Friday, March 26, 2010

A Sliver of Philly Blogger Goodness.

I have zero in the way of photographic evidence (damn you, non-working digital camera!), but I spent Wednesday night in the company of some very delightful ladies.

I revealed some very juicy tidbits to her, chatted about Catholicism with her, beat her, her and her at bowling (boo-ya!), watched her take suggestive photos with bowling balls, and talked about hot gay men and the politics of health care with her. And I wanted her to stay later!

I had a tremendous amount of fun with all of these wonderful ladies who I read as often as I can. And it's a wonderful thing when we can come together in this effortless way, as if we see each other daily, when the truth is more like we see each other a few times a year. I love it, and need more of it.

Like, next week.

In fact, I think bowling and tater tots and gathering with Philly bloggers were recommended to me by my physician as a way to reduce stress and anxiety. Okay, ladies?

Doctor's orders.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Tea Party I'll Never Attend

Can you see that picture clearly? It shows a handgun with the catchy slogan, 'If Brown can't stop it, a Browning can.'

Apparently 'Brown' refers to Scott Brown from Massachusetts, and a 'Browning' refers to....well, a gun. You put that together. It's not difficult.

I've spent the last few days in a considerable funk, brought about less by biology and more by the ugliness -- masquerading as a political movement -- that has pervaded our country.

We all have our political differences. Whether you're definitely conservative or definitely progressive, whether you're strictly middle of the road independent or lean slightly one way or the other, whether you embrace a little of each side, making you a bit of a political taco. Red meat Republicanism with a side of organically grown liberal romaine lettuce.

Heck. Both sides have some great core concepts. Who doesn't love lower taxes? And who isn't in favor of a social safety net, because, let's face it, we're all a little closer to needing one these days.

But in the last few days, we've seen some masks fall away, revealing what some of us have known for a long time. The tea party movement is nothing but a front for hatred. No self-respecting conservative would ally themselves with it. Except, most conservatives seem to be. More than a few GOP leaders seemed quite happy spreading lies about killing Grandma, ignoring protest signs that were clearly offensive, and letting people digest and grow fearful on outright lies, all to advance the movement against reform.

Goodness gracious, folks. I never thought I'd quote David Frum (former speechwriter for G.W. Bush) on this blog, but here goes:

"Barack Obama badly wanted Republican votes for his plan. Could we have leveraged his desire to align the plan more closely with conservative views? To finance it without redistributive taxes on productive enterprise – without weighing so heavily on small business – without expanding Medicaid? Too late now. They are all the law.

No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal?

We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat." (Source: Frum Forum)

Here's what the most radical voices in the party and in the movement were doing this past weekend. Members of Congress were subject to racial slurs by protesters on the lawn. Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver was spit upon. Rep. Barney Frank was the recipient of homophobic slurs. Rep. John Lewis, who back in the 1960s suffered a fractured skull by Alabama police for daring to protest non-violently, was called the n-word. That same John Lewis had bricks thrown at his head as he marched with Dr. King. Rep. James Clyburn's office received faxes laden with racial epithets and drawings of a noose on gallows. These men have seen more in their lives than probably most of the denizens of that protest put together. And to find themselves targets of such hatred once again? And where were House Republicans? Busy whipping up that frenzy.

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And then there were the stories of some idiot on Twitter calling for the President's assassination. Could it get worse than that?

On my friend Fran's blog, I read about a counterprotester with Parkinson's disease being heckled and made fun of by Tea Partiers, and I couldn't brings myself to watch the accompanying video documenting this. I was already so disheartened, so disillusioned with this fake debate. I had already witnessed more evidence of man's inhumanity to man in these last few days, I could barely manage a fist pump for the concept of insurance companies being held accountable. I couldn't bring myself to watch a likely victim of insurance companies -- and a very ill one at that -- being mocked.

If you're a conservative, you may have some legitimate gripes about the bill. David Frum's post-vote comment contained a few.

But all the frothing at the mouth seems to be truly about something else: perhaps it's anger and frustration at the fact of there being a black man running the country and a female Speaker of the House from San Francisco. That appears to be just too much for some to handle.

As for me, despite my feelings of sadness, I have to believe that righteousness will prevail. And I'm not talking about politics here. I'm just talking about decency.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to find some news about rainbows and kittens. Because my soul needs it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

It's a Boy!

Last night, I dreamed I gave birth to a giant baby boy. In my dream, I remember being in recovery wondering what the holy heck just happened. I couldn't bring back a memory of the operating table or of the needle in my spine, so I just kept thinking I had been put under general anesthesia.

And then I placed a phone call to tell someone, somewhere, that I'd had a boy and he weighed 10 pounds, 20 ounces. Perhaps because I needed a more unique way of saying 11 pounds, 4 ounces. "10 pounds, 20 ounces," I shouted! "10 pounds, 20 ounces!"

The kids keep chiding me about having another baby. Hannah's inquiries get downright personal. "You mean you don't want another kid?" she asks with these eyes that suggest a feeling of betrayal. Are we that bad?

It's impossible for them to understand the juggling act that comes with each child, or why my career aspirations are important, or why my body -- despite what my midwife told me seven years ago -- apparently wasn't made to give birth and that I truly do not desire the scalpel once more.

But I think they can sense it's a weak spot too; that, for all my talk and certainty, underneath lies a woman who could probably pull it off.

We talk about adoption sometimes. They still believe, despite what I tell them, that it's as easy as going to the baby store. You simply go somewhere and pick one out.

"We can go to Haiti!" Hannah says. "But can we please bring home a boy?"

You can't comprehend the large part of me that simply wants to see my girls as older siblings. Siblings to a baby. This is no reason to get pregnant, of course, but I can see Hannah, all skinny limbs and angles now, hovering and doting, being nervous when the baby cries and being giddy when the baby smiles.

She and her sister are still primarily these selfish beings. But as their world and experiences expand, that falls away bit by bit, leaving empathy and a desire to help. I know they would help, and I know my heart would burst with the sight of it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I'm biting from Anne Nahm, who inspired me to craft some letters of my own, because it's just that kind of day. And like Anne, I'm going to kick it off with a letter to the Universe.

Dear Universe,

Look. I know my complaints are small and generally first-world. Like, geez, it's freezing in this house I'm really lucky to be living in here or god, this pasta is filling and nutritious and at least you're eating tonight, twit bland. So I only ask one favor. Could you please do something about the whole waking at 4:30am thing? Because it has fashioned itself into the perfect time to roll around and wallow in self-doubt and self-loathing, beating myself up for God knows what, although I will give you this: when the alarm goes off a mere 30 minutes later (yes, that's right!) and my gorgeous husband presses his early morning wood into my backside spoons me, things tend to right themselves, somehow.

That's all for now.



Dear Guy Who Keeps Tossing His Tobacco Juice Bottles In Front of Our House,

Um...could you stop it? I pick trash up all the time, because a lot of people tend to walk around being all lazy and they can't just hang on to the trash item until they get home. They must dispose of it at that moment because that Twix bar wrapper is simply too much for their fingers to handle. It's awful, the burden of actually throwing garbage in the...garbage. And as much as I fantasize about going all Carl Hiassen-hero on litterers and hijacking a dump truck filled with refuse to dump on the spot where YOU live, I cannot do that, so I pick up the Wawa hoagie wrappers and candy wrappers and empty iced tea bottles and McDonalds bags and I throw them the garbage. Other people's garbage in my garbage. Weird. But whatever. Still, I draw the line at bottles filled with brown spit. So I don't know whatever it is about our curb that inspires you to leave it with us, but I'm praying that somehow you wake up and realize what a giant turd move that is, and maybe you should take your spit with you and throw it the garbage.


I Refuse To Pick Up Spit


Dear Girls in My Chemistry Class,

So we were all discussing what courses we were signing up for during the upcoming summer session, and I cop to feeling extremely jealous when you starting talking about taking A&P in the morning and then being able to study on the beach in the afternoon. And I was like, that's totally not right. You should be forced to spend summer evenings in the lab until 11:30pm like me and then have to try to study during the day while children climb all over you asking for a popsicle because it's just so hot. You should have to hang with those children (who really are adorable, by the way, but also supremely...ahem...needy) from 6:45am to 4:30pm, and do the homework and studying for a condensed course, and probably do all the other things you do like meal-planning and laundry and gathering the giant dust balls that congregate in the corners. But then you asked me when I was taking Chem II, and I told you that I had to take evening classes because the kids are home with me, and you were like, "You have kids? How old are you?" And I was like, "I'm 34," and you were like, "Wahhhh?" And your friend was like, "Wahhhh? I swear, I totally thought you were like 23 or something." And then you were like, "You look sooooooo young," at which point I climbed across the lab table, knocking over my titration set up and spewing the HCl everywhere, and kissed you both on the mouth, because that's how giddy you made this tired, stressed mama. And so now I say, go study on the beach young ones. Tan those tiny bodies unsullied by pregnancy. Enjoy the feel of class in the morning, and the sun and sand in the afternoon. Because you deserve it.

Love forever and ever,



Dear Dave,

Last night I walked in from class, feeling less than stellar. Sure, I'd gotten a 93 on the previous week's lab, and sure, those girls were blown away by some weird trickery of light my youthful appearance. But, man, the existential crises! Always with the existential crises! They come and they go, mercifully, but they tend to knock my socks off a bit, and can shrink me into this tiny ball of bitterness, which I hate, because I have nothing to be bitter about. But anyway, there you were on the couch, with the children snug in bed and the kitchen cleaned (cleaned!), and you were happy to see me. I love it when you wrap me all up and tell me that I'm your friend, because you make me feel special and like I'm good and I'm doing things alright. And even though we ram heads sometimes and get all uppity with one another, I like to think how wrong that guy was who told me "Good luck with that" after asking what your sign was and what my sign was. Because your Capricorn and my Sagittarius make a pretty good team. And I love you.



Monday, March 1, 2010

Books That Gutted Me

When I finished reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road, I wasn't quite certain how it was that my heart was still beating.

Because I was convinced that someone had entered my house and beaten me to death with a baseball bat. I seriously closed the book, put it next to me on the couch, and then proceeded to feel my skull, because it had to be concave somewhere, so sound was the beating I took. I kept feeling around. Where is the valley where my head was bashed in? Where is it?

-Spoiler alert-

I also cried, but this might be because I knew Viggo Mortensen would be playing the father in the movie, and Viggo = hot. Even dirty and stanky and half-mad with starvation, Viggo = hot. And, if you read the book, you know how Father/Viggo ends up.

Which, sad!

All my cheeky talk is taking away from the fact that I found the book to be quite powerful, and I'm very serious when I say I did have to sit there and digest it all after I finished it. That story had to make its way around the bowels of my brain, and then I cried, and I don't meant to suggest that my tears were brain poop.

Gah! This isn't working!

It's difficult trying to say you enjoyed a work of fiction about post-apocalyptic America. Because enjoy isn't the correct word. I can't say I enjoyed reading a book about a father and son trying to make their way someplace, any place, through the barren, burned-out environment, and along the way, trying heartily to avoid the numerous bands of cannibals that perhaps set up shop where the old Wal-Mart used to be. It was hard to read, and I did feel a bit like some post-novel therapy was in order. But I was still glad I got through it.

I felt very similarly after reading John Hersey's Hiroshima, because reading about the level of death and destruction brought about by the dropping of the atomic bomb will do that.

Ditto for Lauren Slater's Welcome to My Country, and Susana Kaysen's Girl Interrupted, because if you've spent any amount of time here, you'd know that I'm all over that depression lit, with good reason! Both were crucial reads at a time when I needed smart people to validate what I'd been enduring, and I was grateful for having encountered both stories.

Junot Diaz's book The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was also a killer. A good killer, a sexy killer, where all your encouraging energy goes to a morbidly obese, fantasy-obsessed teen. Moving back and forth in time, you get a horrifyingly clear picture of how far the death and destruction of a brutal dictatorship (Trujillo in the Dominican Republic) spreads, and how many people are affected.

What I want to know is what books really got to you? Which did you put down but not forget about?
Depression in Winter

There comes a little space between the south
side of a boulder
and the snow that fills the woods around it.
Sun heats the stone, reveals
a crescent of bare ground: brown ferns,
and tufts of needles like red hair,
acorns, a patch of moss, bright green...

I sank with every step up to my knees,
throwing myself forward with a violence
of effort, greedy for unhappiness --
until by accident I found the stone,
with its secret porch of heat and light,
where something small could luxuriate, then
turned back down my path, chastened and calm.

Jane Kenyon, Depression in Winter, from Otherwise: New & Selected Poems


Last Thursday, two local teenagers walked down to some high-speed tracks near their houses and wrapped their arms around one another as the Acela barreled into them. It is a story that is still unfolding, and it's something I am thinking about, in all its excruciating detail: the recent death of a classmate, mourning, signs of depression and perhaps plans made somewhat public amongst friends and online.

I think about it now in a dual role: as a parent and as a patient: as someone who has birthed two children that I'd do anything to keep safe and well and whole, and as someone who has seen the inside of a locked unit, been on perhaps a dozen different medications, and who once filled a tub with warm water and got inside with a single blade thinner than a piece of paper.

I've been in a hole, multiple times now, that was so fucking foul, with walls so slippery and unforgiving, that I could swear the very ability to feel something so powerfully bad should have been a killer in and of itself.

But no, you remain alive there, in something you cannot get out of, and depending on your situation, it is usually the mercy of others that takes you to a place that might not be pleasant, but is survivable.

So I don't know about those girls: how long they'd been in that hole or what exactly it was they couldn't extricate themselves from, or why they thought obliterating themselves in front of a train was the only option left. They must have had people who loved them, who could have helped. And it hurts just pondering it, because no matter how removed I am from them and the people that survive them, I remember that sensation. I loved the people I'd be leaving, but holy god in heaven above, I was hurting like a motherfucker.

And it was the mercy of others -- my mother, who took me to the ER, the social workers, the psychiatrists with their magical pills, and those angels of nurses, who sat on my bedside night after night and talked to me -- that got me to some other plane.

What is better? Well, I could wake up and be okay with it. That small thing was huge.

And I wish I could tell those girls that. That shit hurts and it's brutal and sometimes it's so overpowering you do feel like death is preferable. You pine for it like an elusive suitor. It's your boyfriend, death, all dressed up for you and beckoning.

But just like in that poem that Jane Kenyon wrote, deep within the recesses of the bleakest winter, there are places the sun gets, where there is warmth and growth and another chance. And that pain, like the burying cold and biting wind, isn't forever. It may take an army to conquer it, and you may be in the back of the line, letting others wear armor for you and wield their swords, but you'll be there, fighting along in whatever way is possible at the time.

I wish I could tell them that. I wish I could tell them to hold the fuck on.

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