Rants from the Crib

An Ob/Gyn gone mad

Sacrifice on Good Friday: Finding Meaning As An Agnostic

beadstork:

This is exactly what I wanted to say. Except I would have sounded a little more… bitter. So I chose this instead. Because there is peace and acceptance here. Very wonderfully put!

Originally posted on The Stretch For Something Beautiful:

I was having a conversation with one of my coworkers yesterday about religion. He’s Jewish, and this week, he is celebrating Passover. As we stood in the dusty warehouse, with the shafts of light illuminating the dust from high above, he told me that for him, it’s not about religion. It’s about tradition. It’s about remembering where he came from and why he celebrates.

I’m not religious – not really. The best I could probably do is to say I’m a Christian-leaning Agnostic. I have too much history with religion to ever want to commit myself to one again, but I’m not ruling out the existence of God or a higher power. I think that man-made religion is full of corruption and hurt. I think most of it is created to lord it over someone else. It makes it hard for me to want to be part of that. That…

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Camazotz

This morning as we waited for the bus, a beat-up old Civic drove past us. “Funny,” I told my daughter. “That person looks like they don’t belong here.”

“Why not?” my daughter asked.

“Look around you,” I said. “It’s an old messed up looking car, and there’s a Hispanic guy driving it.”

“I don’t get it,” said my daughter.

“Honey, look at this neighborhood. Everybody looks the same. They all drive new cars. And they’re all white. Up north, they would call them WASPs, but down here they are all white Baptists.”

“We aren’t Baptist,” said my daughter.

“No, we aren’t,” I told her.

“We aren’t Christians either,” she said.

I hastened in to try to save her from later public lynchings. “We are Christians, honey. We believe in Jesus Christ.”

“Daddy says we aren’t Christians,” said my doomed daughter.

“Don’t EVER say that to anyone out loud,” I told her. “Unless you LIKE being set on fire and having no friends.”

“Why does it matter,” she asked, “When Olivia doesn’t believe in God or any religion?”

Olivia is our babysitter. Her mom is a midwife, and they are the only hippies in town. I love them. But in Alabama, this line of inquiry was not safe for my daughter.

“That’s OK that she believes that,” I told her. “But it’s not safe when you live around here to say things like that.”

“What do you mean?” she wanted to know.

“Honey, look around you. There are no African-American people in this neighborhood. There are no Hispanics in this neighborhood. Everyone is all alike.”

The bitterness was coming out of me now. “For Chrissake, even the CHRISTMAS tree lights here have to be white,” I told her. “All the WIVES look alike. They’re all scrawny, and jogging, because if they get fat, their rich husbands will replace them with younger prettier wives. They all say the same things. They all go to the same church.”

“There are Chinese people here,” she said.

“Asian people? There are no Asian people. Or are you thinking about that family with the adopted Asian girl?”

She nodded her head. “The houses look all alike too,” she said, cheerfully.

“Yes, they do,” I said. “McMansions. They’re big but they all look the same. All except ours.”

She was mulling this over.

“Remember that book we read, honey, by Madeleine L’Engle? The kids traveled to a planet that was run by a giant pulsating Brain, It, and all the people had to be alike?”

She nodded.

“Remember, the one little boy, out in the street, who was bouncing his ball out of time from the other kids? And later they found him at It’s headquarters, in a glass room, screaming in pain while they made him bounce his ball the same as everyone else? It was called Camazotz.”

She remembered.

“Look around you,” I told her. I should not go here with my daughter, but I want her to be safe. I should not let my bitterness spill into her innocence. My husband keeps telling her that it doesn’t matter what other people think, but he is wrong. It is not safe here. “You want to see Camazotz? This is it. You’re living in it.”

I do not tell her that I was that boy, once. Middle school. Suddenly those kids made me very, very aware that I was Other. Our house wasn’t right. My clothes weren’t right. My grades were too good. We didn’t have a Mercedes. My mom didn’t wear little tennis dresses.

I was that boy, screaming in pain, awkwardly bouncing my ball while they shocked me to put me in their rhythm. They sneered at my fumbling attempts to bounce the ball right. My makeup was off. My hair was off. I was Other.

Every once in a while, they would nastily pretend that maybe I was becoming one of them. And then they would jerk their hook back, still ripped through my cheek, laughing because they took my hopes away again.

In the ultimate irony, when I changed schools, I thought I had broken free of the grasp of It. The children looked different, and their balls were a different color, but they were still the same. Oh, they thought they were different. They were like that scene in Monty Python, all holding up the same leg and screaming, “We are all individuals!!”

It took me twenty years to clear the confusion from my brain and recognize that It had been there too, and I had let It in me. And I had thought I was unique.

Now I am what I am. I am too old for them to hurt me. Yes, I have no friends in town, but I have a husband and a daughter. I wear my baseball cap backwards on my head like a little punk when I walk around my neighborhood, and I wear funny jewelry and my hair is bright red. But my daughter is 8, and she is not safe. I will not watch her destroyed, taken apart piece by piece and rebuilt in the graven image of a mid-sized town’s auto-dealing, judgemental cookie cutter loser. She will have to stay under the radar. She is not safe.

Camazotz. Welcome. Let the nauseating pulsations of the Brain pull you in, make that ball bounce bounce bounce. You’d better not drop it. Or you’ll be in that glass room, screaming as they tear you apart. If you’re lucky, you’ll get out and find that not all places are exactly like this. But watch your back. Camazotz.

41

After careful examination, I have arrived at the conclusion that my preferred way to travel is not by water. Particularly not by deep sea fishing boat. Or by cruise liner. I find that having the floor roll out from under me while staggering around in a cocktail dress and heels is surreal at best, and retch-inducing at worst.

I have been on three cruises in my life. The first was uneventful, and awesome. My husband and I went to the Caribbean. The boat behaved, the people behaved, the water behaved. My husband’s hemorrhoids did NOT behave, but that is another story for another time.

The second cruise I went on was for a medical conference. We went to Mexico. I remember one cruise night, the water was so choppy, I threw my heels in the corner and crawled into my bunk for the night. Supine was the only way I could tolerate that motion. And that was WITH a scopolamine patch on.

I cannot use scopolamine any more. It works great for motion sickness, but puts me in a suggestible state where any purchase recommended by any ship member will induce me to instantly purchase the product in question. Even if I have no need for such product. Even if such product looks like crap on me. I rang up quite a bill. And brought home a lot of stuff I have never used or worn, which is pretty severe, even for me. They don’t call it the zombie drug for nothing.

Also on that cruise, I met a woman who was a bit nervous. She told me that the previous two cruises she had taken, they had had to make port at unscheduled and undesirable places, because on each cruise someone on board had died and had to have their body dropped off at the nearest place possible. I sincerely wondered why she was trying for round 3.

I went on my third cruise this week. I just returned last night. We took our daughter for her first cruise and her first trip out of the country. We were on the Carnival Ecstasy. We were scheduled to make port in Key West and Cozumel. My husband had been specially practicing his Spanish.

The first day, we docked in Key West. I have never been to Key West, so I was excited to go. It was freezing. It was windy. It was raining. The enormous cold front that zapped most of the south and the east of the US got here too. After looking at the weather radar, we never got off the boat. I remarked bitterly to my husband that I still couldn’t say I’d been in Key West. “Go down the gangplank,” he suggested helpfully. “Put your foot on the concrete. Come back. And don’t forget your umbrella.” I told him if that counted as being in Key West, being on a ship docked there should be just fine as well.

The next day was a sea day. We were on our way to Cozumel, where we would make port by afternoon the next day. The weather on deck was too chilly to enjoy, and the sun too seldom came out of the clouds. We were at dinner when a pretty Hispanic woman sat down with her two boys. She mentioned that we were rescuing a craft full of people. We had heard nothing of the sort. We speculated what kind of craft it might be. I suggested it might be Cubanos, making their way from Cuba to Key West. The pretty woman said her husband got to the US the same way.

When we left dinner, half the cruise passengers were glued to the windows on the starboard side. They were taking pictures with phones and cameras. We looked out the window and saw what looked like a small raft or canoe, with dark heads visible and the upper part of their ship nearly even with the water – looked like there was a large amount of water in there.

My husband, who is former Navy, said our ship should give them food and water as needed and send them on their way. He felt the craft appeared to be seaworthy. He said there is no maritime law requiring passengers to be pulled out as long as the craft is salvageable. I didn’t think it look very salvageable, but what do I know about boats? Except that if the water is bouncy, I get dizzy.

When we were seated in a theater watching “family friendly” stand-up comedy, an announcement came over the intercom from the captain. The passengers had indeed been brought onto our cruise liner. The back of their makeship vessel was disintegrating and it was taking on water.

There were 41 men, women and children on that tiny craft.

They were indeed Cubanos, and they were lucky as hell, because they were lost and they were all about to drown.

My husband felt more positive about the rescue after the news that the boat was about to sink. He said mariners never leave seamen to drown.

They came on the intercom again. Authorities had been contacted, and we had to return to Key West, to turn over the fugitives. They were to be returned to Cuba once they received medical treatment. “I knew that was going to happen,” said my husband. “Now we won’t make it to our ports for the cruise.” That possiblility had not occurred to me. I felt a little perturbed.

Later, another announcement. We had received clearance to make port in Nassau, the Bahamas, instead of Cozumel. We would not make it to Cozumel, but we were at least going to make it to a beach. This was fine with me. I have been to both places, and liked them both. It was a shame my husband wouldn’t be able to use the Spanish he had practiced.

Some passengers were furious that we would not make it to Cozumel. They had made special plans there, or had relatives to see.

As if in some cosmic anti-karmic reward for rescuing doomed souls, the water was horribly choppy to and from Key West, thanks to that lovely front. Since I had no scopolamine, I took 2 benadryl and took to my rack.

We made port at Nassau, and my daughter and I went and got fried at the beach, where she was nearly drowned by a wave, and my husband blew over a hundred bucks in the casino. And then we returned to the ship.

The most positive thing I can say is that my husband let me buy a Michael Kors tortoise watch that I had been coveting for over a year. I had to promise to start working out if I bought it though. Always a catch.

It was really awesome that we saved 41 souls from perishing in that cold water. The experience was tainted though, by the complaining of our fellow passengers, and most of all the fact that those 41 souls, men, women and children, were being returned to Cuba, where their lives would now undoubtedly be more hellish than ever now that they had tried to escape.

I think now that I will travel by air or by land. There are too many vagaries of water travel, not the least of which is, it makes me queasy. And bodies have to be dropped off and fugitives rescued. And plans changed. I recognize that nothing is certain, except for the near-certainty that water travel is not for me.

But we did save 41 people.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-2590067/Carnival-Cruise-ship-rescues-Cuban-migrants-stricken-boat-Florida-coast.html

And the above article is wrong. We were unable to transfer the fugitives to a Coast Guard ship because the water was too rough. That was why we had to go back to Key West. Just sayin’.

Mighty White

The last few years of my father’s law school career, he decided it would be good to do some community work as well as his teaching.  He had been president of the BLSA (Black Law Students Association) for many years; coming from a disadvantaged home himself, he felt that extra attention to tutoring and other benefits might even the playing field, particularly for those who found the specific language and diction of the legal jargon to be difficult.

He began tutoring adults to help them prepare to pass their GED.  He worked through a group who would assign him a pupil and worked on teaching reading or prepping skills to pass their GED test.

His first student was an African-American man, let’s call him Micah, who had recently been released from prison, where he did his time for felony larceny.  Upon his release, his girlfriend was waiting for him and they had a little girl.  Micah wanted to fly straight and get out of the criminal life for his family.

He proved an apt pupil.  Daddy said he was very bright and he improved by leaps and bounds.  As Micah got to trust Daddy, he confided in him how difficult it was within his society to avoid crime and better himself.  The men especially harassed him, accusing him of “turning whitey”.  Daddy worked hard with him and had him prepped and ready for his GED.

At some time before the test, there was an article put out in the paper about the tutoring program and it featured a picture of Daddy and Micah working at a table.

A week before he was due to take his GED, Micah was taken by someone out to a local lake, laid on his stomach, and shot execution-style in the back of the head.

Mom called and told me and I asked to speak to Daddy.  By the time he came to the phone I was already crying, sobbing actually.  My dad’s voice was calm and even as he relayed the facts to me.  I cried and cried about how horrifying and unfair the tragedy was.  I haltingly tried to explain to Daddy how upset I was and how unjust the world was.

My dad has always been good with happy emotions, and love, but something about his past and his upbringing in the 1940’s had left him deeply convinced, I guess, that to cry or exhibit grief was unmanly and undignified.

I remember when I was 12, our little cat died.  My dad built him a coffin and the cat actually lay in state in the basement a bit before Daddy took him out and buried him in the woods.  Alone.  And then Daddy disappeared for the rest of the day.  I could occasionally could hear him sobbing.  And I hid too, feeling like I was witnessing something I shouldn’t.  Daddy’s emotions obviously ran deep; he was very tender-hearted, but he just couldn’t let anyone see.

To this day, I won’t let anyone see me cry.

As I grieved on the phone after Micah’s murder, my dad was very quiet.  After a short gap he said, ” Well, that’s mighty white of ya.”

What did I hear in his voice?  He was so restrained.  I hardly heard any grief.  A little anger?  A hint of, not derision, but a feeling on his part that I was railing against something that I never in my life would truly be able to understand.

He insisted on attending Micah’s funeral, and did for his family what he could.  He continued the tutoring program, with good success, but we never spoke of Micah again.

Never Say Never

It took me thirty years to learn this: never say never. If you say you will NEVER do something, you immediately ring bells in the ears of Fate, Kismet, Karma, or whatever power in which you believe that will make you eat your words. Because you will eat your words, you will do the Never thing, and you will feel like a schmuck.

Sometimes you feel like a schmuck, because the Never thing turns out not to be that bad, and sometimes you feel like a schmuck because you had the unbelievable hubris to believe that you were above something, or at all in control of your life.

So let’s examine these Never things of mine. For fun, you can make a list of your Never things that you then proceded to do. Hell, write a blog post about it. Link it here. I’d love that, come to think of it!

Some of my Never things were major, some were minor, but I ate crow every time. Or kicked myself in the ass. Repetitively.

I grew up in Alabama. By the time I hit middle school, I knew that as soon as I was old enough, I was getting out of that state and NEVER coming back. That place was full of ignorant, uneducated, racist, misogynistic, judgemental, gossipy bible thumpers. And actually, that sentence is as true as it ever was. And I did get the hell out. I did my residency in New Orleans, which I adored, research in DC, which I adored (the city, not the research – I despise research) and took my first job out of residency in Atlanta. And I thought I had made it.

The above paragraph actually ties in at least 3 Nevers. Let us continue.

I worked as a babysitter and as a nanny for most of my teens and into my twenties. I liked working with children, but had enough experience with them to know that I probably didn’t want any. Children are little need machines, whose desires and actions completely eclipse any attempt on the involved adult’s part to do something else. Until you get them grown up enough to be useful and entertaining, and then they turn on you. My aunt brought up the subject of children to me when I was in my mid-twenties – at that time I was nowhere near being married, much less procreating. I told her rather savagely that I had no intention of having children – that dealing with them meant an interruption of life punctuated every few minutes by, “Mommy, LOOK!” After my childcare work, I had aggravating memories of “Look, I climbed up a step!” That’s nice, honey. “Look, I climbed up ANOTHER step!” That’s nice, honey. “But you didn’t look! You aren’t LOOKING! I climbed up another step!” After my rant, she looked at me strangely and said I probably shouldn’t have any.

I was never going to live in Atlanta, either. I had had friends for the past decade or so who, at one time or another had moved to Atlanta. And hated it. And were happy to enumerate a list of reasons why they hated it, and why no civilized person should ever live there. I listened to these reasons and thought, yep, that sounds reasonable. I won’t live there either.

I was never going to drink soy milk. Why the hell did the stuff exist? I remembered my Dad in his soybean phase, crunching handfuls of them for his health, and I remembered that they STUNK. Why would you want to drink something that smelled like that, unless you were some kind of rabid vegan, or mentally unstable health nut?

I was NEVER going to drive a minivan. I love beautiful cars – I helped my dad maintain his fleet of 1960’s Chevys – I loved the thrum of a V-8 and the surge of power when you stomped on the gas. When I was living in Atlanta (yes, Atlanta), I was still single and making great money. I bought a brand new Porsche Carrera Cabriolet, Arctic Silver. It was the car I had dreamed of since I was a kid, drooling over Carrera whale tails when they went by. I was NOT a minivan person. Even on the off chance that I might get married, or might have kids, at worst I would condescend to an SUV. Preferably a Lexus. HAH!

I probably should have put marriage on the Never list. I might as well have.

I met my husband while living in Atlanta. And yes, I freaking HATED Atlanta. I only took the job there because it was the biggest city I got an offer in, and I am a city girl, and would have a better chance of meeting an intelligent well-educated mate in a big city.

So, I found one. I got married. We decided we wanted a child. My parents still live in Alabama. My husband’s parents are deceased. We wanted our child to get to know their only living grandparents. So we found a job in, yes, God help me, Alabama, to be close to the folks. Lesson learned: Family always trumps Never List.

We decided after about a year to try to get pregnant. I figured, well, I’m 36, I’ve never been pregnant, and most of the patients I had who tried to conceive for the first time in their 30’s usually didn’t fare so well. I figured it would take at least a year, and then we might have to go the infertility route. I felt fairly comfortable I would not have to deal with motherhood any time soon.

I got pregnant the first freaking month off my birth control pills. We had a baby girl. And she was COLICKY. GOD AWFUL colicky. Enough to put my sanity in jeopardy, and to require consultations with her pediatrician. I was breast feeding, because of course, that is the best thing for both mother and baby, and one of the things we considered as a cause of her ungodly screaming was possible lactose intolerance. Soy milk. Soy milk. Did I mention that I started drinking soy milk? I will admit to eating a little crow here – the stuff is pretty good. It’s sweet, and tastes like vanilla. Know what else? It didn’t help the freaking colic ONE BIT.

When my daughter was 8 months old, the lease ran out on my beautiful Porsche. When I bought it, pre-husband, I had planned to buy it when it came off lease, and maybe retrofit it with a roll cage and a fire extinguisher and try a little track racing. Enter the husband, who hated my car. His hemorrhoidal butt hurt with each road-hugging move of the shocks, which are designed to help you feel the road, not your hemorrhoids. Enter the husband, who could squeeze a nickel until it bled to death, who found it obscenely unseemly that I was making car payments of the magnitude that I was. He made me get rid of my beautiful car. And he bought me a Mini. Van. I tried to console myself with the fact that it was a beautiful shade of red, and had 16 cupholders. I mean, that was cool, right? I remember reading an article in a parenting magazine by a guy who said he didn’t want to be the one with the bald head bobbing in time to Green Day, driving a minivan. At least I am not bald.

I had always envisioned that the Mommy Look thing would extinguish itself soon out of toddlerhood. My daughter is almost 9, and daily my whirling attempts at efficiency in running the household are interrupted dozens of times by “Mommy, LOOK!” And I am grateful that I have a good husband, and a healthy smart sweet daughter, don’t get me wrong, but the Mommy Looks make me bugsucking nuts. I guess she stops saying it when she doesn’t care what I think, and then we have bigger problems.

So, Readers. Never say never. You will eat those words. Daily. And kick yourself in your own butt with your shoe. Because you were either being narrow-minded and the Never thing is OK, or you were right in the first damn place and you should have kept your big Never mouth shut. So Never. Say. Never. And since that sentence now places me in Karmic doom to be destined to repeat Never again and again and eat it again and again, perhaps I will change my statement. ALMOST never say never, unless you really really have to because someone is aiming a weapon at you. Otherwise, leave things the hell alone.

Mud

Mud is a season. In North Dakota, it follows Deep Freeze, which lasts about half the year. Spring is for sissies. In North Dakota, they have Mud.

When I arrived in North Dakota this time, I was excited because the weather was going to be unseasonably warm. I wouldn’t feel the sensation that the skin was cracking off my face when I went outside. I could walk, not skid, down the stairs off the plane onto the tarmac. I wouldn’t risk frostbite and death while looking for my rental car.

I strolled off the plane and went to pick up my rental car. They didn’t have a reservation. My liason at the locums company had forgotten to make it. I am so well known at the Hertz booth there that they call me “Alabama”. They simply pulled up my old info from my million previous rentals, and billed the car to the usual company billing number, no questions asked. They handed me my keys and I went happily out to pick up my car, secure in the knowledge that I would not turn into a pillar of ice while looking for it.

I dragged my luggage up the sidewalk towards the rental lot, which is unmarked, unpaved and unlit. Ahead of me, I could see what looked like a large puddle so I detoured into the road to get to the parking lot.

The puddle was not a puddle. Sometimes a cigar is NOT just a cigar. The “puddle” was a massive swamp, over a foot deep of pure mud. The whole parking area, which is glare ice all winter, had thawed in the warm snap and the permafrost was now perma-mud.

Everywhere, mud covered cars were sunk into the muck. There were two other rental patrons whose tires were spinning in the slime, finding no purchase, because there was nothing but more mud below.

It was pitch dark out there, what with the no street lights and all, but the gleam off the mud was unmistakeable. And I made the most intelligent decision of the night – I left my luggage on the pavement and made no attempt to drag it into that field. If I had, archeologists might be excavating it centuries from now, commenting on the sociological implications of lace thongs and jewelry making tools.

I contemplated opening the big suitcase and getting out my snow boots to wade into that mud, but that seemed like just too much trouble. I stepped as lightly as possible onto the mud, and with a SQUELCH my shoe pulled off my foot. Wily me, I was ready for that and promptly put my foot back in it. I began questioning the boot decision. I squelched my way to the car and climbed in, leaving huge fecal looking mud smears on the rug.

Without pausing for my usual seat adjustment/mirror adjustment/car charger/glasses routine, I started the car. I wanted to get onto the pavement and collect my luggage before it was run over or stolen. Or sucked into the La Brea tar pits.

At least I knew not to gun it. I have done a bit of driving in my life, and I knew gunning it would slew mud everywhere and dig me a deep slimy trench from which I would never emerge. I started the car and put it tentatively into drive. I gave it a little gas. Nothing happened. A little more gas. Nothing happened. A little more gas: a familiar skewing slipping sensation told me that I was about to dig myself into a hole if I wasn’t careful.

I tried putting it in reverse. Same sequence of events. Only in reverse. The car wouldn’t budge. I cursed the rental company for not including cat litter in the car supplies.

I saw a big fella walking up to my car. I reckoned he saw I was stuck. He told me he would push the rear of the car while I slowly gave it some gas. He pushed. I accelerated. The car slid forward a few feet, hit a slight upward incline, and started digging into the mud. He indicated he would push from the front, and I would try it in reverse. Same outcome.

We surveyed the lot and identified an area where the mud appeared to be at least a bit more solid. We would aim for that area and I would try to turn the car around there and take a run up the little hill to the pavement. Nope.

We were both swearing politely when a second fella showed up. I love chivalry! I have never believed for a moment that it was dead. With both guys pushing and shouting “JUST DON’T BACK OFF THE GAS!!! DON’T BACK OFF THE GAS! WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T BACK OFF THE GAS!”, I managed to slush the car onto the pavement! Triumph over the elements! I even remembered to collect my luggage, even in my manic excitement at having defeated the mud. As I pulled off, the one fella hollered, “HEY! Welcome to North Dakota!”

I yelled back, “No shit! And I was just happy it wasn’t 17 below!” I was extremely relieved, not just by my escape from an untimely mud embalming but because the bigger fella didn’t fall over dead while pushing the car. He had a great big beer belly and was puffing and panting after pushing that car. I just kept thinking, Lord, please don’t let him have a heart attack. I do NOT want to administer CPR on my knees in this mud!

As I drove up the road, I could hear the rattling and spattering of the mud off the chassis and wheels of the car. I kept fighting a belief that if I slowed down, I would be forever mired in a corn field.

I began to wonder if I was just a big ole weenie, whining about some mud in a parking lot, until I got to work the next morning and heard the nurses ranting about The Mud. There was no talk about budding leaves, or flowers, just MUD. One has a stress fracture and has had to wear a Hefty bag over her boot to just cross her yard. She can’t get a cast because it will get muddy and wet.

In North Dakota, the chirping of birdies has been eclipsed by the thawing of the permafrost and the release of primeval mud on a scale worthy of triggering mass extinction. Spring, thy name is MUD.

Hell Dolly

This year my daughter was in a play. She is in the third grade at the magnet school which encompasses grades 3-5. This year’s special was Hello Dolly. Which rhymes with folly. Which is what it is to put on a show where 5th graders are allowed to sing.

The show is now, in March, and the rehearsals began in mid-fall. May I just suggest that they should have had a few (hundred) more fall rehearsals. These were mainly a pain in the butt for the parents, since we had to drive across town to pick the kids up – their buses having already left for the day.

The rehearsals were Top Secret, and held in the gym. Absolutely no parents were allowed. This was ostensibly so the children wouldn’t be “distracted”, but was probably really to keep the Stage Mothers from wringing their hands, complaining about their child’s part, and stabbing each other in the back.

After the fall rehearsals, the spring rehearsals began in earnest. The third graders don’t do much at all in the play, but yet they were required to attend every rehearsal. This meant weekly trips across town, and packing of dinner because the kid would be starving to death by the time the practice was over.

Then a Meeting was held for all parents, regarding costumes. Apparently it was of the essence that for a grade school play, the costumes must be perfect period pieces. They spent an entire hour describing EXACTLY what children from each grade were allowed to wear, not allowed to wear, and handing out multiple sheets of paper listing appropriate apparel and suggestions for Vogue patterns for creating monstrous dresses for the little darlings, in the presumption that these moms were budding Betsy Rosses who were going to whip up a Victorian tea dress in their spare time. I believe some of them did. The fellow In Charge Of Costumes handed out a sheet with his email address and informed us that we must submit a photo of our child in costume, and that if it was in the slightest improper, or not correctly submitted, they would be Out Of The Play. A fate worse than death.

The last week before the play was truly Hell Week. Monday through Wednesday, practices were held from 2:30 – 6:00 every afternoon. Monday was parents’ night which meant we were “invited” to come and slave over props and scenery. Somehow I got roped into hand lettering a train station sign for Yonkers, in a very fancy font. It took all evening, and it turned out really good. And then they didn’t use it in the actual play. I’m sure a train sign for Yonkers will be worth saving from year to year, because so many plays are set in Yonkers, New York. Not.

It was very amusing to see all the suburban housewives, who in this town are largely smug and self-satisfied, donning smeary painting smocks and registering cluelessness about how to paint anything. One of them began to wail that she had gotten latex paint on her engagement ring, which among other things begs the question as to why she had a child in grade school but no wedding ring on her finger. Something about the milk, and the cow…

Thursday practice was held at the renovated historic theater where the play was to be held. It was part piece rehearsal, and part first dress rehearsal. It ran from 8 to 2:30. The kids were beat by the time we picked them up. They never actually did the whole play through from start to finish, which would have been a really good idea.

My daughter’s costume was quite acceptable, and fortunately not too labor intensive. I found a dress at the local consignment store (I did NOT go all Martha Stewart and order a dress pattern, you may be assured of that) and found some Mary Janes which were somewhat historically inaccurate in that they had a little heel, but to hell with accurate, because that was the only way to ensure that my daughter would ever wear them again.

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We did a test run on the costume, hair, and makeup Wednesday night. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth; I was pulling my daughter’s hair too hard, she didn’t like the look of her hair in a bun, and she didn’t want to deal with makeup. She was too tired.

Friday was hell DAY. Their first real dress rehearsal doubled as their performance for the kids in the two magnet schools, and ran from 8 – 2:30 also. Then they had to return in costume for the first real showing of the play, which required that they be there from 6:15 until 9:30 at night. Fortunately there was no homework or school for the play kids on Thursday or Friday.

My daughter came home between performances for dinner and makeup touchup on Friday and informed me that children were being sent home right and left for barfing. One of the stage mothers had barfed also. Apparently there is a hellish stomach bug going around, which may make this whole thing quite interesting.

Friday night was the performance I chose to use my ticket to see. I sat where my daughter instructed me to sit, which was in the end of the row where she would do her little dance with her performance boyfriend, which she described in awed whispers throughout the week.

Apparently the boy in question had instructed his parents similarly, because I was sitting next to them at the end of our row. Since I had to bring her at 6:15 for a 7 PM performance, I got to wait in the audience for 45 minutes for the play to start. During that time, the house speakers blared out little ditties from various other popular musicals. The lights blinked out abruptly at this point, which caused someone in the audience to yelp.

At last, the play began. The lights were dim and there was much stomping, shuffling of feet and whispering as the first scene was set up. And then our illustrious performance began.

There are those who believe that any endeavor undertaken by their children is adorable. Maybe you can forgive me for unabashedly stating that this performance was awful.

All the little darlings sang off key, which made me wince and cringe. The wired mikes cut in and out in the middle of scenes, making the performance sound as if it were being performed by a roomful of mice, punctuated by horrid screeches of feedback over the speakers.

There was a character whose function was to cry loudly during the whole performance, and I must say, she did a fine job. So fine, I wanted to choke her like a chicken. She was an enormous 5th grader, so tall that she towered about a head over the other kids, and to emphasize this ridiculous size difference, she had been fitted with a hair bow as big as her head.

There was a parade scene where my daughter got to hula hoop on stage, and I must say, she is an excellent hula hooper. More talented children were allowed to do acrobatics across the stage, and less talented ones got to wave flags hopefully, or pretend to play musical instruments.

At last, intermission arrived, bringing home the horrifying fact that there was a whole next half to go. The intermission dragged on, and on, and I began to hear the parents around me talking loudly. “Ain’t this thang ovah yet? It’s cold in here. When we can go home? You mean there’s MORE??”

My daughter later informed me that the unseemly delay was brought on by the untimely cutting off of the end of a performing child’s finger, thus necessitating that she perform through the remainder of the show with an enormous bandage on her hand.

The second half was as excruciating as the first. There was more loud crying by the crying girl, more bad singing, and more botched lines and malfunctioning mikes.

I of course do not want to seem uncharitable (ha!), but it seems to me that tackling a period musical with a bunch of ten year-olds with the first real run through of the show being the first actual show was a bit… ambitious?

However, all the little kiddies looked adorable, I must admit. The girls swayed around in enormous dresses and bows, and looked like a bunch of little Jon Benets with their lurid stage makeup. The little boys looked mortified because they had to wear lipstick on stage. Enormous hats were sported by all.

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Today is Saturday, and there were two more performances. This morning, we had a lively discussion about a bun. It seems after refusing the bun I had originally put in her hair on the grounds that she looked terrible in buns, she noticed that all the other girls around her had buns, and suddenly she HAD to have one.

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I dropped my daughter off at the first show and picked her up after. My husband just returned from Budapest last night, and it fell to him to bring her to the final performance so he could enjoy, er, suffer through it. I’m sure we will have a lively discussion about the show after my daughter has gone to bed.

There was so much confusion surrounding the show that, despite being in it, my daughter was completely unable to synopsize it for me. I found it disconcerting that she could be in a play and not know what it was about, but after witnessing it, I must say, I didn’t have a very good idea either.

I wonder what they will take on next year? South Pacific? Saving Private Ryan? Equus? It really doesn’t matter, because next year, my daughter is joining the chess club instead.

One Thousand Suckers Born Every Day

This week I hit an amazing milestone – over 1,000 followers! I wanted to make a very special post to commemorate this and it struck me – I don’t know what to say.

I never dreamed I would have such a following. I started this blog as a way to hone my writing skills while ranting about mundane issues that no one else wants to hear me rant about.

This blog was started several years ago, but it has only been active the last two. I began with the near-daily postings when I found myself in a soul-crushing job that, thanks to the wonders of computers and “paperless” technology, had had its productivity slowed to a screeching halt. So while I waited for my nurse to do the hour’s worth of computer processing necessary for each patient, I was sitting and staring at my laptop. Miserable. Angry. And suddenly I remembered this little blog thing I had.

The more I wrote, the more I wanted to write. Funny stuff, indignant stuff, deep stuff, angry stuff. I learned how to add pictures – big advancement!

I’ve been taking a look back at my older posts and I would like to encourage you not to read them. They’re not very good. They’re not so well written, and they make me look like an irritable old curmudgeon. (Which I am, if a woman can be curmudgeonly).

As I wrote, I became aware of this little thing called “Freshly Pressed”. I had been nominated for a few other blogging awards, but this Freshly Pressed thing became my holy grail – my quest – a measure of my worthy blogitude. I never thought I would get it, but I kept writing. I even wrote a post about wanting to be freshly pressed.

I got Freshly Pressed. It was a blog about my daughter’s softball practice and you can find it here: http://beadstork.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/everybody-move-up/
It was personal to me – so much so that I cried while I read it to my husband. Maybe that showed. At any rate, It happened!

I was ecstatic. Wanted to tell everyone I knew. Didn’t. Told the people who count though. Then, the weirdest thing happened: I stopped writing. It seems that attaining my seemingly unattainable goal told my brain, “Welp, nothing more to do here.”

After nearly daily posts, months went by before I got back to it. I grant, I had just begun some fairly extensive traveling for work, which was a big adjustment, but I could have written. A lot of that work time was sent sitting in hotels waiting for a call from Labor and Delivery.

And suddenly, I wanted to write again. I felt embarrassed about neglecting my blog – I had put so much into it, and when success happened, I bailed. Reverse psychology.

But this week I hit it big. Over 1,000 followers! Holy crap! I will say, guys, that I wish you would comment a lot more. I love comments. It even says so right in my blog. I will answer them all.

I’ve been following my stats with some interest. Of course, my most popular post was the Freshly Pressed one. But I never suspected that this next post would make it so big.

I am a gynecologist, and I have written a number of posts on that subject, humorous or not, angry or not, or just plain boring. The MOST frequent search term BY FAR, the one that gets me multiple hits daily is some variant of “does my gynecologist care if I shave?” I wrote a post some time ago, the one that everyone on the net seems to read, which you can see here: http://beadstork.wordpress.com/2012/09/13/things-your-obgyn-never-tells-you/ If you don’t feel like reading the post, the answer is, no, we could care less if you don’t shave. We only notice that you didn’t shave if you say, “I’m sorry I didn’t shave.” Then, of course, we feel compelled to look. But we still don’t care.

My two favorite posts are silly, and they are pretty similar. They will be funny to you if you are a) a woman or b) have ever been involved with one. The first is funny things my patients have said to me: http://beadstork.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/things-my-patients-say-to-me/ and the second is about funny things that men have said to me: http://beadstork.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/things-that-men-say/ .

So. 1,000 followers. I am honored beyond belief. Looking back at some of my old posts, I’m not sure what on earth you see in there. But the presence of 1,000+ followers is sure a motivating factor to produce some writing of quality. So I am going to try my best. (Which may result in a drastically decreased number of postings).

So thank you for following! (Bows down multiple times). “I am not worthy! I am not worthy!” But I hope to be.

A Conversation With My Daughter

“Come on, Mom,” she says. “Come keep me company while I take my bath.”

I pad into the room. I’m still a little ticked off at her, so I keep playing my game on my phone.

“REALLY, Mother,” she says. “The sounds that game makes are making me want to DROWN myself in this bathtub. Could you please turn that down?”

“I’ll turn it down when I lose the game,” I tell her. “I’m doing too good here.”

“Hurry up and lose,” she says. “You’re making me want to mutilate myself.”

“Speaking of which,” I say, “Let me see your lip again.”

She sticks out her lip, white and bumpy on one side where she’s been biting it. I touch it. She’s been biting it so much it’s hard. “I think you’re already mutilating yourself. When do you bite your lip? I don’t even see you biting it.”

“When you’re not looking,” she says.

“And when do you mess with your face?” I ask. “Your dad is always telling you not to touch your face but I never see you touching it.”

She shrugs. “I don’t. Unless it itches.”

“So why does your dad tell you to stop touching your face?”

“I don’t know.” She shrugs.

“Do you do it because it aggravates him?”

“No. I don’t do it at all.”

I ask her the question, the one her father started when she was just little. “So, what was the best and worst part of your day?”

Dramatic eyeroll. “The BEST part was play practice.”

“What was the worst part?”

“YOU know. Just now. When you snapped at me. I was just trying to turn the phone off.”

“I snapped at you because you weren’t listening to me.”

“I WAS listening to you. You just don’t give me a chance to finish saying what I’m saying.”

“You weren’t listening to me earlier in the car. I was trying to work out our schedule. We have to figure out when to do a trial run on your hair and makeup before dress rehearsal. I think our only good time is Thursday afternoon.”

“REALLY, Mother. Do you have to be so controlling?”

“Controlling?? I’m just trying to work out how we need to get everything done for you this week. We’re really busy.”

“You’re even more controlling than Daddy.”

“What?? More controlling than DADDY? What are you smoking?”

“Seriously, Mom. You are.”

“I don’t see how trying to help your life work out better is controlling. So what was the worst part of your day?”

SIGH. “Just now. When you yelled at me. Do you have to be so irritable? It’s awful when you’re irritable.”

“I haven’t been irritable all day.”

“Just NOW.”

“That was the only time. And that was because you were NOT listening to me. Moms don’t like it when their daughters don’t listen. Especially when it’s about their stuff.”

“You’ve been irritable ALL DAY.”

“I have NOT. Name one time.”

“Just now.”

“Name one other time.”

“Can I bring an extra change of clothes to school tomorrow?”

“Sure. Remind me, and we’ll grab some in the morning.”

“Let’s get them now. You can get them. Get me some jeans, and a long-sleeved top. And I need socks, to go with my boots.”

“It’s late,” I tell her. “Hurry up and get out of the tub. We have a long day tomorrow.”

“I AM getting out. We had a long day TODAY.”

“It’s longer tomorrow. Reminds me. If I go to Costco tomorrow, do you need anything?”

“No. But I want to go to Target. It’s Cole’s birthday and I want to get him a present.”

“You want to get Cole a present?”

“Of course. He told me what he wants.”

“I don’t think you should buy Cole a present. He’s not very nice to you.”

SIGH. “I guess I can tell him that’s added to the list of reasons you don’t like him. Since Daddy thinks he’s wishy-washy.”

“Daddy thinks he’s wishy-washy because he has too many girlfriends.”

“You think COLE is wishy-washy? What about his dad? He left Cole’s mom and married Mandy.”

“You mean he’s wishy-washy because he’s divorced and he’s remarried? What does that make your Dad? He divorced and remarried.”

“Wishy-washy.”

“How come you don’t use the blowdryer I gave you?”

“It’s too loud.”

“Would you get OUT of the tub already?”

She pinches a scrawny slip of skin on her tummy. “I’m so FAT.”

“Yeah. You’re a hoss. You can’t even find any fat to pinch. That’s skin.”

She turns sideways, pokes her stomach out in a grotesque parody, and says, “See?”

“Yeah,” I tell her. “I see. I see you have about 3% body fat.”

“I hope I don’t get a BUTT,” she says.

“Why not,” I ask. “Men like butts.”

“Eww,” she says. “They make you look fat.”

“No they don’t. Not if you have a waist.”

“They make you look fat. You put the wrong PE shoes in my backpack.”

“Then maybe you should take care of your own shoes.”

SIGH. “Can I read before I go to bed?”

“No. It’s a long day tomorrow.”

SIGH. Eyeroll. “You said that already. Why is it so cold in here?”

“Because you have no body fat. Get in bed.”

“Mommy?”

“Yes, hon?”

“Do you love me?”

“Of course, hon.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure.”

“More than the universe?”

“More than 2 universes.”

“More than the universe SQUARED?”

“More than that. Go to sleep.”

I pull up the covers to her chin. She snuggles Fluffy the Bear and Soft Blanket; she has them arranged. Because, despite the way the conversations go, she is not 18. She is 8. God help me.

“Good night.”

“Good night, Mommy.”

Traveling Guck

The first time I was ever to travel to work, I was finalizing my packing the night before when my daughter came to me. She was clutching a stuffed duck.

My daughter has a long history with ducks. When she was about 18 months old, she became obsessed with ducks. Her battle cry: “GUCK! I WANT IT!” Her doting grandmamma (and Mommy) couldn’t resist picking up every duck she saw – ducks are cute, after all.

Her Halloween costume that year was even a duck. She amassed a collection of stuffed, bathtub, and toy ducks second to none. One of these was a diminutive Gund; their answer to a Beanie Baby. He was a mallard, and his name was Guck.

The night before I left, my daughter came to me clutching Guck to her. “I want you to take him with you,” she said. “So you don’t forget about me.” My poor little Stink! How could she think I would ever forget my own daughter?!

I embraced Guck and found a place for him in my backpack. From that day on, he became my traveling Guck. I remembered the gnome in Amelie, and how she photographed him at travel destinations around the globe, for her Papa who had wanted to travel. I decided Guck would commemorate my travels, and my daughter would receive Guck updates.

Guck is now exceedingly well traveled. He has been out of the country numerous times, and has trekked through every airport in the country, almost. He has survived all manner of travel mishaps: a night in the Denver airport on the floor, a stay in the hotel from the Shining while stranded in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and an extremely bizarre flaming Kindle incident while on board an airplane. (http://beadstork.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/kindle-fire-no-really/)

This gallery is dedicated to my brave Guck and his world travels – may he go on many more!

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