Friday, July 27, 2007
Last Post.
Oh, relax, not the last post from me ever. Just the last one here.

I'm moving over to wordpress, and I do hope you'll follow me over and play there. New digs at:

I'm sorry, Blogger. I'm just not that into you.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Perhaps "Better" Wasn't the Right Word
Isn't this just the funnest thing ever?

I've been informed, in no uncertain terms, by two different doctors, that as long as my experience today of heart rate up over 120 for over an hour remains an isolated incident, with no pain, dizziness, or shortness of breath, then I'm allowed to consider it a fluke and continue living my normal daily life, but that if any of those other symptoms come and join the party, I'm to go to the nearest emergency room, strip down to a skimpy robe in front of my coworkers, and get checked out for a heart attack. Fabulous!

It sounds like what actually happened is that I didn't react well to my secondary migraine medication, naproxen (i.e., Aleve but in a higher dose). I take it for a week or so each month when my primary medication, Vicodin, runs out and they refuse to up the prescription, because 20 a month is safe but clearly 30 a month would be a serious danger to my health and welfare and I can't be trusted to make my own decisions there.

Sometimes I totally understand why people start using street drugs.

But I digress. This afternoon, I took a naproxen, with food, as directed, and then tried to lay down and take a nap. I'd taken my first trusty little Ativan earlier in the day and generally wanted to tune out. Staff meeting and then an annual gynecological exam makes for a long morning, you know?

So I slept for maybe 45 minutes, and then laid awake and listened to my heart throb away, about twice as fast as I'm used to. My knee-jerk reaction is to blame any new symptoms on the most recent medication I'm taking, but really, a racing heart rate and/or high blood pressure, whatever it was, seems like a very stupid side effect for an antianxiety medication to have. After a while I figured out that the naproxen is a newish prescription, too, and somehow that seemed like more likely a culprit.

But seeing as how my father had his first heart attack at 30, many in the medical community are sort of standing back and waiting for me to start with mine.

So, yeah, I don't know if it's exactly better living through chemistry, but it's certainly weirder. The plan for the moment is to switch me to a different NSAID (Relafen, whose primary warnings have to do with heart and circulation risks... seriously, funnest thing ever!) and see what happens. Now I'm anxious and dealing with intermittent migraine pain and anxious about getting migraine pain and taking the wrong medication and killing myself with it.

Are you seeing why I've not been blogging my brains out this week? There are some vibes that just don't need to be sent out into the wilderness.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Better Living Through Chemistry
It's been a long time since I've been on any form of psychoactive drugs. And I'm not even talking about the fun stuff that afterschool specials are made from, I mean antidepressant, antianxiety, generally make-your-brain-run-smoother type meds. A few choice chemicals helped me through some bad times in my adolescence and early 20s, but ever since being inflicted with motherhood and family life, I've had this weird, happy-type feeling. Almost like life was pretty good, or something.

There were a few dark periods, most especially about a year after Jacob's birth (when I wouldn't take meds because I was all up on the breastfeeding-no-chemicals thing, which I recognize was ill-advised but stuck through it anyway) and then again from early 2006 for several months after I dealt with the fact that I'd effectively sold my career for the price of a healthy family. I'd make the same decision again now, but this time I'd find a way to somehow be insured and not broke, so that I could go through the resulting readjustments with a little help from my meds.

But now we come to, well, now. I'm not depressed, exactly; things are pretty good for me, I feel happy more days than not. But between Emily being at camp and the resulting junk that's bringing up for me, my dad being in limbo in a job he hates and waiting for a new one and newly single after a long, slow train-wreck of a relationship came to a grinding, clunking halt, Willem being something less than his usual sunshiney, rainbowy self while he studies and braces for his comprehensive exams, and a pile of other small but transient concerns, I'm stressing. I'm not sleeping much at all, and not well then, and I'm letting myself get roped into small petty arguments (Willem and I snarked about spaghetti sauce for 20 minutes this afternoon), and generally not liking me a whole lot.

So I took what, for me, is a huge step, and called my doctor, and tomorrow will pick up a 2-week supply of Ativan. An antianxiety drug that works with each dose you take, rather than needing 4-6 weeks to reach optimum blood levels a la antidepressants. By the end of next month, most of my biggest, pressing concerns will have faded. Sure, I understand, you irrepressible optimists out there: they could all be replaced by new, even bigger concerns. But I'm working on activating my inner Pollyanna here, okay?

I don't need to be perfect, with smooth edges and serenity of soul and perky breasts. I just want to be good enough, and right now, I'm not.
Two More Lines
I did pretty well through the day, but now that it's dark and quiet here, I'm having a hard time heading to bed. I'm running about a thousand miles an hour inside my head, which is about 994 mph too fast for 1:00 a.m.

The good news is, I'm able to channel some of this nervous energy in the service of organizing my home:

Mary and I made a CD holder for Jacob's room, and chances are there will be one for Emily's room by the time she comes home. The kids have, between them, probably 20 of the Most Annoying Bouncy Children's Music, and they also routinely request "Mama music" or "Daddy music." Apparently Mama music runs in the realm of Jack Johnson or Barenaked Ladies, and Daddy music is more along the lines of Opeth and Rush. Jacob gets very unhappy when I dare to play something he deems to be non-Mama music in the car, but from long, long ago, we told our kids that kids' CDs don't play in our cars, so they have to cope with whatever we choose.

Cuts down on road rage, you see.

Anyway, Jacob's CD player sits on a shelf several inches above my head, which made finding a given CD more of a challenge than I liked (read: took all of 15 seconds instead of my preferred 2). So, viola! A display from the various previous crafts we've done, including trimming Emily's flower girl dress and making beanbags.

I was manic enough about it to make Willem step out of the bedroom at 12:15 and growl, "Howmuchlongerareyougonnarunthatthing?"

To which I replied with my very best impression of a cocaine addict: a sheepish grin, an innocent shrug, and a muttered, "Just two more lines, babe. Just two more lines."

I have to appear in court tomorrow. Well, today. I should try that sleeping thing soon. Wish me luck!
Monday, July 23, 2007
Just Another Migraine Monday
Well, really, the big bad headache was yesterday, magically appearing just as we turned onto the camp road. But I've had echoes today, not to mention a serious desire not to move much of anywhere. I'm not good at maintaining a good, solid level of anxiety over a prolonged period of time, and really, I've worked through a lot of that stuff already. Yesterday was bad, today has been so-so, by the end of the week I'll be fine.

Especially if my mother-in-law decides not to come out for Jacob's birthday on the weekend because, as she explained to Willem in intimate, painful detail while standing in the middle of a Toys-Backwards-R-Us, she has watery diarrhea. How fun is that?

Anyway, so, thank you. All of you. It helps, the support and encouragement. I called the camp today, and they hadn't heard of a single homesick camper amongst the eight in Emily's cabin, which I consider to be a good sign. I still asked them to have the counselor call me back sometime this evening, because right now talking to someone who has talked to her today is the closest I can get.

And I take it as a good sign that I'm still able to find things like this seriously funny. With, of course, a sociall appropriate level of disapproval.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Summer Camp
The last time I went to summer camp as a camper, I was twelve years old. I'd started going around eight or nine, so by then, it was more of a comforting tradition then a new adventure. I knew it was my last year as a camper, but I also knew I could return the next year as a counselor's aide, and eventually as a full counselor. Quite the aspiration, back then.

The first six days went just like every other year, with the typical camp stuff. I woke up on the last morning on my back, in the woods, alone. I was bleeding profusely from two separate knife wounds, likely had a mild concussion, and couldn't hear anything. I still don't know if I was in shock and briefly deaf, or if it was just so intensely, perfectly quiet that there was nothing to hear. I don't think I knew the word rape yet.

The attacker was a fellow camper, who had lied about his age in order to slide under the below-13 rule. He was 16, and had gone with the specific mission of breaking a bitch in. He'd told me this during a lull in the night's activities, and I never asked whether this was an individual plan or a gang thing. I didn't care. I still don't.

I made it home with the help of an accomplice of his, an adult and a counselor at the same camp. He who said all the right things to ensure maximum trauma and minimum healing: don't tell anyone, he'll find you and hurt you again... your parents won't believe you anyway... it happens all the time, no one cares...

It was at a church camp. I don't know where God was that particular evening. I didn't tell my parents until I was fifteen. I left home for college a year early, at seventeen, and will always be grateful that I was smart enough to escape then.

It was many years before I could withstand the physical sensation of being in the woods at night, and I still cannot lie on my back and look up at the sun through the leaves. My physical wounds healed over the course of several weeks; my emotional ones closed up after about ten or twelve years, with a few raw edges still vulnerable to the right - or wrong - combination of statements and sensory input, even now.

And yet, in less than an hour, I'm leaving to bring my seven-year-old daughter to her own summer camp. We're three states away, and it's an all-girls camp. She is as excited as any human can possibly be, and Emily has a special gift for radiating just a little more excitement than the rest of us. I consider it another rite of passage, parenthood-wise; letting your kids do the fun and innocent things that somehow twisted around to hurt you, and trusting that your experience was a fluke and not a genetic predestination. I will put on a smile for her, knowing in advance that sometimes my smile will get a little ragged and brittle around the edges, and I will wait until I'm back in the car to cry.

And she'll be all right. I believe this because it's true, and because I have to. She'll be okay.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Harry Secret and the Chamber of Pots
It was a long week. Work was rough, lots of extraneous stress going on, head exploded on Wednesday, blah blah blah. But I took Mary out to her first non-restaurant bar (read: total dive bar) last night, for my weekly knitting group, and had the horrifying realization that I'm a regular. At a bar. And I don't drink.

She never even got a stern look, much less carded. (Though, Mom, no. She didn't drink. Didn't even try. We do all our heavy drinking at home.)

Having survived that, then, we felt duty-bound to dredge ourselves off the couch and keep our date for tonight, which was to go down to Barnes & Noble to people-watch during the seventh Harry Potter book pre-release extravaganza. My friend G is a manager there, so we got a random glimpse or two of her, spent some time wandering the shelves, and then got a table near the Highly Caffeinated Beverage Counter and tried to figure out which people were dressed up for the event and which were just out for a Friday night bookstore run. Not so easy a task, that.

So now we're home again, feeling more normal than we have in a long time. Didn't buy the book, because Mary's not allowed; she and Sarah have an agreement whereby Sarah will buy the book, read it in the coming week, and bring it out when she comes for Jacob's birthday next weekend, and Mary can go see the fifth movie. In IMAX 3D tomorrow night, which seems like proper revenge for delayed gratification.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Get Well Soon... or Not, Whatever
One of the recent topics of discussion in my house, of late, has been my mother-in-law's health, or lack thereof. This is a woman who has major surgery once a year; it's usually something medically necessary (removal of various optional parts, repair of broken parts, tire rotation and oil change) because she's prone to illness and accidents. I'd love, trust me how I'd love, to label her a hypochondriac, but from what I can tell most of these seem relatively legitimate.

And in between, in those rare years in which she doesn't have an illness or fall off her horse or bend down to tie her shoe and stand up abruptly into her side mirror (oh yes she did - got a concussion that time), she finds elective surgeries to tide her over. She had a breast reduction in 2003. I found this out when I went downstairs to tell her that dinner was ready, and she turned around and flashed me to show off her scars.

I still have blind spots in my vision from that one.

So, you may recall, a few weeks ago I was feeling weirded out by her stooped-over posture of ass-kissing. I didn't know why she was doing it, but in my experience, the woman is not nice to me without some explicit reason. Usually it's because I'm either pregnant or breastfeeding and she knows I won't hand over the child under those immediate circumstances (though if she thought I would, it would be a national news media type of event).

Well, we found out why. Turns out I was right; she wasn't just being nice to me for the sake of balancing out some of the worldwide karma from that whole Middle East deal. She was being nice to be because she had diagnosed herself with stomach cancer, blamed my dead father-in-law for it, and convinced herself that she had one year left to live.

It must be such fun living inside her head, don't you think?

I'm going to provide as near to a chronological narrative as I'm able to piece together; you can rest assured that I did not get the information delivered in an organized package. From what I can tell, about a month ago, she started having stomachaches and explosive flatulence after every meal. (And, yes, you're right. I did, indeed, get a most uncharitable thrill at the concept of my mother-in-law having explosive flatulence.) As a result of this, she stopped eating large amounts at a time, and, in turn, started losing weight.

Meanwhile, she'd forgotten that she'd had the initial unsocial gastrointestinal symptoms and resulting limited food intake, and began to panic at the fact that she was losing weight. Now, for at least the ten years that I've known her, this woman has been on a perpetual diet, constantly complaining about her size and then reaching for another bowl of ice cream. And she wasn't morbidly, or even just grimly, obese; she was a size-16 in a size-16 world. Anyway, now that she was actually losing weight, it freaked her out. Unwanted weight loss? Discomfort eating? Flatulence that could strike a roomful of frat boys after a bratwurst-eating contest into respectful silence? It must be stomach cancer!

Another difficulty with my mother-in-law is that she is a retired nurse, of the recovery room variety. This gives her just enough medical knowledge to be really, really annoying, with the haughty terminology to match, without actually being helpful to herself or others. So she waited a while to see a doctor, so as to really maximize that panic and worry, and have it miraculously coincide with Willem's visit.

She spent the week alternating between two of my very favorite displays: moping and melodrama. Willem and she decided to take the kids bowling; Willem and the kids bowled while she sat at a table, stared off into space, and sniffled every time she felt lonely. (Read: she may not have exhaled once the whole time, being so busy sniffling.) After a good mope, she would garner the energy to launch into a melodramatic rant, typically along the lines of, "The only way people ever get stomach cancer is by exposure to cigarette smoke. So if I do have it [dramatic pause], then I'll know that it was all H's fault, because he smoked like a chimney every day I knew him, and he made me breathe that poison every single day, and if I die from this then I will hunt him down wherever he is and kill him again."

Yes. Way to buck up stoically under pressure.

So, the week was a wash, and Willem and the kids came home cranky and high-maintenance, none of them having been expected to eat a single molecule of nutrition or clean up after themselves, and only two of them having been expected to regulate their bodily functions. It's been a period of adjustment for us all; them to recover from a week living in the wild and me to not kill them all and bury them in the backyard.

Then, last Friday, we got a phone call. Well, Willem got a phone call, and I had the audacity to answer it. Right away, I knew that we were back to normal again: "Oh. Kate. Yeah, hi. Is my son home?"

I had the surpreme pleasure of telling her, yes, but he's busy at the moment. So she had to be contented with relaying the news to me: she does not have stomach cancer. I don't know what manner of indelicate medical tests she had done, because I've become quite adept at selective deafness (the woman will discuss a surgical procedure and its resulting dead white corpuscles in excruciating detail at the dinner table, complete with comparisons to the food being served). But they proved that, no, it's not stomach cancer. It's a hiatal hernia, which she has opted not to have surgically corrected because apparently she is the only person with such a condition who is not a good candidate for laproscopic abdominal surgery. (I did not ask her if that has anything to do with her head being shoved up in the way down there.) In essence, she has been on the receiving end of an all-natural stomach-stapling procedure; there is a certain karma to this following her endless obsession about weight.

She also "found out" that she has lactose intolerance. That deserves the dreaded visual quotes because I've known for years that she was lactose intolerant, because she told me. Whenever she visits, I cook without cheese, I supply non-dairy creamer, I listen to the preemptive woe-is-me before we have ice cream. But no, apparently I am mistaken, because this is brand-new hot-off-the-presses information to her. Okay.

I didn't post about it back when she was bemoaning her stomach cancer and imminent death because I just couldn't find the right words. Somewhere over the course of the past year - I think perhaps when she told Willem that I was not her family - I've stopped thinking of her as a family member, someone I would drop anything to help even if I can't stand their fundamental personality. It was very weird for me to hear of someone's illness and just not care; I couldn't even fake concern over it. When she dies, which we all understand won't be for another 30 years, I won't rejoice; she loves my children, in her way, and they love her. But the only times she is genuine with me is when she hates me.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Who says that stress and worry can make you sick?

Well, me.

I've got a vicious migraine today; the kind where you load up on just as many drugs as your liver will allow and then come home for a three-hour nap in the middle of the day and even then you still can't bend over or complete a thought. It happens, sometimes at random, but just lately I've had a little extra stress and worry flattening out the ridges and valleys in my brain, so I'm guessing perhaps there's a connection.

Normally, when stressed, I can unload, either here or on my friends or my husband, as needed, and I'm fine. But I'm experiencing a peculiar mix of angst, which can't be completely unloaded in any one place, which makes it harder to efficiently distribute out of my brain.

Can't even go into detail here, because of the mix of people who post here. Well, I can, but the resulting post ends up looking like one of the government-declassified Area 51 documents:

First, there's my dad. He's blah blah and now his blah are blah, plus he just broke up with his blah girlfriend. I'm seriously worried for his mental and physical health, and while there are ways I can help, those are limited.

Then there's Willem. He's upset about blah blah and doesn't know what he wants to do about it. Likewise with the blah and blah situation. And let's not forget the blah, with all its resultant details and decisions. And, of course, his comprehensive exams are in a month, so even in the absence of the other stuff, he'd be freaking out just a tad.

Work was hard yesterday. Really hard. I hospitalized an eight-year-old blah with PTSD and a blah of blah blah, and a blah-year-old man having his first schizophrenic break. I watched another ED patient die. In the hallway. Watched it.

You get the idea.

So, stress. And worry. And nowhere to put it.

Which all, frankly, sucks, because there's so much cool stuff going on in my life right now, too. I went to the library with Mary today, and actually took out some books. For myself. To read. It's been ages and ages since I've done that - I had to get a new library card - and I'm optimistic that I might finally be moving out of my mental stagnancy and ready to absorb some new ideas. I taught Mary to knit the other night; she's already made a washcloth and about 1/10 of a beach bag. We're sending Emily to sleep-away camp on Sunday, which scares the carp out of me (which is, admittedly, probably better than having carp in me) but I think it will be really good for her, too. Jacob is almost completely potty-trained again, after being effectively untrained after a week at my mother-in-law's. And so on.

Just riding a bit of a roller coaster right now, and starting to get a touch of motion sickness.
Twelve Miles Per Hour
This article was in the Cincinnati newspaper a few weeks ago. It's about a dance troupe featuring kids in wheelchairs as well as independently mobile kids, and tugs at the appropriate heartstrings. Oh, what a good man, running this group for those poor little souls, and at no charge, too...

And I agree. Good for him. Many kudos. That's good karma he's developing.

But the bit that stays with me is from the video - go ahead and click on the video part, it's short - is the little girl who talks about how fast they're going. "Like twelve miles an hour."

Think, for a second, about living in a body that can't let you run full-out toward a lake in high summer. That won't tolerate riding on the swings so high and so hard that the chains buckle a little at the top. That can't be maneuvered into the front seat of a roller-coaster.

I hope she continues to get her twelve miles an hour, and maybe even more, when she dances. We all need to be fast and beautiful once in a while.
Monday, July 16, 2007
The Power of (Poor) Communication
I spent yesterday in Newport, Rhode Island, with two of my closest friends. We toured The Breakers, the Vanderbilt mansion, and had lunch at a lovely seafood place on the harbor. The weather was perfect and the conversation plentiful.

Sounds about as perfect as a day can get, right?

Hah. Since when do I do perfect?

The day started on a jittery note when I got lost on the way to Carolyn's house. I've been there dozens of times, but hadn't in a while, and somehow just got confused. I knew she lived near the 95/93 interchange north of Boston, but couldn't remember which road or which direction from the intersection. So I chose all three wrong possibilities before finding the right one. Love that lost-in-Boston feeling.

But I found her, and asked if she would drive from there, because I was frazzled already and didn't want to spend my day irritated at myself. Sure, no problem; off we went. We drove down to Jenny's house, where we left Carolyn's car and piled into Jenny's minivan. Her tricked-out, ghetto minivan. She's got all the toys: automatic doors, built-in GPS, DVD, camera for reversing, small tanned men who leap out to administer massage at every red light. My minivan would have had a serious inferiority complex if it knew.

We proceeded to have a few quiet, pleasant hours, driving to Newport and wandering the mansion. Having recently been to Versailles I had a double-edged reaction to The Breakers; on the one hand, its opulence pales in comparison to the palace at Versailles, but on the other hand, Versailles was a palace for a king and this was just a mere summer cottage for some random Americans. Crazy.

We decided to take a break from the excesses of the wealthy and head to lunch. On the way there, Carolyn got a phone call, and Jenny and I listened to the inform-ee side of a bad-news exchange: "Oh, no! Really? ... Is anyone hurt? ... What is broken? ... How did it happen? ... Calm down ... No, calm down ... Get someone to watch the kids so you can deal with this ... Call the sheriff and try to get them to take a report ... Calm down..."

Turns out, the bad news was, her husband called to report that they'd had a windstorm and a tree had fallen over... on my minivan. He said he couldn't begin to estimate the amount of damage because he couldn't even see the driver's side because the tree was in the way. He had fallen into hysterical freak-out mode and was not making or receiving decisions by this point. Lovely!

So, we talked about it and decided we might as well continue with our lunch plans. Hurrying back north wasn't exactly possible anyway; we were two and a half hours away anyway, and frankly none of us wanted to deal with hysterical husbands. Carolyn kept trying to call her husband back, to remind him to take pictures and to generally find out what the status was. He wasn't answering his phone.

I called Willem to share the latest adventure. I told him I thought the minivan was cursed, given the number of adventures I've had with it in just one year. He replied, "Oh, I don't think it's the minivan. I think it's you. Things like this don't happen to anyone else."

Way to be supportive, there, chief. We'll be scheduling sensitivity training soon.

Because it's not that what he said was bad, it was just poorly timed. There is a time and a place for sarcasm, and that was neither.

The next four hours, between lunch and driving back to Carolyn's, were characterized by Carolyn trying and failing to get her husband to answer the phone, and Willem calling me to complain that Carolyn's husband wasn't answering the phone. And Jenny's husband calling to complain that she was a half an hour late and he really, really needed her to be home so that he could start his role-playing game with his friends. (Read: "My playing with my friends once a week is more important than you playing with your friends once a month.") Testosterone was not high on our list of favorite things yesterday.

Finally, after hours of nothing, her phone rang. It was her husband. She asked him, "Why haven't you been answering your phone? We have no idea what's going on up there."

He replied, "Oh, two more trees fell down. One fell on our swingset and the other fell on our neighbor."

She about died on the spot. Turns out, ha ha!, he was only kidding. Let's return to the concept of a time and a place, shall we? Because this was really, really neither. He was actually calling to ask when she would be home (thereby making it a perfect trifecta of husbands calling to ask, "When are you going to be home?" and making me consider not bringing my phone on these days out anymore) because he wanted to take a shower and couldn't possibly figure out how to do so with both kids in the house. Both kids, who are 7 and 3, and old enough to behave themselves for five minutes while he attacks the major areas; how does he think Carolyn, a stay-home mom, ever gets clean?

And, oh, by the way, Kate's minivan is completely fine. Not even a scratch on it. He'd just never bothered to go all the way outside to look closely at it before making the initial phone call, and then was too busy helping cut down the tree to call back with an update. Or answer his phone.

Which leads us to the idea of, really? Really? You couldn't have bothered to investigate the situation before making an alarmist phone call? Okay, in the presence of panic and initial freak-out, you were unable to censor yourself. Fine. But then you couldn't be bothered to make a 30-second "never mind" call and save me several hours of problem-solving and anxiety?

Great, thanks, dude.

And what does one do, when angry at the husband of a friend? You can't exactly lay into him in front of the wife and kids, and really there's nothing else to be done. Except seethe, and blog it.

So, it ended up being fine. The minivan is perfectly fine, no one was hurt, and I still had a lovely day with dear friends in Newport. And except for the headache from stress and teeth-grinding, no ill effects. All's well that ends well, except for the phenomenal pile of miscommunication in the middle.
Friday, July 13, 2007
Sanity Abounds
Has anyone else noticed that it's Friday the 13th? Anyone?

Because I really expected today to be, literally, crazy-busy at work. Dates are significant to people. I don't believe that there is a phase-of-the-moon thing, at least as far as my mental health crisis assessments are concerned - but Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve, the first gorgeous day in early spring (when the weather is finally better and everyone else seems happy but this person just can't shake the depression and now that they're finally accepting that maybe they weren't just miserable because of the New England winter they start to sneak toward a very dark and dangerous edge), anniversaries of prior losses... those are busy days for us.

But today... nothing. Not a single work-related phone call since 6:30 last night.

It's really creeping me out, man.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
They're home, which is much goodness. I got good long Jacob-snuggles, because he had just woken from a nap and needs many minutes of cuddling before he is ready to face the world. Emily regaled me with 14 stories at once. Mary plodded in and practiced her skills of invisibility so as to get a brief break from children.

Willem walked in. He saw the kitchen. He was lukewarm. He has since decided he likes it well enough, though he never in a million years would've picked the color himself. (And, to be fair, I wouldn't have chosen it on its own; but I needed an orangeish color that would go well with both the dark wood cabinets and the light wood furniture.) He's worked his way from underwhelmed up to whelmed, so it's a good start. He's blaming his singular unimpressedness on exhaustion from a week with his mother and a long drive, but somehow I don't expect him to be doing cartwheels on his way into the kitchen tomorrow. Ah, well. I'm still happy with it.

And, just to be contrary, he is actually more impressed with the organization and cleaning of the office, because he knows that it was a lot of details and he was probably going to have to do it himself.

I understand that this is really my issue, not anyone else's. I'd gotten myself so excited and anticipatory over their homecoming that, really, any reaction short of passing out unconscious on the floor would have been a disappointment.

All are equally thrilled with the new refrigerator, though unfortunately the water has only been hooked up long enough to make a few rounds of ice cubes - not enough for Jacob to pelt himself in the face with one when he was checking it out. Maybe tomorrow...
A Mysterious Thump
My cat was just sitting in the living room, staring intently at the individual air molecules, in the incisive and pensive way of a nuclear scientist, only with 150 fewer IQ points.

Suddenly, from the kitchen, there was a thump. The cat leaped directly into the air, made a murph sound, and ran down the hallway.

Get used to it, my feline friend. That sound is the melodious thump of ice cubes being deposited into the reservoir of my brand-new, now all-hooked-up ice maker.

And now my family is about four hours away, returning home to bask in the beauty of a new kitchen and organized office. I'm all jittery and bouncy, and oddly deflated because I can't think of any other quick little projects to throw together quickly before they get home. So I'll just sit here and knit, and vibrate a little inside.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
How Big is your Fork?
Because I'm really, really done.

I reorganized and sorted the office over the past few days. The before-and-after pictures are far less dramatic, mostly because I didn't take pictures of the inside of the file cabinet and such, but I can see a difference. At the very least, I won't have to worry about Mary tripping and falling into a box of random papers on her way to the bathroom.

So, the photos:




See? Less intense. (And did you notice, I'm so underwhelmed by the transformation that I felt the need to label the befores and the afters this time?) But my sister once dislocated her elbow by tripping over a pillow and falling on a carpeted floor. My children have been taught a mantra: We have to be gentle with Mary. She's delicate.

We apply the same mantra to Mama, the cat, and most things in other people's houses.

The only other change I made, I forgot to take a before picture of... which is really too bad, because it was hilarious. The backstory is, I cannot keep a plant alive inside my house. It's really bad. People say this about themselves when they mean, can't keep a plant alive for more than a year, or can't keep a fancy high-maintenance orchid alive. No, no. I kill spider plants and aloe. Really.

So I had a dead spider plant in the corder of my living room, and it was just depressing. Not as creepy as a dead stuffed animal head, but bad enough that other spider plants are sitting around campfires telling stories about me right now.

I finally took mercy upon it, and dumped it into Emily's garden, where it might actually live for a while. And replaced it with this:

And now we wait for my family to return. Less than 18 hours until they are all back in their rightful place... and less than 24 before I start to wonder why it was I wanted all of these short, noisy people in my nice, clean house.
A Thing of Refrigeration is a Joy Forever
I have a brand-spankin' new refrigerator. Isn't it amazing how things change? Ten years ago, I couldn't have cared less what the appliance looked (or even smelled) like, as long as it kept things cold and held food.

But today, I got to pull all the weird blue tape off myself, and set the shelves at the height I wanted (carefully calibrated to accept a margarita mix in each the fridge and freezer, just in case such a need should ever arise). Then I went right ahead and cluttered it with our calendar and some magnets, because while I was basking in the unbroken white expanse of a new fridge door, I also knew that, in my house, an uncluttered refrigerator is not a viable possibility. Might as well leap off that cliff right away... a bit like being the first person to spill something in a new car. It's a disappointment, but also a relief.

So I just have to clean the floor, clean the bathroom, and let the plumber come in and do his magic tomorrow to make my ice-maker make ice, and I will be done.

And then my family will come home. And there will be much rejoicing.
Monday, July 09, 2007
The Down Side of Marrying my Best Friend
I've been effectively muted, at least until Thursday. Willem and I have talked on the phone every day, sometimes several times in a day. He has needed the chance to vent (he is staying with his mother, you understand), and talk about his friends and his golf game, and generally make contact. All of which is good, I'm all for it. But then it's my turn to talk... and I have done almost nothing in the past three days that I can tell him about.

I can't talk about how amazing S&W have been - S is a classmate of Willem's, and a friendship has developed from there. I can't talk about how fun it is to be making a new friend in G, and look how helpful she's been already.

I can't talk about the warm happy little glow I get just sitting on my couch staring into the kitchen, and how I'm fairly certain I'll actually break into a full-on butt-wiggling happy dance when the fridge is delivered. (And how I just hope I can wait until the delivery guys leave.)

And so on, and so forth. I've realized just how natural it has become, over the years, to talk to him about ev-er-y-thing, including - perhaps especially - the mundane little stuff that no one else wants to hear. And that I want to hear his random boring stuff, too.

So, yeah. The rest of you out there, especially those of you who are going to be seeing him this week, zip it. If I've been able to keep this secret, then you understand that you darn well better be able to, too.

He'll be home sometime Thursday afternoon. After then, feel free to ask him about the kitchen.
What Did We Learn Today?

We learned that I don't sleep well when Willem is gone. I was up until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, and could not sleep anymore after 8:00. Which is just sad, really, on a childless Sunday with no plans.

We learned that it's impossible to buy a spice rack or a mug rack anywhere in the county, but it's possible to buy shelves and make them work.

We learned that shopping and detail work in the kitchen is necessary and even fun, but far less satisfying than the intense and in-your-face changes that happen when four people are simultaneously stripping the walls and repainting.

We learned that the devil is in the details... the precise lengths of fabric, the placement of mug hooks, the width of the mixer. But, apparently without realizing it, I must have sold my soul, because all of the details worked in my favor. This never happens. I can't count the number of times that I was mostly done with a task and realized, "Oh, hey, that could have gone horribly wrong. Lucky for me..."

We learned, again, that I don't sleep well when Willem is gone. As evidenced by the fact that I took a break from about 10:30 to midnight, and then started in again. I was scrubbing the cabinets with the pad from a Wet Swiffer (very successfully, I might add) at 3:00. It's now 3:50 and I'm still revved up. And I quite deliberately avoided caffeine after noon today.

Ah, well. All this unsettledness is to your benefit, if you're interested in seeing photos. Grainy, slightly unfocused photos, but photos nonetheless. I tried to match up camera angles somewhat, but this entire project has been an exercise in two key abilities: abandoning pointless pride and learning to accept help graciously when it's offered, and accepting minor imperfections in service of getting to the bigger picture.

So, without further ado... my kitchen, before and after.

The shadow boxes on the table will be mounted to the rear wall tomorrow morning. And the other stuff will get put away, but when I'm tired I get jumpy, so I refuse to go into our unlit breezeway until morning.

The fridge is the last big thing on my to-do list; a new one is being delivered on Wednesday and a plumber is coming to make the ice maker make ice on Thursday. Until then, I have my old and suddenly rusty dinosaur... the moisture seal called an unannounced labor strike last week, so even if I wasn't graced with an empty house for a week in order to make it all pretty, we'd have been fridge-shopping. This way I'll have a kitchen worthy of the newcomer.

I think it looks pretty darn good for three days' work. I really hope Willem likes it. And for the sake of his own structural integrity, he'd better at least notice.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
Benevolence and Wallpaper
So far, it seems that Willem has done an admirable job of not reading that which he is not supposed to be reading. Though this may be due to the fact that he was using his mother's computer to check his email and the ESPN website, typed in "http://e" and her Internet Explorer automatically filled in the rest: "" So he was instantly stricken blind at the idea of his mother Internet dating.

Whatever. Good behavior is good behavior, regardless of the motivation.

As for here, things are moving along just swimmingly - so well that I could practically post After pictures, if only I could figure out how to post any pictures at all from this camera. Maybe tomorrow I'll be smarter. It's been a busy couple of days and I only have a few neurons left firing at the moment.

It started immediately after Willem and the kids left yesterday; I dug in and started clearing out the kitchen and peeling off wallpaper. When we bought this house it was, as far as I can tell, mostly balsa wood and wallpaper held together with cheap adhesive and good intentions. The prior owners had four children, two teenagers and two toddlers, crammed into a three-bedroom house. I get that decorative house projects may not have ranked too high on their list.

But seriously. The laziness? Why even bother? "Half-assed" would be an optimistic term for the way most things were installed here, which is to my advantage once I finally get around to doing something about it. Half-assed is far easier to take down and replace than whole-assed.

So, the wallpaper whooshed down quickly, and by 3:30 in the afternoon I was ready to take down the cabinets. Our friend W called to say she'd be over shortly, which was just barely in time to prevent me from being stupid enough to try and take it down all by myself. My unconcussioned head thanks her.

Once the cupboards were down, I expected her to turn around and head home, but instead she became intrigued by the thin layer of adhesive left behind after the wallpaper was removed, and intrigue soon morphed into helping me do it. Like I said, cheap adhesive - a few quick swipes of hot water on a sponge, wait a few seconds, and peel like a week-old sunburn. There's something deeply satisfying about nonviolent destruction like this.

At 4:30, we were most of the way around the room, and nearing a decision point. In two places - each about 9 square feet - there were patches of even older and wildly hideous wallpaper underneath the cheap stuff, and I had a sneaking suspicion that this was going to be a nightmare to remove. W is very much of a "Do it Right" mindset, bless her heart, and I recognized that my desire to just slap a coat of primer on top and paint right over the stuff was causing her some heart palpitations.

Before we quite made it to the first of these areas, my phone rang. Because oh-by-the-way, I was working from 8:00-8:00 yesterday. It had been quiet, primarily because I'd been very careful to restrict myself to non-messy aspects of the project all day, but as soon as I start playing with water and wallpaper adhesive, ring, ring!

I felt a little weird, leaving W to continue working on my kitchen walls while I went to work, but she showed zero inclination to leave, so I just... left. Told her to let herself out and leave the door unlocked, and off I went.

I was at the hospital from 5:00-6:30, and then decided that I would have just enough time to stop at Home Depot for paint and a new refrigerator before rushing home to meet friend G, who had, completely unprompted, offered to come over and help me in the evening. By 6:40, I had completely mixed paint and a voucher for Wednesday delivery of the fridge, and first spot in line at the Customer Service ("Home Depot - you can do it, we would help if we could figure out how") Desk. At 7:20, I was still in line, waiting for a manager to figure out how to both give me their advertised 10% off and not ask for my tax ID number, see as how I'm not a business.

The good news is, I finally escaped, voucher and multiple rebate forms in hand, having saved 10% on the cost of the fridge, getting a $6 rebate on the paint and a $75 gift card for buying an Energy Star product. There was much rejoicing. The bad news is, I was now a half hour behind schedule. I hate feeling late.

As I was muttering and driving home, my phone rang. It was W's partner, S. "How are things going over there? Do you guys need me to bring over some pizza or something?"

I blinked. And blinked a few more times. Then, "What do you mean? Is W still at my house?"

Pause while S blinked. "Well, she's not here. Where are you?"

"I'm coming home from work, I had a hospital call to do." Just then, I turned the corner onto my street, and sure enough, W's car was still in the driveway. I came in to find her meticulously chipping away at the old, cast-iron, industrial-grade-adhesive Wallpaper of Steel. Mind you, this is almost three hours after I'd left to go to the hospital.

W spoke to S on the phone, and S arrived a half hour later with extra spackle and a case of beer.

Meanwhile, G arrived, blessedly later than planned so I could cross the mental image of her sitting endlessly in my driveway waiting for me to escape Home Depot off my Guilt List. I ordered pizzas. It seemed like the thing to do.

W and S stayed until 10:30 at night. G stayed in the kitchen until 11:30, and then hung out to chat for another while or two.

How cool is that? Seriously. I am notoriously slow to make friends, especially after moving to a new town, and a week ago I'd have said with confidence that I had plenty of people who would be willing to join me for a social event but no one who would be willing to spend more than 20 minutes helping with any random household chore. Turns out I have three people willing to spend hours doing hard, tedious, wonderful work. I'm still a little choked up.

So instead of being a smidgen of the way through, I'm almost done. The old fridge is half-heartedly back in the vague corner where the new one will live, the kitchen table is back in its rightful non-living-room position, and the majority of the work left to do is shopping (spice rack, wallboard scraps and netting and still more spackle, foam to cover the pipes for the second bathroom and fabric to make curtains) and then applying said purchases appropriately.

And if that weren't sufficient evidence that I live a charmed life, my children are safe and asleep at my mother-in-law's, my mother-in-law is every bit as obnoxious as we all expected her to be, and my husband is doing a marvelous job of holding it all together. And of not reading this blog like I asked.

And furthermore, I just got back from a $350 (yes, that's a zero on the end there) dinner at Aujourd'hui in the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston. Darn right it was expensive, but it was to celebrate Jenny's birthday and my God, was it good.

So I'm just abrim with charity and love for all of humanity right now. And to maintain that feeling, I won't be watching the news, talking to my mother-in-law, or going to work tomorrow.
Friday, July 06, 2007
Can You Keep a Secret?
Willem! Stop reading this, Mr. No-Self-Control. You promised. Leave my blog alone.

Seriously. STOP. Log off and back away. I understand, it'll be a surprise no matter when you find out. Shut up and turn off the computer.



Willem left this morning with the kids... for SIX DAYS. Yes, bask in my glory, I have six days alone in my own house. This is 2 months after 10 days in Paris without the children... not that I enjoy being separated from my family, but, well, I kind of do.

So rather than give in to the screaming primal urge to be just as slothlike as one can possibly be in their absence, I've gotten all social and motivated. I'm going out to dinner - a nice dinner, here - tomorrow night, and possibly joining friends for a cookout on Sunday, and planning to visit another friend on Monday.

Oh, my God, Willem, seriously, this is your last chance. STOP READING. You don't fake surprised well enough to get away with reading the blog this week and still coming home next week without me knowing.

Anyway, as for the motivated, I'd decided quite a while ago that the wallpaper in the kitchen just had to go... especially the second horrible pattern that we found when we put in a laundry room and moved the refrigerator over the winter. Within moments of the minivan backing out of the driveway, I'd wandered over to just peek a little, see how firmly the wallpaper was attached.

Turns out, not very. Half of the room is naked, and I'm sort of on pause for the moment until I can get help here to get the cupboards down to strip the other half. I'll start priming and paint shopping and refrigerator shopping in the meantime.

I actually did remember to take Before pictures this time - most home improvement projects see me 75% of the way in and then muttering because I forgot again - so if I can figure out how to get them off my old camera (of course, for once, Willem remembered to take the good camera with him - not like he'll use it), then I'll post them here.

So that I can share this all with someone. And so that someone knows why, when my unconscious body is recovered from underneath a huge, steaming pile of flowery wallpaper.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
I've been mememememed. By another Kate, this time, who thinks we have lots in common although she's far more lyrical and together than I am. Maybe when I grow up.

Anyway, eight random things about me. Presumably, things which you wouldn't be able to pick up easily from just reading, because I toss about p-l-e-n-t-y of randomness here on a daily basis. I can do that.

1. I'm hard of hearing. I rely almost entirely on lipreading and, on TV, closed captioning. I can, and do, use the phone, but beware to the poor soul who tries to use my phone after me - they'll be knocked backward several feet because I need to use it at maximum volume.

2. I cannot stand the sound of water pouring if I can't see the source. Makes me physically nauseous. Once upon a time, I used to transcribe interviews and meetings for a living (again, always at top volume), and quite often, the tape recorder is planted quite near the pitcher of water. I would shout, out loud, at the offender - who poured the water months ago and many states away - to Stop that, for the love of God, it's a horrible noise!

3. I would sooner parch than drink beer.

4. While in college, I lived in a fraternity house for a few months, during which time I crawled on my hands and knees down the length of the hallway, into the bathroom, and lay on the bathroom floor while very ill with what ended up being a week-in-the-hospital kidney infection, using a stack of Playboys as a pillow. I will never quite feel clean again.

5. I have Reynaud's disorder, a pretty mild case, which means that my fingers and toes are almost always cold, and my legs flush bright pink after a shower.

6. I used to hang out with the guys from Godsmack, before they were big. I've never lifted my shirt at one of their concerts, but I have indulged in questionable behavior at parties afterward.

7. I have never smoked a single thing in my entire life. The closest I've come is a contact high at my first-ever concert, Phish.

8. I watch crime documentaries. A lot. I read about crime, especially murder and serial killing. I know far, far more about serial killers - names, dates, places, details, crime scene photographs, histories - than a nice, suburban soccer mom probably ought to.

How's that for random?

Let's see... I don't know eight random things about... Jack's Raging Mommy, stephaneener or Jason. Or, really, most of the rest of you who comment - Janice, where is your blog address when I need it? (Edited: See? The ninth thing - I'm obsessive in small and harmless ways, and am very comfortable postponing my own bedtime) - but it's after midnight and a girl's gotta sleep. Bonus points to you if you respond to the meme without an individual tag.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
In order for this to make any sense, you have to know that one of our old inside jokes has to do with cheesy romance novels, and the quest to come up with the horriblest euphemism for sex that has ever been uttered. The winner in our little contest has been, "He thrust his purple-headed warrior into her quivering mound of love pudding."

Go ahead, say it out loud. Lower your voice and hold your chest while you say it. Try not to die of snorting and giggling.


So, I took the kids to the beach today. We live in New Hampshire, an area of the world not widely renowned for its balmy and comforting ocean currents. The sign at the entrance to the state park advertised an air temperature of 74 and water temperature of 59. Um, brrr.

Emily, being a child between the ages of 3-12, has no nerves, and didn't notice the icebergs floating by until it was time to get out of the water and head toward the car. Jacob, being a few weeks shy of three, still has a natural avoidance of things cold enough to stop your heart, plus this whole Really Big Body of Water with Living Creatures and Boats thing kind of freaks him out. He spent a while prancing back and forth like those shore birds you see just beyond the water's edge, only cuter. But then the jealousy of elder sister's frolics outweighed the fear of Big Loud Waves, and he asked me to carry him into the water.

And being a sucker, I did. Stayed in long enough to spin him and splash him and generally freeze his little legs a bit.

And as for me? There was decided quivering, though in a far less romantic way. And not a warrior in sight.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
There's a Black Hole Under my Loveseat
That's the only explanation. At first I thought maybe it was just a random toy-sucking vacuum, which had an occasional affinity for nail clippers and the DVD remote. But then, today, I picked up my purse to carry it outside while I watched an impromptu puppet show (so nice to know that I'm not the only one in the family with the occasional urge to shove a stick into the nether regions of a plastic dinosaur) and my phone rang. Turns out the answering service at work had been trying to reach me for the better part of an hour, and my phone just hadn't rung (rang? ringed?). It was a non-emergency emergency call, so that's a good thing, but still. I'd prefer my phone to ring when someone calls it. I'm strange that way, I suppose.

So after the call, I checked - and sure enough, I have 3-4 bars everywhere in my living room, except on the floor at the base of the loveseat. Thus, a black hole. It's good to know these things.
Monday, July 02, 2007
Marital Exchange
HE: In keeping with our spring cleaning recently, I just decided to rearrange the freezer.

SHE: Good for you.


SHE: So go put them in water then, don't just stand there and hurt.

HE: I was kind of hoping to stick them in your armpits.
"I'm Not Even S'posed to Be Here Today"
Quick, name that film.

That's been my mantra for the day. It's been a particularly administratively irritating day at work, with small annoyances getting in the way of my knitting, and I keep quoting that line. So far it's worked to keep me from going all berzerker.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
Enter at Own Risk
I've been in a foul mood since I woke up this morning. My children have suddenly been stricken both deaf and uncaring, my husband is perfectly attuned to irritate me in small insidious ways that won't allow me to plead justifiable homicide after I snap (there are THREE opened jars of strawberry jelly, two opened gallons of 1% milk and two opened packages of Parmesan cheese in my refrigerator right now), and have an endless supply of DVR'ed shows but none of them are appropriate for the inevitable audience which completely ignores the television when Willem watches things but flocks from far and wide when I try. I have a low-grade headache, low-grade menstrual cramps, and low-grade nausea.

Much of it is this thrice-bedamned fatigue. I just can't shake it. I'm so incredibly tired of being so incredibly tired - I keep nodding off, it's frankly embarrassing - and I'm even more tired of whining about being tired. I've taken to drinking coffee recently, which is really more a punishment than a cure, and even that doesn't keep me awake. My shins still hurt, too.

I must be a treat right now. I imagine that's why my family has been avoiding eye contact and leaving a six-foot radius when navigating around me.

I think this calls for ice cream.
Impending Doom
I haven't written about my mother-in-law here in ages. Which is odd, but nice, because she used to be a common topic of discussion and never in a good way.

She continues to act oddly and delusionally in the wake of my father-in-law's death, which was last August. She's playing this grieving-widow card to the maximum extent allowable by law, which is just creepy seeing as how when he was alive she was never able to string together a single, unconditional, nice statement about him. Even now, she talks about how he was The Love of her Life, but then has to qualify that with a remark about how flawed and unworthy he was. 'Tis bizarre.

A new, and possibly related, theme from her is this sudden attack of free love and rampant affection for all, including Yours Truly. Her normal means of communication is to call our house and, when I have the gall to answer my own phone in my own home, say, "Oh. Kate. Yeah, hi. Can I talk to my son?" (Always "my son," and I have never been her "daughter-in-law." I am her son's wife and the breeder of the grandchildren.) Recently, instead, she has been calling my husband's cell phone directly, and then asking to "just say hi to Kate" when they're done. Which is always awkward and uncomfortable, and makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. She has decided to kiss up to me as enthusiastically and simperingly as possible, and I cannot figure out why.

Cynical of me, I know, but I refuse to believe that she has actually made a decision to be nice to me simply for the sake of lessening the hostility and conflict in the world. I may be an incurable optimist and a naive, smiling infant set adrift in a cold, cruel world (or I may be sarcastic and suspicious, whatever), but I do have the capacity to learn. There were times in the past when she would begin to treat me nicely and I would buy into it, only to get hurt once again when she suddenly recalls that I am the Spawn of Satan brought unto the earth to steal away her son and her grandchildren. I'm not interested in being hurt again, because it would be all my fault for allowing it to happen. So I'm suspicious and cynical, waiting to figure out why she's been puckering up in the general vicinity of my derrière.

There's also the matter of Emily's vacation time. Last summer, she spent a week away at my mother's house, and it went swimmingly. This summer, she wants a week "or maybe two" at my mother's, and we're sending her to sleep-away camp for a full week, to be surrounded by strangers with unknown criminal records. But when my mother-in-law called to ask when Emily would be able to spend a week at her house, it triggered a several-week process of Willem and I trying to find a polite euphemism for "not until well after hell has frozen over."

It's not that I think that my mother-in-law is so wildly incompetent or toxic that I won't allow her to be alone with my children... not yet, anyway, though there's always time for that to develop. But right now, she's still acting oddly and delusionally, and I don't feel that it's right to leave her the responsibility of a bossy-and-headstrong 7-year-old for an extended period of time - nor do I think that said 7-year-old is quite ready to navigate the waters of grief and narcissism alone. So, no. Emily won't be spending a week at mother-in-law's alone this year.

As a compromise, Willem is taking both kids out for several days at the end of next week. This should, in theory, present the best of all possible worlds: she gets time alone with Her Son and the grandchildren, without my polluting presence, and we're not dealing with the doubts and worries of sending Emily alone. I don't know if mommy-in-law-dearest has quite figured out yet that this group visit means that there won't be an individual one... that'll be a fun conversation.

And until then, it's just this sense of impending doom in the face of niceness and limit-setting. Neither of which sits comfortably on the head of my mother-in-law.