Sunday, April 29, 2007
Answer Me This...
I'm much better, healthwise, although I'm still in that pathetic post-illness fatigue thing where I need to stop to catch my breath on the way to the refrigerator.

My anxiety continues to increase at the knowledge that we're leaving for Potsdam in 87 hours, give or take. It will be fine, I know it will be fine. Honest. Fine.

Instead, I continue to focus on the fact that I'm going to Paris in 12 days. TWELVE. Oh. My. God. I have sooooo much to do! Very soon, within a day or two, I'll be starting a separate blog, just for us to chronicle our trip. I'll post the address here, if you want to come along and play - but I plan on giving the address to my mother-in-law too, so I won't be linking back. Ugh.

In the meantime, I got some good questions in the comments the other day, and I'm finally motivated to actually answer them. So...
Sara asked, "Where in the world would you live if money/jobs/schools were of no concern? Why?"
    In a big, old house on the northern Massachusetts shore, within walking distance of the ocean. Big as in 12-foot ceilings and fireplaces, but not too fancy for kids. I'll need a big, deep, covered porch so that I can sit outside during thunderstorms, blackberry bushes along one side of the property, and a yard just big enough for the kids to play in without being overwhelming. Bathrooms on each floor, with at least one huge iron clawfoot tub.
    Why? Something about the ocean soothes me and completes me. It's where I've gone whenever I've needed to work out some particular crisis or anxiety, and so far I've been able to walk long enough to come to peace with everything I've needed to come to peace with.

My sister Mary asked, "peas: canned or frozen?"
    I always prefer to visualize whirled peas.

And the hard question. Baino asked, "Given the opportunity and the will, what is it about yourself that you would change?"
    Gee, thanks, Baino. I literally lost sleep over this one. Because I just don't know. I've changed a lot about myself over time, and have dealt with many of those things that I needed to change. (See above response, about walking the beach. Miles and miles, sometimes, not to mention therapy and medications as needed...) I'm content in my life, content in my level of achievements thus far and in my long-term plans. Which are vastly different than they used to be, and I've adjusted to that, as well. I'm not perfect, but I'm okay with who I am.

    But I finally, at about 2:00 yesterday morning, came up with an answer: I wish that I could lower my standards, just a little, as far as what I will accept in a friend. Because I think my life would be easier, and not negatively compromised, if I could just ease up, just relax, just a little.

    I'm not thinking I should go to the nearest prison or NAMBLA meeting and start collecting friends from the very dredges of society; rather, that once a friendship has started, perhaps I should take a cue from Wendy and have high standards BUT be quicker to forgive and overlook things I find upsetting or offensive, in the larger service of holding onto a friendship for the sake of friendship. (Or maybe she's just slumming it, whatever.) This is best clarified through example:

  • There was one mother, with some number of children, who lived near enough to me that we were able to get together once in a while, despite an initial relationship formed on an online message board. She was nice enough, and her child(ren) were adorable. But the youngest, from an early age, showed clear signs of developmental delay.

    I have made a very strict rule with myself, that I will never offer my professional opinion to friends unless it is explicitly sought... and even then, I keep it fairly light, because there are boundaries I just don't want blurred. So, she never asked whether I thought there was anything wrong, and I never volunteered it. But I listened, as she recounted tales of doctors and specialists telling her there was something wrong, and she denied it. Agreed to go to the minimum number of assessments and appointments to satisfy her pediatrician, but held a consistent stance of, "I know there's nothing really wrong. I know (s)he will grow out of it. I know they're all wrong."

    And after a while, I had to stop smiling politely and changing the subject. I had to stop making playdates, and even started standing her up. I let myself become the bad guy, the bad friend, the one whose fault it all was, because she was so closed off to any realism on this particular topic. And while I never felt that she was nearing a level of neglect that would make the headlines, I did feel that she was refusing to see her child for who (s)he was, and refusing to accept and love the quirks and challenges of her particular child.

    Sure, I feel guilty about this, even now. Maybe a better friend would have stood up and challenged the woman's views, risked hurting feelings in defense of the child's best interests, something; but I felt like she was already getting clear feedback and was ignoring it, and it was not my place to do more along those lines. Maybe a better friend would have continued to smile politely and ignore the big white elephant. I couldn't do it.

  • I was a member of a different message board for a long time, and a fairly frequent, active participant. There are women there that I care deeply about, to this day, and women I am closer to than many in-real-life friends. But there were two - maybe three, though I was never able to read the third that clearly - who overtly disliked me.

    If they'd hated me from the start, well, sure, I can understand that. After all, I'm not very good with words, and I routinely make random, sweeping generalizations meant to insult whole segments of the population.

    Whatever. Seriously - if they'd disliked me from the start, fair enough. But in these cases, both were close friends to me for quite a while. Sending emails and IM's off the board, confiding in me, letting me confide in them, generally doing those things that one might expect friends to do. Except that the condition of my friendship, with both of them, was that I was not allowed to like or be friends with another board member.

    Yes, it feels like high school. But there's a reason that cliques have such a draw. It feels good to be included, and I totally fell for that for a while. And then I realized, hey, wait, I'm not 16! I can be friends with both. And, for a brief time, I was - until both of those women were clear with me that I was being insensitive and unacceptable and ended the off-board friendship. They were still cute and perky to me in public, but that extra stuff stopped dead. And it hurt.

    (Although, I will admit, the friendship with the "uncool" one has been totally worth the consequences.)

    I've never been able to heal or resolve those friendships; and not for lack of trying. I've sent notes and asked if we could talk about it, and been told, twice, separately, "No." And after time, continuing to share public space with those two women, acting friendly in public while simultaneously shunning me off-board, became toxic for me.

    And so I left. I left 15 dear friends because two were ruining the experience for me. How unfair is that?

  • You get the idea. I don't want to have a bazillion friends, and I don't think I would have a moment's hesitation at ending a friendship with someone who deliberately hurt their children or some other major offense. But I'd like to be more blithe about some things, to be able to just let it go. I have similar stories about family members, but this post is long enough already.

I think that's just about enough blog randomness for me today. Remember that tomorrow, there's this:
One Day Blog Silence I'll see you on Tuesday.
Friday, April 27, 2007
Because I Can
It's amazing to me how quickly I'm able to get complacent and take things for granted. Like, electricity - until we lost it for a day a few weeks ago, it had simply never entered into my consciousness that we could lose it. Similarly, I have this cute little laptop and the idea that it could malfunction and suddenly none of the keys would work (okay, it got ginger ale spilled on it, but it was still sudden) had not presented it to me, until, viola! A large electronic paperweight!

And, seriously. I spent *plenty* of time whining about my illness this week anyway, don't you think? It was probably karma's way of stifling at least some of my moaning, by making me wait for times when I could borrow Willem's computer. Otherwise I would have gotten really annoying. More so than I was. Shut up, it would TOO be possible.

So yesterday, I was finally well enough to make some phone calls - we needed a plumber because somehow the drain-toggle thing had snapped out of the tub, and an appointment for Willem's Jeep to stop self-destructing, and other ways in which my house and belongings were slowly crumbling to little pieces around me. And I called Gateway, at about 3:00 in the afternoon, to mumble about "something spilled" and "keys not working" and "please help." And today - at 2:00, less than 24 hours later - FedEx showed up at my door with a package containing a brand-new laptop keyboard and instructions on how to switch 'em. For free.

Yeah, so, I loves me my Gateway.

And the timing is perfect, too, because I opened myself to the cruelties of Wordnerd and invited her to interview me, and that happened in the comments sometime today. Granted, she was gentle with me and didn't ask anything TOO scary, but she could've. And without my keyboard, earlier, I was able to read her questions and mentally answer them, but I don't think a whole ton of you out there in cyberspace are completely clairvoyant (and that's probably a good thing, there's enough going on in my head already without spectators), so now I can actually share my answers.

And there was much rejoicing.

So, the way this works, as far as I can figure, is that I answer my interview questions, and then I open it up to the comments - the general rule is that people can request to be interviewed there, but from what I'm seeing, there's not an outpouring of interest here. Fine. Be that way.

So, you can still feel free to ask questions in the comments; I'm percolating on them and will reply when I can gather both of my surviving non-diseased brain cells and bang them together to form coherent thoughts. Mostly because I'm curious, what can I possibly not have told about myself here so far??

So, anyway... from the fertile mind of Wordnerd:
1.Your Ipod has malfunctioned, and now it will only play five songs. You’re on a long road trip. What five songs can you listen to without ever getting tired of them?
Well, hmm. This is not as hard as it might be for, say, my husband, because I'm very prone to having comfort music and listening to the same few songs over and over anyway. More than five, but I have two playlists of about 30 songs each that I select almost every time I'm in the car, with reckless disregard for the other 1300-odd songs on the iPod. So it's a matter of choosing from them...
  • Regarding Steven by Blues Traveler

  • Grey Street by Dave Matthews Band

  • Anna Begins by Counting Crows

  • It's Alright, It's Ok by Leah Andreone

  • Man in the Box by Alice in Chains

That was harder than I'd thought, only because choosing between my songs is in the same vein as choosing between my children. If I could instead put in a vote for a single Genre on my iPod... I collect acoustic versions of all sorts of songs, and have things ranging from '80s hair metal to Alanis Morissette's version of My Humps in there. Pretty please?

2.Favorite. Movie. Ever. (That’s a question!)
Pride & Prejudice, the A&E version with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. It's about 15 hours long and as true to the book as I have any right to hope for. My sister Sarah bought it for me for Christmas 2005, and I've (only) watched it about four times since then. It's my version of comfort food.

This would've been a lot harder if I'd had to name, say, my top five. Because there's this one, hanging out above all the rest, and then about 15 crammed into the #2 spot.

3.What are some of your guilty pleasures?
Ooh, is this, like, confession? I offload the guilt and then can continue doing the pleasurable things without feeling bad? Hah.

I don't actually feel guilt very often in my life. This probably has more to do with being raised to have a fair amount of self-confidence than because I'm innately perfect, but I'll accept either reason. Either way, while I don't feel guilty, I do have things that I don't brag about. Like, I read People magazine cover-to-cover every single weekend. In the bathroom, perched on the side of the tub, with the door closed so as not to be interrupted, a few pages at a time. And, every time I make buttermilk waffles, I deliberately leave too little batter in the bowl for a complete final waffle so that I can eat it raw. And if Fox ever decided to start a new season - or, hell, reruns of the old seasons - of Temptation Island, I would both DVR it and watch it live, with my phone unplugged.

4.Define happiness – for you.
Happiness is being able to do a mental count of all of my loved ones and not being able to come up with a crisis or ongoing struggle for any one of them. Happiness is being able to drink a chocolate banana milkshake without whimpering because it hurts my throat. Happiness is waking up to the snuggly and sleep-warm body of my son crawling into bed, and bantering with my daughter just like she's a real person instead of just a kid, and the long-car-ride talks with my husband. Happiness is finishing a knitted item and getting a final result that's at least somewhat like the initial vision, writing a post and getting more than ten comments, and eating chewy gooeys.

5.What scares you?
The thought of harm to my children. And I have a very, very active imagination, so when I let myself go too far, I can come up with any number of realistic and imminent threats. I also get scared if I stay up too late, alone - I get jumpy, and become convinced that if I look out the window I will see a face looking back in at me. The sheer size of my student loan balance scares me. Guns scare me.

Viola! More than you ever thought you'd want to know, and now that information is crammed into your head forever. BWAH-ha-ha....
Thursday, April 26, 2007
I'm a smidge better today, I think. Not quite up to the strenuous tasks of walking across the room without stopping to catch my breath, or talking on the telephone, but so far today I've kept down about 8 oz. of water and 1/3 of a scrambled egg, so I'm counting that as a victory.

I'm also well enough to be a little more aware of the world around me. Yesterday I was as withdrawn and self-focused as one can be without actively stepping on small children and pets, paying attention to my various miseries with essentially no thoughts for others. I don't even think I complained out loud about how crappy I was feeling, because I didn't really care whether my gripes had an audience.

But today, I've got my head above water (i.e., out of the toilet bowl) and am a little more in touch with my surroundings. Enough to realize that I have an awful lot to be grateful for.

The big, glaring obvious one is, of course, my husband. Aside from the tiniest of all tiny freakouts yesterday morning when he had to simultaneously dress, feed and prepare both children for daycare while steering me (and my ever-present garbage can) toward the minivan, he has been a paragon of husbandhood. Pacing nervously in the hallway while I have a 1:00 a.m., um, incident. Cleaning the kitchen to the point where it doesn't look like a grown man and two small children have had the run of the place for the past several days. Bringing Emily along with him to class so that I can nap during Jacob's nap and then nap after he wakes up, too. Completely abandoning his homework and some class time. And - and this is a big one - never once complaining. He's done amazingly well, and I'm not above a little gloating. It's just good to know I chose well, spousewise.

(Although, hmmm.... the conspiracy center of my brain suddenly wonders whether he wanted me to get sick this week, because now I should be all healthy again in time for our trip to Potsdam and it's hard to complain about going up there when he's done such a great job this week. Hmmm...)

So, there's that. Then there's my work. It has its moments of crazymaking and inanity, but they all - my boss and coworkers, have been very understanding and supportive all this week, with nary a mention of the fact that I'm scheduled to take 6 days off in May. The ED doctor yesterday wrote me a note to get out of three days of work, and it's kind of nice to not even need it - to be trusted enough that they'd never ask for such a thing.

There's been a wonderful support network of friends, online and off. None of you are sadistic enough to try and visit or call, which I appreciate greatly, but the emails and messages and comments I've gotten have been lovely. I hope I'm feeling better soon, too.

And, of course, my kids. Until I was ill - contagiously so - I sort of took for granted how openly affectionate they are. It's been very, very hard this week, having to tell them, "No, I'm sorry, I can't snuggle right now, I'm still sick." They both have taken it well, but both of them makes a beeline at the slightest signal that I'm able to have physical contact. Last night, I was home alone with Jacob for a few hours, and he was playing alone, happily, when I asked, "Do you want to come sit with Mama?" He scampered over and snuggled into my side tightly enough that he could have passed as an extra body part. They've both just been very mellow about it all, and I'm grateful.

So, my throat still hurts far more than is reasonable, and my ears itch and sting, and I haven't been able to sleep through the night without a mad dash to the bathroom to call up Ralph on the big white telephone... but my life is still pretty good.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
What's Less Fun Than Strep Throat?
One might think that strep throat all by itself would be plenty excitement for me, but apparently not. I ended up in the hospital this morning, dehydrated and with a possible allergy to medication or kidney infection. The short version is, Willem initially freaked out but ended up doing a fantastic job of managing the household and shepherding my loopy, pathetic self around; it's "only" dehydration as a complication from strep and 6 hours of vomiting overnight; and... well, I'd like to be witty enough to come up with a third thing, but I just can't. I'm tired.

Way, WAY awkward to go into the emergency room as a patient, seeing as how I work there. Go ahead, you wear your jammies to your work and see how comfortable you feel. But the good news is, having connections meant I was fast-tracked and treated with some humor. Like when she gave me this horrible, snot-consistency viscous lidocaine crap to try and swallow to numb my throat, Nurse Betsy admitted, "Sometimes we crowd in to watch people drink this, because you all make such horrible faces. But just for you, we'll make an exception... we hooked up the camera instead."

Everyone's a comedian.

Anyway, I plan on continuing to hold down the couch and whimper through most of the day tomorrow, and am not sure whether I'll go to work on Friday. My computer is still broken, mostly because I didn't do a thing about trying to have it fixed today. Ain't life grand?
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Adequate Punishment
For having the audacity to throw an eight-hour birthday party (though, true, only three of it involved personal responsibility for children not my own), to allow my mother-in-law to stay in my house for four days, and to drink frozen strawberry margaritas like it was my job (and, if part of my employment description includes "not killing people with knitting needles," then it may have truly been my job), I have been adequately punished. Instead of basking in my hostessly successes and preening a bit at avoiding a much-deserved hangover, I'm sitting on my loveseat, bundled up in my softest clothes and a big heavy blanket, and whimpering every few seconds, because it hurts to swallow, and either I normally swallow saliva on a freakishly frequent basis or a horrible twist of cosmic irony has caused me to overproduce saliva just for the occasion.

I have strep throat.

It hurts. A lot.

I've never had it before. In fact, for a long time (like, until yesterday) I kind of suspected that I might not be susceptible to whatever tiny little germy nastiness causes strep, just in the same way that I am apparently not allergic to poison ivy. I very, very rarely get sore throats; when my body decides to hate itself, it is most often in the form of sinus ridiculousness, or very occasionally a gastrointestinal two-exits-no-waiting sort of adventure. This means that whenever I do get the tiniest, mildest of sore throats, I turn into a great big baby, because I simply have no idea how to deal with it. Except to whine about it, which, thus far, had worked pretty well.

But yesterday afternoon, I came home from work to have lunch, laid down on the couch for a moment, and woke up two hours later all disoriented and logy. Happily, I had not slept past my kids' pick-up times at daycare, and the true beauty of my job is that, as long as I have my cell phone turned on and within reach, I can work from anywhere. (Yes, I have answered the phone in the tub. It's a good thing we don't do video conferencing yet, because I'm not entirely sure that the sight of me naked would make everyone less suicidal.) "Hmm," I thought, slowly and discombobulatedly, "I didn't even realize I was tired. I hope I'm not getting sick. Does my throat hurt?"

I was immediately distracted from these musings by a motorcycle accident. Two mentally underburdened boys cut in front of me and then decided to pass the car ahead of them on the right... despite her slowing down and signalling her intent to turn right. It's kind of fun to be able to call 911 from the safety and comfort of the witness role.

Anyway, we were fine for the evening; the kids were well-behaved, I continued my whine-and-bear-it solution to the sore throat and fever, and life went on. My second signal that something wasn't quite right came when I was unable to stay awake for The Bachelor. Never fear, I have it DVR'ed and hope to be able to watch it tonight.

This morning, I had reached a level of sore-throatedness that rendered me unable to yell at my children. Can you imagine? It was truly a loss. I did get up and go into work, but after an hour I came home, and spent a few more hours of alternating between sleeping and whimpering every time I swallowed - and I was only swallowing because I'm not so sick that I'm willing to drool on myself. Plus we're talking a lot of saliva here. Wet t-shirt contest amounts. No, thanks.

So, I went to the urgent care clinic, and yes, indeed, I have strep throat. I've realized that I never actually had even a sore throat ever in my life, not compared to this. Willem and the kids have spent most of the evening sitting around watching my poor, pathetic, overdramatic reactions to anything throat- or skin-related, because the fever, it is yucky.

I will be contagious for another day, so I'd advise against licking your keyboard, just in case. And because I am trying to be gentle with myself, I may also skip out on staff meeting this Thursday.

But I will not be able to spend my time doing rampant blog-hopping and posting like a mofo, because after his nap today, Jacob came out to the living room, stumbled around the back of the coffee table, and proceeded to spill a ginger ale on my laptop.

Oh, yes, he did.

It sort of works; well enough that I'm able to do a long-overdue iTunes, photos and C-drive backup on it, so there is some benevolence in my universe. But I can't type with the ZXCVBNM,. or Enter keys, and it acts as though the Alt-key is stuck down. I may be able to pop out the keyboard and clean it myself; I'll try when my hard drive is all happily backed up. If not, it's back to the factory, because clearly one major computer malfunction is not enough.

So, I'll just spend my day tomorrow enjoying my karma, in a stifled manner, because I can't steal Willem's laptop when it's way down there at school with him.

Woe is me.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Spewing Forth Toxicity
Let's face it, I'm pretty smart. I can think things through, and I can organize my thoughts, and express myself with a halfway decent chance of being understood.


So, then, you'll understand why it feels so strange to me that I just can't find the right words to express my horror and dirty-feeling and resignation after a weekend with my mother-in-law. She's not Joan Crawford; there were no wire coat hangers or even raised voices. Her damage happens in more insiduous ways; if she was a government test facility, she could plausibly deny that her toxicity even exists because it takes such a long time after exposure to manifest. In the moment, there's a vague feeling of nausea and ickiness, but it takes some time to fully comprehend her unique skills.

I don't like her. I did, or tried to, once upon a time, on the theory that you're supposed to like your mother-in-law. But aside from her overtly inappropriate diaplays in the past, I also just plain don't like her. She leaps at every possible chance to be hurtfully sarcastic, and is all the more gleeful if she can make you feel stupid in the process. So, if you have the audacity to stutter, or misspeak, or pause just a millisecond too long to find the right word, she'll interrupt, correct, and smirk. And she's wildly, frantically defensive; nothing is ever her fault, and she is always, always the victim.

Which, honestly, is sad and pathetic, and I do have some pity for her. It can't be comfortable or fun to lug around that level of anger and learned helplessness and resentment on a daily basis. But pity is not the same as like, and it's nice to be able to dislike her because she certainly does not like me.

So, it was a long weekend, and I feel dirty and abused, and I just need to toss out some of her bon mots so that I can get them out of my system and move on. Without further ado...
  • To my coworker, Kerri, who somehow has managed to stay in this job for several years and still has a sense of humor and therefore gives me hope for myself, "No one gives me birthday cake anymore. The last time I got a birthday cake was over five years ago, and I was so shocked when it happened that I got choked up."
    Willem was right there and was able to remind her, "Wait, we gave you a big surprise party and cake and a $500 gift certificate to an airline in 2005, so that you could come visit the kids. You went to Paris instead."
    "Oh, no," she replied. "I went to Ireland that time."

  • Again to Kerri, who trains horses, making her my dressage-riding mother-in-law's favorite person ever, "Next time I buy a horse, I'll be able to spend as much as I want, because my sons have trust funds now." Okay, that's just crass.

  • To Willem, in front of friend Nisa, who is fast becoming Perfect: she stayed between the kids' portion of the party and the adults' portion to help prepare food, and she reports back to me when she hears nasty things fall from my mother-in-law's face, "Well, if you hadn't gotten married, you wouldn't be living like a pauper." Indeed. What kind of an idiot was he, getting married and having two gorgeous children? Seriously.

  • No words for this one. After some soul-searching and a decision that raising the topic doesn't imply a promise, I brought out a magazine of knitting patterns to show her, with the statement, "I'd like to get an idea of what types of styles you like, just to know and maybe someday be able to make something." She flipped through about three pages, tossed the magazine on the table, sat back with her arms and legs crossed, and never acknowledged it at all. Seems to me like the offer for a handmade, customized knitted item might be appealing, but apparently not. Since it would be knitted by the hands of Satan Kate.

And then there was the big huge bombshell that Willem dropped on her head yesterday morning. After much agonizing and thought and planning, he decided he wanted to tell her that he's been in touch with his birth mother, and that it's going pretty well. He hadn't told her before now, both because it was too new to really be able to get his own head around it and because it was so close to my father-in-law's death and she was so over-the-top with her reactions. But he felt like it was the right thing to do, to tell her before she found out some other way, and we're not sure (amen!) when we'll next see her.

So he told her. And she reacted just as selfishly and guilt-intensively and inappropriately as one might expect. Her knee-jerk reaction was to change the subject to how awful Willem's childhood was, emotionally, but how it wasn't her fault because she was "barely keeping my head above water then." This is not a woman with any long-term history of depression; and you know what? Being a parent removes your right to wallow in your own misery, at least while your kids are young. If you truly felt that they were being mistreated by their father, then you leave. End of discussion.

From there, she went on the attack toward Willem about, "You had pericarditis a few years ago. Are you getting regular EKGs now? Because you can have valve damage years later. Why aren't you getting better health care? You know I worry about you." The woman must have some serious arm strength, to be able to trowel on the guilt like that.

Then she found a way to insist that Willem needs to be more accommodating and understanding about his brother, who has never once showed the slightest interest in having any sort of an adult relationship with Willem or any of us. "He has a documented, diagnosed learning disability and expressive disability, you have to cut him some slack." Cutting him some slack is one thing; holding the responsibility for the entire relationship is something else altogether. He's an adult and he's not disabled; he has a job and a home and is his own guardian. She can defend him all she wants, but he's not unable to have a simple social chat. He's unwilling.

She did eventually circle back to the topic at hand, and cried, and talked about how scary it all was, and got angry, and proclaimed, "Well, I'm your mom and those are my grandkids." She told Willem that since his birth mother didn't provide him with any new information about possible genetic disorders or health issues, then he didn't need to have searched for her in the first place. She argued with him about his ethnic heritage, to the point where he opened his computer to pull up that email from his birth mother to read it from the source. Then she went off on a fresh new guilt trip about how he emails with his birth mother but he doesn't email with her, and now he has to email her because she knows he emails other people.

It's all just so pathetic and competitive and insecure, I really can't find the right words.

Then she spent the rest of the day sulking on the couch, barely speaking except to the kids.


She left this morning, after bogging down our Monday-morning routine as much as possible, and it will be at least a few months before we deal with her, face-to-face, again. I should be done banging my head on the wall by then.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
I have lots and lots to say about this past weekend. The one in which my mother-in-law was here for four days. The one in which Willem told her that he's been in touch with his birth mother. The one in which we had an 8-hour birthday party for Emily and I'm still sore. The one in which I drank more, over the past three days, than I'd had in the prior four years - altogether.

But right now I'm still very tired and jumbled about it all, and I need some time to process and sort it out.

In the meantime, I have two videos to share with you. These will remain as high points of my weekend for years to come.

We watched this one at the kids-portion of Emily's party:

And then we did not watch this one while the kids were awake. Fewer questions to answer that way:
Thursday, April 19, 2007
One Day Blog Silence
I'm trying very hard not to let this be a bad day. I'm not meeting with wild success so far, but it's only 1:30 and there's still time for improvement. Right? Right? I'm not naturally all Pollyanna, but I'm trying here. I want an "E" for Effort, anyway.

See, Thursdays, I wake up in a crap mood anyway. Most mornings, my alarm goes off at 6:40, I beat it into submission twice, and am on my way into the shower shortly after 7:00. Thursdays, I hit the snooze more than that - more than I should - and after I turn the alarm off I continue to lie there, lumplike and grumpy, and hide. Under my pillow, under my hair, under whichever child has found its way into my bed, it doesn't matter. Then I proceed to bite my husband's head off for a misguided display of affection on a staff meeting day. He should know better by now. My inner praying mantis comes out, and no one needs to go there.

After much muttering and glaring, I dredge myself off to work. I don't see clients on Thursdays - I have a four-hour staff meeting and then I go home and consider assessing myself for suicide risk. Because, yes, really. Four hours. And there's only about 6 or 8 of us in a room any given week. It's not okay.

These meetings are so chaotic and argumentative and pointless that I literally cannot think of a single thing we talk about over those four hours. It's mostly just Curmudgeonly J and Perfect J and Sanctimonious P snarking at each other and lecturing and pontificating and interrupting and generally behaving like a bunch of sleep-deprived monkeys, only with less hurling of feces.

You learn to be grateful for the small things, after a while.

Most Thursdays, I'm able to come home and shake it off by noon or so. But this week, I'm feeling frazzled because Willem thinks that the house is a total disaster area and wildly inappropriate for us to receive guests in, and we're having Emily's birthday party this weekend. I just spent an hour doing dishes and picking stuff up, but honestly, I don't know what else to do. I can't go shopping because DCYF frowns on me leaving the house for extended periods of time while Jacob naps. So I'm sort of at loose ends, willing to be useful but not quite sure how.

And then there's the issue of the mother-in-law. I've been quiet about her in recent months, have you noticed? It's partly because I'm trying to have some respect and, while I cannot sympathize with delusions, I want to accept her right to have delusions of grief and misery since my father-in-law's death in August '06. And partly because she's wildly wrapped up in her own issues and routines, and so it doesn't often occur to her to call us - and we certainly don't go out of our way to expose ourselves to her. Trust me, there's been plenty of insanity and passive-aggressive masterwork in the past few months, I'm just holding it all in so that I can adequately explode one of these days.

But she's coming here tomorrow, planning on actually staying here instead of in a hotel, and I'm not doing cartwheels over this. She has invited herself to stay until Monday, and I cannot convince Willem that, seeing as how she is his mother, it is his responsibility to tell her that Monday mornings are too hectic and complicated around here and it would not be a good thing for her to be here.

Ugh. I can't even think. Staff meeting and mother-in-law on consecutive days. Horrifying.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
I Think, Therefore I ... Blog?
The lovely, talented, and fertile Melissa has bestowed upon me a Thinking Blogger Award, either because my posts make her think or because I am one of only three in her acquaintance whose writing is so singularly uninspiring that we are the last remaining ones not to have gotten this award already. I have been known to drool on my keyboard a time or two, but I think instead we'll be all optimistic and assume it's because I'm so wicked cool. (Stop the presses! I was also awarded over at In the Trenches of Mommyhood, which clearly means I actually am wicked cool.)

There's a certain pressure I feel, now, to write something thoughtful. But, you know what? I just did. Can't have too many thoughts in one week, you know? Bad for the complexion.

So, instead, I'm passing along a few others who make me think, whether I'd like to or not. In no particular order...
  • Do I Have to Call it a Blog?
  • Authoress Wordnerd right now makes me think, "Gee, I hope she returns soon." But when she is posting more regularly, she has been known to make me giggle unprofessionally at just the right turn of phrase.
  • Penguins in the Fridge
  • Sara makes me think a lot about parenthood, and new babies, and adoption, and the passage of time. And I wonder just how other people saw me in college, because I certainly wasn't seeing myself in the clearest light.
  • ....and other things not-so-holy
  • Sometimes, after reading Bob, all I can think is, "....huh?"
  • Not So Daily Thoughts
  • Jordanna makes me think about the similarities and differences in lives... how one or two small (or huge, you know, whatever) changes can create such wildly different outcomes. Oh, and she makes me feel better about my own addiction to crap TV.
  • Ostendo
  • Daedalus et al. most often make me think, "I really need to not visit this site from work."

So, go forth and think!
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Dear Emily,

We made it. You're seven today. How did that happen? It's such a cliché, for a mother to talk about how fast the time goes, but truth happens, even when overused. There's a different sense of time that happens as we watch a child grow up: you may only be seven years old, but I've had a lot more than seven years' worth of loving you. The brain and the heart don't always correspond.

Sometimes I hear people say, "We're waiting until we're ready, before we have children." I'm usually able to wait until the conversation is over before I make a sign of amusement or disbelief. It's a nice idea, readiness, but I don't actually believe in it. No matter how financially stable you are, no matter how solid the marriage or how nice the neighborhood, I am skeptical that it's possible to actually be ready. How do you get ready to change every major relationship in your life, including the way you think about and treat yourself? How do you get ready to reprioritize every action, plan, and goal? How do you steel yourself for the vulnerability and sweetness that comes with having your heart exist outside your own body?

The thing is, today is not just about changing your age. It also marks the anniversary of my own rebirth, as it were; the first day of the rest of my life. Going from childless to mother is such a huge, mind-altering step. I have learned more about myself in the past seven years than I had considered as possibilities in the prior 22 years. I've discovered unsuspected wells of patience, unreasonably sensitive buttons which only your fingers are properly formed to push, and an ability to use my deafness in service of seeking extra sleep or to ignore just one more mindless children's television show. I've done what I can to teach you the important basics of life: morals, thoughtfulness, the value of a rockin' '80s one-hit wonder. But anyone who believes parenthood is a one-way flow of information from parent to child has never spent several years trying to sneak actual nutrition past the lips of someone with, shall we say, discerning tastes. They've never performed in-home laboratory experiments to determine the long-term effects of sleep deprivation, minimal personal hygiene, and interpersonal interactions centered solely around children. They've never tried to simultaneously explain God, the Tooth Fairy, and September 11th.

Don't worry, I don't want my own party for your birthday. I won't usurp your cake and singing at Applebee's. My personal celebration is more internal; a reflection and appreciation that don't need noise and candles. I know, the idea that one can celebrate without noise has not yet presented itself to you. But I hope for you that, someday, you are able to reflect quietly and enjoy your life on its own terms. I hope that you're able to find happiness in the moment, without constantly needing the next thing to come along.

Let's not forget about your dad. If growing and maturing means learning how to put the needs of others before yourself, learning to be reliable, learning how to share knowledge and find fun in everyday life, then I've taken a step or two forward in the past seven years. Your dad has run a marathon. He loves you with such fierceness and consistency, and parents with such thought and effort, that he has become the kind of father I never would have dreamed he could be, in the early days of our relationship. And even then I thought he'd make a pretty good father; I just didn't realize how committed and focused he would be.

Your life has convinced me, in a way that years of schooling and study were not able to do, that personality is largely an inborn, preprogrammed phenomenon. You had formed the fundamental core of you long before you were able to form words. I am routinely amazed at your enthusiasm for life. You bound out of bed, ready to take on the next challenge or adventure. Shyness is not a major stumbling block in your life, and so far you have not yet learned to be cynical and untrusting about the world at large. While I recognize that, someday, you will need those attributes, I'm content to let you hang onto that innocence for a while longer. You're a trailblazer and a rock star; I don't know what you're going to be when you grow up, but you're going to touch people's lives and remain in their consciousness.

Not that life with you is one, big, shiny bowl of cherries. Those very traits which I think are going to be most helpful to you as an adult - your assertiveness, your way with words, your passion and singlemindedness - are the same things which make me tear out my hair and think, "For the love of God, just once in your life could you please just be quiet and listen to me??" And then I remember, "No, she can't. This is who she is." And I don't throttle you, and I love you for another day.

It doesn't happen often enough in this world that we get clear, unequivocal proof that we have made the right decision. And of course I have my doubts on a daily basis, wondering if this is the thing that's going to land you on a therapist's couch someday. But the bigger-picture is so clear and blatant: of course I needed to have children. I needed to have you. And seeing you with your brother creates the kind of heart-achy, breathless sort of love that I've never experienced anywhere else. You and he are so different; when you go on to be a movie star, he can take his mellowness and laid-back openness and be your manager. The two of you can drive each other insane, but the fierceness with which you love each other reminds me every day of how much you enrich each other's lives.

So, my beautiful girl, who would be beautiful even if your eyes weren't so rich and brown and your hair wasn't shiny and wavy, thank you for coming along and turning my life up-side-down. Without you in it, my life would not even bear a nodding acquaintance to where it is now, and for that I am endlessly grateful. You bring a rightness to things that I couldn't have gotten anywhere else.

I promise, over the next several years, to be outspoken and stubborn just at those moments when you most wish that I would just sit down and shut up. I know you'll do the same for me. Remember that loving someone means making the extra effort to do the right thing; some of those days when you wish I would, just once, lower my standards and let you take some stupid risk, I am also wishing that I could just let it happen. But I can't, because that's my task. There will come a day when I will step aside and let you fly on your own, and if I've done it right, then you will simultaneously fly strong and wish that I was still in charge.

Let's see what seven brings, together, shall we? It'll be something new and big and different; it always is. When you were a few hours old, I sat in the hospital and sobbed to your father. "She has already changed. I can already see differences in her, and I wasn't ready to let go of the first way yet. I don't know how to deal with this," I said. And he, in a fit of infuriatingly accurate wisdom, said, "Well, that's her job. We don't have children to have babies, we have children to create adults." He unintentionally changed my mindset then and there, and reminded me that this constant striving for independence, for new skills and talents and musical taste, is a good thing. My job, as a parent, is to render myself obsolete, and if I do it right then I can enjoy it along the way. True, I've never had a stage of yours where I thought, "Enough already - let's move on to the next thing," but then the new you that comes along is so magical and precious that I can't regret the change. You are my girl, my shining star, my pride.

I love you,
Monday, April 16, 2007
A Prediction
Pardon me while I channel my inner Nostradamus for a moment.

I predict that, within the next few hours, emergency rooms around the country are going to be crammed full of people needing treatment for their poor, tired, overworked fingers. The fingers that they're going to begin pointing, at anyone and everyone, in a desperate scramble to assign blame.

Because, at last check, there are at least 30 people dead on the Virginia Tech campus. Security measures, parenting techniques, access to guns, mental health treatment, privacy policies, equal opportunity policies, abortion rights, separation of church and state, the need for all young girls to get a Gardasil shot before entering sixth grade, the rights of noncustodial parents, the relative merits of Steve versus Joe on Blue's Clues, and any number of other debates, relevant and wildly not so, are going to be dredged up, waved around, and thrown onto this massacre until the speaker feels justified in his or her anger. Fault will be found, blame will be assigned, and as long as the finger-pointer is able to absolve himself or herself of all possible responsibility, then relief will follow.

By all means, if it makes you feel better, limber up that pointer finger and tell me that it's all because of the change in SAT scoring policies. Assert your belief that this never would have happened if school lunches included 2% instead of whole milk. Denounce the No Child Left Behind Act, or insist that it should have been enacted even sooner. If it makes you sleep better at night, identify a cause and decry it.

But maybe, just maybe, there's no one reason why this happened. Maybe it's no one person's fault. Maybe mental illness, and anger, and hurt feelings, and access to weapons, and inadequate security response, and a million other factors all worked together to contribute to a completely avoidable and yet completely inevitable tragedy. And we all have to continue living in a society where things like this are possible, even when it's not fair and horrifying.

Can it ever get better? Sure. Will it? Sure. But not as a result of finger-pointing.

And meanwhile, my heart aches for everyone - everyone - involved. The victims, their families, the injured, the barely-misseds, all of the parents of all of the students who were away at college, the law enforcement officials, the school administration, and so on, and so on. Even, yes, the shooter; happy people don't open fire on their classmates. Everyone who survived this is going to spend a few moments, maybe years, second-guessing their own actions and wishing a happier ending, and everyone who died has lost the chance to make it better at any given second along the way.
Minor Discrepancies
In my perfect, fantasy world, I would right this minute be curled up on the couch, knitting close at hand, with a crime documentary on TV and an icy glass of Coke nearby. I'd be in sweats, and if I missed several minutes of a show due to nodding off a bit, it wouldn't matter because I have DVR. I'd even accept my current migraine into this fantasy world, because I would be able to close the drape and keep things quiet while I rode out the lightning storm inside my head.

Instead, I'm sitting in my husband's home office, watching my backyard flood dangerously close to the back door, listening to my school-was-canceled children run around like a pair of banshees after an espresso-pounding contest. Everything is bright and loud and a bit overwhelming. I can't watch crime shows because, while they are able to happily ignore the sounds emitted by their parents, my progeny tend to tune in and absorb every second of any viewer-discretion-is-advised show within miles.

But it's not all a wasted, miserable day. I am still in sweats and did an admirable job of holding down the couch in between nodding off this morning. My kids were well-behaved, albeit volume-enhanced, and Willem just fed them and herded them off for nap/quiet-time.

And I just bought 6-day Paris Passes for my mother, sisters, and myself, because we will be in Paris in THREE AND A HALF WEEKS.

So, discrepancies aside, I think I'll accept my real life over my fantasy one. At least for now.
Friday, April 13, 2007
A few random thoughts as we enter the weekend...

First, the gripes.

Don Imus: Shut up, already, dude. Seriously. And why has this become such a huge debate topic? He wasn't fired due to censorship - and even if he was, public airways are federally regulated and therefore subject to censorship, whether we like it or not. Otherwise, Janet Jackson's cervix would've been pressed up against your television screen at the Master's golf tournament. Imus was fired due to financial pressure on the part of advertisers who didn't want to be associated with someone who, after 35 years in broadcasting, hasn't figured out that there are certain words and phrases that white people can't say without causing offense. This was not a learning opportunity for him; he already knew better, and just chose to ignore what he already knew. We all know he'll be rehired somewhere else plenty soon. And I still won't listen to him even then.

New England Weather: I have had enough of this. This is ridiculous. I can't even go home to my sister's 16th birthday party this weekend because of the combination of two storms, one due to hit NY on Saturday night so I won't be able to head home early on Sunday, and one due to hit here late Sunday so I won't be able to wait until later to drive home. The kids are going to be out-of-their-minds disappointed, Willem's going to be cranky because he was looking forward to a weekend of watching hockey playoffs uninterrupted, and I'm officially freaking out about our utter lack of plans for Paris, which oh-by-the-way is in FOUR WEEKS.

Softball Organizers: Thank you, thank you, thank you. I was concerned, given my need to be a supportive and cheery parent, that I would not be able to find a way to satisfactorily weild sarcasm around the activity. But by having my daughter's team-to-be sponsored by the H Poultry Company, my needs for positive reinforcement and for rampant teasing will be equally met. Goooooooo, Chickens!

Emergency Department Doctors: You don't have to like the patients. That's okay. You don't even have to be especially nice to them; minimal professionalism would be fine. But referring to a patient as "the big useless lump" does not fall into my definition of professionalism. Ya think that, maybe, just maybe, if someone is already in the emergency room, that perhaps hearing themselves referred to as "just another waste of my time" might not be therapeutic? And I guarantee that the 400-pound 20-year-old is already quite aware of her relative size without you mentioning her "unreasonable and insane obesity." I don't need you to make my job easier, but would not pushing my clients over the edge be a reasonable request?

In happier news, a million congratulations going out to Mike and Maria (and Peter) for the arrival of Alice, and to Brendan and Sara (and Harrison) for the arrival of Emma!

And nooooooo, you all with your new babies, that doesn't make my uterus ache in the very least little bit... Not at all...

And in an assault of cuteness - because, let's be honest, for a mommyblogger I really don't throw around all that much child-related cuteness here - I love my Jacob. Last night, when I was calling for pizza, Jacob was looking at the facing page in the phone book, which has a large blue wildcat pawprint on it. He said, "A clue! A clue!"

I asked, "What is the clue for?"

He said, "It's a clue to get me a pizza!"

And because I can't have one cute kid without another, I was having a talk with Emily about how she needs to ask more of her friends at school whether they'll be attending her birthday party. Apparently, RSVP'ing is totally not-cool in New Hampshire. "We've only gotten like two responses," I told her.

"Yeah, but Rebecca called six times in one night last week. That should make up for some of the others," she said. And there's just something cool about your kid reaching an age when they are deliberately sarcastic instead of merely unintentionally funny.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
The Whys and Wherefores
You are welcome.

Really. And you didn't even realize you were grateful, did you?

I know. Sometimes it's the unstated things that make all the difference.

Like, today, I was tagged by Brian, to talk about why I blog. And, being dutiful and occasionally obedient, I provided a long-winded, incredibly boring, response.

And after I recovered from my ennui-induced coma, I decided I just couldn't leave such a flat and uninspiring collection of words smeared all over your screen.

So, instead, a shorter version:

I blog to give my children concrete examples when, as angst-filled adults, they are asked by their therapists to talk about just how it was that their mother drove them crazy.

I blog because I kind of enjoy that fine, dangerous edge of not disguising our names and waiting for the day when my mother-in-law stumbles across this and learns how I really feel.

I blog because there are times when the thoughts in my head are heavy or intense or funny but I can't seem to force them into spoken words. And, yet, I don't want to lose those same thoughts to the abyss which is my motherhood-addled brain.

I blog because somehow having an audience helps me to keep writing, when any number of journals and scrapbooks have fallen by the wayside.

That's about it. It's not especially complicated, really. My only source of surprise is that I didn't start blogging sooner - I've been online since back in the days of dial-up modems and BBS's.

Okay. So, gypsyhick and Maggie, how come you blog?
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Have you ever found yourself in a conversation with someone who speaks so slowly, with so many "ums" and "uhs" and "wells," so many long pauses, so many repetitions, that eventually you find yourself itching to thump them on the back of the head just to see if the words fall out any faster that way?

Yeah, me neither.
Dog + Stairs + Kate = BAD
Yesterday, I parked at the far end of the back parking lot, as I do every time I go to work, and walked to the back door of the hardware store. If I squeeze toward the righthand edge of the doorway and scamper through, I can avoid triggering the automatic door-opener; not as much an issue now, but I always felt guilty to be opening their doors and sending a blast of February air through the place.

I work upstairs, and the stairs are in two sections of about 15 steps each. First 15, no incident. Second 15, I made it about three steps up when the door at the top of the stairs burst open, and a dog roughly the size of New Jersey, but with much sharper teeth, came muttering through and headed down the stairs. With him was a woman who clearly was using the leash as a propellant for herself rather than as a canine control device. I startled, because dogs aren't my favorite under good conditions and they are very much not my favorite when they're big and slobbery and muttery and heading toward me from above. I slipped down those three stairs, grabbed the railing, and avoided a butt-thumping landing by luck rather than by grace.

The woman may have apologized - I can't be sure, because the dog, I swear to you, growled, "Get outta my way." And they disappeared, and I continued into my office. Felt fine through the morning, but by midafternoon I had a distinct baseball-sized knot in my lower back, on the right side. If it was in the center, I'd be more worried about spinal involvement, but this is far enough to the side that it's obviously a muscle or tendon pull, nothing a doctor can help with.

And today, it's softball sized and doing its own muttering and growling. Do I know how to have a good time, or what?
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
How to Move On
As if our planned trip to Potsdam isn't enough of a reminder of our snarly and dark beginnings, Willem and I have also been vicariously dealing with the topics of infidelity and betrayal in a more present tense. Close friends of ours are in circumstances that are simultaneously very different and painfully similar to where we were eight years ago.

It has created a bunch of late-night conversations between us, because - and I can't decide whether this is sad or sweet - we have a bit of a reputation, now, as being a couple who was able to get through unfaithfulness and move on. Experts in the field, and all. I'll be brushing up my résumé later today.

Anyway, the basic underlying question is, "Can we get through this? And, how?" Being bereft of a crystal ball - nobody can remember whose turn it was to watch it - we can't answer the first bit, but I can talk about how we got through it. I don't know how other people do it. It's really hard - certainly harder than just breaking up - and it's difficult for me to encourage anyone to open themselves to that much more uncertainty and hurt. But the end result was worth it here, so...

What Willem Did (The Parts that Worked, Anyway)
  • He gave me a brief, and undetailed, list of his indiscretions. He was as complete as he could be - but he did not give locations, outfits, positions, etc. My imagination is keen and self-destructive: he needed to provide me with the basics because that knowledge allowed me to rein in some of my very worst fears, but sometimes he provided too much detail, and I will never, ever be able to get those images out of my head. He basically acted like he was on the witness stand in court - answered the questions, without avoiding or overelaborating.

  • He didn't treat me like a confessor. Confession feels good. I know. It's why Catholics the world over do it. It's scary at first, but then once it's out and not a deep dark secret anymore it will feel like such a weight is lifted. Fantastic. I don't know what he did with all the gory details, the your conflicted emotions, the guilt and self-flagellation. I don't care. He could have gotten a therapist, or a priest, or a (mature) friend, or a dog - anything is better than dumping that stuff on someone who is already bleeding from the heart.

  • He had to learn to own his emotions. Some days I felt okay, and his heart would lift and he would get all optimistic and bouncy and giddy. Much like a schoolgirl, without the kneesocks. Other days, something would poke a new hole in my heart, or rip open an old one that everyone thought was healed. On those days, he learned how to validate and acknowledge my feelings, without then leaping off that Cliff of Insanity right behind me. I didn't need to feel responsible for his emotions on top of everything else. He had to buck up and be supportive, and find someplace else to wallow when it got to be too much.

  • He changed his lifestyle. His previous life was structured around finding people and opportunities to act in a certain way, and that had to change - not just the actions, but the circumstances that allowed those actions. He stopped going to bars, trolling for girls; he started calling me every night when he got home from work; he just avoided potentially dangerous/stupid/tempting situations. Much like how they don't hold Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in bars.

  • He didn't grovel. Much. It was either going to work out, or it wasn't - that's a long-term situation, and we didn't know the answer right away. He offered what I felt was a sincere apology, and had done what he could to get rid of any secrets (not just the infidelity-related ones), and then he focused on building a life together - not on continuing to revisit the past.

Not a comprehensive list, true, but it's a start.

What Kate Did
  • I learned how to say, "I cannot talk about that with you," as many times as it took until he stopped trying to confess all the details and circumstances and guilt feelings and justifications. Willem felt like there was a big difference between the girls with whom he actually Did the Deed, and the girls with whom he "just fooled around," and the girls with whom he had dinner or watched movies without the exchange of bodily fluids. I did not. And his trying to clarify or distinguish between them only succeeded in making me angry or hurt or frustrated all over again.

  • I learned the difference between keeping secrets and controlling information. Keeping secrets, particularly from those who should know, is not a way to build a healthy relationship. But just because we needed to work on eradicating secrets between us, that didn't mean that we had to open the details of our relationship to the whole world. (At least, not until I got a blog and told the whole world, ha ha... ha.) I talked to a few people about it, when I thought they could handle the information and be supportive of my choices - but I did not talk to others, because they would still hold onto that knowledge and their judgments long after we had settled it and tried to move on. Or, at least, I was afraid they would.

  • The cheating? Not about me. It's a set of actions by someone who felt a need to push the boundaries and misbehave, and nothing about me caused that. (And when you figure out how to truly, deep-down-in-your-heart, steadfastly believe that, then write it down and sell it, because I still haven't gotten it down fully.)

  • Just because I decided to try and fix the relationship does not mean I had become a doormat or a masochist. It just meant that even with this new and bad information, I still felt like the positives in my relationship outweighed the negatives (though, true, by a much narrower margin). I was very comfortable with offering an ultimatum: one more indiscretion, at the time or 20 years from now, and I pack up and leave, no further discussion. I needed to feel like I had taken back some control in the relationship, and saying that if-then statement out loud helped me to feel like I wasn't just letting myself get walked on.

  • Moving on is not the same as forgiveness. I agreed to move on, to not use this as a weapon every chance I got and to start building something new. But - and this is a whole other post - I don't believe that one human being should hold enough power over another to offer forgiveness. And even if I did, I would never offer absolution for Willem's behaviors. They don't go away just because we want them to. I've said that we can be okay, but I will never say that what he did was okay.

Ugh. Enough. The longer I write, here, the more lecturey and know-it-all I sound. Which I don't much like, somehow. The thing is, this is all in retrospect - I can look back and figure out some of what helped us move on. In the moment, it was just a massive case of muddling through until something felt right, interspersed with lots of screw-ups and do-overs.

And yet, with all of this, I still don't have any regrets. If we had changed any one thing, then very likely the whole relationship would be different now. If Willem had told me right from the start that he slept with Horizonal Stripes Heather within a week of getting together with me, I'd have left him without a backward glance. If he had told me that he'd done any number of things when they happened, I'd have walked. I'm not glad that they happened, but I believe that life is an accumulation of all prior acts and decisions - and my life now is still pretty amazing.

Bah. I need a new Alanis video to lighten the mood.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
I Heart Alanis Morissette. And Her Humps.
Consider this my Easter gift to you.

For comparison, here's the original.

And let's remember that Fergie's version earned a Grammy Award. God Bless America.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Drowning in Enthusiasm
Do you ever feel like one of these days, you're going to crack one too many bright-and-cheery smiles, pronounce one too many enthusiastic reviews of artwork that is clearly mediocre at best, gaze benignly one too many times while your child takes 27 minutes to tell a story which could have been summed up in seven words or less ("Josh snarfed his milk out his nose. It was funny."), and suddenly, with very little warning, your head is going to simply split in two and fall on the floor, at which point a stream of platitudes and cheerleading and "use your words"es and "how do you ask nicely?"s and lullabies and peek-a-boos will all come pouring out and stain your carpet?

Which won't really matter all that much anyway, since it will just blend with the other gazillion stains and scuffs and clutter which have taken over your home.
Friday, April 06, 2007
The Road Northward
Over there on the right, and again way down on the bottom, I have my ticker, counting down the days until Paris. We depart five weeks from today, and you're darn right I'm excited. We still haven't made any firm plans about agenda, or even where we're going to stay, and any input you all could provide would be greatly appreciated. And that's not what this post is about, but I'm so uncomfortable with the actual topic of the post that I really just want to dwell on Paris for another few moments, okay?


What this post is actually about is another countdown, once for which I have not created a ticker but which remains in my consciousness no matter how hard I try to ignore it. It's for the trip to northern New York, really northern New York, for my husband's fraternity's 40th reunion, happening one week prior to my trip to France.

Not everything about the trip will be bad. Sure, it's a lot of driving, but my mother is taking the kids for the weekend, so that creates a lot of uninterrupted conversation time between Willem and me. And Potsdam, while being almost entirely devoid of culture and entertainment and enrichment that doesn't involve alcohol to excess, is oddly overburdened with unreasonably good food. There's the Bagelry, Caroline's, Tardelli's, the Cantina... plenty of places to gorge and enjoy it. We're staying at a reasonably nice place and Willem's looking forward to seeing a whole big mess of friends all piled into one spot.


And yet, as is always the case with these jaunts northward, I am increasingly anxious and averse. I've written before about Willem's infidelity. It's an odd thing, how firmly I associate his flings (for lack of a better, or more curse-laden, term) with Potsdam, seeing as how I never actually knew about them when we both lived there. I did know about the one roommate of ours that he dallied with at a party at the frat house, a party to which I had been explicitly uninvited, but that was it.

In retrospect, of course, there were signs, and maybe I did know on some level. It was odd, for instance, when the somewhat aggressive but friendly Erica came up to me in the bar one night and congratulated me on how cool I was about her "thing" with Willem. I thought she meant they were friends. It was uncomfortable when the bubbly and cute Michelle randomly hugged me on the dance floor and told me how great it was that I trusted Willem so much. I thought she was drunk. It was freaky when Willem got a huge bouquet of flowers with a love note attached. I thought he was telling the truth when, at first, he told me that he didn't know who they were from. Then I thought he was telling the truth when he said he had once had a one-night stand with this girl Christine, but it was over long before he and I got together.

I never knew, on a conscious level, what was going on. But maybe I knew underneath, and maybe that's part of why I was so unhappy, and unhealthy, when I lived there. Whatever.

What matters is that now, in my memories, the knowledge that I had then and the knowledge that I got later have merged. Now, when I think about going back to those places, it's with a conscious awareness of just how much I was hurt, and just how little I want to go back to that emotional space. It's a physical thing - my heart rate increases, my stomach clenches, my breath gets shallower, my head aches. I entertain fantasies about the whole thing being called off; storms or arguments or finances all getting in the way, and oh, what a shame, we'll just have to get a hotel in Montreal for the weekend instead.

So, then, why go? Why not stay home with the kids and send Willem off to play with his buddies? Or, if the pain is that acute, why not have a tantrum and insist that he doesn't get to go, either, because the whole reason I don't want to go is because he couldn't be bothered to treat me with an ounce of respect through two and a half years of a so-called relationship?

Well, there's three reasons. One is evolved and mature, one is of the neener-neener-adolescent type, and the other comes from the delusional lizard-brain.

The grown-up reason is, that was all almost ten years ago. We've moved far, far beyond that, and we've built a strong marriage and a good family and I need to be a big enough person to allow what is important to Willem - time with old friends - to overcome my own personal discomforts. It's the compromise that happens in marriage; usually we can work together to find something that makes both of us happy, but sometimes our priorities are in direct contrast and then one person wins. That's fair, because it's not always the same person who wins, and oh-by-the-way I'm going to Paris for a week without him. Balance, and all.

The second reason is brought to you by the adolescent Kate. Many of his fraternity brothers knew full-well about Willem's infidelity while it was happening. Some of them actively helped him hide it from me. Others just watched with the passive and cowardly "protect a brother at all costs" mentality that makes me want to carry a flamethrower, just in case. They all knew, and this is in the post-AIDS age, so their lack of cojones by hiding it from me literally put my life in danger. Sure, I'm bitter. And now, I want to present a united front. I want to show them that people can change, and we're still together and doing fine. And, frankly, I take a little credit for whuppin' Willem into shape. Yeah, yeah, I know, he did a lot of that work on his own, but this is the same adolescent part of my brain that believes that if I hadn't gotten back together with him, he'd be that guy, living in a trailer with his inadequate and slovenly girlfriend and their 6 big dogs, drinking beer and stagnating.

Then there's the delusion. It stems from an actual incident. For the first few months after I found out his whole laundry list of flings, Willem was still living in Potsdam to finish his master's and I was living in Boston, working on mine. We alternated, he would spend weekends with me and I'd drive up there, and it was such a horrible, insecure, dark time in my life, and I avoid it when I possibly can.

But one of those weekends, I was in Potsdam, and we were at the bar. There were four of us sitting in a booth - Willem was on the outside next to Jason, and Joe was on the outside next to me, across from them. We were playing Euchre, so Willem and I had to sit diagonal if we were going to be partners. As we played, and chatted, and generally had a good time, a girl approached the table. I knew her by sight, and had recently learned that she held a spot on Willem's laundry list. She leaned over and started to whisper in his ear. He sat, stiffly, and didn't do much of anything.

Jason, who was directly across from me, gave me the sympathetic look of "I know that you know," which only served to piss me off because he'd never bothered to do anything about it before. I ended up standing up in the booth, stepping on Joe's leg, and launching out of the booth and out of the bar. I was in no mood for a confrontation with this girl. I just wanted - needed - to get out. My heart cracked open, once again, and wept. Once outside, Willem caught up with me as I walked to his apartment. He was all clueless and awkward, "I didn't know what to do." We argued, I shut down, it never got resolved.

So, returning to the present, here's where my lizard-brain fantasy comes into play. I want a repeat situation. I want to be sitting there and have one of his many flings come in and talk to him. And I want him to stand up, defend me, get all knight-in-shining-armor on the situation. No yelling, no violence. Just saying the words to prove that he's willing and able to stand up for me, instead of me needing to stand up - and walk out - for myself.

I recognize the intense stupidity of this fantasy. Let's revisit the "it's been ten years" part of the scenario. Chances are very slim that any of those girls remain in town, and if they do they'll have long since moved in. Him standing up and pronouncing his love and fidelity now, well, that would just look defensive and bizarre. And I know that he loves me and would defend me now, that he's stronger and more mature.

Whatever. Don't mess with my lizard-brain.

So, we're going. And I keep waffling on whether I should start drinking heavily now, so as to build up tolerance and be able to carry myself through the weekend fuzzily without the threat of the wrath of grapes, or whether I should continue not to drink until we arrive, so that the alcohol has the maximum possible impact. At least we know I'll have to behave myself in the legal sense, because I'm pretty sure that doing anything arrest-worthy would damage my ability to fly to Paris. And we can't have that.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Let's Review
All right, class. Now, what have we learned from our experiences today?

Well, first off all, yes. You're right. April snowstorms are, indeed, stupid. Eight inches of heavy, wet, sloppy snow are no one's idea of a good time. Even the snowman committed self-beheading after an hour or so because it was too warm for this nonsense. And we've all seen what the trees think about this weather.

What else? Yes, that's true, we clearly do live in a society which is overly dependent on electricity. And, further, I'll agree that it is especially, painfully obvious just how intense that dependence is inside private homes. What's that? You think that the husbands and fathers of the world are far more technology-dependent than the mothers and children? Well, maybe so. But bear in mind we're working with a very limited sample size. Remember that there may be other adult males who don't view a power outage as a personal insult.

That's an interesting point you raise, there. That there is a certain, unpredictable point after which the parental types will start to snark and crab at each other while trying to decide whether to ride out the electriclessness at home or to give in and get a hotel room. And, yes, it's true, it's better to just let the mother sulk and get over herself than to try and needle or jolly her out of it. A good point and important to remember in the future.

All right, nice work, students. Now, head off to the hotel room and glare at the crystal clear, snowless night sky on your way there. You've got a full day ahead of you tomorrow, and then you can try to recover from all of this enforced adventure over the weekend.

Class dismissed.

Update: We have power restored to the house and will be home tonight. So much angst and irritability for such a non-emergency. I hate snow.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Yesterday, Jordanna and Brian ganged up to share some warm-fuzzies with yours truly, and a well-timed assault it was. I'd been wallowing in some existential angst lately about my role in amongst this sticky, tangled Interweb stuff, and it's always lovely to get some validation.

No, no, I wasn't thinking of closing the blog. How many other chances in my life do I have to speak my piece, uninterrupted, on my own terms?

Yeah, not that many. So, I like this, and it generally occupies an uncomplicated space in my life.

The only complications arise when there are things I can't blog, because I would risk damaging the trust or privacy of those who would not choose to share their issues with the rest of the world. It just so happens that last week was characterized by many of these issues: a health scare for someone I care deeply about, but cannot blog because she wants it kept quiet until she knows for sure; a betrayal between two of my favorite people in the world, leaving one who with the guilt and self-doubt of inadvisable actions and the other with the unique and suffocating pain and self-doubt of disappointment; the what-will-I-do-with-my-life musings of yet another loved one... you get the idea. Things I certainly have strong and long-winded thoughts about, but can't share them in public.

There's also, of course, the issues that require a bazillion words to explain, and by the time I finish, you'll all have permanent forehead damage from banging your heads on the wall, if you're masochistic enough to read through it all anyway. Things like the fraternity freak-outs and temper tantrums that Willem tells me about. And my own angst over how to remain a member of a message board where most of the 20-some members are dear, close friends but two or three actively dislike me and do I really want to expose myself to that? Especially when I'm not allowed to acknowledge it because the board culture calls for harmony and conflict-avoidance above all else? Each are things I'd love to get some outside opinions on, but I just can't - and trust me, I've tried - figure out a way to present it in a coherent and compelling way.

So, whatever. I know, I'm skating on the edge of boring as it is. Just be grateful that I deleted the first two drafts of this monster.

The moral of this all is, thanks for your kindness and strength, all of you. You've been wonderful even if you don't realize you've been wonderful.

And Melissa, if you're really looking to do some Internet stalking, I have a good list of candidates who are far more volatile and therefore fun to watch. Starting with Willem's mother, a list of his ex-girlfriends, and a few from my own circle...
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Willem watched The Bachelor with me last night. He has decided that if I had told the muffins joke ("Two muffins are cooking in the oven. One says to the other, 'Gee, it's hot in here.' The other muffin replies, 'Holy cow, a talking muffin!') on our first date, I would still be living alone with 14 cats and eating pork and beans directly out of the can.

There is a certain irony to starting off the day with a new neurologist - one who does not take personal offense at the concept of me doing my own research about my own crushing headache pain and therefore is my favorite, not to mention he uses color-coded highlighting to keep track of things on my medical record - and telling him that my headaches had actually been better lately, and ending the day with a horrible nauseating check-the-shoulders-for-bleeding-from-the-ears migraine.

Willem, as previously mentioned, spent the weekend with buddies. One of whom blogs on a regular basis, and hasn't been heard from since Friday. Makes you wonder just how much Goldschlager they consumed.

Did you remember to vote for Melanie today? She's in third place at the moment, but if a few of you take a few seconds she'll bounce up to second place and then YOU can take personal credit for it. Thereby making you super-cool.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Tired of Playing Nice
Internet stalkers take note: Mondays and Wednesdays, I'm home alone with the kids until about 8:30 or so, while Willem administers math upon a shining and grateful group of semiconscious college students. Among us, we've created a pretty good routine - the kids and I keep things mellow in the evenings, and I get them in bed and even asleep enough before he comes home that they don't bound, all Flubberlike, out of bed to pester Daddy.

Lately, there's been a bit of a change to our evenings, because one of Willem's classmates has an evening class and an almost-2-year-old, and the two don't go together so well. So Little L gets dropped off here, screams for her mother for about 3.2 seconds, and then lets my kids boss her around for a few hours until bedtime. Again, a good routine, and all are unconscious prior to Willem's arrival. The major difference for me is that, on Little L nights, by the time Willem gets home, my throat and cheeks hurt from all the smiling and cheerfulness.

Little L is as cute as a button but much smaller and louder, and for the most part she has a blast here. But at unexpected moments, she bursts into "Maaaamaaaaa, Maaaaamaaaaa," and the only surefire fix for it is a one-two of a stern, "L, we don't shout like that here," followed by a determinedly bright and cheerful distraction. Not that I walk around growling and swearing when it's just my blood relations here, and I don't care if Willem tells you otherwise, but I'm also not prone to chirpiness.

It's also fairly hilarious to watch Little L and Jacob together. He's about 9 months older than her, which clearly makes him a Man of the World. All suave and debonair as he fills her in on the proper method of drinking "choca milk." And she aims a steady stream of information right back at him, but in a tone and inflection that makes it clear that her primary language is Furbee. She is able to make herself understood, but often via much repetition and volume for the kind if slightly daft woman who spends Monday evenings with her. My current favorite is the Ippeaux, Little L's Gallic take on the moniker of Hippo.

So, now, they're all asleep and Willem's not home yet, and I'm glaring sternly at the computer to try and balance out the facial expressions for the evening.

I'm also glaring at the TV a bit, because tonight is the season opener of The Bachelor, and we all know that I love my Bachelor Snark. But I'm not partaking this year, because of a combination of lack of interest and lack of willingness to spend time with people with whom, aside from their willingness to dwell on the faults of others, I have very little in common. If there are lonely Bachelor watchers out there who are looking for a little superiority and snark, let me know... otherwise, I'll be watching all by my lonesome and pretending intellectual superiority all by myself.
Ru the Day; or, I Barely Knew Yee
Did you ever have the experience where you inadvertantly set the bar unreasonably high for yourself in some given category, thereby establishing a lifetime of disappointment whenever you try to compare? I've done it twice, and got a reminder yesterday.

The first time was with this Italian place called Tony's, in my hometown. They make a sauce that is worth picking up the plate and licking it clean, and they serve a full meal with salad and bread and enough pasta to make you whimper, all for about $6 a person. I grew up with this, and got used to it, and then felt all adrift and bereft when I moved away and learned that the combination taste/price is unheard of anywhere else in the universe. Not that I've stopped searching, mind you; but I have wracked up a good-sized pile of disappointing meals since then.

The second also has to do with food, this time a little Chinese restaurant called Ru Yee in Newton, MA. I started going there with the Ex Who Must Not Be Named, who'd discovered it through work. We would go out on Friday night, wake up woefully hungover on Saturday morning, and stumble over to Ru Yee because their green tea is a Magical Hangover Cure. And it was there that I first tried hot and sour soup, and fell in love with it.

You can imagine my delight, then, to discover that they make it in a unique and special way, obviously borrowing some of the magic ingredients from the tea, because no one else makes comparable hot and sour soup. Woe is me.

The good news? We still live close enough that, every once in a while, we're able to dip into Newtown and get a meal... and yesterday, after his Weekend of Masculine Debauchery, Willem stopped in and brought me home two big things of it, one for now and one for freezing.

As for Tony's, I can still get my fix when I visit my mother, but somehow a 6-hour drive seems excessive for a casual dinner out.

So, how about you? Have you done this to yourself? Started off with literature and been unable to adjust to tabloids? Introduced yourself to Godiva and then can't accept the plebian nature of Hershey's? It's just horrible, isn't it?
Sunday, April 01, 2007
When the Daddy's Away...
Willem was away for the weekend, and I learned, or was reminded of, several important things:
  • My kids are incredible and I am so lucky. Everyone else's children whined or tantrummed all weekend long, from what I saw. Mine, not once.

  • Kids Playground remains one of my favorite indoor child-specific places. It's bigger than Chuck E Cheese, with far fewer electronic noises and NO large plushies (PLEASE don't click on that link at work!) walking around. And Jacob has gotten big enough that he can go off and do his own thing in the mazes, and half-hour stretches at a time would pass without my laying eyes on either child. Another victory for dilatory parenting.

  • Crawling around on your hands and knees through the habitrail at the above place actually is kinda fun, and allows for a certain amount of assurance that Jacob was not likely to get stuck in some bizarre unreachable angle. But it hurts to crawl on hard plastic. Leaves dark bruises on the knees. Apparently (and this one's a freebie for the peanut gallery) I don't spend enough time on my knees anymore, they're out of shape.

  • My husband's crotch pillow has the ability to scare the bejeezus out of me. He sleeps with a pillow between his legs, which he stole from me during my first pregnancy and which seems to help with what had been chronic back pain. We have white sheets and a white duvet on our white down comforter (I know, decorators everywhere are wincing, but we have dark red bedroom walls, so the bed needs to be a little less intense.) - but his crotch pillow is in a dark blue pillowcase. And was at the perfectly wrong angle and size the other night for me to, briefly but intensely, believe that there was a murder victim in my bed.

  • I need to not watch quite so many crime documentaries when home alone.

  • I'm just paranoid enough about Internet stalkers, having dated one or two myself, that I wouldn't post about Willem's absence until he was on his way home.

  • He should go away on these little Testosterone Extravaganzas more often. He had a good time exercising parts of his brain that he's not encouraged to flex at home with the wife and kids, and the kids and I were fine with each other. Doesn't make me want to try the single-parent thing, because this was only easy with the knowledge that it was finite, but still.

So, a good weekend, if a bit random and Go Diego Go intensive.

And you all, you regular readers and commenters, thank you. You're just sweet, and, it goes without saying, beautiful yourselves.