Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Treasure Chest Cake

Treasure Chest Cake
Originally uploaded by Tiny Coconut.
I don't normally do this. Yeah, I once tried to make a castle cake for Em's princess party, but it wasn't as impressive as I'd hoped, though the blue jello "moat" with the graham cracker "bridge" was pretty cool.

This time, N's fourth birthday with the requested pirate theme, I was all set to do my usual ice-cream-photo-cake-from-Baskin-Robbins thing when my friend Deb sent me some link from Family Fun showing this totally cool-looking treasure chest cake. And after I finished cursing at her and muttering to myself about increased medication dosages and how clearly Martha's jail sentence hasn't convinced ANYONE that this sort of thing is just an entree to a life of crime, I decided I simply HAD to make it. And so, make it I did. And dayum. It came out so great! I just couldn't stop gazing at it, and even Baroy was totally impressed. (Cakes don't impress Baroy, who is Body Dysmorphic Man and pretends not to like or even eat things like cake. Except he loves cake. And he later complained about not getting a piece of this one. Serves him belatedly right.)

So, if all works well and this flickr thing does what it's supposed to do, somewhere here in this entry, I'm guessing right below these words, is N's (but really my) pirate treasure cake. Ta dah!

(Oh, yeah. And the party went well, too. I assume the kids had fun, but who knows? I was much too busy talking to my friends and pointing out the splendor that was the treasure chest cake to pay much attention to them...)

Friday, January 28, 2005

My Sixth Sense: The Sense of Self

I’ve seen a fair number of different doctors over the past couple of years, mostly in hopes of dealing with my mental health issues. And because one of the things I’m dealing with, especially with this latest episode, is depression, I’ve been asked the same question over and over: “Do you have thoughts or plans of suicide?”

My answer is always, unhesitatingly, “No. Never.”

Considering the depth of my depression and the severity of some of my other symptoms, this response usually elicits a raising of the head by the therapist or physician, and a narrowing of the eyes as they assess whether or not I’m hiding something. I’m not. It is completely true that I have never, not once, considered suicide. It literally never occurred to me. I’ve never even thought of it as an option, much less an attractive one.

That’s not to say that I haven’t been to dark places. There have been times when I’ve wanted to run away. There have been times when I’ve wanted to crawl under the covers and stay there indefinitely. There have been times when I’ve yearned to walk away from my marriage, and even times when I’ve wished fervently to no longer be a mother. But, through it all, no matter how dark or angry or lethargic I felt, I never wanted to stop breathing. I never wanted to stop being.

There’s another question in the depression inventory to which my answer is anomalous. It comes in the long list of symptoms:

‘“Do you ever feel irritated?”

“Constantly. Unbearably.”


“Oh, god, yes.”

“Do you have feelings of anger?”


“Do you have feelings of worthlessness?”

Pause. “No, actually. I don’t. No.”

Again, the raising of the head, the narrowing of the eyes, the quick assessment.

I’m not an overly egotistical person. Or, at least, I don’t think I am. I mean, I’m proud of some of the things I’ve done in my life. I enjoy knowing that I’ve written things people will read. I think I’m doing a fairly good job as a parent, and I like to think I’m a good wife and a good friend.

Still, I have plenty of esteem issues, including a serious case of Pretender Syndrome. I’ve spent most of my life waiting for someone to figure out that I’m not as smart as they thought I was, not such a talented writer, not such a quick learner, not such a good person. But there’s a huge gap between wondering if you’re really “all that,” and wondering if you have any worth. I know I have worth. I know that I contribute to the world. I know that I do have talents, and that I am bright, and that I do a good enough job at being a human being. I know that I try, and I know that that counts for something.

Having this fairly strong sense of self worth is probably what’s saved me from thoughts of suicide. I’m aware, no matter how deeply sad or deeply numb I am, that I have a value to my family, that if I were gone, they would not be happier for it, nor better off. I can recognize, even in my darkest places, that it would be selfish for me to do something irrevocable. I don’t think about this; I just know it.

But it wasn’t until all of those doctors and all of those quizzical faces that I even recognized any of this. Before that, if you’d have asked, I would have claimed to have the same sucky sense of self-esteem as anyone else. And certainly, next to my kids, I do.

My children each have a remarkably strong sense of self. When Em first started showing signs of this, it struck me as egotistical, even offensive, and my first instinct was to rein her in, cut her down a little. But then I realized that there were plenty of people in the world who would do that for her, and that the stronger her sense of self was, the more battering it would be able to withstand. And so I smiled broadly and said nothing that day when she was four and we were walking down the street and she announced, “I look so pretty today, don’t I, Mommy? I bet people walking down the street will see me and think, ‘Isn’t that little girl so beautiful?’ And seeing me will make them happy.”

If I’d known then what I know now, I’d have not only smiled, I’d have vociferously agreed, even pumped her up a little more. Because, damn, those little girls in second grade can undo an awful lot of good in an awfully short period of time with their nasty little comments and their nasty little attitudes. Still, that hasn’t stopped Em from announcing with some regularity, “That homework was no problem because I’m really great at math.”

So now I’m conscious of trying to help the kids recognize what’s special about them. I do that now with N, too, who likes to tell everyone what a ‘big helper’ he is to me. Yesterday, when I had laryngitis, he kept telling me to cough to “get your throat out.” (I always tell him to cough and clear his throat when he has a ‘frog in his throat,’ as we’ve always called it. He’s always amazed at the immediate disappearance of what he assumed was a major illness and/or catastrophe.) And so, this morning, when my voice was about 75 percent better, he said, “You all better now? You do the coughing and you all better?”

I smiled at him and said, “Yes. I am all better. And I need to thank you, because I don’t think I’d be all better if you hadn’t reminded me to cough and clear my throat. You really helped me get better.”

He was literally beaming, his face shiny and bright, his smile huge. “You’re welcome, Mommy,” he said.

Take that, all you preschool boys who one day might torture my son because he’s so much shorter than you. Take that, you genetic predisposition to depression and bipolar disorder. You may have the upper hand, but my kids are going to be well armed. They’re going to be ready for you.

And I’m going to be watching their backs.

Thursday, January 27, 2005


I’m sick. That awful, soul-sucking, mind-robbing kind of sick. A cough, stuffiness, aches. But none of them so severe as to be incapacitating. Just completely and totally annoying.

It started on Monday; we were out at dinner for my birthday, and I suddenly just wanted to go home. I was in a crappy mood, and there was absolutely no reason for it. By the time we got home, it was clear that my head was filling up with mucus, so I went to bed, and woke up, Tuesday, feeling like I hadn’t slept a wink. That was it. I called in sick, and have been home—except for having to do about a bazillion chores and deal with child issues, etc., etc., etc.—since.

Yesterday, the cold moved into its second phase: laryngitis. Which was very weird, because yesterday was N’s fourth birthday. And four years ago, yesterday, I also had a cold. And laryngitis. A terrifying combination when your baby’s heartbeat suddenly disappears altogether just as you’re about to start pushing, and you’re rolled into an OR, prepped for a c-section and opened up in about five minutes tops, because you realize that you’re flat on your back, you can’t breathe, you’re not sure the epidural has taken completely, they’ve tied your arms down and they’re starting to operate on you with sharp knives and other implements of torture, and YOU CAN NOT SPEAK! No matter what is about to happen—if you drown in your own snot or you pass out from unanesthetized pain—you can’t tell anyone. And your husband, ostensibly there to hold your hand, is of no use, because he’s open-mouthedly watching them eviscerate you in an attempt to bring your son into the world alive. Can’t blame him, really, but still. I’ve never felt so helpless in my entire life.

Of course, none of what I most feared came to pass. N was born at 3-something in the afternoon that Friday—despite the fact that Baroy told the moyel he was born after 5, so that we could have the bris on a Saturday...hopefully, only Baroy will pay for that one when the religious retribution comes down, since I was completely out of it for all that stuff. And he was fine, and he was healthy, and he was absolutely beautiful. And he still is, today. With a very large dose of Personality on top of it all.

What can I tell you about N at four years of age?

He has a passel of imaginary friends. At least a dozen, though I can’t name them all. I do know about Baaa, Baby Baaa, This, That, Little Bit, Silly, Meow, Ruff and Tweak. They each have their own voice, and they ‘speak’ through N. I keep having to remind myself that imaginary friends are good, imaginary friends are normal, my son is not turning into Sybil. But it’s hard to keep in mind when you ask a question like, “How about we go to the park to play?” and the response you get is, “OK!” “Yep!” “I like that!” “Me too!” “Yay!” etc., etc., etc., each said in a different voice.

And the scary thing? He never gets them mixed up. He knows that This talks in a baby voice, while That talks in a whisper. He knows that Little Bit has a high voice and that Silly mostly just giggles maniacally. Come on. That would freak you out a little bit, too, right?

He’s really very smart, much smarter than I’ve given him credit for. He’s starting to recognize certain words. And he has a very strong number sense. He can read all his numbers, is learning to read a digital clock, can do simple arithmetic on his fingers, can count as high as he wants in English (though he refuses to admit to the existence of a number 15), can count to 13 in Spanish. Yesterday, he was watching Dora the Explorer, and they were counting stars in Spanish. He counted along: uno, dos, tres, plato (quatro), cinco, seis, siete, then turned to us and said, “Seven. That means seven stars.” Didn’t have to recount in English, mind you. Just knew that there were seven. I thought that was pretty cool.

He has very obvious crushes on girls, in particular on several of Em’s friends. They love it, and totally play into it. Baroy and I keep commenting that he’d better enjoy it now, because when he’s 13 and they’re 17, they’ll treat him like pond scum, if they bother to acknowledge his existence at all.

He is one of the best natural ball players I’ve ever seen, a fact made ironic by the also-fact that he’s the size of a small two-year-old. He can reliably hit a pitched ball, throws a football in a perfect spiral, loves to use a golf club to hit balls at targets around the yard. We’ve never taught him ANY of that. He just picked up a bat, correctly, the very first time he saw one, and started swinging away. He can accurately dribble a soccer ball, and is working on dribbling a basketball. I can’t wait to get him into t-ball or soccer. He’s going to love it.

And he’s just such a loving kid. Mama’s boy, for sure. He brings me flowers to put in my hair so I can be pretty. He rubs my back when it hurts. He gives hugs, and still likes to be carried, and kisses me all the time. And he likes to cuddle up inside my arms every night, until we (all too often) both fall asleep. I am totally smitten by him...when I’m not about to tear my hair out over how annoying he can be. But that’s a post for another day, not for his birthday post. For today, he’s all sweetness and light and Bambi-eyed adorableness. Which he is.

I love that kid.

Monday, January 24, 2005

You Can Never Have Too Many Books, Especially When They're Your Own

Baroy and I went out last night with our friends M and G for what we realized was our 11th annual celebration of my and G’s birthdays. (He’s three years and four days older than me.) We went to a steakhouse in our neighborhood (which was delicious), so M and G met us at our house beforehand, and we did our exchange of gifts there.

They handed my gift to me, and said it was ‘themed.’ First was a list of great quotes from writers, then was a Cross pen (which, believe it or not, I’ve never owned before), and then was five copies of my book.

“We couldn’t believe it when you told us back before Christmas that you hardly had any copies of your own book,” they said with glee. “So we spent the whole day today going around to bookstores. Most of them were either sold out or only had one copy left. So we ended up going to five different cities and buying out your book in bookstores there, and making sure each one knew to restock.”

They were grinning, so proud of themselves.

Baroy and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. We couldn’t help it. M and G looked at each other, puzzled, and then G said, slowly, “Oh, no...”

“Come with me,” Baroy said.

He led them into our family room/office, to the floor-to-ceiling bookshelf he had built there last year, and simply pointed to the top shelf. There sat most of the 30 copies of my book that my publisher sent me just a few weeks ago.

“Oh, no,” G said again, and then started to laugh.

“Oh, no!” M said, and joined him. “I can’t believe this!”

“Oh, please,” I said. “This is by far one of the sweetest presents I’ve ever gotten, ever.” And I picked up one of the copies they had bought for me, twisted open my new Cross pen, and wrote:

To G and M, my family, my friends. With love and gratitude,

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Let Him Suffer?

Baroy has been having a very hard time lately. It's not really fair for me to talk too much about Baroy and his inner turmoils here, because not only isn't this his blog, but he doesn't read it, and he wouldn't be able to correct my misconceptions. But on the other hand, his hard time has an impact on me, and that is something I do want to talk about. So...here's what I'm seeing or perceiving, and here's what the impacts of those perceptions are.

For the first time in a good two years, Baroy is not only not working, but has no immediate prospects, nothing "coming up." It's making him very sad, very unhappy. I keep trying to buck him up, but it's not really working.

See, I used to often complain--in real life, not here--about my underemployed husband, and the stress of being the sole wage-earner, and the financial difficulties we had because of it. And those complaints, some of which were voiced directly to him, have obviously stuck with him. But it's no longer the case. It's been a good two years in terms of his having income, with some truly stellar months in there. And so we're OK for now. Even moreso because I got paid for my book last year, and will hopefully have some royalties coming in at some point in the future, and because I'm currently doing a whole bunch of fun and interesting freelance work for a very good friend, and that is more than making up for the money Baroy is no longer bringing in. Not to mention that he's still eligibile for unemployment benefits, I think.

Still, that doesn't seem to be sinking in with him. Or, rather, I think that he's using it as an excuse to be frustrated and depressed about having nowhere to go and--more critically--nothing to do each day. I think in the past couple of years he's gotten used to having work, something that wasn't true in the preceding eight years that I've known him. And so, while back in the old days he would have just filled up his week with movies and golfing and buiding stuff for the house, now he's combing job sites and sending out resumes and such. All of which is good, even wonderful. But when he's done, he is mostly sitting around obsessing over the lack of response, and sinking into his "dark place" whenever he's faced with an outright rejection.

I feel badly about this. He's going to turn 50 this year, and that certainly isn't helping his angst any. If he weren't such a stubborn fuck (and, of course, I mean that in the nicest possible way...), I'd suggest counseling. (He has decided he hates counseling, and therefore would be a reluctant participant, at best.) So instead, I suggest activities for him, most of which he's been shooting down in that way he has, where I will say, "Hey, why don't you start working on a new play?" and he says, in a depressed monotone, "Why? I already have five plays that nobody is interested in. Why would I write another one?" Oy. Forget I said anything.

I also keep assuring him that we're fine, that he doesn't have to worry about money, that right now we have a cushion, and we don't even have to cut back, so he should just look around for the right job, rather than obsessing because some completely wrong job doesn't call him in for an interview. But somehow he can't see that.

Yesterday, in therapy, I was talking about all of this, and how frustrated I am that I can't seem to get through to him that, for the first time, I really am handling it, I really am bringing in enough money for us to live on, and while any contribution he might make would be great, it's not essential like it's been at certain times in the past. I was talking about how badly I feel for him, how much I want to figure out the magic words that will lift him out of his funk and get him excited about something again. How much I want to solve this for him.

She listened, as therapists are wont to do, and then she said, "I have to tell you, I think this may be a good thing for him. Let him suffer. Let him feel what he's feeling, and let it push him or direct him wherever it will."

That stopped me cold. Let him suffer? In the past, when he never seemed to care all that much about my carrying the burden, or his not 'contributing' to the family funds, I would have said that I would relish the opportunity to watch him suffer a bit, in the hopes that he'd give up this crazy dream of being a playwright or a television writer or whatever, and get a 'real' job, something with security. But then he proved that he can make it work. And he was so happy doing what he's been doing. So confident in himself. It was nice to see. And now, I want to see that again. I don't want to see him suffer. I don't even want him to give up on his dream. But I can see her point. Maybe what he really needs now is a little tough love, or at least a laissez faire attitude from me, rather than having me make it all right for him.

Still, it hurts to watch him hurt. For years, I've felt guilty because I was aware that there was much less ferocity in my love for him than in my love for N and Em. But lately, I'm feeling that ferocious love start to build up again. It's not a maternal love, but the feeling of a partner, whose life will be changed--is being changed--by the other partner's misfortunes. We're a unit. And half the unit is sagging, being sucked down into darkness, and I can't do anything. I just have to let him suffer. Even if it feels cruel and mean and just plain wrong.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


The end of my long weekend started at around 6:00 last night, when N fell asleep on the couch, exhausted from a weekend of staying up too late and not sleeping in in the morning. Ultimately, I just had Baroy put him in his bed, and he didn't protest at all, and he slept through until the morning.

At the same time, Em was in her room poring over Teen People with her friend Jenny. (Yes, she's 7. Yes, I bought it for her. It had Mary Kate and Ashley on the cover! Shut up.) Baroy was listening to satellite radio and surfing the Web.

I was free. Free as a bird, yeah. And this bird you cannot change, ohwohwohwoh...

I decided to take advantage of this fact by taking a bath. A bath in the dark with about a dozen candles lit around me. A bubble bath. A very hot bubble bath. And to top it off, I brought up my computer and set my iTunes to play through my playlist.

A good hour later, when I finally emerged from heaven, Jenny had gone home. Em came upstairs and asked me about the music I was playing, which was nothing she'd really heard much of before, since she and her brother always dominate the music we play in the car, and Baroy (a fifties rock-n-roll junkie) dominates the music we play at home, when we do play music at home.

And so I brought my computer out into my bedroom, and went through it, playing her songs I thought might catch her fancy. We listened to James Taylor and Carly Simon belt out "Mockingbird." We twirled around the room to Van Morrison's "Moondance." I held Em and rocked and sang while we listened to Joni Mitchell sing "Circle Game." I played REM's "Happy Loving People," and Dire Straits' "Romeo and Juliet," and Elton John's unplugged version of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me."

And then "Freebird" came on, and I tried to explain to Em about rock versus rock-n-roll, and about Lynyrd Skynyrd and about the phenomenon that Freebird was when I was in junior high and high school. I tried to explain about the cigarette lighters, and how every local band did Freebird, and it was all we wanted to hear. But then the beat picked up. Oh, Lord, I can't chaaaaahange. Lord help me, I can't chaaahaaahaaaahaaaaange.... And I jumped off the bed, and began air guitaring, and leaping around the room, and tossing my wet hair all around, and Em got it then. She was jumping all over the bed and keeping up with me and laughing, laughing, laughing. And 14 minutes later, when the long-play version was over, we both collapsed, exhausted, on my bed, and she hugged me and said, "Play it again. Please?" But it was dinner time, and I needed to grow up and go downstairs and be a mom.

Still, I think I made yet another convert to the magic that is Skynyrd, and Freebird. And that's pretty good for the last few hours of a long weekend.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Positive Feedback

A woman I know from Em's school dropped me an email today. She's a mental-health professional, working with a mental health clinic part time. When she'd heard I'd written a book, she'd gone out of her way to buy it and, apparently, read it. That's why she was writing, to let me know how much she'd enjoyed the book, and how much she'd learned from it, despite having worked with many bipolar patients over the years.

She then went on to say that she'd been assessing the case of a woman who'd been working with the clinic for over a year on her major depressive disorder, and the woman I know had suddenly realized that this woman had several of the more subtle symptoms of mania and/or hypomania. And that, with any luck, this woman is now about to embark on a new treatment plan--a hopefully more successful treatment plan--because the woman I know had been put on the alert by reading my book.

OK. I can die happy now. Which is not to say that there aren't things that could make me die happier--like having the book actually sell a reasonable number of copies--but still. Making a difference. It's been my idealistic goal for the book since I first started thinking about taking it on. And now it's making some difference, no matter how small. And I think that that's pretty cool.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Everything I Never Thought I'd Be

That walk I took yesterday? It was, in some ways, a perfect example of how things have changed in my life, and how you should never say "I'll never be like that." I wish someone had warned me about saying stuff like that when I was young and stupid, though I guess by definition my inflated ego and deflated brain would have made it impossible to understand what that someone meant.

So, yesterday, there I was, trying to get in a walk on a busy Saturday. A long walk, one that would take at least an hour, hour-and-a-half. But when you're a busy, busy, busy lady, you can't just go for a walk. So I strapped on my iPod mini, loaded up with audiobooks (it's been a while since I've been able to plow through books like I like to, so I've decided to bite the bullet and have a few of them read to me), put my headphones on, and walked to the drugstore to pick up a prescription refill, laughing out loud at David Sedaris as I went. I then stopped at the grocery store on the way back to get a few last-minute dinner ingredients, dropped off a book at the library, and took some money out of the bank before hitting the hill back up to our house. In other words, I was a multitasking monster. And what was I thinking about (aside from how I'd like someone to walk with)? I was thinking that I wished I had a microcassette recorder with me, because I had a couple of ideas for a project I'm working on, and mentally kicked myself for not bringing my cell phone, so I could make a couple of necessary phone calls. Because, you know, actually being mindful of what I was actually doing was actually anathema to me.

Had I seen myself walking past 10, 15 years ago, I'd have rolled my eyes at me, and muttered to myself, "Why bother taking a walk on a beautiful day if you can't even pay attention to what you're doing?" And to some degree, I still agree with that. But if I were to wait until a moment when I could just fully and completely give myself over to a walk, I'd get to take one about once a month, once every other month. This way, especially with a destination in mind and a chore (or six) I can accomplish, I can do it a couple of times a week. Worth it, I think.

I remember once, as an arrogant ass of a teenager, I walked into a room where my mother and her friend were clipping coupon, and made a comment that went something like this: "If I ever wind up spending my weekends like you two, just shoot me." (I know. Don't you just want to shoot me for even saying it in the first place?)

If life were fair, I'd be riddled with bullet holes right now, considering that one of my relaxations these days is to sit down with the Sunday paper and clip out the coupons. There have been times when it wasn't just a helpful thing, but an absolutely necessary thing, and during those times, I've thought often about that comment, and about the ways in which karma bites you in the butt.

What else was I "never" going to do or let happen to me? Oh, yeah. I was never going to drive a minivan. Never going to be a soccer mom. Never going to work in PR. Never going to let my kids watch a lot of television. Never going to feed them sugary cereals. Never going to let my frustrations get the better of me. Never going to yell or lose control.

And how'd I do with those? Minivan: got it. Soccer mom: c'est moi. PR: my job. Kids: living in front of TV surrounded by bowls of Cocoa Puffs. Frustrations: definitely get the better of me. Yelling, losing control: on a fairly frequent basis, though less than before.

Never say never. Never say never. Never say never.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

This Is Why I Wish You Lived Nearby

It couldn't have been more beautiful here today. Perfect temperatures. The bluest skies. A slight breeze, just a kiss, no more. The hills were, truly, alive.

I took a walk today. A long walk. It felt so good. But I missed you. It would have been so much nicer to have you walking alongside me. We would have talked. About stuff. We'd have had one of those talks that meander along and take sudden twists and turns, but it's OK, because we'd have known we'd have plenty of time to go back to what we'd left unfinished. It would have brought us closer, though we wouldn't have said so. I'd have learned something new about you; you'd have made me laugh at an unexpected moment. We'd have discovered a single, secret semi-sin which we have in common, and from now on, we'd have that as a joke between us.

And when we got closer to home, we'd have looked at each other, slowed our steps for a second, and then one of us would have said, "Wanna just go up a couple of blocks more before we go in?" And the other of us would have said, "Hell, yeah." And we'd have walked a little more, and then stood outside whichever of our houses we got to first, tying off the loose ends of our conversation, making plans for another walk another day.

This is why I wish you lived nearby. Because it would have been a great day for a walk with a friend.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Walking the Walk

I have to say, I'm sort of proud of myself.

As I've learned over the last year and a half, woman cannot live by psychopharmaceuticals alone. They may have helped me regain my stability, but without effort on my part, nothing in my life was going to change. Nor did it. Therapy, on the other hand, has rocked my world. Or, at least, I think it's therapy. Because there's no other explanation for why I'm suddenly doing stuff. Stuff to help get me on track, to help make my life more manageable, to allow me to find satisfaction in what I do well, and to actually work to change what I do badly, as opposed to wallowing in anxiety and fear and anger.

It came over me slowly. I don't want to be someone else entirely, of course, but being able to suck it up and rise to the occasion, that's no small feat.

It started when I found myself telling Baroy how I felt about something he said or did within an actual reasonable time of when he did or said it. Heck, sometimes I even told him RIGHT THEN AND THERE. Impossible! Unheard of! How strange to not have all that resentment to carry around on any given day--or at least to have less of it. Even stranger to sometimes find myself proactively letting him know about things that might lead to issues between us, before they even happen. We will be married for nine years in March, and I personally think we are in one of the best places in our marriage we've ever been in. That does not suck.

I'm also proud of having gotten through the recent Return of the Stalker with a modicum of sanity, and a nearly complete lack of breakdown. I have felt and will continue to feel emotions that are ugly and dark, but I did not let them overwhelm me. I coped. My biggest fear, these past few years, was that the next time she appeared, my rection would make the last time look
like a textbook example of sanity. Frankly, I feared I'd wind up in a hospital, and that I'd be there for a long time. I didn't. I did better this time than last.

But there's a reason that I did better this time than last: There was help. I was already talking about it. I wasn't trying to hide it, get over it, until it was too big to be hidden or gotten over. Part of my fear has always been that I would mis-assess the threat, and let my guard down when it needed to be up. So I overcompensated. Now, I have professionals--several of them--to give me their opinions. And I have friends and family who know where I went to before, and are watching to make sure I don't go there again. And I have medication that helps to keep the door to "there" shut, though not locked. I have help. It's an incredibly healing thing to be able to say, and to know in my heart is true. I have help. I don't have to do it alone.

Yesterday, I took a few more steps--baby steps, but steps nonetheless--on this path to really taking control of my life and my dissatisfactions. See, on Wednesday afternoon, I walked into therapy and announced "My life is out of control. I need to go to a meeting of Overdoers Anonymous." My therapist laughed (which is always gratifying), then we talked about things to cut out, and I complained that I don't want to cut things out, I want to add things. I want to broaden my horizons and explore my hidden passions and enjoy my life more. I don't want to limit and back off from life. And while she agreed in theory, she did point out that, in principle, I simply can't manufacture extra hours in the day, and that I was sucking the fun out of everything else by piling too much on, and making fun things into stressful chores.

What, me? Suck the fun out of things? Well, I never...

Back to reality. I finally thought of one thing I would really like to give up--being the treasurer of Em's Brownie troop. And now that we have four new parents in the troop (we went from 8 to 12 kids this year), it's a perfect time to hit one of them up to do it. And so last night I told one of the other participatory moms that I'm out as of next year--i.e., September, when the troop starts up after summer break. That felt good.

Even better was the conversation I had with my boss earlier that day. Because that was the other thing my therapist had said when I talked about my plans for my future/career, and ways to get it more aligned with what I want to be doing. She said, basically, "what are you waiting for?" And I realized, yeah, what AM I waiting for? As it turned out, my boss had come to a similar conclusion, because she called me in to talk about my totally hodge-podge schedule, which wasn't working well for any of us. It was great, because I then brought up my (not in any way unvoiced) dissatisfaction with my job, and we brainstormed about ways my time could be put to better use, and I reiterated how much I like working for her, and she talked about how important I am to the department, etc., etc., huggy, huggy, huggy. (The funny thing? It's all true. On my part, at least. She may be snowing me, but who cares? I like this kind of snow.)

So, in the end, we did a compromise thingy where I will work 70% time, down only 10% from where I am, but freeing myself up on Monday afternoons, all day Wednesdays, and Thursday afternoons as well, with 9-hour days (no biggie) on Tuesdays and Fridays. The difference in pay will be more than obliterated by the freelance work I've taken on already (just this month's earnings from that freelance job will make up for 8 months of my not working 80% time), not to mention that we'll probably pull Em from her afterschool care program and, if we want, can pull N back to three days a week at preschool, and bam. The deficit is all but gone.

And that, my friends, is that. Like I said, I'm pleased. I feel good, but not too good, ifyaknowwhatimean. I feel in control. I feel sane. I am TC, hear me no longer whimper. Who knew that would be such a major deal for me?

Thursday, January 13, 2005

This Is For Deb

My friend Deb celebrated her youngest child's 4th birthday last Sunday with one of her impeccably planned parties. Except, that night, absolutely nothing went as planned.

It started with the rain. Sure, it's rainy season here in Southern California, but in the almost-dozen years I've lived here, I can't remember one like this. Rain for days on end. Torrents of rain interspersed with mists; fogs turning into hailstorms. It's bizarre. I knew Deb would be worried that no one would come to the party. She was wrong. They came all right. Lots of 4-year-olds, siblings, moms, and more. Right on time. Right around four. Exactly half an hour after the power at her house went out.

Poor Deb! At first I was sort of enjoying it, in a friendly meanspiritedness. I often tell Deb that I think she needs to learn to go with the flow, and just enjoy the moment, that sort of thing. And now she had no choice, since all of her party plans involved some input from the electric company.

Still, I also felt bad for her. She had some really fun things planned--a projected movie, iron-on scarves and blankets for the kids to do as an art project (with adult help of course), stuff like that. And then it all had to be scrapped. Not to mention, once the kids left the living room with its empty screen, the birthday girl's mood rapidly deteriorated. And Deb was scurrying around trying to get all these kids fed and entertained.

The good news is that our little group is such that all of the kids see all of the adults as parent figures. So I scooped up Little Miss and took her aside, and soon I had both she and N doing a "throw-your-head-back-and-laugh-in-the-face-of-adversity" thing, which cheered us all up.

The kids seemed to have a blast anyway, dancing around with flashlights, eating peanut butter sandwiches on this incredible rainbow-colored bread, and obliterating any semblance of order in the kids' playroom.

As anyone with a real sense of irony would have predicted, the electric company guys showed up to rectify the situation within ten minutes after the last official guest (since we consider ourselves to be family, not guests) had left. It was still pouring, and those poor guys looked so miserable out there. So miserable, in fact, that Deb's mom grabbed another friend and a bunch of slices of birthday cake, and decided to take it over to the guys. They waded out into the street, delivered their plates of good will and thanks, and then waded back to the house. Well, the friend did. Deb's mom? Not so much. The water was so high, it obliterated the curb, and she misjudged, tripping over it and going down, face first, onto the concrete.

I was standing in the kitchen with Deb when her friend came running in, yelling about calling 911. We both hesitated, totally confused, and then leapt into action. The various husbands, along with the cake-besmattered electric-company guys, had umbrellas over Deb's mom, and were checking to make sure she was conscious, etc. Deb called the ambulance. I gathered the kids and ordered them upstairs, not wanting them to see and hear the grownups freak out. As I explained what was happening in the most non-alarmist way possible, the girls in the room were all quiet and sad, looking at Deb's two girls to see if they were OK. One the other hand, the one boy in the room, 7-year-old J, was almost beside himself with excitement. "An ambulance? Really? Wow! Can I go see?" (It had to be explained to him, in no uncertain terms, that he was to stay upstairs and stay with his friend, whose grandmother was going to be taken away in that ambulance. He did it, but he clearly wasn't happy about it.) I couldn't help but laugh.

An ambulance ride, some x-rays, and a few hours later, Deb and her mom returned from the hospital. No concussion, not even any stitches, though she had some nasty gashes on her face, and a pretty banged-up knee. In the meantime, we'd had the birthday girl open her presents, which she did with grim determination, and not all that much real interest, and then--the lights back on, of course--showed the movie that should have been shown hours earlier. The kids loved it, actually, watching a show on a big screen right there in the living room.

The rest of the night was a blur. It was around 9 or so when Deb and her mom came back, and they sat for a while and looked at the presents and stuff like that, and then I, well, um, sorta, um...OK. I'll just say it. I decided it was my business to order Deb's mom around and tell her what to do. I don't know what possessed me. I mean, I know Deb's mom fairly well, but why I thought that made it OK for me to say things like, "No, that's not going to work. I'm just not comfortable with that plan," I simply don't know. At the time, I thought it was OK because I knew I was right, and she was making a big mistake. (She wanted to go back to her house and stay alone that night, and I just saw that as a recipe for disaster. This, despite the fact that this plan had been OK'd by the doctor at the ER, who has an actual medical degree from an actual accredited school and should therefore probably be considered to know more than do I, a person whose main medical claim to fame is having watched every episode of Marcus Welby, M.D.) In the end, I won out, and I supposed that's all that really matters, right? Because, after all, it is all about me. As it turned out, she really was fine, and could have been left alone. But I still maintain that she was better off safe but sorry. And Deb didn't really need her husband home with her that night, did she?

I do have to say, though, that I'm a little peeved. I mean, I have N's birthday party coming up in just over a week, and I've got nothing to measure up with Deb's party. Sure, I have pirate treasure chests and blow-up swords and such, but compared to blackouts and ambulances and bossy know-it-all friends, that's nothing. I mean, Deb's daughter's party may not have gone according to plan, but it was definitely one of those nights that you never forget.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Out with the Old...

When I finally called my therapist on the whole "inner child" thing--it was really getting on my nerves, and moreso because I truly didn't understand what she meant by it--it led to an interesting conversation. She basically tried to explain to me that all she meant was the part of me that still experiences life and feels emotions the way I did when I was little, and I was sort of forced to explain that while I can tell stories, many stories, about my youth, I really don't have a part of me that 'remembers' being who I was even ten or twelve years ago, before Baroy, before Em and N.

Now there's a big difference between remembering the hurts brought on by some 17-year-old guy's insensitive remarks about your body, which I have no problem remembering, and being able to actually feel, reach, be the person you were back then. I'm not even able to comprehend the concept, much less accomplish the task at hand.

Let me give you an example. I was never, by any stretch of the imagination, monogamous. Even in my longer-term relationships, of which there were a few, I always cheated. In my last relationship before Baroy--the seven-year-long waste of time--I was at my worst. From a distance, I have to laugh at myself for finding a way to be truly and fully outraged when he basically dumped me for another woman--his roommate, no less. (My explanation: I may have screwed around a bit--OK, a lot, a real, real lot--but I never fell for anyone else. He had the nerve, the gall, the insensitivity, to actually fall in love with his partner in whatever-you-call-it-when-you're-not-married-and-can't-call-it-adultery. I mean, really. How gauche.)

Then I got married, met Baroy, had children, lost my sex drive, managed somehow to screw up my neurochemical and emotional balance to the point where I require medication, and finally found my sex drive again. And in all that time, the almost-eleven years we've been together, not to mention the almost-nine years we've been married, not only have I never cheated, I haven't even considered it. This from a woman who has been known to cheat on the guy she was cheating on her boyfriend with.

Even stranger, I no longer understand why I did that. I can remember doing it, and I can smile a little at my old self, in an indulgent sort of way, laughing at her naivete. I can also frown a little, thinking about how little of a connection she must have had to these men with whom she was supposedly in love--how little she must have really known about commitment and what it meant. But I can't talk to her. I can't ask her questions. I can't get answers. And I certainly can't feel what that younger me apparently felt back then, that rush, the thrill of the conquest, the need for more.

I still flirt sometimes. I do it a lot less than I used to, and I do it for entirely different reasons. And it feels wrong, most of the time. Not like what I'm doing is wrong, but like I'm watching myself and thinking, "What in the world does she think she's doing? Who is she kidding? She has no interest in this, and man, it shows. And she used to be really good at this, too. What a shame. What a waste."

So what happened? It's not maturity. I've given up on having that particular attribute ever really apply to me. And it's not Baroy, though I would like to give him the credit. I really do think that it was simply that an off switch got thrown, and that was that. I went from Old Me--flirtatious, giggly, on the prowl--to Now Me. And Now Me stands by her man, for reasons she can't articulate. Now Me hasn't been attracted to anyone other than her husband in over ten years, despite the occasional lewd comment to the contrary. (And again, said lewd comments result in the same, "Who's she kidding?" tirade that flirting does. My inner critic is truly unrelenting.) Old Me dressed to get a man's attention; New Me cares way more about what her girlfriends think of her outfits than what her husband does.

That's not to say that New Me is some kind of Stepford Wife. New Me is simply a lot more content. Old Me constantly questioned what it meant to be "in love," whether it was even possible, and whether the concept of commitment was one she ought to buy in to. New Me doesn't wonder. She knows what it means to be in love, and she knows that it's possible, and she also knows that it has almost nothing to do with passion and keeping things "fresh," the way she used to think it did. New Me doesn't question the concept of commitment. She doesn't need to define it, because it's just something she does, something that comes naturally.

Old me probably thinks New Me is a loser and a sellout and, most of all, a bore.

New Me doesn't give a shit.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Remember...I'm a Writer

I've been working on a fairly emotional, strongly worded, sometimes self-pitying entry on and off all day today. But as I reread it, I feel like I need to preface it with something. This is that thing.

Writing a blog entry is not like having a conversation. It's not a give and take. There's no modulation of emotion based on the reaction of another. There is nobody here to interject another point of view, to show me when I'm going astray, to calm me down when I start to wind up.

And then there's another thing: I'm a writer. What does that mean here? Well, it means that this is my passion, this form of communication, this way of reaching out to people. When I start doing it--whether it's a press release on a new histone deacetylase or a blog entry on our trip to Big Bear--I do it as a writer. I listen to the words, listen for the voice that fits the story I'm trying to tell, and then I go with that voice, let it carry me. I'm looking to give you, the reader of my words, both information and emotion, in proportions that change depending on my subject. The information, that's usually as true as I can make it--perfectly true when I'm writing about science, subjectively true when I'm writing about me, but true to some degree. But the emotion? It's enhanced. It's me, wound up by myself. If I'm writing about feeling sad, I'm going to start drowning in it as I go. By the end of a sad entry, I'll be sitting here near tears, deeply into my own head. But I don't stay there. Two minutes later, when Em and N walk by pretending to be elephants, I'll break into an immediate smile. Thing is, you don't know that. You read that entry, and you worry about me, thinking I'm slipping back into a depression.

Or maybe you don't; maybe I'm just being egotistical. Wouldn't be the first time. Still, the message is the same: Read these entries as moments in my head, not days, not lifetimes. Read them as one part of what's going on with me, not as the sum total of me. I am sad or angry or whatever I'm expressing at the time. But I'm also joyful and excited and irritated and surprised and tired. Those are all filtered out to make my story purer, to make my point more clearly.

I'm a writer. If I do my job well, you'll feel what I feel. I just want you to know that it's not the only thing I feel. This is my life through a prism, and you're only seeing one color at a time. I, on the other hand, get to see the whole rainbow, spread out before me.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Call Me TC

I was nervous, walking into Tamar's the other day, New Year's Day to be precise. I've been there about half a dozen times by now, I've met (and have quickly come to adore) her mother, am among Damian's biggest fans (challenged primarily by Em), and think that Dan is a truly special man. So, why worry?

Well, for one thing, it was the second? third? annual LA-area bloggers' get-together. And while I'm a very gregarious person in general, I'm actually fairly shy when put into a situation where I know very few people. And I knew very few of these people. Not to mention I had my skeptical-about-this-whole-blogging-thing husband with me (as well as my unskeptical children, who were just excited to play with Damian), who came only because he really enjoys spending time with Dan. So I knew I'd be on my own with the whole small-talking endeavor.

My anxiety was misplaced, of course. There was an awkward warm-up period, but then I really enjoyed listening to all the gossip about fellow bloggers (almost none of whom I know anything about, but it's not news to me that I'm not really a 'part' of the whole blogging community), and the discussion of various political and social and personal issues.

The whole thing turned out to be really inspiring, to be honest. I got to talk to a few people for a fair amount of time. [This is where, if I were a better person, I would go and link each and every one of the extremely cool folks I chatted with, or who I only got to listen in on and butt in on occasion on their conversations. But I'm not a better person. I'm a tired person, who will have to do it some other time.] I got to hear some fascinating points of view. I got to watch The Mighty Kymm allow N to 'trick' her with Damian's snake-popping-out-of-the-after-dinner-mint-can trick about six dozen times, and if she wanted to strangle him, it didn't show even once. Plus, as I may have mentioned, I got to eat a bajillion homemade scones with clotted cream. (Have I mentioned, by the way, that I gained more than 7 pounds this holiday season? Oh, really? I didn't need to?)

So why did I call the experience "unique" the other day? You'd sort of have to be in my skin to understand, but suffice it to say that there is only one person in the world who actually calls me Tiny Coconut, or TC, or any derivation thereof, and that's my brother-in-law, who gave me the name in the first place. And so, while I've been writing as TC for a year and a half, and I've received countless emails as TC, it was truly bizarre to be in a room full of people who were actually calling me TC. And none of them had my brother-in-law's voice, and probably none of them really understood where it comes from (for that, you need to go to my second-ever post, back in August of 2003). And it just made me...I don't know. Not uncomfortable. Not upset. Just...Odd. And maybe a little guilty, I guess. Because my brother-in-law, who's one of my best friends, doesn't know about this site; I don't want him to. I know Baroy won't read it, because it makes him uncomfortable, the whole idea. But J, my brother-in-law, would not only read it, but feel compelled to comment to me about things I get 'wrong' or misrepresent or whatever. And I just don't need that.

So, all afternoon, I heard comments about where "TC" had gone, and voices saying things like, "What do you think, Tiny Coconut?" and it was just...unique. In the purest sense of the word. Like nothing I'd ever experienced before. I liked it, I think. I look forward to doing it again. But it was, indeed, a one-of-a-kind experience, especially this first time. Thanks for including me, Tamar.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

But I Don't WANNA!

Have I ever mentioned before how tired I am of having to work? Yeah, I thought maybe I had.

There are a lot of wonderful things about my job. It's not my JOB I despise. It's having to work. It's having to GO to work every day. It's not getting to do all the other things I want to do, but don't have time for. It's having to be a grown up. It sucks

One of the wonderful things about my job is that we get the entire week between Christmas and New Year's Eve off. One of the terrible things is that it's never enough time to do all the things I plan for it. My life is nowhere near as reorganized and in control as I'd hoped it would be by the time I went back. As if that were even possible, even with an entire year off. But still, a girl can delusionally fantasize, can't she?

On an up side, something very minor, but very cool, happened in my household this morning.

I was folding laundry, and had given Em her pile to put away in her room, which is one of her chores these days. N wanted to be a "helper boy," so I gave him his pile, and asked him to just put it on the floor in his room. About ten minutes later, he re-emerged, saying, "Mommy, I can't close my yellow drawer." I went in to help him, and noticed that the clothes were nowhere to be seen.

"Did you put your clothes away?" I asked.

"Yup," he announced with all the pride his not-yet-4-year-old body could muster.

"Where?" I asked with some trepidation.

And N began opening his drawers. He had, in fact, not only put his clothes away...but he'd put them in THE RIGHT PLACES. I was completely amazed. He truly is my big helper boy.

Finally, resolutions. I usually don't make any. But then again, I usually don't spend as much time as I have lately trying to literally force myself into taking action rather than simply bemoaning my fate. And so, I give you...my resolutions, and my permission to stop reading now if you're bored to tears by people's lists of resolutions.

1. Sign a contract to write another book.
2. Make significant progress on my 'memoir'--or, preferably, finish it.
3. Summon up the courage to begin an actual novel. It's time.
4. Finish and self-publish my family cookbook.
5. Exercise needs to be part of my life again. I miss running, but it may not be possible with whatever I've done to my knee. But that doesn't mean I can't do a lot of walking, or find something else that fits into my lifestyle and time constraints.
6. Continue on--or, rather, return to--my weight-loss journey.
7. Find time for my tatting and cross stitching, because even if they're old lady crafts, and even if they make most people's eyes glaze over, they make me happy.
8. Find time for reading. My goal: to finish reading 25 books this year. I don't think I finished reading five last year, and I miss it. I did have an excuse, but this year...no excuses.

Of course, I hope or want to do other things this year--like keep on with therapy, strive to be a better parent, friend, wife, employee, what-have-you--but those are my Official Resolutions for 2005. We'll see how I did in a year...

Saturday, January 01, 2005

The Fire

It's been cold in LA. Cold and wet. The dripping in my kitchen seems to have stopped, but then again, so has the rain, for now. Still, the chill remains.

So tonight, fresh from a truly unique afternoon at Tamar's (yes, I'll write about it, but first I have to digest it all--and that includes the 37 homemade scones with clotted cream I ingested), I put a few logs into the fireplace, and cozied up as close as I can without my kids freaking out that Mommy is going to suddenly combust. They're in bed now, and I've put the last of the dry logs on, and I'm feeling warm and full and vaguely satisfied, and I think when I'm done typing and surfing and thinking and wishing and wondering and considering, I'm going to pull my old-lady blanket from the quilt rack within arm's reach, and I'm going to curl up here and sleep for as long as I can before Baroy wakes up from his own spot on the couch, where he's currently tangled up in the throw my mom crocheted for us several years ago, and rouses me to come up to bed with him.

Yes, we do live life in the fast lane. If the fast lane never goes above 15 miles an hour, that is.

When I first sat down to write this, looking into the fire for inspiration, I had the vague idea that I was going to use it as a jumping off point to muse a little about this sort of peculiar, but highly satisfying emergence of heat in my almost-nine-year-old marriage. And yes, my friend, I was going to put a warning on it so that you--and you know who you are--would not have to be caught unawares by the sudden use of words like 'straddle.' But never you fear. I'm not going to go there. Still, I make no promises about what the rest of this post will now hold, because we're about to launch into uncharted, unconsidered territory.

That said, I think I'd rather talk a little bit about warmth instead of heat. There's a cat curled up on the outer part of my left thigh, kneading away at my hip as if it's about to sprout a nipple and give her nourishment. I have huge fluffy pink-and-white socks on my feet, which are almost never warm enough, but right now are. And earlier, as I crawled into bed with N--my big boy in ways that no growth chart can measure--to read him a book and cuddle him to sleep, he said, "I cold. You cold, too, Mommy?" and he lifted up the blanket so I could join him in its warmth. A few moments later, after tossing and turning a bit, he said, "I need you make a hole for me, Mommy." And I wrapped my left arm around his body--it making a circle into whose hole he fits perfectly--and pulled his back against my front, and felt his baby-boy warmth seep into my bones.

It's been a tough couple of days, in some ways. I'm premenstrual, a condition that strikes fear into my own heart, much less the hearts of those upon whom I have to inflict myself right now. I'm having a hard time, amidst all the holiday chaos, remembering to take my drugs in the right amounts at the right times, and that means some weird physical symptoms of near-withdrawal as my body adjusts to an always-changing level of chemicals. Plus I've got a shovel-load of self-induced stress on me right now. The real world is bearing down upon me, and I'm not ready to re-enter it. I haven't done half the work I need to have done, and I'm not working on whittling that down any right now. I haven't taken a breath in days that didn't have to fight to get past the anxiety that's clogging my throat and sitting on my chest, threatening to stop my lungs from inflating.

Still, I'm blessed beyond measure. My lungs will inflate, and when they do, they will be filled with air, not water, unlike so many in places so far away. I am not about to be swept away by anything other than my own fears--and even that is unlikely, because I am anchored to this place and this time by the man I love and the children I would give my life for. I am dry. I am warm. And I am about to pull my sleeping kitty closer to me, bury my face in her fur, and fall asleep in front of a roaring fire. There is warmth all around. I just need to remember to feel it.

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