Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Me me me me meme

My friend Lisa participated in an interview meme a few days ago in which she was interviewed by another blogger, and then gave others the chance to be interviewed by her. It seemed like a fun and interesting exercise, so naturally I threw my hat into the ring. The rules for participating are at the end of the post.

Here are Lisa's questions for me.

1. Would you change anything about the way you grew up? What do you think was the best thing about growing up overseas? How about the hardest thing?

For the uninitiated, the way I grew up was moving around (mostly) overseas, changing locations and schools every few years or so. My parents were both foreign service officers, and because of the various assignments they had, I was born in Cyprus, lived there until I was 2; lived in Venezuela from age 2 to 6 (preschool through 1st grade); East Lansing, Michigan for a year (2nd grade); McLean, Virginia from age 7 to 10 (3rd through 5th grades); Israel from age 10 to 14 (6th through 9th grades); Mclean for a year and a half (10th and half of 11th grades), and then India for the rest of high school (where I met Lisa).

I wouldn't change anything about the way I grew up, for so many reasons. First, I don't think there's any educational substitute for seeing the world by living in so many different places. It's great to visit different countries, but visiting places like India and Israel cannot compare to the full cultural and political immersion that comes from living and going to school in those countries. And living somewhere gives you the chance to really see so many more things than you can see sightseeing for a week or 10 days. In addition to the experience of living and going to school in an Indian neighborhood, and all that that entails -- shopping in local shops, partying with my friends at local clubs, eating somosas from the little kiosk on the street corner, having prom at a swanky Indian hotel -- I've stayed on teak houseboats in northern India, vacationed at the beach on both the west and east coasts of India, trekked on camels in India and Egypt (both on school trips), skipped school to hang out at the Taj Mahal for a day, seen 3 or 4 different cities in south India, meandered through the Old City of Jerusalem on more afternoons than I can count, stayed on a kibbutz near the Sea of Galilee, snorkelled in southern Israel, hung out in Bethlehem and Tel Aviv and Haifa and Ashkelon, and on and on. From India we visited Sri Lanka and Thailand. From Israel we visited Egypt and Jordan. From Cyprus my parents took me to Beirut when I was 6 weeks old. From Venezuela my parents took my on trips through the mountains of South America. From El Salvador we saw Guatemala. I also learned the languages -- Greek was my first language, and I learned Spanish in Venezuela and Hebrew in Israel. So I would say that seeing the world in a way most people never do was the best thing about growing up the way I did.

Second, the constant change -- new schools, new neighborhoods, new friends, new sights and smells, every few years -- made me incredibly adaptable, I think. Nothing fazes me. I am really good at rolling with the punches and figuring out how to deal with just about anything.

Third, in addition to the educational value of the life experiences themselves, we happened to live in countries where the available diplomatic schools were outstanding. My brothers weren't always so lucky -- I was already in college when my folks were stationed to El Salvador, and the American school there really wasn't very good. But the schools I went to in Venezuela and Israel and India were top-notch.

The hardest thing about moving around so much was leaving good friends so often, and having to start over and be the new kid so many times. And as a result, I don't have geographic roots, really. There's no one place I can go back to where all of my old high school friends live, where every location is imbued with memories from different points of my life. But on the other hand, I have friends all over the world, and with the internet and things like Facebook, I'm in touch with more of them than I ever would have imagined.

2. Imagine yourself on the Oprah show. What are you famous for? What is she interviewing you about?

Oprah is interviewing me as part of my book tour for a new self-help book I've written. It's called "What Do You Want?", and it's a dispute resolution guide for people having difficulties with relationships, be they personal or professional. After years of helping friends and families cut through the bullshit, particularly power struggles and resentments, that come from interpersonal disputes, I've decided to make my fortune by boiling my advice down to a simple premise: ask yourself, "what do I want from this person and what am I willing to live with? Do I love them? Do I want to stay with them? What are my deal-breakers?" Based upon the answers to those questions, the book provides guidance on how to work through the disputes, come up with compromises, and learn how to peacefully coexist without either side taking their proverbial pound of flesh.

The book is a best-seller. I have donated some of the proceeds to charitable causes supporting education in developing countries, and with the rest Jason and I divide our time between the mountains of Colorado and the surf of Costa Rica.

3. Do you see the world more in black and white or shades of grey? Has this changed with age?

I absolutely see the world in shades of grey. This tendency has become more pronounced with age, and also probably as a result of being a lawyer -- I'm constitutionally incapable of seeing only one side to (most) situations. Black and white is certainly easier, but shades of grey are more reflective of reality, and I'm a big believer in accepting reality as a way of dealing successfully with life.

4. How has having a child changed your view of the world? Has it changed how you see yourself in the world?

I'm probably in the minority on this one, but having a child hasn't changed my view of the world. I still think the world is basically a cruel and difficult place (or rather, the people in it make it that way -- left alone, the world is beautiful). I see myself as pretty insignificant in the world, and having a child probably exacerbates that sense. I have extraordinary influence over the world that my child experiences right now, but as he gets older, I will have less and less control over the things in his life that will make him happy or sad or frustrated. I will help him the best I can, but the truth is, he will succeed or fail on his own, he will suffer disappointment and heartbreak and frustration that I cannot alleviate, and he will experience joys and triumphs that I will have little to do with.

5. If you had to choose a flavor of ice cream that most fits your personality, what kind do you think you would be? Feel free to make one up if necessary.

Dark chocolate and coffee soft-serve swirled together, dipped in a hard dark chocolate outer shell. I've got lots of flavor, I can be a bit of a tough nut to crack, but I'm a softie on the inside.

If you’d like to play along, just follow these instructions:

1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.”
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions. Be sure you link back to the original post.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

The Happy Place

It's the middle of the night and naturally, I can't sleep. Zeke has been up during the night for the past week -- he's cutting 4 molars at once and they're brutal -- but tonight that's not even the reason I'm up. I dosed his bedtime bottle with tylenol, advil and a little dimetapp (his nose is running and he's coughing), and I guess it worked. Of course, now that I've written that, watch him wake up and start screaming in exactly 7.9 seconds.

I've been trying to process the changes that are coming in the next four weeks. I'm starting the job as of March 1, and just to preserve what little sanity I have left, I'd like to be in Denver about a week before that. So I have 4 weeks to get my house rented and pack up my shit and move all of it, plus 2 cars, to Denver. In February. Meaning that inevitably, some massive storm system (or several of them -- why be optimistic?) will hit the Rockies and its mountain passes, shutting down all traffic and commerce, and I'll have my stuff some time in late April.

I'm not feeling down or pessimistic -- just overwhelmed. I'm making lists and cleaning closets and getting estimates and getting our tax refund (which will be a massive help), but the speed with which I have to get so much accomplished is freaking me out.

Some people, when they're on mental overload, talk of going to a "happy place." Thoughts of sitting on a warm beach, hammock swaying in the breeze, the smell of Coppertone wafting into their nostrils, sipping a cold Corona.

But I've decided that Denver is my happy place. So I'm doing all of this to get there.

A friend of mine came up with the concept.

"Think of it," she said. "You get to go to this place with good job prospects and you've got friends there and family there and activities that you love and it's not too far from your parents, so they can see Zeke when they want, and the cost of living is reasonable and the schools are good and everything is great. It's a ready-made happy place."

And she's right. I don't believe in fate or destiny, but there is something remarkable about how it's all working out. I got the job that I wanted, in an economy that couldn't be shittier for jobs, and I get to work with my best friend. My kid has a spot reserved in the daycare I wanted him in, without having to get on a waitlist. I'll be living in a duplex that went up for rent around the time I got the Denver interviews. The duplex is across the street from Kathleen's house. It's a 10 minute (max) drive to work. It's also a block off a main street that has a funky concern venue right there, and as a way to appease neighbors, the club gives 4 tickets to every show to people living within a block of the street. Two of my first cousins live in Denver, and I've always been close to them. One has two small children close to Zeke's age. So he's already got a ready-made peer group. Via the miracle of Facebook, I also discovered that at least 5 friends from college, 1 friend from Atlanta, and 2 or 3 friends from high school live in Denver.

That is the best part. One of the hardest things about living here is how isolated I've felt and how difficult it has been to grow a network of friends, especially going through my first pregnancy alone and having no posse to lean on and no group of little posse monkeys for Zeke to roam with.

All of that changes in 4 weeks. In addition to being able to work with Kathleen again, and live across the street from her, and have her munchkins play and go to school with my munchkin (and possible future munchkins), I already have a posse, including family, that I can call to go out for dinner or run errands or lean on for a favor. And they can do the same for me. And I'll be a 2 hour flight from my parents and brothers, so instead of crazy ass travel that involves major jet lag and major expense, making frequent visits financially and physically prohibitive, we can pop over for long weekends.

The thought of it makes my heart skip a beat, and takes me to my happy place. The tasks at hand don't seem so insurmountable. Because I'm going to my Happy Place.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

You can't take me anywhere

I'm usually not big on the "here's what's happening in my life" type of posts -- I like to write more thematically -- but I'm so overwhelmed that I can barely think straight.

So I got the job in Denver. Now I'm waiting for my new boss to finalize my official start date. In the meantime, I'm trying to do my taxes, collect outstanding bills from clients, rent my house, figure out which furniture and household effects to keep and which to sell, figure out exactly when to move, where to live in Denver, blah blah blah.

And I know I'll get it all done. But I'm assuming that we'll be out of here and halfway across the world in about 4 weeks, and I'm not quite sure how it's going to happen without me losing my mind.

In the meantime, we went to the movies on Saturday night. It was our first date night, just the two of us, in 3 months. We were supposed to go to Jason's company's annual Christmas party (they do it in January to save money). I had the babysitter booked. And then we decided to bag the party and go see Slumdog Millionaire instead. Because we went to the party last year, and while it was cool to win the iPod (though I only had it a month before it got wet and never worked again), the party itself was kind of a dud. The thing started at 6, and by 6:15 the vultures had cleared out the buffet. The band was beyond atrocious. And a number of people got really shitfaced and were a drag to be around.

So really, between going to a crappy party with a bunch of drunken morons and seeing Slumdog Millionaire, it was a no-brainer. First, the movie has gotten phenomenal reviews and is cleaning up during awards season. Second, everyone I know who has seen it has raved. Third, it's set in India, which automatically means there's a good chance I'll adore it. And fourth, movies mean snacks.

I'm generally not a big snacker. I don't munch on chips or nuts or snacky things during the day. Plus I'm a messy eater. I try to be neat, but I invariably end up with crumbs on my boobs or a stain on my shirt. Jason thinks this is hilarious. He jokes that it's my way of saving things for later on.

But I love movie snacks. When I was in college, my sorority did a rush party with a Hollywood theme, and we served little cups of popcorn with raisinets mixed in. I had never mixed popcorn in candy, but when I tasted it, I felt like I'd died and gone to heaven. So now I have to have popcorn with raisinets when I go to the movies.

I also don't drink soft drinks. Unless we have visitors who like them, I don't keep them in the house. And if I do have one, it'll be diet.

But at the movies, I have to have a full-on, sugary Coke.

We settled into our seats with a box holding a big bag of popcorn, my box of raisinets, and two drinks. And by the end of the night, I was happier than a pig in shit. The movie was phenomenal -- I don't remember the last time a film left me so filled with joy that it felt like my heart was going to burst out of my chest. And I had my snacks.

By the end of the night, Jason looked over at my and almost choked on his popcorn. Because there was all 5'2" of me, settled into my chair, with popcorn all over my shirt, digging around for that last raisinet, all while trying to watch the movie over a pile of food that came up over my nose.

When the movie was over, I got up to throw away our trash.

"Oh, no, baby. Let the man with the big wheelie bin come to you. You've earned it tonight."

Friday, January 23, 2009

The conversation devolves in a way most father-daughter convos don't...

Yesterday I was talking on the phone with my dad. He had been out of the country for a couple of weeks, so it was nice to catch up. We talked about his travels, the recent pictures of Zeke I had sent him, and then talk turned to President Obama's inauguration.

"It's so nice to finally have a grown-up in the White House," he said. "I was reading about how he was going to support stem-cell research and take other steps to address climate change and stuff like that."

"I know. What a pleasure to have a president that embraces science again."

"I think that the Republican Party will continue to be in the doldrums until they get with the program and embrace not only science, but also abandon their bullshit cultural issues that motivate their base but turn everybody else off."

"No doubt. I mean, with everything else the country is dealing with, gay marriage is the big issue of the day?? Give me a break."

"It just boggles my mind. Three of the four Republican candidates for president last year don't believe in the theory of evolution. Can you believe that?? In the 21st century? They may as well decide that they don't believe in the theory of gravity. Actually, now that I think of it, I wouldn't mind if the theory of gravity were abandoned."

"Ha! Seriously, it would do wonders for my boobs."

"I was thinking of a part of my own body, but I hear what you're saying."

Does anyone else have conversations like this with their dad, or is it just me?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The news

So, I got the job. Not the law firm one (they decided it wasn't a good time for them to hire), but the one with Kathleen's organization. We're still working out my start date (I'm hoping sooner rather than later), but I will be gainfully employed and we're moving to Denver.

So Jason will now have no cause to hum this under his breath:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

And the hits keep coming

I'm beginning to think that someone's trying to send me a message, the message being that I need to get out of Hawaii.

Um, point taken. Loud and clear.

I woke up this morning at around 7. Zeke was snuggled up with me. He had woken up when Jason left for work at the crack of dawn, so I brought him into my bed and we got cozy and slept some more.

As I opened my eyes, I remembered that Obama was going to be sworn in at noon on the East Coast, i.e., any minute. As Zeke stretched and yawned his way awake, I turned on the TV. Two minutes later, Chief Justice Roberts was administering the oath. Zeke and I sat there in bed and watched. I cried a little bit.

We got up and got dressed as we listened to the inaugural speech, which was wonderful. We got in the car and headed to school. Zeke was wearing his cool Obama shirt. All was well.

We arrived at school at about 7:55. I took Zeke inside. We chatted with his old teacher from the infant room for a minute or so, and then I took him to the wobbler room and gave him a kiss goodbye. I ran into one of the moms I know, and we chatted for another minute or so. At 8:01, I walked out the door.... discover that in the short time I had been away from my car, in broad daylight, in a busy parking lot with parents coming and going and dropping off their kids, some asshole had smashed the front passenger window of my car and grabbed my purse, which was sitting on the floor of the car.

I know, I know. I shouldn't leave my purse in the car. But I do this every day, running in and out in a matter of minutes. It's always light out, there are always tons of people around, not to mention the shop keepers who look out onto the parking lot through big glass windows.

So now I'm out all of my credit cards, my driver's license, Zeke's passport, a wallet that I really love that was a gift, my purse (which came from Target, but I still like it), and a couple of bucks. I cancelled the cards right away. I can get a new driver's license this afternoon. I called my insurance company and I'll have a new window for my car tomorrow morning. But I still feel violated. I had never been the victim of crime before moving here. Since moving here, we've had cars broken into and wallets stolen twice. And they broke my pretty car. Fuckers.

And you want to hear the kicker?

The car wasn't even locked.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Slightly breezy with a chance of stupid

We've been having forecasts of winter "storms" blowing in from the west (unusual, since most weather here blows in from the northeast), bringing massive surf and high winds gusting up to 50 to 60 mph.

And that's it. Maybe a little bit of rain, but no major precipitation. Just big surf up on the north and west facing shores, and wind.

And yet, everything, and I mean everything, on the island is shut down. Because of a forecast of wind. All schools are closed, including Zeke's daycare, all government jobs have the day off, trash collection cancelled, beaches closed, everything.

The decision to close the daycare was made sometime early this morning, so I didn't find out until I pulled up to drop Zeke off. I asked why the school was closed, and the director said, "because we don't know what the weather is going to be like later."

Um, true enough. But given that the school has walls and a roof, I'm not sure why wind would be such an impediment to staying open. Maybe it's me.

Anyway, true to the forecast, last night and today are windy. But no more windy than your average windy day. And this morning, we went up to the north shore to check out this allegedly giant surf. The water looked rough and churn-y, but nothing earth shattering.

So many people, when they find out I live in Hawaii, get all gushy and "oooooh, you're so lucky, paradise la la la."

And I'm all, yeah, the weather's great and it's fun to be able to surf all year and never have to put on anything heavier than a long-sleeved t-shirt, but there are plenty of things about this place that make me crazy.

Like today.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The lure of India

My family moved to India half-way through 11th grade. It was, to quote Joseph Heller, love at first sight. From the minute we arrived, I loved the food, the smells, the people, the art, the religious imagery, the chaos. To say that it is exotic and beautiful and mysterious doesn't begin to capture its draw. To this day I find myself inexorably drawn to Indian movies (including Bollywood), restaurants, and literature.

I've been mesmerized by a series on PBS right now called The Story of India. I recently reread one of my favorite books, The Great Indian Novel. I was watching TV the other day and caught part of The Namesake, the movie made from Jhumpa Lahiri's wonderful book. I've been reconnecting with old friends from India on Facebook, and busting out my old photo albums from high school. I feel like everywhere I turn, it's calling to me and dredging up old memories, including one that has become a snapshot of my quintessentially Indian experience.

My senior year, a friend of mine named Dan was invited to be an extra in a BBC miniseries that was being filmed in the city of Allahabad, an overnight train trip southeast of New Delhi. The filmmakers were looking for western-looking people to play British colonialists in some crowd scenes, and asked him to try to get some of his friends to take part. So he asked me and two other friends, Greg and Emily. In addition to the modest pay (a couple hundred rupees, maybe?), we got first class train fare and room and board in Allahabad.

The trains in India are not sleek silver bullets like the Amtraks in the United States. They're perfectly sturdy and safe, but have the feel of older trains, with the comfortable "chug-a-chug" of the engine and wheels and the gentle rocking that makes for a great night's sleep. Our berth had 4 pull-down bunks that were more than suitable.

I was awakened early the next morning, at maybe 5:30 or 6, by the slowing of the train as it pulled into a station. The sun was in the process of coming up, but it was still dusky out, with the sky purple and grey, and made hazier by the morning mist and the steam of the train as it rolled to a stop. I sat up and looked out the window. There were businessmen in suits and tradesmen wearing dhotis and women in sarees. I could smell the spices wafting off the trays of the guys selling somosas, and felt enveloped by the general headiness of the Indian air.

A chai-wallah passed by the window with a basket of clay cups full of spiced tea, flavored with sweet milk and cardamom and cinnamon. He had a monkey on his shoulder. I bought a cup of tea and savored it slowly, taking in the scene outside the window: the mist, the vendors, the crowds, the early morning light. As I finished my tea, the train started moving again. I finished my drink, and then threw the cup back out the window onto the ground, recycling it back into the earth.

I'm dying to go back to India, to show it to Jason and to see the massive changes that have occurred since I lived there 20 years ago. But part of me is afraid that I'll never recapture that magical, mystical feeling of that morning in the train station.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Don't mess with Aussies, Part 2

A while back I wrote about Jason's penchant for practical jokes. Let's just say that you don't want to get into a game of one-upmanship with him in the practical joke department. His creativity and deviousness is matched only by his willingness to take things a step further than anyone else would dare.

My favorite story is an old one, involving a joke he and his mates played on a boss they had years ago in Australia. Apparently the guy was a real humorless prick and had done something obnoxious that warranted retribution. So Jason rewired the guy's car so that every time he stepped on the brakes, the horn sounded. He and his buddies followed the guy down the highway, watching the boss get more and more befuddled and frustrated as his horn continued to go off without explanation, pissing off all the cars around him as he sat at a light.

His latest is a doozy.

Jason recently started on a new job. Every morning, he takes with him a gallon jug of water to drink throughout the day.

From the first day of work, he discovered that one of the guys is surreptitiously sneaking water from the jug when he thinks Jason isn't looking. He doesn't ask or acknowledge the action, he just assumes that Jason won't notice.

Jason noticed immediately, and started putting different things in the water. Dirt one day. A really sweet cordial syrup another day. But the guy continued taking Jason's water unabated.

Today was the pièce de résistance. Jason brought his water jug as usual. He drank about three quarters of it. And then he peed in it.

While the guys were sitting around at lunch, Jason mentioned that he was on this new diet (I think he even gave it a name, the "Junaloi" or something). He explained that part of the philosophy of the diet involved the recycling of the body's fluids, including drinking urine.

The water-stealer said nothing. But the look on his face as he realized he had been drinking Jason's pee? Priceless.

Nobody ever tells you that the "multitasking" part of motherhood involves looking like circus sideshow in public

This is what my life has become.

On Mondays and Wednesdays, Jason has school after work, so he's not home until around 7:15 or so. So on those days, I take care of the inmates, i.e., Zeke and the dog. We get up, I put Zeke in the stroller and put the leash on Max and take them for a walk. I get Zeke dressed, I get myself dressed, I feed Max, I take Zeke to school. In the afternoons, same thing. I pick up Zeke from school, and then take him and the dog for a walk when we get home.

The problem with the afternoon walk is that by then, Zeke is awake and not as interested in sitting in the stroller, particularly after sitting in traffic in the car for half an hour. So I'll let him walk/run along with me to take the dog out, even though this makes the process infinitely more lengthy and unpredictable, given his propensity to stop and look at a random plant for minutes at a time, or to run back and forth on a particular patch of sidewalk because there's a utility cover and he likes the noise it makes when he runs over it.

Yesterday on our walk, Zeke decided he wanted to bring his construction truck. He likes to push it while he walks or runs (usually runs).
The truck can be used as a rocker, but it also comes off the rocker and can roll on the floor.

Off we went. Initially everything was fine. I walked with the dog on the leash, and Zeke ran beside us, pushing his truck. A couple of times he pushed the truck off the sidewalk into the bushes, but that just gave him an opportunity to say "uh-oh" before righting himself and continuing on. Too cute.

After a while, it was time to turn around and go home, and I could see that Zeke was getting unusually frustrated when he had a hard time changing directions or pushing the truck through the grass or something. This means one of two things: he's tired, or he's hungry.

So I made the sign for "eat" and asked, "Zekey, are you hungry?"He made the sign back to me, indicating that he was, in fact, hungry. So I said, "OK, then, let's turn around and go home."

Apparently, he wanted to eat and continue pushing his truck at the same time, because he started fussing. So I turned the truck around and told him to push it back home. He responded by collapsing on the ground and crying. I tried to get him to sit on the truck so I could push him with my foot, but he refused. I picked him up, and he did the whole screaming, arching the back thing that toddlers do.

Meanwhile, the dog had pooped, and being a responsible dog owner, I picked it up in a plastic bag. So I was carrying a bag of dog shit as all of this happened.

I tried to carry Zeke and push the truck along with my foot, but it was too much to manage while also holding the dog's leash (it's one of those retractable leashes, so the handle is this big plastic mechanism rather than just a cloth loop that I could put over my arm). Zeke calmed down a little bit, so I put him back down and persuaded him to push his truck towards home.

Except that he was still aggravated, so he took off pushing the truck at full speed without looking where he was going. He ran into the back of the poor dog, and then fell from the impact, hitting his head on the handle of the back of the truck before falling on the ground.

He was pissed off rather than hurt, but I knew trying to get him to push or ride the truck was a lost cause at this point.

And that is how I ended up walking through the neighborhood with Zeke in one arm and the truck under the other, all while still maneuvering the dog's leash and holding a bag of dog shit.

I really need to get a job.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Too much information, but then again, not enough

A friend of mine who is pregnant called me the other night. She lives on the other side of the world from me and we don't get to chat very often, so it was really fun to catch up with her.

We talked alot about her pregnancy. She is about 7 weeks or so away from her due date, and getting nervous about the delivery.

"I've been doing all kinds of internet research. I've read so much about the experiences of other women. I just want to know what it's going to be like. What was it like for you?"

So I told her all about my labor and delivery. We talked about epidurals and pain and what it's like to push and all of that.

"But," I added, "it's different for everyone."

"I know, I know," she replied. "That's what's so frustrating. I don't want to hear that it's different for every woman. I just want to know."

"Honey, I can totally relate," I told her. "Believe me, when I was pregnant, I was on those pregnancy sites every day, reading article after article, thinking that somehow I would happen on the one that told me exactly what it would be like for me. But of course I didn't. There's no way of knowing. All you can do is prepare, take a child birth class or something. The one thing I kept reminding myself was that whatever it was like, it would be over eventually. It was an event with an end. And it was long and difficult and part of it was painful, but then it was over. So here's my advice to you: stop doing research. Stop reading articles. It's only going to make you crazy, and the answer you're looking for isn't out there."

And the truth is, that kind of uncertainty is rarer and rarer these days.

I am an internet addict. And a Google addict. As Kathleen can tell anyone who asks, I have this compulsion about knowing the answer. When she and I worked in adjacent offices, we would talk to each other through the wall. Occasionally, she would yell over a question -- about a word definition, a historical point, whatever. Sometimes I knew the answer. But sometimes I didn't, and it would be quiet for awhile.

"You're googling it, aren't you??"

Having a wealth of information at your fingertips is mostly a useful thing. Looking for a recipe? Try Need to print out postage to mail something, and you don't feel like going to the post office? Do it online. Basic medical question? Try WebMd. Look up words at or Need to shop? Everything you could possibly need, you can get online. Missed this week's episode of Friday Night Lights? (Fucking TiVo!) You can watch entire episodes online for free.

I look back on the days before I started using the internet regularly -- probably around 1995 or so -- and I honestly don't know how I functioned.

But there are downsides. One is that all of this information has made us into a nation of amateur diagnosticians and psychologists. The University of Google can make you feel like an instant expert in anything. And there is alot of valuable information out there. But there's also alot of crap.

And for me, the biggest downside is that having the universe of possible answers at your fingertips can make you think that every question does, in fact, have an answer. That if you look hard enough, you can figure everything out.

I learned this when I was pregnant. There are a million websites, like, that provide information on everything from calendars helping you track the baby's development to tips on how to deal with swollen ankles or where to buy a great maternity pillow. You can do research about the different types of genetic screening, ways to alleviate morning sickness, whatever. And it's great. When I was having Zeke, I was on the website all the time. But like my friend, the real answer I was looking for -- i.e., exactly how would my labor go and would the baby be perfectly healthy and fine -- isn't out there to be found.

Like most people, I hate uncertainty under the best of circumstances. Being in between situations, or having to wait for something to determine your fate, without any way to know, is torture. And now that I'm so used to being able to find the answer to just about every question I could have, it's doubly so.

I'm supposed to hear this week from both of the firms I interviewed with in Denver. I'm so nervous, it's killing me. There's no amount of research I can do, no amount of checking my email over and over, that will provide me with the answer I want. So I just have to wait.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The opposite of baby lust

It's no secret that Jason and I have been mulling over having another baby this year. But on days like today, I waver about whether I really want to have another kid. Zeke is teething and uncomfortable and is developing another yucky diaper rash (though, God willing, it won't be anything like the last one). He's sleeping horribly and as a result is fussy and easily frustrated and it's totally wearing me out. (How's that for a run-on sentence?)

I love the child beyond all sense. He is a sweet-tempered, funny, engaging kid. He's playful and affectionate and mischievous and inquisitive. It's so much fun to watch him learn new things and experience new experiences and take enjoyment from those experiences. Yesterday we had a wonderful time -- he woke up happy, we played outside, we went to the beach and he had a blast in the water, we took the dog for a walk, we read books, we played peek-a-boo, we wrestled. It was a pleasure to spend time with him. And it made me think of how much fun it would be to have another.

So what's the problem?

Every day for the last week, except for the day he slept until 8:15, Zeke's been up and ready to go by 5:30 at the latest. So by the end of the day, I'm completely wiped out, and have little energy to cook or do laundry or even take a shower. Plus, living with him is like running a hotel for a pint-sized rock star -- the house is constantly trashed. Multiple time a day I'm putting puzzles together to put them away, gathering up his blocks from all over the house to put them back in their bin, wiping chewed up bits of blueberry muffin and veggie burger off the floor. Chewed up because his latest charming trick is to take a bite of food, chew it as if he were going to eat it, and then push it back out of his mouth, like toothpaste being squeezed out of a tube.

And all of things are just him acting like a 1 year old. It will pass. I know this. But I spend so much time exhausted and weary.

Plus there's the fact that we're in such limbo right now -- getting ready to move but without any definite timeline because we're working on the job situation, and worried about what happens if the jobs don't come through. I feel that with this kind of uncertainty, it would be insane to get pregnant now. How will I afford daycare for 2 children? Do I really want to resign myself to not sleeping for the next 3 years?

But then I think about how millions of people throughout history have had babies under far worse circumstances. And that by the time a new baby was born, things will have worked themselves out in terms of where we'll be and what we'll be doing. And I don't really want Zeke to be an only child. It strikes me as a lonely way to grow up (I was one of 3 and loved it).

I've been off birth control since October. But I've been half-hearted in my efforts to try to get pregnant. I know exactly when I ovulate every month. I can feel it, plus there are other signs that I won't go into. So I know when is the ideal time to get the job done. And over the past couple of months, I've deliberately let that time pass without any effort to take advantage.

At the same time, every time another month passes and I get my period, I feel like I've lost something. I had no trouble getting pregnant before, but maybe it won't be so easy now. Maybe if I don't get pregnant now, I'll never be able to. The thought of that makes me really sad.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Let's talk about boobs

I've been thinking about all of this serious stuff lately, unquestionably brought on by the crazy circumstances of my life. Philosophical musings on the usefulness of hope and optimism in the face of the general shittiness of the human condition -- things like that. And I thought about writing about some of it, but I didn't feel like being a big fat downer, because I feel like lately I am a big fat downer most of the time, and I hate that.

But then I was searching through my drawers today getting ready to teach a Baby Boot Camp class, utterly frustrated by my inability to find any of my sports bras that I like (Jason does the laundry most of the time, and sometimes he hangs them on a line outside, sometimes he hangs them in the laundry room, and it's always a surprise). And that got me to thinking about my love-hate relationship with bras in general, particularly sports bras. And that got me to thinking about my love-hate (mostly love) relationship with my boobs themselves.

If you've got big boobs, which I do, it's really hard to find one with enough support on the one hand, but enough give on the other hand, so that you can still breathe. Since I tend to do high impact sports like tennis and running and plyometrics, I need to be able to breathe, but the girls still need enough support that they have stretched down to my knees by the end of the tennis.

It's been a lifelong struggle. The search for the perfect sports bra, for me, is akin to the search for the Holy Grail.

Which is not to suggest that regular bras that fit and give me support and don't result in overspill or undercleavage or excessively squeezed back fat are easy to find either. Whenever I find a brand or style that works, I buy a bunch of them, because you never knew when a particular company is going to go out of business or discontinue a style number or something.

My point is that having a big rack isn't all fun and games.

I've had these knockers since I was 12 or 13. At first all of the attention they garnered from men of all ages was confusing and kind of embarrassing. As I got older, that same attention became a source of amusement, and somewhat of a source of power. So sometimes it's fun. There's something hilarious about watching intelligent grown men react so overtly and helplessly to looking at my chest when I'm wearing something as innocuous as a turtleneck. I mean, jeez, that isn't even close to the best I can do.

But there are downsides. Because I've got big breasts on a small frame, it's hard to find clothes that fit properly.

I couldn't wear spaghetti strap tank tops until they started making them with underwire bras built in. Anything backless is a big problem, because backless = braless. Strapless is also out, because they don't really make strapless bras that work in my size. Nothing too baggy, because then it just hangs off my chest and makes me look fat. Nothing too low-cut, otherwise I look like a prostitute. And don't even get me started on bathing suits.

And then there are the bras themselves. Those pretty little confections of lace and seed pearls that Victoria's Secret call "bras"? I couldn't wear them in a million years. I need the industrial strength versions that involve a Belgian company's years and years of R & D. Which means I've got a 32F, ferchrissakes, and it fits, but it costs me $90 a pop instead of the 2 for $20 that smaller-breasted women can get away with at Victoria's Secret.

Plus, as I got older, they continued to get bigger. Maybe part of "getting older" weight gain, and instead of the weight going to my butt or legs, it went to my boobs. It finally got to be too much, so I had reduction surgery. My friends sent me off to the surgical center with a "Ta-Ta to the Ta-Tas" party.

And the surgery went fine. I wanted C cups, but even after removing over a pound from each breast, I still have DDs. But they're well-shaped and they don't sag and they're more in proportion with my body, even thought they're bigger than I'd like. The surgery caused too much trauma to my milk ducts for me to be able to breast-feed, which was a bummer, but Zeke did just fine on formula, so whatev.

On TV and at the beach and just about everywhere else, I see these teeny-tiny women sashaying around with ginormous implants that look like canteloupe halves stuck to their chests. And I have to laugh. Because in spite of society's obsession with breasts, I would give anything to have nice perky little B cups that fit nicely into run-of-the-mill bras. That can handle a jog or a game of tennis without being mashed into a constricting piece of spandex. That I can put in a little drape-y top and have it look cute or benignly sexy rather than obscene.

But, they are what they are. They can be frustrating, they can be painful, they can be pretty. But they're mine, and I love them.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

I fight authority...we'll see who wins

I am generally someone who follows the rules and respects the authority and instructions of those who know more about a particular topic than I do. This is particularly true of doctors. If something's wrong, I go to see a doctor, s/he tells me what to do about it, and I do it. If they tell me to take medicine, I take medicine. If they tell me to stay in bed and drink lots of fluids, I do. They're doctors, after all. They know shit I don't know.

I watch shows like ER or House and I marvel at the balls of patients who mouth off to their doctors, or cavalierly disregard the doctor's instructions or medical advice. I don't think I've ever sassed one of my doctors. When I get into a doctor's office, I become like an obedient child who would never, ever question the authority of the grown-ups.

But I'm feeling a tad rebellious these days.

I go to a general practitioner for my run-of-the-mill (i.e., non-OB/GYN) medical care. He's a good doctor, very thorough and professional, but also has a nice manner about him, like the kind of guy you'd have fun shooting pool with. But I'm beginning to think he missed his calling as a pediatrician, because he tends to treat his patients like children.

I went to see him on Monday because of my MRSA symptoms, the sores on my belly and the swelling and irritation in my nose. He prescribed an antibiotic cocktail, some ointment to put on my belly sores, and another ointment to put in my nostrils. He explained how to apply the ointment (in small amounts, with just a thin layer on the skin) and how many of each pill to take every day. He also made me an appointment with an ear-nose-throat doctor to lance the cyst in my nose, and told me to come back for follow-up the next day (Tuesday). He also said that if I started to experience a fever or became nauseated, I should go straight to the ER.

I was unclear as to why I needed to go back to see him a day later, but I didn't question it. He's a doctor, after all.

So I went home and took my pills and applied my ointment, and the sores were definitely getting better, though my nose was still swollen and painful. But I took ibuprofen and Tylenol for the pain, and I muddled through. No fever or nausea.

Yesterday I went back for my follow-up. My appointment was at 11:30. I arrived on time. I didn't go into an exam room for 45 minutes. Which irritated me. Once I was in there, the nurse took my temperature and my blood pressure. I then waited another 15 minutes for the doctor. I was annoyed. I also still wasn't clear on why I was there.

When he finally came into the room, he said, "How're you doing?"

"I'm fine. The sores seem to be healing up."

"Good. Any trouble applying the ointment?"

"" And I'm thinking to myself, does he think I'm retarded?

"Great. No trouble taking the medication?"

"No." WTF??

"OK, good. Well, I just wanted to make sure you weren't experiencing a fever and that all was going well. I know you're seeing the ENT tomorrow. You need to come back to see me on Thursday."



"Why do I need to come back?"

"So I can make sure you're doing OK. It's really important with MRSA that we monitor your condition."

And then, completely out of character for me, I said, "listen. I'm really not trying to be difficult. But today I had to pay a $25 co-pay and wait for almost an hour, just so your nurse can take my temperature and confirm that I don't have a fever. I know I don't have a fever. I know what a fever feels like. I also know that you told me to look out for symptoms like fever and chills and nausea, so if I did have a fever, I would have gone to the ER or at least called you. I don't need to come in and pay money just to confirm that I don't have a fever."

He was a bit taken aback. He explained again how important it is to follow through with the treatment course and monitor me in the event their are any problems.

"But why do I have to come in to confirm there are no problems? I'm taking my medicine, I'm applying my ointment. Things seem to be healing up. If I develop another sore or if I don't appear to be making progress, I'll let you know. But I don't want to come here if none of those things are happening. You've prescribed a course of treatment. I'm following it. If something goes wrong, I'll come in."

So we went back and forth and negotiated a follow-up visit on Saturday. And then I'm supposed to go see the ENT today.

But I'm not going.

I came up with a way to pop the sore in my nose (I won't get into the details). I squeezed out the pus. I cleaned the inside of my nose with hydrogen peroxide, and then put the ointment on. When I woke up this morning, the swelling was dramatically decreased, as was the pain. It's definitely healing.

Plus the thought of someone poking around inside my nose with sharp instruments gives me the willies. I have a really high tolerance for pain, but if anyone's going to be poking around in my nose, it's going to be me.

So I'm cancelling the ENT appointment. And if I continue to feel fine and things continue to heal, I'm blowing off my Saturday appointment as well. As I explained to Jason, I'm not a child. I don't need to waste time and pay money just so the doctor is reassured that I'm doing what I'm told.

I understand that he's just trying to be thorough and look out for me, and I appreciate that. But I also see the people who go in and out of his office -- the 300-pounders who continue to eat spam with rice and McDonald's burgers and fries and drink sugary sodas even though they're diabetic, so they just go through life hacking off a limb every couple of years. The ones who are incredibly unhealthy but nonetheless refuse to stop smoking or to exercise or change their lifestyles. They'd rather just get one of those motorized wheelchairs and not have to deal with physical exertion. I guess that's what the doctor is used to. With patients like that, there must be an urge to take an overly paternalistic approach and treat them like wayward children.

But it drives me insane. So I'm taking my ball and going home.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The cuteness has served an evolutionary purpose over the years, i.e., lessening the urge to sell the kid to the highest bidder

Zeke's sleeping patterns have been weird lately. And by "weird," I mean that one day, such as 2 days ago, he'll go to bed at 7:15 p.m., fuss a couple of times during the night but then sleep until 8:15 in the morning, where as the next day, i.e., last night, he'll pass out cold at 8 and then wake up all bright and chipper at 4:45.

I gave him a bottle with his MRSA medicine in it and set him down in my bed between Jason and me. This worked like a charm the night before (see, e.g., aforementioned reference to sleeping until 8:15 a.m.). This morning it worked...not at all. He drank his bottle with the medicine in it, and tossed and turned for about 15 minutes while I whispered, "Shhh, time for sleep, baby." But then he sat straight up, said "dada," crawled over to Jason to give him a hug, and proceeded to climb off the bed so that he could run around upstairs, chattering and giggling the entire time.

I had woken up at about 4 because my pain medication had worn off and my nose was throbbing, but it was my intention to go back to sleep. But Giggles McGee made sure that was impossible.

So we got up and went downstairs and made some coffee. We called my mom to wish her a happy birthday. Zeke munched on a NutriGrain bar while at the same time dragging most of his toys out of the box, laughing and smiling the whole time. He does his new trick of quick-stepping as if he's trying to dance, and stepping around in a circle.

That's how they get you, these toddlers. You want to be grumpy and irritable because you're up even though the sun won't be out for another hour and a half, and because you're sick and feeling like dogshit. But he's so fucking cute and happy, it's infectious. You start laughing and smiling and playing peek-a-boo, and before you know it, you're having a ball at 5:30 in the a.m.

Resistance is futile.

As far as I can tell, boredom is the key to success

Jason and I are doing the South Beach diet. We decided to try it because my friend Jenn recommended it and said she lost 10 pounds right off the bat. Sounds good to me, I thought. I've felt pudgy for a long time, and I've been working out, but I can't seem to get rid of the spare tire that has taken up residence where my waist used to be. Jason likes to do whatever diet I'm doing, so he's on it too. Plus he thinks he's having a fat week (news flash -- he isn't).

During the first two weeks, you're supposed to reset your metabolism and reduce your dependence on refined carbs and sugar by foregoing all pasta, rice, bread, sugar, or fruit. You can eat lean protein, lean dairy, nuts, and most vegetables to your heart's content.

Which means alot of omelettes (you can use real eggs, but I need to watch my cholesterol, so I'm using egg substitute) and alot of chef salad-y concoctions. We did a turkey chili the other night (beans are allowed), and sauteed chicken breast with broccoli another. And it's all fine, but whereas at first I was all, "ooh, yum, an omelette with cheese and broccoli and mushrooms," now I'm all, "ah, Christ, another fucking omelette." "Another macademia nut. Ho hum." "Another stupid string cheese stick. Feh."

But it's working.

And while I'm sure part of it is that I haven't eaten any bread or fruit or sugar, some of it is that I'm so tired with my food choices that I eat very little. Plus, a convenient side effect of the medication I'm on for my nose infection is loss of appetite.

So I guess the moral of the story is, if you want to lose weight, South Beach is the way to go because you'll be so fucking bored you won't feel like eating.

Or just have a MRSA-infected toddler slobber all over you as he learns how to give kisses.

Either way, you'll be skinny in no time.

Monday, January 05, 2009

I'm waiting for cattle disease to hit

I think we've been beset by plagues of a near-biblical proportion. Insect infestations. Incurable boils. I even saw a frog in the house the other day. Let's just hope the Angel of Death decides to forego our house, otherwise Zeke may be in trouble.

It started a couple of months ago with the ticks. Kathleen and Michele were visiting, and we started noticing hundreds and hundreds of teeny tiny black bugs climbing the dog and the walls. They were unlike ticks I had ever seen, but I googled and sure enough, they were ticks. We couldn't get rid of them. They grew bigger and bigger, infested the house and the dog, and completely grossed us out. Jason and I would sit with the dog and a pair of tweezers for hours at a time, pulling hundreds of ticks off of him in a single go. We couldn't figure out where they were coming from, and it took two months of vigilantly spraying the house, the yard and the dog, multiple times, over and over, to get rid of them.

Around after we first saw the ticks, Zeke developed this monstrous sore on his stomach. I thought it was a tick bite and completely freaked out. It was huge and red and horribly painful to the touch. At first I couldn't figure out why, when I tried to carry him, he would put his knees up so that I didn't come into contact with his belly. Then I looked at his belly and rushed him to the emergency room. The doctor diagnosed cellulitis and put him on a really strong antibiotic....

which destroyed his innards, gave him horrible diarrhea, and then resulted in the ugliest, most raw, painful diaper rash I have ever seen or heard of. I slathered him with industrial-strength diaper rash cream, manuka oil from New Zealand recommended by my dad, and everything else I could think of. Diaper changes were torture. Bath time went from being a source of fun to a source of incredible stress.

Eventually, everything seemed to heal.

But then he got another big sore on his leg. A giant, painful boil that wouldn't heal. Then two more on his belly.

The ticks were gone at this point, and when I did some research and talked to Kathleen for advice, it started looking more and more like MRSA.

Which it was. While I was in Denver, Jason took Zeke to the doctor, got the diagnosis, and got him on medication that didn't destroy his digestive system. He had to have the boils lanced and drained -- it took 3 people to hold the little guy down while they did this, because it was so painful. I'm really sorry Jason had to deal with it by himself, but at the same time, I'm glad I didn't have to witness it.

In the meantime, I got a boil on my stomach. That refused to heal. That was gross and painful to the touch. And filled with pus.

And now I think there's another one in my nose. At first, the inside of my left nostril started to tickle and become kind of irritated, like there was a little zit inside. Which is annoying, but they go away.

But this isn't going away. And it's so enflamed and painful that my entire left eye socket throbs. It feels like I've been stabbed in the face.

So I'm off to the doctor's office. And trying to remember if, in my spare time, and without realizing it, I somehow managed to imprison and oppress a nation of chosen people, and now God is punishing me.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Looking back, and waiting

Happy New Year, everyone. I'm back. I missed you.

The Denver trip was good. I got to spend time with Kathleen, hang out with my cousin and her family, and catch up with an old college friend who lives in Denver and whom I'm really looking forward to seeing on a regular basis.

The interviews went well. But interviews are like first dates. You're all anxious and excited beforehand, then they seem to go OK, everyone appears to be enjoying themselves, and then they're over. And you're left with the "well, I felt good about it, I think they felt good about it, but are they going to call me" feeling. I should know something in a couple of weeks, but until then I'm in limbo. My least favorite state of existence.

Over the past few weeks, all I've seen every time I turned on the TV or opened a magazine was a year-end list of bests and worsts, or some similar retrospective. In that vein, it's been a weird year for me. Highlights would be my friends all visiting for my birthday in February and having time off to spend time with Jason and surf. Watching Zeke grow and learn, and helping him along that path, has also been great.

But mostly I feel like the past year has been tough. My grandmother died. Jason and I both are out of work. The year has brought trials and tribulations for close friends and relatives. And as much as we can point to positive aspects about this adventure of living in Hawaii, the truth is that it has ruined us financially. Two years ago I lived in a nice little house in Atlanta with a relatively low mortgage, and I had a steady job that allowed me to live comfortably and well within my means. I am now in a house that is worth less than I owe, with a mortgage payment that is crushing me, and which I will not be able to pay after this month unless I either get a new job or borrow from my parents, or both. And since there are no jobs in Hawaii, the only way to live is to leave here and start over.

I am trying to be optimistic about the Denver interviews. They seemed to go well, and I have hope. But if they don't pan out, I honestly don't know what I am going to do.