't have an ethernet port. Basically, he told my mother there were two options--getting a portable ethernet for the Gateway or getting a new computer.
She went with Option B.
So Pythagorus went to the computer store with her yesterday and helped her pick out a new computer. We all went down this afternoon to set it up (well, Pythagorus set it up and the rest of us just sort of hung out), and so my mother now has a state-of-the-art Thinkpad with high-speed internet.
I know this was hard for her because, in a way, it's having to let a little bit more of my stepdad go away. I think it must be damn near impossible to survive widowhood (or widowerhood) with your facilities intact. I miss my stepdad every single day, and I cannot imagine the exponential loss my mother must feel.
Even though I feel relief (because I'm sort of an internet junkie and the dial-up was frankly a royal pain in the ass), I think I'm sort of an asshole too, because this was obviously something hard for my mother to do. I mean, it took her almost five years to get here.
Why is there so much pain in life, and why do people handle it so differently?
"Hey, Mom? Have you ever noticed that the morning sky is so much prettier in the winter?"
I mean, this kid is fourteen. Her main focuses are friends, computer, acne cream, that band she's obsessed with, and brooding. She's a master of the brood.
But every once in awhile, she comes out of the teenage angst persona she's recently cultivated and makes an observation that just blows me away. How magical it is that this young lady can look at the world, take in the ugliness that exists, yet find almost unspeakable beauty in a winter sky?
Sometimes a person comes along that virtually everyone can relate to, even if they don't want to admit it. Sometimes these people become famous. Quite often, they don't; instead, they are stifled before they can achieve their potential and end up pushing paper for an insurance company (not that I have anyone in mind or anything :-) ) and their good works are never realized, are not put down in the annals of time.
But sometimes destiny works out differently, as with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King's focus on addressing racial segregation and discrimination are well documented, particularly his urging of civil disobedience in the face of unspeakable adversaries. There are always approaches other than violence, and Dr. King made crystal clear the fact that you can move metaphoric mountains without raising an angry hand.
Not as well known are Dr. King's position opposing the Vietnam War on religious grounds (I have a minor obsession with the Vietnam War, which goes with my late sixties obsession) or his tireless work to abolish poverty, perhaps as big a "racial" divide as that between black and white.
I think Dr. King would be unspeakably proud of Barack Obama and all of us who supported him when he is sworn in as the 44th U.S. president tomorrow (although King himself might have achieved this had his life not been cut short by an assassin's bullet). Sadly, though, I also think that Dr. King would be ashamed and appalled by the abject poverty that still permeates our country and keeps the American Dream forever at bay for many, many people.
I am not blind to Dr. King's faults or unaware of some of the less-than-savory things he did (I've researched the whole doctoral thesis uproar, for example, and yeah, he plagiarized), but I think that when someone comes along and is just at the right junction of time and space and is able to touch and motivate and inspire so very many people, it is just a remarkable and beautiful thing.
Thank you, Dr. King, for your hard work, your peaceful soul, and especially your inspiration. The torch you lit still burns today, and I think it will be burning especially bright tomorrow at noontime.
Belle's favorites are quite varied. She's recently started to love "Sesame Street", which pretty much speaks for itself (and when she was much younger, she very much enjoyed the late, great "Fraggle Rock", which her lame parents have on video). I mean, how can you go wrong with "Sesame Street"? It's educational, it's funny, it doesn't take itself too seriously, and it has a message that's legit without being preachy. She also randomly ADORES "The Smurfs" (she has a little crush on Hefty Smurf, which is just hysterical)
One of her other new faves is this offering from Disney Channel called "Imagination Movers" about these four guys who live in a warehouse and solve "idea emergencies", usually helping out their chirpy neighbor, Nina, or her boring uncle Knit-Knots (who collects rocks, which is just about one step down from collecting calculators, but I won't go there). Actually, it's not that bad ... the music makes Belle dance, and I was so excited during this one episode where they were trying to figure out which of five unopened boxes had something metal in it, and Belle looked at me and said in a bored voice, "Why don't they use a magnet?"
But for the most part, I don't think the TV shows on today hold a candlestick to what was on when I was a kid. "The Smurfs" was one of my all-time favorites (although Belle has rediscovered it because of On Demand cable, a great invention as far as I'm concerned), as was "He-Man" (when I had my appendix out in second grade, I threw a major tantrum the morning after my surgery because there was no TV in my hospital room--this was not standard operating procedure in 1981--and my poor mother arranged for a TV pretty quickly after that), "Scooby Doo", "Looney Tunes", "The Snorks", "Thundercats", and so on.
There are two major differences, I think, in what was on then and what is on now. The first is that today's shows for children go out of their way to avoid violence at all costs and, when it is approached--with kid gloves--there is always a happy or at least hopeful resolution. It drives me crazy ... what sort of real life are we setting these kids up for?
As a child, I had nightmares about Gargamel giving up on the Smurfs and coming to get me and cut out my eyeballs for a magic potion. I was afraid that the Mystery Machine kids would find some crook wearing a me-mask and wouldn't be able to identify the true villain. And I cringed inside every time Wile E. Coyote held up his pathetic umbrella as yet another rock fell on him. Like fine literature, these stories stayed with me. I can still remember them vividly, many individual episodes from each of those shows. My brother Adam and I used to write stories (and awful songs ... we thought we had a rocking band but it was pretty ridiculous in retrospect) based on the characters from these shows (and movies like the Star Wars and Indiana Jones offerings). Yeah, they scared the shit out of us ... but they also gave us a sense of reality, scary as that sounds. Things are not tied up into a neat little package in real life. They're not. Even as I teach the concept of denouement, I want to yell out to my students, "I'm lying! I'm lying! Don't listen to me!"
The other thing that bothers me about television shows today is the ridiculous attempt to be politically correct. I don't mean that fiction--books, movies, TV shows--shouldn't try to portray reality such as it is (and Beauty and the Beast will always be my favorite Disney movie because it was the first one with a brown-haired protagonist), but there comes a point where it crosses the line into absurdity. I think I'd feel better if so many of the shows--"Dragon Tales" jumps to mind, or "Dora the Explorer"--didn't portray a different culture/language/race in a vacuum. That's just as un-PC as a show featuring all blonde-haired blue-eyed Caucasians. I mean, the Hispanic Max and Emmy (and their Hispanic neighbor Enrique, in later episodes) go to Dragon Land, where the dragon children are taught by a bilingual (in Spanish, naturally) teacher name Quetzel. That's great ... but where are the other children, the ones that aren't Hispanic?
I wish there would be a children's show where people of all different races, cultures, disabilities, whatever are all together. These shows that attempt political correctness are missing children of middle-eastern descent, obese children (although they always have that one wheelchair-bound kid), kids with Down's Syndrome or one arm or mental illness or ...
Sigh. The options are endless, but nobody will say or do anything. Why is this?
The dark times predate things brought about by my own stupidity, but it really bugs me when people blame all their problems on a dysfunctional childhood, so I won't. My mother's imbalanced thyroid and my father's affair with the victim-witness advocate at his office and their subsequent acrimonious divorce did not cause the dark times. There were times I lived in a darkness inside of myself long before my father walked out the door and my mother told me that it was my fault.
Sometimes I think I would be a therapist's greatest dream come true.
The problem is that I don't believe in therapy. I've seen too many people become four or five times more fucked up than they were going in following therapy. I've seen therapy destroy familial relationships. I've observed people who learned through therapy to direct their hate and angry feelings onto people that weren't the only people responsible for said hate and angry feelings. In a nutshell, more often than not, I've seen therapy make problems bigger even as the individual in therapy thinks they become smaller. I'm sure this is not always the case, but I guess I'm one of those people who can only judge on what I've seen, and that's what I've seen.
Is there truly a value for therapy? And how about medication? I've heard about the wonders it allegedly works, but I haven't seen such an idyllic experience in my observations. Sometimes I wish that medication was truly the panacea that so many people think it is. Any thoughts on this? Perhaps I need to change my thinking on this one ...
In my experience, all medication does is change the essence of who or what a person is. It's not that I don't believe in depression or anxiety or whatever. Trust me, I know as well as anybody that they exist. Frightening as this sounds, I found self-medicating through a variety of substances to be more helpful than any of those drug-of-the-month with full page ads in magazines and those ridiculous television spots to be. For example, one of my favorite people in the world became a completely different person after starting Lexapro. He is as addicted to the so-called security offered through that doctor-approved drugging as I ever was to anything. His refusal to admit to the changes brought about by the Lexapro, none of them positive in my opinion, has altered the nature of our relationship, possibly forever.
When push comes to shove, what's the difference, really, between wanting a Marlboro when you're overwhelmed by stress and wanting an Ativan?
I just read through what I wrote, and I almost deleted it. The thing is, though, everyone who knows me well is aware of the dark times. They are also aware that I've tried various ways to make them go away, both medically-sanctioned ways and ways that could probably have me put in jail. I'm reading Stephen King's It at the moment, though, and it made me think about the combination of light and darkness that exists in everyone, the yin and yang, the balance.
I guess I can write this now because I actually like myself now. There are a lot of good things about me, and I can admit that even as I know that there are some things that are not so good. The thing is, the dark times are a part of me. The black cloud that threatens to overwhelm me sometimes is as much a part of who I am as the smile and the laughter that many people think is me.
Can I embrace the things that make me so woefully unhappy when they are ingrained in my soul, pumped through my heart, an integral part of the very air I breathe? Would trying to get rid of those black feelings alter the essence of who I am?
First and foremost, I have mixed feelings about the death penalty in general. I mean, I think the idea of putting someone to death as a punishment sort of defeats the purpose in that who are we to decide on that ultimate a punishment? In foreign countries, for example, "crimes" such as adultery which are virtually accepted here are punishable by death. Who gets to make that call? Society? Which society is right? Are any?
If you want to follow the Bible as the guiding force here, Jesus Christ taught and lived forgiveness (the guy was crucified yet cried out to God, "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do") while the Ten Commandments state explicitly, "Thou shalt not kill", and then there's the whole "eye for an eye" thing.
This is a level of philosophy that I waver on--I am so unsure as to my own views on the death penalty that I can't come down on either side in writing. I'm curious as to what others think, so feel free to comment. I'm open for debate, since it depends on the day with me, in many ways.
A man named Michael Addison was sentenced to death in New Hampshire today. Addison shot a police officer named Michael Briggs and unquestionably deserved severe punishment. The family and friends of Officer Briggs have suffered a loss they will never recover from, and that's a crime that Addison will have to answer to a higher power for no matter what we do to him here on Earth.
My issue is that in August of 1997, another New Hampshire police officer, Epsom's Jeremy Charron, was killed in the line of duty by two men named Gordon Perry and Kevin Paul. Perry, who did the actual shooting, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole while Paul received a 16-50 year prison sentence.
Did I mention that Michael Addison is an African-American?
As a result, many people are trying to convince her that the child in question got misinformation. My entire family is going crazy trying to find all the things she asked the mall big-guy-in-the-red-suit before that little turd ruined it. Pythagorus and I found her a sled "big enough to ride on with Addie" (Addie is my older daughter), per Belle's request. My mom pretty much bought out the Polly Pocket section at Toys 'R' Us. My sister Mary, who lives in Florida where they sell bathing suits all year round, has been searching desperately for a Finding Nemo bathing suit (Belle does not like change--she's had a Finding Nemo bathing suit for the past three or four years, getting a new one as she gets bigger).
It goes beyond my biological family, though. For example, Belle's babysitter managed to set up a phone conversation between Belle and Santa when her husband called to let her know that the local AM radio station was having "Santa" available for an hour's worth of phone calls on their Open Mic program. Well, Belle thought that was wonderful; I was especially touched where she wanted to make sure he knew that "My sister has been a good girl this year, too." The funniest part was that Pythagorus was on an errand from work and happened to be listening to the radio, and he heard a little girl that sounded an awful lot like Belle talking to Santa. The look on his face when he found it it was, in fact, the princess herself was priceless.
But I remain concerned about two issues.
The first, and more personal to me, is that Belle isn't just a bright little girl, she is relentless. I think we've saved it for this year, I truly do, and I deeply appreciate the family and friends who have played a role in helping us out with this. The problem is, Belle inherited her father's logical brain, so a seed has been planted that she will work over and over in her brain and eventually reach the inevitable conclusion.
The second, and bigger problem in general, bothers me more. Why is it that kids glorify so in bursting someone else's happiness? Who teaches them those lessons? Is this just more of the human nature that drives me crazy?
One of my earliest memories is from a day when I was probably younger than Belle. My dad was unloading the dishwasher, and I asked him point blank, "Santa isn't real, is he?" He hemmed and hawed (he's a lawyer, he's very good at the hems and the haws) but finally gave in since I was pretty adamant (I don't remember how I found out, incidentally). He did ask one thing of me: "Just don't tell your brother." I didn't. My brother Adam (four and a half years older than me, by the way) steadfastly believed in Santa Claus until he was ten or eleven.
If a little shit like me (and I was by all accounts pretty evil as a child) could keep that surprise for her siblings, there's no reason that others can't show some respect for others and let them hold onto that little piece of magic. Part of me wants to say it's in the raising, but my raising wasn't exactly beautiful ... although I choose to give to my parents the fact that, when push came to shove, my values and morals and better nature--all learned, if piecemeal, from them--were basically good.
This might seem naive, but I actually do believe that Santa Claus does exist. I mean this with all sincerity. No, I'm not delusional but, as an aspiring writer, I've developed a pretty decent gift for observing human behavior. Why is it that, around the holidays, people donate money they don't have to the Salvation Army? How come so many people, many of them desperately poor themselves, donate hundreds of canned goods to the local food pantry? What does it mean that I just read a letter to the editor of my local newspaper depicting an incident where an obviously struggling woman had her purchases paid for by the lady in front of her in line? Donations to Toys for Tots and other similar causes? Handwritten Christmas cards? The number of people going out of their way to find that one perfect gift to give to a loved one?
Some people call it the Christmas spirit. I choose to call it Santa Claus.
I am so overwhelmed with unkindness and sneakiness and selfishness and a number of other words ending in -ness. These are all things that I try desperately not to be, and I cannot for the life of me understand how these things are a way of life to so many people. Why in the world would you actively WANT to be an asshole?
I guess maybe I'm not such a simple person. My life philosophy is to do everything I can to help other people, to give all of myself. I get frustrated, ridiculously so, when people don't hold themselves to the same standard. Somewhere along the line, either from my parents, in Girl Scouts (hey, come on, I was a Brownie for one year), or some other location that escapes me at the moment, I learned something called the golden rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated.
That's how I try to live my life. Do I always succeed? Nope, although I can live with what I do accomplish under that dictum. I seem to do at least as well as most people and obviously far better than some.
I mess up all the time, and I really am okay with that. After all, the bigger your mistake, the more you learn from it, at least if you're someone that takes things to heart the way I do. I learn an awful lot every day : )
I don't know how to live in a world where there are people who espouse a philosophy that cries out the polar opposite.
I guess all I can do is keep on trucking, though. I can only be the best person I can be. I can honestly say that I've learned and grown from all my mistakes, the huge ones in the past and the unknown of the future.
I just wish that human nature was more forthcoming.
I almost hit my husband one night a few months ago. Several times. And it's a good thing there were no knives handy. The first time "Pythagorus" looked over and said, "Are you having trouble sleeping?" I just nodded. By the third time, I was gritting my teeth to keep from going all Lindsay Lohan on him. At one point in the middle of the night, probably around 2:30 or so, I got up and went on the computer, hoping that it would bore me to sleep. Didn't work, but when I got back into bed, Pythagorus said, "Why are you going on the computer in the middle of the night?" And then this morning ... "You didn't sleep well, did you?" Gah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
There are a couple of different types of insomnia. For example, some people have a hard time falling asleep, but life is beautiful once they're able to finally achieve slumber. Others can fall asleep fairly easily but cannot stay asleep, hence never reaching REM sleep and getting a very poor period of rest. I fall into both of those categories depending on the night. Of the two, incidentally, the not being able to stay asleep bothers me more.
I have tried warm milk and relaxation music. I've agonized over setting up a bedtime routine. I've cut out caffeine (and withstood the horrendous headache that goes with this). I've kept the television off and books away from myself. I've tried keeping the light on (in fact, I've tried bathing my bedroom in various types of lighting). I've checked out actually watching television or reading a very boring book to see if it would lull me to sleep. I tried Advil PM and Benadryl.
Absolutely nothing worked, and we're talking months with very little sleep. I finally went to the doctor and had Ambien prescribed (but I got a little paranoid when Eminem very publicly struggled with addiction to that particular sleep aid, so I flushed it) so then I jumped on the butterfly bandwagon and had been using Lunesta with varying degrees of success for the past year or so. I'm back on Ambien now, although I'm not happy about it.
I wonder sometimes what causes insomnia, why some people have it when others don't. In my case, there is a very strong familial link as well as a fairly high level of stress both at work and at home. I question whether all of my insomnia is related to stress, however, in that I don't know what I could possibly have been stressed out about when I was five or six, and I can remember having serious sleep issues as early as then.
The nature of sleep is fascinating, really. It's a place to think, to de-stress, to escape, to hope, to dream, to fantasize, to come to conclusions you could never reach when in a waking state. I wish I could get there more often : )
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