Friday, May 30, 2008

Comic relief from an unlikely source

Our house is, technically, a condo. The entire neighborhood is managed by an association to which we pay fees. In exchange for these fees, men with tools appear every so often to mow our front lawns, trim the bushes, and generally keep things tidy and neat.

In fact, our front lawns aren't even ours. The only land that any of us actually owns is the fenced yard behind each house -- everything else is considered common area, and we aren't allowed to mess with it. Even on what would logically appear to my front lawn, i.e., the grassy area directly in front of my house, I'm not allowed to mow or fertilize or plant or anything.

When we moved in, we brought a bunch of plants that Jason had been accumulating and nurturing. They were all in pots. Knowing that we weren't allowed to plant anything out front, we just set potted plants along the edges of the driveway and the front walkway.

One day, the property manager knocked on my door and asked me if I wanted his guys to plant our plants in the ground. I said, "sure." So he planted a couple of hibiscus bushes on the right of the driveway (in front of the entry gate) and some little ti leaf bushes on the left.

Because it's all common property, the plants are no longer really ours in a legal sense, but Jason continued to water them and tend to them. It was understood by all they were his.

Two days ago, Next Door Neighbor decided that Jason's ti plant was dead (even though it's leaves were green and it wasn't drooping or otherwise indicating it wasn't long for this world) and pulled it out. I walked outside to talk to some of the other neighbors that were hanging out in the street (it's a dead-end, so we tend to pull out our camp chairs and hang out in the road drinking beer and shooting the shit). NDN had some clippers and was trimming the groundcover in front of my garage. Jason was standing out there looking stricken.

He's terrible at confrontation, so I whispered to him, "do you want me to say something?"

He nodded.

I turned to NDN. "Why did you take out Jason's plant? And why are you gardening the area in front of my house?" I didn't yell, but I don't doubt that my voice was stern.

"The plant was dead. And it's my yard."

"The plant was not dead, and it is not your yard. My fence ends right there, and everything you're doing is on land in front of my house."

"It's my yard. It's my yard."

"It is not your yard. Look where you're standing. You're directly in front of my fence and my house. How do you figure it's your yard?"

"It's my yard," she insisted.

"Fine. I'm not going to argue about this with you. I'll consult the paperwork and talk to people that know something about the property boundaries."

"You do that," she said.

"Don't worry, I will," I replied.

The condo documents containing all of the rules regarding common areas are hundreds of pages long, and I wasn't in the mood to hunt them down. I went inside to feed and bathe Zeke. When I came outside afterwards, I was standing talking to our neighbor across the street when I saw Jason come out of the house, grab his electric hand-saw, and cut down the plant next to where his ti plant had been. The plant he cut had been there when we moved in. It was about a foot and a half high and probably costs about $5 at Home Depot.

I fully recognize that this was a stupid and immature thing for him to do. But he was furious and acted without thinking, and in any event, it would have been the condo association's issue to raise. If they wanted us to replace the plant, no problem.

We went about our business and didn't think about plants any more.

Then yesterday, at about 5 in the afternoon, I walked outside to see two police cars in front of NDN's house.

"No, it couldn't be," I thought.

But yes, NDN had summoned the police about the plant. And as I stood in my driveway trying to keep from busting out laughing, the police were pointing out the imaginary line from the edge of my fence to the street and explaining to NDN that under Honolulu's city and county rules, anything on the "my house" side of that line was mine, and if I wanted to remove a plant, I could do it. After consulting with me and one of the other neighbors about the condo rules, the nice policeman also explained to her that in any event, the lawn and everything on it belonged to the condo association, so if anyone had standing to complaint about the loss of a plant, it was the association and not her.

NDN is now moping around complaining to the other neighbors that I don't like her and I act like I don't like her and that my treatment of her is "less than human." Guilty as charged on the first two. The last is too ridiculous to even address. My interaction with her is generally limited to saying "good morning" when we pass each other in the mornings walking our dogs.

In any case, Jason and I have not been able to stop giggling. Who knew a trip from the cops could do so much to lighten the mood around here?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The news is brighter, and I'm presented with an opportunity for hilarity: baby passport pictures!

Yesterday Jason's dad woke up. He's not completely alert and responsive -- I don't think he's talking much, and he still needs to stay in the hospital because the doctors still don't know exactly what's wrong with him -- but he's awake and responding to some stimuli and is stable. So that's good.

Jason's going to try to go to Australia to see him at some point over the next few weeks, assuming we can get a decent fare. I think he's going to take Zeke with him. I'll miss Zeke, but I think it's good for him to go meet his grandfather and his other relatives Down Under.

Of course, this means that Zeke needs to get a passport. My mom's colleagues in the Honolulu passport office have graciously agreed to let me come in at my convenience and they'll expedite the process for me, so I should be able to get everything taken care of by early next week. I've got all the paperwork lined up, now I just need to get passport pictures taken.

When Jason last got his passport renewed, the pictures he initially brought in were rejected because he was smiling. Apparently, the rule is, "no teeth." I'm hoping this isn't a problem for Zeke, given that he's only got two of them. Now I just need to figure out how to keep him from smiling; a tough task, because when he's not eating or sleeping, pretty much all he does is smile, giggle and clap his hands. Maybe the powers that be are more lenient when the subject is only 7 months old.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Shrinking the distance

I put alot of effort into maintaining close contact with my friends and family on the mainland and all over the world. Occasionally it flashes into my head exactly where I am and how far away I am from just about everyone I love, and it can be overwhelming. Blogging helps. I usually have at least 4 or 5 Scrabulous games going on Facebook, and that helps. I talk to my mother every day and to other relatives and friends weekly.

Today that feeling of home came from an unlikely place.

I had Cream of Wheat for breakfast.

When I was little, Cream of Wheat for breakfast was a treat that my mom would make us when it was cold out or when we had all made it down to the table with time to spare. We would have it with brown sugar and milk on top. It was my favorite breakfast, and the one that would send me off to school feeling content and cozy and loved.

Yet, for some reason, I never eat it as an adult. I still love it, but when I'm at the grocery store I gravitate to oatmeal.

Today after I dropped Zeke off at school, I headed to the market to stock up on more oatmeal (having poured dog food over the last I had in the house) and some fruit. When I got to the cereal aisle, I saw the box of Cream of Wheat sitting there, and I felt an instant flood of nostalgia. I bought it and took it home and made myself a bowl with strawberries and bananas on top. It tasted like home. I felt like my mommy was there, ready to send me off to school with a kiss and a full warm belly.

It's made it much easier to sit at my desk and face the day, way out here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Clearly, I need to get more rest

I am preparing my breakfast and the dog's breakfast. On the counter, I've got a bowl of oatmeal for me to which I will add blueberries, and a bowl of dry dog food for Max to which I will add some wet dog food.

I proceed to spoon half a cup of wet dog food onto my oatmeal.

Where's Dr. House when you need him?

I had a nice quiet weekend, and then everything went to hell very quickly. Saturday night I got a call from Jason's brother in Australia informing me that Jason's dad, who has been in the hospital for weeks with some undiagnosed illness, is unconscious and on a respirator, and the doctors still don't know what's going on. He was initially admitted because he had collapsed and was disoriented (he thought it was 2006) and couldn't function. The docs said it was severe depression. Given that he was practically catatonic and couldn't dress or feed himself, this struck me as a bit of a stretch, but hey, I've got a law degree, not a medical degree, so what do I know? In the meantime, they've been running test after test all while speculating that it could be cancer or TB or Legionnaire's disease, but the truth is, they don't know what the fuck is wrong with him.

The Aussie relatives, in typical form, suspect Asian bird flu because Jason's dad has a lady friend who is from the Phillipines -- they think that any time a person goes to China or the Phillipines or anywhere else "foreign" that they come back with cooties. Maybe this explains why they insist on boiling the tap water before they drink it, even though I don't doubt that the drinking water in Hawaii is a million times cleaner than it is in Australia. Because I'm evil, I've been secretly pouring out their pitchers of boiled water and replacing it with plain water from the tap. I know it's totally immature, but it makes me feel better. Miraculously, they're still alive.

Jason is a nervous mess and trying to figure out if he needs to go home to see his dad before it's too late, all while worrying that if he takes the time off work, he could lose his job. MIL is making things worse by being the voice of doom, going on and on about how people go into the hospital and come out sicker or dead. Thanks, asshole. You're really helping my husband keep it together.

Four more days, four more days...

Friday, May 23, 2008

The "work in progress" part of relationships

Reading over my last post, I'm thinking to myself, "Jesus, I'm a grumpy bitch." Frankly, the comments I received were far more charitable than I deserved, at least based on the information that I've revealed. The truth is, it's not just me being tired and annoyed at a month's worth of in-laws. There is more going on under the surface that I haven't talked about, some involving MIL, some just involving stuff between Jason and me that's been festering for a little while. But last night, Jason and I had a good talk about some of the underlying issues that have been eating away at me, and I'm feeling much, much better. I'm still not going to Maui, and I'm still thrilled to have the weekend to myself. But I feel like a huge fog has lifted.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


When it was announced to me that MIL and Pa were coming to visit for a month, I was assured that they would be taking side trips to other islands, meaning that I would have intermittent days in my house to myself and my family.

Then Jason announced to me that he wanted all of us to take the Superferry to Maui this weekend.

I said no. He said why. I said because I don't want to travel with the whole group. I've had enough. I'm tired, I don't feel like traveling, and I particularly don't feel like traveling with them. The whole point of them going to other islands was that I wouldn't have to see them for a few days. He said don't you want to see Maui. I said not particularly. He said why not. I said because I don't give a shit about seeing other Hawaiian islands -- if I could get off of this godforsaken hell-hole and never come back, it would be the happiest day of my life. He said do you mind if I go with them and take Zeke. I said not at all.

So I'm getting all of Saturday and Sunday to myself. Which I really need. I'm getting a massage, reading, going surfing, and sleeping. I can't wait til they leave.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I'm also allergic to being called a haole

I lived Atlanta for 13 years, and without question my favorite time of year there is spring. Within the course of a week or two, the dreary dullness of winter disappears with an explosion of life and color. The trees turn pink and red and white, the azaleas bloom, the daffodils start poking through the dirt. All of a sudden people are outside playing with the kids or tossing a frisbee at Piedmont Park or having a beer on the patio at the local pub. It's gorgeous and happy and wonderful.

The only downside is the pollen.

With the onset of spring comes an extraordinary release of yellow dust by the various trees, bushes and grasses. Cars are covered with it. When it rains there are rivers of yellow pouring into the sewers.

On any given day during pollen season, the local news broadcast includes the pollen count. The count measures pollen particles within a cubic meter of air. Anything over 120 is considered extremely high, so that anyone with any sensitivity to pollen will likely have allergy symptoms. During the height of the pollen explosion, it wasn't unusual for the pollen count to be over 4000.

Amazingly, I was totally impervious to it. Everyone I knew, including my dogs, would run around hacking and sneezing, with eyes full of goop and handbags full of allergy medication, and I would be completely fine.

How ironic that it took moving to paradise -- the perfect climate -- for me to be knocked on my ass by an allergy.

It's the vog.

Kilauea, on the Big Island of Hawaii, is an active volcano that has been erupting for years. Right now, it's erupting at two points: a southern lava flow that goes into the ocean (and adds multiple acres to the island's area every year), and a vent that recently opened and started spewing ash and sulfuric acid. When the lava from the southern flow reaches the ocean, it also emits sulfuric acid.

(the new ash plume at Halemaumau crater on Kilauea's summit)

Usually, all of that ash and acid isn't a big deal, because the trade winds blow them away. But the trades have been kind of dormant lately, so all of that crud in the air has been slowly drifting west over the other island (the Big Island is eastern-most in the island chain). On O'ahu, there are two mountain ranges that run along the east and west coasts, so this volcanic smog, or "vog," gets trapped between the mountain ranges creating this disgusting haze of brownish grey. Most days, I can clearly see the Waianae mountain range (the western spine of the island) behind my house. Last week I could barely see my neighbor's trees the next yard over.

MIL and Pa went into Waikiki and couldn't see Diamond Head Volcano.

Just to give you an idea of how extraordinary that is, here is a picture of Waikiki Beach. See that big 800 foot tall extinct volcano visible at the end of the beach? That's Diamond Head. Not being able to see it from Waikiki is like sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and not being able to see the Washington Monument.

When I got back from my trip to New Hampshire, I had a sinus infection and bronchitis. I was congested, feverish, and coughing my brains out. My doctor prescribed some medication and I was getting better. I felt pretty good, and the cough was diminishing drastically every day.

Then the vog hit, and I started coughing again, mildly at first, and then so badly that my back and shoulders are hurting and I can't take deep breaths without my bronchial tubes going into spasm. The doctor diagnosed me with "severe allergic bronchitis brought about by weather conditions, specifically VOG." And yes, he capitalized "VOG" in his discharge papers. Elsewhere in his summary he referred to it as "acute bronchospasm."

I sort of take issue with the "allergy" part. When I think of allergies I think of people who can't eat in a restaurant because one of the waiters might have handled a peanut at some point in the last 5 years. Sulfuric acid isn't really an allergen -- it's a pretty severe toxin. It can burn your skin and cause cancer. By that logic, I'm also "allergic" to arsenic, ricin gas, and bullets aimed at my head.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Yesterday Pa came into my office.

"Wendy, it's raining."

"Yes, I know. It's kind of pleasant. We don't get rain on this side of the island that much."

"I was thinking of going down to the pool."

"Why do you want to sit by the pool in the rain?"

"It's a nice rain. Very soft."

He had me there.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The downside of coming from a family of smart-asses

My husband is, to put it mildly, a Good Eater.

Being a Good Eater was always considered to be an admirable trait in my family. When I was little, I was a picky eater and a skinny string bean of a kid. My brother Josh, on the other hand, was a chubby-bubbie who ate everything. At dinner I'd be picking at my food and Josh would be scarfing down whatever was in front of him, and my parents would look at me and say, "look, Wendy. Josh ate his dinner. He's such a Good Eater." It's now become something of a joke in our family, to remark on someone's eating habits in a sing-songy voice that they're a Good Eater.

When Jason first moved in with me, I went into a mild panic after the first week because I was wondering whether one of us would have to get a second job to keep him fed. The guy goes through at least 2 gallons of milk a week and can easily blow through a loaf of bread in a day and a half. My mom even gave me a bread machine that was on non-stop in an effort to save some money. At any given meal, Jason usually eats about 2 to 3 times as much as I do. When my parents met him and observed his eating habits, it was roundly agreed that Jason definitely met the criteria for being considered a Good Eater.

So it was no surprise when Zeke demonstrated a healthy appetite for solid food, when it was introduced to him. Once he got used to the mechanics of eating, he would routinely polish off nice big quantities of applesauce or pears or squash or green beans or whatever else he was offered, smiling and smacking his lips the whole time. He was a Good Eater.

But then last week he got sick. He threw up at school, and had stomach issues for about 5 days. And he totally stopped eating solid food. He'll still take his formula in bottles, but every time I or one of his teachers at school tries to feed him, he pushes away the spoon and sometimes even cries. In the past 3 weeks, what with the ear infection and sinus infection and stomach bug, he's actually lost weight, which is bad for a growing baby. He's now dropped to the 15th percentile for weight, though he's in the 65th for height. I guess being long and thin isn't a bad way to go through life. But still, I'm a little worried.

I called my parents for some moral support and advice.

"I'm worried," I said. "I don't know what to do," I said. "What advice can you give me?" I pleaded.

When my dad heard what the problem was, his contribution to the conversation was, "are you sure it's Jason's kid?"

Friday, May 16, 2008

Exactly who am I trying to impress?

Not that I am in the habit of feeding my husband Chef Boyardee Franks n' Beans, but while MIL and Pa are here, I have gone out of my way to prepare gourmet meals. The goodies that I pull out of the bag every week and a half or so have been showing up on the table in rapid-fire succession. Jason is loving it.

If I were to examine my psyche, I guess the motivations are obvious. I'm trying to show her that her son married a domestic goddess and that I take good care of him (better care of him than she did, perhaps?). I don't know why I care what she thinks, but I do.

Last night, I realized that I don't need to work so hard.

Tonight MIL and Pa are going to babysit (wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles) while Jason and I go out on a dinner date. MIL announced last night that for their dinner tonight, she's making Pa -- wait for it -- franks and beans.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

In which I take a break from "mommy-blogging"...

I'm tired of complaining about the in-laws or Zeke being sick or the vog that is giving me a blinding headache.

So today I'm going to talk about Thomas Jefferson.

Students at the University of Virginia are indoctrinated in the cult of Thomas Jefferson. He is revered, rightly, as the founder of a great institution of learning, the author of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia statute on religious freedom, etc. People refer to him as "Mr. Jefferson," as if he just stepped out and went down to the Corner for a box of snuff.

I've always admired him for his "Renaissance man" tendencies -- he was a scholar, an inventor, a patriot, a scientist, an architect, and someone who devoted himself to promoting republican (small "r") ideals.

But I just finished a book about John Adams that taught me some disturbing things about Jefferson. That he actively schemed against Adams while serving as his vice president. That he was a big fat liar when it came to politics, saying one thing to one person and then saying the exact opposite to another, all while professing innocence and disinterest in any political schemes. That he wrote about the evils of slavery yet hypocritically refused to free his hundreds of slaves because they kept him in the lifestyle to which he was accustomed and which he refused to relinquish (he was a dandy and a spendthrift) even though he was in serious debt.

I'm not sure why this upsets me so much. I guess I'm so conditioned to revere Jefferson that it's coming as a great shock to my system that in spite of his unquestionable accomplishments and contributions to our country, in his personal life he was a bit of an asshole. I feel ridiculous saying this, given that the guy has been dead for almost 300 years, but I'm really disappointed in him.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Un-Grandma

When I was first bitching and moaning about the in-laws coming for a month, many tried to console me by pointing out that I would have extra adult hands around the house to help out, extra help with Zeke, and that it could really end up with my life being much easier. Grandma would be here to cuddle her grandson and I would have more time to take care of everything else.

But perhaps the most shocking thing about this visit -- other than revealing how fucking weird MIL and Pa can be -- is how utterly uninterested MIL appears to be in Zeke. Oh, she'll greet him when I get up in the morning with "hello, little man" or make inane comments about whatever he happens to be doing ("having your breakfast, are you? are you?"), but she never picks him up or seems interested in holding him or kissing him or playing with him or taking him for a walk in the stroller or anything else.

On the other hand, when we were with my parents, I could barely get 5 minutes with the kid. As with all of their grandchildren, my parents are totally enamored of Zeke and cuddle him and talk to him and play with him as much as they can.

I know that people are all different, and that I'm blessed with an inordinately loving and affectionate family, but still. It bugs me. Particularly when I could use the help.

Yesterday I had to pick Zeke up early from school because he got sick and threw up a bunch of times. I took him straight to the doctor's office, and when I got home, MIL and Pa were sitting out in front of the house in beach chairs, even though it was raining a little bit. (Weird.) When I opened the car door, they could hear Zeke crying and could see that I was laden down with my purse and the diaper bag and bags of medicine and formula that the doctor gave me, but rather than help out or say "what can we do?", they just stood there and exclaimed, "oooh, the little boy's crying!"

No shit.

Today I had to keep Zeke home because his school has a puking-plus-24-hours banishment policy. Which means I'm getting nothing done. I asked MIL to watch Zeke for 10 minutes while I showered, and from the look on her face you would have thought a) she had never dealt with a baby before, or b) I had asked her to watch over an anthrax-laced envelope. Her relief when I returned from the shower could not have been more palpable.

Then she and Pa announced they were going to the pool. Pa trudged off down the street with one of my throw pillows from the sofa under his arm. (Fucking weird!!)

The other day when I dropped Zeke off at school, his teacher remarked that he must be getting spoiled with all the attention he must be getting from Grandma.

"One would think," I answered.

But one would be dead wrong.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Act like you've been there

I'm not sure where I got this trait, but I have an almost pathological aversion to letting people know when anything has gotten to me. Well, not anything. I'll cry at a sad movie without giving it a second thought, or marvel at beautiful works of art without feeling like a chump, or express shock and horror at news stories depicting war or torture.

But in other situations, I play my cards close to the vest and make a point of reacting to virtually everything like, "oh, ho-hum. La dee da." It's probably a by-product of being a lawyer. When I first started working, I sat through a deposition in which my client was revealed to be a total lying scumbag, and even though I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me, I'm convinced that my reaction of, "oh, what? yeah, I knew all about that no big deal" helped us secure a far more favorable settlement than we were ever entitled to under any measure of morality or decency.

Which makes all the more baffling the reactions MIL and Pa have to just about everything. I swear, if I didn't know better, I'd be convinced that Australia is some backwater lacking all manifestations of modern civilization, instead of the plugged-in, tech-savvy country I know it to be. Seriously, it's like playing host to people that have just stepped off a time machine from the old country.

Because the highlight of their trip has been visiting Ala Moana Shopping Center, a big mall in downtown Honolulu. Which is a nice place with plenty of chi-chi stores and all, but still. It's a mall, fercrissakes.

"Oh, jeepers, you should have seen the food court. It was enooooormous. Soooo beauuuuutiful. You go in, and you're hungry, see? But it's so big and there are so many choices, it's just overwheeeelming. You don't know where to turn!"

They took pictures at the Williams-Sonoma.

"We went in one kitchens store, it was so lovely. They had this display of a stove set up with all of this goooooorgeous cookware. Wait, I have a photo here! Have you ever seen anything quite like it?"

Another high point was the trip to Costco (we're not allowed to shop at Sam's Club anymore since Jason watched a documentary about what a scummy company Wal-Mart is). They took pictures there, too. "That was quite an adventure!"

No outing, however seemingly insignificant, is immune. We pull up to a shopping center, grab a cart, and walk inside.

"Oh, Wendy, what's this store? This is a gorgeous place!"

"Uh, it's a Safeway."


I'll cherish it forever

This is my first mother's day present from Zeke. I never thought I could love a silly crafts project as much as I love this one.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Emily Post vs. The Aussies

I like to think that I am a gracious hostess. The example was set for me by my mother, and I also lived half my life in the South, so I take my obligations to my guests seriously. I do my best to make people feel comfortable and welcome in my home. But I'm having a hard time with my current guests because they're not acting like guests, but rather like people who have moved in, and they're not letting me make them comfortable the way I feel I should.

Our house only has 3 bedrooms -- the master, Zeke's room, and a guest room. But with MIL and Pa staying with us, we're short a room. So Pa has been sleeping on an air mattress on the floor in our upstairs hallway/vestibule. Jason and MIL and Pa see no problem with this arrangement. I, on the other hand, am horrified by it. I just can't imagine that the etiquette gods are at all pleased with the notion of an 88 year old man sleeping on the floor of his grandson's house.

I'm going to buy a twin bed and put it in Zeke's room (he'll probably be using it in a year anyway) so that Pa can have a decent place to sleep. Which puts me in the ironic position of fulfilling my obligations as a hostess by ignoring my guests' assurances that all is well.

It's very off-putting.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Generation gap

Pa, Jason's grandfather, is 88 years old. Among the items he brought over for his visit is an old broken thermos stopper. He's held on to it for years -- over a decade, at least -- because he's determined to track down the company in Nashville, Tennessee, in order to procure a replacement.

When Jason handed me the broken stopper, I said, "what am I supposed to do with this?"

"Could you go online and maybe track down the company and see if you can get a new stopper?"

"Why doesn't he just get a new thermos? A decent one is, like, $20 or something."

Jason shrugged. "I don't know. Just see what you can find, OK?"

It turns out that Pa's thermos is so old that the company that made it hasn't existed for years. It was bought out by another company and the thermos models have all changed. The thermos stopper model he needs isn't manufactured anymore. I couldn't even find one on Ebay.

As I was searching, I was wondering to myself whether my attitude of "just replace the damned thing" was a by-product of the wasteful consumer culture we live in. When I lived in India (well before its economy opened up and modernized), it was always cheaper to get something fixed than to buy a new one. You'd go down to the corner market and there was always a guy with MacGuyver-esque talents who could fix your broken TV with a fork, some toothpaste and an old rusted spark plug.

Similarly, when we were in Detroit last week, my mom was helping my grandpa clean out his basement, and discovered that he had kept every telephone that he had ever owned, even though they were all old and broken. I guess he just figured that it was wasteful to toss them because they could have been fixed.

I have exactly the opposite inclination. Unless a really expensive big-ticket item like a fridge or something is involved, it's almost always cheaper and easier just to replace things that have broken. I'm the opposite of a pack rat -- I love throwing things away. If I had been Pa, it wouldn't have occurred to me to keep something as inexpensive to replace as a thermos.

I don't know if that's good or bad.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Questions, questions

Jason has this habit of asking really random questions about things that wouldn't even occur to me to think about.

"If we take a roadtrip out west in a couple of years with our friends, what kind of RV do you think should we rent?"

"If we were to get a new car someday, would you get surf racks installed or would you use the soft removable kind?"

"What do you think we should make for dinner when so-and-so comes to visit next year?"

My brain is cluttered enough as it is, so these questions are generally met with the Survivorman face and a "what? I don't know. I'll worry about it when it happens."

But I've discovered that he comes by it honestly.

Last night at dinner, I was talking about how my niece was accepted into an advanced academic program this summer at Johns Hopkins University, and how my parents are really excited because she is going to stay with them for those three weeks, since the program is in Baltimore.

A few minutes after that conversation, Jason's mom asked, "you said that Baltimore is about an hour away from your parents' house. How is she going to get there every day?"

"I think there's a bus from DC that she can take, and one of my parents will take her to the bus every morning."

"How long is her day going to be?"

"Uh, I'm not sure. Probably 6 or 8 hours or something like that."

"Well, what's she going to do for morning tea and lunch?"

"Ummm. I have no idea. I'm sure she'll be taken care of."

The whole time I was thinking, "What?? I don't know." But I was careful to keep the Survivorman face at bay.

The marathon mindset

Nine years ago I ran a marathon. The previous year I had gone through an intensely painful break-up, and even though I had never been a runner, I accepted the invitation of a friend to do a half-marathon with her. It would be a good distraction, I figured, to try something new. Five months later we ran the Disney half-marathon, and I really enjoyed it, so I decided to try a marathon. So five months after running the half, I ran a marathon in Anchorage, Alaska. The morning of the race, I remember waking up and thinking, "I am about to undertake the hardest physical task I've ever done in my life." I wasn't wrong.

Even though it was a long time ago, I still vividly remember what it felt like to run the race. The first 10 miles were great. I felt fine, the weather was good, and I was comfortable and feeling light and breezy. Miles 10 through 17 were a slog, mostly because I got bored. I'd already run a long way, but I still a long, long way to go, and I was kind of over it. Plus we were on a section of the race that was very rocky and difficult, running through wooded trails, so I was constantly afraid of catching a bad step and turning my ankle or something. But then at around mile 18, we came out of the woods and started descending back into town, and I got a second wind. Miles 18 to 22 were awesome -- I felt like I could run forever.

And then the last 4 miles felt like 50. I have never had to summon as much willpower as I did those last 4 miles, just to continue putting one foot in front of the other. The thoughts in my head were of the "what the hell am I doing? why am I torturing myself like this" variety. But I kept going, and I finished. And in doing so, I realized that I can suffer through just about anything, as long as I will myself to keep going.

That realization has gotten me through everything from triathlons to recovering from back surgery (brought on, no doubt, by the marathon -- the disc had herniated by the time I ran the Alaska race) to childbirth. And yesterday, it got me through the most miserable plane ride of my life.

The past week has been, to say the least, difficult. It was great to see my family, but the airplane air and shitty New England weather and time changes were rough on both Zeke and me, and we ended up getting sick. Nice, rich, phlegmy hacking coughs, fever, stuffiness, you name it. I dosed him up with Tylenol and Advil and downed as much DayQuil as I could get my hands on, but it didn't really help much. Plus, he was sleeping in the bed with me, so every time he moved, I woke up. And there were a couple of nights when he would wake up feverish and screaming, and I would walk the floor with him for hours, putting cold washcloths on his forehead and trying to calm him down.

I would say that on average, I got about 3 hours of sleep each night we were gone, and only about an hour the night before we flew back to Honolulu. So I was exhausted, and still coughing up a lung every five minutes. The coughs were painful and made my windpipe sore. And did I mention that in all of this, I somehow managed to contract a yeast infection? Yeah, it was sure to be a banner day.

The 2 1/2 hour flight from Boston to Minneapolis was OK -- Zeke slept most of the way and wasn't fussy. The flight attendants adored him, and would take him and hold him for a couple of minutes at a time when I need to go to the bathroom. The layover in Minneapolis was fine. I put a blanket on the floor and he played with his feet and gurgled to himself.

The 8 hour flight to Minneapolis to Honolulu was a nightmare. First, they had the AC cranked way up on the plane, so it was freezing in addition to being very dry. I could feel the air drying out the back of my throat, so it not only hurt to cough, it hurt to breathe. Zeke's nose was running non-stop, and he's drooling like a madman, so his face was constantly soaked and freezing and becoming chapped. He managed to sleep for a few hours at the beginning of the flight, but the last 4 hours he was completely over it. He was uncomfortable, he was in pain, and he was bored, so whenever we were sitting in our seats, he cried. The only thing that worked was to pick him up and walk up and down the aisles with him. Which was OK, except that he's getting heavy, and I was tired and still coughing and feeling like dogshit.

With about 2 hours left to go, I was at the end of my rope. My throat was killing me, I had a blinding headache, and I was starting to feel nauseated from the lack of sleep. I was holding Zeke and walking with him and I started to cry. We were in a little alleyway behind one of the galleys that was kind of narrow and hidden, so I just leaned against the wall and cried. I couldn't do it anymore, I had nothing left, I was done.

But of course, I was on a plane, 5 miles above the Pacific Ocean, so what the fuck were my alternatives?

I calmed myself down, calmed Zeke down, and went back to my seat. The seat next to me was empty, so I set it up with a couple of pillows and put the baby down and gave him some toys to play with. I had the flight attendants bring me a steady stream of hot tea to drink. Zeke had a couple more episodes of fussiness before we landed, but we dealt with it and by the time we landed he was happy and chattering.

I still don't love Hawaii, but getting off the plane and feeling the warm air and knowing that I could sleep in my own bed -- without my baby next to me -- was a little slice of heaven.