Thursday, May 31, 2007
A Letter to the Makers of e.p.t.
Dear Sirs,

Forgive my presumption; perhaps there are women employed there, but I assume a certain male influence behind today's experience. Women understand that there are certain things with which we do not trifle. We don't mix glass shards in with baby food, we don't replace the contents of Tylenol capsules with cyanide, and we don't complicate the reading of pregnancy tests.

This morning, I decided that, being several days late and moderately paranoid about the combination of new birth control, a course of antibiotics, travel and time zone changes in my life over the past month, it was time to reassure myself that I wasn't embarking on a new round of procreation. Please understand, I do indeed want to add another individual to the world population, but not quite yet.

Over the years, I've had the opportunity to use a number of different brands of home pregnancy tests, all purchased after a strict selection process centered around choosing the cheapest per-unit price on the shelf. All other times, the mathematical calculations required to determine the test results have been consistent: two lines indicate pregnancy, while one line assures me that I will continue to be the sole occupant of my body for the immediate future.

I don't invest in great quantities of this type of product at any given time, but it's something for which immediate availability is imperative when the need arises, so I try to keep one on-hand. I can't recall the last purchase, but at that time, e.p.t. must have won the lowest-price competition, because it was what I found under my bathroom sink this morning. Feeling well-versed in the ways of home pregnancy tests, I rather arrogantly proceeded to apply the necessary bodily fluid to the proper region of the stick and then continue with my morning ritual, consisting primarily of staring at the wall and wondering why I don't drink coffee.

I then glanced at the test, and counted lines: two.


I hadn't previously realized that it was possible to hear the sound of adrenaline coursing through one's veins. I instantly and simultaneously had four thousand distinct thoughts, was able to briefly see through time, and hovered several inches above the floor. It was adequate reinforcement that I was not ready to reenter the world of gestation, and an overabundance of proof that I was not ready to break said news to my husband.

In a desperate delaying tactic, I found the package instructions, and read them in Spanish because I was too panicked to realize I can't read Spanish. And lo and behold, in your test, two does not equal pregnant. Two equals not pregnant, and three, one at a 90-degree angle, means a legitimate early morning jolt of adrenaline. It was several hours before my heart rate returned to a beat that would not require a double-bass technique to replicate, and my eyes continue to hurt from the uncontrolled pupil dilation.

The decision-makers at Pfizer have therefore been tried and convicted in the Court of Kate, on the charge of unreasonable cruelty and unlawful induction of panic. Your punishment is yet to be determined, but will likely involve a specific bodily fluid.

Resentfully and tiredly yours,
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Apparently the 3-0 is Big
I'm officially no longer in my 20s today. Unless you're my mother, who refuses to acknowledge a birthday until the actual time you were born, which effectively gyps me out of a full birthday because I was born at 7:30 p.m. Whatever. I want a full day, so I get a full day. So there.

I'm celebrating and not mourning today; I'm sort of shocked and saddened by the number of people I know who look at birthdays like they're a bad thing. Another year without winning the Nobel Prize, or having twins, or appearing on national television, whatever their big dream involves. Another year older, and tireder, and slower. Another year closer to death.

For me, my birthday is a day to follow my own instincts and indulge a bit, depending on where my whims take me. This year, that meant administering a cheesy redneck pedicure in the morning (slap a coat of nail polish on top of the stuff left over from Paris, then drive to work barefoot with the fan blowing at floor level), wearing a skirt and earrings (and a shirt, relax, I'm not that celebratory), and not listening to the news on the drive in. A story I heard yesterday is still bothering me, and I just don't want to go there this morning.

I just don't feel older, or worse, or sad, or whatever, this morning. If anything, there's a certain level of relief every time I hit a milestone. I've spent a lot of time doing things early in my life: graduating high school at 16 and college at 20, having my first baby at 22, buying a house at 23, and so on, and so forth. So when I reach that next milestone, and get older, there's a feeling that I'll get a little less of, "Oh, but you're so young." Not that I'm insulted by that, but, just, what do you say to it? It's not usually meant as a compliment so much as a vaguely shocked/critical sort of thing, and even when it is a compliment, what do I take credit for? Choosing a good birthday? Being born with enough brain and motivation and parenting to move myself along? I dunno. Feels weird.

So, it's a good thing, this birthday stuff, if for no other reason than I can unabashedly demand good behavior and positive attention from those around me. Most of the people I spend time with - even Perfect J, at work - are socialized enough to know that the correct response to, "Today is my birthday," is to smile brightly and say, "Happy birthday!"

So, all together now, you readers... today is my birthday...
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Skip to the End of the Line
In another Storyland-related ramble, we were in line at Guest Services to get season passes. It's about an hour and a half from home, and we go three or four times a year. Season passes are less than three times the price of admission... so we bother.

We had to wait in line, and watched the family ahead of us get their passes. "Family," in this case, equalling Mom, Dad and a baby small enough not to need shoes. You don't need to pay admission until a kid is four, so it was just the parents getting their passes, and I guess when my kids were that small I didn't think they needed amusement parks to be, well, amused. Then again, now, at 7 and 2, I still don't think they need it, I just think they're able to appreciate and enjoy it more than, say, a paper bag on the living room floor, now that they're older.

Anyway, the family behind us in line seemed like a pretty average bunch: two parents and two boys. They waited their turn, and as we were leaving, I heard the mother explain to the Guest Services minion, "My son has ADHD. He can't stand in line. We need a pass to let us skip to the end at all the rides." And the minion handed one right over, no questions asked.

Which raises all sorts of musings in my poor, sunscreen-addled head. Really? ADHD makes him unable to stand in line? Really? I understand very well that ADHD can impact one's executive functioning, the ability to control impulses and think things through, but this was a Monday on the first open weekend of the year. The park was very quiet; I never stood in line for more than 5-10 minutes at a time and on several of the rides we could just stay on and loop around more than once. So, then, if this kid is so severely disabled that he can't stand in line for no time at all, how are we to feel about his ability to behave appropriately on the rides? Maybe that looooong uphill climb to the top of the log flume will prove to be just too much for him, and he'll stand up and get hurt. Something.

Lest I sound totally unsympathetic, I can come up with several circumstances in which skipping to the end of the line makes total sense. I saw one family, no dad present, in which the mother was in a wheelchair - so she would lead the two or three kids with her to the exit-door, show her pass to the employee, and the kids would hop on from there. Makes total sense to me, because she can't weave through the entrance lines and she needs to keep track of her kids, so, fine. I can also see a child with a physical health problem needing not to stand still in the sun but able to handle the ride, or someone with autism not being able to maintain personal boundaries and control but being able to enjoy the ride itself and therefore needing to skip the stand-and-wait part.

But ADHD? Really? The kid was able to stand in line behind both my family and the one ahead of us to wait to get the pass, and he never whined or fidgeted or did any of the other sorts of hyperactive/impulsive/inattentive things that I'm used to looking for in ADHD assessment (which I did, professionally, for two years).

I'm skeptical. At the very least, my hey-not-fair sense wants them to have to provide some form of documentation, a note from the doctor or similar, to reassure me that this is not just a case of the parents not feeling like standing in line. Because it really kind of felt like that.
Monday, May 28, 2007
Last month, Emily turned seven. For those first few weeks, we didn't really notice much of a difference; she was still in first grade, still dramatic at the wrong moments, still as bossy as her mother all get-out.

But today. Today we had tangible proof that seven is different than six in at least one key area: going on the rides at Storyland has suddenly become a solo activity.

And who would have guessed that it is infinitely harder to stand idly by and watch your child climb aboard and wave from the top of the log flume ride by herself, than to laboriously clamber aboard ride after endless ride because she was too short to do it alone last year?

So, I'm still thinking about this the next morning. It's not a sad situation for me, exactly; just an acceptance of the inevitability of time and growth and blah blah blah. I spent summers with various grandparents, including Grandma O, in Old Forge, NY, and from about age 9 onward, she would drop me off at Enchanted Forest when it opened and pick me up outside in the afternoon, and I loved that freedom and never got into any trouble (there, at least). Emily's certainly not old enough for solo trips to the amusement park yet, but it's conceivable in the next few years. We're sending her to sleep-away camp for a full week in two months. Time rolls on, and all.

Actually, Willem's having a harder time with it all than me. He views himself as sort of Keeper of the Safety Rules in our house (though let's not talk about who the Enforcer of Said Rules is, hmm?) and by climbing onto a big ride and disappearing form sight, Emily proved yesterday that she is able to be responsible for herself for a few moments at a time; she was able to wait her turn in line and remain seated with hands and arms inside the car, and so on. It's a good thing, this independence... but it aches, too.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
It's been a long week. A rough one, really. I don't like to look at a whole block of calendar and relegate it to the "Well That Sucked" pile, but it's a challenge coming up with big bouncy piles of optimism for this one.

Let's review, shall we?
  • I came home from France. Home to the kids and Willem, which is good, but home from France. From Paris.

  • A little over 24 hours later, my dad called, thus beginning the process which ended with him moving back in. The fact of him living here? Doesn't bother me. I'm glad that we're able to offer, and glad that he has a place to live that involves people who love him and respect him. But it's another change. So far, everyone is adjusting pretty well: Willem, now having a partner in crime, is drinking more beer; the kids, having a new audience, are behaving in particularly annoying ways at dinner; I, given my propensity to think too much, am worried about his health and finances but have used this opportunity to eat more ice cream. And fried dough, which Willem has suddenly started making at home. (There! There it is! My unequivocal positive for the week! I knew there was one, somewhere.)

  • My water heater died. And in case Willem was harboring ongoing doubt about whether we really needed to pull up the carpeting and replace it, this morning the whole house smelled uncomfortably like, well, moldy carpet.

  • Friday, I overslept. And the door fell off the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. And I had two very long and difficult cases that kept me out until 10:00 last night.

So, I'm feeling toasty today. Stick a fork in me, and all.

When I think back over the week, I get little snapshots of memory, instead of mental movies. Moments that seem to have nothing to do with each other and yet somehow work together...
  • I was walking my normal oft-repeated path from my coat-closet office at the hospital to the emergency department where the patients are, and glanced idly into an exam room on the way... and noticed that, in a moment of supremely bad feng shui, the occupant's feet were pointed toward the door. But then I realized, it's actually not such horrible feng shui after all, because while the young gentleman's knees were aimed straight at the door, his right foot was pointing directly at the right-hand wall. Those sorts of images bother me enough on sports-disasters shows, but in real life? No, thankyouverymuch.

  • I was talking a family through the process of involuntarily hospitalizing their father, and had a moment to think that the 17-year-old, in front of whom the patient had overdosed, had gone from looking older than her years to about four at the moment that her mascara started to run.

  • This morning, I was lying on the couch with Jacob, trying to convince my brain to wake up because the boy was clearly not going back to sleep, when he looked up and me and said, "I love you so much." Unprompted.

  • I took a nap today. Normally this means I will wake up groggy and disoriented and spend the rest of my day cranky and stupid. So far I've avoided at least most of these side effects.

  • Yesterday, my father needed to get a form to his doctor, which he needed signed and faxed to work for an all-clear sort of thing. I faxed it from work in the morning, and by evening, the doctor had received the form, signed it, faxed it successfully along, and my dad was making plans to return to work next week. This is remarkable only in the sense that it's about the only thing all week that has gone smoothly for him.

Enough. Clearly I'm just free-associating now and it's not making a compelling story. But at least it's all out of my head now.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Deer Strike
This morning, I was listening to AM radio on the way in to work, because it occurred to me that I haven't been following any semblance of local or world news in the past several weeks and perhaps, maybe, something new has happened.

It hasn't.

But on the traffic report, they said that Route 95, south of Boston, was held up because of a deer strike.

I didn't know they were able to hold up the signs and chant. Maybe they just all wear sandwich boards.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Welcome Home
Yesterday, my dad got an email. It was from the venerable United States Postal Service. It was a confirmation of his address change.

He hadn't asked for an address change. His girlfriend did it for him. Seems like a pretty clear signal to me.

Nothing like kicking a guy while he's down, huh? Getting to move houses within two weeks of abdominal surgery, what a treat!

So I just spent my day off schlepping boxes from her kitchen, where she had helpfully arranged all of his stuff, into (and on) my minivan, and then rearranging his room and our old-and-new-again playroom, and then schlepping the stuff out of the minivan and back into his room here. Great fun, on the first over-80-degree day of the year.

And I hurt for him, and I'm worried for his health, physical and mental. And I'm tired.

To make matters more fun, we got to have a brief pause on the drive to her house for Jacob to throw up in the backseat. The good news is, it seemed to be a passing thing, and by the time we got there, he was quite happy to watch ants and peek around corners and mostly stay out of the way while we loaded the van. And he took a two-hour nap once we got home, which made unloading the minivan (and throwing out a bunch of old toys) vastly easier.

I'm just hoping for a 24-hour span with no drama or crisis. Is that so much to ask? Sheesh.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Fill in the Blanks
Some conversations are so predictable that you don't actually need the other person to participate. Others... not so much.

For instance. Today, we've been making lots of phone calls (no, insurance does not cover a water heater; it would cover the flooring if the repair went above our $1000 deductible, but while we're at it we're going to tear up all of the carpeting and replace it with laminate so it won't be worth involving insurance) and my dad and I went to Home Depot to browse through their "Install it Your Damn Self Flooring" aisle.

On the way out the door, my phone rang. It was Willem, with an odd tone to his voice - not the "water problems" tone, more of the "WTF" tone. "When are you going to get home?" he asked.

"Soon," I said. "We're leaving Home Depot now, so maybe 15 minutes."

"Okay. Because the flooring guy is here for the estimate."

"Yeah..." Can you see where this is going? I couldn't either.

"And he bent over to look at something on the floor."

"Yeah..." Oh, God. He had a heart attack. There's a dead flooring installer on my living room floor. I bet insurance won't cover that, either.

"And his glasses fell off. And they broke."

"Okay..." And you want me to buy him new glasses? Help me out, here.

"And neither of us has the manual dexterity to put them back together. We need you to come home and fix them so he can leave."

Seriously. At any moment during that conversation, Monty Hall could have shown up and offered me $1,000,000 or what's behind Curtain #3 to supply the next sentence, and I'd have walked away empty-handed. Or, worse, with a goat wearing diapers.

They were able to fix the glasses before I got home. I'm hopeful that it'll earn us a discount - Personal Medical Device Reduction or something - because something has to go well today. Just anything, really.
One More Thing
Indeed, it is a new blog title. And some half-assed changing, mostly because I really like that gargoyle picture and because I wanted to deal with some detail stuff, but I lack the energy and determination to really change the whole site around. Maybe someday.

But, right now, I'm living the philosophy of the title. One More Thing. Some time ago, Willem and I started saying this to each other, because it seems like we don't accumulate crises in a big avalanche all at once; instead, they gather in a string, so it's never too much to handle but it's always one more thing. And usually that one new thing is something so preposterous and outrageous that we just could not have predicted it. Seven hundred monkeys on seven hundred keyboards for seven hundred years would create the complete works of Shakespeare, but I'd still be randomly guessing and being wrong about what the next event would be.

Today's excitement arrived before I'd even crawled out of bed this morning; I was snuggling with the kids and generally being sleepy and happy (two out of seven dwarves ain't bad) when Willem said my name in his we-have-water-problems voice. Which, yes, he does indeed have a special tone of voice reserved specifically for events such as a pipe bursting in our home office, a waterfall in the garage, a flood at the back door... ask me how I know.

This time, it was apparently the water heater - on the floor in the hallway outside of the water heater closet there were, conservatively, 4,000 gallons of water. It's a good thing we sleep with the doors closed and locked, because we'd have had a synschronized swimming team in there this morning. And ducks. I'm guessing that the bottom just dropped out of the water heater, and you can safely imagine just how happy this makes me.

The good news is, somehow I was still able to take a hot shower this morning. I don't understand how that works, but ignorance is cleanliness.

The bad news is, who knows whether our homeowners insurance covers this? And we were planning on pulling up the carpets and laying down laminate, but we weren't planning on doing it today. And Willem has wet socks. There's just nothing worse than wet socks.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
This blog may be intermittently messed up in various ways today - I don't mean in my normal slightly neurotic and on-the-verge-of-rambling way, but in a technical sort of manner. I want to change the template and customize with a new picture on top, and sometimes this is a quick and easy process and sometimes it takes hours and hours. So, we'll see.

In non-blog-related news, once again, things in my household have turned upside-down. Last night around 10:00, my phone rang. This is unusual, and far enough past the typical 9:00-or-so time when my brain stops interpreting phone calls as normal events and starts reacting in uh oh mode that I got a lovely late-evening jolt of adrenaline.

It was my father. This is a man who had three heart attacks between the ages of 30 and 45, and had a hernia operation a week and a half ago, and has been denied short-term disability through work for some stupid reason and is therefore sitting on 6 weeks now of not working and steadily going broke, and has been in a brand-new relationship since the fall... lots of options there for drama and crisis. Today's was that he was having serious difficulties with his girlfriend and needed a place to stay for the night. He'd just moved out of my house and into a new place with her in February (and did I somehow not blog this? Really? How is this possible?), and while I don't know for sure that things are over and done there, I do know that we'd already reclaimed his room and were using it as a playroom.

So, there's just a lot of uncertainties and unanswerable questions floating around right now. Are things actually finished between my dad and his girlfriend? Is he moving back in with us? Do we need to reorganize all of the kids' toys, again? What will he do for work when he's recovered from surgery? Will he return to the truck-driving, which he truly hated, or what? What will our summer look like now? And so on, and so forth.

I can't quite define my own feelings and reactions right now. I'm somewhere in the neighborhood of stressed and anxious, but not resentful or disdainful; just worried because there are so many potential outcomes and I can't predict which way this particular train will go. I know that Willem and I will do what we can to help out, and I'm glad that we're in a position to, at the very least, offer a place to stay and food to eat and some basic human respect and love while he gets through this... but at the same time, I can't imagine that it feels warm and fuzzy in the first place to be recovering from abdominal surgery and completely out of work, no income, with the knowledge that the only way to get income is to return to a physically demanding job that you despise, and then to have a relationship fall apart partly due to the financial stresses and partly to the fact that there may just be a basic incompatibility there... that can't be fun in the first place. And then to have to move in with your daughter, whose life is as obnoxiously close to perfect as anyone is allowed to have, at least for the moment... something about "insult to injury" there.

So, I'm a tad revved up right now. Seems like a good time to play with the blog template and enact some changes I can control.

Oh, and Sarah and Mary, and anyone else who happens to interact with my mom on a regular basis, please hold off on talking to her about this just yet, okay? She doesn't need to know, and my dad certainly does not need her to know, until things are clearer. One may recall that ambiguity is not her best area. Unless it's her ambiguity.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Reinvestigating Normal
Yes, I'm back home.

Yes, Paris was wonderful.

Yes, I had a fabulous time. No, no regrets.

Yes, my kids were happy to see me. Yes, I was happy to see them. Willem, too.

Yes, I'm still tired, but getting back into the swing of things.

I'm back at work today, which has exposed me to the same questions a number of times. Had I known there was going to be a quiz, I would have studied harder. I realize that I sound snotty and petulant here - honestly, I'm not irritated, and I appreciate that people are asking about my trip and seem happy to have me back. But, seriously, "How was Paris?" How can you possibly answer that question in a non-effusive way? It's a bit like walking into a restaurant and having a hostess greet you with, "Hi, how are you doing today?" I suppose you could get cranky and tell her that you have a head cold and a hemorrhoid and a headache, but most of us just baa our socially-expected replies so that we can go sit down and dig into our rolls, you know?

I did, indeed, miss my kids and my husband a lot. To the point that their absence did mar my trip a little, but not to the point that I wish they had come with me, if that makes any sense. I recognize just how much extra work and stress it would have been for everyone, especially the kids, if they'd come along. I can remember looking askance at one of my father's sisters, back in my pre-parenthood days, when she would take vacations without her kids. "Oh," I sniffed, "I would never want to travel without my children. Why have them if you don't want to do things with them?" And it turns out, there are lots of reasons to have them, and lots of reasons to travel without them. I don't have any desire to travel again, particularly for more than a week, without my children anytime in the near future, but jet lag and fast-paced activity levels and not a lot of kid-friendly entertainment all add together to a trip that wouldn't have been right for them... but it was right for my mother, my sisters and myself.

I remembered why it is that distance is a good thing. My mother and I get along so much better ever since I moved out of the house; I think in many ways, we're very similar, and so those areas of difference - such as, I tend to communicate in a fairly direct way in which I try to state my preferences without making demands, whereas she tends to communicate with more implications and assumptions - those can be emotional minefields, especially when you're tired and hungry.

I remembered why time is a good thing. I had time away from my immediate family to miss and appreciate them, and I was able to realize just how far my marriage has come in almost-seven years. The last time I was in Paris was just days after Willem and I got engaged, and our relationship was so new and awkward and still stumbling over a number of not-so-old hurts, and we didn't have a well-established flow of conversation yet. Now, the main reason we don't finish each other's sentences is because we both find it irritating when other people do that - but if we wanted to, we could. Makes me look forward to the next seven years, and so on.

I was surprised at how things went in my absence. Not as far as Jacob is concerned - he's a mellow little dude and tends to roll with things, right up until his sister has stolen one too many Matchbox cars and he flips out a little. But Emily was far more emotional and dramatic and unfocused and missing me than I would have expected; normally she prefers Willem in all things. But I think the combination of me being away and Willem taking on more of a disciplinarian role than he usually has left her feeling a bit adrift, like nothing was normal, parentwise, and she showed it. We'll see how long it takes her to stop acting like a Barbarian now that I'm home again. And Willem did a wonderful job - I knew he'd keep the kids alive and the house standing, but you hear so many stereotyped Mr. Mom stories that I wasn't sure what to expect beyond that. But I came home yesterday to a clean house, a stocked refrigerator, and a rearranged toddler bedroom, so any expectations I might have formed were surpassed.

So today I'm back at work, and I think that by tomorrow I should be over the worst of the jet lag. I have things to say - I did blog a little last week, but it was travelog blogging, not the randomness that is my modus operandi, so in the near future I have stuff to say about body image, and birthdays, and Grey's Anatomy and whatever else rises to the surface of my little brain.

In the meantime, I'll be over here, at the bottom of an amazing pile of blogs left unread over my week away. Me not commenting is not to be interpreted as a sign of neglect; I just only have so many minutes in a day, you know?
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Bonne Journée, les Mères!
I don't know if they celebrate Mother's Day in France - we saw lots of women with flowers this morning, but that may just be because it's Sunday and because they're French and because it's a beautiful, perfect day today.

But regardless. I was fortunate enough to take my mother to lunch in Trocadéro this morning, facing la tour Eiffel. Such a wonderful way to celebrate, I highly recommend it.

The trip has gone wonderfully so far - photos and commentary here - despite the inevitable and expected near-lateness from my mother, random quiet-but-apparently-looks-upset-ness from me, spasticity from my sisters - but no scars, no traumas. There's not been a single thing yet where I've thought, "Well, I would have done that differently."

I miss my husband. I miss my kids.

...but not enough to go home early.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Stage Name
Less than 24 hours, baby!

I'm at my mother's now. We just had dinner with a friend of mine from high school, with whom I'd lost touch between 1997 and about a month ago. I'll call him Bird... because that's what I actually call him.

He just set our vacation off on the right note, by informing us that his stage name in his drag routine is Jenny St. Croix... because it has that certain "je ne sais quoi." Go ahead, say them both out loud, it's worth it.

And while we're saying things out loud, there's a golf course a few towns over from my house, called Nippo Lake. You have to wonder if that can be treated with over-the-counter medications.

What? I'm giddy? Darn right.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Vive la France!
Oh, yeah.

I'm excited.

Like, wiggling in my seat and randomly giggling. It's time to go to France!

I've got the accessories and fun stuff packed, and have not yet packed my clothes. I don't own enough clothing to be able to pack for a 10-day trip away (7 in Paris, 3 for travel) and still be able to wear things to work. And they really, really prefer it when I do not show up to work naked. Distracts the clients, and all.

So, that's on the schedule for tonight. Then, tomorrow, I get up, go to staff meeting (and for once, I'll be smiling through it) and then it's off to my mother's for the night. We fly out Friday evening.

The most common response, when I tell someone I'm going to Paris, is, "Oh, how fun! I'm jealous!" And my reply? "Yes, I would be too, if it was someone else going!" Somehow I think people feel badly about feeling jealous, but seriously, people - this is a cool freakin' trip and I'm well aware of how lucky I am and I just hope that the rest of you are all able to go wherever it is your heart yearns for, very soon.

The theory is that the apartment we're renting for the week has wireless internet access, so I should be able to log on from there. I've started a mother-in-law-safe blog just for the occasion - so that I have one place to post photos and stories from the trip, rather than clogging up people's email or trying to remember who is allowed to see which blog. (I have this one, not safe for my coworkers or in-laws; and I have a family photos blog, which has my last name in the address so I don't advertise it to the general public here. Too complicated to post everything twice, or to remember who I can send which link to. I would not do well in a life of crime.)

Anyway, so, that blog is at

I've also, in honor of the trip and just because I can, changed the name of the blog. I'm guessing that even without the help of a snazzy online translator you'll figure it out. I plan on completely changing the template and colors... later on. After my trip.

Man, I tell you what, if I was into emoticons, there would be little bouncy guys and smilies all over the place.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
I'm in this odd little nether region, past Potsdam and not yet in Paris. I'm leaving in three - THREE - days, so I need to hurry up and process whatever I need to process about the trip northward, because I need all the mental space I can clear before we head eastward.

The trip was good. No qualifiers, no yeah-buts. Willem worked very hard to make sure I was as comfortable and happy as I was going to get, and I appreciate his efforts. Sure, there were awkward moments and of course that's what I'm going to write about here, but the preponderance of evidence points to an enjoyable, solid weekend away. The next time we go, it will be with less advance anxiety.

We spent most of our time with M & J, with whom we're close even apart from the fraternity idiocy, and who are dealing with some challenges that are all too familiar and yet totally unsolvable by anyone else. On the one hand, it was wonderful to see them, fun to hang out - I can't remember the last time I laughed as hard as we did over dinner at The Cantina, and if I tried to explain why it was funny you'd give me an indulgent and raised-eyebrow look and slowly edge away - but, on the other hand, it was difficult to watch them dealing with it all and feeling useless and unable to help. This was all most obvious on Friday, when the four of us went up to Ottawa for the day. Willem and M had planned a very romantic day - wandering through Byward Market and getting a picnic lunch to eat on a boat on the Rideau Canal - and not everyone was able to throw themselves into the moment unguardedly. And that bites.

But we all managed to get through and enjoy ourselves, and there's not a lot more I can say about that without overstepping.

So instead I'll bring up the other, bigger, glaring moment of discomfort that happened on Friday afternoon. I'd just spent the day in Ottawa with my husband, enjoying his company and feeling good about how far our relationship has come since college, and generally being all warm-fuzzy. We had plans to meet a group at The Cantina, and Willem and M wanted to stop out at the fraternity house first to see who was around and wander through. I was willing enough - not my favorite place ever, but I was in a good mood and was happy enough to follow the group wherever it wanted to go.

I stopped being happy the moment we crossed the plane of the front door. The smell hit me, and I was instantly 19 again. It's not a bad smell - sure, a frat house has the capacity to create any number of noxious odors - but this was just a house smell, same as how your grandmother's house and your friend's house and your new car all have a unique and instantly recognizable scent. And it was overwhelming, and suddenly I was insecure and anxious and sad and nauseous and scared all at once. I felt jumpy, scoping out the exits of every room, and I felt endangered in some way, in the total absence of any outward threat.

I followed their little tour through the house, arms crossed and head down. When they came to the dining room, in which there were several dozen photo albums spread out on the table, I stopped. I understand, the intention was to let the alumni flip through old memories, laugh at a certain drunken incident and blush a little at the harmless excesses of the good old days. But I physically could not enter the room. I couldn't cope with the possibility - the likelihood - of seeing photographs of Willem, arm around this girl or kissing that girl, glazed eyes and goofy smile, loving his life and fully aware of just what he was getting away with while I was somewhere else. There are no photographs of me in that room.

It's a physical ache, and a vertigo, and a tightness in the chest. An inability to breathe, coupled with a full-on fight-or-flight impulse. And I always fled.

Because even though I didn't know about his infidelity at the time, I had plenty else to cope with in the moment. I'd been raped, violently, at 12, and told no one until I was 15. And then, got no real treatment for it: two visits to a therapist who bore an uncanny resemblance to ET (and this was a woman) and one unspeakably awkward family therapy session with both of my parents, and then the sense that since I hadn't responded to those efforts, I was on my own. Then, my first full weekend at college, I had a friend up for the weekend and we ended up at a party at Ian's house. Ian was a friend of Willem's at the time, and I think Willem had been at that party early on - but we were two years away from dating, and that night my friend and I stayed late, until only four of us remained. Two guys, two girls, and a lot of rum. I drank a 32-ounce travel mug of it. Straight. And woke up the next day with the unenviable task of navigating through another sexual assault, once again ultimately alone and untreated.

So college was a bad time for me. I had developed this belief that no one would bother standing up for me, helping me, when something bad happened, and this brought all sorts of feelings of hurt and defiance into the picture. I wanted to be cared for, and some of the time I was even able to try to get that in a somewhat healthy way. I had boyfriends, who were respectful and did the best they could with a complicated situation. But how can any 20-year-old boy be expected to deal appropriately with a girlfriend who wakes up in a panic from nightmares every single night? With a consensual partner who dissociated through every sexual interaction? (I still cannot remember having sex in college. I know it happened, and I remember bits and pieces of lead-up and follow-through, but the act itself? Not there.) They cared for me the best they could, and I wasn't able to care enough for myself to make it work.

I had this running fantasy, adjusted on a constant basis to fit the circumstances, that something terrible was about to happen to me. A car accident, a robbery, a fall on the ice; you name it, I envisioned it. It wasn't precisely that I wanted these things to happen; I was never acutely suicidal and I took steps to keep myself safe and healthy. But I imagined them all the time - all the time - and wondered what everyone around me would do. And had expectations about what they wouldn't do.

I lived through it. I had to move to Boston and start over, get into what became a year and a half of weekly therapy and constant mental and emotional work. I was slowly, slowly able to develop an idea of myself that was not so hurt and vulnerable and unimportant. I got better - then worse again - then better, until, at some point, I started sleeping through the night again. At some point, I stopped having these mini-movies of my next tragedy. I just, at some point, got better.

The thing is, I bet if you asked most of the people who knew me in college, they would have no idea of the depth of my messed-up-ed-ness through those years. They may have known something was not quite right; I know I tried to tell people what I was living with, but I also know that I didn't express it well. But I've always had a very self-confident and competent exterior, and I did well enough in classes, and I held down a job and maintained an apartment and laughed at jokes and enjoyed enough of my life that people wouldn't have realized the turmoil and misery just under the surface.

That's what PTSD is, I think. Not always - sometimes it spills over and becomes obvious to random bystanders - but most of the time, it's about living a normal life while tamping down this incredible burgeoning load of anxiety and fear, every day, even long after the dangerous situation has ended. It's what PTSD was for me, anyway.

So I got better. But then, on Friday, in Potsdam, in the fraternity house, I had a sharp and unpleasant reminder that all we can do is deal with our problems and move on with our lives; we don't get a clean slate. Those emotions and hurts are still there, and every once in a while they can jump up and slap you in the face, because, really, why nudge gently when a full frontal assault will do?

But that "I got better" thing? Not just a passing whim; not ephemeral or false. We left the house and I immediately felt able to breathe again. I remained on edge and uncomfortable for the rest of the night, but I didn't run away. I didn't hide in the hotel room, or drive away, or drink too heavily, or a thousand other inappropriate or self-destructive things that I might once have done. I hung in there, and by Saturday morning I was back to myself, now, again. I was even able to go back out and spend most of Saturday afternoon at the house, some of it inside, without a relapse.

I coped. It was a pretty cool thing.

And now I'm back in my regularly scheduled life, having received a wonderful gift from the weekend: a reminder of just how strong my marriage is, how good it feels to hug my kids, and how actually healthy I am now. No more of this fake-it-till-you-make-it stuff; I'm okay now.

And I'm grateful.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Baa Baa Bachelor
The Bachelor is just about to start. We're down to the Final Four tonight. I'm ready to feel superior and self-righteous and smug, oh my.

Allow me to indulge in a few predictions.

First, the ladies will dress in ways designed to remind us all of why it's the first syllable that's accented in titillated.

Then, there will be long intense looks, tearful confessions, and dramatic statements about "falling in love."

Then there will be the pre-rose-ceremony interviews, with their unique style of smug insecurity - "I'm really scared of being sent home, but I'm pretty confident that we're meant to be together forever."

Then Captain Obvious, er, Chris Harrison, will come in just before the last rose, as though there's one person in the surrounding county who doesn't know precisely how to count to one, and announce, "Ladies, this is the final rose of the evening." And I will be reminded anew of what a genius that man is, finding a way to ride the Bachelor juggernaut all the way to the end, while still managing to be married and have children and generally look paternalistically amused at all of this silliness.

I'm, like, psychic or something.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Greetings from Potsdam... it's been a halfway-decent weekend so far, and all signs point to a likelihood that I'll get through the remaining 10-12 hours without major trauma. Who'd've thunk it?

A few random observations, because, while not trashed, I have had considerably more alcohol than my brain and typing muscles are used to, and random is the best I can do:
  • Chocolate martinis are a really, really good idea.

  • Bravery comes in lots of forms. Like showing up at your fraternity's alumni reunion openly gay, but quiet and dignified about the nature of that openness.

  • It's really, really hard to watch two people you care about struggle so deeply over a problem with no good answer. To know that I found my own answers in a similar situation, but that my answers might not work for them, and the only way they'll find their answers is to hurt and fumble through it.

  • I married a really great guy.

  • I miss my kids. But not so much that I either regret depositing them with my mother for the weekend or wish to hurry and pick them up earlier than planned tomorrow. I miss them because we've had time and distance apart, to allow for a little perspective.

  • It just took me five tries to successfully type out the word "because."

  • I'm back at the hotel room alone now, while Willem plans to close out the bar. He just looked at me and said, with a big, sweet, lopsided grin, "I just went from buzzed to trashed!" I think I'll be doing some driving tomorrow, while he whimpers and wonders why I'm choosing to take the 270-degree on-ramp to the highway when there's a perfectly good 90-degree one right there.

  • My haircut really is a good one. Low-maintenance. And there was much rejoicing.

  • It takes about 3 1/2 days for me to get used to new glasses and stop noticing the frames all the time.

  • We've had some fun discoveries, beginning with the word "vurp." It's a verb. Know what it means? Yeah. From there we coined the verb "piggle" - for the pee/giggle combination that has never happened to anyone we know, but we've heard about a friend of a friend who did it once.

  • I can't remember what I was about to type. So it's time for bed.

With a little luck, we'll be home at a reasonable time tomorrow and I'll be able to post something a tad more coherent. I have a few thoughts, profound and otherwise, just begging to be expanded - but not right now. Thoughts about memory, and shopping, and public displays of affection. So, stay tuned... as the Great and Powerful Ahhnuld once said, "I'll be back."
Thursday, May 03, 2007
We're leaving, in about twelve hours, for Potsdam. I've written about it ad nauseum already. It's not a place I recall with fond memories, but it wasn't all bad. I remember getting together with friends to listen to Sunday Night Sex with Sue, and going to Stone Valley, and going through champagne and strawberries at alarming rates with my roommate Jen, and and a number of other fun things, and not-so-fun things. College had a lot of good times, and about as many bad, and my experience wasn't especially unique.

And it's a situation where I need to just get over myself, buck up, and go. So, we're going, and it will be fine. We'll see people I haven't seen in ten years, and some of them I'll hope to go another ten years before seeing again. We'll tell the same five or ten major life stories over and over again, and Willem and I have been together long enough that we're developing an unintentional routine around that sort of thing. We'll eat at a bunch of unreasonably good restaurants, and I'll do my best not to put on too many of those pounds I've scattered here and there over the past few months. It will be fine.

Every once in a while, I'll spend some time in a dark and brooding place, because that's what I did in college and if I'm returning to the scene of the crime, I may as well act the part. But to counteract, I'm bringing along a knitting project - a sweater that I am really, really jonesing for, but in this lovely, soft, mist-gray angora blend that I keep petting. I certainly won't finish it in a weekend, but I'll work on it a little, and will carry something positive out of the trip. Literally.

And I'll keep trying to clear my head of this visual I have, of another departure. One that happened last weekend. There was this guy. A client. Young; able to buy his own alcohol, but not old enough to know his way around the liquor store yet. Into a lot of different substances. Ostensibly seeking anger management but really looking for someone new to yell at. Complicated, chaotic life, with lots of violent episodes and unemployment and hurt and a sense of being uncontained, unfixable.

He was found dead on Saturday afternoon, of an apparently accidental overdose. He'd been in his father's house for the better part of twelve hours by then, and the estimates suggest he wasn't alive for most of that time. There was no note, hence the assumption that it was accidental. His father had been out since Friday, and came home in late afternoon to find him on the living room floor, rigor mortis already evident.

But he hasn't spent the day alone. His not-quite-two-year-old twins were there with him. In the playpen, next to him in the living room.

I wasn't there. I never actually met the client, or anyone in his family, or his babies. And yet I cannot get that image out of my head.

So, this weekend? The traveling, and the overindulgence, and the return to a place where I have never been not-depressed? It will be fine.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Wicked Smahht
Just thought I'd brag on my husband for a minute... he went and won his school's Graduate Teaching Assistant Achievement Award, which means a nice corpulent check and the ability to take the summer off to be with the kids study for his comprehensive exams this August. I'm not the least, tiniest bit surprised, because he works all sorts of body parts off for his students, even when they are collectively as dumb as a box of rocks, and he's good at what he does. A brazilian positive student evals can't be wrong, right? But it's wonderful that other people realize it, too.

So, we're all excited and happy for him. AND we'll be able to afford a new refrigerator. Ain't life grand?
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
If You Wanna Be My...

No, I just can't continue to blaspheme the exalted Spice Girls by coopting their song for my own selfish blogging purposes. But, as I discovered tonight, there are certain criteria. I'll have to wait until I get my Little Orphan Annie Ovaltine Decoder Ring before I can know in advance who can be trusted with ma coiffure.

Tonight, I can only speak to J. You know who you are.

For one thing, please don't giggle. I understand, the world is a funny, funny place. We can share our mirth another time. Occasional breaks in giggles to pop your gum - alarming close to my hair, by the way, thanks - were appreciated, but not quite sufficient to convince me that you're in line for the next Mensa entry test.

For another, please don't, don't, DON'T stop mid-cut and say, "Oops!"

I do owe you an apology, because you're a beauty school student and you're nervous and self-conscious and I understand that you need to chatter (and giggle) to keep yourself from going all Day-O and ending up face-first in a bowl of shrimp cocktail, and here I was, chatting away with Betty, who was at the next station and who I would totally have asked to cut my hair again if I'd known she was there tonight. She did a great job the last few times, and my preferring to speak to another adult about semi-intelligent topics? That totally does not reflect on your own personality, J.

Okay, yeah, it kind of does. But it doesn't mean I love you any less. And you did do a good job. I think, anyway. So that redeems you quite a bit.

While we're on the "do not" list, please don't lie to your instructor when I'm sitting right here, close enough that I can vouch that your Secret is strong enough for this woman. You did NOT cut the back first, and you did NOT brush it all forward to check the ends before she came over. I didn't rat on you, because you won't see me putting Baby in a corner, but still. It makes me feel yucky inside, all complicit with your schemes and manipulations.

And one last thing. Please don't sing along with the radio while you're doing my hair. Because, those big skin-covered things sticking out of the sides of my head? Those are my ears. They do some funny things, ears. Like, hear.

Anyway. It could have been worse. I'm not all spaced-out Ferris Bueller Cameron-zoning out, so I think I've avoided significant trauma.

What do you think?
Why I Eyes Ya
My eyes hurt today. I went yesterday and got new glasses, and in a fit of overenthusiasm decided to get a totally different style than I've ever had before. I have made some Poor Eyewear Decisions in my life, believe you me... I've worn glasses that were so unattractive, so unbecoming, so Golden Girls, that if I had digital copies of the photos I would post them just for the sheer amusement of it all. Really.

So, over the past ten years or so, I went very conservative and minimalist in the realm of spectacles. Thin metal frames, rounded-but-not-circular lenses, not especially noticeable. To others, or to me.

I decided, this time, that it was time to try something new and, for me, bold. So I got a pair of dark-framed, rectangularish frames - seriously, words cannot adequately express how completely un-me they are. They seem to suit me; so far no one has stopped, done a double-take, and said, "For the love of God, what happened to your face?" and I'm taking that as a good sign.

But the thing is, I'm not used to having glasses that I can see while I wear them. I find myself constantly aware of the frames drawing big dark lines around everything. I suppose, once it stops hurting my poor eyes to constantly check out this weird thing in my field of vision, it will be a bit like watching television all the time. I can't decide if that will be fun or horrifying. Think of the commercials.

Title is in reference to this video which has become a new and oft-repeated family joke. I sort of suspect that Willem and I find it funnier than the kids do.