Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Friday, December 31, 2004


So, this is it. 2004's swan song. Here in LA, it's a very wet, chilly song, and I'm sitting in my kitchen (gotta love the laptop) listening to its beat...the steady drip, drip, drip of water from a nearby beam onto a towel I'll need to change in a little while.

If I were to use today as a measure, 2004 wasn't the best year. Water seems to be the devastating theme to its end--and no, I don't mean my leaky kitchen. The tsunami tragedy is so far beyong my ability to feel or comprehend that I can't even begin to wrap my mind around it, much less my words. Still, I look at the photos and feel the waves of pain that emanate from so far away--and yet so near in so many other ways--and I ache and think, god, I hope this isn't a portent of things to come.

Ending the year with all these watery losses doesn't, however, erase all that came before. Here in the TC household, if 2004 wasn't exactly a benchmark year, neither was it utterly forgettable. I turned 40 this year. I wrote a book, and saw it published. I got help for the anxiety that threatened to overcome me, and have mostly managed to subdue it. (I'm jumping out of my skin today, of course, as if to remind me that it's not all going to be smooth sailing from hereon in. There are reasons--good reasons, though mundane, work-related reasons--but it's clear I still haven't quite got a handle on this.) My children are healthy, and growing in so many directions. My husband and I have reconnected in ways I wasn't really sure were still possible.

Tonight, I'll say goodbye to 2004 surrounded by my family and a most special group of friends, who have been with me through both the gains and the losses. Tomorrow, I'll welcome in 2005 at Tamar's house, and if there's anyone who can remind me that beginnings are good, and that you never know what or who is around the corner, it's Tamar, who I knew only as a talented online writer last year at this time, and today am proud to call my friend.

When I was a kid, I hated change. I hated endings. I was scared of beginnings. I was the only kid in school who used to cry each year on the last day...not just in first and second grades, when that might be more understandable, but in junior high school. By the time I'd hit high school, I was able to hide the tears, but the last day of school was always wrenching for me, and the first day always terrifying.

I don't cry at endings now, but I still dread them. And beginnings still scare me. And so it is with a little sadness and a certain amount of trepidation that I mark this relatively artificial ending and it's equally artificial beginning with my fingers crossed, my roof leaking, and my heart aching for people I've never met, going through something I can't imagine. Here's hoping my fears prove unfounded, and that 2005 holds untold joy and only the happiest of new beginnings.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The Mundane

I promise that this isn't the first in what's going to become a long series of "this is what I did this weekend" posts. But I'm without the capacity, right this very moment, to do much more than a recap. Deep thought and introspection are way beyond me today.

So, the weekend. Friday morning (aka Christmas Eve day) we headed down south to meet up with my NY friends and their baby. (They were in town to spend Christmas with one of the grandmas.) She's not yet two, and the differences in her from the last time I saw her, in August, are simply unbelievable. Em just went straight into maternal mode; it was a joy to watch her. N was more interested in my friends, whose names he just couldn't keep straight. Instead, he simply referred to them throughout the visit as "the pink one" and "the red one," based on the shirts they were wearing. As in, "No, I no want to show you this, pink one. I want the red one see it." Hee!

Then we went over to M and G's house for our annual Christmas-with-our-friends celebration. A couple of years ago, to make the kids' holidays "magical," they had bought--as in purchased--a snow-making machine, set it up in their backyard, and then concocted this whole scenario in which Em made a wish for snow (in Southern California, mind you) and when she turned around, there it was, drifting down from the sky! Anyway, this year, the machine was apparently broken. So, rather than expect the children to simply enjoy hanging with their mom, dad, uncles and friend B, they rented a castle bounce house for the entire weekend. Sheesh! All I can say is, I now know what the gay agenda is: to spoil my children rotten.

We came back home on Saturday evening and left early Sunday morning for the second in what we're hoping will be at least an annual trek up into the mountains in search of snow for our poor deprived Angeleno children. We went up with several of our friends and their families--a total of eight adults and nine children under the age of eight. What, that doesn't sound like your idea of heaven? Well, it was, especially if you realize that it means almost all the kids disappeared into the bowels of the five-bedroom cabin as soon as we got there, and were seen only rarely, and then only to shove strips of bacon into their mouths and run off again. (You think I'm kidding? We were there less than 48 hours, and we went through more than 10 POUNDS of bacon. There are some mighty unhappy porcine families out there because of us, that's all I can say. And yes, I know, I'm not supposed to be a pig-eater. But, bacon, well...I just can't imagine that any deity would really deny me that sort of crispy, fatty fabulousness.)

The cabin we were renting backed up on just acres upon acres of boulder-strewn, snow-covered forest, with nearby, hikable ravines complete with meandering streams under a thin layer of ice. The kids were beside themselves with the ability to do some rock clambering and snow sliding, even if the snow was pretty icy and old when we first got there. They also got a huge kick out of going into a hot tub at the end of the day in big t-shirts, and staying until the sun started going down. Of course, not one of us brainiacs thought twice when they put their t-shirts over the railing to dry, so later that evening when we sent one of the husbands out to retrieve them, we wound up rolling on the floor laughing at the shirt-cicles he came back with.

Then, yesterday morning, we awoke to a ground covered in new powder, and huge flakes still falling from the sky. So the kids got the chance to go outside and catch snowflakes on their tongues and try to make a snowman, and N got to experience what Baroy assures me is a rite of passage to manhood: peeing in the snow. Of course, he then spent the rest of the time insisting that he go outside to pee. Yeah, manhood. Right.

We arrived home to torrential rains that have yet to stop...and to a leaking kitchen beam/ceiling. Shit. Turns out, it's going to be OK...we think. Baroy had a chat with our across-the-street neighbor, who happens to be a roofer, and he told Baroy that Baroy can fix the problem on the roof himself, and that he has a drywall guy who can come in and fix the kitchen beam for us for a relative pittance. And so--if all is indeed well that ends well--all should soon be well.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Ordering Chinese

I called to order dinner from a Chinese restaurant tonight.

Did you hear me? I just said that I called to order dinner from a Chinese restaurant tonight! I had a craving for Panda Inn's honey walnut shrimp, but Baroy was listening to the University of Maryland basketball game on the radio, and nothing short of dynamite was going to budge him. So I looked up the number online and called. Twice, actually--once to see if they did takeout, and the next time to place an order.

You may be wondering what the hell I'm going on and on about, but somewhere out there, those friends of mine who know me even a little bit well are staring at the computer with their mouths agape. Because this is big stuff, folks. Huge, even. I don't call Chinese restaurants. Never. Not ever.

It's hard to explain this without sounding even crazier than I am. But here it is. I have a phone phobia. Actually, it's more like a fulminating, frothing hatred. A hatred of having to make phone calls to people I don't know. People who don't know I'm about to call them. People who may not be in the mood for my call. People who may be short with me, snap at me, hit me with some response, some emotion for which I'm unprepared. That scares me. It makes me uncomfortable. It makes me want to do whatever I can to avoid it.

So, basically, I have a fear of confrontation--of potential, even unlikely confrontation. I know I'm not alone in that, though I once thought I was. I also now know that I'm not alone in the next ironic twist--being a writer, a nonfiction writer, a journalist even. You know, having a career in which you have to constantly, sometimes unremittingly, call people up to interview them, or to set up interviews, or to check facts, or to ask for something they may not want to give you. You'd be surprised at how many journalists have this same issue, how many have a similar fear. But that's beside my point.

I've always made accommodations for my phone phobia. Back in the day when I was a fact-checker, there were calls I had to make that almost literally caused me to break out in hives. I'll never forget some of them: the call to the mother of a boy dying from multiple sclerosis, who sobbed as I went over the facts of her son's continuing decline; the hour I spent on the phone trying to calm a very, very angry scientist who thought we'd totally misrepresented him and his work; the multiple civil discussions I had to have with another scientist, despite the fact that he spent half the time trying to clumsily hit on me. So I'd give myself a treat for making such calls: a trip downstairs for a cigarette, when I was still smoking; a candy bar from the corner newsstand; a walk around the block to try and burn off some of the nervous energy. And, most importantly, a blanket pardon from having to make any calls that made me uncomfrotable in my personal life. Including--especially--ordering food in. If someone I was with wanted to call the Thai place down the block, they were more than welcome to pick up the phone. I'd do whatever else they needed. But I was not--was NOT--going to make the call. Period.

That was in the late 1980s, maybe the early 1990s. And although I probably have called a restaurant or two over those decades, it was only under duress; never, not once, have I made such a call of my own accord.

Until tonight. Tonight, I called to order dinner from a Chinese restaurant. If that doesn't tell you that there's a neurochemical miracle going on in side me right now, nothing will.

I called a Chinese restaurant. It sounds so small, so stupid, saying it that way. But it's not small; it's huge. Stupid, maybe. But huge. And it's making me feel enormously pleased with myself.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Big Softie

When we bought this house, almost three years ago, we noticed a long-haired black cat hanging around outside a lot. She was, we were told, the former owner's cat; one of our neighbors had been charged with taking care of her now that the owner was gone.

Fine by me. The cat--named Cocoa, we learned--wasn't the friendliest animal I've eer met. Translation: The first time I approached her, using my very best Dr. Doolittle skills, she bit me. Hard.

Still, she's never really gotten over feelling a sense of ownership over this house, I guess, because she has always spent a lot of time over here, mostly sitting on the hood of our cars when they're not in use, but also hanging out in the backyard.

When we got Buttons, a year and a half ago, and she began going outside, we often wondered whether the various bumps and bruises and scratches and scrapes she would come home with were given to her by Cocoa. That did little to endear her to any of us.

But still, I've always had a soft spot for the little troublemaker. For one thing, Em loves her--and even though Em is a Friend To All Animals, she has a particular attachment to Cocoa, and has steadfastly refused to take hissing and running away as an answer. Over time, Cocoa has come to spend a lot more time near us, rather than heading in the other direction when she sees us.

But more importantly, the next-door neighbors, a Korean family with whom I have a hard time communicating, seem to have completely given up on taking care of her. I think it's due to allergy issues. All I know is, they now have a little yippy dog in the house, and Cocoa seem to be living exclusively outside. And she's hungry. All the time.

Now, we're in Southern California, so she's not going to freeze to death. But there are coyotes here, as we all now konw. And I can't stand to see an animal maltreated--or, rather, completely ignored. So, over the past few months, Em and I have made a more concerted effort to get Cocoa to trust us. We feed her on our porch a couple of times a day, and she's even allowed me to groom her on occasion. (She'd clearly not had a brush through her fur in a good while.) And lately, she's let me pet her, without biting, or with only the occasional, seems-more-like-playing-than-aggression nip. Not to mention her recent decision that we're safe enough for her to meander into the house and eat out of Buttons' bowl when Buttons isn't around.

Obviously, I see where this is going, and I'm fine with it. But Baroy, well, let's just say that he hadn't seemed particularly enthusiastic about expanding our family any further. Not that I asked him, mind you. But he often makes (gentle) fun of my soft heartedness around animals, and my tendency to want to save every one I come across who needs help. Add Ems' similar tendencies, and we can be a dangerous combo. Considering that I had just recently gotten his buy-in on N's fourth birthday present next month--a new kitten--I didn't think there was any reason to bring up the Cocoa question at all.

So imagine my surprise, yesterday, when Baroy suddenly said, more or less out of nowhere, "I think it's time to just start taking Cocoa in and getting her used to our house. It's just wrong the way they're treating her next door. It's just wrong." And so it will be.

The moral? Never assume. Oh, and never throw out the boxes and boxes of cat food your picky feline refuses to eat.

Now we just need to get Cocoa's buy in--not to mention cooperation from Buttons in letting a rival into her home--and we're on our way. Wish us luck.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Diagnose Me

In case you're keeping track, the current score is:

The mommy posse, who always have my back: Bipolar II (i.e., hypomania mixed with depression)
My first psychiatrist: Major depressive disorder, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder
My second psychiatrist: Major despressive disorder (recurring), panic disorder
My current therapist: Not quite sure, yet
My husband: I don't care what the hell you have now that you've stopped snarling at me and your libido is back

More specifically: I saw psychiatrist #2 today, and was quite reassured by our discussion. For one thing, he thinks that gnurontin is crap for treating bipolar disorder, especially at levels as low as mine, so my extremely positive reaction to it doesn't say anything worrisome to him; he's just thrilled it's working. For another thing, he doesn't think my strong feelings about a bipolar diagnosis are unwarranted at all; in fact, he feels quite strongly in the other direction, that diagnosis makes a huge difference in outlook and repercussions, and even in the sense of taking responsibility for your own feelings and actions, something that's harder to do when you have a big, somber label like bipolar attached to them. Finally, he believes that bipolar II is being overdiagnosed now that people are looking for it. With such "soft" symptoms as physical agitation (also quite common in anxiety), being easily distracted (also quite common in anxiety and depression), having an inflated sense of yourself/grandiosity (also quite common in a variety of personality disorders), and more, he says you can pretty much find hypomania in almost anyone suffering from a mental disorder.

I was fair, though. I told him about the things that people other than myself are seeing, and he mostly just shook his head. "I'm pretty comfortable right now with the diagnosis I have for you," he said. "So much of what you experience is perfectly attributable to anxiety and panic. After being so depressed and anxious for so long, feeling speeded up and elated once the depression lifts is perfectly reasonable. When you've walked in mud for five straight miles, you're going to feel like you're flying once you hit solid ground."

Cute AND smart. If he weren't young enough to be my son, I think I'd put a little more effort into this whole transference thing. But for now, I'll just wrap his diagnosis around me like a warm, comforting blanket, and go on as I have been. Because right now, walking across solid ground really DOES feel like flying, and I'm enjoying the heck out it.

Monday, December 20, 2004

The Genealogy of Guilt

During my therapy session last week, my therapist pulled out a folder and announced that we were going to go through a checklist of psychological symptoms, and that we'd discuss them as we went along. The first few were obviously part of the depression checklist: depression, apathy, hopelessness, feelings of worthlessness--which, interestingly, I actually rarely, if ever, can remember suffering from; pretender syndrome, sure, but absolute worthlessness, no. (Woohoo! Check me out! A paragon of mental health!)

And then we got to guilt.

"Have you ever experienced severe guilt?"

I laughed. "I'm Jewish. I experience severe guilt on a daily basis."

She gave that short, sharp chuckle I've come to associate with therapists as a shorthand for, "Yeah, yeah, you're very funny. Now get back to actually talking to me, OK?"

So we talked. She asked me about the things I feel guilty about, and again I was tempted to joke. Because, really, it's laughable. There's guilt everywhere, every day. There's guilt when I fall short in my parenting, when I'm less than supportive to Baroy, when I miss a deadline at work or give less than my best effort. There's guilt when I don't write out a thank-you note, and when I hurt someone's feelings, whether intential or unintentional. There's guilt when I take on too much volunteer work, and guilt when I say no. There's always, always guilt.

I'd always assumed that this was a universal experience, this guilt and its ubiquity. And I'd also always assumed that guilt had a good side, that it had some sort of psuedo-evolutionary advantage in the sense that it pushes you to be better, to try and banish it by reaching just a little higher.

And then my therapist totally threw me by offering a different scenario: Let go of the guilt, she said, and instead let yourself be proud of what you are able to accomplish under less-than-ideal circumstances. Instead of rueing the fact that you're not a perfect mother, think about all the ways in which you exceed expectations, ways in which you've succeeded. Instead of worrying about whether or not you've done the best job you can at work, think about how much you're accomplishing. And so on.

Of course, if you think that I gaped in appreciation of the depth of her insight and left feeling renewed, you must be new to these here parts.

"OK, that's fine and everything," I said, "but what good is it to just pat yourself on the back? How am I going to ever be a better parent if I'm not pushed to do better by feelings of guilt?"

"Well, give me an example of something you feel guilty about," she said.

"Easy. Not spending enough time with the kids," I answered.

"Fine. So how about, instead of feeling guilty about the amount of time you spend with them, you think about what a great time you do have when you're with them, or what sorts of rewards you see them reaping from it, or things like that."

"And how exactly will that motivate me to make more time for them?"

"You'll want to make more time for them because it's a win-win situation for all of you--you'll get enjoyment out of it, and they'll get all those benefits of your attention and love. You'll do it because it makes you feel good to do it, not because it makes you feel bad not to do it."

It wasn't a lightbulb moment, exactly, but I was struck momentarily dumb, wholly without a smartassed, know-it-all answer. I was still skeptical, but I couldn't quite say why. I mean, it seems Pollyannaish and not quite realistic, but maybe that's just the cynic in me talking. Now, nearly a week later, I still can't figure out where the flaw in her argument is. I mean, I don't think that I can just drop 40 years of perfecting the art of the guilt trip in one week, but it does seem to be a little less functional an emotion than it did in the past, and that might give me the impetus to at least let it go on occasion.

Or not. Either way, I refuse to feel guilty about it. (Yeah, I know. You saw that ending coming a mile away. Fine. *You* try coming up with pithy endings for this blog week in and week out...)

Sunday, December 19, 2004


So there we were. Two people, two married people, in our home. Alone. All alone.

It came upon usrather suddenly, this having of 'big kids.' And, granted, N isn't really a big kid yet. For heaven's sake, he's still just three, though he does have that big 04 birthday coming in a month. But he's getting there. He has friends now, the very first whispers of a social life. Yesterday, in fact, he was at WeeyumWise's house, having a picnic in the backyard and learning to play fetch with Weeyum's big, floppy dog.

At the exact same time, Em, who has a social life that is almost deafeningly loud, was visiting her friend K down the block, and had already begun agitating for a sleepover when I'd not even dropped her off. She wasn't coming home any time soon.

Baroy and I looked at each other when I got back to our house, childless. "We're alone," I said. "We could..."

"I know," he said.

I sat down into my big, overstuffed chair. He settled down onto the couch. We looked at each other, and grinned. That big, full-of-yourself grin that usually comes after the fact, not before. But for us, this was after the fact. We didn't have to have sex to feel this particular glow spread through our bodies. Being alone, together, with the actual CHOICE of whether or not we wanted to...a choice wholly uninformed by the whereabouts, sleeping habits, or noise tolerance levels of our children...that was enough.

I got up from my chair, crossed the room, straddled Baroy's body and kissed him, deeply. And then, without another word, I went back to my chair and picked up a book. He winked at me, and with a lingering grin turned on the TV. And there we sat, basking in the afterglow of a childless afternoon.

It was as good for me as it was for him.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

A Conversation Between You and Me (Or Should That Be I?)

Me: So Baroy got fired yesterday.

You: Oh, I'm so sorry to hear...Wait a minute! How could he get fired? I thought he didn't have a job! Isn't that what you've been bitching and moaning about for the last couple of weeks? Isn't that why we've had to read endless essay after endless essay about the choices you do have or don't have or whatever?

Me: Um. Yeah. Well, see, he didn't really have a job. He had a consulting gig. Part-time. And it didn't make him very much money. And so I didn't want to complicate things by talking about it in too much detail, because it didn't really make that much of a difference to my life choices whether he was working at it or not.

You: So why are you telling us that he got fired?

Me: Because, apparently, I was wrong, and it does make a huge difference to my life choices. Especially now that I'd decided that I actually had some.

You: And what the hell does THAT mean?

Me: Well, I can't exactly go and try to cut back my hours now, when any extra income we might have had coming in is gone. So I'm back to not having any real choices.

You: Do you really want to open up that can of worms again?

Me: You're right. I don't. Forget I said anything.

Yeah. So, Baroy got fired. And literally less than an hour later, I had my shrink appointment. So while the macro-timing couldn't have been worse, coming after I spent the equivalent of a new house on various presents for the kids and Baroy for Chanukah, the micro-timing was just right, because I got to go and spew all my evilness in a nice, safe therapeutic atmosphere, so that when I went home, I was able to be wifely and supportive and not bitter and mean.

I'm still liking my new therapist, and she does make me think (the results of said thinking will be a topic for another entry, soon). But yesterday she came very, very close to losing me altogether. What was her crime? She actually talked to me about my...and I quote..."inner child." As in "and what does your inner child think about that?" No. No, no, no, no, no. I am NOT playing that game, lady. Besides, my inner child is in a time-out for scribbling on my thoracic wall with her new crayons, so she doesn't get to have an opinion.

I was impressed with Baroy, however. Normally, rejection of any sort puts him into a five-day funk that makes me want to throttle him with a dishtowel. So this, I figured, was good for at least two weeks in his "dark place." But no. By the time I got home, he was talking to a friend of ours on the phone, and laughing about it. And while he didn't sleep much at all last night, he did manage to pull himself together well enough that by the end of the evening he was playing and laughing with the kids. Kudos to him. A definite sign of maturity. And at not-yet-50 years of age, too!

The woman who kicked off the events that led to this firing--and who was also canned as well--sent him an email wishing him well and suggesting that they let bygones be bygones and "ride off into the sunset." This pissed me off immensely, because...well, frankly, because she's a royal bitch who was nasty and petty and unprofessional and deserved what she got but didn't deserve to be allowed to take Baroy down with her. So when Baroy asked if he should reply, I said yes, and then fed him the final line of his return email, which read something like this: "And as for the suggestion that we ride off into the sunset, that's fine, so long as it's in opposite directions. Good luck in all you do in the future." Cold, isn't it? I love it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

I Am Just A Big Old Geek

I had to attend a dinner meeting last night, at which a bunch of scientists from my institution were presenting the results of pre-clinical work they've been doing. I was not looking forward to it. For one thing, I hoard my evenings jealously, and I don't like to spend them at work. For another, the meeting was to be at our faculty club, a place not exactly renowned for its haute cuisine.

It turned out to be a great night. As often happens at these sorts of meetings, I got more 'work' done during the dinner and chatting parts of the evening than I normally do in a month. And the faculty club imported this amazing chef for the evening, who almost literally showered us with tasty delights. Mmmmm. Wasabi-infused roe over crusted sea scallops. Mmmmm. Tuna tartare in a can't-remember-its-name sauce. Mmmmm. Filet in a balsamic reduction. And on and on and on until the piece de resistance, a 'molten chocolate' desert/souffle that was unbearaby delicious, and was topped with vanilla bean cream.

The conversation at our table was really interesting, too. Very few of us knew one another well, so there was a lot of spirited but polite discussion of current events and the state of the scientific endeavor. Plus, you know, there was wine. There was a lot of wine. And it was good wine. Very good wine. And did I mention there was a lot of it?

All of which led to my driving home at around 9 last night, slightly inebriated, but not feeling impaired. And so, instead of obeying my usual NPR-or-die listening habits, I surfed the stations until I found some oldies rock. (Because, whether I like to admit it or not, the rock I loved as a teen is OLD now.) And just as I was exiting the freeway, Cheap Trick came on. Cheap Trick! Live From Budokan! I Want You To Want ME! The song that pretty much defined my last year in junior high school. Which was, yes, in 1979. Shut UP.

I don't know what came over me. OK, yes I do. That sort of post-delicious-dinner high, plus a kick from the wine. I drove my car past my block and up the rest of the way into the winding, deserted roads of the foothills I live in, cranked up the radio, and sang--nay, screamed or, you could say, bayed--the lyrics at the top of my lungs. Three-plus minutes of teenaged bliss. Which probably would have been really, really cool were I not a 40-year-old mom of two in a red minivan, drunk on less than two glasses of wine, and all juiced up because of a successful meeting discussing the relative merits of FMR combination therapy in the treatment of recalcitrant lymphoma.

But hey. These are the moments that keep us young and vibrant, right? Just as long as nobody, not one single soul, actually witnesses them, that is. Otherwise, they become the moments that keep us institutionalized. But in either case, I would say, they're worth it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


I am almost physically incapable of writing thank-you notes. Perhaps it was the early childhood trauma incurred during the annual grimly enforced writing-of-the-thank-you-notes-to-all-of-Grandma's-brothers-and-sisters-for-their-$2-gifts. ("Dear Aunt Betty, Thank you for the $2. I am going to use it to buy a David Cassidy poster. Love, TC." I know. Shut up. "Dear Uncle Hymie," and yes that was his real name. Shut up again. "Thank you for the $2. I am going to use it to buy a new barrette. Love, TC.") Or maybe it was the double trauma of the fact that no sooner were those notes sealed and mailed than it was my birthday, and another round of $2 notes was due. (Grandma was one of six kids. This was no easy task, coming up with something that $2 would buy that they would be happy about having 'purchased' for me.)

Whatever the case, it's no excuse. I'm an adult now. I've had plenty of time to get over it already. And yet, while Baroy polished off his thank-you notes within a couple of weeks of our wedding, I never made it past the early Ts. It's been almost nine years now, and Mr. and Mrs. Walden have yet to be properly thanked for completing our dish set. Thanks, you guys!

Baby showers. No thank yous. Baby gifts. No thank yous. And now, birthday/Chanukah/I-saw-this-and-thought-N/Em-would-love-it gifts. And no thank yous. That's the saddest part--that I'm passing this awful non-habit habit on to my children.

Which is all by way of saying, I love it when you guys and gals leave me comments. The fact that I don't often reply to them? It's simply an indication of my poor upbringing and thank-you-note rebellion. I'm just an uncouth lout who doesn't deserve the time and effort you put into responding to me and my ramblings. But I'm not ungrateful. And I do want you to know that not only do I read every one of them, I sometimes have Baroy read them, too, when it's relevant, despite the fact that he doesn't/is forbidden to read my blog.

So know that your thoughts are not only appreciated, but treasured. Just not responded to. And if it makes you feel any betther, I herewith give you my promise: as soon as I've covered all the other issues in therapy, I'm definitely devoting a session to why I'm incapable of exerting myself to observe common courtesies. And at the rate things are going, I'm betting that will by 2022...at the very latest.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Shameless Self-Promotion Thinly Disguised as Self-Deprecating-Self-Pity

Sob. Nobody has nominated me for a BoB award. I bet if they had a Most Obnoxiously Introspective and Self-Absorbed category, I'd be in. But in the meantime, I just have to assume that nobody like me, and everybody hates me.

I guess I'll go eat worms.

(This post was brought to you courtesy of my years on email lists where the use of "I'm-unsubbing-because-you-all-hate-me" posts in order to elicit "oh-no-we-all-love-you-please-stay" posts has been elevated to an artform. We'll see if it works here, too!)

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Short Guys

N's growth history--even at not-quite-four years of age--is long, and tedious. Suffice it to say that Baroy and I, at 5'4" (of which at least a half an inch is ego) and 5'1", are not going to grow giants. And yet, N still isn't keeping up with the pretty-damned-short growth curve he should be on. At his current rate of growth, he may never hit 5 feet. And that worries me. Some days, it worries me more than others.

Today is not one of the others. Today, I'm worrying about it. Not for any specific reason. Except for a conversation I had earlier today, when N and I were down the block playing with a little boy about six months younger than N is. (Actually, it was a milestone of sorts, because Deke, the little boy, invited N to come into his house to play, and N accepted gladly. After about half an hour, he was ready for me to leave, even. His first impromptu playdate! He stayed for lunch, and they walked him home when it was time for Deke's nap. My big boy!)

Anyway, at one point when they were still playing outside Deke's house, N wanted to go get a toy from our house, and asked Deke to go with him. Deke's dad and I watched them walk away, and the dad commented to me that they're having problems finding a bike small enough for Deke, because he's so tiny for his age. And then I commented, "but look! He's taller than N!" And the dad was surprised. "You're right, he is. Though not by much. And isn't he younger than Deke?" Nope, no such. Which made me realize, again, that even though I know he's growing, he's still way behind.

Now, we've done all the testing. We have an endocrinologist following him. The endo's current assessment of the situation: constitutional growth delay. Which is just a fancy way of saying "late bloomer." As he explains it, he thinks that N will probably be unusually short throughout mopst of his childhood and adolescence. He'll be late to enter puberty. But that will be good, in the growth sense, because he will probably continue growing way past the point that other boys stop, and so may still hit his expected adult height of between 5'2" and 5'6".

It is good news, medically speaking. But it still means that he's going to go through all those years as the "really little guy." The one the girls like to squeeze and cuddle and talk about like he's a stuffed animal, but don't like to date. The one the guys pick on, tease, beat up on.

Yeah, I know. Every one of you knows some short guy who's had an easy life. Yeah, yeah. But you all also know short guys who lived through hell in junior high and high school.

And, yes, I know that if it wasn't shortness, it would be something else. Most kids get teased in school, at some point. But that doesn't make it easier to send him off into the world, knowing that at some point he may be ostracized because of some genetic snafu that he can't do anything about.

People will insist that those days are over, that Randy Newman wouldn't have had quite the hit with "Short People" today that he did back whenever-he-wrote-it. I disagree. There are a lot of prejudices that people claim have gone by the wayside. Except the people who claim it are never the people in the group that experiences the prejudice. Short people are one such group. Baroy tells story after story about what he's gone through as a kid and adolescence, and yet how many adults, even to this day, think it's funny to call him Shorty.

But what really brought it home from me was a casual moment, the other day, in the elevator with my boss and a colleague of mine. Now, if you know me, you know how much I love my boss. She's great. She'a also the epitome of diplomacy. She catches me in mid-gaffe more often than I'd like to recount. Anyway, they were telling me about an episode they'd had the day before, where some traffic cop had given them a hard time when my boss tried to drop my colleague off at a train station and apparently stopped in the wrong place, despite the lack of any posted signs.

"He starts screaming at us, even before he gets ot of his car," says my colleague, who isn't as diplomatic. "And he's this really short guy, and he just keeps on yelling at us as he gets closer and closer."

"Yeah," says my boss, "he definitely had Short Man Syndrome."

No prejudice? Can you imagine someone in this day and age saying, "Yeah, he definitely had Black Man Syndrome"? No. It would never happen. But it's OK to make short jokes. It's OK to stereotype short guys. And dating? Who the hell would date a guy shorter than she is? (Short girls, we get off easy. We're tiny little dolls; men eat us up.)

Life is going to be hard for my guy, who told me yesterday, "I get bigger and bigger and now I'm huge!"

"Yes, you are huge," I said with a grin. "Now come give me a huge hug."

The first person to burst my boy's bubble is going to feel the full brunt of my mommy wrath, that's all I have to say.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Therapeutic Breakthroughs

I was talking to a friend the other day, and she said something about having had a "lightbulb moment" in therapy.

I've done therapy before this, not necessarily for years at a time, but still, enough therapy to reap its benefits. And I don't remember ever having had a lightbulb moment. It seems that, for me, therapy plants little seeds, or simply gets me thinking about an issue, brings it to the forefront so that I can work on it in my head. Which is a great thing, don't get me wrong. Without therapy, I wouldn't have been thinking so much about choices, and then ranting about it here, and then you all wouldn't have sent me the comments you did, and then this whole realization that I do have choices and I just have to be a little more creative and a little more patient would never have come to fruition.

But I wonder what it's like to have a lightbulb moment, one where clarity suddenly strikes, rather than this sort of ongoing, who-knows-when-or-if-it-will-help-me percolation of what I say to my therapist and how she reacts. I think I might be a little bit jealous, is all.

Still, despite a few minor reservations about my therapist--dude, she had never even HEARD of a blog before, didn't even know what it was, which kinda threw me, not to mention that she's one of those 'stare at you at the beginning of each session and refuse to say a word or start the conversation until you do' people, and that makes me a little bit nuts--I'm impressed with what three sessions alone have wrought.

I'm not saying my therapist is some kind of miracle worker. For one thing, she's had some serious help. I started the gnurontin the same time I started seeing her, and it now carries the official title of All-Time Favorite Psychopharmaceutical, leaving Xnax in the dust. I love that little GABA-giving capsule. It truly is a Happy Pill. Need proof? The other day I asked Baroy, who has in previous months said that my PMS would be the only thing that would ever make him think of leaving me, if he even KNEW I had had my period earlier this week. "Well, yeah, I knew," he said. "When I saw the supplies out."

How cool is that? In previous months, he's been able to tell because he feared for the safety of varioius parts of his lower body. This month, he knew only because there was a tampon box out on the counter. And I'm calm the rest of the month as well. Not like comatose calm. I'm my usual knee-bouncing, idea-hamstering self, if not more so. But I feel like I can handle almost anything. Instead of begging Em to go visit friends, I've got hoards of them swarming through my house again--even as I make latkes or prepare for Chanukah. We've even had kids sleeping over here two nights in a row, and sharing in our Chanukah celebration, and I've not only dealt, I've enjoyed it.

But some of the stuff that's been going on is clearly therapist-related. Like, for instance, this new thing I'm trying out with Baroy. It's called communi..something. Instead of just stewing and getting anxious and resentful and rolling my eyes when he does something that upsets or annoys me, I've been talking to him. Not arguing with him, or blaming him, or tearing him down. But actually talking to him. And I'm pretty sure that comes out of the moment when, after I'd been complaining about him for quite a while to my brand-new therapist, she said in a somewhat bemused voice, "Please, tell me something good about Baroy right now." At the time, I was merely embarrassed, but I realized, later, how frequently I forget to do that; how I assume that it's a given that I love him and that he has some very strong points. And that I need to stop assuming, including when I talk to him.

And so, we've been talking, sharing, even giving each other advice. We've been commiserating. I'm sure it's not the easiest thing in the world for him; he's been hearing about how I wish I could stay home without worrying, and he knows that he's what stands in the way of that. But we've talked about it as two people who are both working towards the same goals, not as two people blaming one another for the place they're in. I told him that I'm trying to work out an exit strategy, or even just a way to cut back my hours as much as possible before I lose benefits. And he understands that I need to do this, and is helping me figure out some of the budgeting issues involved. At the same time, I've told him that I'm not going to do anything right away, and when I do, it's going to be a reasonable plan that allows for us to continue to live in our house and eat at the same time.

So I may not be having sudden epiphanies, flashes of light and insight. Instead, I'm doing a much slower burn. But it's working. It's warming me up. And that's good. Because I've been cold for an awfully long time.

Friday, December 10, 2004


I'm done with worrying about what choices I do and don't have. After an hour with my therapist this week, I realized that it's all semantics, anyway. If I feel stuck, I have to unstick myself. And so I've spent the past few days considering options and setting goals. A pretty impressive number of goals, if I do say so myself. (And yes, before you ask, I do know that excessive goal-setting, especially when coupled with a possibly inflated sense of your ability to achieve said goals, is a sign of mania. Shut up.)

Here's the deal:

I think I could achieve the best-possible balance between goals and reality by trying to freelance once again. (I've done it twice before, so I know the downsides quite well.) It would let me be home with the kids, but still bring in a nice amount of cash, if things work out. When I would be in a position to actually do this is still up in the air. But having it as an ultimate goal for now, barring Baroy getting a six-figure job that's in a secure industry, seems the most realistic thing to do.

So, I need to start. And I think the first step I need to take is to figure out how much money I really need to make if I were on my own/freelancing to keep us afloat. How much would health insurance cost us, especially with my mental health issues, and N's medical history, filled with cardiologists, endocrinologists, x-ray series, pneumonia hospitalizations, failure to thrive diagnoses, and more? Will it be possible to even get us insured? Or will the whole concept that I can work towards working from home fall apart right there?

I need to figure out how much money I could bring in by freelancing. This would involve a conversation with my boss. She knows I'm unhappy, and I think--though I'd make no guarantees--that I could work a deal with her that would allow me to do an awful lot of work for her each year. I obviously can't have this conversation with her until I'm a lot further down the road, but on the other hand, I can't get too far down the road without having the conversation. So it's a little bit of a Catch 22. The good news is that she's a friend, and she understands me, and so I really could talk to her about it in the abstract without saying that I'm actually giving notice or that I'm planning on giving notice any time soon. I don't think it would hurt me to talk about it. I doubt it would help, but then again, you never know.

I need to figure out how much money I could save by not working in an office. You know, gas, lunch expenses, work clothes, that sort of thing. Plus, I need to figure out how much money I can cut from our budget and still be able to work freelance. Like, for instance, cutting out Em's twice-a-week aftercare, moving N to a near-by preschool program and maybe cutting him down to three days a week if I don't have that much work right off the bat, etc.

Of course, I also have to think about what I'd be losing, such as my killer 401K plan, and free college educations for my kids. That, right there, threatens to sink the whole ship. But that's what this is all about. Weighing options. Considering. I haven't decided to quit my job. I've just decided to stop whining about it and try and see if there's something I can do about it. And if I can't, well, then I can't. But at least I gave it a shot, right?

As part of all this, I also started thinking about what I want to be when I grow up. Yes, I know, I've made it pretty clear that I'm a writer, and that IS what I want to be. Which is a nice thing, all around, especially since I've developed an incredible network of people who can keep me busy if I eventually do decide to take this leap.

But I needed to be more specific. And the more I thought about it, the clearer it became. I want to write more books. And I want to do more writing of a personal nature. And so, toward that end, I did two things yesterday. I revisited that book-series proposal that's been languishing on my hard drive for a couple of months now, and I vowed to keep at it until it's ready to be sent to my eager-to-see-it agent. And then I started writing a book. A memoir of sorts. Its working title? Prey: The Story of a Stalking.

Now, if you're wondering, no, I have no delusions of grandeur here. I will work at it, as often as I can. And I will, if and when it's completed, send it to my agent. But I've made myself no promises about it, beyond that I'm going to give it a real shot. Because this is the kind of writing I want to be doing. This is the kind of writing I think I could be very good at. Tamar disagrees with me and my pronouncements that I'm not cut out to be a fiction writer, though I yearn to take a shot at a novel, but I think I have a pretty good idea of what my talents are, and what they aren't. And while I can write well, I can't create well. So this is my compromise. A self-indulgent compromise, to be sure. Putting effort into a book aimed at a market so overly saturated with similar offerings is not-quite-but-almost pure lunacy. Still, if it gets it out of my head and onto paper? If it works as catharsis and nothing else? I think I'll consider it a choice well made.

And so, there you have it. Perhaps my most mundane post to date. But it's a plan. It's not a 'pity me' whine. And it's not a 'beat on Baroy' request. It's just some thoughts about ways to get me from point a to point b at some point in the future. With my husband by my side, and with my family intact. Because without that, point b isn't worth diddly to me.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Blogging for Books #6: My Life As Sitcom

I am about to flout Jay's rules. Haha! Check me out, kids, I'm a 40-year-old soccer-mom suburb-living rebel!

But it's necessary. Because he wants me to tell you all about how my life could be a sitcom. And my life right now is not even remotely funny. Which is not to say that I never smile, or laugh, or have fun. But I know living in a sitcom. Living in a sitcom was a friend of mine. And you, current life, are no living in a sitcom.

And so, let me take you back a decade or so...[insert those Wayne's World wavy lines indicating a flashback]...

It's the fall of 1994. Baroy and I have been dating for about six months, and I've taken a voluntary layoff so that I can stay in Los Angeles to be with him. When he asks me to move in, I'm delighted...and a little nervous. Because while Baroy lives in a huge, gorgeous, dirt-cheap apartment in the gayer-than-gay part of West Hollywood (think beautifully landscaped lawns and beautiful men everywhere you turn your head), he doesn't live there alone. And therein lies the premise of our sitcom.

Let me introduce you to our cast, shall I?

First, me. TC. 30 years old. Living without a net for the first time in her life.

Baroy. 38 years old. Up to his ears in debt and making less than $10 an hour writing scenes for a guy who runs acting workshops.

M. Mid-30s. Actor, dancer, singer. Broker than broke can be.

G. Also mid-30s. Director, actor, singer. Also broker than broke can be. M and G are a couple, and share one of the apartment's three bedrooms.

Mo. I have no idea how old he was; probably around Baroy's age, but who cares? The outcast. A hugely overweight man with a penchant for walking around without a shirt on, a set of dentures he frequently clicks in and out of his mouth while talking to you, a nasty habit of 'borrowing' stuff without asking permission, and a sometimes-job in the porn industry, writing scripts. (Yes, they have scripts. Or so Mo claimed. We were unsure.)

So there we were, the five of us--the heterosexual couple, the homosexual couple, and the guy neither side wanted. I was the only girl. Except, of course, for my best friend (a lesbian) and her partner, who dropped in from time to time to somewhat even things out. Also in the supporting cast is D, Baroy's best friend, a big-band leader and small-plane pilot with whom I categorically refused to fly, citing Glen Miller, Buddy Holly and that La Bamba guy as my excuse. Oh, and A, piano-bar player, who claimed to be in competition wth me for Baroy's love.

There is no way to describe some of the moments we all shared, no way to capture the look on Mo's face one night, as he was trying to impress D with tales of his success in the porn industry, and Dan shut him down with, "Oh, yeah, you're a regular F. Scott Fitzgerald. How many h's are there in oooooohhhhhh, anyway?" There's no way to put into words Baroy's reaction when he opened the door one day to a porn actress wearing a (barely) half shirt that said "Fuck me" on the front. And certainly no way to put into words his body language when she began to walk down the hallway to Mo's room and he could read the back of the shirt: "Fuck me again."

There were moments so stereotypical it would be hard to pull them off without them becoming cliches, like the night Baroy and I were walking home from dinner when there was a Barbra Streisand concert on on HBO, and literally two out of every three houses on our street was blaring it. There was the night that M was mugged just in front of our house (well, actually, he was rejected by the muggers, who looked at the handful of change he was carrying to go get a pack of cigarettes and threw it back in his face, laughing at him; M later said that was way more humiliating than actually being mugged), and the West Hollywood police came by, and EVERY SINGLE NEIGHBOR came out of his house to see what he could do to help, because the West Hollywood police are nothing if not hunky. There were the constant "who's gayer" competitions between G, the least gay gay man I've ever met, and Baroy, the gayest straight man I've ever met. Baroy inevitably won.

The night Baroy and I got engaged, we came back to the apartment and woke G up to tell him. He sat up with us into the wee hours of the morning, celebrating. M was out of town with a road show, and when we called him to tell him, the first thing he did was ask to talk to Baroy. I could hear him yell from across the room. "What, you couldn't wait until I got home to ask her?" (That moment turned out to be somewhat prophetic: Almost two years later, when I went into labor with Em--having already asked M to be her godfather--he was again on the road. He hopped onto a plane and made it to the hospital within minutes of my giving birth. He's never forgiven me for not waiting until he got home.)

M took me shopping for my wedding gown, watching me prance around half-naked in dressing rooms up and down Melrose Place (though we ended up buying the first one we saw, because his eye is THAT GOOD), and then did the alterations for me. At our wedding in New York (we had two; one in NY and one in LA), G was one of Baroy's groomsmen, and M was one of my bridesmaids. When the very Italian, very New Yawk matire 'd tried to get him to stand on the groom's side, M said, "No, I'm not on the groom's side. I'm on the bride's side." The guy turned to Baroy, eyebrows raised. "Well, see, we're from California," Baroy said, "and..." The matre 'd raised his hand. "Oh. That explains it," he said.

We all moved out right around the time Baroy and I got married. Things with Mo had deteriorated seriously, and we were all making enough money that we didn't need to share expenses any more. But, to be honest, I rue the day we left. As much as I love my kids and my friends and my house right now, that was by far one of the best times of my life. M, G, Baroy and myself had a major four-way love affair going on. As M slurred to me one night, presenting me with a rose as we celebrated his birthday at A's piano bar, "If you only had a penis, I'd marry you." The feeling was mutual--except, of course, for the penis part.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

More Choices Than I Thought

I need to respond to some of the comments on yesterday's post, but first, I need everyone to sing along:

Happy pub-date day to you,
Happy pub-date day to you,
Happy pub-date day dear TC's book,
Happy pub-date day to you!

Oh, and also? Everyone needs to wish me a Happy Chanukah. This is the time to stop lurking and let me know you're reading. Besides, I don't want to jinx it yet, but there is a small, small chance that I'm going to get through this holiday season without blowing a gasket over some real or imagined holiday-related slight. I'm doing Chanukah at Em's school tomorrow, and had a wonderful talk with her teacher about it. N's preschool has a Chanukah display up this year, before even doing their Christmas stuff. My boss just put up a menorah in our office. I hate to admit it, but I'm feeling awfully suffused with holiday spirit. Heck, I even wrote a note to my local supermarket, thanking them for putting up such a nice (if small) Chanukah display. I know! Who the hell is this girl? And what did she do with TC?

OK. Enough Miss Nice Gal. Back to complaining about my life.

Half of the people who responded have argued this point with me in real life, but it seems unfair to let it go unaddressed just because they know how I feel about it. What I should have said in yesterday's post and didn't, both for the sake of brevity and because I wasn't sure it was relevant, is that I think that a lot of people's reactions to Baroy not working--including my reaction to Baroy not working--is hypocritical in the sense that they would not have that reaction to my not working. Very few people would question a stay-at-home mom's right to stay at home, even if her husband was semi-miserable (and that's really all I am; in fact, that's probably stretching it) at his job. I even said as much to my therapist, and she did agree. The only/main difference is that both of us, Baroy and I, are miserable with the situation as it is. He WANTS to be the breadwinner; I want to be at home. He resents the fact that the money we have is mostly 'mine,' and that I can reasonably question his spending of it. I resent the fact that he spends my money. ;-)

Oh, I hear you screaming, I know he's not a stay-at-home dad by any stretch of the imagination, so the whole you-wouldn't-say-that-if-the-tables-were-turned argument is a little bit forced. But the main reason he isn't a stay-at-home dad is my choice. I'll own up to that one. Yes, we put N in preschool/daycare five days a week, from 8 until 6. But Baroy would watch N all day every day if I told him he had to. However, then he would bring in no money at all, because his current consulting gig requires him to basically be able to run down at a moment's notice to attend script meetings, rehearsals, etc. And, besides, he's a loving father, and a very good man, but he doesn't really want to be a full-time caregiver. So I choose to spend the extra $600 a month to put N in daycare. We have it right now. When we don't, we'll cut him back to three days a week, or take him out altogether.

And, yes, Em is in aftercare at school twice a week. That's about $100 a month. Again, we can afford it, and it lessens the load on me; Baroy tries to schedule meetings for those days so that I don't have to worry about making alternate plans for her when he has to go to work. Again, my choice. Although the truth is, she's not so crazy about it, so I'm actually thinking of pulling her. But that's another post. And Baroy will have no problem with it, because she's easy to care for after school, and since nowadays finding people to take her home for a playdate is really quite easy if he has a meeting. (My girl is a social butterfly; she puts her mom to serious shame.)

OK, so I guess that, yes, I made a lot of choices to get to where I am. But right now, right this minute, I believe my choices are limited. You all have made me realize that I'm not without choices altogether; as Susanna said, I could just tell him to get a job or I'm out of here. Except I don't want to be out of here. And he's bringing in enough money these days to keep us out of trouble. Just not enough to get me out of my office. And, to me, that's not worth divorcing over.

Susan asked if I could get him to defer his dream for a few years. Baroy will turn 50 in October. His career choices are extremely limited. There is simply no way he could make what we need him to make to keep us in our house, much less put food on the table, by just taking 'any old job.' Not to mention that he's had just enough intermittent success, and is constantly being told that if he hangs on there's more to come, that he's been positively reinforced to just keep going and trying to be who and what he wants to be. Me? Well, I don't like my job, but that's because it keeps me from being a stay-at-home mom. It's close enough to what I love to do, and my boss gives me time to do that stuff I really want to do, like write a book. I guess in a way it's true that I'm just a big whiny baby. It's not like I'm living in a torture chamber.

So I guess it comes down to this: I'm resentful of a situation I don't necessarily have a "right" to be resentful of. OK. That still leaves me with the resentment, just laden with a nice dollop of guilt for having the resentment. That's not necessarily useful, if you know what I mean. Which is why I need to learn how to deal with the resentment of not having the life I want, whether or not it's logical, whether or not I have the right to be resentful. And that's part of what I need the therapist for. And, of course, you guys. Because you've already taken me halfway there, I think, by getting me to type this all out and realize that I do have choices, I just don't like them. So carry on. I find all this talk about me just fascinating...it's this closet egomaniac's idea of heaven.

Monday, December 06, 2004


I've been spending a lot of time this past week semi-obsessively pondering something my therapist said to me. I was bitching and moaning about how trapped I feel, how much I want to work from/stay at home, how much I resent the position I'm in, etc., and she said that I needed to stop seeing my situation as something beyond my control, but rather as a choice I've made.

I protested. After all, we can't really run a household with NO steady income, right? Someone has to work. Someone has to provide. And Baroy won't or can't do it.

Well, she countered, that's not entirely true. You can survive on no steady income; you just don't survive in any kind of lifestyle you'd be willing to have. Plus, if you quit your job to stay home, it might just put Baroy in the position of HAVING to get a real job. It's your choice not to do that. And because you're making that choice, you can't resent Baroy for it. You're doing it to yourself.

Semantically, that's an argument I can totally accept. Realistically, I'm not sure. I don't want to say it's bullshit, because it's clearly not. But there are two main problems with it, as far as I'm concerned.

For one, I don't think it's a choice. Not now, at least. Not with two children in the picture. Doing something that could render us homeless in a fairly short period of time may be something I could choose by definition of the word choice, but it's certainly not a real choice.

The time when I could think only about myself, and make choices based on that, is gone. Yes, it was a choice to have children. Fine. But that choice is made, and can't be undone. (Not that I would. Not in a million years. The mere thought is heartbreaking.) And that means that now all the so-called choices I supposedly have to make aren't really choices. Because most of the options aren't really options.

Let me see if I can make my undoubtedly twisted line of logic a little more clear here. If you think of everything you ever do as a choice, yes, I have a lot of choices I can make on a daily basis. I could actually strangle Baroy during one of our arguments, I suppose. I mean, I do have to make a choice not to, right? But, really, it's not a choice. Not a real choice. Just as choosing not to feed or house or clothe or educate my children aren't real choices. They're not really available to me. They are in theory, but they're not in reality. And with that in mind, choosing not to work any more is not a real choice. Because feeing, housing, clothing and educating my children wouldn't be possible soon after making such a 'choice.'

Which brings me to the second part of my issue with my therapist's assertion: the idea that, if it is a choice, I can no longer resent Baroy because of it.

That, I can only laugh at. I mean, let's say that I eventually accept the argument that I'm making a choice by continuing to work. That still doesn't mean that I'm not being coerced into making that choice. It's not a free choice. It's a choice based on the needs and expectations of others. And yes, I resent that. Mostly, I resent Baroy, because he has the means to get me out of here. Or, at he has the theoretical means. (He's a playwright and TV writer; stable jobs are few and very far between.) But sometimes, yes, I resent the kids--or, rather, their needs and the way those needs bind me to my job. I wouldn't want it any other way, of course--I love them, love caring for them, love being a mother. Hell, that's why I'm so resentful in the first place, because I want more time to be with my children, to be a mother. It's kind of ironic, if you think about it.

And so, the whole idea that making a choice then prohibits me from being resentful about its consequences is beyond me. I can do both, easily. Is it immature? Sure. Is it illogical? Certainly. Is it hypocritical? Absolutely. But is it impossible? Absolutely not. The question is, how do I get past it? And here's a hint: The answer is not "because you have no right to feel that way."

N is Funny

N is still doing a near-daily 'processing' of Zaboo and Pumpkin's grizzly death. This morning, as has become near-habit, he suddenly announced, "Zaboo and Pumpkin got eaten by an-mohs, right Mommy?"

Not wanting him to blame all 'an-mohs' for his bunnies' death, I said, "Yes, but do you know what kind of animal ate Zaboo and Pumpkin?"

"Yes, I do," he replied proudly. "A zebra and a horsie."


Friday, December 03, 2004

Answers and Solutions

I simply cannot thank you all enough for your responses to my last post. No, seriously. Because sometimes you get so entrenched in a point of view, and then you listen to other points of view and realize, hey, that could work, too! And it's so simple!

First, a couple of answers to questions your all raised:

Susanna, I wrote that about not wanting people who don't know Em not to get a negative impression of her, because I was about to detail the fact that she's been lying and sneaking, and I wanted to be clear that that's not how she usually is, and also that that's why I'm so concerned about it.

Ambre, Baroy may be a 'challange' in many ways, but actually, he's not a junk-food eater. He is, on the other hand, a nosher (for those not fluent in bastardized Yiddish, that means a snacker), and that's why the idea that I've decided to adopt is so perfect for us. Because, before, I had these rules for the kids that they saw their father flagrantly disregard; now, I'll be able to make it all mesh.

Oh, and I did get a big laugh out of this. When I forwarded Baroy the comments so that he could see why I was about to do a 180 on the house rules, he got all mock-offended at you saying he was a snacker (remember, this is Body Dysmorphic Boy), and said, "Hey, she can't blame me for the sweeet tooth. Now, if Em had a scotch problem..." Hee!

So here's what I've decided to do. I'm bowing down at your collective feet, and have already emptied a drawer and filled it with the healthy snack foods in the house. I then made sure the fruit basket was full, and put it on the table. And then I peeled carrots and cut up other veggies, and put them in the crisper in my fridge. And when I bring Em home (in about ten minutes), and later when N comes home, I will show these to them, and tell them that they are welcome to eat any of it, and as much of it, as they want, and they do not have to ask, and it doesn't have to be at any specific time. (I am, however, going to hold firm on the "no food in front of the TV excpet on special occasions rule, because I believe in it.)

So, there you go. You've given me hope, and possibly saved my child from a lifetime of eating disorders. Don't you feel all warm and fuzzy and good about yourself? Well, you should.

Seriously. Thanks. I'll let y'all know how it's going once it really gets going...

Thursday, December 02, 2004

My Food Fiend

See that, over there? Way, way off in the distance? That's my rope. And I am so, so far past the end of it that...well...that I'm making bad, stupid jokes about it to start off this blog entry.

What put me here? Em, my 7-year-old daughter. She is such an essentially good kid, really she is. I wish I could express it properly, make it sing for you, because I'm about to rail on and on about her, and it should be prefaced with more than just the usual disclaimers. You should know ahead of time just how crazy I am about her. But I'm too tired, and too far from my rope's end. So I can't do that part true justice.

Here's the short version: Lately, Em has been lying to us, doing sneaky things, trying to get away with stuff. Tonight was the third time in a week that she's been sent to her room for trying to snowme. One of the three was fairly innocuous--she had slept over at a friend's house, and when we said she needed to take a bath that night, said that she'd had one at J's that morning. I asked if she'd also washed her hair, and she said "Yes," but shifted uncomfortably as she did it, and quickly succumbed to my mad interrogation skillz.

The other two were more troublesome. Both involved sneaking food. When she did it the first time, it was almost ridiculous. She spent some time in her room, we had a long talk, she made promises. Then came this afternoon, when I caught her, red-handed, stealing and then hiding a little bag of M&Ms under a pillow on the couch. When I pulled the pillow aside, I found another, empty, scrunched-up bag. I stayed calm, somehow, but did send her to her room while I got a hold on myself and my feelings, and I did cancel her by-then-just-about-to-start gymnastics class. And I talked with her--OK, OK, I talked at her. And then I handed her a pad and pencil, and told her to write what was going on in her head, because clearly, she was just parroting what she knew I wanted to hear while we talked, and we were getting nowhere.

About 10, 15 minutes later, she came out and handed me the following. And yes, the spelling is all hers:
I'm felling that I don't get enghf food. I gess when I alrety had a snak and I ask, you might get angery at me. I don't know why it is junk food. When I steal food I don't know what I feel. When I feel hungrey I seem to get scard and I don't know why. Maby I don't get enuph food at school or maby at snak. I don't know why I steal food. You and daddy semm like you don't want us to have verry much food. I know you guys want the best for us and don't want us to steal stuf. I should be setting a good exampul for N and I'm not. I hope N dose not grow up lik that. I want N to grow up to be a good child. So I hope this note will tell you how my fellings are. Love, Em
Yeah, I know. It totally killed me too. Especially the part about N. And the first thing I said to her when I went back in to talk it over with her was that she is NOT a "bad child," that she'd just made a few bad choices recently.

(Also, I feel the need to come to my own defense. When I asked Em about the "you and daddy seem like you don't want us to have very much food," she said she meant that we don't like her to have too many snacks. We really aren't abusing or starving the kids. Really.)

So I'm at a loss. Feeding is actually a parenting topic I've thought and read a lot about, and which I would have told you, just a week ago, that I had totally handled. But now? Not so much.

So here are my questions for you, dear reader: Is this normal? It doesn't seem normal to me. What strategies should I be using to stop it? The kid currently gets three good meals plus two snacks per day. I generally don't put limits on her intake, other than to insist she not eat in front of the TV and that she not panhandle for food in between meals and/or snacks. But the truth is, I never refuse her if she asks--I will almost always let her have fruit or veggies or something like that if she's really still hungry. So why has she resorted to a life of culinary crime? What have I done wrong? What do I need to do to make it right?

I Think I Need a Bandaid

Herewith, I give you some paraphrased-but-pretty-darned-close-to-exact snippets from my conversation today with my new therapist.

Scene setting: I'm telling the therapist about the conversation I had with my friends last weekend, and how they think I might be hypomanic/bipolar II. We discuss why it matters so much to me right now to not have this label. She asks me what I think. I ramble for a while, but in the end say that it's hard to tell for sure right now. I deny much in the way of hypomania, but admit to these relatively new, definitely deeper-than-ever-before depressions. I start to talk about some of the other situational forces in my life, such as Baroy's lack of a job and my desire to stay home, take care of my kids and do freelance writing.

Therapist: Yeah, I can understand how you might want time to do things like get involved in the PTA, and soccer, and...
Me, with a laugh: Well, I do all of those things already. I'm the newsletter editor for the PTA, a classroom volunteer, the Brownie troop treasurer, the soccer team's Team Mom...
Therapist: Hmm. (A one-beat pause.) And you don't see even the slightest bit of mania in that?

Ouch. And touche. And that's all I have to say about that.

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