Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

After the Prom

There's a river running down our street. And I do mean running. Baroy wrapped Noah in a blanket (it's raning, though softly...in almost-June...in Los Angeles! What's this about?) and went to investigate.

Several firetrucks, an ambulance, a virtual fountain of water from a knocked-over hydrant, and a smashed-up Lexus tell the tale. The onlookers, of which there were many, this being a small-town area and that being a very large BANG, say the girl who went away in the ambulance reeked of alcohol. At 11 in the morning.

Ah, prom.

[Disgusted rant about teenagers driving Lexuses to come.]

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

This Is Not A Post About My Cats, Even If It Seems That Way In The Beginning

We've had our white cat, Buttons, for almost two years now. She was an only cat until this January, when we went and adopted Benni from a shelter. We were worried about how they'd get along, but we needn't have--while Benni can still be skittish with us to this day, she and Buttons began an almost immediate love affair. Within a month they were curling up on the bed together, grooming each other incessantly, and so on. Sure, they hissed and fought, but you could always tell it was friendly, just two cats working out some excess energy.

Then, a few weeks ago, all that changed. I'm not sure why, though it did coincide with Buttons getting some kind of infection in her jaw and then having a big scrape near the place where the vet had done a quick needle biopsy to see if it was an infection or something else. In any case, the two of them are now very leery of one another. If Benni dares to jump up on the bed when Buttons is there, it turns almost immediately into a hissing fit, and not the friendly kind any more. Now, it's the kind with ears back, and the deep growling sound that never means anything good coming from a cat's throat. And so Benni mostly avoids Buttons, sleeping on the floor by the bed if Buttons is on the bed, or going outside when Buttons is inside, etc. I feel for her. Actually, I feel for both of them. There's obviously some deep hurting going on inside them, and I think they really miss each other, but don't know how to make it right again right now.

It occurred to me as I watched them eyeing one another suspiciously last night from what could only be considered their battle stations, that if you made one of these cats male and made them both human, this would be the story of the last few weeks in my marriage.

At my psychiatrist's office yesterday, I was treated to what can only be called a lecture about how I absolutely, positively, no doubt about it, have to get into marriage counseling with Baroy. I protested that we weren't anywhere near that bad off, and he countered that just because nobody's really considering divorce doesn't mean that you're not that bad off. He told me that he was only doing to do some very light tinkering with my meds, because until I deal with this, they're nothing but a bandaid over a gaping wound.

Gee, doc. Tell me how you really feel.

It was gratifying to some extent. I walked into his office and basically spewed anger and frustration for fifteen minutes after he asked me how I was. When I'd finished, and he'd asked me a few questions about Baroy, you could just see him starting to get angry. I swear that if Baroy had been in the room, this guy would have given him a complete talking to. And that's not this doctor's style at all. He is like old-time FM deejay, all velvety-voiced, oozing patience and empathy. I'd never seen this kind of spark in him before.

At the same time, I feel badly, because Baroy wasn't there to tell his side of the story, so I come off looking like this poor, poor put-upon, and he comes off looking like, well, like a jerk. And he's not a jerk. He has issues--don't we all?--but he's ultimately a good guy.

Still, my doc told me to tweak my meds a bit to get me past this annoying, totally devastating middle-of-the-night wake-up pattern I've gotten into, and then told me we weren't going to discuss any other med changes until I had a marriage counselor lined up and had talked Baroy--the Hater of All Things Psychological--into going with me.

This is a psychiatrist, remember. One of those guys who supposedly push pills with no regard for the person they're pushing them into. Either he is one of the good guys (and he is) or I'm in serious enough trouble (and I am) to get his attention and make him realize that drugs alone can't cure these sorts of life issues. Gulp.

It took me about 24 hours, but earlier today I did bring it up with Baroy, couching it in the fact that although he may not know the extent of it, because I hide it most of the time, he can't have missed getting at least a hint of how miserable I am lately, and that marriage counseling is what my psychiatrist thinks I need in order to start getting better, happier. I asked if he would go with me, and he said he would, though he made sure to let me know he wasn't happy about it. Fair enough. He then asked me if I was about to leave him or something, and I gave him the same line the psychiatrist gave me. Except I didn't attribute it, because I needed, right then, to sound strong and confident and reassuring to SOMEone about SOMEthing. And I did, I think, right up until the part where I started crying.

I don't talk a lot about my relationship, because I don't necessarily think it's fair to air that kind of stuff about someone else over such a broad arena as this. But I don't think it's unfair to recount the following exchange, which made my heart a lot lighter and my outlook about how we'll do in marriage counseling a whole lot sunnier. See, about ten minutes after we had that initial conversation, Baroy came outside and found me in my garden, taking out my anxiety on a patch of weeds, and he said, "I know exactly how unhappy you are. That's why I'm so unhappy. Because I can't make you happy."

And I replied, "I know how unhappy you are about not being able to make me happy. And I also know how unhappy I already am to start with. And yet here we are, the two of us, so unhappy, and this is the first conversation we've had about it, and I don't think either of us wants to take it any further than this. Don't you think that's a sign that we could use some help?"

To that, my husband simply nodded in agreement. And then I knew: This isn't going to be nearly as hard as I thought it might be. This might even be good.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


I was ready for my 10 am shrink appointment. I have a long list of issues, and I need to have them addressed: I'm miserable, I'm irritable, I'm apathetic, I'm anxious, I'm fat, and I'm scatterbrained.

Well, apparently I don't have to explain the last one to him, judging from the look on his face when I showed up. My appointment is at 10:30.

More later.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

My Kid Can Catch a Ball, But Not a Break

On June 14th, two different surgeons with the same last name (Wong) will be operating on N. One will be repairing this epigrastric hernia he developed when he was two or so; the other will be surgically descending N's previously-descended-but-now-up-in-his-belly left testicle. This will involve two or three small incisions, one of which will be in his scrotum. If that doesn't make you wince, then you've clearly n ever had a scrotum of your own, or given birth to someone with a scrotum. Because...ow. That's all i can say.

These two issues are apparently unrelated to one another--as are his 'failure to thrive,' his 'constitutional growth delay,' his constant ear infections that required tubes at age 1, his patent ductus arteriosus (an embryonic vessel near his heart that didn't go away like it was supposed to when he was born), his enlarged heart, his two cases of pneumonia, his social issues and his speech issues.

There are times, when Baroy is feeling particularly self-pitying about his employment non-situation, that he'll say something like, "I can only think that I was Hitler in a former life." It's times like this that I have to wonder what I did in one of my former lives to have all this crap visited upon my children, and in particular, my son.

Oh, and for those of you wondering how it's possible that I have not thought of the politically incorrect and not-that-funny pun about the two Dr. Wongs, fear not. Many a "but two Wongs don't make a right," joke has been bandied about here, with the only bright spot coming when we realized that the doctor he'll be seeing in August for his developmental pediatrics appointment is ALSO a Dr. Wong. So maybe, just maybe, THREE Wongs WILL make a right. One can only hope, for N's sake.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

What I'm Thinking, 4:15 a.m. PST

What the fuck? I have almost never had insomnia in my life. It is still insomnia when you fall asleep like a freaking log at night, but wake up in the middle of the night all jangling nerves and racing brain, right? The only other time I went through this, I was pregnant. Actually, it was my first pregnancy symptom with both Em and N.

Poor N. He's going to need two surgeries--a hernia and an undescended testicle, to be specific and probably entirely too graphic. This kid really, really can't catch a break sometimes. I'm worried about it, though right now that worry centers more around him being in pain. (I can't imagine an incision in a scrotal sac is going to be a lot of fun for him.)

Shouldn't I be feeling the Xnax by now?

Damn. The Discovery Health channel never lets me down at this time in the morning; there's almost always a much-worse-than-mine sick baby story to take my mind off of things, but instead I've got one of those 'informational' child health programs, which annoy me for stupid reasons. (It's too close to the kind of writing I do, so I analyze rather than listen.)

How am I going to get through a nine-hour day tomorrow, especially after my review on Friday, where the words "increased productivity" and "less Web surfing" were used. Hmph. The truth hurts, I guess.

I really need to push on getting the school district to assess N. Otherwise, the problem might just go away on its own. Bah. It's literally impossible to be sure I'm doing the right thing these days. Still, I have to push the school district for its assessment, mostly because it's the principle of the thing right now. They were supposed to have set up an assessment by now, and they need to understand that I won't be denied the basics that the law allows for. So there.

What the fuck? That's like the third car to drive down this street in the past ten minutes...and we live on a dead end. Do my neighbors really leave or work at 4:24 am?

Hmmm. THat was fast; I'm already starting to get to the woozy point of the evening. Sleep can't be too far away. I just hope it wears off before I have to drive to work. I'm having a hard time remembering what else I was so worried about. Hey...even my jaw is unclenching! Woohoo!

I wish someone would just rock me to sleep. I know, however, that I passed that stage about 30 years ago.

Damn it's cold down here. Perhaps it wasn't the brightest move to decide to turn off the heater's pilot light this weekend. But, in our defense, it was 90 degrees out there? Who knew that two days later we'd struggle to get out of the 70s?


Monday, May 16, 2005

Minor Miracles

Somewhere in the bowels of Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, a minor (though not to me) miracle is under way. And I'm not there to see it. Because I'm a working mother, and I miss everything. (Sob, sob, sob.)

N is at CHLA with Baroy to have his previously-descended-but-now-way-up-inside-his-abdomen left testicle looked at. The waiting room, apparently, is a zoo, kids everywhere. In the middle, Baroy says, there's a dollhouse behind plexiglass; N had wandered over to look at it, and another 4-year-old boy did the same, and began trying to engage N. And here's the thing: N responded. The two of them are now running around together, looking out the windows at landing helicopters. At one point N called him over: "Matt, come here. There's another helicopter!" At another point, they were crawling under the bench seats, and asked Baroy if he had a flashlight, so they could go exploring. And at another point, Matt was apparently pulling on N's ears, for what reason, I don't know. But Baroy took a picture of it with his mobile phone, because, as he said, "N wasn't pulling away. He was standing there, smiling at Matt."

In fact, when Baroy just called me from the waiting room, it seemed almost like he had tears in his voice. "You're going to want to hear about this," he said, ending with, "I didn't realize until now that I've never seen him do this before. It's a real breakthrough." This from the man who didn't really think there was a problem. That, too, is a breakthrough.

But in any case, he's right: This is big. I have shivers right now. My boy just made friends with a random stranger in a waiting room. Just like a regular kid. Who knew it could be so gratifying?

Friday, May 13, 2005

Little Oeddie

It was hot here today. Like 90 degrees hot. It was still hot when I got home from work and went outside to play with N, so I changed into a sports bra/top, and put on a t-shirt and shorts.

We were running around for a while, and since I was in my fairly private backyard with my 4-year-old son, I decided it was OK if I shed my t-shirt for a bit.

N, upon seeing me take off my t-shirt: Cute, mom!
Me, laughing, not sure if I was understanding him: What? What did you say?
N: Cute..um...(he's pointing at me, searching for a word)...Cute breasts, mom!

I was, and remain, speechless.

[Edited to add: You do, of course, realize that when I say I shed my t-shirt, I was still wearing my sports bra-shirt thingy. It's not like I was actually flashing my son with my "cute breasts." Just had to make sure that was clear...]

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

In Which I Ponder the Links Between Apathy and Suicide, But Not Because That's Something I'm Considering Or Would Consider

It’s grey, this place I’m in. It’s not dark here so much as it is opaque, thick, monotonous. I slog through it, then slog some more, but the landscape isn’t changing. Every now and then, something pierces the veil, lifts it slightly. But then it drops again And I no longer have the strength to try and lift it myself.

When I tried to describe this to my therapist last week, I ended by saying, “I’m just...done. I’m done.”

She looked at me sharply. “What do you mean by done? Are you feeling suicidal?”

I gave a single, quick chuckle, because really, nothing was further from the truth. “Oh, god, no. Don’t worry about that. I couldn’t possibly summon up enough energy to want to hurt myself.”

That conversation brought to mind another discussion I had while I was doing interviews for my book on bipolar disorder. A really incredible man was describing to me the debilitating depressions that were the main symptom of his disease—until he had a manic episode so severe that it prompted a psychotic break and an almost Odyssean journey through the Lower East Side of New York City. I remember him telling me about a depression so deep and dark that he couldn’t move off of his bed. I remember the story he told of having to go to the bathroom, but being so completely inert that he literally couldn’t summon the energy to rise from his bed and cross the room to the bathroom. It was easier, he said, to hold it in, wait for the feeling to pass.

This, he said, was not the time anyone needed to worry about him killing himself; if he couldn't find the energy to pee, he certainly couldn't find the energy for planning and carrying out a suicide. Instead, he said--and I would tend to concur--the most dangerous time in a depression is when you’re just starting to feel ever-so-slightly better. You don’t recognize it as feeling better, of course, because you’ve been so far down for so long. But you do start to get a little energy back. You can at least get out of your bed to pee. And you can also get out of your bed to find the gun, the pills, the rope, the knife. You have both the energy and the impulse, but not yet the optimism to see the light at the end of the tunnel. That certainly would be a dangerous time.

I’ve wondered whether this is part of the explanation for the increases in suicide risk in teenagers—impulsive creatures if ever there were any—who are taking antidepressants. I wonder if some of them are killing themselves only because they're released from the stupor of the worst of their depression. I wonder...But only about them. I don't wonder about me. I'm fine. Or rather, I'm immersed in a world of grey monotony and dull sounds and only the occasional prick of real feeling. But I'm not in any danger. Not that kind of danger.

For the record, this current mix of stupor and apathy isn't the only reason there's no concern about me and suicide. It's not even the main reason. The main reason is that none of the reasons for my apathetic stupor have to do with self-loathing or any other such emotion that might bring one to harm one's self. My reasons have to do with not having the life I wanted or expected, with not getting to where I want to be, with watching my child wander sort of aimlessly through his world at times, and worrying about how I'm going to help him, and whether I'm ever...EVER...going to get any help in doing so. None of these things would be fixed or even vaguely improved by my death. Even when I'm down, I'm too egotistical to admit that I could possibly be dispensible. Or maybe it's that I'm not egotistical enough to think that my existence sways the world one way or another. In either case, suicide ain't my style; never has been, and I assume it never will be.

If it's yours...if there's even a vague chance that it ever could or would be yours...please take a step back. Think. Reach out. Seek help.

There's no such thing as overreacting to thoughts of suicide: If that's where you are in your head or in your life, call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).

Sunday, May 08, 2005

In Short

I was not asked to hug myself at my last therapy session. I don't know whether she'd thought better of it, or whether she just looked at my face and heard the monotone in my voice and knew that she had bigger fish to fry, like trying to rouse in my an emotion--any emotion. (It didn't really work.) I'd say that maybe she'd just read your comments--you guys are brutal; funny, but brutal--except she's about as un-internet-savvy as anyone I've ever met.

I had a really nice Mother's Day.

I'm still worried about N, trying to set up evalutions for him, trying to figure out the next logical step, trying to decide what *I* think is wrong. I've done a whole bunch of things, but gotten nowhere, so there's no use in chronicling it all.

My job angst has hit an all-time high. I'm trying every which way to find a way out that doesn't actually involve burning bridges (or selling my house and living on the street with the kids), but I just can't seem to make it happen. My dream scenario involves a part-time job with benefits doing editing or somesuch thing that I can do in the evenings or on weekends, which I supplement by freelancing for my current place of employment as well as other venues. My dream scenario is probably never going to come true. That makes me want to cry. Because it's such a pretty, pretty dream. In reality, however, what's probably going to happen is that if and when I really start to get a handle on what's going on with N and what it is he needs, I'm going to have to take a couple of months' leave of absence from my job, and that's going to screw up my finances something nasty. But it may just have to be done anyway. Something's gotta give, and soon. And if it isn't my job, it may just be my sanity.

I am so tired. The kids are asleep in their beds, and there are two kitties snuggled up atop mine. I'm going to join them.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Supper, Supper, Suppertime!

Tuesday’s New York Times science section had an article by Laurie Tarkan called “Benefits of the Dinner Table Ritual.” I intend to make dozens of copies of it, and paper my own kitchen with it. Because [insert singsongy voice here] I was riiiiight, I was riiiiight, nanananana.

That little descent into grade-school hell was for Baroy’s benefit, my frends.

When we first got married, Baroy and I didn’t have a dinner table. Or any table built for more than one person. We had, instead, tray tables. Four of them, in case we were entertaining. (Yes, I’m kidding. Though, now that I think about it, what DID we use when we entertained? Oh, yeah. Right. The big round glass table in our backyard. Not that we entertained that frequently, and not that the people we DID entertain were the kind to care about balancing paper plates on their knees on the rare day when it was too cold or rainy in Los Angeles to eat outside.) When it was just the two of us, we would eat in the living room, in front of the television. (Baroy is and always has been addicted. I’m mostly just codependent.)

Once I got pregnant, however, all that changed.

“We need a real table,” I announced one day.

“Why?” Baroy asked.

“Family dinners. We’re going to have family dinners. Kids need to have family dinners.”

Baroy gave me one of those measured looks that are rightfully the domain of men dealing with women in hormone-induced frenzies.

“OK, fine,” he said. “But you’re still in your first trimester. The baby won’t be joining us at the table for another year. Can’t it wait?”

My look was not at all measured. “No,” I said flatly.

And so, that weekend, we went out and bought a table. And six months after Em was born, when she could sit in a highchair without tumbling over, she joined us at that table. And we've done family dinners ever since.

As Em has grown up, and since N's addition to the family, that has become more difficult. Working until 6 a few times a week can really put a crimp in the whole get-dinner-into-the-kids-and-get-them-to-bed-at-a-decent-hour thing. But with the help of a crockpot, a microwave, good take-out places, and my own innate stubborness, we eat together four or five times a week, at a minimum. There aren't always four people at the table--sometimes Em has dinner at a friend's house, sometimes Baroy has work or an audition or a college basketball game for which he would rather divorce me than give it up to sit at the table with us, sometimes it's even me who's missing, off to a PTA meeting or somesuch. But we eat together. We do "Best and Worst" (which we did long before any stupid Michelle Pfeiffer/Bruce Willis screen fiasco co-opted it, thankyewverymuch). We talk about our days. Baroy and I discuss politics, and the kids grow bored and ask to be excused. (OK, so it's not entirely blissful, but what is?)

It's not that the Tarkan piece is anything new. Most people know that family dinners are beneficial, and if they can fit them into their lives, they do. But not everyone has the same list of priorities; to do this, I ultimately had to cut out Em's evening swim lessons, and switch gymnastics from an evening each week to an afternoon, for instance, because they were messing us up. For whatever reason--probably because I remember our own family dinners, painful as they may have been, especially during my teen years--it was critically important to me to do this. As important, if not more so, than nursing. Except, unlike nursing, my partner didn't entirely buy in at first. He's still less of a die-hard than I am about it, but he's converted in an overall sense. And that's all I care about.

Well, that, and the fact that I WAS RIGHT!

I *so* know what I'm going to be bringing up for discussion at dinner tonight...

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Come On, Gimme A Hug

I read like a textbook case of mild depression lately: a little sad, a little anxious, a little irritable, but mostly nothing. Apathy in its most etymological terms: a [without] + pathy [feeling].

I was trying to describe the feeling, or lack thereof, to my therapist last week, but she wasn't buying it. The apathy, that is. The sadness, sure. She figures I'm mourning the shoulda-beens regarding N, though I think I'm actually mourning the shoulda-dones--as in, I shoulda given him more undivided attention, I shoulda made sure he had his own friends, I shoulda noticed this stuff earlier.

She wanted to know what I do with these sorts of feelings.

"Do?" I said. "I...ignore them."

"You can't do that forever," she said.

"Try me," I replied.

So she pushed. She started with that 'inner child' stuff that makes me so uncomfortable. "What do you do when your inner child is sad and needs comforting?" she asked. "How do you comfort her?"

"I don't. I don't talk to my inner child, remember?"

"Well, do you ever just let go, you know, express some of the feeling?" she asked.

"I guess once in a while, I do, but just inside."

"And what do you do?"

"I don't do anything. Just once in a while, I'll kind of scream, 'I don't want to be the mommy any more!' in my head."

She beamed, clearly figuring she'd hit paydirt. "Do that again, but louder."

I, not willing to be that dirt, ignored her and continued talking. "But that's nonsensical, so I basically end up telling myself to shut up."

She sized me up; I know she was trying to decide whether to repeat her request, so I just continued to prattle until I could see I'd outlasted her. Heh.

But she wasn't giving up so easily. A few minutes later, she had me back to talking about feeling "sad."

"You really don't do anything to comfort yourself when you feel sad?" she said, clearly disbelieving.

"Like what?"

"Well," she said, automatically folding her arms over her chest and rubbing her upper arms with her hands in a sort of self-hug/self-consoling gesture, "you know, kind of give yourself a hug?"

"Uh, no," I said, trying not to roll my eyes at her.

"Why not?" she said. "Come on, try it."

I stared at her. "I...I can't."

"You can't?"

"No. Especially not in front of someone."

"Why not? What's wrong with comforting yourself?"

I couldn't say. All I could think was that if she didn't stop rubbing her arms I was going to scream.

"It's too...embarrassing," I said finally.

"What's embarrassing about it?" she asked.

Again, I couldn't say. All I knew was that I had that feeling of exteme discomfort, that kind of squirm-inducing, embarrassed "I don't want to be here" feeling that you get when, for instance, you're a kid and you walk in on your parents kissing. (Not that I ever had that experience, mind you. But I've seen the look in Em's eyes when she walks in on Baroy and I on the few occasions when he's just grabbed me and given me a kiss when we think we're alone in the kitchen for a minute.)

"I...I...just dont know," I said.

"Hmm." She considered this, then looked over at the clock, and of course it was the end of the session. As she walked across the room to get her appointment book, she said, "You know, you have no trouble talking or writing about almost anything. I want you to think about why you're so uncomfortable with the mere idea of such a simple physical gesture."

And so, for the last week, I've...well, if you know me at all, you'll know that for the last week I've studiously avoided thinking about this at all. Because, well, damned if I know. And besides, isn't that her job, to figure it out and then tell me and then fix me? Sheesh, it's time she started working a little bit for the money I keep forgetting to pay her.

So now, of course, I'm trying to figure it out before my appointment tomorrow afternoon. But, really. Wouldn't that whole scene just embarrass the crap out of you, too? And if so, why? (Yes, I am asking you to do my psychotherapy homework for me. And your point is?)

In anticipation of your helpful responses, I send hugs to you all. Just not to myself.

Monday, May 02, 2005

You'd Think That After 7.5 Years...

...I'd stop underestimating Em. But I keep on doing it!

So, yesterday, she and N were in the backyard, playing some game of house that Em had made up. Em particularly likes playing house with Noah, because she totally bosses him around. Well, with all the reading I've been doing about N's issues (or potential issues), one of the things that keeps coming up that makes sense to me is that he needs to work on keeping up with other kids' imaginations and games. So I called Em over and asked her, without much preamble, to make sure to include N in deciding what the next thing to happen would be.

"You know, instead of saying, 'We're in a pizza place. Here's your pizza,' say to him, 'We're in a pizza place. What kind of toppings do you want on your pizza?' Or even let him decide what kind of restaurant it is," I said.

She looked puzzled, but agreed.

Later, she and I went to lunch together and then to get our hair cut. While we were at lunch, she asked my why I had asked her to do that with N. I mentioned that I've been a little 'worried' about him and how he's going to be able to learn how to play with other children when his friend WeeyumWise isn't around, and it helps if he gets practice when he's not feeling shy.

"Why are you worried?" she asked.

"Well, I probably should say worried," I answered. "More liike concerned. I've just noticed that he has trouble..." and here I started to search for the right word to use to explain how he just doesn't seem to make connections with other children, can't seem to bridge to them, but to say it in a way she could understand.

I didn't have much of a chance to search, however.

"Communicating," she said almost immediately. "You mean you've noticed how he has trouble communicating with other kids, right?"

She may not be the next Einstein, but sometimes that kid is freakishly bright.

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