Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Monday, May 31, 2004

Where Animals Come to Die

Yesterday, the little boy from across the street rang our bell at around 9 am. There was a squirrel in their yard, injured. He wanted me and Em to come and get it and take care of it. Nevermind that I killed a baby squirrel last year--unintentionally, of course. Somehow, we are now the neighborhood wild animal rescue.

Baroy was annoyed, but I shushed him and sent Em off with a shoebox. She returned with an adult squirrel whose rear legs were all twisted up. We basically repeated last week's scenario, except I didn't hold the squirrel, nor did I permit Em to--they can carry disease, and they will bite.

Rescuing the squirrel reminded Em of Biter, so I had to break the news to her. She cried. No, she sobbed. And sobbed. She kept saying, "I wish that I'd known sooner so I didn't tell everyone that he was with a woman who would take care of him." And then she said, "I wish sometime we could take care of a hurt animal that lives."

(She calmed down a bit eventually, but only after I copied my post about Biter and printed it out. We found some images of opossums online, and made a "book" out of it. It was so sweet.)

That wish didn't come true this time, either. We buried the squirrel this morning; he'd died sometime during the night. He's in the backyard now, near my artichoke plant. Em took the stone I have that says "Paradise" on it, and is using it as his headstone.

I'd say that this is it, that I'm not doing this any more, but I know I will. Actually, it was almost worth it, to hear 6-year-old Em explaining to 3-year-old N what death is.

E: "He doesn't exist in this world any more, N. He's not just sleeping. He doesn't breathe like we do any more. He flew up to be in heaven."

N: "I no can fly up in the sky. I no have wings!"

Em and I giggled. That's one of N's special gifts. He can almost always make us laugh, no matter how somber the moment.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Biter's Tale

"I'm going to call him Biter," Em says, looking down at the tiny opossum who is chewing on the shirt she's wrapped him in.

We're sitting in the office of a not-exactly-local veterinary practice, a place--I've been told by the local opossum rescue folk--where they will evaluate and treat Biter at no cost to me.

"You know, sweetie," I say for the umpteenth time, "we can't keep him. If he's OK, we'll take him to the opossum rescue lady. If he's not, they'll keep him here and try to make him better. But we can't keep him at our house. It's not safe there, with the cat and the bunnies."

"I know," she says again. But there are tears in her eyes.

She slides a little bit away from me on the bench and bends her head for a moment. Then she slides back and looks at me, the tears gone. "OK," she says. "I've said my goodbyes. I'm ready."

I stroke her hair, and we wait for the vet tech to come take Biter away.


Em found Biter outside, by the neighbor's house. He's obviously a baby, though how young, I can't possibly know. From an experience we had last year trying to save a baby squirrel, I know what to do when Em announces that "we just have to help him before he gets run over by a car." I go online, look up opossum rescue organizations, find the number of one who's local, and ask my neighbor to give her a call. (I'm in the middle of making dinner, and the neighbor has asked what she can do to help.) With instructions in hand, I send Em out to see if she can herd the opossum into a box; her friend Kevin uses his shoe and accomplishes the task in seconds. We bring the as-yet-unnamed Biter into the house, and I get to work mashing up some bananas, mixing up some Pedialyte and water, setting a heating pad under half the box.

My neighbor comes by to see if we need anything more from her. She offers to take the opossum, if I want. She'll drop it off at a local park, she says, looking at me meaningfully. I know what she's saying. She's a bit bemused that I'm taking in yet another wild animal, I think, that I'm trying to save this baby. And really, if I'm honest with myself, I have to admit that if Em weren't there, I wouldn't have done any of this. I say as much to my neighbor. She understands. She has three kids of her own. She knows that I'm doing this mostly to be a positive role model to Em, to encourage that part of her that loves all living creatures and wants to help them. I love that about her. And I love that she thinks first of coming to me for help when she finds one. That she thinks I'm the same sort of person. She doesn't realize that she's the one who's made me be this way. It's only one of many ways in which my children have made me a better person.

After dinner, I take Biter out of his box and wrap him in a cotton cloth and put him under my shirt to warm him up a bit. He's clearly injured. His head leans to one side, and while he's getting around well, he's doing so while dragging one or both legs. It's hard to tell exactly what's wrong, but I don't hold out much hope for him. Still, I syringe-feed him Pedialyte-and-water while Em watches intently. (N and Baroy are in New York on a boys' weekend; Em and I are boding at home on the opposite coast.) He really is cute, for a ratty little thing.


The next morning, he's still alive. I try not to show how surprised I am. He's even produced, um, fecal matter. I'm thinking I may have been overly pessimistic about his chances.

We take him over to the vet, Em insisting that she hold him on her lap in the car rather than consigning him to a box for his one and only trip with us. I warn her to be gentle, then let her do as she wishes. He squirms around so that he's facing out, facing forward, his two little paws over the edge of the shirt she's wrapped him in. He's a marsupial baby, and he's found familiarity in that pose, I guess. He seems calm. I don't know what an opossum looks like when it's happy, so I won't hazard any further of a guess than that.

Everyone at the vet's office praises Em for being so caring about an orphaned animal. She beams. When the vet tech does come out, they ask us to wait, and we do. The vet herself has us come back when she's finished examining him.

"Well, I did notice the way his head is leaning to one side," she says. "And I don't feel any breaks in the big bones in his legs that would explain the dragging. So I'm inclined to say he's broken his back. But what I'd like to do is to dose him with a lot of steroids, to see if it's only a fracture or something. Sometimes they make a big recovery that way."

I nod, point out that it's not my money--the funds come from the opossum rescue people--and that we trust that they will the best for him. Em asks to see him one more time, and we go into the back room where he's in a little cage under a heating lamp. Em coos at Biter, the vet thanks Em again for taking care of him, and we leave.

As we're walking down the street, Em looks up at me and asks, "Do you think he's going to be OK?"

"I don't know, sweetie," I say, because I'm not one to sugar-coat. "I don't think so, but I guess there's a chance."

"Can we call in a little while and find out?"

"Let's give it a few days, and then I'll call," I say.

Yesterday, five days after we found Biter, I call. Em seems to have forgotten about my promise, though she's still talking about Biter and taking care of him. But I need to know. I need to have closure. And I know that she will ask me one of these days.

It's as I suspected. Biter was euthanized a few days after we brought him in. I feel sadder than I thought I would. I keep seeing his pointy little nose peeking over the shirt, his tiny sharp-clawed paws holding onto the front rim of this makeshift pouch. Poor little guy. Part of me wishes we'd just kept him at our house, let him live out his days. But maybe he was in pain. Maybe he's better off. I don't know.

I still haven't told Em. I will. But somehow the right moment hasn't come yet. As if there is a right moment for this.

RIP, Biter.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Coming Out

I married into this remarkable literary family. Baroy is the second younges of four boys, and all four of them are authors. And they've all got real chops, though some are undoubtedly a bit choppier than others. I'll never forget the day that Baroy called one of his brothers to inform/brag to him about the fact that one of the ten nature documentaries we'd cowritten or co-script-edited was premiering that night on the Discovery Channel, and had garnered some nice reviews already. "That's great," his brother said, somewhat distracted. "But did you hear that Uncle Dick won the Pulitzer today?"

(That's an absolutely true story. He won it for this book. My response? "This is one tough fuckin' family.")

This year, out of the four boys and I, there are four books coming out. And the one who isn't publishing a book this year contributed to one that came out last year. Last week, both Baroy's latest book and his oldest brother's latest came out at essentially the same time. Yeah, they're very different. But I'm equally proud of them both. Steve's book is a must-read for pretty much anyone who doesn't have 'issues' with homosexuality. It's sweet and light--chick lit for the gay set, actually. I adore it. And it got a nice review from Entertainment Weekly this week. Oh, and the picture on the author page is of Steve with Em and N. So that doesn't hurt.

Baroy's book is for actors who need good, fresh audition material. He's an incredible playwright. It's worth the money if acting's your gig. Oh, and the picture oon the author page is of all four of us. Again, doesn't hurt.

I'll be sure to let you all know when my book is out (author review is coming up sooner rather than later), and when my other brother-in-law's impressive tome hits bookstores.

Yeah, I'm whoring my family. But who better to whore, right?

Monday, May 24, 2004

Full Time

People are such hypocrites. Seriously. It both annoys and bewilders me, sometimes. Take, for instance...me. As recently as last night I was expounding on how important it was to me to be working "only" 80 percent time, in terms of having time with the kids and in terms of my sanity and mental health. So what did I do today? Walked in, became overwhelmed by all that's on my plate and the even bigger issues that are on the horizon, and went into my boss's office to offer to go...yup...full time for the summer. (She's very interested, but needs to check our budget.) I just don't understand me.

Expect a flurry of brief posts over the next few days, by the way. This was quite the weekend--almost all of it good--so there's much I have to say.

But, for now, back to work.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

The Pringles Incident

I need advice.

Here's the scenario: I got home from work yesterday to find my 6-year-old daughter in her bedroom sobbing her little heart out, and her surly faced father stalking around the house, pissed as all hell. Turns out Em was being punished for lying. Baroy had gotten her a snack--a can of Pringles--after he picked her up from school. He'd told her to just take a portion, because he didn't want her eating the whole thing. She insisted she wouldn't. She then sat down in front of the TV (a no-no on my watch, and they both know it) and, well, ate the whole thing, except for maybe a few crumbs at the bottom. For whatever six-year-old, stupid-headed reason, she decided to try and pretend she hadn't done what she'd just done. So she put the top back on the tube, and announced to her father that she'd finished, and she was putting the tube on the kitchen counter so he could put the rest of the chips away.

Imagine his surprise when he went to do so and found an empty can.

There was, apparently, some yelling involved. And some off-the-cuff punishments meted out that were later transmuted into more reasonable and reasoned punishments. No biggie. Nothing unusual in our house.

After things had calmed down, Em and I got into the car to go over to the YMCA for her swimming lesson. And I asked her about what had happened from her point of view, whether she was crying because her dad had punished her or because she thought he was being mean, etc. Em is a remarkably mature kid, and she didn't surprise me in this regard during our conversation. She told me that she was crying because she was sad about what she'd done, and she just didn't understand why she had lied to her dad. And then she said something that made my heart break for her a little. She said, "I don't know why I did at all those Pringles in the first place, Mommy. Sometimes I just don't have control over how much I eat, and I don't know how to get control."

We talked about it a little bit--about strategies for not eating a whole tube of Pringles--and then we talked about it some more, at her request, as we drove home. I told her that adults have the same problem sometimes, which is why I won't sit down with a whole bag of pretzels in front of me, but rather will take only a portion and then go back if I want more.

But really, I didn't know what to say to her about the larger issue. It's an ongoing one; she really does get a bit obsessed about food, and we really are generally pretty good about not depriving her, despite the fact that she does show some tendencies towards being overweight. (This is a particularly hard thing for Baroy, who is the most body dysmorphic man I've ever met, and really battles an ingrained "fat phobia" passed on to him by his mother.)

So, what would you say? What would you say to an almost 7-year-old who expressed a feeling of being out of control around food? What would you do to help her without ruining her? I'm hungry, as it were, for any and all opinions here...

Wednesday, May 19, 2004


I've never been raped, and I wasn't really the victim of any significant childhood sexual or physical abuse. Certainly not like some of the stories some of you could tell. Certainly not like some of the books that are written or TV movies-of-the-week that are shown.

And yet, I have a pretty significant handfull of stories about ways in which I was...let's call it maltreated...over time. And an even more significant handfull of near-misses.

It came up recently in a conversation with a friend, and it's been plaguing me to some extent ever since. My stories include a 20-year-old who tried to kiss me and wanted to be my 'boyfriend' when I was 12, and who harrassed me when I said no (he was later convicted of the rape of a 14-year-old, so clearly I lucked out); two teachers who did some significantly inappropriate things to/with me in junior high school; a boyfriend who smacked me (once, only once, but I still dated him for a long time afterwards); a date that would have ended up as a date rape had he not decided to shove me up against a wall instead and walk off when I hit the concrete ground; a group of young men who chased me around my college campus (I was on foot; they were in a car) yelling about what they were going to do to me when they caught up to me; and a good friend's husband who made a very physical pass at me, effectively ending that friendship.

And like I said, nothing 'bad' ever really happened to me. These were all near-misses, more or less, and while they changed me, scarred me, made me me, they didn't destroy me like they could have if things had gone just a little differently. Still, the 'could have' haunts me, when I let it.

Is there anyone out there who doesn't have stories like this, or one that's worse? Do any of us, women in particular, escape some sort of violation as we grow up? This is the part that's been plaguing me. Can I protect Em? Is there something I can do as parent? Is there any chance that she's going to escape? Or is it really, sadly, part of growing up? Is this how we all get shaped, through a series of violations? Through fear and shame? Do we really just have to accept it, even welcome it, in order to become the people we are?

Like so much these days, this is an issue I'm having incredible trouble wrapping my mind around...

Monday, May 17, 2004

Childhood Favorites

Here's what led to this post: A link to a Madeleine L'Engle interview that I'll post about some time soon, dreamy thoughts of A Wrinkle in Time and how it transformed me, the realization that everybody and her brother has that on her favorite kids' books list, thinking about a few of my other not-so-popular favorites, wondering what books (both usual and not-so-usual) might be on other peoples' lists.

Here's my incomplete Top Books I Read As A Kid (let's say ages 5 to 10) list. (I was both precocious and morbid as a child, so by age 10 or even before, I'd moved on to things like Death Be Not Proud. Did I say precocious? Did I say morbid?) You are encouraged--nay, ordered--to either leave a few of yours in my comments, or in your journal (and then let me know they're there so I can peruse them).

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Look Through My Window by Jean Little
Wren by Marie Killilea (which led to Karen and With Love From Karen, both by Marie Killilea, but those were adult books that I read at a ridiculously young age)
All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor (and all the sequels, though none was as magical as the first one for me)
Mama's Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
a children's biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt that was part of a series
a children's biography of Abraham Lincoln that was part of the same series
the entire Little House series

These are the books that I read not just once, but over and over and over again, the books that are now sitting on a shelf in my house waiting for Em to be ready or interested in reading them, and then for Noah, if he's into it. (Em and I have actually already read All of a Kind Family together, and she was just as transported as I remember having been. I am hoarding Look Through My Window, a book with utterly transformed me, though almost nobody else I know ever even read it, for when she's ready to read on her own, because it's much better as a private journey, I think. And Lori, if you're reading this, you must, must, must, must find this book for Emma. Must. You have a few years, but you must. And you should read it, too. Trust me on this one.)

There are other much-loved books, too--I was a big Bobbsey Twins fan when I was five or six, and I loved the Ramona the Pest series, and I enjoyed Pippi Longstocking, and The Secret Garden, and Little Women, and I read all the requisite Judy Blume books. But those on the list were the books that I adored and savored and held onto and reread and reread and reread and pretended I was part of. That kind of thing.

So. Your turn.

Friday, May 14, 2004

The Wife

Tamar wrote an positively brilliant post about being a screenwriter in LA...or, rather, choosing not to be a screenwriter in LA. Baroy isn't a screenwriter, but he's both an actor and a playwright, and many of the issues are nearly identical. So much of Tamar's post resonated for me; in fact, it resonated so loudly that I had to write about the part of it that is my experience rather than hers, and that's being the significant other of someone whose dreams and obsesssions are tied up so intimately in an industry that's so devastatingly capricious and demoralizing.

When I first started dating Baroy, he warned me: Actors are selfish people, he said. If you're going to be involved with me, you have to know that.

And it's true, though not in the ways I'd assumed. The man is incredibly generous with his love and he showers me with gifts. (Gift-giving is clearly his 'love language,' and I fail him miserably each and every time...) But, deep down, when it comes to the dreams and wishes of our lives, he's selfish, or rather, self-absorbed in the most literal senses of the word. He's persuing two crafts--acting and writing--which are extremely difficult to make a living from, and which do not necessarily open up to you on the basis of talent or even of dogged determination to break in or break through. And he is utterly singleminded about them. Never mind that that means that most years, mine is the only significant income we have. Never mind that this is not really what I want from my life.

That's not to say that he would tell me no if I said I was quitting my job to stay home and freelance or write another book or whatever. But it's that he knows I won't until he has something at least equal to my job in terms of money and benefits and stability. Because I crave stability, and he has absolutely no intention of persuing such a job if it's not in his chosen field, if it means giving up on his hopes and his dreams. That's what I mean by selfish: His choices are made in terms of what he wants and what he needs, while mine are made in terms of what our family needs, now that it includes two children and a mortgage, our family has many needs. (Anyone who doesn't think that a mortgage is a full-fledged member of your family has never owned their own home.)

Does it make me bitter? Yeah, sometimes. Lately, a lot. I've had a raging case of spring fever, and I'm tired of being the worker bee. I'm tired of seeing all the SAHMs hanging around the school while I drop Em off in the carpool lane. I'm sad that Staff Appreciation Week, which was supposed to be my baby, had to be taken over by people who could actually attend the bulk of the events, and spend time setting things up. And before you say it, no, it wouldn't help if Baroy did those things. I don't need him to do those thing. *I* want to be doing them.

So, yeah. Bitter. But at the same time, the pragmatist in me, the ever-vigilant hypocrisy scout that inhabits my soul and regularly tortures me, points out that I am in no different a position than men have been in throughout most of our history. They've long gone off to soul-numbing jobs to bring money home. They've long been the breadwinners even when they didn't necessarily like doing it. They've sucked up to bosses in order to keep food on the table, or a roof over their family's heads. It would be wrong for me to complain because I'm in that position now. And besides, I'm actually in a better position. My job's not soul-numbing, for one thing. I like the people there, my boss especially. It pays decently. And I only work 80% time, which means I get to pick Em up at school two days a week. I essentially never work late, and almost never on weekends or evenings. I have time for the PTA, and for taking Em to swim lessons and N to gymnastics, etc. But I still want more. And it's so out of reach.

Behind every struggling actor or playwright or screenwriter or filmmaker or whatever...behind every--or, rather, many--of these creative, talented, overlooked masses, there's someone else. Someone supporting them emotionally. Someone supporting them financially. Someone who may have their own dreams and hopes, different though they may be from those of the "Hollywood" types. If it's to last, that someone has to push those dreams aside a bit, or try and make them fit in around those of their more flamboyant and creative partner. I've seen it happen time and again. I once joked with a coworker at a magazine where neither of us wanted to be (her husband, too, was persuing an acting career) that we should start a support group for people who support creative types. The people who, if things go well, will some day be named in an acceptance speech at an awards show, but more likely than not will simply slog on through, taking every rejection almost as hard as their significant other, and waiting for their turn to shine.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Are You Talking to ME????

On the way to meet Baroy to pick out a new carpet for our bedroom this morning--long story why we were in two cars, but we were--I got a little lost. So I parked a couple of blocks away from where I was going. No big deal. Anyway, as I'm walking down the street, a pickup truck drives by, and the Latino man behind the wheel rolls down his window and whistles at me, then says, "Hey, how are you doing pretty lady?"

I swear, I turned all the way around looking for whoever he might be talking to. Because lord knows he couldn't be talking to me. I'm a mommy. And I'm 40. I'm as good as invisible.

But he was talking to me. In fact, he slowed down and continued to try and engage me in conversation for about half a block. My old New York street smarts kicked in automatically, and I gave him the old simultaneous eye roll, wry smile, and "you-and-I-both-know-you-wouldn't-know-what-to-do-if-I-stopped-to-chat-with-you" shake of my head.

When I was younger, and when I lived in New York (as I did for the first 28 years of my life), I used to get this sort of thing on a fairly regular basis. I've never been or even looked anything like a model, but I was small and cute and fairly big-busted, and still blonde back then. Hispanic men, in particular, have always loved me, for some reason.

Then I moved to LA, all deflated from a bad seven-year relationship, with my hair having turned a mousy brown in my 20s, and I was living amongst the California girls, the LA actresses, and I was a nobody. But I was single, so I got some attention, even if most of it came from people other than those I'd personally have chosen.

Now, ten years later, I have a husband and two kids and definitely brown hair and breasts that have been nursed on for more than three years and I live in the suburbs. And nobody notices me, aside from Baroy. Nobody. I'm actually fine with that. Truth is, I'm more comfortable on the periphery. And I'm very, very comfortable with being a wife and mother. I love it, in fact.

Still, I felt a touch of wistfulness as my would-be-suitor eventually just rolled his window back up and drove away. I shook my head again, smiled a little less wryly and a little more inwardly, and went off and chose a very, very dark, gorgeously rich brown carpet with my husband, who was waiting at the store for me.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

A Mother's Devotion

I was one of those kids who subsisted on oxygen and oxygen alone. Already skinny and picky to begin with, I only got worse when my parents separated and divorced. I was always such a Good Kid that I didn't act out, or at least not directly. But I did winnow down my already paltry list of foods I'd tolerate to two meal options: tuna fish sandwiches and a hamburger with french fries. I don't think I really knew how passive-aggressive I was being, but at the same time I do remember it giving me no small amount of secret pleasure to watch my father scramble around trying to find restaurants that would serve a hamburger and french fries at 8 am on a Sunday morning, which was "his day" with us.

But I...say it with me now...digress.

I was in third grade. Every day, my mother would prepare a tuna fish sandwich for me, and then she'd throw in some chips and one of those little cans of Mott's apple juice. Maybe she'd give me an apple or some carrot sticks. And me, well, more often than not, I'd throw the entire thing away without even looking inside. I just wanted to get outside to play with my friends, after all. And this was around 1972...there weren't a lot of teachers watching over the cafeteria-full of kids. If you didn't eat, nobody noticed.

Of course, I didn't tell me mother this. She'd be upset, and there was no reason to upset her. When she'd ask me about how I enjoyed my lunch, I'd say, "It was fine, thanks," and go outside to play.

One day, she seemed particularly pleased with herself when she asked me about my lunch, but I still gave her my usual answer. "And what about the surprise I put in there for you?" she said, her smile growing wider. "I saw those extra three black olives sitting in the bowl last night, and I was thinking about eating them, but then I thought it would be such a nice surprise for you, because I know you love them as much as I do, and that you'd probably get so excited when you saw them at the bottom of your lunch bag."

"Oh, yeah, those," I said. "I almost forgot, Mom. They were great. Thank you so much." And I hugged her, my eyes downcast, and got the heck out of there as quickly as I could. Because all I could think about was those three black olives, symbols of the daily sacrifices moms make for their kids, sitting at the bottom of a lunchbag at the bottom of a trashbag on its way to the dump.

I felt sick to my stomach. Not just then, but even now, as I recount that story. I feel so badly about being not only an ungrateful little brat, but a completely obliviously ungrateful little brat. For years, seriously, when I thought about that day, my stomach would tighten and my eyes would fill with tears. I thought about it again on Sunday, as I celebrated Mother's Day 3000 miles away from my mother, but with my children's excited and shiny faces watching me open my gifts.

I didn't tell my mother the "truth" of that incident until I was in my 30s. And, of course, she didn't recall the incident at all; in fact, she was touched that it had made such an impact on me, that I'd suffered so much guilt over something so small. But it wasn't small. It was emblematic. It was just one in a long, long series of sacrifices she made for me...and which I now try to make for my kids, in part to make up for the sins of the past, and in part...well, in part because that's simply what mothers do.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Political Beasts

I tend not to get particularly political here, though there's no such thing as a hard-and-fast rule in my world. It's not that I don't have political opinions. I do. Oh, do I ever. It's just that I hate talking politics. I'm sure it's tied into my almost-obscene fear of confrontation, but it's also more than that.

I've never quite found a comfortable way to handle the whole "what do you do if someone you really respect has an opinion you really, really don't respect" thing. I'm not talking about the mundane: I couldn't care less, really, if someone disagrees with me on the advisability of a certain tax cut, or on some new SEC regulation, or whatever. And so I don't mind debating that. But there are things that I really, really, really care about. Things that, if push came to shove, would make me think less of a person for not taking a particular stance. And so I don't really want to know. And so I try to steer clear.

This ostrich stance would work well if it weren't for the fact that I'm married to a man who lives, breathes, eats, drinks and dreams politics. And who simply loves him a good political debate. But here's where this thing gets even more confusing. See, he and I are more or less in synch on political viewpoints in general, and completely in synch on the make-or-break issues, or what I consider to be make-or break issues. But. The man is so maddeningly polemical, that I find myself simply itching to disagree with him. I spend a disgusting amount of my time arguing points of view that I find abhorrent, simply to get him to maybe acknowledge that there is some grey in the world. It rarely works, but I can't just let it go.

And so it was that I found myself, this morning, in the midst of a "debate" that was threatening to spiral into an argument in which I was going to be essentially saying "Aw, c'mon, it's just a little murder, torture and humiliation. Why are you making such a big deal out of it?"

At which point, of course, i would have spontaneously combusted, leaving only a small puddle of coconut milk where once had stood a woman of what-she-thought-were strong convictions.

Instead, I sputtered and stammered and finally said, "Oh, you're making me crazy again!" and walked off. Which is really the only way to end these conversations.

But it makes me wonder how people who really and truly do differ that radically from their spouses or close friends or children--whoever--in terms of political and social issues deal. I often hear people talking about how important it is to be open-minded, and to hear lots of different opinions, and to be accepting. But i don't know. There are issues that are really important to me. Take gay rights, for instance. I don't have issues with people who don't feel as strongly as I do about this, who for instance don't boycott the Boy Scouts based on their gay-related policies. I don't even have huge issues with people who question whether there should be gay marriage. I mean, I think they're wrong. I think they're very wrong. And if you're one of them, I think you're wrong. But I wouldn't--or don't--have a problem being your friend. Similarly, if you think abortion is a Bad Thing, I'm happy to hear you out.

But tell me that you think gays are an abomination, a biological error, whatever, and that there should be legislation--nay, constitutional amendments--that essentially codify those feelings, and you've irrevocably lost me. Tell me that you think you should have the right to make choices for me and my body on the matter of abortion, and it'll be hard for me not to show my utter contempt as i walk away. I may be able to understand people who are looking out for their own self interests, but I can't...CAN NOT...understand people who hate, or people who go out of their way to insert themselves into somebody else's life or business...or their body.

So when I get an inkling that someone I like or care about or have to deal with regularly is about to step on one of my very sore spots, I run away. Sometimes physically. Sometimes metaphorically. That's my modus operandi anyway in difficult situations. (No ex-boyfriends hanging around me; no siree. If you're outta here, I'm outta here too.) And it's usually successful: It's been almost two years now since Em told me that our next-door neighbor had said to her something on the order of "God didn't make man to be gay; He didn't make it so one man should love another." Since then, I've simply avoided that issue and all issues even vaguely related to it. I know she's a creationist, but that's an intellectual exercise; it just makes me think she's not too bright when it comes to that sort of logical thinking. But as long as she and I don't have the 'gay' conversation, I can pretend and assume that Em was exaggerating or misquoting. (For the record, in case the quote was accurate, I did give Em a very long and heartfelt lecture on how I don't believe that at all, and that I think that it's very sad that there are indeed people who do feel that way--and worse. Of course, then I had to literally grab her by the scruff of her neck as she started to run back to the neighbor's house, yelling, "Mrs. V, Mrs. V! It's OK to be gay!")

There are probably better strategies, but it's the one that works for me. What do you do?

Thursday, May 06, 2004


Oh no! What's this? WEBoggle is down! I feel sick...faint...devastated. Wake me up when it's over, will you?

Being Normal

Apparently, I can't even get good blog fodder off of my medical woes, because I seemingly don't have any. Sigh. My legs are still sooooooooo itchy I'm thinking amputation is the only cure, but the bruises seem to be fading, and there are only one or two new ones, and the lab results all came back in normal range. Sigh. No matter how hard I try, I just can't be as cool as Jane.

Anyway, this being Teacher/Staff Appreciation Week, and me being the PTA VP in charge of parent involvement and thus of Teacher/Staff Appreciation Week, I've been almost too busy to really dwell on it. Ahhhh, who am I kidding? If anyone from Em's school was reading this right now, they're rolling on the floor in hysterical laughter. I did next to nothing for this, folks. A couple of the other moms heard me out about my plans for the week, nodded politely, inquired whether I might appreciate some help, and then took over so completely that I have had ABSOLUTELY no idea what's going on at that school this week, aside from hanging out at the special luncheon we put on for the teachers yesterday. They did a breakfast on Monday that I didn't even know about until Tuesday, they gave out gift baskets I never heard a single thing about, they're having a snack day today that I only found out about when I wandered into the teacher's lunchroom after proctoring the California Achievement Tests for an hour this morning, and tomorrow they're having a car wash for the staff that I only found out about when I asked why there were blue buckets piled up in the PTA closet.

Somewhere in the back of my head I know I'm probably supposed to be annoyed about this, or at least feeling...I don't know...threatened, maybe? But to tell you the truth, I'm not. I'm thrilled that they put all this time and effort into making this a much more special week than I could have, or that I had time for, what with only finishing the book a few weeks back and now being back up at my regular almost-full-time work schedule. The teachers are all walking around that school with smiles on their faces. And, frankly, even though the parents involved know how little I did, the rest of the school doesn't, so I'm looking pretty danged good right around now. ;-) Win-win, baby!

Anyway, there's a bunch of stuff going on at work, so I'll probably remain incognito until the weekend. Or not. I mean, I have all these meaningless THINGS to say, and all these pompous pronouncements to make, and they're going to have to come out at some point, right?

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004


About five years ago, I wrote a piece for a short-lived women's health magazine about my tendency towards hypochondria, and how the media only spurs me on. And I included one of what even I recognize as my all-time funniest and most fucked-up quotes, which I spouted to my now brother-in-law when he accused me of couting my tumors before they hatched: "I'm not a hypochondriac," I said. "I have things."

Today, I have leukemia. Or maybe it's ITP. It's probably not pernicious anemia, because I only have about half the symptoms of that one, and besides, it's way too easily cured. I wouldn't be that lucky.

I joke, but the truth is, I'm really scared. I have these large bruises all over my legs--but only below the knees. It looks like I'm being abused by a very, very small boxer. (The human type; not the dog breed.) And the skin is itching...and I mean itching something awful. If I weren't so completely orally fixated that I chew off every nail molecule within seconds of its formation, I'd have ripped the skin off my legs days ago. As it is, I dig away at them with the skin pads at the tops of my fingers, to no avail and no relief. Oh, and did I mention that my calf muscles are so tight that when I stand up after sitting for a while, I'm actually limping on both legs for about five minutes?

I did make my way to an actual licensed physician yesterday, who seemed rather unintersted in my problems until I showed her the bruises on the backs of my legs, at which point she visibly perked up. "Oh, wow," she said. "Those are definitely some bruises."

So here I sit waiting for the results of the blood work she took. Nothing much--mostly counts of white and red cells and platelets. But as each hour ticks by, I become more and more nervous. And so I'm doing that thing I do when my silly hypochondriacal musings threaten to become something resembling reality: I talk about it. I figure that if I go around joking about how I have leukemia, I certainly won't actually HAVE it, right?

Now, if you'll all excuse me, I have some scratching and hobbling and obsessing to do...

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