Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Anatomy lessons

So I just finished reading Invisible Life by E. Lynn Harris for my book club. My friend aptly described it as soft-core gay black porn. (I know...you're starting to wonder what the heck kind of book club this is, right? We've picked some doozies in recent monts, for sure.) Regardless, the story of a black twenty-something bisexual male living in NYC at the pinnacle of the AIDS scare in the early 1990s sounds interesting, doesn't it? I mean, this is a seriously underrepresented topic and character set in mainstream fiction.

But the book sucks. Seriously. Bad. It's boring and over-explicated, saturated with details that don't help the story at all. Remember the advice in every college writing class to "show, don't tell"? There was way too much telling, practically no showing; this is the only book I have ever read in which I skipped 2-3 pages at a time and still knew what was happening (in fact, I could have predicted the entire thing after reading just the first chapter). I could think about at least five different ways to present the same story more creatively and interestingly. I read in the author's note that he had originally self-published it. A-ha! That explains a lot. Of course I'm biased, but the book could have used a professional editor, big time. (And, btw, the 120-something positive reviews of the book on Amazon really disappoint me.)

A few of the girls in book club and I have been giggling over the author's use, in most of the half-lurid sex scenes, of the term my sex (as in "I could feel my sex starting to rise in my pants" -- ugh) to describe the penis. Come on, man! Even my throbbing manhood would be better, honestly. The only term worse I've ever heard was from a friend in college who called it a himness. (I'm pretty sure she'd never seen a himness, mind you.)

I could get Sweet Boy to give E. Lynn a little anatomy lesson. After all, with all this potty training (and big-boy underpants wearing) my son is much more aware of his special purpose lately. Why, just this evening he enjoyed lying on his bed admiring his himness in the mirror as I tried to get him into his jammies, giggling all the while and yelling "Mommy, look at my peeee-nis! My peeenis! See it?! Ha ha. I like my peeenis." Awesome. Life lesson in "be careful what you wish for" -- no diaper means much easier access to the awe-inspiring, amazing, and amusing peeeeenis.

This all started me wondering, what are some of the fabulous words for male genitalia that you've heard? Or better, that you're family used when you were a kid? I think in my house it was always penie. Cute, but rather emasculating. But way better than my friend's family who called boys' and girls' parts weirdos. Oh, and I once heard my brother-in-law tell his son to stop playing with his chicken, which disturbed me immensely and surely has scarred the child (who is now 14...eek).

Happy thought

I'm feeling blue this week. No real reason for it, just a general let-down from the big wedding combined with a little bit of anxiety over all this economic biz. So, instead of getting all melancholy on you, I want to write about a happy time a few years back....

It was just about this time four years ago that I found out I was pregnant. Even though we had been trying to get pregnant for over a year and were feeling pretty stressed about that single aspect of life, it was a time of general hopefulness -- a presidential election year, the Red Sox in the World Series. My husband had been in the hospital through most of the month of August (he will tell you that all the "trying" is what landed him there, but don't believe it), so we were really just grateful to be together and healthy and young. We planned a big Halloween party to gather all our best friends around and just have a good time.

I took a pregnancy test the day before the party, which also happened to be the day after I'd attended a John Kerry rally. I had some clues that I might be pregnant -- nausea at the smell of coffee on the morning of the rally and an overwhelming need to wretch when I walked into the liquor store for the party booze -- mind you, coffee and beer are two of my favorite things -- so even though I'd been disappointed with every other test I'd taken that year, I mustered the courage and peed on the stick.

Much to my shock and amazement, two little pink lines showed up on the stick. So I took another test. And another. And another. And finally, unable to catch my breath or think straight, not sure if I felt nauseous because of pregnancy or excitement or anxiety or all of the above, I called my friend. I knew I couldn't tell Big Daddy over the phone, and I also knew that if I didn't tell someone, I would go nutty. So I squeaked the words out and I cried with my friend a little, and she helped me catch my breath and come back to earth.

I bought a tiny neutral colored layette to wrap up for my sweetie, since it was a couple days before his birthday. When he got home, though, I was so keyed up that he guessed the surprise the second I handed him the wrapped box. I don't think he even opened the box, come to think of it. We sat on the squishy little sofa in our condo and giggled and cried and cuddled the whole night. One of the most perfect days of my life.

We had the Halloween party and I didn't tell anyone, though I know my friends thought it odd that I wasn't enjoying any of the, um, adult beverages. (I was exhausted too...all that cell division is really hard work!) And on Halloween day we went to the Eagles game. I remember it all so clearly -- a brilliant fall day, warm and clear, and we sat in great seats with some of Hubby's coworkers. We were both giddy all day with our secret, feeling like every possibility that life could offer was just sitting there with us, waiting.

Monday, September 29, 2008

What next?

OK, folks. This is where I draw the line. First there was tainted pet food, then lead-painted toys. More recently and more upsetting was the melamine-enhanced baby formula. But now chocolate? Oh, I think not! I will not stand for that.

This article states that no U.S.-sold chocolate products have been affected. But this is small consolation. Cadbury, Kraft Foods, and Mars have been recalled in Indonesia, and the companies are performing their own tests of chocolate products made in China.

I've been wondering since the baby-food horror if there's any way to tell where the ingredients originate in the food we buy at the grocery market. At this point, I for one would rather not put anything into my body -- or into my child's body -- that comes from China. I suppose the only real way to know is to eat only locally grown, organic food. Or grow your own ingredients. But is that entirely realistic?

As if we don't have enough to worry about, what with the financial world collapsing etc. -- now we can't even rely on chocolate? I was planning, frankly, on assuaging my anxieties by eating lots and lots of chocolate. So now what?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

My best friend's wedding

My best friend got married yesterday. And when I say best friend, I'm talking sister-friend --- the friend I've known longest of my life, the one who has grown up by my side, the one I call when I need calming or laughter or love. This was a day that we have talked about since we were 11 years old, wiling away the hours swinging on her porch swing, walking barefoot around the neighborhood, swimming in her pool, lying on the floor in sleeping bags at slumber parties. Her big backyard wedding. With all our families and friends there, smiling and dancing and celebrating.

Her wedding day was exactly as we'd always dreamed. Slightly different only because there have been additions and subtractions in our worlds. My friend was gorgeous in her amazing old-Hollywood gown, the groom was relaxed and happy, the ceremony was beautiful, the family and friends were thrilled. It was all just completely wonderful. But I have never experienced so many emotions in one day, ever.

Of course there was the usual nervousness, as well as some bizarro anxieties that I am embarrassed to admit: Will I look like a hippo in my dress? Can I put on eye make-up without looking like a clown? What if I look ridiculously tall next to my groomsman partner and ruin all the photos? Seriously. My head was all over the place.

We girls rode to the church in a horse-drawn carriage, just as my friend had always talked about, and we were laughing and excited when we came into the church. I was not at all nervous to walk down the aisle and stand up in front of all those people; after all, they weren't there to see me, and most of them I have known since I was 11 anyway. But when I saw my friend at the back of the church beginning her walk down the aisle, and I looked out over that church full of smiling faces from my youth, I just about fell over in a heap of sobs. I cannot even describe that particular emotion, but I'm sure some of you have been there before -- a surge of nostalgia mixed with relief and joy combined with excitement. I wasn't expecting to feel all those things at that moment, but I was literally chewing on the inside of my cheek to keep from just losing all control.

Another emotion I wasn't expecting to feel on this day of romance was anger. Ironic, isn't it, that while I celebrated with my best friend and her new husband I felt such anger with my own husband? Apparently I hadn't made my expectations of him clear enough. I should have specifically asked him to show a bit of happiness, maybe even dance once or twice or talk to my family. I probably should have specifically asked him to be 100% in charge of our son so I could have a good time and not worry about feeding, changing diapers, or cleaning snotty noses for a few hours. Or maybe I should have explained that he could watch the highlights from the Phillies game on SportsCenter later. Oh, how he pissed me off! I tried my damnedest not to start anything, but add a couple beers to the equation and it's hard to keep my mouth shut. We didn't spend any time together until the ride home...during which time I explained how he'd really let me down.

Otherwise, I experienced acute happiness. I had a fabulous time at the reception. We all danced and danced and danced. And laughed and drank and laughed and drank. My friend and her new husband were relaxed and happy and smoochy. The families were relaxed and happy, too.

I have a regret today, though. I didn't make the toast that I'd prepared. My friend never really asked me to do it, although I think she'd expected it. The DJ didn't make any mention, ever, nor did he stop the meal or the festivities to make any opening for a toast. The groom's best friend had prepared something, but he didn't feel comfortable stopping the party either. And I was afraid that since my friend hadn't asked me, it might embarrass her if I just grabbed the mic. I thought my sentimental and mushy comments would have embarrassed her more (she is really uncomfortable being the center of attention, even on her wedding day). So I just didn't do it. But I heard today that the groom's best friend did make his toast at the end of the night, after I'd left and only a few friends remained. Today I feel really sad about that, like I let her down. But more than that...I wish I could have said out loud the things I was feeling yesterday. It really was a day that I'd looked forward to for a lifetime, and now for the rest of my life I'll think, dammit, I wish I'd just opened my mouth.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Little wonders trump big anxieties

Our lives are made
In these small hours
These little wonders,
These twists & turns of fate
Time falls away,
But these small hours,
These small hours still remain

This is the chorus of a sweet little pop song by Rob Thomas that's been running through my head since, oh, about July when Sweet Boy turned 3. As those of you closest to me know, I've become a sentimental, mushy, teary mess in the last few months, mostly because I'm watching this amazing little person grow and change every day, and even though I don't really miss the baby times, I feel that it's all going way too quickly. If you're not familiar with this song, take a listen:

It seems in the last couple years the daily, mundane concerns that we all deal with -- debt, bills, our kids' safety, our spouse's happiness, our boss's expectations -- have been compounded by the currents in the country and the world. This has been further compounded for me by the fact that all of this poo started hitting the fan right around the time I became a parent and homeowner with a ridiculously large mortgage, which of course made me an official adult with officially large responsibilities. Frankly, I am not sure I like it, all this adulthood nonsense, but it is what it is.

As much as I try to live my life aware of but not completely caught up in the gigantic threats looming always overhead -- war, terrorism, economic collapse, agh! -- every now and then I succumb to one of these big ol' nasties, and I get really worried about something that's completely beyond my control. (And sometimes, as is the case this week, the stuff I'm afraid of is frankly a bit beyond my comprehension.)

But did you ever just have one of those moments when you think to yourself, wow, look how good my life is right now in this minute? Self, you must hang on to this one moment, just in case it all falls apart while you sleep tonight or while you go about your day tomorrow. I think these are the little wonders Rob Thomas is singing about. I experienced such a moment tonight. I was in the kitchen clearing dishes, watching my husband and son play football in our backyard. The sun had set, but there was just enough light for me to see their beaming smiles, and it was quiet enough that their giggles seemed to echo off the trees. An inexplicable calm settled on me -- a rare moment when I just thought, yeah, this is it, this is what it's all about. I'm thinking this is what a Buddhist would call being in the moment. It was lovely.

And then suddenly I heard a voice on the TV, which was on CNN in the other room. I'd missed the nightly news, so I'd put the tube on in the background, just to hear the headlines. Big mistake. I think it was Lou Dobbs and some other talking heads, all riled up about the economic baloney that's taking place. They were bandying about bogeyman phrases like "total economic ruin," and "collapse of the world economy." It reminded me of one of those blockbuster disaster movies, the scene when the anchor man calmly tells the viewer that a meteor is headed toward New York City, then the camera pans around from one worried, stricken face to another. At one point, the CNN guy said something along the lines of "Americans don't scare easily." Ha. Really? You're doing a fabulous job of stirring up some scare, friend, and I'm pretty sure all your ratings are based on American fear.

Anyway, this juxtaposition of ideal suburban existence that was taking place in my backyard against the screaming, panic-inducing all-news network in the background really caught me up. Of course I immediately turned off the TV. Then I stood at the back door and just soaked in some of that scene instead -- the two sweaty, laughing fellas rolling in the grass who make up my entire universe. And I thought, OK, who cares if the entire world economy collapses? I've got enough right here. Plenty of small hours, little wonders all around me. The rest will fall away.

(Remind me next time I start freaking out about presidential campaigns, investment banks, pointless wars, or anything else that's way beyond my control, ok?)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Banana Zachary and other name nightmares

I had a nightmare when I was pregnant that I gave birth to a boy and named him Banana Zachary...and people kept mispronouncing it as Banana Daiquiri. Which, of course, would have been a perfectly acceptable name if I were a celebrity...

I don't usually love Babble.com, but every now and then they do a funny little list like this Worst Celebrity Baby Names diddy. Check it out, if you'd like to giggle at an innocent child's unfortunate parentage. Far be it for me of the unusual name to criticize anyone's choice of baby name. But really -- Audio Science? Pilot Inspektor? Reighnbeau? Come on!

Some of these kids will luck out and not really have to be taken seriously in their lifetimes because their parents are that high in the celebrosphere. However, poor Puck's child will certainly face repercussions as he gets older. It'll be interesting to find out if, down the line, while all the Toms, Joes, and Mikes in the world are begging to be called names like Moxie, Peyote, and Seven, will these celebrity children be begging for people to call them nicknames like Tom, Joe, or Mike?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Dentist

Today was Sweet Boy's first visit to the dentist, a pediatric dentist who was recommended by my hairdresser. (I know...first mistake.)

Sweet Boy loved it. Nonstop Nick Jr. playing in the waiting room, fancy chair to ride in, grape-flavored toothpaste, sunglasses to keep the bright light out of his eyes, prize for being a good boy, a new toothbrush with dinosaurs on it, and his photo on the "no cavities" wall -- what's not to love?

Mommy, on the other hand, did not love it. We had to wait over 30 minutes just to get into the exam room, which of course sent me right into my snappy-huffy place. The hygienist was good about explaining everything to Sweet Boy before she did it, though, so she gained a couple points back.

But I have met DMV clerks with more personality than this dentist. When he entered the room, he didn't even say hello or introduce himself to either of us. Then he proceeded to chastise my child for not sitting still while he picked at his teeth with that curved pointy tool (btw, the Boy was very well-behaved and really only flinched when he got jabbed in the cheek with said pointy tool). "Who brushes this child's teeth?" he asked. "Must be a two-person job; he's so unruly." Get bent, Doc...he's three, this is his first dental exam, and you just stabbed his gums with metal!

He then told me my son's jaw is crowded, and he would most likely need braces someday. Gee, big surprise -- I discovered upon walking into this doc's office that he's not only a pediatric dentist but also an orthodondist. Braces are his life blood, so of course my child's jaw is crowded.

The highlight of the 2-minute exam, however, came when he informed me that my son's frenum (that little piece of tissue underneath your tongue) is "restricted." Here's the convo:
Doc: Hmm, he's a big restricted under here.
Me: Oh?
Doc: Does he have any speech problems?
Me: Not that I've noticed...
Doc: Hmph.
Me: What does that mean?
Doc: silence...

And then he just left the room. WTF? So I'm sitting there wondering what the hell it means to be restricted, so I asked the hygienist once more. She said sometimes if a child has a restricted frenum, he might have trouble pronouncing certain sounds, but 9 times out of 10 it's not a big deal because he can learn to pronounce them with practice. (A little bit of internet research this afternoon confirmed this, too.)

Would that have been so difficult for Dr. Dickwad to tell me?

His "hmph" sounded like he didn't believe me that my son doesn't have any speech problems. Just like he didn't believe me that I brush Sweet Boy's teeth by myself without strapping him into some sort of restraining device.

Regardless of my perceptions of the exam and the dentist, Sweet Boy was so happy with the whole experience that he asked me at bedtime if we could go back to the dentist tomorrow. Not likely, darling, not likely.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A bed of one's own

I heard an interesting statistic on the radio this morning: 23% of all married couples sleep in separate beds. And most of these folks say it has improved their relationship. Hmm.

We've all heard (or lived) the tales of spouses who snore so loud that the other can't get a wink. Or one spouse pulls the covers off the other, leaving shmoopy to freeze his or her tushie off all night. Then there are the toss-and-turners, the spread-outers, or the get-up-to-pee-5-timers. For whatever reason, at least 23% of couples have admitted to living a la Lucy and Desi -- don't you wonder how many others have not admitted it?

I can imagine that yes, sleeping separately could improve your relationship. I mean, when you don't sleep for days on end, you get bitchy, irritable, angry, irrational. I get mean when Big Daddy snores loud enough to wake me up -- I have been known to throw elbows and knees to get him to roll over -- and I punish him with snarky comments for days afterward if I am even the tiniest bit sleepy. (It's been tough in my house this week because of our head colds, which means I'm waking up Big Daddy when blowing my nose every 10 minutes, and he's waking me up with the snoring...I'll be in the guest bed tonight myself!) So I can imagine that if a couple has suffered through one or the other's sleeping issues for long enough, they will really start to dislike each other. Lack of sleep truly could destroy a marriage.

So then I started wondering, who's idea was it, really, that man and wife should share a bed? I mean, sure there are the obvious practical reasons why this is a good (and sometimes fun) idea. But realistically, don't we all want our own space? Can you recall the days when you would sprall all over the bed without worrying about clocking your sweety with an elbow? And wouldn't it be nice to get dressed in the morning without your significant other getting dressed right beside you?

I'll ponder this some more as I tuck into my own little corner of my giant bed tonight -- with husband spread out to my left and cats on my feet, leaving enough room in the center for the boy to sneak in around 3 a.m.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Energy crisis update

Remember my electric bill rant from last month?

Turns out I am not alone. Take a look at yesterday's front-page story here in Delaware. I'm no expert, but it looks an awful lot like Horizon Power and Light is price gouging. Read this little segment of the article, and you'll recognize some similarities in our electric experience:

McGinnis had agreed in October to a contract with Horizon Power and Light, a
competitive provider in Delaware offering a discount to Delmarva Power
Her rate was a lean 11.01 cents per kilowatt hour -- below the 11.16 Delmarva was charging, a monthly savings of about $1.50 if she used 1,000 kwh per month.
All was fine until this summer, when her bills started to go way up. She said she didn't see a rate increase on her bills, just an oversized bottom line. The company told her the rate had increased after May 31 to 19.8 cents per kwh -- an 80 percent increase just in time for summer air conditioning season.
"They are ripping people off," McGinnis said. "I'm an educated person. I can't find out what they're doing to me here
McGinnis is one of more than 50 people who have filed complaints with the
Public Service Commission in recent weeks against Horizon, which had 3,109
Delaware customers as of October 2007.
"We're deeply concerned," said PSC Executive Director Bruce Burcat. The complaints vary but price was the "common thread," he said. "It's not a minor boost. They're talking about significant increases in their rates."

Very interesting, is it not? Didn't we already suffer enough two years ago, when the prices spiked up 60%? Say what you will about energy deregulation, but no matter how you spin it or whose side you're on, this is not right.

I'll be filing a formal complaint with the PSC this week, and if you've had similar experience with Horizon, I urge you to do the same. Spread the word, too, because people like me received e-mails from trusted friends (and my HR representative!) when Horizon was offering this "deal" so I have a feeling many of us signed up without truly understanding the fine print.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dance your ass off!

Right now I am running on about 2 hours of sleep. I have not done this in a long, long time. I think I might still be a little bit drunk, too, 20 hours later. That hasn't happened since, oh, 1997. My ears are still ringing, and my knees are still throbbing. But last night was one of the most fun of my life.

I've done the bachelorette party thing before, but never with my 20-year best friends. We were not only celebrating the end of our friend's single-hood, we were celebrating just being together for a night, with no other responsibilities or cares. It was fabulous.

We started the evening with some sushi and wine, then hit the local pub for a shot, then on to meet the rest of the girls for the dance party. We drank and we danced and we laughed and we drank -- I lost count of my consumption around seven Long Island iced teas -- and we danced and we danced and we danced.

The night wrapped up around 2:30am with the DJ playing a 20-minute block of 80s dance stuff -- Prince! Sheila E! Madonna! Rob Base! New Kids! -- and the five of us who remained just took over the dance floor. It was like junior high plus booze minus the self-consciousness. There is nothing like drunken dancing without reserve, when you don't care about who is watching and you feel like you are a mother-effing rock star. Especially when you are dancing with your sister-friends. (And seriously, at one point I was dancing out my lifelong fantasy of being one of the members of The Revolution.)

I ended up in my Bubba's bed (with the 100-lb. chocolate lab between us), girl-talking until 5am. Then I had to get up at 7am to drive back to Delaware so I could teach Sunday school. I know what you're thinking -- how appropriate and truly Tall Girl style to teach Kindergartners about Jesus after a night of total debauchery: "Well, kids, I believe that our Lord is a fun-loving, forgiving Lord. He doesn't mind when I smell like this. He also adores dancing to old skool rap from time to time."

The real kick of the entire weekend, though, was when I got to church, I kept myself awake through the worship service, then headed to the Sunday school classroom --where I discovered that I'm scheduled to teach NEXT Sunday. Excellent. I could have snuggled with Bubba and the dog at least another 3 hours.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Here she goes again

Dear reader, I'm sorry that this is another political-themed post. You can skip it; I won't be offended.

But -- I just read another of Judith Warner's anti-Palin columns in the NYTimes, though this one has a very different tone than last week's. I suppose one is bound to get a bit frightened when completely immersed in a group of folks who are ideologically different than oneself, so I'll cut her some slack.

I will not, however, cut her any slack on this: In this column, she's setting up working moms (who, I suppose, she sees as more liberal, progressive, and forward-thinking) against stay-at-home moms (who she seems to set up as the dumb conservatives). This is offensive. I'll say it one more time: We women need all the support we can get from one another, regardless of our working and childrearing situations, and we should not be playing this us-against-them crap! How can this seemingly enlightened columnist fall in to such stereotypical thinking? I'm going to chalk it up to writer's block and a tight deadline -- maybe she's just having a difficult time coming up with a new spin on Palin, what with the rest of the news media going berzerk on the topic and all.

As always in these columns, the comments prove to be the real food for thought. Unlike last week's column, the comments here are much more, shall we say, bipartisan -- meaning, both liberals and conservatives, Obamaniacs and Palin-drones alike have weighed in.

This comment, especially, caught my attention (I've added the italics for emphasis):

"Here she is the super Sarah doll, an action figure who raises five kids, has a handsome husband and governs Alaska on the side. What more could America want? Her appeal is real to overworked women who have kids and a job. The question is can the Dems make clear to these women that she is a role model who doesn't wish to accord them privacy in their doctor conferences or their sex lives. She’s not much on observing free speech or the right to read freely. Dems must make clear what programs they will enact to support working women and do it quickly."

Here, here! Why are you not speaking up about this stuff, Barack? Joe? I've heard you speak about recognizing and valuing families as they are in modern society -- and I'm all for it. But how about speaking more definitively on the individual issues the really touch American moms?

I did just take heart to read another NYTimes article about the Obama campaign stepping it up a notch (about time!) in their advertising and speaking engagements. One of the topics we'll start hearing more about is equitable pay for women (though who knows how he could make this happen...short of just sending us all checks, which of course, the Bushies managed to do this year).

Barack, you need to devote more air time to your ideas on family leave -- paid maternity leave for women and men. Often the birth of a child and subsequent unpaid time off is the difference between living comfortably or just squeaking by -- and it's often the biggest factor in throwing a family into poverty. Speak up, too, about how you'll work for paid sick leave for everyone, so a single mother doesn't have to make the decision between feeding her family or caring for her sick child!

How about talking more about how your universal healthcare plan can help families with only one income? And how will you support research on HIV/AIDS and cancer, so we can finally stop living in fear of lumps?

Why aren't you really hammering home your ideas about early childhood education and how you'll ensure quality daycare and after-school programs? And how will you make sure our kids can afford college educations when the time comes?

Tell us how you'll invest in more women-owned businesses, increase the minimum wage, and protect social security?

Speak up, Barack! Tell us what you want to do for us! I've read your website, and I know you have great ideas. The rest of the country needs to see and hear you speaking on these issues. Now!

I truly hope the Democrats roll up their sleeves and emphatically take on some of these "women's issues" -- because, really, they're American issues...but 52% of us are women. I hope, too, that more of us will engage our sisters in intelligent discussion about what aMcCain/Palin Washington would mean for this country. You may talk about electing a woman as VP as a historical step forward, but Palin's policies would mean a tragic step backward. (And by the way, her policies are much more right-wing than McCain's -- we haven't heard much from him lately, though, have we?) But please, please, don't let this turn into an abortion-rights thing -- this election is about so much more, which frankly is one of the things that troubles me most about Palin as a legitimate candidate for any major office...she's stuck in time.

To quote my dear friend, Sarah Palin is George Bush with a vagina. Don't be fooled, ladies!

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Do you ever have one of those weeks when you just feel grumpy about everything, when the little daily things just annoy and overwhelm? I'm having one of those weeks: My house is a mess, my yard is a mess, my checkbook's a mess. My kid just whines and cries at me constantly, my husband is home late every night, and they both just piss me off. Work is consistently aggravating. I'm short-tempered and bitchy. It's an ugly week.

Then this morning I got in the car to drive Sweet Boy to school, dread creeping in because I know he's going to scream and carry on when I drop him off. So I take a deep breath. After all, it's a beautiful almost-autumn morning. As we pull out of the driveway, a plane passes overhead. And I realize it's 8:45 on September 11th.

Suddenly I'm thinking about that horrible day in 2001 when we all lost so much. I recall the clear blue sky and the panic and the nausea. I recall the sharpness of the images but the fuzziness of my thoughts.

I remember the flood of relief when my brother phoned to tell me he was safe; he had missed his bus that morning and didn't make it to the audition in Manhattan. Instead he was standing on his front porch, witnessing the towers fall across the river from his house. He was crying and didn't know what was really happening; the only words I could understand were "it's a bomb! All I can see is smoke!" And I could only squeak out "Please God please God please God." I don't know what I was asking for, but I just kept praying it. From that moment, we didn't speak, but we stayed on the phone for 40 minutes, afraid to cut that connection. Just the sound of breath on the line kept us both calm.

I remember driving home from work in a fog -- they closed the office early because no one really knew what to do -- then gluing my eyes to the television when I got home, as if just seeing that the news anchors were still on the air meant that the world was still turning. The phone lines were all tied up, and I remember when Big Daddy walked through the door of our apartment, I just held on to him, just clung to him because he was the only thing I was sure of.

And I remember driving down I-95 on September 12th and thinking why is it so painfully bright today? I sobbed my way to the office that day, but I know I wasn't the only one crying on the highway.

September 11th was the worst day. Period. But I was one of the lucky few who didn't know anyone personally who was lost that day. Suddenly in this brief few minutes of remembering all the grumpies about the daily miscellany of my ugly week have left me. I've regained some perspective.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hooray for giant babies

Just read that Minnie Driver gave birth to a whopping 9lb-12oz baby boy (and she gave him a pretty normal name, as far as celebrity baby names go, Henry Story Driver).

Rock on, tall girl! I knew I liked you, Minnie, and now you may join my giant-baby club.

Even better, the pregnancy was unplanned, she's not revealing the baby-daddy, and she's not planning on getting married. Eat your heart out, Sarah Palin!

(Oh, wait...Minnie Driver's not American. So Sarah probably doesn't object. Well, I'm sure she objects to Minnie's not being American...but you know what I mean.)

UPDATE -- October 7, 2008
Another reason Minnie Driver's at the top of my Cool Moms List -- she posted her first baby photos on MySpace instead of selling them to a tabloid mag...you go, tall girl!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The scale is in the trash!

That's right, folks. You read it correctly. The bathroom scale is in the trash. I threw it out this morning. Because it's broken.

No joke. It's broken. Truly. I'm not just saying that because I don't like what it says. (Even though it would be soooo nice to blame that nasty number on a broken scale!)

This morning when I stepped on, the little dial just spun round and round and round. At first I interpreted this as my girls' weekend of nonstop drinking and snacking catching up with me in a big way. Agh!

But then I realized that the scale was, in fact, broken! Oh happy day! And I hummed a joyful little tune as I threw it violently into the bin, making some kind of girl-power declaration about it ruling my life no more.

But then I started thinking...can I live without the weekly dose of self-hatred that the scale delivers? Will not defining myself by the number of the scale just make me blissfully ignorant, lazy, and gluttonous? I mean, I love food. Eating makes me very happy (and exercising makes me very unhappy). The scale in the bathroom keeps me in check. So my anxiety is this: If I don't step on that scale every Tuesday morning (and sometimes Fridays, too), will I just pack on the pounds, until I'm so out of touch with the reality of my weight that someday they'll be pulling my gigantic corpse out the window with a crane? (Or worse...burning down the house to save me from that shame, a la Gilbert Grape!)

Unlikely. But terrifying.

I have been 6'2" since I was like 13. Which means I have been right around the same weight since then, up or down 20 lbs here and there. (Of course this doesn't include the pregnancy, during which time I packed on 65 lbs, delivered a 10.5-lb baby, then promptly lost 40 lbs in two weeks...those were the days, weren't they?) So you'd think that by this time, in almost 20 years, I'd be used to that big, high number staring me in the face every Tuesday morning.

Instead each Tuesday I step on the scale before my shower, completely nude and empty-stomached so as to get a "true weight" reading, and I optimistically think "today's the day the Fat Fairy came in my sleep and granted my wish to be thin, thin, thin!" I take a deep breath and hop on --- and then I see that the Fat Fairy has once again skipped my house, and I despair and moan all throughout my shower, and then I change my outfit seven times because I'm so fat, fat, fat. It's ridiculous. A horrible weekly exercise in self-loathing.

Why am I still so ruled by that number on the scale? I'm smart and lovely and strong. And I'm active and healthy and happy, despite being overweight. Sadly, I'm not sure I can live without that scale. I'm already freaking out a little bit. The Fat Fairy only visits houses with working bathroom scales, you see, so I'd better go get a replacement scale immediately. One of these days that bitch will visit and make all my thin dreams come true.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Ceilings abound

I promise I will not let political discussion take over this blog as it has the TV, radio, internet, water cooler, grocery-store queue, and dinner table. At least I'll try not to.

But these last two weeks have been heavy, have they not? The soaring highs after the Obamas' speeches, followed quickly by the plummeting lows of the Palin nom and the Republican convention speeches. You all know I'm a registered Democrat with fairly liberal views, and I have been longing to see a woman in the White House since, oh, toddlerhood (which is around the time I first became aware of politics, watching my parents pace and wring their hands in front of the TV, watching the results being tallied after the 1980 election).

But Sarah Palin is not the woman who should get that first chance. The announcement of her candidacy initially made me laugh out loud at obvious Republican pandering. But then the more I read about Palin's views, the more I started to wonder if I was, in fact, in an alternate dimension: Alaska secessionist? gun-toting pro-lifer? abstinence-only sex education (with a pregnant teenage daughter)? polar bears removed from the endangered species list to make it easier to get to Alaska's oil? Her biography gets more absurd the more I read.

So I've had some fairly bipolar moments this week, to say the least, jumping between laughter to rage to sentimentality pretty quickly. But today I read this column by Judith Warner, a working mom who writes regularly for the NY Times. Read it. Please. It's like she pulled off the top of my head, reached inside, and put all my thoughts into words much more articulately than I ever could.

But more importantly, read some of the comments posted, too. These, especially, may restore your faith that there are other smart women out there who really are paying attention. Maybe the hope can creep back in, and push the other noise aside for a while.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

First day of preschool

As I packed Sweet Boy off for his first day of preschool this morning, I wrote a quick note to his new teachers about some of the potty stuff we've been working on. Mostly the fact that Sweet Boy has been seriously opposed to sitting on the potty at all with us. And I didn't want them to be shocked, for instance, when he walked up to them and said "I pooped. Change my diaper" because we have trained him to say this so he doesn't either (a) have a horrendous diaper rash from sitting in his own poo for hours, or (b) try to change his own mess, thus creating a god-awful nightmarish poop fiasco.

When I picked him up this afternoon, a small folded-over paper greeted me from his cubby. At first I was alarmed, because usually a note home means my child has bonked another child in the eye with a toy car. But not this time. Instead, this one made me smile:
Hi Mr. and Mrs. B.,
Thanks for your note. He had a pretty good day and used the potty for us several times, so were were pleased with that. He seemed to be enjoying himself in the new room, and I think he tried every toy on every shelf---he was like a kid in a candy store! He took a good nap, but we had to move his mat a few times (he was a little chatty).

This note will be carefully taped into Sweet Boy's baby book. Maybe I'm reading more into this than I should, but in just a couple lines, she captured the things that make my kid so great.

Oh, and tonight he put on a little sing-and-dance show for my camcorder. It was fabulously entertaining. Now if someone could just help me figure out how to get the images off the camcorder tape...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Standing at a crossroads

I received some troubling-but-not-surprising news the other day. The hospital in Ohio that I was hoping would take on Musa's treatment has finished deliberating his case. They are not able to take him on pro bono at this time. And if their estimates for his care are accurate, we'd have to come up with at least $60,000 to pay the bills. I don't know what to do...keep going, or call it in?

If you are unfamiliar with Musa, so here's the brief back story (or, at least, as brief as I can write it): Musa is a little boy who lives in Freetown, Sierra Leone, the nephew of a friend from my church. He suffers from Hirschprung Disease, which is a chronic blockage of his intestine. He has had five surgeries in his 11 years. And now he lives with what's termed a "primitive colostomy," which means his large intestine protrudes from his body and rests in a colostomy bag, along with his waste. Last year when my sister was in Freetown working with IOM for five months, Musa's family opened their hearts and home to her, which is how I became aware of Musa's condition.

Hirschprung Disease is treatable and manageable in most Western countries -- in the US it would have been handled before his 1st birthday -- and Musa's physician in Freetown fully believes that his colostomy could be repaired with what's known as a pull-through procedure (in which the colon is essentially put back together) -- but it cannot be done in Sierra Leone, a nation ranked consistently at the bottom of the UN's human development reports (in 2005 SL was ranked 177 out of 177 countries).

When my sister told me about Musa, I approached his uncle here in Wilmington to discuss how we could bring Musa here for treatment. I talked to my minster and some people at my church, and we started a full-on blitz of local hospitals, doctors, and medical supply companies. At the time, Musa's immediate need was colostomy bags. I contacted some medical supply reps, and one lovely sales person at Hollister International immediately offered to help. She sent a shipment of bags and other supplies to Musa, and has vowed to send supplies for free for as long as he needs them. This is huge, right? And it fueled my hope that we could do even more.

So I then started on the bigger project -- finding a hospital willing to take the case... pro bono or at least at a substantial discount. To keep this as short as possible, I will only say that I went to every local hospital (Philadelphia, Southern NJ, Delaware) and was turned down (or re-directed) by every one. Meanwhile, I reached out to lawyers and immigration folks who could help us with getting Musa and his mother here. Project Musa became all-consuming. I spent much of each day from January through May trying to find a hospital, doctor, or organization to champion our case.

In early May I heard from a doctor in Ohio, a parishioner of my minister's best friend. He happens to be on the board at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, and he felt very strongly that his hospital could help. He took Musa's case before numerous docs and boards for review, got a few docs to co-sponsor and donate their time, and went to bat for us with the financial people. He was, indeed, an answer to prayer, and I really held on to hope that Nationwide would be our hospital. His minister even started mobilizing a care team of people in their church who would shepherd Musa and his mother through the months that they'd have to be in the U.S.

But, as the summer months came and went, I started to realize that Musa's chances at Nationwide were dwindling. And finally last Friday I received the e-mail that said the budget for international aid had been cut, and there were more urgent cases that bumped Musa down on the list. Nationwide is not our hospital after all.

So here I sit, nine months after I learned of Musa. At a crossroads, I suppose. I just don't know what to do. I have been praying for some sort of direction all weekend, and so far, I'm directionless. I knew this was bigger than me when I took it on, but I didn't realize until now just how much bigger than me it really is.

I e-mailed my contact at Hollister immediately Friday, to find out if they were still on board with a sponsorship, but I'm not so hopeful there. I think to everyone I've spoken to, at first helping a little boy in a remote corner of Africa sounds like a fabulous idea, but when it's time to put up some cash, maybe there are bigger, further reaching ways to spend it. Which is why I have a very hard time asking my church congregation or local organizations to help raise the money. I mean, we're talking tens of thousands of dollars here for a mission project. Usually mission projects help multiple people, families, villages, etc. And $60,000 could help a lot of villages.

But on the other hand, what's the price of one child's life? If it were my child, I would want someone somewhere would fight. And I want to be the fighter for Musa. But I also have to be practical and consider the toll that bringing him and his mother here for 6 months could take on his family. Just getting a visa alone could cost his mother her job because she'd have to travel to Ghana to interview; Ghana is two countries away, which could take days to traverse. And of course if they come here, who will look after her other two children? How will those children fare without their mother for all that time? How will the family fare without her income? Would he have care in Sierra Leone if needed after the procedure here? The family has assured us that they are willing to do whatever it takes, but I don't want to do more harm than good. These are the questions that make me feel it's time to stop pushing.

Musa is not in immediate danger. In fact, I hear he is gaining weight and is relatively healthy. Wonderful. He has medical supplies coming on a regular basis, which is far more than his family dreamed of only a year ago. Still I am haunted by the photos of his mother cleaning his exposed intestine, pushing it back into his body so she can attach the colostomy bag. My stomach lurches when I think about the anguish she and his father must feel to know that he is always just a hand-washing away from a fatal infection. My heart breaks when I hear his uncle here in Delaware beating himself up for not being able to help in a more substantial way. If this primitive colostomy is left untreated, what will Musa's quality of life be as he gets older? Will he be able to work and contribute to the family? Will he be able to have a family of his own? Or, will he be a social outcast? I don't know. These are the questions that make me feel I need to keep pushing.

But I really don't know what to do at this point.

Other than to continue to pray for direction. And to thank God every day that my own child is healthy and whole, and that he was born in a country where he could be treated for something like this.