Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Santa Claus is Coming to Town...To Ruin My Life

Every year. EVERY year. Really, there ought to be an opt-out for December, a mechanism by which you could leap from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve if having to live through the intervening weeks is just too frigging painful.

Baroy recently programmed my cell phone to ring with the song from the (animated version) of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. It's so apt.

It starts with the Evil, Gay-Bashing Salvation Army Men blocking the door to every grocery store in town. It's like running a fucking gauntlet every time I want to buy a gallon of milk. And then it moves on to the inevitable online 'discussion' of how Santa is historically a non-religious symbol, as if that has any meaning today. I mean, really. Historically, the Republican Party was the party of Lincoln, but I'm thinking the NAACP would bristle at being told that they therefore have to vote Republican forever. And, um, historically, this country was supposed to be a refuge from religious persecution, and you see how that's turning out.

And then there's always one kid-related 'issue' that comes up. (For the issue of the year in 2003 and 2004, check the late-November, early-December archives for those years.) This year? Em's Brownie troop is marching in the town Christmas parade. (No, it's not a holiday parade. It's a Christmas parade.) All the other kids--every single one of them--will be participating. When one of the moms called last night to see if Em would be joining them, she misinterpreted my hesitation. "Yeah, I know. It's going to be cold, and they have to get there hours ahead of time..."

"No, no," I said. "It's just that we wouldn't normally get all involved in a Christmas parade, you know..."

"Oh," she said, clearly taken aback. "I didn't realize you were..." And here she hesitated, because she obviously so much didn't realize that we were...that she didn't even know what we were.

"Yeah, we're Jewish."

"Oh...Well, if Em wants, she can just come to my house on Wednesday and help the others make their snowman hats..."

I laughed. "No, no. I'm pretty sure my temple will let me stay a member if my kid dresses like a snowman in the Christmas parade."

And it's true. Once I'd checked my gut, I realized that *I* don't care if she's in a Christmas parade. But that's not the point. In past years, it's been carolling with the Brownies, and I did care, and so I declined on Em's behalf. (She doesn't mind, since she doesn't know the words to "O Little Town of Bethlehem," and figures she would just be embarrassed.) Had I declined this year, however, it would have really upset Em. But there's no reason for it. Just like there's no reason for the troop 'charity' project to involve sponsoring a family for Christmas as opposed to Thanksgiving, which is what I suggested.

And so, this troop, which has one Jewish girl and two Muslim girls, is going to hit the streets of our town to help usher in the celebration of Jesus's birth. And we'll buy little presents for some disadvantaged kids to have under their Christmas tree, even though if it were my kids who were disadvantaged, the group we're working with wouldn't be looking out for them. And Em will have fun at the parade, and we'll all feel good about helping those less fortunate, and I'll ignore the bitter taste in my mouth. Because after 41 years, I'm getting used to it.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Sign of a Successful Thanksgiving

I threw out my back lifting the turkey. Well, actually, it was the turkey--all 20 incredible pounds of him, destined for the plates of only five adults and three children--plus the brine he'd been, well, brining in since 4 am that morning. (Don't ask. I have salmonella paranoia and didn't want him brining too long...)

You just know your dinner's going to be a success when you throw out your back lifting the turkey, right? I mean, physical pain! Suffering! For a turkey! There has to be some upside to it.

And there was. Turkey=yummmmmm. Stuffing=mmmmmmm. Gravy=a little thicker than I meant it to be, but boyoboyoboyoboy good. My famous homemade cranberry sauce=remarkable as always. Sweet potatoes=lucious. Mashed potatoes=for the kids who don't like sweet potatoes. (I sure wasn't wasting valuable belly space on regular old mashed potatoes.) Sauteed eggplant and zucchini=mostly uneaten, but still yummy. Homemade challah=incredible. Cornbread=made exclusively by Em from start to finish, and you just HAD to see her face when everyone complimented her and scarfed it down.

I have to admit, I was proud of that dinner. I made it all, from scratch (except for the cornbread, of course, which Em made). And it was controlled chaos. When our guests (my brother-in-law and WeeyumWise and his family) arrived, the kitchen was CLEAN. Howdya like that, folks? And we even had time to go and run a 1-mile kids' turkey trot to benefit the homeless and hungry. (Well, Baroy ran the preceding 5K, then helped Em run the so-called Munchkin Mile. I stayed with N, who tried to run, but then fell down and found himself being bandaged by a police officer helping out with the race, and so was both teary- and starry-eyed for the rest of the "slow because I don't wanna get more blood, Mommy" walk.)

It was good; wonderful, actually, after weeks and weeks lately of non-stop work, of having so little time for the kids and my husband and for doing things I love to do, like cooking. I was very thankful, yesterday.

Thankful, too, for the company. WeeyumWise's mom brought salad, wine, sparkling apple cider, mint chocolate chip ice cream, and a homemade pumpkin-pecan pie. (Insert the sound effect of lips being licked here.) N and WeeyumWise played beautifully together for a good five or six hours, we sat at our kitchen-table-cum-dining-room-table-except-we-pulled-it-into-the-living-room-because-our-dining -room-is-used-for-other-things, and when it cooled down in the evening (a relative term in SoCal, meaning it dipped into the high 60s and we had to change the kids into long pants rather than the shorts they'd been wearing all day) we put a fire in the fireplace and sat and talked and drank wine and ate and ate and ate. Nice. Very nice.

There is a lot to be thankful for. I'm glad there was a day to spend doing so.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


On the way home this evening:

N: Mommy. O-P-E-N spells open, right?
Me: Right.
N: So N-E-P-O spells closed!

Edited to add: Hmm. No gasps of delight from the readership, no assertions that my child is a freaking genius. I must do something about this! Did I mention that he's 4? And that there were no signs nearby, so he not only did that little ingenious thing with assuming that a word's opposite would simply be that word spelled backwards, but he spelled 'open' backwards just in his head? He's brilliant, people! I'm telling you!

Monday, November 21, 2005

More Imagination Than I Thought Was Possible

I've regaled you all with stories of N's semi-scary, always-amusing imaginary friends (who he now, just like his sister did years earlier, refers to as his 'believe friends'). But today in the car, he hit a never-before-seen level of quirkiness: His believe friends themselves have begun having their own imaginary worlds.

It went like this:

N: Mommy, let's play a game. You be N, and I'll be the mommy.
Me, knowing this game like the back of my hand: Sure.
N, to himself, sort of: Now who can be Daddy?
N, in a falsetto as his believe friend Baaa: I be da daddy!
N: OK. Now who can be Em?
N, in a baby voice as his believe friend Baby Baaa: I wanna be Em!
N: OK. And who can be Uncle Stevie?
N, in a whiny unintelligible voice as his believe friend Ahhh: ahhhahhhAHHHahhhahhh.
N: OK, Ahh. You can be Uncle Stevie.
N, to me now: OK, so Mommy, you be N. I'll be the mommy, Baa will be the daddy, Baby Baa will be Em, and Ahhh will be Uncle Stevie. OK?
Me, trying to decide whether to be amazed or terrified: Um, sure.

And so it went. He was only able to maintain his interest for a few minutes, but he faithfully played his role of mommy, and each of his believe friends, with their distinctive voices, played their chosen roles. And I, trying to keep up with my one personality and one role to play, wondered how it is that I gave birth to such a bizarrely, uniquely, insanely wonderful kid.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Picture of Mental Health

That would be ME...if said picture were kinda blurry and not properly framed and taken without a flash, that is. Still, it's an improvement.

Which is all my way of saying that I didin't even have to break up with my therapist, because she broke up with me! Or, rather, she suggested I start coming every other week rather than weekly. Which is really all I wanted to do to start out with.

Wanna hear what my big breakthrough was, the one that got me over the crazy hump? I've somehow figured out how to respond to anxiety attacks like a not-quite-as-crazy-as-I-was person. Before, I'd start to have an anxiety attack, and it would terrify the shit out of me. Which would, of course, make me more anxious. And that would start me worrying about how long this anxiety attack would last, just how crazy I'd get, whether I was going to wind up as bad as I was back in aught 3, whether this was the time I was going to wind up in an institution, etc.

But now? I look up from whichever of my three jobs I'm doing, and think to myself, "Hmm. My fingers are tingling. My chest feels tight. My leg is bopping up and down at supernatural rates. I can't breathe. And it's entirely possible that my skeleton is going to jump out from within my skin in a minute or two. Hey! I'm having an anxiety attack! Better take a Xnax."

And then I do. And then I go for a quick walk. And about twenty minutes later, I realize I can breathe again, and I go back to my life.

As I told both my therapist AND my shrink today (during one-after-the-other appointments; it was Psycho Day for me today), it's not that I'm not having anxiety attacks any more. It's that I can now treat them as nothing more than a psychological headache. I think, "Hm. That's uncomfortable. Let me take something for that." And I do.

So there you have it. My breakthrough = Anxiety; don't fight it. And I did it all by myself. Well, with a little help from my good friend Xanax. And my other good friend Celexa. And my other good friend Neurontin. And my therapist. And my shrink. But otherwise, all by myself.

On a completely unrelated note: Those of you who think fall never comes to Southern California haven't been to the right places at the right times.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

This Is The Part of Writing I Love Second Best

Without giving away my super-secret, highly guarded identity, may I suggest that those of you who might be interested in the topic of stress, depression and infertility take a look at this article, published in the November/December issue of Psychology Today and written by an excellent writer who is certainly not me, no siree. Well, actually, you can't look much beyond the first three paragraphs without a subscription, but hey, would it really kill you to spend a couple bucks on a pretty good magazine? Or you could always trek over to the nearest library-with-a-subscription to take a look.

Big huge thanks to Patricia, a TC reader who was kind enough to tell me her story for this article. (And a big huge sorry to you, too, Patricia; my editor never sent me an edited version of the piece, so I wasn't able to review it with you before it was published. I hope I did you proud, anyway.)

I'm pretty proud of how this piece came out, actually. Oh, who am I kidding? It's the first consumer-mag feature I've written in, oh, maybe as many as five years. I'm just pretty proud this piece came out, period!

And for those of you who are wondering what part of writing I love first best, wonder no more: There is nothing, no nothing, like getting paid for it.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


There's something just wrong with getting an email from your 64-year-old mother (yes, she had me young) that says, "Yay for California! You guys rock!"

You guys rock??? Mom? Is that you? I expect, "That's fabulous." I could deal with "That's so cool." But, "You guys rock"?

I really am going to have to start rethinking my profligate use of the word dude. Because I can't stomach the idea of my kids shaking their heads at me the way I just did at my mother's email.

That said, her message? Absolutely. I can't tell you how thrilled I am to see ALL of the propositions go down. Which is not to say that there wasn't one or two (at most) that I thought had merit. But the absolute fury I felt at watching truckloads of this state's money being dumped into a special election in which there was nothing special being voted on was so immense and intense that I thought it was more important to send a message than to take each proposition seriously, on its merits.

The sad part? Arnie's not going to get it. He's going to moan about how this was a vote for the status quo, and how we've crippled him and it's all our own fault that the state budget is going to go down the toilet. He's not going to realize that this was little more than a "Don't fuck with us, dude...um, I mean, man. Don't try to play fast and loose with our state constitution, figuring you'll get your way by planning an election for a time when few people will be expected to show up. Because if you do that, we're going to kick your growing-ever-skinnier ass."

Not that I have an opinion on it, or anything.

Monday, November 07, 2005


In response to my last post, Cindy asked me about whether writers like Mary Roach send me into a seething, jealous rage. There's no good answer to that. I mean, I could be all high and mighty and answer, honestly, that Mary Roach does not do that to me. But that would be because I know Mary. Well, I've met Mary, and I worked at ABigScienceMagazine when Mary wrote for them, and sometimes I either edited or otherwise contributed to her pieces, so her success mostly just pleases me. Plus, she's one of the funniest writers I've ever encountered, so being jealous of her would be ridiculous, since I am NOT one of the funniest writers I've ever encountered.

But that would imply that I don't get jealous of other writers, that I don't feel competitive. And that would be complete bullshit. The thing is, though, when I get jealous, it's usually more jealousy over someone who's accomplished something I know I could have accomplished. So, when Mary writes a book with a voice I couldn't even begin to approximate, or someone else I know writes a book about something I'm not interested in, I have zero jealousy about it.

The people I get jealous over are the people who write books I know I could--or should--have written. They're also, generally, the people who I've met during my career and didn't care for particularly. (No, I'm not going to name names. Because, damn, you just never know how these people felt about you, and you just never know where the next referral to the next big gig is going to come from. So far, they've all come from people I adore, but I don't think it'd be wise to go around making enemies, do you?) So my jealousy is mostly about muttering darkly how I could have done better, and how I hope their books fail miserably, and how I hope that, at the very least, they're miserable as human beings, even if they are raking in the Big Book Bucks.

But do you know who I really feel a lot of jealousy for these days that has nothing to do with my love of and career in science writing? I'm jealous of bloggers. In particular, I'm jealous of bloggers who get dozens of comments and hundreds of hits per post. I'm REALLY jealous of bloggers who make money off of their blogs. I want to be them. I want to know their secrets.

And here's the thing that has really screwed with my head about this kind of jealousy: These are almost all bloggers I like. I'm not turning green with jealousy over people whose blogs annoy me, or whose blogs infuriate me. I'm turning green with jealousy over people I want to be close personal friends with, people whose blogs are on my bloglines list, people whose blogs I visit regularly. I don't want these people to fail. I don't think I could do better. I don't wish for them to be miserable human beings. I just want to be just like them. I want them to talk about me the way I talk about them.

Apparently, 41 is NOT old enough to stop feeling left out of the cool clique. Who knew?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Books! I Need Books!

Specifically, I need book recommendations; as many of them as you have to recommend. No, I didn't recently take a speed-reading course. It's just that I've been listening to so many audiobooks of late that I've run through the ones I took out of the library. Trying to choose an audiobook from the library is impossible; most of them have to be sent by interlibrary loan (the individual libraries only hold a few on CD, and that's how I need them), so it means looking through the online catalog. If I search on 'CD audiobooks" I get something like 30,000 hits, which they will give to me in 20-book increments, so that doesn't quite work. I need a better method...I need you guys.

So...What are you reading these days? What have you read in the recent or not-so-recent past that you've loved? You can either email me at tinycoconut@sbcglobal.net, or comment below; either way, you have my deepest appreciation. Indeed, I thank you from the bottom of my ears.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Exit Strategies

I'm not fixed. I'm not saying I'm fixed. I will never be the Mental Health Poster Child. I'm comfortable with that.

But, lately, at therapy, I feel like I'm spinning my wheels. Worse than that, actually. I feel like I'm spending an hour a week catching up with a friend--not even a good friend, more like a close acquaintence--except that she doesn't talk about herself. I tell her about what's been going on, how tired I am from working so much, how I'm still enjoying the work, how I'm feeling badly about Baroy still not being able to find work. I tell her how the kids are doing, spend some time obsessing about how sad N's going to be after next week, when WeeyumWise is leaving preschool. (I knew it was coming.) I tell her about the various strategies I'm going to use to help him through. She nods, sympathizes. I start feeling a little bored with hearing my voice drone on and on.

I'm not having major panic attacks any more. I think my meds are working fairly well, for one thing, and for another, I know what to do when anxiety starts to get the upper hand. I don't spend much time at all obsessing about Stalker Girl these days, most likely because it's been more than months since she's been in our faces at all. Most of my other issues--especially my job dissatisfaction and my unhappiness with my life--have been resolved. No, not resolved. They've been shifted into an arena in which I feel like I can deal with them on my own. My therapist has really helped me move forward a great deal, in ways I find it hard to verbalize. But that's done. I have to take it from here.

So now, I need to figure out how to gently extricate myself from therapy. I don't know whether she sees a point in the near future where I'll go from weekly to every other week to monthly to not at all. I don't know how to ask. I don't want to hurt her feelings (see above about knowing I'm not fixed), and I worry to some extent that she sees a vulnerability where I think there's nothing but strength. Or maybe she just sees money coming in from my insurance company for as long as they'll allow it. I doubt it, but I suppose that's a possibility.

So, I don't know. But I have to say something, soon. Because if I don't, if I can't, then it would belie my assertion that I'm better.

Anyone have a good "breaking up with your therapist" script they could send me?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I Hate Technology

...because now I'll never be able to rewrite the post I'd written earlier today, the one about my two-hour walk through Burbank while Em was in Hebrew school, and the feeling I had of utter freedom, of running away and yet running nowhere. See? I can't even reclaim the tone in a one-line synopsis.


Damn you, DashBlog. Damn you, you finicky Mac dashboard widget. I love your ease of use...when you work, that is. But when you eat my post, and you don't even tell me? I don't love that.

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