Rants from the Crib

An Ob/Gyn gone mad

Archive for the category “Parenting”

Hah Bumbug!

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The Beadstork family is a bit eccentric. I will seamlessly offer proof in the form of a list of our Christmas Day activities:

1. My husband did actual billable computer work. On Christmas. He works EVERY DAY. And he fixed my Mom’s computer.

2. My father consumed an entire pound of homemade fudge between the hours of 9 AM and 7 PM.

3. My daughter’s favorite gift was a bow and arrow – a toy, but much better made and high tech. She spent the entire day shooting the suction cup arrow down the hall into the front door. By bedtime she had a blister.

4. We ran the dishwasher 3 times.

5. I gave my husband a sterling silver chain maille choker that I made, worth hundreds of dollars. He gave me a library book that he made my daughter wrap.

6. We spent a good part of midday creating multicolored polymer high bounce balls with a chemical reaction that occurred in our kitchen.

7. My father read me poetry out of his poetry book that he published.

8. We had an exhaustive conversation about social status and personal responsibility. Somehow it turned into a discussion about how longbows and crossbows had rendered body armor obsolete.

9. My mom Facebook messaged me from her computer upstairs to my phone downstairs : “So where are you spending Christmas this year? Ohio? North Dakota?” From downstairs I messaged back: “Um… at your house?”

10. An enormous Wile E Coyote wearing a Santa hat sat in one of the living room chairs the whole weekend.

11. My mom gave me this AWESOME “Happy Light” designed to treat seasonal depression that I can also use to make my jewelry. Bonus: she says she got it free with the purchase of a lightbulb that cost a fraction of the free lamp!

12. We drank 3 pitchers of Crystal Light lemonade.

13. My father spent the day reading my “gift” book from the library. He’s a quarter of the way through already.

14. My seventy-something mom showed us videos on her smartphone.

15. My husband spent the evening reading a book on beginning meditation. New obsession!

16. Mom turned the sound off for every TV commercial during The Grinch.

17. My daughter and my mom made the annual “granddaughter-grandmother” cheese ball from scratch – a tradition now spanning 4 generations.

18. There were exotic chickens roaming through our yard. The peacocks were off duty today.

19. We temporarily lost the cat.

20. We found a picture of my friend’s dad on Facebook that had a mysterious glow between his legs, and three generations giggled about “Christmas balls”

21. I tantalized my daughter with tales of a tongue twister that results in horrible obscenities if said incorrectly.

22. We schemed to take up money to buy the neighbor a new muffler, since the poor man clearly can’t afford one.

23. My dad would have eaten all the mint brownies, so mom had to hide them.

24. We discussed the pros and cons of collecting copays up front in a doctor’s office.

25. I taught my daughter about super-nummerary nipples. She asked me if I have an extra boob, and when I said no, she said “Aww… I wanted a special mom!”. I told her that I am way too special already without one.

26. We discussed the importance of protecting book spines and dust covers.

27. I ranted about super-conservatives who equate using the word X-mas with satanism because ” you’re taking the Christ out of Christmas “. I worship Satan because I don’t write the word out longhand on every box I put back in the attic? Honestly, I told my husband, it’s not like we’re replacing the word Christ with a SKULL or anything, at which point my husband said, ” Bwa ha ha! Merry Skullmas!”, which became an instant family classic.

28. I got an email notifying me that I made Delta Diamond Medallion. It’s good to be the queen!

29. We argued over whether or not Will Wheaton was in Stand By Me (he was – ha!)

30. Mom read aloud an entire article about 18 little known facts about the movie A Christmas Story.

31. My daughter’s second favorite gift was a huge hardback set of the Lemony Snicket books. She lugged the box up and down the stairs all day.

32. My husband picked all the nuts out of his fudge.

33. I ate my husband’s ice cream, which made him avow eternal wrath.

34. My mom’s tuner croaked Christmas Eve, necessitating that we stream free Amazon Prime Christmas playlists off my phone via a little bullet speaker. We listened to Straight No Chaser nine hundred times.

35. I spent, like, a whole lot of time searching for sterling silver letters I bought to make a gift bracelet. I SWEAR I brought them. I KNOW I brought them.

36. I gave my dad a beaded bald eagle I made to add to his beaded bird collection – he has four now. I stayed up late Christmas Eve because I HAD to finish it.

37. My husband took four or five fists full of vitamins every few hours because he is attempting to purge mercury from his body.

38. Mom and I went through ALL of my daughter’s school pictures, only to discover that she has three sets that I don’t. What?

39. I caught my sweater on some blinds and knocked over a window-worth of Christmas decorations.

40. We discussed how the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors changed the Mayan social caste system.

41. Also, my husband texted me AS ME on my own phone demanding hot Christmas sex.

42. I ate something other than yogurt today.

43. My daughter made a Lego set containing police alligators with red and blue lights, moving tails and (SCORE) mouths that really open.

44. My husband gifted me an awesome fossil ammonite pendant from his trip to Slovenia.

45. I don’t think anyone ever got dressed.

Last flight home to the North Pole!  A Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

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The Cynic’s Stages Of Pregnancy

1)  Thinking About Having a Baby:  has no effect on whether or not you will actually have one.  The universe will pregger you pretty much as it chooses,  (or not) any time that it chooses.  A general rule of thumb:  your chances of conceiving a pregnancy are inversely proportionate to how much you want to be pregnant.

2)  Conceiving a Pregnancy:  Did you really think I was going to give you instructions here?  I will say, standing on your head may be helpful.  If you need to have conception explained to you, call your mom.  And then enjoy watching her freak out.  Especially if you are older than forty.  The internet is jam full of very interesting videos (OK, porn) which will offer you limitless ideas for different approaches to conception.  Or gonorrhea.  You’re more likely to get gonorrhea.  Fact:  pregnancy IS a sexually transmitted disease.

3)  Finding Out:  First, you have to deal with the baffling intricacies of the pregnancy test.  Most people choose to pee on an average of at least 6 sticks before they accept the verdict.  The home pregnancy tests available over the counter are exactly as accurate as the much more expensive Doctor Ones.  I’d do them at home unless you are having problems.  You may get the dreaded “kinda pregnant” result with the little faint pale fuzzy line.  Just repeat in a week.  If still fuzzy, call your doc to get sorted out.

4)  The Response:  divides more or less into three camps, although they may intersect somewhat.  You will either be Team Ohhhhh Noooo, or you will be Team Yessssss, with Team Ambivalent hovering in between.

5) Telling Everyone:  may be as follows: The OMG So Excited Twitter FB LinkedIn Email Text Phone Call Billboard strategy, also affectionately known as The Drama Approach, b) telling your partner, your family and your close friends, also known as the Moderate Approach or c) telling only your partner until you hit 12 weeks and your risk of miscarriage is pretty much gone – which is a very smart approach.  Up to 1 in 3 early pregnancies may end in miscarriage – if something happens, do you really want to face the painful questions and watch your friends fumble to think of the right thing to say?  This is the Cautious Approach, and as an OB, I must say I recommend it.
6) Early Pregnancy: you will look like you are getting fat and letting yourself go instead of looking pregnant. It is possible that you may barf up your toenails your entire first trimester. Maybe longer. Your boobs will hurt really bad and you will want to assassinate your partner for merely dragging the bed sheet across your chest. Your refrigerator and your trash will smell so bad you will vomit, because your sense of smell becomes so acute.
7) Your OB: by now, you’ve probably found one. Your first visit will be interminable, you will be asked all sorts of embarrassing questions, and they will remove approximately half of your blood from your body for labs. The ultrasound is really cool, though.
8) Second trimester: you will actually start to show, and get a baby bump, thank goodness. Your raging hormones will chill out a little. You may actually feel almost normal. I will warn you, the “glow of pregnancy” is actually grease.
This is when strangers will start to touch your belly and ask questions. Because the national pastime is scaring pregnant women to death, they will give you wrong and scary advice, tell you horrible stories, and you will call your OB in tears multiple times. One major plus: you get to feel the baby moving. Sometimes your partner can’t feel it yet and gets really jealous. Another bonus: you get to find out the sex of the baby. Or you may argue vigorously with your partner about whether you are going to find out the sex of the baby.
9) Planning For Delivery: you will be terrified of the impending delivery until you are so uncomfortable near your due date that you no longer care – you just want that baby OUT. If you are gung-ho, you will most likely have read at least 8 books about pregnancy and delivery, all of which made you more terrified than you already were. If you are really intrepid, you may have created a birth plan, or you may have gotten a doula or a midwife to attend your delivery. This is all OK with us, but OBs have a cynical expression:  “Birth plan + doula = C-section.”. This is not because we want you to have one; we want you to be happy with your birth, but it seems that the universe always conspires to make those who really want a natural birth need a C-section, which sucks for us and for you.
10) Delivery: I won’t delve into this much because everyone’s experience is different. This is a good time to give yourself a pep talk about control. As in, you don’t have any. We happily try to accommodate you, but what we need to do in labor is completely dictated by the baby’s well-being and by what your body does, and you can’t control either. This will help you to accept that you will have no control over most of your parenting either, because kids are little people and they often have other ideas about how any given day may proceed. Also, during your delivery, your partner may or may not pass out.
11) Bringing baby home: a properly installed car seat is a must. Then there is that moment where you pull up your driveway with a whole new person and you look at each other and think, ” Holy crap, what did we just do?!? “. And so it begins…

All Or Nothing?

The question was posed:  is it more dangerous to want everything or nothing?

I think desiring everything can be an indication of ambition, if what you want is intangible.  Failure to narrow down these aspirations make one the proverbial “Jack of all Trades,  and Master of None.”  Those of us with this issue of course refer to ourselves as “Renaissance” persons.  It sounds better.

I had no goals in high school.  Except to survive.

Desire for things is a  symptom of the commercialization fed to us every day; we are bombarded:  ads on TV, ads online, the lure of a glistening store.

The sellers know, the more we are dissatisfied with ourselves, the more we are likely to buy a product.  “If I just bought this wrinkle cream, I would look younger and more desirable.”  “If I bought this treadmill, I would lose weight and be sexy.”  It is human nature to desire to improve, fit in, and of course, find a “better” mate.  And society has persuaded us, tragically, that this results from conspicuous consumption, not from internal change.

Desiring many things can also indicate greediness, addiction, hoarding issues, and narcissicism,  where people may spend more than they can afford, landing themselves in debt and jeopardizing their family’s finances.

I confess, I do want everything. Things.  In my case, I want to improve my looks, and to fit in with my peer groups, and I have definite packrat tendencies.  I love to shop, and sometimes I engage in retail therapy.  I shop when I feel bad, I shop when I feel good, I shop because I love to bring home piles of lovely things to add to my treasure troves of clothing, art and jewelry supplies, books, stationery, eclectic decorating items.  My interests are wide.  And since high school, I have harbored the conviction that the more “cool” things I have, the safer from criticism and ostracism I will be.

Wanting no material things; that’s good.  We could use more asceticism in life.  A simple life is examined and confident.

But wanting nothing; that can be scarier still.  I realized one day, a few years back, that despite hoarding my precious supplies of material things, that I have no goals left.

I had a goal to go to college; I finished with a whopper GPA .  Check.  Next goal: have fun.  Did that in spades.  Overdid that.  Next stop, medical school.  Made straight A’s my first two years, and nearly that the second two.  Check.  Next stop, residency.  Chose a specialty and spend a grueling 4 years training, being hazed, overworked and psychologically abused.  Survived it, and I never let them see me cry.  Check, check, check, check.

I bought the car of my dreams, a Porsche Carrera, after graduating.   Goal met.  I wanted to get married.  Finally met and married my husband at the ripe old age of 35.  Goal met.  We wanted children, and I produced a daughter with frightening speed.

And one day, I woke up and I realized there was nothing left.  All those life goals, done.  What else is there?   What do I want now?  What life achievement is out there?

I’ve given this a fair bit of thought.

Many aspire for grandchildren, which would be nice, but it is not a goal for me.

I want to make more friends.  I guess that’s sort of a goal.

I’d like to simplify my life by divesting myself of these possessions.  But I don’t really want to.

I want to improve my jewelry techniques and make selling my work more of a career and less of a hobby.  It’s a dream I cannot realize, since the loss of income would be unacceptable. That would be a goal, but it is inconveniently imaginary.

I want to get in better shape, but do I really?  I abhor gyms; they bore me, and I don’t go.  Must not be much of a goal, if I’m not doing anything about it..

I would like to write a book.  It may or may not happen.  I know I do have one in me.  It’s probably the only true goal I have left.

What I really want is to quit my job.  Scarcely a positive move.

Not wanting anything is an abyss you stare into.  There is nothing at the bottom of it, at the end of it.  In essence, life is over.  I feel I should just cede what’s left to the next generation.

Not wanting is the end of the road.  It brings on an unsurmountable depression.  I am reminded always of Peggy Lee’s song “Is That All There Is?”  I learned it as a kid, but didn’t realize the sadness and truth in it until I was older.

If you want material things, at least you are alive in a small way.  You are moving toward something, persuading yourself that amassing collections is a vital “hobby”.

I’ve always felt I want too many tangible things, but that never gave me this sinking feeling that there is nothing left to achieve.  That is a special kind of hell.  A bottomless pit.  And when hope is gone, that is a very, very dangerous thing.  A person with nothing to lose is a disaster waiting to happen.

Perfect Parenting

 

 

My husband is apparently furious with me over a Facebook post I

made.  I know this because during our argument, he brought it up

and I could actually hear his teeth clenching.  He doesn’t usually get

that mad.

 
So here is what I said:  “I know this is awful, but I am so happy that

my daughter has finally gotten to the age where she wants to do

some things by herself in her room.  I’m sure I will soon be eating

these words.”

 
Why was he so furious?  I told him that at some time, virtually every

mother and father has probably felt like that.  That wasn’t the

problem.  He told me (through clenched teeth) that his problem with

it was that I had made such a NEGATIVE statement, and front of

EVERYONE.  He basically couldn’t believe that I had the temerity to

say it out loud.

 
What the hell?

 
Why not?

 
First, I told him I thought it was a positive statement – I was posting

about something that made me happy.  No.  It was NEGATIVE.  I

guess we can’t admit out loud that our little darling has ANY

annoying issues, because you NEVER are allowed to feel that your

children are annoying.  At least not out loud, apparently.

 
Really?

 
A little bit about my daughter.  Since the minute she was born, she

could not be put down on her own.  She had to be held at all times, or

she just cried.  Our final solution was to buy a sling that we could

wear across our bodies, so that she could look out and be held, and

we could have some hands-free time.

 
As a toddler, she could not be left with toys to amuse herself on her

own.  She had to be touching us, and she had to have her hands all

over what we were doing.

 
She is almost ten, and the “Mommy look, Mommy look” thing has yet

to be extinguished.  While I was writing this I was urgently

summoned to another room for something I HAD to see.  What was

it?  Her dragon game had accidentally put a dragon with the word

“butt” in it next to a dragon that had the word “head” in it.  Ha ha ha,

hysterical!  For that I was summoned away while I had a head full of

words that were in perfect order and needed to be written down

while they were still there.  I’m sure you writers can relate.

 
When she was a baby, my husband thought he could stay with her

and continue to work at home.  You can guess how long that lasted.

We had a brilliant idea!  An in-house sitter who could keep her as he

worked.  Know how long THAT lasted?  Yeah, we had to put her in

daycare, because we both had to work.  And I cried like some crazy

fool when we brought her there, because I never wanted her to be a

daycare baby.

 
As she got older, things didn’t get better.  Even with two adults in the

house, she so constantly demanded attention that we resorted to

hiring babysitters a couple times a week in the afternoon just so we

could do some things on our own.  We seldom left the house, but the

sitters saved our sanity.  And that was HIS idea.

 
Later, as we had yet another worried discussion about how she so

completely could not function alone, my husband thought that

maybe it was because we had so many sitters paying attention to her,

that she had gotten used to it.  No.  I don’t think so.  She was that

way when she started, which is why we were driven to hire the

sitters.

 
You must understand that throughout her lifetime, we have fretted

over her lack of inner resources.  It’s not that my husband didn’t see

the issues.  It’s not that he didn’t think that her neediness was

extreme.

 
So when I made the post, it was because in the last year, she has

gotten to where she wants to watch Minecraft videos, on her own, in

her room.  You have no idea what a relief this was, to have her come

home and not instantly glom on.  She gets upset when I go out to get

the mail without telling her.  I couldn’t finish peeing before she was

looking for me, even after I told her I was going.  “But it’s taking you

such a long TIME!”

 
And saying that was a relief was BAD?  How exactly?  Oh.  We

mustn’t admit that we don’t want to spend every waking minute with

our child.  (This from a man who constantly says he refuses to care

about what other people think).

 
I guess that wanting to get a thought in edgewise makes me a

horrible parent.

 
What the HELL? It’s not that he didn’t recognize that she has an

issue with playing alone.

 
And the thing is, I’ve never stopped accommodating her.  I feel that if

a child wants attention from a parent, and that parent has it to give,

that you should spend it with your child.  After all, they grow up so

fast, right?  So just like I dropped everything to see the Butthead

Dragons (had I known that was what was so urgent, I wouldn’t have),

I have spent my life with a kid treating every little thing as

important, because to them, it is.  I have lavishly praised

achievements, set limits, looked over homework, and made a point of

never refusing a hug, even with onions browning and chicken grease

all over my hands.  I’ve heard my husband refuse hugs:  in the

middle of something, busy now, carrying stuff.

 
So why can’t I say what I said?  Why can no one know?  Why can’t we

let others know about things that are real?  Is he playing the

competitive parent game?  Totally not like him.  Does he just not

want any chinks to show in our perfect armor?  Not really like him

either.  I honestly don’t understand, this time, what torqued him off

so bad.

 
Gentle readers, can you help me?  Am I a terrible parent?  Should

that awful thought have been stifled?  Please weigh in on this.  Am I

missing something?  Help!

A Momentary Lapse of Fear

I did something unheard of today.  I went ballistic.

I am a cautious person.  I have strong thoughts on many, many subjects, but I reveal my true nature to a few people whom I really trust.  My entire life, I have had trouble standing up for myself.  I was an only child, and I was so overtaken if a kid my age confronted me, I had nothing to say, because it was always a situation I hadn’t dealt with before.  Maybe if I’d had siblings, things might have been different.

Middle school crushed me.  I was unafraid to be who I was until then, even though I didn’t know how to argue, until seventh grade slammed my face into a wall made of an inconvenient truth:  if you don’t fit in, you are NO ONE.  I grew up in the south, where this point is made obvious even more than other locales.  The phrase “You ain’t from around here, are you?” tells you everything you need to know about where I grew up.

I spent the next two decades hiding.  The things that made me me, my intelligence, my wit, my loathing of “PC” and politics and politicians, my right to question authority, my right to reserve judgment about who my higher power was, my desire to wear “odd” clothing that expressed my personality, my streak of cynical darkness, were all things that were to be hidden at all costs.  In the south that’ll get you a cross burned in your yard, a hanging in a local tree, or, most likely, complete social ostracism.

I was who I was with safe friends, family, at concerts and art shows, but when I was dumped into “social” activities, I had to hide.  I learned to fake the southern accent that I deliberately chose not to pick up (I’m a great mimic), learned how to fake hug and say “How arrrrre yewwww?” in a fake sugar sweet accent, learned that the dictum about discussing politics and religion was my greatest ally.

Despite my mimicry, and some social standing as a physician, I have NEVER fit in.  I can think of two times in my life when I really did:  the year I spent doing research at the NIH in Bethesda with 50 top notch med students from around the country, and my residency in New Orleans, where people work to live and not live to work, where no one gives a shit if you dress odd and like to have a good time.

Why do I not fit?  I’ve always been really pretty, after my ugly duckling stint in middle school, I’m funny, I’m nice (I think), and now as a doctor I have money, status and power.  Why do I not fit in?  Because I am TOO DAMN SMART.  Too smart for my own good, as they say.  I am a certified genius.  My IQ testing was off the charts. I’m not bragging, because this is the one big trait that makes my life shit.  I just can’t hide that.  I can fake sweet, and I can “dress normal” and I can drag my speech out like dripping honey, but you just can’t hide intelligence.  Try as I might, I could never fake stupid.

Since they destroyed my soul in middle school, I have never been able to stand up for myself.  A childhood where I didn’t learn to argue, a fear of letting people know who I am and what I stand for, a fear that people won’t like me, a fear of burning bridges.  You see, most of the views I hold are unforgiveable in the rural south.

I don’t even complain in hotels, or restaurants, even when a complaint is warranted.  Afraid they’ll spit in my soup, not wanting to look like a bitch, afraid of causing a scene.  Afraid I’ll be seen as high maintenance, or as throwing my weight around as a doctor.

So my entire life, I’ve been a fake and a fucking coward.

A hypocrite.

My friend told me that I would learn to be more aggressive when I had a child.  That if I couldn’t do it for me, I could do it for them.  But that hasn’t come up yet.  My child hasn’t needed defending.  And I continue to hate myself for being afraid.

Today I was sitting in my hotel room taking physician call when my fire alarm went off.  There was no reason for it to.  I called the front desk and was told they were doing state mandated alarm testing and that “it would be pretty noisy all day.”  They told me there was nothing they could do.

It wasn’t just the alarm in the halls.  It was the actual  smoke detector in my room as well.  The shrieking was piercing, it made my eardrums fibrillate, it was incapacitating.  The desk said maintenance would be by in a bit.

A knock on my door.  Maintenance.  In desperation I’d used bandaids to tape a washcloth and a mouse pad over the alarm.  “I’m sorry, ma’am, but there’s nothing we can do about it.”

I had finally hit my tipping point.  I was no longer at a loss for words.  I was no longer afraid to say them.

“I am a DOCTOR.  I am taking CALL.  I can not only not carry on a conversation on the phone, I cannot even hear it fucking RING.  Do you understand me?!?  This is UN.ACCEPT.ABLE.  FIX IT.  NOW.”

The maintenance man looked at his partner, and said, “I know, ma’am, I understand, ma’am.  We’ll try to do something, ma’am.”  And the way he looked at the other guy, I could tell he thought I was a damn bossy bitch.

And you know what?  I didn’t care.

And you know what else?  Those alarms that were supposed to be on most of the day?  They turned off a few minutes later, and they never came back on.

So I found my voice.  For a minute.  A small thing, I know.

And you know what else?  I might find the strength to do it again.  ‘Cause know what else?  It felt REEEEAL good, honey.

Losing At Cards

It is so hard to buy my folks a card these days.  My mom is 71.  My dad will be 80 in March.  Their anniversary is this week, so I wanted to send them something.  I went to look at cards.

I had to skip all the ones about doing fun things or traveling, because my Dad has gotten to the point where he can barely walk; he loses his balance all the time, and he gets nauseated in cars now.  Sometimes they don’t even make it all the way out to Sunday dinner.  My folks had planned to travel for their retirement, but after only a few trips, my dad was stricken with this strange malady where he can’t walk and falls over all the time.

Jokes about lawn mowing and barbecuing are out, because although he used to do these things, all he can manage now is a little lawn mower pushing before he is tired and has to come in.  But he still feels like he needs to try and help.  He became too depressed to do grilling and gave it up many years ago.

Jokes about enjoying a beer on your special day are out, because Daddy is a recovering alcoholic, so we can’t joke about beers.  Don’t want to even put that idea in his head.

Jokes about becoming forgetful in your old age are out, because Daddy has been diagnosed with early stage dementia, probably due to his long standing alcoholism.  He is increasingly distressed by his loss of memory of his once incredible vocabulary.

Teasing references about grumpy dads are out, because my Dad has always had an anger problem, and the dementia had only made him more irrational.

So what the hell do you send?  I finally settled on a card with a cute little animal couple on it, suggesting that they debate about which of them is “the better half”.  Even that one is a little dicey.

I never knew buying a greeting card was going to get so hard.  There are so many things that you are not  prepared for.  No one tells you that when your folks get old, that nothing, not even innocuous things , are easy to do ever again.

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’.

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.

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.

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