Sunday, November 29, 2009


Turns out, I really was in early labor. I didn't mean to leave anyone hanging, it's just that I've been kind of occupied with this little ball of baby boy, and that doesn't leave a whole lot of time for writing.

More than the physical and mental occupation with our son, I'll be honest and just put it out there that I'm terrified. I can't say it anywhere else without people looking at me like I might be too overwhelmed and at risk of throwing the baby out on trash day. (Which, let me be clear, is not what's happening here.) I'm just... it's just a lot. It's more than I thought it would be, and it's harder than I imagined, and I'm scared. When I say I'm scared, people look at me like I need medication. Maybe I do, I don't know, but the details are as follows:

My son was born a month early, at 5lbs 3oz... (I did it on my own, by the way. No medication, 12 hours of contractions 1 minute long/2 minutes apart, 2 hours of active pushing. I'm kind of proud of that.) He dropped to 5lbs 4oz, and was hardly maintaining there for a week... He had one bowel movement in the first two weeks, which is highly unusual, and we had to start supplementing with formula because I was starving my son by breastfeeding exclusively. And holy shit, can I just say that hurts so incredibly bad to even TYPE, no wonder people don't want to hear me SAY it...

Now at a month old, he's up to 6lbs 6oz, which is almost the size of a 'normal' newborn. I thank God every twenty seconds that he's growing... But his stomach is a mystery that the doctors can't crack. He screams for hours in obvious pain, and is constipated terribly. We've tried every stupid thing they can throw at us, even giving him diluted juice and Karo syrup in an attempt to give him diarrhea. So yeah, we're trying to make him sick to make him better... Again, I can hardly even type those words... Now the doctors are throwing around words like "barium" and "extensive tests" and "possible intestinal abnormalities" and I want to throw myself into fucking traffic because this can't be happening. It has to be a dream, and everyone knows that if you die in a dream you wake up. Or is it that you die in your sleep? Either way... Anything would be better than this not knowing, this inability to help my son.

He's just so little, yaknow..? He's so small, and he's in so much pain, and they aren't helping him, and I just want to scream ALL THE TIME. Babies aren't supposed to know pain. We're supposed to be able to protect them - I'm supposed to be able to protect him - and I can't. And I'm afraid this is what insanity feels like. A month is hardly any length of time in the big scheme of things, but it's an eternity when there's no sleep for you (literally three hours a night, that's how much sleep I'm getting) and no relief for your child. A month is forever.

So if there's no improvement by tomorrow I have to take him to the hospital, and I can't even think about what that means right now. I just keep staring at him, thinking stupidly that if I stare hard enough I'll be able to figure out what's the matter and fix it. I stare and hope and pray, and I hold my fucking breath until I think I'm going to die because its all I can do. And it's not enough.

That's what I've been up to... What about everyone else? What's been going on outside this tiny universe of mine?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

I blew my cork. Except less 'blew' and more 'slipped away like Wilson from the raft.'

So remember when I said I'd shortly be writing about a reoccurring dream I've had my whole life? Yeah, that was a lie. I didn't know it was when I told it, but woops! Pesky ol' LIFE got in the way and what do you know, I'm in the early stages of labor. Or, uh, the stages of Early Labor? Or whatever. I don't know. It depends on which book you read, but apparently the only thing keeping me from firing an infant out of my patunia like a cannon ball is that my water hasn't broken yet.

That seems like a flimsy barrier, yaknow? A bag of fluid is all that's standing between me and having a person coming out of my pelvis. I keep kind of looking down and going, "Really?" because, REALLY? There's a person that's going to come out of there? Whatever. That's got to be a joke or a dirty rumor that someone started when they were high on glue.

Without getting too personal and queasy, let me tell you what's already happening with my vagina. (How contradictory am I? Shut up, it's cute.)

- I'm dilated to 2 cm, and have been for about a week. My doc put me on 'modified bed rest' - which means that I can come to my sitting-on-my-ass-type job and SIT, and I can go home and lie down, but that's it. No walking around, no doing anything. No lifting anything heavier than a gallon of milk, wtf.
- The baby has most definitely moved down. I can breathe now, but the trade off is that I can hardly walk, because there's like this SKULL inside my PELVIS and holy shit OW. Well, not really ow. But more... owwww. Not really painful, but decidedly uncomfortable.
- I started losing my mucus plug yesterday. (I have to whisper 'mucus plug,' when I say it out loud, by the way, and follow it up with an ambivalent 'whatever,' as in, "I'm losing my mucus plug or whatever." Because there's something weird about saying 'mucus' when you're talking about your downstairs. So in an effort to make talking about it less awkward, I've taken to calling it my Cooter Cork, and that makes me laugh so hard I almost pee every time I say it. In addition to the peeing, it feels like my abdomen is going to rip open ala some terrible horror movie every time I laugh, because it's SO TIGHT and FULL OF BEBEH OMGZ.)
- I've started cramping low in my back and belly. It's a vague, menstrual period kind of cramping.
- I'm 36 weeks pregnant.

Now, all of these really vague, contradictory and mysterious books and Internet sites I've been scouring tell me that early labor can last like, twenty seconds, or it can go on for fucking WEEKS. Because who knows! The female body is a strange and mystical thing that no one could ever possibly understand!

So... Any advice? I have my hospital bag packed. I've got everything all ready to go. It's just... uh... Hm. I'm kind of worried that I'm going to be doing this crampy, achy, vaguely labory thing for A LONG TIME, and that makes me want to go up to the Walmarts and start doing bicep curls in the diary section to get things kicked off.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Monkey hijack.

I know no one is interested in hearing about what another person dreams. Dreams never make any sense, and they're always kind of anticlimactic and weird. You never ask to hear about them, but instead it comes on in a sort of bum rush hijack. Like a mugging. You see someone at the grocery store and they're like, "Oh my gosh, so, speaking of bananas. The other night I had this dream where a monkey broke into my car through the bumper, and I went outside to see what the ruckus was, and I could see this bigass monkey in the passenger seat of my car. He was like... looking at me. So I went back inside to get Mr. Husband, and when we came back out, the monkey had ripped the entire car apart! And I said, "Fucking monkey!" and then I woke up and I'd peed the bed. What do you think that means?"

I think it means you need to not drink so much coffee before bed. Strike that. I think you need to not drink coffee EVER, especially when you know you're going to the grocery store and might run into an unassuming acquaintance that didn't ever want to know you have bladder issues and a strange monkey fixation.

That being said! I had a dream last night. It's a reoccurring dream, and I've had it since I was very little, always the same down to the most minuscule details. I'm going to post about it here shortly, and I'd like some feedback. I've always wondered what it might mean, what the symbolism is, why I have it at all. So, fair warning, I'm going to bore everyone with my own little monkey dream. I'd love to hear about yours, too, if anyone wants to share. Dreams are fascinating things. (Except when they're not. Which is usually. But I'm sure yours are AWESOME.)

Spoiler: There are no monkeys in the dream I had. Damnit.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I said the F word in a funeral home. A LOT.

Last Sunday I found out my dad died. I found this out the same way I always find out things of this nature - my older sister told me. People tell her and have her tell me, because... I don't know why. But they always tell her first, and leave my finding out up to her.

I was at work when The Older emailed me and asked me to take a break so she could call my cell. I said hey, no problem, and ran down the hall to the locker room. As I was sitting down to pee, I called my sister. She answered the phone crying, and I told her to take a deep breath and not say a word, because whatever this news was, I wasn't going to get it on the toilet.

After I was situated on a bench I told her it was okay, whatever it was, and that I wanted to hear her breathe for me. Big, deep breaths. After she did this for a few minutes, I told her to go ahead, but take it easy. (I can't stand to hear her upset. It murders my soul.) She told me between sobs that our dad was dead. I knew the news was coming, because there was nothing else that could have upset her this way unless it was news about our other sister or her children, which I would have gotten first because I'm closer to The Oldest than she is. I stupidly asked if she was serious, which appears to be my stock asshole response when I'm getting "So-and-so Is Dead" news, and told her it was okay. I told her to breathe. I stared at the tiled floor while the news tried to beat its way into my brain, while it tried to wring some sort of reaction from me. The Older noticed my lack of appropriately upset reaction and commented on it, making me feel about thisbig as I told her, "I'm at work."

It was all I could think to say.

It is my job to keep people calm in crisis. In order to do what I do, you fabricate around yourself a shell that is nigh on impenetrable. You do this to preserve yourself against the absolute horror that can come with what I do. That shell is most of the reason I did not react, I think. I hope. I hope the reason for my lack of reaction didn't have something to do with the shitty state of my relationship with my father, although if I'm being honest, I know that it did, at least a little. I know there was some shock there, although his health was TERRIBLE and certainly this did not come as a true surprise... Death is always a shock. It's so sudden, so permanent. And so, I focused on talking my sister through her grief and panic, because for whatever reason, it's what I could do at the time.

I went back into my office, asked my boss very calmly if he could get someone to cover the rest of my shift because my father was dead. He didn't seem to hear me, then turned and looked at my face, as if to see if I was serious. My phone was still to my ear as I looked at him, my skull filled with the sound of my sister crying on the other end of the line. I said, "I'm sorry," but to whom, I don't know. It was all I could think to say...

The Boy showed up then- turns out The Older had called him before she called me, out of concern for my reaction to the news and the affect it might have on the pregnancy. He found me kneeling in the dark in another office, staring at the carpet and trying stupidly to comfort my sister over the phone. He pulled a chair over, sat down with his legs on either side of me, and there in the shelter of him the tears finally came.

The next couple of days are a blur. We wound up in our home town, where we picked The Older up at the airport. The morning after that there was the funeral home to visit, details to tack down that could not be finalized long-distance via phone or fax. I learned, not unexpectedly, that my father had not had one cent of life insurance, nor had he made any sort of realistic arrangements for his death at all. (My uncle's ex wife had gone and gotten all kinds of papers for him, filled them out, and taken them to his apartment. She'd explained that all he had to do was sign those papers, and the government would give him life insurance. They would pay for his many, many medications. He would have nurses that would come to the apartment and check on him, they would make sure he was okay. The drawback would be that my dad would receive a few dollars less a month in Social Security, which would be more than made up for in the deferred cost of his meds. The papers were never seen again. He made no effort to even sign his name.)

My dad had been in congestive heart failure for over ten years. He'd been told by every specialist, general practitioner, nurse, whomever that he'd ever seen, "You're not going to live much longer." How could he? He was poisoning himself with everything he ate or drank. It was some strange miracle of luck that he'd managed to live as long as he had. He knew he was going to die, and soon. He could not have thought otherwise, and did not think otherwise, as evidenced by a comment from his own lips not so very long ago in response to the question, "Who do you think it will fall on when you die? Who do you think will be responsible for handling that?"

His answer? "What do I care? I'll be dead."

With no wife to shoulder the burden, he knew it would fall on The Older and myself. With The Older not having had a paying job in quite some time (She is the primary caretaker for her fiance's very ill mother, and cannot be away from the house for stretches of time, so this is more than understandable,) he knew it would fall on me, the daughter that was not his daughter, more by his own doing than genetics ever could have accomplished alone.

So there I sat, at this table, across from a mortician that seemed to have a Jones for very large numbers. I stared at him quietly as he explained that the stiff cardboard box they used to transport my dad's corpse to the crematorium cost more than 200 dollars. (A box. A cardboard box. Worth 200 dollars.) The transportation fee itself was enough to boggle the mind, not to mention the cost of the urn or the memorial pamphlets that had been printed up, apparently using pure gold leaf as paper, and the blood of infant angels as ink. I sat very, very quietly, staring at the ever growing numbers. I did not make a sound.

And I got angry. I got angry because, as terrible as it is to admit, I resented that as the daughter with the shitty relationship with this man, who was not my biological father and had never treated me as an equal child to begin with, I was staring down the barrel of a six thousand-dollar gun while trying to save for the birth and future of my unborn child. I got angry because not once in his life had he ever done anything responsible, and it never kept him up for one second at night how his childish ways hurt the people that had to make up for them. I got angry because he was a PARENT and should have done MORE, because we were good, dutiful children and deserved more. I got angry because The Older started crying again, as I (the youngest) signed papers and prepared to shoulder a very heavy financial burden that she could not help with, and so she was being crushed by a guilt I could not sooth with words or actions, and the inability to save her from that feeling ENRAGED ME. I got angry because ANGER is not the response a person should have when sitting in a funeral home trying to iron out the details of a parent's final arrangements. I got angry because what I wanted more than anything in the world right then was to punch the funeral director in the throat and chuck that fucking over priced urn through a window, and I am not proud of that.

The Boy tapped my shoulder, asked me to step out of the room with him. I snarked, "I don't want to step out of the room. I want to fucking leave." He asked me again, very softly, to step into the hall. So I did. Of course I did.

And then I lost my ever-loving mind. He hugged me while I scream-whispered about how my dad was a selfish, heartless fuck who never thought of anyone but himself for one second of his life, and how were we going to do this with a baby? He held my hand while I asked over and over and over, "Who DOES this to their kids? Who fucking DOES this to people they're supposed to love?" He told me it would be okay, that he would write a check right then to pay for half, when I started hyperventilating again about how we're having a baby, I can't afford this with a baby, oh my god, THE BABY. He soothed me when I demanded if he'd seen the look on The Older's face, the one that suggested she was either going to throw up or kill herself right there, and how could someone do that to her?

I said 'fuck' more times than I can remember.

My sister and uncle came out of the office eventually with the funeral director in sheepish tow, and explained to me that since our dad had been a resident of the same county for the last 40 years, that county might be willing to help defer some of the funeral costs if we could find certain information. They needed his social security card, a copy of his lease, any titles he might possess, bank statements, etc. I growled that we would never find those things, as the man had never kept any sort of responsible record. They insisted we try, and so we went to his apartment.

Walking into the room where my dad died had absolutely no affect on me. I looked at the chair his body was found in, and wondered if he had been comfortable. I hoped that he had. The Boy and The Older went to search our dad's vehicle while The Uncle and myself poked around the apartment. Long story short: We found what we needed. The county deferred close to four thousand dollars of the funeral cost, and I was absolutely floored.

I cannot describe how grateful I was and am that a system exists to assist people with this burden. While The Boy and I could have paid the full cost, it would have put us in a precarious position, one where ANY unexpected cost would have put us very, very close to being shit out of luck monetarily. The fact that we were not put in that position but instead are still able to pay our medical bills and our house payment without having to beg, borrow and steal, is something I will never stop being thankful for.

Things I will never, ever forget or find my way around to accepting:

-The fact that my father was selfish down to his last atom, and his self absorption was entirely complete and unrelenting. This was evidenced not only by the total lack of insurance, etc, but more so by the *very large* quantity of something he should not have had that was found in his apartment. He had it and knew that if anything happened to him we would find it, and didn't care what that would do to my sister, how it would hurt her to know that he had been such a different person than she thought he was.

-The way a business or industry can capitalize on the misfortune of those that have lost a family member or loved one, going so far as to QUADRUPLE their cost and absolutely ROB people blind.

-Finding the papers my aunt had gathered for him, the papers that simply required a signature to insure his life, shoved in the back of a drawer in the kitchen and forgotten.

-My surprisingly violent reaction to the above three points.

-The fact that my sister will form this experience into a club and use it to bludgeon herself for the rest of her life, feeling guilty for not being able to help do what needed to be done, because he couldn't be responsible for himself and keep that burden from her shoulders.

-Going into false labor as soon as we got home. Having contractions and mind bending nausea for hour after hour because my body was coming down from the stress of the last week. Being so thankful that it stopped because, although my baby could be born now and survive, he needs more time. Don't we all need more time?

-That the predominant emotion associated with this whole shebang, for me, was anger and frustration. Anger that my father, who I loved deeply despite how I know it seems, could not care enough for his daughter - The Older - to take care of himself, or at least be marginally responsible for her sake. Anger that I'm angry, because it's easier than being sad for him and my sister and myself. Frustration that everything he ever said or did seems like lie after lie, in the current light, and he said he'd never lie to us.

Friday, October 9, 2009


I'm feeling kind of 'eh' these days. I want to post, I just don't know what about. I feel like I've forgotten this place, and that makes me sad on my insides. It's just, I don't know what to say about anything right now. Nothing is bad, everything is great, I just... don't know what to say.

Trying to get it figured out. Will update as soon as I do. Cross your fingers for me - figuring shit out has never been my strong suit.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Done sulking.

A guy I work with knew I was working on a pretty good sulk today, so he told me this joke. It only works if you say it out loud.

Him: Knock, knock.

Me: Who's there?

Him: Smell mop.

Me: Smell mop, who?

And I don't remember what he said after that, because I was laughing so hard I was literally in tears. Because I'm an 8 year-old boy, that's why.

Poo and fart jokes never stop being funny. Or if they do, I don't ever want to be that mature. Lucky for me, I'm not yet, and when he told me that joke today, it really did snap me out of my funk. As soon as I was done laughing (seriously, 5 minutes later) I called The Boy and the conversation is as follows:

Me: Have a joke for you, wanna hear it?

Him: Sure. Shoot. *Obviously does not want to hear it. Is afraid to have conversation with The Girl, as she is hormonal and emotional and the joke is probably a trap that will leave him crippled in some way.*

Me: *Doesn't care. Soldiers on in an attempt to bridge that awkward post-argument gap.* Knock, knock.

Him: Who's there?

Me: *Insane giggling for long enough that it gets awkward, which makes for more hysterical laughing*

Him: *uncertain silence*

Me: *gasp, gasp* Smell mop. *more cackling*

Him: What? Smell mop? Smell mop, who?

Me: *COMPLETELY LOSING MIND. He just said poo, ohmagah, DYING*

Him: Glad to see you're feeling better.

...It's the little things. And I should mention, for posterity: As much griping as I do about The Boy's mom, she is a wonderful woman. She's come through some serious shit in her life, and deserves a lot of respect. We just... we're going to butt heads. I'm up for that, and I'm sure she is, too. So here's to a future full of biting my tongue and sucking it up. Hopefully, it's also a future full of poo jokes. That would be fun, too.

Miniscule. Tiny. Obsolete. Subatomic.

My sister is throwing me a baby shower. She's making the invitations individually, by hand, and doing everything from half way across the country. She contacted The Boy's mother to get addresses for close family, letting her know that there was a limited amount of space at whatever venue she's found for the day, and that since the invitations are hand made, there is a limit on how many can be done by the time she wants to send them out... The Boy's mother came back with a huge list of people. She was told again to pare it down, and answered with, "Well, maybe I'll just invite A FEW of my friends." ... Her friends? People I've never met? To my shower? Is this what people do..? Especially when told "List needs to remain small and intimate." Uh... Okay. But... Um. No.

So. The Boy called his mother to tell her to keep it simple. Close family, that's it. She said she doesn't want any one's feelings to get hurt, she wants to invite her friends, and he told her that no one wants anyone to be left out, but there's a limit. She then told him that she didn't see why she couldn't invite two of his ex girlfriends mothers.

Wait. What?

This is where I kind of tuned out. I mean, not intentionally. It felt like someone stuffed cotton in my ears. She wants to invite the Ghosts of Relationship Past to the baby shower that's being thrown for his current girlfriend..? In celebration of the baby they're having together? What. The. FUCK. I seriously felt like I was going into shock. He must've keyed in on the expression on my face, because he said, "Well, I told her no." I said, "Really? She really wants to invite your exes' mothers?" And he said, "Well, but, I told her no."

...somehow, that isn't getting through the haze right now. Somehow, all I can think is, "Really? His ex girlfriends mothers?" SOMEHOW, the fact that she was told NO isn't the FUCKING POINT.

I know that I'm not part of this equation to her. I know I'm just the weird, artsy girl that thinks she's too good for disposable diapers and formula, that's going to turn her first grandchild into a bookish softy; the girl that her perfect son accidentally knocked up, the poor boy. I know that. But really..? The fact that him saying no wasn't enough, that he had to explain to her why it wasn't a good idea for his ex girlfriends MOTHERS (who she doesn't even talk to. They aren't besties or anything, she doesn't even have regular contact with these people,) to come to MY SHOWER, and that she sort of fucking fought with him (!) about it? That... I just... I... REALLY?

Maybe I'm just hormonal. I don't know. Maybe I really have been an orphan for long enough that I've forgotten how families work, how they step over lines and boundaries and whatever. But I'm pretty sure this wouldn't sting half so bad if I had a mother, too... But I don't, and it does, and I hate it. I don't want the mothers of random strangers invited to my baby shower. I especially don't want the mothers of my boyfriend's ex girlfriends, who are also strangers, invited to my baby shower.

And you know the kicker? Apparently, that makes me silly. It's just silly of me. I'm being silly, she says. Silly to only want friends and family there. Silly to not let this be about her and what she wants. I'm not the only one having a baby. (WHAT?! I mean, I know it takes a village but WHAT!?)

Well fuck that. I want to go to bed. I want to go to sleep. There's a difference between someone knowing they don't matter, knowing they're just hardly being tolerated, and having it throw in in their face that you don't give a shit about them or their feelings.

I'm not sure I've ever felt so very small.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

To the victor.

I went to an auction today. I'd never been to one before, and I was lured to the scene by the loud chatter and the furniture strewn haphazardly around the property. Not to mention the dozens of people wandering around, looking predatory. Seemed like my kind of place. It was actually really interesting, although it probably would have been more fun if I'd had someone there with me that I knew, or had gotten more than 4 hours of sleep, or wasn't 7 and a half months pregnant, or wasn't loitering in the heat.

Actually, it wasn't hot. It was a nice morning. But I threw a hoodie on over my white tshirt in favor of finding an appropriate undergarment (because I'm classy like that) and the hoodie happened to be black. And we all know what happens when you wear black in direct sunlight. I know this particularly well, as most of my clothing for the majority of the last few years has been black.

You melt, is what I'm saying. You roast in the sun like a pig on a spit, and I was one very hot pregnant piggy.

There was only one thing I wanted at the auction. It was a beautiful big chest/dresser/antique pile of beautifulness, and I wanted it for the baby's room. And it was going to be perfect in a way that nothing else ever has been. It was going to complete my life. It was going to be in our family for generations. I kept my eye on it, and loved it, and pictured it in the nursery. I named it Fernando and whispered sweet nothings into its keyholes.

I was going to pay 200 bucks for it, and I would have gotten it, too, if some fucking burnout hippie pile of shit hadn't popped up next to me and decided to blow this week's drug money on MY FUCKING DRESSER.

Uh. Or... yaknow, whatever.

Seriously, though, it was like magic. That hippie jacked the price of the dresser up to $400 before I could blink, bidding back and forth with this tiny, angry looking woman. The auctioneer went back and forth, back and forth, chattering about four hundred, who's gonna give four hundred? And I almost bit! I almost paid 400 for it! But then I pictured myself trying to explain to The Boy why I felt like it was necessary to buy the baby a(nother) $400 piece of furniture, and I died a little bit inside when I realized that the look he would give me (The "You're a retard and it's obvious I need to keep you sedated and chained to a pipe in the basement from now on," look) would probably actually serve to lower my IQ, just by the pure force of it. And he's never given me a look like that. And I'd like to keep it that way. So I didn't out-bid the fucking burnout hippie pile of shit.


And now my life is doomed to suck, because that dresser was beautiful and perfect. It had doors on top that opened to an amazing cabinet I was going to use to store the baby's cloth diapers. The cloth diapers that also apparently make ME a hippie, YOU BUDDY-FUCKING, BACKSTABBING TRAITOR, HIPPIE GUY. We're on the same TEAM here.


I'm not a materialistic person. I don't really care about stuff. You should have seen The Boy and I when we were buying furniture. There was so much, "I don't care, what do you think?" being tossed back and forth between the two of us, I thought the lovely sales lady's skull cap was going to blow off and tear a hole in the ceiling. We aren't STUFF kind of people. We don't need a lot of STUFF. We don't want a lot of STUFF. Hell, the stuff we DID wind up buying is varying shades of brown and beige because you know why? Because we don't give enough of a crap to bother with anything else. Because it's stuff, and this way it'll all look nice together, so fuck it.

But I wanted that goddamned dresser. And we NEED a dresser for the baby's room. I wanted it and I needed it and FUCK THAT OLD HIPPIE RIGHT IN HIS WRINKLY FACE.

Blame it on nesting, I guess, or hormones, or the fact that I'd been waiting in the sun, roasting like a chunk of beast for like TOO LONG, or whatever, but I literally almost got into a knife fight with that old (probably pacifist) stoner over a piece of furniture. I wanted to pull a razor out my titties and cut a bitch.

But I didn't. And now I don't have the dresser. Or any dresser. And any dresser I do manage to find isn't going to be as good as that one. A stranger even said it was perfect, when I told her what I wanted it for. Word, Sympathetic Stranger Lady. YOU'RE TELLIN ME.

Moral of the story: When you get the opportunity to shank a drug addled senior citizen to get what you want, take that opportunity and work it like it's your bitch. Do a boot dance straight up that old hippie's ass and take what's rightfully (or not, actually, not at all) yours.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My childhood was dark. Literally.

My first memory is of heat and yellow-orange shadows flitting through stained glass, cool mesh pressed against my too-warm cheeks because it felt nice. There is the soft, faded smell of pipe smoke and wood polish. I can hear people, though I never see them, and am content.

I asked my mother about this years ago, and she said that when I was a baby, I would sit in the old play-pen in my grandmother’s sitting room with the lights turned off, pressing my face to the side. (The lights were off because the house was ANCIENT and did not have air conditioning. Also, there was very little insulation in the walls, and the ceilings were incredibly high. None of this lent itself towards keeping heat out or in. The pipe smoke was a reminent from my grandfather, who had died 15 years before.) She mentioned in an off-hand way, through a blue-silver shimmer of cigarette smoke, that we must certainly have a picture of it somewhere, as I did this face pressing thing all the time. This never turned out to be true because there exist no pictures of me as a baby. Probably she meant to take one upon catching me with my wee baby face mooshed against the side of the play pen, but didn’t have a camera on hand. (I don’t think we had a camera.)

In any case, she said I was one or two years old when this memory must have planted itself in my brain. She said the play-pen was one of those dangerous old metal and mesh contraptions with the baby-killing collapsible sides. I also remember pinching my fingers in the hinges, and pulling it down on myself more than once. Somewhere in all of this, I remember the heavy, erratic thud-thumping of my older (younger) sister storming around the house. The sound is of her full-leg casts pounding against the hard wood floors, and is often punctuated by her sweet baby laughter.


My mind skips ahead from there. Again it is dark, and this time the darkness is complete except for candle and day light. Instead of stifling heat, it's always slightly cold now. This is due to our electricity being turned off more often than not, despite the fact that our mother works 3 jobs, 20 hours a day to provide for us. It’s two years after the hot, shaded comfort of my grandmother’s house.

My sisters are there, and any time I go to this period in my life I am overwhelmed with a bone-crushing love for my older (younger) sister. I can see her as she was then, almost-black hair down her back, thick bangs straight across her sweet, pale, round face. Too blue eyes staring wide and innocent out at the world. She was maybe four years old, and already terribly kind and thoughtful. (This is how she still looks to me inside, how she looks to my soul, if that makes any sense.) She was my first friend, my best friend, and I was her shadow. She was everything to me. We played happily, constantly.

I remember our oldest sister, too, but in stark contrast to The Older… The Oldest scowled, was frequently too harsh with her words and hands, and was tasked too often with watching her nuisance siblings, 15 years her junior.

I see our mother in this chunk of time only briefly, fleetingly, and am stricken by how beautiful and perfect she was. (The knowledge that I realized even then that she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever see comforts me, as it comforted her when I relayed the childhood observation to her twenty years after it had occurred to me, whispered against her hand as she lay in the hospital, dying, though we didn’t yet know it.)

We lived in a small trailer, the four of us, and my toddler bed was in the closet of the room my sisters and I shared. I had a long yellow blanket with white fringe trim that I dragged with me everywhere, which bore a redish-pink stain from the time I used The Oldest’s favorite fingernail polish to paint part of our bedroom wall. I thought it would make her happy. It most decidedly did not.


At the very end of this cold, dark period, I see my mother in a wooden dining chair (or a large, black chair. The memory wavers on this one detail alone,) she is crumpled and crying. Her hands shake as they cover her face. The Oldest is sitting in the corner, curled into another chair, glaring out at the world but seeming for once less aggressive and more wounded. More human. As our mother cries, I curl myself around one of her legs and tell her it’s going to be alright, and that I love her. She cries harder, wracked with these animalistic sobs, and the man we call my father appears in the doorway to take The Older and I away. This is my memory of my mother’s first psychotic break in my lifetime.

(To be continued..)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Pray for us sinners, now and in the nursery full of cloth diapers.

So, The Boy went outside today and ran into our neighbors to the South. We know them- we work with The Mr. occasionally on a professional basis, and are passing hi-how-are-ya nodders with The Mrs. I'll mention quickly that no one has ever met The Boy and failed to love him and find him engaging and charming. Uh. Ever. He's like a cobra, the way he hypnotizes people into worshiping him, which is funny because The Mr. is a pastor. Or... Preacher. Or something. He's a guy at a church. I don't know which church, so I don't know the correct title, but you get me. And The Mrs. is heavily (heavily, heavily, heavily) involved with the church, as well.

This is all well and good. We don't care. We rather like them and all of their super holy judginess, although I have frequently guessed that The Mrs. is more than a little uncomfortable with us right next door, sinning it up. She's never said anything. She's very sweet. But I often picture her over there in her house coat (and bonnet? I don't know why,) praying for our immortal souls.

So today, The Boy is standing there talking over the hedge, like they do on Leave It To Beaver or whatever, and notices that The Mrs. has a pretty package in her hand. "Going to a birthday party?" he inquires.

"No." She says.

Here, we insert a long, awkward pause. (This is all second hand from The Boy, and he is not given to exaggeration. When he says there was a good couple of minutes full of pointed, eerie silence, he means it.) The Mrs. stares at The Boy, and The Mr. shuffles his feet uncomfortably. Well, okay. No explanation, nothing further at all. The Boy rather got the impression that she was intentionally not elaborating on her negation for some reason.

Finally, The Mrs. says, "How's your girlfriend? And the baby?"

The Boy, being sweet, misses the tone and says, "Oh, she's great. The baby's going good, just had an appointment. He's kicking and healthy and-"

"Oh, good. We're off to Bible Study now." Interjects The Mrs. with obviously arched eyebrows and bulging eyes, turning on her heel and walking away.

When The Boy related this story to me, I almost choked to death on my Sprite because really? REALLY? Why didn't she just come out and say that she wouldn't be giving notice of her whereabouts to any ungodly terrorists such as ourselves, and ask us how our premarital sex was going? I don't know, maybe we left the window open one night and she could hear us thumping away in there, but I've never met someone so off-put by the living situation of her neighbors. Sure, we're young and unmarried and pregnant. But she's holy and old and judgemental, and you don't see us getting all up in HER grill about it.

So, whatever. Apparently we're adding the neighbors to the list of people we need to explain ourselves to. On the top of that list is every member of The Boy's family, each balancing one toe over the fucking line and trying my patience on a bi-weekly basis.

Maybe I've been an orphan for too long, so I've just grown accustom to making my own choices and not having to detail the why's and what for's of every move I make. I don't know. Maybe I'm just a crabby bitch. But man, do I get tired of having to tip toe through the tulips with these people, afraid to offend them with my "earth mother" sensibilities.

One of the big choices I feel like I have to justify is the Cloth Diaper (DUN DUN DUUUUUUN) Issue. You'd think everyone would be all gung-ho about it, because there's nothing wrong in the world with cloth diapers. They've never hurt anyone, they don't break into your house and hold you at knife point, demanding the combination to your safe. So you'd THINK that we'd all be excited about the totally harmless, happy little endeavor. But no. Apparently, here in the upper Midwest, we're more than a little terrified of things that are New and Different (or old? Because not so many years ago everyone used cloth? Hello?) and the Dirty Hippies that try to infiltrate our families.

I'm the dirty hippy here, if you're not tracking. I didn't want to lose anyone. Because I've never killed anything with my bare hands, I guess.

Honest to god, when I mentioned the cloth diaper plan to The Boy's mother, I could almost hear her brain petrifying. Why on Earth would someone want to do something differently than she had? Because different is wrong. AND HIPPIES ARE FROM HELL. Go brand a cow, you pansy ass tree hugger, YARR! (So I guess in my mind pirates are the back woods farmer type?)

Feh. Whatever, I don't understand the problem. To me, there is no problem. I'm really, really excited about doing cloth, and I feel great about the decision to do it. I want to do it very badly. I haven't yet ordered the diapers, but I think I've settled on the Fuzzibunz one-size. I only mention this because, okay, I'm a freeloading jerkface, and there's a wonderful blog ( that is right now, right this moment, threatening to give away a whole MESS of FB one-size diapers to people who link to the FB cite. And man, I could use that. We aren't destitute, but cloths are a little expensive to get up and going, and with this economy... well, you know the rest.

So yeah. The innitial investment is kind of a chunk of change, (But MUCH MUCH MUCH LESS THAN THE COST OF DISPOSABLES OVER TIME) and it'd be nice to have that cost differed. So I figured I'd link to the FB cite ( and throw my hat into the ring.

Because you know what would REALLY get The Boy's mom's short and curlies in a knot? If her tree-hugging someday-to-be daughter-in-law got her hippy diapers for FREE! And in all seriousness, I think they have a great product going over at FB, so I want to help get the word out. It isn't that I think people who use disposables are doing something wrong, not at all. I just like the idea of doing cloths for ME, PERSONALLY, with MY (still unborn, but not for too much longer) kid. It feels good. It's a choice I feel really solid about, and it irks my tater that TBM feels the need to drag me down about it.

Much like my neighbors and their fear of premarital sex and childbirth out of wedlock.

I mean, really. What gives, people?

(Seriously, with The Boy's Mom -- I've gotten to the point that I don't even talk about the parenting choices we intend to make. Don't even get me started on circumsision and how last Wednesday her skull cap blew off and knocked a hole the size of a Mercedes in our drywall. Holy crap.)

Monday, September 7, 2009

And so I wait.

I feel like I've been puttering around in a fog, arms swinging, feet bare, aimless. Waiting for direction in this strange place that is foreign and also so familiar.

I feel like I shouldn't mark a heading, should just drift for a while. I feel like I can't take a conscious step in any one direction. So I wander.

You know, my ex, the one that said I was personally responsible for the downfall of all things good and decent after I told him to get his shit and get out, he told me once that I was a floater, not a swimmer. And as much as I would like to discount everything he ever said as baseless and asinine after that little 'you destroy everything you touch, you ruthless harpy' comment, I think he might have been onto something.

I'm not a goer, not a doer. I don't make plans, I let the plans make themselves apparent and then I go with them, toward them. This isn't a part of my personality that I'm comfortable with. It sings to me of weakness, of a lack of character. Strong people make choices. They have goals. They fall short, they have regrets, they make mistakes. They don't putz around in the fog because they're too scared to step into the light.

I don't, as a rule, have regrets. I've always told myself it's because I think its wasteful to regret things you cannot change, and that regretting something devalues the experience itself and what can be gained from it. The past is the past, we can only try to do better. We can refuse to make the same mistakes. This is not to say that I'm not sorry -- I am, more than I can say, for more mistakes than I can name. I'm sorry for the people I've hurt and the things I've done that were hurtful or wrong. I'm sorry to have been the thing to cause pain in anyone's life. But being sorry isn't enough, and it's not the same as regretting the thing itself. So instead of regret, I promise to do better.

Maybe they are one in the same, maybe I'm confused. Maybe feeling sorrow for something you've done is the same as regretting it. Although I would like to think that I do not regret things because I take them for what they are, appreciate them, learn from them, and change my behavior accordingly. So while I'm sorry for the pain they've caused, I'm not sorry they happened because they brought about an opportunity for growth and change.

If that makes any sense. Hell, I don't know. I've been running on fumes here, which is adding to the murky atmosphere of the dream-like state I've found myself shuffling through.

I feel like I'm letting go, and I don't know if that's okay. I don't have anything to judge 'appropriate behavior' by, and so I wonder frequently if I'm seconds away from a massive mistake. This letting go, stepping back, it scares me.

See, my mother held onto things very tightly. She was a paranoid schizophrenic, with borderline multiple personality disorder. (Although what that means, I can't begin to guess. She almost had more than one personality? She was close? She sometimes did? Doctors make no sense. Fuck them.) With these issues you'd expect a person to be obviously impaired in some way, one of those poor souls you can point out at the grocery store as being a little off. Different. She wasn't, though. The woman was incredibly high functioning, intentionally so. She decided that no one would ever look at her with pity, with that knowing little nod of "Poor dear. Bless her heart." She held herself in check with an iron fist, fooling everyone, even her doctors. This, I think, is most of the reason that when she was home, she so frequently imploded. I think it must have been very hard to maintain such a level of control, very stressful, so when she got home (a relatively safe place, as much as any place could be for her) she would release all of it. She would let go. Or maybe it was just the fingers of that iron fist finally breaking, I don't know. In any case, the result of her rigid self control while in the outside world was often complete disorder in her own. Our own.

And so letting go scares me. As much as I drift, float, have no point on the compass that I aim for, whatever, I do try to maintain some level of control. How could I not? I know what happens when you let go. People get hurt. Mistakes are made.

Yet here I am. I have no desire to take the reigns at this point, none whatsoever. My life has somehow wound up where it is, by some miracle of whatever god you believe in and by absolutely no determined, conscious choice of my own. So maybe letting go isn't so bad. Maybe whatever spark of luck brought me to where I am will continue to sustain me. Maybe if I don't move, it won't wink out. I hope. I have to hope, because I feel as if I may have crippled myself at this point, and hope is all I have to rely on.

It's just that I have this feeling, this looming sense of OH SHIT, that as soon as I make a move toward something it's going to get jerked away. Just now, not always. I'm afraid that once I really realize that this baby is 2 months and some change away from being born, that something will happen. Once I decide to believe it, I'm afraid that he'll be taken away. This is why I do not make choices, if I'm being honest: I'm afraid to regret. I'm afraid of the pain. Once, when I was younger (And believe me, I'm still young enough) I was brave. I forged ahead, marching with ill-begotten confidence down whichever path I felt suited me best at the time.

Then it all fell down around me and left me on my knees, shocked and shaken and destroyed.

I can't do that again. I can't come back from that again.

And so I drift, and I hope, and I wait to see what will happen. I keep my eggs in my pockets, my basket empty in my hand. I refuse to invest in this future until it is here in front of me. It's too good to be true. I won't ruin it by breathing.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


It's just been brought to my attention (thank you, Maggie) that I haven't updated here in long enough that I feel like a giant asshole because hello, Cliffhanger, how are you? So! Quick update!

We had an ultrasound that showed the baby's perfect little black and white beating heart. It looked like a real heart, bisected in a magazine. It was amazing. Identifiable. Unbelievable.

He's bigger, too, noticeably so. The poor lamb has his legs tucked up to either side of his belly, his arms curled around his head. This seems to be due to the fact that there is NO room inside my belly.

The doctor said that as far as he can tell, everything is okay. He kept stressing "As far as I can see," and "I've been wrong before," which... not comforting.

We have another appointment in two days (one day? Eh. On the 8Th,) to see what's going on in there.

I promise I'll write more tomorrow. I've just been kind of... wandering around over here. Trying to figure it all out.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My hospital gown smelled like doughnuts.

So, we wound up in Labor and Delivery the other night.

It had been about 14.5 hours since I'd felt the baby move, and after trying several different little tricks (ranging from drinking juice/putting feet up, to prodding the stomach and clapping into my belly button like I was looking for an echo) that all failed beautifully, the OB nurse and I decided I should probably come in. The baby has been active for months, and has always recently been up for a little game of Seriously, Stop Messing With Me, wherein I push on the outside of his warm little water balloon, and he pushes immediately back. Now that he didn't want to play, the nurse was concerned and just wanted to check me out. I agreed. And so we went.

Doesn't that sound all nice and calm? Yeah, it wasn't.

Before the trip to the ER to be admitted, I took a couple of minutes to lie on our bed and beg the baby to kick, tears running down my cheeks and onto the pillow under my head. This is the absolute last thing I want to do, I kept thinking, I don't want to take precautions or run tests or make any move toward the possible answers to, 'what if the baby's dead?' I wanted to be healthy, with a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. I wanted to be like everyone else, damn it, and so I lay there and hoped that I could be. I concentrated so hard, looking for a flutter or jab, anything to tell me he was in there. When nothing came, I finally had to nut up and rally, heave my pathetic self off of the bed, and get going. Because sometimes you just have to get going, no matter how badly you don't want to be where you'll end up.

On the way out the door, The Boy (who had up until that point been very 'it's probably all fine, I'll follow your lead, you know I don't panic' about it all) asked, "What will they do? How long will we be there?" A logical question asked in a voice that sounded 20 years younger than the lips it came from. The only chink in his so brave armor. It made me see stars.

"Well," I said, "if they don't find a heartbeat, we won't be there long at all. They'll hook us up to whatever machine they have to monitor the baby, make sure there's nothing, then we'll make follow-up surgical appointments. We'll be home in around an hour, I'd guess, all told. If they do... I don't have any idea what will happen. I've never been down the 'making sure the baby's alive and oh, look, he is!' road. They might keep me, they might not."

I didn't want to be cold, but after my little pity party on the bed, I didn't have room for much else without inviting absolute hysterics. So I answered him as calmly and as matter-of-factly as I could, while staring at the ground and trying not to scream. I wanted to be able to tell him what would happen when they found out everything was fine, but I just didn't know. I had nothing to go on when it came to babies living.

But I have now.

The nurse (who looked like a meth addict when she shuffled around the corner into the waiting room. Her eyes were half-closed and she looked stoned out of her mind. I actually looked at The Boy and said, "Oh, I don't fucking think so," as he dragged me down the hall after her. Turns out, she'd been on shift for like 19 hours, so whatever. Maybe she wasn't high after all. That'll teach me to judge, but yeah, she was totally high) led us to a room, handed me a hospital gown, and insisted I change. I insisted she take the gown away, because I didn't need to change and it would just be wasted on me. Hospital gowns and the wearing thereof imply that hey, you're not going anywhere, sucker. Best be letting your ass hang out now, because we're in it for the long haul. So I bemoaned the gown. Oh, how I bemoaned.

Apparently, heavy meth use makes you pig-headed. She wouldn't relent.

Something I discovered as a result of losing our little battle of wills: Hospital gowns in L&D at our hospital smell like doughnuts. They do, for real. When I put it on, I shuffled over to the boy and made him sniff me, and he agreed. Ask him.

After leaving us in the room alone to (panic) settle in, Nurse McMethy came back and advised me that she'd be "using these white things to strap you down to the bed." To which I shrieked, "STRAPMEDOWNWHY!?" and flailed my rotund ass around, craning to see just what in the crap kind of restraints she was coming after me with. (I swear to you, I had the tiniest of flashes of shit, they finally caught me, they think I'm crazy because it runs in my family and now they're going to commit me and I'm never going to leave. They think I'm insane, and they'll take my baby and leave me here forever, those FUCKERS, where's my knife when I need it, oh wait I don't own a knife. Okay, so maybe it was a big flash.)

This obvious burst of obvious fear, at least, got more than a sloe-eyed blink from Trackmark O'Rehab, and she explained that the straps were to hold the sensors to my stomach, and the sensors were to monitor the baby. God. Duh. Well, fucking FINE THEN, strap away.

Speedball LeBongwater hooked said sensors to my belly and immediately clapped her hands and said, "I found the baby!" Now. She said this like I would say "Look, a Buick!" if I were digging in a sand box. Given the fact that I was pregnant and we were looking for the heart beat, her initial surprise did nothing to convince me of her sobriety OR experience in her field, because dude? Why so shocked? Is this your first time, are you THAT high, or did you expect my child to be dead? None of these is an acceptable answer, by the way.

Anyway, she turned up the machine and we listened to the heartbeat for quite a long while, while she talked about I don't know what and I cried some more, whispering "Thank you, thank you. Thank you, God, thank you."

The heartbeat started out very soft and very slow, which worried The Boy quite a bit. At this point, I was on cloud 9. I was elated that we could hear anything, and so far beyond worry that I couldn't possibly be bothered with the specifics of WHAT we were hearing. Eventually, the heart rate sped up to a respectable clip, which also worried The Boy, and the nurse attempted to pacify everyone involved by noting that of course it would fluctuate. There is a PERSON in there, duh. (Listen, Doper, you didn't seem to expect anything to be in there but some lint and a used Q-tip, so how about we don't lecture the patients about what is or isn't wherever, hmm? And really. Duh is not a professional way to answer patients that are a LITTLE ON EDGE.)

We listened to the baby thump and move -which I could eventually, finally feel- in response to The Boy's side of the conversation. I cried some more. The Boy finally smiled, the light of realization easing the stressed furrow of his brow when I said, "See. I told you he can hear you. I told you he knows your voice," and he could hear that it was true.

After about 30 minutes, Heroin Von Cokeaddiction assured us that everything was probably fine but, wait, she wasn't really QUALIFIED to say that, so don't hold her to it. She told me to get dressed while she shuffled off to find a doctor. Someone, she assured us, that would be all certified in babies 'n shit.

Yes, really.

Turns out, MY doctor was the one on call, and we caught him right before he had to perform emergency surgery on a woman that had not been as fortunate as we were. He told me to make an appointment for an ultrasound with his nurses (He stressed the HIS part of the nurses, trying not-so-subtly to stay an arms length away from our mutual friend) and told me to do kick counts three times a day, coming back in if the numbers were too low.

So here we are. Tomorrow morning is the ultrasound, and we'll find out if there's something wrong or if the kid was just feeling relaxed. Really, really, really relaxed...

Can I tell you I've been a wreck since the hospital? And I haven't been treating anyone very nicely because they're all loud and stupid and I just want to sit here and concentrate on the baby kicking and they won't just go the hell away and leave me to it? And that I'll be a wreck until my doctor looks at me and says, "It's okay. Breathe. Everything's going to be okay." because I am so, so scared? Can I admit, just here, that my head hurts so badly not from the stress itself, but because I've been scowling/squinting so hard as I listened internally to those little kicks for the last couple of days, that I'm actually injuring myself?

I'm crossing my fingers until they break. I would pray, but I don't know that God wants to hear much from me in the way of bargaining. And so I just ask for strength. I ask for the grace not to take this out on The Boy. I hope for peace. It's all I can do. It's not enough, but it's all I have.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Swing away.

Wasn't that what the dying wife in the movie Signs said? "Tell (I forget his name) to swing away"? Or whatever?

I might be making that up. There's been a serious lack of sleep in my life lately, due to strange dreams where everyone has this other alien, strange creature living inside their body in a bubble, and people have to talk to these creatures and clear everything with them, like, "Hey, Mr. Bubble, do you think we should have milk or water?" and it's all really distracting for me because while I'm dreaming these dreams I'm so put out thinking that it's all so fucking inconvenient and pointless, because what difference does it make? And then I realize (while still dreaming) that the dreams are all kind of really obviously about my pregnancy because I call my belly Mr. Bubble and being pregnant is just like having some weird creature living inside of you, so I'm kind of lamenting the entire time I'm asleep that I'm not really very deep or original and that my subconscious mind is SO. FUCKING. BORING. And anyway, it's none too restful.

So yeah. I'm tired.

What I was starting to say was that I intend to do like the dying lady said and swing away from the seriousness that's been going on around here lately, but instead of Light and Jovial, I seem to have wandered into Strange and Confused. Which, yeah. I'm comfortable there. Hell, I've got a summer home there. I spend every freakin' weekend there. I just kind of didn't mean to bring you with me.


Anyway, what I meant to convey was that I don't mean to be so down and dreary, ruminating about my past and my childhood and my family issues. They've just been on my mind a lot lately, as I'm about to shape a childhood of my own and speaking of which! I just remembered my original point when I sat down to post this but then thought it was maybe a titch too heavy. I'm obviously throwing that out the window now, though, so here goes.

I saw a question posed today on a blog I read. Someone said that they were going to give their children the best of everything; the most love, attention, adoration, security, etc, because their childhood had been so bad and they had never had those things themselves. The response from a commenter was that the author had made him wonder whether happy childhoods had to come from an unhappy childhood before them. Meaning, did my childhood have to suck in order for me to want so badly to make my kid's life easier than mine was?

At first, I agreed with that. I thought, hey, that's pretty deep. Now I think it's not deep, but rather ridiculous. I'm sure there are plenty of people that had perfectly balanced, 'normal' developmental periods in their lives and went on to use those years as a foundation on which to build a happy childhood for their own offspring. I don't think you need to have been warped in some way in order to piece something happy together for your kids, not at all.

It was an interesting question, none the less. What do you think? Do happy children have to come from parents who had something missing, so they know what's important? Or can people who've had a less obviously traumatic time of things go on to give the same steady, peaceful childhood to their children because it is all they know?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Caterpillar: Who are YOU?
Alice: This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. I -- I hardly know, sir, just at present -- at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.

I used to be much more high strung. I used to be much more scared. Terrified, even, if we're being honest, which we are. Terrified of everything but unable to show it at all. I used to worry much more. I would become preoccupied with details and how they would affect my world. One such preoccupation stands out in my mind, and I always go back to it, poking at the thing as I wonder at the why of it.

My sister and I lived with our dad and our uncle, his brother, in a small blue house when we were very young. Our mother had given up custody of us when she'd found that working 4 jobs and raising three girls alone was to her brain like an axe would be to a cantaloupe... She had to give us to him, or she didn't know what would happen. She didn't know what she might do. So my older sister and I were taken away by our dad (my sister's dad. We weren't acknowledging then, when I was hardly more than a toddler, that we didn't know who mine was,) and our mother disappeared for close to a year. We didn't hear from her then at all. She needed to be free from us completely, and so she was.

She would not want us back for almost nine years, at which time we would go happily. Little did any of us know how well that would turn out...

There was rust-colored shag carpet in the living room of my uncle's house, and roach clips in the ashtrays on the coffee table. Our (her) dad did the best he could, and our uncle tried hard to help. Still, there were unreasonable expectations (answering the phone, "Hello, Ournamehere residence, how may I help you?" at four years old) because two single men had no idea what to expect from two small girls. We all did our best. It turned out okay for the most part. We were okay.

I remember that at some point in those years, I developed the habit of sitting on the cement stoop out front of the house for hours, the concrete cool through my shorts, staring up at the hunter green leaves of the beautiful old tree that dominated the yard. The tree we couldn't touch. It was infested with red ants and they would sting you, so we could not have a swing or a tree house, or any of the things that good-natured old giant would have been so well suited to. We could not so much as brush against it, let alone climb its gnarled old branches, lest we come away with stinging welts and nothing but a grumbled I told you so for our troubles.

I don't remember when I started counting the leaves, but I do remember very specifically never being able to get beyond 77. It wasn't that I couldn't count higher - of course, I could - it was just that I would get so far and become positive that I'd missed one. You see, the leaves all had to touch each other. I had to move from one to the next by way of them caressing each other above my head. And so I would sit there with my arms around my legs, counting, following tenuous lines of contact between each part of this tree that had become my friend, and suddenly find myself convinced that I had missed one leaf. So I would start over.

This went on for hours.

I just didn't want any of them to be left out. I wanted them all to know they mattered, that I saw them.

I think I was 5 or 6 years old when this started. It eventually morphed into a habit of counting in my head when I would find myself under stress - which was often. I would count by multiples of three, five or seven. I also started keeping very close track of my conversations -- when it was my turn to talk, I would count the words that I spoke, then count the letters in the words. I would divide the letters by the words and that is how many times I would blink the next time my conversation partner was speaking.

It was a lot to keep track of for someone so young, but it was my way of distracting myself.

From what, I still don't know.

My sister and I were not abused, though I recognize this sort of obsessive compulsive behavior as similar to the way someone who has suffered in some way would cope with the trauma. There is a similar parallel between my sister's sweet and childlike nature and the mannerisms of a person unable to mature due to some kind of deeply rooted infliction. The only trauma I can see is being separated from our mother, who was obviously in distress and unable to deal with the pressure of being a parent.

And so, I cannot see why I developed this habit of counting so obsessively. I cannot see what it helped me cope with. I do know that I was only able to force myself to stop doing it a few years ago, and now I don't do it at all. I also know that for most of my life I lived in constant fear of everything, unable to show it lest I disappoint or let someone down. In those days in the light blue house, I had my sister to look after, the both of us to raise. If I made our father unhappy by being weak, maybe he wouldn't love us and he'd give us up, and then where would we go? Childish, yes, but... It was the logic.

Perhaps that's where it all came from, where it started. Not that it matters now, I just find myself musing lately about things that happened so long ago. I can't help but marvel at how my life has turned, morphing into something entirely different than my early years would have lead me to believe possible. Just when it seemed I would careen down the same terrible path, winding up broken and breaking at the bottom in the same way my mother did, I find myself instead on level ground, looking around in surprise with new eyes. And I wonder at the luck that got me here.

Alice: But I don't want to go among mad people.
The Cat: Oh, you can't help that. We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.
Alice: How do you know I'm mad?
The Cat: You must be. Or you wouldn't have come here.

Monday, August 3, 2009

We had it rough.

My mother and I had it rough.

I think I was so hard for her because I was sort of a pre-death reincarnation of herself. Also, the subject of my birth and origins was a touchy one -- who do I come from, why won't you tell me, what would people say if I told them my husband wasn't your father? and I think it was a source of some embarrassment for her, to say the least. Not to mention constant aggravation once I realized the truth and started routinely begging for confirmation from her, which was always denied. She was too proud, and the truth hurt too much. I understood that and respected it. It was one of her many boundaries, and I could not force her into allowing me to cross it.

But man, I loved that woman. I loved her so much, it still aches inside of me. There's this place that was hollowed out, carved raw and left pulsing when she died. It takes my breath away sometimes, remembering out of nowhere that she's dead. (Not gone. Dead.) She was all I had, in a way. I don't know who my birth father is, and realized that at a very young age- so she was the well, the source, the only beginning, the entire history. I had so much - too much? - invested in her and our relationship, that it probably became difficult for her to live up to any of my expectations.

It was hard for my mother to live up to expectations in general. She had various and sundry medical conditions bouncing around inside her skull, some diagnosed, some not, but all adding just a pinch of disorder to situations that were commonplace for others. This included relations with the people around her - it's obviously going to be difficult for a very paranoid person to carry on a 'normal' relationship with someone, you understand. Or for someone with mild schizophrenia to view or handle routine circumstances with any degree of predictability.

Aside from her specific mental issues, her personality made it hard for her to sustain meaningful relationships. She hated birthdays, LOATHED Christmas. Any time someone expected something of her, she felt suffocated and resentful, like she had to arch and buck away from whatever she felt was binding her... be it social constructs or obligations, or her children...

See, there's not much difference between a friend wanting you to do something for them and a child expecting or needing a certain action. Not to someone like my mother. All of it boiled down to the same things: Constraint, obligation, expectations. Need. Demand. Want. All of it was often too much. It strained her.

And so, we had it rough. My older (younger?) sister has always been far more demanding emotionally than I am, far more needy than me. This was allowed and encouraged because there was something different and beautiful about her, something special and specific and queer. Something she could love without resentment. I observed this at a very young age - 3? 4? - and knew that while it was all I wanted in the world, to be adored the way my sister was by our mother, it would not be tolerated from me or anyone else. My mother needed me to be independent, needed me to stand alone. And so I did, because I loved her so much.

Over the years it became my responsibility to protect my older (younger. I always want to say younger. But she's not, she's 13 months older. Older, older, older,) sister, because her sweet nature left her needing protection and because it was what I could do for them both. Act as a buffer between my lovely (I say that without an ounce of sarcasm- she is everything good in the world, and I adore her completely) sister and the world around her, thus keeping the one thing my mother treasured above all else safe. It was what I did. It is what I do still. It is what I love and resent, this role I was obliged to take but now wouldn't know how to abandon.

By the time I was old enough to look my mother in the eye flat-foot, I started hearing you're too hard, you're too much work to love, I love you because I have to, because I'm your mother and I'm supposed to... by that time she had come around to brutal honesty because my personality and our likeness frustrated and often infuriated her, leaving her without any other weapon to wound me with. So she told me frequently and in great, imaginative detail how she hated what she had made me into.

It didn't matter, not really. I mean, at the time I could have killed her and never been sorry, just to stop the noise. But I didn't kill her, or even so much as raise a hand to her, because I loved her so fiercely that it was all I could to hate myself for not ever, ever being what she needed.

I only ever wanted to help her and never could have REALLY fathomed acting out against her, nor she against me. On my end this restraint was born of love and difference, the desire to keep her safe and happy.

My mother's restraint was a little bit different. By the time her Daily Rundown of Shit I Did Wrong (To Include Breathing and Blinking Occasionally) started, I was taller than she was by several inches, not that size tempered her fury much as it broke like waves against me. What kept her always raging at arm's length was that I could (did not frequently, but could) look at her without expression or reaction to the things she was doing or saying. I would watch her closely - you could never be certain she wasn't going to reach for a knife, although she only did once - and the more attention I paid, the more brightly her rage burned. She hated that I did not turn away from her. She longed to make everyone turn away so that she could be left alone with her self-loathing, without external expectations. She wanted badly to push us all away, occasionally desired to cause an emotional pain that could not be recovered from so that we would only hate her and leave her to hate herself.

But I could not turn away from her. How could I? Even in her fits, her frustration, her terrible anger at me that was brought on by nothing other than that we'd had the misfortune of my being born to her, she was beautiful. She was captivating to me. She was all I had, and I could no more leave her there to commit emotional suicide than I could slit her wrists myself. I knew even when she was tearing me apart at the seams that she loved me... She just didn't know what to do with it. And because I did not and could not turn my back on her, she could never summon the courage to strike me with any real determination. Having been terribly abused and tortured by her first husband, she could not wound the one that looked at her with only concern, love, and confusion in her eyes.

And so we had it rough. Me, constantly trying to keep her in check. Her, forever trying to thrust me away by any means necessary so that she could just be left the fuck alone already. My anger, frustration, FURY would occasionally rise to meet hers, but mostly I could not match the passion with which she threw herself into destroying me.

It was an odd thing. I know my mother loved me intensely. I know she was proud of me because she would say so occasionally, after I got older and moved out from under her feet. When we could breathe without the taste of each other's exhaled breath in our mouths, we found that we liked one another quite a lot. I was shocked at how easily I could surprise her into laughing with me, absolutely blown apart and rebuilt the first time I saw in her face a love that was untempered by frustration or anger. I can still see that expression in my mind, the surprise in her beautiful eyes at realizing that we were the same and it was okay. I can clearly remember the relief, thinking Dear God, finally.

By the time she died, we were quite close. Very close. My older (younger) sister was still the favorite. Our oldest sister was a close second. Then there was me, pulling up the rear, but at least I was on the list...

My mother had issues. Big ones. Serious ones. We all do, and if someone tells you they don't, they're a dirty liar and you should get away from them before the Earth cracks beneath their feet. (Because liars, if no one else, go to hell.) But I loved her intensely. Still do. She was perfect in the way that we all are. She taught me to see people, not disorders, and understand that everyone has motives and reasons behind everything they do and say- no matter how obscure or hard to understand. She showed me how to hate the deed, not the doer, how to love unconditionally and hang on 'till it hurts and after. How to push aside the iron curtain around someone you love and reach them underneath.

I was just thinking about that. Feeling the baby kick, wishing she was here. She would have been so happy to have herself another grandson. I would have been so happy to give her one.

I am the fighter that she made me into. I am the hard one, the difficult one. I am the one that does the things the others will not do. I am her daughter, and I am so proud of that. She was my everything once, and it will always be enough that I was part of hers, too.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

In other news:

My sister just emailed me out of nowhere and said there's a constant threat of monster solar flares burning away our ozone and leaving everything on Earth to fry.

Apparently, she didn't think I was paranoid enough.

Oh, good.

Some kind of monster.

I went to get a new phone today because, although I don't believe I've mentioned it here, I FUCKING HATED MY PHONE. Hated with a passion that burned with the fire of a thousand suns. Hated A LOT. Which is all beside the point, it's not at all the point. I'm only mentioning it to procrastinate writing what I need to talk about, which is this:

I am a fucking monster. Now, before anyone gets any big ideas about how this is going to be one of those compliment fishing posts or I'm looking for someone to talk me out of feeling this way, you should wait. Wait and see why I say this. The only reason I'm sharing it is because seriously? People should be kept the hell away from me. Consider it a PSA and get the hell away. Just get away.

See, I was down at the phone place today getting myself a new phone because my old one was FROM FUCKING HELL, and I'm sitting there and I notice there's a flier on the representative's desk. I'm reading it upside down because I'm nosey like that, and I see two names I recognize. We'll say they're Dan and Judy. I think Hey, cool, I know a Dan and Judy, wouldn't it be funny if they're the same ones.

Then I see the picture. And it isn't cool, and I don't want to know this Dan and Judy anymore.

There's an under-lit photo of a blurry, unbelievably small person... Skin raspberry-red and ruddy and plastic-looking; delicate eyes hidden behind a black felt Zorro mask without the holes. A clear plastic tube disappearing between gaping, pencil-thin lips and down a tiny throat. Hands so small, the fingers look webbed.

There's another picture below it. Ink-stamped footprints. Between the foot prints is a penny to give perspective, and the feet are hardly bigger than the coin. Hardly bigger at all. The mind boggles, reels, spins away and gags, because feet that small are never attached to a body that lives.

I reached for the flier without asking, flipped it around to read what in the hell was going on...

Dan and Judy, friends I haven't seen in almost a year, were 6 months pregnant when Judy delivered their baby boy by emergency C-section less than 26 hours ago. The flier was asking for monetary donations to help differ the astronomical cost of hospital bills for mother and son, and hotel stays for the two parents to be able to stay near their tiny boy after discharge. They're 3 hours from home at a bigger hospital, and not that ANYONE has the money for this kind of thing, but Dan and Judy really don't. They've been hit with unemployment, are on assistance, and they struggle but they are so happy. Were so happy. Now that sunny disposition they face the world with has been clouded with fear and sorrow -- justified the first and premature the second because maybe, just maybe, their boy will make it. He could. They do, sometimes. They do. Don't they? He could.

I graduated with Dan, used to live downstairs from Judy. They've drifted out of my circle of consciousness and I from theirs, farther away than possible to be considered actual friends if any one's being honest. But I knew them once, and delight in seeing them still...

I didn't know they were pregnant. I didn't know Judy was having problems, bleeding problems, didn't know she'd lived the last 6 months of her life under the constant and very real threat of losing her son. I didn't know any of this, and it was a shock to the system, seeing this terribly small person who suddenly and surprisingly belongs to someone I care about. It seemed so unreal. Knowing that he may not live (babies aren't supposed to die.) Knowing how that must suffocate these two sweet people, staring at their son and willing him to hang on, baby, please hang on.

All of this registered in an instant, their terrible pain and fear and the delicate state of this tiny new person. It all flash-banged into my skull and became a part of my reality.

And then I made it about me. Because I'm a fucking asshole.

I started thinking, well, I'm 5 and a half months along -- only two weeks behind them. Jesus, would MY baby make it, would he live? Would they be able to save him? Would I be strong enough to go through what they're going through without scratching my own skin off and shrieking PLEASE HELP ME to anyone with ears? Would my baby die like theirs might? How could I recover from that again, I couldn't, I just know I couldn't.

I started looking for differences that would push me farther away from my friends and their situation, started feverishly scouring my mind for things that would put me apart from them and their tragedy. This lady says Judy started having problems at two months, I haven't had problems... She'd been on and off bed rest for the duration, I'm fine. We're fine. It's not going to happen to us. God, don't let it happen to us. She smoked -- I quit months before I got pregnant. She doesn't take much care of herself, I've been so, so careful.

You see. Monster.

I KNOW BETTER THAN THIS. Sometimes you can do everything right and the worst still happens -- has happened to me and people I know and love, IS happening NOW -- and yet there I was, like some superior, self important fuck, trying to convince myself that I was better or different so that terror wouldn't come knocking at our door. And you know what? Regardless of what Judy does, has done or hasn't done, no one deserves what she and her husband are going through right now and what in the hell kind of person has that reaction anyway!? These people, I know them, they are (were) friends, they're good people. How dare I...?

The representative was Judy's sister-in-law. She's going to take Judy and Dan's older girl (She's two. She's beautiful and perfect and sweet,) to see her parents tonight, making the drive after work. I pulled a hundred dollar bill out of my wallet, asked if I could give it to her for Judy and Dan and their boy.

It's not that I have hundreds lying around all the time. I was going to use that money to buy furniture for our baby...

But furniture is sticks and cloth and nails. It's material, it's nothing and it doesn't matter.

That money, when I handed it to that woman, became an extra night Dan and Judy can be close to their son without worrying how to pay for it. It became a bill that was just a little bit smaller.

It became a tangible apology for the guilt that woman didn't know I was feeling. I'm sorry for being so selfish, I'm sorry your son is sick and mine -thank God- is still where he belongs in my tummy, I'm sorry this happened to your family.

I'm sorry for being so scared. I'm sorry that hearing about your ordeal made me fear that the same could happen to us -- I'm sorry that, even if only in my mind, I treated you like your pain was contagious. I'm so sorry.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dear TBM...

Dear The Boy's Mom,

Hi. I know we've known each other for about a year now, but I feel like we don't really know one another very well. Let me start out by saying, my, what a lovely son you have. I mean, really. Good job there. I think he's pretty awesome, as you may have gathered by the fact that I let him impregnate me, but one can never stress the positive too much so, again, nice work. Thumbs up.

Also? I like your hair. The color of it, I mean. The cut wouldn't flatter me, being kind of short and severe like it is, but it works on you. It looks nice. I'm not just saying that because I'm afraid of you. But I am afraid of you.

I don't know what else to say, other than how 'bout them Bears and WOW, what unseasonably cool weather we've been having! Have the grasshoppers been bad out in your neck of the woods? Because in town, my goodness, they're just everywhere. You can't throw a piss without hitting a hundred of those big boys, and they're really causing a problem with crops, or so I hear. Not that I have crops, as you know, but I do hear things about people that have them, and man... What a sucky year. To have crops. I... Am I right? Heh. Uh...

Oh, well, I guess I should mention, before I forget... Not that it's any big deal or anything, or that it matters at all, and I know I've already told you a couple (dozen) times, but again, I feel I need to stress it so kind of bear with me: I'm not getting rid of my 20+ pound, elderly, long-haired cat because you're concerned he's going to literally suck the life out of my baby. I'm not going to let him 'try to eat the dried milk off the baby's face' so I don't know how he'd manage to get his massive ass on top of the kid in the first place, but I do thank you for your obvious and repetitive concern on this matter. I know it's out of love, and not your conviction that I'm too stupid to keep your grandchild alive. What? No, of course I do!

But ...Did I tell you that he's kind of crippled, my cat, and not so good at jumping? So, although I know I'll have to be aware of possible assassination attempts when I put my new-born on the floor and leave him unattended in a room by himself with the animal, I don't really think Mr. Big Stuff is going to be able to heave his gigantic ass into the crib and kill the baby that way. Just so you know. And I'll try to be as vigilant as I can when I pull both my infant and my kitty onto my lap, letting one nibble on the lips of the other, so that when the cat looks like he's starting to suck the air out of my son I can put a stop to that shit right there. We won't be having any baby lung sucking on my watch, ha ha ha.

I know your concern isn't limited to the fact that my cat is obviously from Hell and has evil in his murderous heart, but also that his long hair will give the baby DEADLY ALLERGIES, because your doctor 27 years ago told you that it was possible. You did mention that you selflessly got rid of your cat when The Boy was born and that he and his sisters have never had any allergies. You may have mentioned (repeatedly) that you loved that cat, but you loved your children MORE, and look how much good it's done for THEM, and I have to agree: You are obviously a saint.

Although, and not that I'm criticizing, I don't know how it's managed to escape your attention that your son actually DOES have allergies, or that his dog also has long hair. I only mention this because I notice that you aren't worried about her (the dog) shedding causing our child to become weak and frail and DIE, probably also from suffocation.

This brings me to another point. I'm worried about you, The Boy's Mom. Why does suffocation frighten you so? Were you asphyxiated as a child? Is there a hidden trauma you need to talk about? I'm here if you need an ear, and I'd be happy to listen to your woes.

Sort of along the same vein but not really at all, I just kind of wanted to mention that, well... you know the house your son and I are currently moving into? The one both of us are buying together, with our money, for our family and our (hopefully unsuffocated- cross your fingers!) child? Yeah. I really hate the upstairs bathroom. I hate that there is CARPET in it. I hate that the walls are SPONGE PAINTED and that there is a wallpaper border along the ceiling with random seashells in varying shades of PINK. That bathroom is not really 'me' at all. I know you love it and you think it's classy, and you can't imagine why I'd want to change it apart from the fact that I'm obviously blind or stupid and regardless, must not be good enough for your son. But I do want to change it, and that doesn't mean I've got bad taste or I'm dense, and even if I want to paint the walls in goat blood and drill a chute to China in the middle of the floor, I can do that because the bathroom is mine and not yours so it's really not up to you... Unless you're confused and think you're the one moving in with your son, in which case that brings up an entirely new set of concerns. A set of concerns which could lead to extended hospitalization. In theory. Not that I'm making a threat. No, of course I'm not!

Well, The Boy's Mom, I guess that's kind of it for now. I sure appreciate you taking the time to absorb what I have to say. I know the letter is long, but I figured perhaps written words could get my point across better than the words I speak, which you apparently cannot hear. We really need to find some way around this language barrier, TBM! I know we both speak English, but I fear my dialect must be very different from yours. (Maybe I was exposed to cats as an infant? No. Couldn't be. I don't seem to be dying of suffocation. Must be something else.)

Well, alrighty! I guess we'll talk (or write?) to you soon!
-The Girl