Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Mother of Mass Destruction

Lately, I've been noticing my friend Joan disappearing day by day. This is a woman who is always so full of life and energy that just being around her makes you smile. She seemed more like a kid than like a 40-year-old--and she would have been the first one to say so, beaming as she did. But lately, she'd been sounding, well, like me. Sorta down. Very stressed. Way too grown up, if by grown up you mean all those negative things that responsibility and the weight of the world can do to you.

So, a week or so ago, I pulled her aside and told her I was about to give her a heap of unsolicited advice. And I did. For a couple of hours, I talked to her about the things that she clearly needed to do to start to put her life back in order. (Because, you know, those who can't do...) I talked to her about what I knew were some of her roadblocks. I told her that she had to start thinking about herself and stop focusing on others. I told her that her child, about whom she worries a great deal, needed her to be herself, not to be a depressed shadow thereof. I really gave it to her--gently, but with both barrels. I left nothing out. Most of it was stuff I knew she'd been kicking around in her mind, but I also knew that she'd kept hitting the same roadblocks--and I also knew what she needed to hear to get past them. I felt fabulous when I was done. (Although, I will admit, I keep having this one thought pop into my head: If the Smart & Sassy girls could hear me now, I thought, they'd kick my ass halfway into tomorrow.)

And then, just a few days later, she came to me with a huge grin on her face. "I did it," she said. "I quit my job."

It was only after I'd hugged her and congratulated her and just stood there grinning, knowing without a doubt that she'd made the right choice for her and her family...It was only after she'd gotten into her car and pulled away...It was only after I'd turned to continue on my way that my heart sank and my stomach flipped as I realized: I'd just played a part in the engineering of my own son's worst nightmare.

Because Joan? She's WeeyumWise's mom. And quitting her job means that Weeyum will probably be leaving the campus-based daycare within the next month or two. And N is going to be devastated. Absolutely devastated.

Now, part of my speech to Joan was that it was more important for Weeyum to have a mom who's happy and engaged than to be in daycare with N. And I believe with all my heart that that's true. But it's not more important for N to have Weeyum's mom be happy and engaged than to have Weeyum in daycare with him. N's not going to understand the long-term consequences of the sort of martyrdom that Joan had settled into, with a job that made her miserable and which she didn't strictly need, but which allowed her son to be with my son. And we've promised to keep them connected with weekly playdates, at the very least. But will that happen? I don't know; I'm not particularly good at that kind of thing. And will that make life OK for N? No, it won't. Because N will still have to go into that daycare every day without his friend Weeyum. I shudder to think what's going to happen. I only hope that he's blossomed enough because of Weeyum's friendship that he won't return to sitting in a corner by himself, crying and napping. Because that would be too sad (and, yes, too pathetic). I have hopes that he'll do better than that. But I'm realistic enough to know that there will be repercussions of some kind. And I'm going to have to face them knowing that I played a role in causing the problem in the first place.

Joan's choice is an unequivocal Good Thing. I already have my happy-go-lucky, flighty-yet-grounded friend back, and Weeyum is going to benefit from it. Unfortunately, that comes at a cost...and N is going to pay most of the bill. And that makes me feel more than a little bit guilty, even as I thrill over knowing the happiness it is buying others.

Friday, October 29, 2004

A Private Note to My Friend Ambre, Writ Publicly

Dear Ambre,

Every now and then, despite the fact that we are so fundamentally alike, you and I will disagree with one another--and we'll say so. Sometimes, we say so over and over again, caught up in a desire to change the other's mind. And every time it happens, at some point during our back-and-forth I'll smile to myself and think, 'I bet she doesn't know how happy this makes me. I really need to tell her.' But then I get sucked back into the debate, and I forget.

I'm remembering now. And I'm thanking you.

You may be wondering why arguing with you makes me happy. Let me go back a bit.

My parents officially announced their intention to divorce when I was 11, though they secretly separated when I was 8. (Don't ask. Let's just say I was a gullible 8.) But in all the years of their marriage, I can remember only two fights. Ever. Two. One of them is particularly vivid; we were at the new house of one of my mother's best friends and her husband, and I began to feel sick. Turned out I had a high fever. So my folks borrowed some blankets and put me in the car and drove me home. It was snowing, hard, and very cold. And on the way, they got into an argument about which direction to go, and they raised their voices a bit. I began to sob, scared and sick in the back seat, and they fell into silence. When we got home, I was so distraught and feverish that they came into the room and hugged each other to prove that everything was OK. (It wasn't. As it turned out, my father was sleeping with my mother's friend, and if I'm remembering correctly, that was the night my mom found out. As an aside, every time I think about that hug, I wonder just how much self esteem and self respect that cost my mother, and am awed by how much she was willing to sacrifice for me.) Then they went back into the living room of our tiny apartment, and watched TV. If they argued any further, I didn't hear it, and I would have, given my proximity to where they were.

This really isn't a huge aside; I think of it as somehow explaining an awful lot about who I am today. All I know is that I've never, ever felt comfortable confronting people or standing up for myself. I've gone through my life as a people-pleaser, somehow figuring that I'd be better off having people like me than saying what I feel or think. That has included friends and even lovers. I've always had the fear, in the back of my mind, that if I dare disagree with a friend, said friend would banish me from their life forever. Better to be agreeable than sorry, I always said.

I knew that Baroy and I would end up being just fine together when I got to the point where I could get angry enough at him to scream at him, and not assume that meant our relationship was over. (To be honest, that point didn't come until AFTER we were already married; it takes me a while.) Now, while we very rarely have that kind of explosive exchange, I don't fear the repercussions of it; there may be a number of reasons why I don't always say what I have to say to him, but it's not because I don't trust him to stick with me even if he sees my 'ugly' side.

That's the way I feel about you, too. (And Susanna, and Debra...but it's you I find myself most often 'arguing' with, for whatever reason.) I can launch myself into a "I think you're full of it, and here's why," rant without a second thought to whether or not you'll still be my friend after we've both said our piece. That tells me just how important you all are to me, that I'm willing to be me, all of me, in front of you. It tells me that I trust you with my most vulnerable parts. And that's huge for me. Huge.

And so, I just wanted to say thank you. For being my friend, and for being so accepting of me. The real, sometimes ugly, sometimes contentious, sometimes right and sometimes downright wrong me.

With love,

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Therapists, Therapists Everywhere, and Not a Drop to Drink

(Hmm...And I had such high hopes for that title when I started typing it...)

So, who do you have to fuck to get some therapy around here?

When last I saw my psychiatrist, we talked about how over the next month I was going to make a real effort to get myself into therapy. Because, you know, I clearly don't spend enough time talking about myself and my thoughts and stuff like that. Ahem.

He gave me a name of a woman here at the medical center, and I do actually have an appointment to see her...in FEBRUARY. For crying out loud. Which wouldn't bother me so much--I'm busy, busy, busy anyway, and things are as stable in the neurochemical wasteland I call a mind as they have been in the last few years--except that I don't think we're going to end up working together even when I do meet her. Why, you ask? Because, I answer. Because she works in our neurology department, where they have her meet with people whose relatives have been diagnosed with horrible degenerative diseases, and she helps them learn to cope. Me? That's one of the few things that's NOT a problem I'm dealing with.

So I decided to call my insurance carrier and get the names of some other folks I could try and see. You know, people who actually deal with anxiety and depression and stress and stuff? You know, people who might be able to help me? Ha. Well, the woman at the other end gave me the names of six people here. One is a guy, and I'd rather talk to a woman. Another is the woman I'm seeing in February. Two more didn't come up on our faculty listings, even though she said they were faculty. And the other two? Well, they work here all right. In anesthesiology. Maybe I'm just uneducated, but I didn't know that anesthesiologists do therapy, too. Maybe it's hypnotherapy? (Badumbum.)

So then I called and asked for a list of therapists closer to home (since, clearly, I've done some nasty karmic damage in the past, and finding a therapist at my place of work where it would be convenient for me just isn't going to happen).

"No, I'm sorry, you can only see therapists at your medical center," says the cold-voiced lady at the other end of the phone.

"Really?" I reply. "Because that wasn't the case when I went to a therapist a year and a half ago."

"Oh, well, let me check then...Hmm...Oh, look here. I guess you can see people outside the medical center."

Sigh. And if I didn't know to question her idiocy?

"Great. Well, then, can you give me their names?"

"It's a long list," she says. "Can I just email it to you?"

Even better. So I give her my email, she promises to send it out right away, and...Nada. Of course. Haven't heard Thing One from her. And god forbid the insurance company should allow me to do my own search online for an appropriate provider. That would be...oh, I don't know...helpful.

In an hour or so, I'll be going back to my psychiatrist for a meds check. He'll ask me if I've started in therapy yet. And so, to prepare for that visit, I'm sitting here, trying to decide whether I'll get better drugs if I begin to cackle maniacally or sob hysterically. Because remaining calm? No longer an option.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


Was anyone taking bets on when I'd succumb like the two-bit attention whore I am? You should have been...

Welcome, BlogExplosion-ites! And while you're here for your 30-second viewing, could one of you explain to me how I can bookmark the sites I like as I do my own Blogexplosion surfing? Because I've seen a couple (though only a couple) that I would really like to visit again, but I can't even figure out what the urls are, much less how to bookmark them...

Hey, I said I'm an attention whore. I didn't way I was a computer-savvy attention whore. Sheesh.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

A Rant About the Male Reproductive Organ

I have decided that I am not particularly fond of p*nises.

Yeah, yeah, I know, they can be an awful lot of fun to have around during sex. But other than that? They're just a pain in my, um, gee, any word I put in here is going to sound unintentionally dirty. See what I mean about what a pain they are?

You might be asking yourself why I am ranting about the male urinary tract system--and, in particular, its external components--right now. Let me assure you, you would NOT be asking yourself that question had you seen me just a few hours ago, wiping urine from the arm of my suit jacket after helping N go to the potty when I dropped him off at daycare. You would not be asking yourself that question if you had seen me last night, mopping urine off the floor in a restroom stall, when Mr. I'm-New-To-This-Whole-Potty-Thing's aim got a little off-kilter. You would not be asking yourself that question if you have had to use the bathroom at my house after said New-To-This guy had sprayed the entire seat you were about to use. (Feel free, here, to imagine me saying, in my best trying-to-remain-calm voice, "That's the wrong hole to aim at, sweetie. Not the hole made by the upright toilet seat; the hole that actually HAS WATER IN IT!" Because, except for that whole trying-to-remain-calm thing, that is precisely what I say on a near-daily basis.)

I'll refrain from adding to this litany of urinary sins the fact that this child has been nominally potty trained for months now, but still wets himself almost every day, and still won't use the potty for anything other than peeing in, and mostly insists on sitting rather than standing, especially when using 'unknown' toilets, and has even less mastry over the whole holding-his-p*nis-down thing than he does over the aiming-at-one-hole-or-the-other thing. Hence the suit jacket. But like I said, I'm refraining.

And then there's the obsession with the external reproductive organ that begins oh-so-ridiculously young. Again, I will do some refraining. Instead, I will simply pass along, without comment, a conversation I overhead last night between N and Baroy, as Baroy was drying N after a bath.

Baroy: N, you need to stop doing that, so I can put your pajamas on.
N: It's OK, Daddy. I not pulling it. I just touching it.

Still, despite the check-out-this-cool-toy-I-have aspect, N actually seems to have some penile doubts himself. In a curious anti-Electra complex, he has declared--several times, of late--that when he gets bigger he's not going to have a p*nis any more, he's going to have a v*gina like Em and Mom. I'm not really sure how to answer that. But I feel his pain.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Sometimes, I Miss Me

Once upon a time, I was a rabid--and by that, I mean frothing at the mouth--baseball fan. A Mets fan, to be specific. (Shut up. I know.)

It started in childhood, ramped up in high school, and stayed in overdrive through college, grad school, and most of my early years of employment. I could spout stats, analyze lineups, second-guess managers. I knew, on any wintery morning, how many days until pitchers and catchers reported to training camp. I read the sports columns avidly, listened to sports radio, subscribed to The New Yorker just so I could read Roger Angell's pieces as soon as they came out. I named my cats Tug (McGraw) and Willie (Mays). As far as I was concerned, opening day at Shea Stadium was a national holiday; if I could afford it, I was there, work or no work. I was at Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, and literally cried when I found out that I could have been at Game 7 as well, except I was in one of my grad school classes when the call came to see if I was available. When I walked into our reporting class the morning after that game, I announced to the professor and my classmates, "If I don't get to go to the ticker tape parade today, I will throw up." (The professor laughed and gave me an assigment to cover the parade.)

I was the kind of girl who sat in the bleachers (with the 'real people') in a Mets hat, Mets shirt, Mets shorts, and huge dangling Mets earrings the size of Christmas tree ornaments. I screamed until I was hoarse. I used to go to Shea with my friend R, an equally rabid fan, and I'll always remember how gratifying it would be to have some big burly guy lean over during the game and say, "You girls really know what you're talkin' about!" The ultimate compliment.

And then I moved to LA. In the beginning, I tried to keep up my ardor. I would go to Dodger games when the Mets were playing, and root for the Mets. I would check the box scores every morning. But this isn't a Mets kind of town, and I just couldn't bring myself to start rooting for the Dodgers (those d*mned Brooklyn traitors!) or, god forbid, for an American League team like the Angels. So, slowly, I began to lose my edge. And then, after I had kids, I began to lose my interest.

Today, I can't even say I'm a pale remnant of that Mets-crazed girl. Today, it's like that girl never existed. I haven't been to a ball game in years, not even when Baroy took Em to her first game last year, or when he and my bil took N to his first game this summer. I don't know how the Mets finished this year; I can't name a single player on the team, nor any of its coaches. I don't even know who's managing.

I did watch the last few outs of the Red Sox win over the (evil, evil, always evil) Yankees, and I did watch the last few outs of the Cards' win over the Astros. But, to be honest, I was mostly watching N, who is really starting to take an interest in the game. ("Dat boy hit dat ball hard, Mommy!") I don't know whether it's a question of not having the time or the emotional energy, or if it's a growing disappointment in the commercialization of the game, or if it's simply that I really have changed that much, so much that I am literally no longer the person I used to be.

But whatever it is, every now and again, I miss that girl. I wish I could feel that way again. I wish I could go back to the time when I could feel passion, joy, even heart-wrenching pain, over something as simple as a bat and a ball and the way they connect.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Best Friends

This is a story about two little boys and their remarkable friendship. I hestitate to tell it, because I know I'm not going to be able to do it justice. I know that you're not going to get it, not going to understand how special, how extraordinary this bond is. But I've been wanting to tell it for a long time now, each time something special happens, each time something reminds me how unusual these two little boys are in the depth of their connection. Because I'm proud of them. And because some day they are likely to have to part, and it's going to be painful, and I need you all to understand so that you can help me help my child heal.

N is one of these boys. The other is named WeeyumWise. (The more perspicacious among you will realize that's not his actual name, but it's precisely how N says it, so WeeyumWise it will be.) WeeyumWise is two months younger than N, a full head taller (not a hard thing to be), an only child, and N's kindred spirit.

WeeyumWise and N met in the infant room at their daycare. From the beginning, they had a bond. WeeyumWise's mom and I, who have now become good friends, didn't know each other; we didn't push these boys together. But by the time they were around 8 and 6 months of age, they were already clearly interacting with one another. They crawled together, they walked together, they played together. I can't remember a time when they didn't respond to one another. Parallel play be damned; these kids played TOGETHER.

When N left the infant room at 18 months of age, leaving Weeyum behind for two months, everyone commented that it was going to be a tough separation. And it was. N didn't get comfortable in the toddler room until Weeyum joined him.

I don't remember when it was that N started calling WeeyumWise "dada," but it started young, and it continued for some time. Baroy was always Daddy, of course, but WeeyumWise was Dada, a male of equally important stature in N's life. Long after N was capable of saying Weeyum's name, he continued to call him Dada. And Weeyum understood how special it was. He never corrected N. To the contrary, he always seemed to smile when his best buddy called him by his special name. Weeyum's mom and I used to laugh, thinking about N standing up at Weeyum's wedding and offering up a toast to "my best friend, Dada."

I also don't remember when N stopped calling Weeyum Dada, and started calling him WeeyumWise. Full name, always. A sign of respect. A way to differentiate their relationship from the relationship others have with Weeyum. All those other folks may call Weeyum by his first name, or by a shortened version o that name, but only N calls him WeeyumWise.

After a year in the toddler room, it was time for N to move to the preschool program. Again, Weeyum was scheduled to move two months later. Away from his friend, N shut down. He wasn't talking. He was crying all the time. He was lying in the corner of the room, napping as much of the day as the teachers would let him. He was, for lack of a better word, depressed.

I didn't know what to do. And Weeyum's mom couldn't stand seeing N so unhappy, either. So she asked the school's director to consider moving Weeyum to the preschool program a little early--even though he was very bonded to his toddler teachers, even though he wasn't necessarily ready for the move. He, too, was hurting without his friend N. So she asked. And the director said yes. And N came out of his shell, little by little, with his buddy by his side.

When I started N in gymnastics class so he could be like his big sister, he refused to join in at all--refused to even walk into the room, clung to me, eventually had to be moved to the younger class where moms can accompany their kids, and even then didn't do much in the way of participating. Until, that is, WeeyumWise's mom suggested we see if having Weeyum in class would make a difference. It has. N is now in the age-appropriate class, goes in by himself, and even participates with gusto. Like night and day.

After my first teacher conference at the preschool, I joked with Weeyum's mom that they might as well have just done a joint conference with us, because I heard as much about Weeyum as I did about N. They talked a lot about how the boys need to learn to spread out a little more, give each other some room, play with other kids. A year later, little has changed; in advance of our conference tomorrow, N's teacher gave me her assessment sheet, and all the written comments are about the things that N and Weeyum do together in class. It's unbearably sweet, and yet disturbing...in the sense that they are most likely going to be separated at some point, as WeeyumWise's family doesn't live in the same school district as us, and time does march on. I worry. While Weeyum is quite dramatically attached to N--as much so if not more as N is to him--he is also a more social child than N. He will be OK, I think. He will be sad, possibly; they will miss each other wildly, for sure. But Weeyum will make new friends.

N, well, he doesn't make friends so easily. Kids love him, but he prefers the one-on-one of his interactions with WeeyumWise to playing with others. The only time I see him getting involved in group activities is if WeeyumWise is leading the way. Otherwise, he's separate. Doing what the rest do, but not talking to the others, not interacting. It's almost like the parallel play that he skipped over because of his bond with Weeyum. Weeyum is the only child N asks to have play dates with; he's the only name on N's birthday party list.

So I wonder whether N will be OK in kindergarten, in first grade. I wonder if he'll find a new friend, or if he'll retreat, again, into his shell without WeeyumWise's support. I wonder, oh-so-briefly, about whether I'm making a mistake in aiding and abetting this deep bond with Weeyum.

And then I look at them together, shouting in the evening air when I come to pick N up, faces flushed. I hear N negotiate with WeeyumWise over a toy. I see them hug each other when they're forced to part after "just fi minutes in the car together, OK Mommy?" My boy has a friendship the depth of which many people never feel in their entire lives, and he's just three years old. He is learning so much about loyalty and what it means to be there for another person, and he's learning it intrinsically. WeeyumWise brings out the best in N, and I think that N brings out the best in WeeyumWise as well. There's no mistake there.

On a shelf in N's room there are two pictures. One is of Em holding N, when N was just an infant. And the other is of N and WeeyumWise, flanking WeeyumWise's mommy. It's a professionally done picture: in fact, it's Weeyum's school photo from this year. Apparently, Weeyum refused to be photographed without N. Absolutely refused. Even though his mom was there, and got into the picture with him. He wasn't going to have anything to do with this whole photo-taking experience unless his best friend was brought into the frame with him. And so, there it is, this gorgeous picture of my son, his best friend, and his best friend's mommy. A snapshot of this time in their lives. A glimpse at a remarkable friendship. We should all be so lucky.

Monday, October 18, 2004


I think it's ironically delightful that the twisted, tortuous rolls and bumps that characterize the brain's grey matter (where--among other things--thinking gets done) are called convolutions. Because so often that's the only word that can describe the thought processes of, at least, my literally and metaphorically convoluted mind.

To wit: Friday I get a phone call from the acquisitions editor at the publishing company where my bipolar disorder book is about to leap into life. He's calling on behalf of the magazine which is lending its name to this series, the magazine with whose editors I met in New York. You know, the people who basically promised me--heck, pleaded with me to do--the parenting book in the upcoming round of the series? Well, said acquisitions editor starts by joking around with me (I'd sent him a funny and very unprofessional email a few days earlier, trying to get him to commit to using me for the book so I could get started on it, and he wanted to let me know he had never in his career gotten an email quite like it...), moves on to extravagantly complimenting me and the impression I've left on everyone who worked with me on the project, but then says, in essence, that they can't have me write this book. Well, they can, actually, if I want to use a pseudonym--you know, like a romance novelist. And for the same reason, actually. Apparently, booksellers think that if you're able to pump out two books so quickly, and especially two books that require a certain level of expertise like these do, you're a hack, and they tend not to get enthusiastic about pushing your books any more. So, for the sake of the series, he says, I can't do this book.

I was totally, immediately sad. I really wanted to write a parenting book, and these are silver-platter deals, with no initial legwork necessary. So, yeah. Sad. Slightly depressed even.

But then he goes on to encourage me by saying that the publishers are interested in a completely separate parenting series, and if I have an idea for something a little new and different, I should run it by him and perhaps I could wind up not only writing a parenting book, but creating/writing/editing/who-knows-what a whole series. Wow. Now *that* is exciting. Especially since I actually DO have an idea for a parenting series, which I was trying hard, on the side, to squish into a single book proposal. Move over slight depression, here comes excitement and exhilaration.

Let me now fast-forward through my discussion with my agent (she wants me to do a short but well-thought-out proposal rather than just send an email saying "hey, do you think xyz would work for you guys?") and my discussion with Baroy about why I'm not optimistic that this will happen, and get straight to the real convolution here: The flat-on-my-ass, you'd-think-I'd-never-even-heard-of-antidepressants depression that hit me on Saturday, so hard that it took my friend Ambre approximately 30 seconds after seeing me to say, "What's wrong?"

And as I answered her--depressed about not getting the handed-to-me-on-a-silver-platter parenting book, not optimistic about the chances of getting a series, not looking forward to writing real proposals to write real books on my own terms--I realized that that's not what I'm depressed about. I couldn't for the life of me say what I was depressed about, but there was way more to it than that. It was more convoluted.

Yesterday I got a little bit of quiet time, and as I began to unwind, it hit me: I'm not depressed about not getting to do the parenting book. I'm depressed, as well as more than a little bit anxious, in advance, about not getting to do the parenting series. No, wait, it's more than that, actually. I'm not depressed and anxious about not getting to do the parenting series, I'm actually depressed and anxious about not being able to make enough money or get enough commitment on the parenting series to be able to quit my job and work from home and spend more time with my children and have the life that I thought was never going to be possible for me but became this vague, dream-like possibility when the editor mentioned the idea that I could actually originate a book series.

See what I mean about convoluted? He says book series. He says originate. I hear control. I hear long-term project. I hear enough money per year for me to quit my job and stay home for a couple of years working on the books and the series. I hear myself quitting my job, telling the kids, doing all the things I want to do with them. I hear "this is what you really want, but you haven't dared dream it's possible." I hear "it is possible. It is. Possible."

And then I hear "but only if you get this gig." And then I hear "and that means writing a killer proposal, and can you do that, with all of this pressure riding on it?" And then I hear "and why would some big publishing company give you--with your not-yet-two-book-titles-to-your-name--an entire series?" And then I hear "and even if they do, you won't be able to quit your job. You know you won't. You need the security. You need more money than you're making now. Forget about it." I hear "even if you get this, it's not going to deliver that dream life. The dream life doesn't exist for you. You don't get to have the dream life."

And so there I was, on Saturday, hating my life. Not the life I have. Not the life I will have if I get to write a parenting book or two or even ten. But the fantasy life that I had for about half an hour on Friday and which my pessimist self had completely destroyed by Saturday morning.

Twisted. Tortuous. Convoluted.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Procrastination Reward

Procrastination is one of my most problematic--and deeply rooted--traits. I can procrastinate like nobody's business. Heck, I sometimes procrastinate on doing things I LIKE. You can only image what I'm like when I'm faced with a task I vehemently DISlike.

Something like, say, paying medical bills.

I don't mind paying bills in general, when we can afford them. And lately, we can afford them. So that's not the issue. I especially don't much mind paying bills online, where all I have to do is put in a password and a user name and an amount and click a button. But it's those other bills, the one-time bills, especially the doctor bills, that I hate with the heat of a thousand suns. Because paying them is never a piece-o-cake event. I always, inevitably, pick up a bill and am unsure whether it's the correct amount, which means going back through my insurance papers and seeing if the 'explanation of benefits' (eob) matches the amount I'm being asked to pay. If it doesn't, I toss the sucker aside. Because it's more than I can deal with. Of course, that results in my receiving many, many bills for the same charge, with an equal number of different payment amounts. And even if I can figure it all out, there's finding the checkbook, a pen, some stamps, and putting the whole thing together. Pain in my ass. Easier not to do. So, generally, I don't do. Works for me.

What I found out today is that it works for me even more than I thought it would. I was starting to get notices from collections agencies about eensy teensy doctor's bills (I mean that for real, like $17 or $6 or something) that I'd just not bothered paying, and I decided Today Is The Day. And I gathered up all the bills (almost a year's worth...bad girl), put them into piles, put them in date order, and began to try to match them up with the eob records I had in a separate pile. And what did I find? I found out that the local children's hospital, which is where both my kids go to see their regular old pediatrician, as well as where N goes to see his various specialists (cardiologist, endocrinologist, etc.), was actually whittling down my bill each month. Apparently, I had put off paying for some of the visits for so long that they were actually writing off those visits, and keeping only the larger charge, like for N's echocardiogram.

And when I say they were writing them off, I'm not joking. They were spelling it out for me, telling me that they were writing them off. For instance, there was one part of the bill that started out at around $18 (I only pay 10% of the bills, and a single doctor's visit is usually around $60 total). By the third or fourth month when I hadn't paid (because their numbers didn't match mine), I noticed that there was a "balance forward" of $18, but then a "write-off (small amount)" with a CREDIT of $6. And then the next month, another "write-off (small amount)" with a credit of $4-something. And then the NEXT month, ANOTHER write off. By the time I sat down with it today, that $18 bill had been whittled down to less than $6.

So, to sum up: The longer I put off paying my bill to these folks, the less I have to pay them. Talk about your positive reinforcement. Sheesh. I almost want to write them a note to point out to them how completely ridiculous that policy is--for them. But then I wouldn't get my procrastination discount, and what fun would that be?

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


Yesterday afternoon, a friend of Em's came by with her grandmother, and they ended up taking Em back to the friend's house to play for a while. About an hour and a half later, a whole group of people, including a sobbing Em, came tromping up the steps to our porch. Everyone was trying to talk to me at once--the friend's dad, the grandmother, the friend, and even another girl who I had never met before. Em was sobbing too hard to speak. Once I was sure there was no physical injury, I assured everyone that Em would be fine, and I took her inside.

Turns out, there had been a brief misundestanding over the rules of a board game, and Em's friend had gotten upset with Em when Em questioned the way the game was being played. Em, never one to remain calm when there is the opportunity for dramatics, apparently became very upset. This was exacerbated by the fact that, soon after she'd gotten to the girl's house, one of their neighbor kids had come over to play. As Em said to me, between sobs, "I felt like C only wanted to be K's friend."

I pulled her onto my lap and, once I vaguely understood what was going on (jealousy and a dramatic bent make for one very unhappy little girl), I talked to her gently about some of the things that might have been going on; like that maybe C felt like Em was accusing her of cheating. And I talked to her about how hard it is when there are three girls in a room trying to play together, especially when all three aren't friends with one another to start out with. But mostly I just let her cry, and held her.

After a while, when she had clearly gone from genuinely upset to milking it, I suggested we go outside. "Can we keep on talking about this, though?" she asked.

"Sure," I said. "I could just use some fresh air."

Outside, just as I'd hoped, she got distracted by the mini-trampoline and the tiny balance beam we got her for her birthday, and starting turning cartwheels.

"Was there anything else you wanted to say about all of this?" I asked her, not wanting her to feel that she couldn't finish venting if she really wanted to.

"No," she said, coming over and giving me a hug. "I'm over it now. I just knew that I would feel so much better if I came home and talked to you. I knew that being with my family would help."

I'll tell you, I've had promotions that were less gratifying than hearing those words.

Monday, October 11, 2004


That previous post? An attempt to put together a bio that I could permanently link to on my sidebar, for all you bio-wanters out there. Except, you know, I can't figure out how to make a permanent link to it on my sidebar. Because I am dumb when it comes to computers. Like, mispronouncing-the-word-nuclear dumb. Which is about as dumb as it gets, in my book. So if you were wondering why the heck I'm introducing myself a year and a bit into the blog, that's why.

The Essence of TC

I am about to write an inordinate number of sentences that begin with the letter I. This makes me uncomfortable.

I am a mother and a wife. The former is something that comes to me quite naturally. The latter is not.

My children, Em and N, are 7 and 3, respectively. But I've been a mother at heart for all of my life. If I think about it hard enough, I could probably list kids who were special to me, or in whose life I played a special role, going back to when I was as young as 6. Animals know this about me, too; even before I moved in with Baroy, his cat Mickey had taken to coming to me and nudging my legs when he needed anything like food or water or a litter box change. Baroy became the guy he went to to get petted; I was the one he went to to get parented. Buttons, our cat now, is no different. None of this bothers me, really. I love being a mother.

On the other hand, I can count on one finger the number of long-term relationships in which I've remained monogamous. So I had some trepidation about becoming a wife. The good news is that my relationship with Baroy is the single monogamous one. And I really haven't been seriously tempted. That, I think, is good news. Or a sign of depression. But I'll assume the former.

I am a writer. This is also something I've been my whole life. The fact that I've been relatively successful at it still surprises me, though. The fact that I make a living from it is downright shocking. I should remember that more often, when I bemoan the whole having-to-make-a-living thing. I have been given not only talent, but luck. I do not have to spend my life doing something I despise or that I'm not particularly good at. There are many people who do. I need to remember that.

I am an avid reader, but I rarely read simply for fun. It's been a long time since I've been able to enjoy a book just for its entertainment value. I need to be moved and challenged and stimulated by a book or it's not worth my time. I find myself disappointed more often than not these days with the books I read.

I have developed a deep and abiding love for what I like to call 'old-lady crafts.' Cross-stitching, hardanger embroidery and, especially, tatting are my passions. Tatting is a really old form of lacemaking that involves nothing more than a shuttle and one special type of knot made over a base thread. It can't explain why exactly, but it speaks to me and calms me and makes me feel connected to the world and to the past. There are times I think it's done more for me than any medication possibly could.

What else do you need to know about me? I'm short. I wear glasses. I don't dream in pictures, but rather in narratives--a concept that a lot of people find hard to understand, with good reason. I can't comprehend abstract art or orchestral music. I need words like most people need oxygen.

More? I grew up in the borough of Queens in New York City. I'm Jewish, but not practicing. My father is bipolar. He has four children from two marriages, neither of which lasted. I am his oldest. He escaped from Nazi Germany when he was six months old--well, as much as a six-month-old can escape. Not all of our family was quite so lucky. My mother is a really good person married to another really good person. She grew up in New Jersey; no escaping necessary--at least not from Nazis. Both of my grandfathers died long before I was born, and both of my grandmothers lived until I was an adult. I grew up around a lot of women, and very few men. I was only the second person in my family to graduate from a four-year college.

Because it's impossible to figure out from the above paragraph, I should just say that I am the oldest of five children: I have a sister, a stepsister, a half sister and a half brother. I have some incredible friends, both from my past and from my present. I am truly blessed in that way, because I am also the kind of person who moves on too easily when the going gets rough. I could easily have wound up pretty isolated and sad.

I make the world's greatest matzoh ball soup, I'm getting better and better at growing stuff in my garden, I struggle with anxiety and panic and obsessive-compulsive disorder, I have a severe phone phobia. Still, I find myself feeling happy again lately, and that's a good thing.

I am relatively tiny, and I am a nut. But not a coconut. Still, for many reasons, the name fits.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Dumbest. Label. Ever.

On my new fabric shower curtain: Dry clean only.

Words fail.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The Price of Vanity

I have always considered myself to be one of the least vain people on the planet. I've talked about this before here: makeup goes on my face maybe twice a year (and even then is limited to eyeliner, mascara and a touch of almost-immediately wiped off lipstick), I use my blowdryer only to quick-dry a piece of tatting I want to send off to someone, I don't own a curling iron or curlers or mousse or gel or whatever else piece of equipment most women have. I buy clothes based on comfort first. The only jewelry I own is that bought for me by others, and aside from my wedding ring, I wear it very rarely. I refuse to get contact lenses, despite my near-constant need to have glasses on. I refuse to wear heels, despite being only 5'1". I also refuse to wear panty hose most of the time. And I don't shave my legs very often. My friends talk about things like botox and tummy-tucks with relish, and I can't even imagine wanting to watch such things occur, much less have them done to me.

So when I started on Weight Watchers back in June, I was a bit conflicted. Why was I doing this? Did I really care if I looked heavy, if that nice lady from admission thought I was pregnant? What did that mean about my protestations of not being vain? In the end, I shunted these aside, figuring that if I wasn't comfortable in my clothes any more, it didn't matter why--I should fix it. and I have. I'm still a good five to seven pounds from my 'goal' weight, but I'm comfortable again, and that's all I really wanted, so I'm not sweating that last little bit o' lard.

Which is why it makes absolutely no sense that I walked into Fantastic Sam's on Saturday with Em so that we could both get our usual low-cost hair-trimming, and heard myself saying, "I'd like to get my hair colored."

What does make sense is that, as we walked out of said Fantastic Sam's, I was sporting some kind of neon 'do that looked like I'd plopped an orange creamsicle on my head. Em's attempt to comfort me only made it worse: "It doesn't look that silly, Mommy." And Baroy, despite a phone call to warn him that I was a beauty-shop experiment gone awry and please don't laugh at me when I get home, could do nothing but laugh. (As I told this part of the story in my office, my friend Jon winced and then said, "So, how's that respirator working out for him?" Hee!) And my friend's husband, who brought his kids over for dinner so that she could cough out her pneumonia-riddled lungs in relative peace, said that it wasn't too bad, "just a little brassy."

I tried to concentrate on how this was a teaching moment for Em, and kept making little comments about, "Well, it's only hair," and "Hey, I'm still the same person inside, so no use worrying so much about my outside." But that same person inside was FREAKING. All I could think about was going into work on Monday and facing all my colleagues and having them mouth platitudes about how good I look, and knowing they were lying through their teeth. Suddenly, I was all about the vanity. What the fuck had I been thinking? Oh, sure, a little lift from the antidepressants, a little weight loss, and suddenly I'm Miss Holllywood? Serves me right.

So after the pity party was over, I called my sister, who used to work at a salon until she developed some sort of chemical sensitivity, and asked how long I would have to wait to redo my hair myself. "Oh, god, you can do it now. You have pristine hair. It won't even notice."

And so off I went, to pick up a $9 bottle of Loreal, and home I went to saturate my hair with it. And now? Well, there's still some orange to it, but it's a pretty nice color. Much more natural. Lighter than I've been in close to 20 years, but not so light that my entire face disappears (which it did with the first hair color). I like it. Everyone I see likes it, assuming they're not blowing smoke up my ass. And, perhaps more importantly, a lot of people don't even notice it at first. I talked to a friend of mine for about five minutes this morning, and she didn't say a word. To me, that's a compliment, because it means it looks natural. (Or so bad she couldn't think of what to say, but I'll go with natural.) And really, that's what I want; to look natural. To look like me, like someone who accepts being who she is and doesn't freak out about age spots and wrinkles. You know, someone who would never color her hair, because she is one of the least vain people on the planet.

Clearly, the gods and goddesses of hubris are laughing their asses off at me right now.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Ode to Daddy

Baroy's 49th birthday is Monday, and because I seriously can't come up with a good gift idea and will therefore buy something lame at the last minute, I decided I had to try and at least do something home-made and sentimental to go along with whatever piece of crap I end up buying for him. In any case, since I've been working on the PTA newsletter and recently learned a bit about desktop publishing, I decided to put out a 'newspaper' for his birthday this year, and for the newspaper, I interviewed his children. Here are the results of those two interviews.

N, Age 3.5, Responds to Questions About Daddy: [By the way, don't ask me: Half of what he said here made no sense to me either. But the stuff that did cracked me up.]

Is Daddy the best Daddy ever? Yes.

Why is Daddy the best Daddy? Because we can go to Daddy’s birthday, eat cake. Daddy and Noah can eat some cake. I want little dots on my cake.

What games do you like to play with Daddy? Candyland. Play with puzzles my room. Like to riding with Daddy. I want my turn now. [He types gibberish on the computer.]

At night time, what do you and Daddy do together? Sleep. Lay together. Now it bes my turn. [More gibberish.]

What silly things does daddy say? He boop boop boop boop gasos. That’s not my name.

What does Daddy look like? Tall. Small. Big hair. Daddy’s got a little hair now. Nose and fingers. Hair and feet. Red shirt. Blue pants, just like me. My turn. [And again.]

What kind of special food does Daddy like to buy you? Both and Daddy like pasta. No candy for me. Milk. Slurpees. Gum. No more for me. My turn. [One more time.]

What is Daddy’s name? Baroy Middlename Lastname.

How old is Daddy? Five.

How tall is Daddy? Big.

How many pounds does Daddy weigh? One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.

Where is your favorite place to go with Daddy in the car? Go home.

What Em (age 7) Had to Say About Daddy:

My dad is sweet and funny. He teases me a lot. He says he has way cooler shoes than me, but I know he’s just kidding. He calls me Em Middlename Zaza Lastname, even though my real name is Em Middlename Lastname. When we walk to school, he plays Bread and Butter with me. Bread and Butter is a game where if there’s a pole in between you and the person that you’re walking with, when you let go of hands and then you hold hands again, one of you has to say Bread and Butter, and whoever says Bread and Butter first gets a point. Daddy let me make up a rule, and he basically never uses it. My rule was that the second after you grab hands, after you walk to the pole and you grab hands, then you can say Bread and Butter, but if I stand there again and wait a second or two, he can’t say Bread and Butter. But he always does.

Sometimes Daddy takes me to Disneyland, just me and him. He hangs out with me if my mommy is at work and my brother is at school and I have no one to play with. And he takes me places.

We both have blue eyes. We both have a Lastname head. Me and my Daddy both like Slurpees. We both like to watch TV together, especially Friends and Joey.

My Daddy is special because he’s just a really great dad. And I love to hang out with him a lot. He builds a lot of things for our house so we can keep a lot of things neat and organized. My Daddy is special because he helps me with stuff and he’s a really great mathematician so if I have really hard math problems, he can help me. My dad takes care of me and watches out for me. He can help me with my soccer. And when he was 18, I think, he did gymnastics, so he can help me with my gymnastics and help me improve.

My Daddy is really cool because he has lots of jobs. He is an actor and he is a writer also. He also produces plays. He writes them, also. My Dad is really smart, just like my Mom, and I think that me and my brother will grow up to be really smart like my Mom and Dad.

I love my Dad and I’m really happy that he is my Dad.

What I Learned From the Debates

My friend Susanna is, hands down, the Bravest Woman on the Face of the Planet. Last night, while I ran from my boss's 40th birthday party to Back to School Night and back to my boss's 40th birthday party, steadfastly avoiding not only a glimpse of the debate but any discussion of it as well, she was hosting my husband and my kids for a debate get-together.

Why is that brave, you ask? Her husband=Republican who loves to ride Baroy's liberal Democrat ass. Baroy=Democrat who loves to ride her husband's Republican ass. Putting the two of them in a room together is, under the best of circumstances, annoying, what with all the baiting and debating and complete ignoring of wives and children and other guests while trying desperately to one-up the other person. (OK, that's mostly Baroy, but Doug often gives as good as he gets.) Last night? Recipe for an ulcer. But Susanna persevered. Not only that, but she persevered while five kids under 8--two of whom were mine, three of whom were hers--whooped it up and raced through the house. (OK, maybe only four of them raced. Her baby is still a bit young to race. But you get the gist.)

In any case, like I said: World's Bravest Woman. Certainly, a much better woman than I.

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