Sunday, June 30, 2013

Retreat

You may have noticed that I posted quite a few blog entries while my daughter was gone. Now that she is back from Oklahoma, I've too busy reprogramming her to have time for writing. By Wednesday, we were ready to ship her back. She would not go to sleep and it was leading to a bad scene at night and another one in the morning. She is still a natural-born night owl, but things finally got a little better by the end of last week.

The kid's first week at summer camp went well. It's a day program (not an overnight dealio) and she really seemed to like it. She was in a music camp for the first week. Next up, sports camp. That would've been my worst nightmare when I was a kid, but she seems fine with the prospect of playing sports all day.

As for me, I had a hectic week but ended it with a peaceful retreat on Saturday. The retreat was for the women of my church and was held at a bucolic, picturesque retreat center about 25 minutes from my house. I wasn't really sure what to expect but I was game for whatever transpired (please note: I peed in an outhouse). The eight of us spent the morning pulling weeds. I don't pull weeds in my own garden but didn't mind doing it. I am such a crappy gardener that I had to be given very explicit instructions as to what I could and could not pull.  We worked for a couple of hours and were then called inside for lunch. The ladies who run the retreat center put together an absolutely amazing lunch for us. I sat next to a fellow vegetarian and we found that there was plenty for us to eat. When you don't eat meat, you get used to having exactly one choice at many restaurants. "Would you like the portabella sandwich or perhaps you would prefer the portabella sandwich?" Here, there were countless items from which we could choose - from pureed turnip greens to cannellini beans to egg burritos. Good stuff.

After lunch, we gathered for a writing exercise. We were each given a couple of randoms words to inspire us and were then free to roam the grounds . . . to write, to meditate, or to do whatever. I have to confess that its pretty rare for me to disconnect and not feel like there is something I need to do. I wandered over by the alpacas and then over by the chickens. I liked the funny little sounds the hens made. The retreat center features a silo with three little apartments in it (people can rent them and have a little meditative getaway).  So, I sat on the steps of the silo and contemplated the words I had been given: earth and garden.  I made a list of garden-related words and then tried to figure out what to write. Everything I write is constructed via a keyboard; it had been a while since I attempted to write anything longhand.

I didn't really like where my brain was leading me. I thought about fertility and my lack thereof. I never really wanted to call myself infertile, I guess. Then I thought about weeds and gardens. I thought about how the other attendees, all of whom are older than I am, seem more comfortable in their own skin than I do.

So, finally, I wrote this:

I am not the weed.
I am not the thing that's not quite right.

I wrote lots of other lines and crossed them all out. I kept coming back to the first two lines I'd written. They seemed like enough somehow. 

After about a half-hour, the bell rang and we all reconvened. We sat outside under a beautiful old tree. We each read what we had written. Everyone else had written about the beauty of nature and about all the amazing things they'd seen in the gardens and on the hiking path by the creek. The idea was for each person to pull out a line or two from their writing so that we could pull it all together into one poem. I could see right away that my lines were weird and didn't fit with the others, but everyone was very gracious and supportive anyway.

The last hour of the retreat was spent with music. One musically-inclined attendee played the recorder while the rest of us attempted to sing along. I was relieved to see (and hear) that I was not the only one who could not sing.  Finally, we joined together and sang a hymn that we all knew by heart and that all Unitarian Universalists know well:

Go now in peace
Go now in peace
May the spirit of love surround you
Everywhere, everywhere
You may go

May it be so.











I peed in here, yes I did.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Wayward Daughter Has Returned

She's home! And reprogramming has begun. My daughter is a night owl, as are my parents. So, it didn't take long for her to fall into the routine of staying up very late and then sleeping until the crack of noon while she was in Oklahoma. Also, my parents are helpless in the face of rampant manipulation from their adorable granddaughter.  So, when we got her back, she was used to: 1. Doing whatever she wanted and 2. Doing it until very late at night.  We had our work cut out for us.

Picking her up at the airport went pretty smoothly.  This time, I wasn't selected by the TSA for additional screening, but I did end up in the "full body scan" line. Yay!  I made it to the gate with only a minute or two to spare.  Moments later, the door to the jetway was opened and I spotted my daughter walking with a flight attendant.  Before I knew it, my kid was in my arms and I was hugging the bejeebers out of her. I surprised myself by getting all weepy.  Meanwhile, a man came up to me and told me how much he enjoyed sitting next to my daughter. Another member for her fan club, I guess. I signed a release form and off we went.  We found her dad in the baggage claim area.

As we waited for her suitcase, my daughter informed me that during her two-week stay in Oklahoma, she had bathed only three or four times and brushed her teeth five times. Also, she told me she hadn't eaten all day because my parents hadn't fed her. I'm pretty sure there were some inaccuracies in what I was hearing.  Or at least I hope so.

As promised, we drove straight to the Rainforest Cafe for dinner.  Forget what I said about mediocre service. We had the world's most attentive server. We almost thought we'd have to take out a restraining order. The food was okay. We understood that we were paying for "the experience."  While our daughter wandered around the restaurant, admiring the animatronic gorillas, P and I gazed up at the thousands of fake leaves hanging over our heads.

Me: "How do you think they dust everything in here? Do you think they bring in a contractor or do it themselves?"

P: (looking up into the rain forest) "Good question."

Me: "Well, do you think they blow it or suck it? Like maybe there's some big machine to get the dust off?"

P: "I'll bet they blow it. Yeah, that's probably what they do. Makes more sense to blow it than to suck it."

That's the kind of conversation you have after 21 years of togetherness. No politics or religion for us, amigos!

After dinner, we went back to our hotel and of course we were immediately required to go swimming. The hotel was pretty crowded. We were also informed by the front desk that we could expect to hear the music from an event (held in the ballroom) until midnight. Yay!  Our room had two double beds. We were going to give the kid her own bed, but then P fell asleep in her bed.  She tried to stay in that bed but announced that she couldn't handle her dad's snoring, and crawled in bed with me instead. Yay!  As soon as I turned off the light, she morphed into "The Beast of a Thousand Knees" and kicked me all night long. And yes, I could definitely hear the music from the party. The event was a huge family reunion, with the family in question being predominantly African-American. At the risk of spouting a stereotype, let me just say that these folks could rock a beat. I half-wished I were at that reunion instead of lying in bed with a size 12 foot lodged in my spine.

The next morning, we enjoyed our free breakfast before checking out.  We headed to a science museum and planned to spend a few hours there before we had to hit the road. It was a lot of fun. In one section of the museum, there was a touch tank containing some small sting rays and whatnot. I always feel very iffy about this sort of thing (out of concern for the animals), but appreciated the fact that a staff person stayed by the tank and was very vigilant about making sure all visitors upheld the two-finger rule.  You could put two fingers in the water and gentle touch one of the rays, but you couldn't pick anything up.  Anyway, I leaned waaaay forward to touch a passing ray and promptly deposited my left boob into a puddle on the ledge of the tank.

"Nice, Claudia," said my husband, shaking his head. I am always embarrassing him in one way or another.

About fifteen minutes later, we found ourselves in another section of the museum that featured an infrared camera.  The three of us stood in front of it and saw ourselves projected onto a screen. Our bodies mostly glowed red (because of the body heat and all) except for . . . my left boob, which was entirely blue. I felt like a winner, for sure.

Before we left, our daughter tried a driving simulator and a flight simulator. While she was driving, all we could hear was a robotic voice saying, "collision, collision."  As far as I could tell, our child wiped out several pedestrians and three or four cars. She didn't fare much better with the flight simulator. After only a few seconds in the air, she deposited the plane, nose down, in a field. Let's just say we have some doubts about her getting a driver's license in eight years. 

After that, we drove home and as soon as we got there, I tackled the kid's laundry.  She didn't keep the clean and dirty stuff separated, so I just washed everything. She did manage to bring back some of my mom's homemade fudge, though. My mom's fudge makes all my dreams come true. It felt like some sort of reward for all the laundry.

By 8:00, someone's smart mouth made me snap so I sent the offender to bed. I told her to brush her teeth and she argued with me and then threw her robe on the floor. There was a lot of "Don't do this to me, Mommy!" and other histrionics, but I am immune. She had been pushing her luck all day.  Ain't nobody got time for that.

At the Rainforest Cafe

On a bed of nails, yo

Right before she picked off a few innocent pedestrians

Generating electricity with Dad

Right before she crashed the plane

As you can see, she gets the tan and the curly hair from me

Friday, June 21, 2013

I saluted the sun, ya'll

I mean to tell you I saluted that sun like nobody's business. I got up at 4 a.m. this morning in order to make it to yoga by 5 a.m. We did 108 sun salutations for the solstice. It was challenging, but I made it through.

In all honesty, one reason I showed up is that there was a drawing for three months of free classes. And, as you know, I am thrifty frugal just really fucking cheap, and I truly wanted to win those free classes. Alas, I did not. However, I did get a free tee shirt just for showing up. Oh, and some nut mix and a cup of green smoothie.

I'd blather on some more, but I gotta get my act together so I can spend the rest of my day workin' for the man. If you are wondering what a sun salutation is, I described it in more detail in last year's post.

In other news, my baby girl comes home tomorrow. Woot!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Not that! Anything but that!

Life has been pretty quiet with the kid gone.  She flies back home on Saturday. Her dad and I have decided to make a weekend of it (after we pick her up) and stay overnight at a hotel near the airport.  We've promised her a trip to the Rainforest Cafe, because we enjoy over-priced meals layered with jungle sounds and mediocre service.

While she's been gone, I've spent quite a bit of time cleaning out her room. I feel like I should make her apologize to the planet for the sheer volume of paper she has used over the last year or so. I'm also trying to smuggle out a few things before she gets back. I want her to give some of her "little kid" toys to her younger cousins. She also has more books than she needs. I called her the other day and asked her if we can give away her series of Muppet Babies books. "No," she sniffed. "I like to read them when I am alone." Seriously?  What a giver, that kid.

The worst thing that's happened while she's been gone is that I went swimsuit shopping on Sunday. I have not purchased a new swimsuit in years. Like most women, I would rather eat glass than to try on swimsuits. But, we have a vacation coming up and . . . I had a coupon for 20% off at Kohl's.  So, it was with a great sense of foreboding that I headed over to the mall on Sunday afternoon.

Now, I have never owned a bikini in my life. Between having vitiligo and waging a life-long battle with my weight, my default thinking has always been, "Nobody wants to see this."  There is no bikini in my future, either. I've always worn one-piece suits.  When I was in my teens and 20s, I remember thinking that there could be no fate worse than a one-piece swimsuit with a skirt on it. I saw them on older, not-so-thin ladies at the pool/beach and thought it seemed like a death sentence somehow. I don't know. I was young and foolish.

Over the past few years, however, I've noticed that swimwear has changed a bit. Now it is possible to wear a tankini and a pair of swim shorts and not feel desperately out of place (or tragically out of style).  You get a little more flexibility, can go to the bathroom a LOT more easily, and you're not showing as much skin as might be required otherwise.  So, I grabbed a bunch of different combinations of stuff and trudged over to the fitting room. I locked myself in a fitting room stall and took a deep breath. Ten minutes later, I had literally broken a sweat from wrestling my way into various tops and bottoms..  Nothing fit. I kept looking at the size tags. Did I grab the wrong bleeping size or what? Nope, I just suck.  Finally, I selected a tankini (the kind that has a built-in bra with an underwire) and a pair of ill-fitting swim shorts. It seemed like the best I could do.

So, spirit broken, I walked to the register and bought the damn swimsuit.  At least I had a coupon.

The best thing that's happened this week is that we got new kitchen tile. I know - super exciting, right? P stayed home from work so the installer could come on Monday. My husband did not particularly want new tile, even though the old tile was 25 years old and full of dings and scratches. We do not argue often, but we did argue over my insistence on purchasing new tile. We're talking "sleep on the couch for several nights" kind of arguing. But, now we're back to normal and the tile has been installed. Next, I start negotiating for new carpeting. I should probably just drag my pillow and blanket over to the couch right now.

Kaiser sez; Would ya just look at this new tile???

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The saddest, most pathetic sight you will ever see

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you . . . Gideon on bath day. He would rather be one of those one-eyed, matted homeless dogs in a commercial narrated by Sarah McLachlan than to endure bath day. Gretchen and Kaiser hop into the tub willingly. Gideon, not so much. First, I have to find him (as soon as my brain forms the thought "I should give the dogs a bath," he hides). Then, I have to lift him and carry him down the hall and into the bathroom. He somehow re-arranges his physical mass and adds roughly 410 pounds to his weight. Then I have to heave him into the tub while he actively tries to get back out. Eventually, he concedes the battle and then stands there forlornly while I make him smell purdy.



Here's your change, ma'am

You may have seen a link to this article going around on Facebook a few days ago.  A lot of my friends were sharing it, particularly my childhood/high school friends . . . probably because we're all 43ish and the article describes many of us to a T.

A few years ago, I was watching "So You Think You Can Dance" (don't judge me) and became enamored with a dancer named Phillip Chbeeb. He was really talented and had lips that kinda made me swoon a little.  I watched him dance and then at some point I came to the sad realization that . . . I am basically old enough to be his mother. I mean, he was born in 1988, the year I graduated high school, so, I mean, it's feasible. Every year I watch the show and the contestants stay the same age while I've morphed into an older (and apparently dirtier) old lady. :::sigh::::

Everything in the article is true, so true. While I do my best to avoid wearing pants with an elasticized waist, I will admit to having at least one pair of jeans that boasts a "comfort waistband."  And yes, my contacts are bi-focals. Small print is a challenge.  My optometrist recently had me try a new brand of bi-focal contacts. It was a disaster. I was sending crazy text messages to my friends and family because I couldn't really see my phone.  I had a hell of a time setting the digital thermostat in our home. "I've either set it for 68 or 86," I told my husband. "It's hard to say."

My daughter is visiting my parents in Oklahoma right now. My mom showed my daughter a photo of me when I was a teenager. The kid didn't even recognize me. "She looks so young!" exclaimed my daughter.  To her, there is no way I existed prior to May 3, 2005. She doesn't believe we were born the same day or anything like that, but she does seem to think that her dad and I materialized out of thin air and then showed up at the hospital that day to pick her up. But yes, I was young once.  I wore acid wash jeans and other questionable styles. I did some ill-advised things to my hair. I dated wrongish boys and made bad decisions.

Then I graduated college, got a job, married a boy, bought a house, and fell into grown-uphood. And then, somewhere along the way, I shot past the mid-point of my life (there is no way I will live into my 80s, ya'll) and here I am . . . with my dramatically slower metabolism and my sensible shoes and my bad habits that are here to stay.

At yoga class yesterday morning, the instructor had us go from a standing posture (tadasana) into a squat. We all squatted down (we being a group of women in the age range of 30-55) and at least eight knees made loud popping noises. We all laughed. "Ah," I thought, "At least I am in good company."

Proof that I was young (and that I existed prior to 2005)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Minor Identity Crisis

A dog sittin' on my kid. Ah, just like home.
For the first couple of days our daughter was in Oklahoma, we didn't hear from her at all. I called to speak to her on Sunday but she was too busy swimming to talk. I was happy to hear that she was having a good time. On Monday, she went to the park and had ice cream and had all sorts of fun with her cousins. On Tuesday, the dam broke. Homesickness set in.

Her dad and I spoke to her on the phone Tuesday evening.  She was practically morose. It was one of the hardest phone calls of my life. She cried and said she missed us.

"We miss you, too, sweetie.  But, don't worry about us.  Just have fun!"

Eventually, I needed to hang up and get ready for yoga, but that just made her cry harder. "Don't leave me, Mama!  Don't hang up, Mama!"

This went on for quite a while until I convinced her that she should go help Aunt Craggy with dinner.  But oh man, that was one tough phone call.  I began to wonder if I'd made a terrible mistake by sending my child so far away.

I went to yoga and found some clarity.  Yoga often helps me get my mind straight.  I think it's important for my daughter to spend time with family and also to gain some independence from us. Plus, I know she is making some great memories in Oklahoma. As a matter of fact, when I spoke to her on the phone I told her that even if she came home right now, her dad and I are just the same boring old people who make her brush her teeth before bed. She'll have a lot more fun where she is now.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that once she is over the hump of homesickness, she'll just focus on having a kick-ass vacation.

As for us, the house is quiet but we are muddling through.  I don't mean to imply that my child cramps my style at all, but while she is gone I am focusing on doing some stuff I can't normally do. P and I went biking on Monday after work. We biked 12 miles or so. When we bike with the kid, she pedals for about a mile and then makes us stop and buy her ice cream. P works a second job on Thursday and Sunday nights, so normally I need to stay home on those evenings. On Sunday I got together with my friend Becky* at a wine bar. I drank sangria on the patio - perfect!  On Thursday night I am planning to go to yoga.  And, we have a date night planned for Friday night. Yes, we are just all kinds of crazy up in here.

My middle sister told me that after her divorce, the first time the kids went to visit their father, she did not know what to do with herself.  She said she wandered in and out of stores without buying anything, wondering, "Who am I? What did I used to like to do?" I am feeling like that myself at the moment.  I miss my daughter desperately but it's also sort of exciting to be able to order a pizza with any toppings I want.  (We've been eating plain cheese, per A's orders, since 2006). 

One project I have planned for the next week or so is to clean out A's room. She is pretty nervous about it.  I am not going to dismantle it entirely, but I need to clean out her bookcase and toy box, at the very least. Funny how kids don't even notice when you ditch some of their stuff.  But just make sure they don't find their artwork in the recycle bin in the garage. Hell hath no fury. I say that from experience.

*I have at least six friends named Becky/Rebecca.  I just wanted to mention that.  I also have at least ten named Jennifer.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Gone, baby, gone

So, my baby is in Oklahoma. Yes, I know she's eight and all. When she is 45 I will still call her "my baby." And when she is 13 as well . . . preferably very loudly and in front of all her friends.

She and I left Friday night after work. We stayed in a hotel room (a couple hours from our house) so that we wouldn't have to drive all the way to the airport  in one fell swoop (around four hours total, depending on how bad traffic is).  Plus, we wanted to go swimming. After we checked in, I ran back down to the lobby to buy us some ice cream. When I got back to our room, I immediately noticed that her bottle of pink lemonade was sitting on the desk with about a third of it gone. "What happened?" I asked.  She confessed to spilling it.  The lemonade was all over the nightstand and on the floor, and she'd even managed to splash some of it on the wall behind the nightstand.

"Why didn't you grab a towel and start mopping it up?" I asked her.

"I didn't know where the towels were." She responded.

I am not sure why she was baffled about where, oh where, one might find a towel while in a hotel room that's only got one other room - the bathroom. But, I digress. Anyway, do you want to know how she decided to deal with the spill in those few moments before I returned to the room?  She dragged her suitcase across the room and positioned it over the spill on the carpet. I guess she was hoping I wouldn't notice the pink lemonade running down the walls?

So, you can see why I was a little nervous about sending her halfway across the country by herself. Her decision-making skills still need some work.

Saturday morning, I let her go swimming in the hotel's tiny pool (we'd been swimming the night before, too). Then, we hit the road. We had about a two-hour drive to the airport, Chicago Midway. We stopped at an outlet mall along the way so that we could grab lunch at the food court. I also let her pop into the Disney Store and of course she talked me into buying her something (a High School Musical doll - Sharpay - of all things). I started to get a little nervous that I had not allowed enough time to account for Chicago traffic (as well as the possibility of long security lines at the airport) so we quickly finished our lunch and then got back on the road. Sure enough, we hit quite a bit of traffic. Her flight was scheduled to leave at 2:50 p.m. My goal was to make it to the airport by 1:30.  It was more like 1:45 when we got there.  We finally got to the check-in counter at around 1:55.  Much to my relief, the lines were short.  We presented ourselves at the counter and I explained that my daughter was flying as an unaccompanied minor.

Now, I've always been happy with Southwest, but this particular agent wasn't what you'd call . . . fully lucid. She looked up the reservation and then tried to tell me that I hadn't paid the UM (unaccompanied minor) fee. So, I presented her with the receipt showing that I had paid. Then she said some other forms were not printing out. She seemed unsure of what she was doing, so she attempted to cover up that fact by mumbling. I couldn't understand much of what she was saying.

"Is this the one you need?" I asked. I handed her another document I'd printed. This one showed who was dropping the kid off (me) and who was picking her up (my mom).  She nodded. But still, something seemed to be missing. She needed a supervisor. The supervisor, however, was helping another passenger. This passenger, an older gentleman, had missed his flight to Buffalo and appeared to be suffering from some sort of issue and said he wasn't feeling well. He sat on the luggage scale and looked down at his lap. I could see that he clocked in at just over 200 pounds. Honestly, I would rather fling myself onto the runway and be run over by a jet than to let strangers see how much I weigh.

Finally, another supervisor came along and stated that even though she'd forgotten to bring her glasses, she'd do her best to help. Finally, they got everything straightened out and handed me a gate pass (so that I could accompany my daughter all the way to the gate) as well as A's boarding pass and whatnot. By this time it was 2:20.  We raced to security.  I had made sure I emptied my purse of anything that even vaguely resembled a liquid. I'd also packed my daughter's carry-on bag very carefully. We put our stuff on the conveyor belt and then my kid passed through the detector. A-OK.  I had nothing in my pockets so I assumed I would pass through without incident as well. I walked through and heard an ominous beep.

"You've been randomly selected for additional screening," the TSA agent told me. Greaaaat.  I was instructed to wait for another agent.

I wasn't sure what the "additional screening" would entail. A strip search? A pat down?  "Will this take long?" I asked.  "I really have to get my daughter to the gate."

"She's right there," he said. "She's not going anywhere. See?" He pointed at my daughter for emphasis.

Oh, a smart ass. Gotcha. The other agent waved me over. "Where are your shoes?" he asked me.   We located our bin on the conveyor belt and then he grabbed my shoes. At first I thought he just wanted me to have shoes on while he checked my vagina for bags of heroin or whatever, but he took my shoes to a table and said, "I have to swab them."

I watched as he swabbed my 99-cent Target flip-flops for bomb residue (is that what they are checking for?) and then put the swab in a computer to be read.

He then handed my flip-flops back to me. There was no other screening done. You know, as I watched this whole thing unfold, part of me thought "you're just doing your job" and "thanks for keeping us safe."  But part of me also thought "this is redonkulous!"

Also, and this might sound crazy, but generally speaking, I have found it difficult to take down an airplane WHEN I AM NOT FLYING ANYWHERE.

Anyway, we made a quick stop at a newstand to buy Short Stuff some a drink and some snacks for the plane. Then we made it to her gate just as they started boarding. Fortunately, she got to go right to the front of the line. I had hoped we'd have enough time for me to take a few photos and to allay any concerns she might have. But, there was no time. She was paired with another little girl who was also flying as an unaccompanied minor.  Before I knew it, my baby was headed down the jetway with a gate agent and her new traveling companion.  I hugged her and kissed her as many times as I could before that, though.

Suddenly, I was alone. I was required to wait at the gate until the plane was in the air, so I sat and waited. I felt queasy. I watched the plane through the window. I was having irrational thoughts about busting past the gate agent and running onto the plane for one more "I love you." My eyes welled up and I just sat and waited quietly. I knew she'd be okay. We had known about the trip for a long time and we'd talked through exactly what she could expect when she was on the plane and all that jazz.  There was no connecting flight or anything like that. All she had to do was sit there for two hours and then find her Meemaw on the other end.

Once the plane was in the air, I made the long trek back to my van.  The drive home was quiet. Suddenly, I felt guilty for every time I had fussed at the kid. On the way to the airport, she was drawing in the back seat and kept wanting me to turn around and look at her artwork. "We're in the middle of Chicago," I'd said. "If I turn around and look, we'll probably die." Now I wished I'd found a way to look at the drawing.

My parents picked the kid up as planned. I talked to my daughter on the phone right after she landed. She was already having so much fun, I could tell.  She's spending the first few days at my sister's house. Just a little while ago, my sister sent me photo of my kid swimming in the pool with her kids. I can tell that my daughter is having a blast.

The house sure is quiet, though. Looking on the bright side, I now have two weeks to clean out Miss Thang's bedroom and dispose of a few things while she's not around to protest. Then maybe I'll call some of the neighbor kids and yell at them to brush their teeth and get dressed. It would be a shame for me to be out of practice when my daughter comes home.




Friday, June 7, 2013

Minor Vent: Adoption in the Media

I've never been a huge "reality TV" fan but one little guilty pleasure I do have on my DVR is a show called "Extreme Weight Loss" (formerly called "Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition").  Chris Powell strikes me as being a good trainer as well as being the sort of guy who would be downright pleasant if you met him in person. I like the way the show portrays an overweight person for an entire one-year journey - no quick fixes.

A recent episode featured a pretty young woman named Meredith. Meredith was adopted as an infant and seemed to be very hung-up on it. She grew up in a loving family with two parents and a sister.  On the first day of the year-long transformation, Chris Powell took her on a run on the beach and Meredith collapsed almost immediately, crying and lamenting the fact that she was "given away on the first day of her life." Her pain was very real and I felt terrible for her.

On the other hand, it was extremely obvious that Meredith's parents were totally devoted to her.  I don't know how they could have been more supportive. At the six-month mark, Meredith ran a marathon and her parents jogged alongside her for a mile or so, her dad wearing jeans and huffing away. They spoke of nothing but their love for her and their pride in her.  Chris spoke to Meredith several times and encouraged her to contact her birth mother, which was all fine and good. He actually said something about "writing a letter to your mom" and didn't use the correct adoption terminology, but that's fairly common, and most parents and adoptees don't get too worked up about it anyway.

Throughout most of the episode, Meredith felt that if she could get thin and develop a relationship with her birth mother, all would be right with the world.  Finally, at the end of the episode, Meredith had her "a-ha!" moment and came to the realization that she has always been loved and was always wanted (AND, that her birthmom loved her so much that she wanted more for Meredith than she could provide).  Meredith still wanted to hear from her birthmom which is, I think, totally normal and healthy.  But, it was not her sole focus.  Her focus was on being healthy and happy.

Why am I blathering on about this?  Well, I'm just going to be absolutely honest here. It bugs me that the media portrays adoption as some cosmic wrong that needs to be righted. You see it over and over with shows like "The Locator." It's like adoptive families are just biding their time until they can return their child to his/her people. I find it annoying. Reuniting a birth family is all well and good, but why is it necessary to cast aside the parents who raised the child? Like they never mattered much anyway.

Adoption shows often do the birth family a disservice, too. Often, there is outdated adoption language used, such as "gave up for adoption."  Birth moms are sometimes portrayed as being selfish or as having broken some sacred code of motherhood.  I remember my heart breaking when my daughter's birthmom once mentioned to me that a family friend had told her something along the lines of, "I can't believe you did what you did."

Since the vast majority of domestic adoptions are open (a trend over the last decade that I am confident will continue), in a few decades there will be fewer adoptees who have to embark on the painful "where did I come from" search. My daughter knows she has a birthmom (we have a visit scheduled with her later this summer) and some bio half-siblings as well. I truly believe this is the healthiest way to go when it comes to adoption. I know there are exceptions (such as abuse in the birth family) but then again there are adoptive families that turn out to be bad news, too.

I was not adopted, so I am certainly not an expert on the topic. I know that it is common to go through a period of grappling with rejection-related fears and issues (even in the most successful adoption scenarios) and that it is normal and perhaps even necessary. I will always be sensitive to that when it comes to my daughter, although I will not allow her to blame everything that ever happens to her on the fact that I didn't give birth to her. Believe me, when I was 13, I acted like most 13-year-old girls do. I believed that everything in my life was full of drama and wrongness and had I been adopted, I'm sure I would have blamed it all on that. Instead, I just blamed it all on my mother, which was nothing if not convenient.

I am glad that we are in contact with my daughter's birth family. My kid has two families to love her and what could be better than that?

I do not pretend to know (or to diminish, or to make light of) all of the challenges that may be present in the life of someone who was adopted. I do not pretend to know all there is to know about the grief of a birth mother who makes the selfless decision to make an adoption plan for her child. 

What I do know is that I am not just some glorified babysitter who is just filling in until my child can be returned to where she came from. I am not some thief who robbed my baby girl of the right to be raised by those who share her DNA. I am her mom. I have been with her since the day she was born. I changed a million diapers and went to work with dried rice cereal on my shirt. I scrubbed her toys when she pooped in the bath tub. I taught her to ride a bike. I threatened some little brat at the playground who tried to bully her. She is my baby, my world, my pride and joy. And, I love her so much that I would never try to restrict her access to her birth family. There is, you see, a happy medium.

My kid, wearing a sash she made herself, bearing a title she bestowed upon herself.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

"You have a blue car? I have a blue car!"

21 years ago today, I asked a super-cute jarhead to dance and when he walked me to my car, he said those fateful words to me.  He didn't tell me about the comic books, nor did he warn me that he's not even vaguely handy. But, we did have the same color car, so all was well. I still adore that brown-eyed boy.

I

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Annnnd the update (good news!)

As you know, my OB/GYN made me mucho upset on Monday (and on every visit prior to that - if you have a particularly good memory, I complained about him back in 2010). I know, I know. It was stupid of me not to bail before now.  You know, you start thinking . . . well, this person has three degrees and I only have one, I'm probably an overly difficult patient, maybe it is supposed to be this way . . .

There was one extra little bit of fun to be had at Monday's visit.  I went off the pill four years ago. I can't have children and I'm an old lady now, so I decided I didn't want to keep taking it. My body, my decision.  At Monday's visit, Dr. D asked me about not being on the pill. I didn't feel like arguing with him (since he's always right and I'm always wrong) so I simply said, "I just don't want to be on it."

He said," So you'd be fine with a baby if it happened?"

Again, not up for arguing. "Yes."

Then came this doozy: "And are you concerned about STDs at all?"

Me, totally baffled: "No, not after 21 years."  I shook my head for emphasis.

"Well," he said, "Sometimes even married couples break up for a time and I've had patients express concern when they've had time apart from their spouse."

I said nothing. I mean, seriously?  Is this a common question to ask a 43-year-old woman who's been with the same dude for 21 years?  I didn't think so, but what do I know.  I told P about it when I got home. He was confused, too. "Um, is that what married couples do?" he asked me.

Looking at our last bill from our cellular provider . . . my husband used 11 of the 750 minutes allotted to him under our cellular plan. Eleven. So yeah, I'm pretty sure the guy is not carrying on some torrid affair. I'm pretty sure those 1l minutes were calls from his nagging ball-n-chain of a wife.

Anyway, you already know how the rest of the doctor visit went.  On my way home, I called P and cried.  "I just can't go there anymore," I told him.  I was beside myself.  So, I wrote the letter.  However, instead of mailing it directly to Dr. Insensitive, I decided to fax it.  My secret hope was that faxing it might cause it to fall into the hands of someone who mattered.

Well, guess what?  It did.  The practice administrator called me today.  She was super, super nice. She said that she could not believe the way I had been treated and that Dr. D's behavior would not be tolerated.  She also shared the letter with another doctor on staff, who said she would be honored to have me as a patient.  When I told the practice administrator about the STD questions, she was speechless.  She said that Dr. D is old school and they have some newer doctors on board who would never treat a patient the way I've been treated. She gave me her direct line and said that if I would like to come back to the clinic in the future, she promised me that I will be treated with dignity and respect.  I had almost forgotten that I deserve to be treated like a human being. 

Many thanks to my friends who encouraged me to write that letter. I feel so much better now.  I promise not to write any more blog posts about my lady parts for a while.

Now that I'm in a much better mood, I'll share a sunny little song I've been digging lately:

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dear Doctor Callous

And yes, I actually sent this!

***************************************************

Dear Dr. D,

I’m sure it will not surprise you to learn that I will no longer count myself among your patients.  It may take me some time to find a new doctor, but I will call to have my records transferred at that time.

When I first became pregnant back in 1999, Dr. S was my doctor. My pregnancy did not go well, almost from the start. I told him multiple times that I felt like something was wrong. He refused to grant me an ultrasound. “You’re a first-time mom,” he told me. “You’re supposed to worry! But, everything is fine.”  I miscarried at 13 weeks.  I do not think he could have stopped the miscarriage, but I know an ultrasound would have saved me many weeks of carrying a non-viable pregnancy.  So, I sought a new doctor.  Dr. K seemed like a good doctor at first.  However, on one of my subsequent miscarriages, she sent me to the hospital for an ultrasound.  I was told that the technician could not give me the results – only Dr. K could call me with the results.  I waited and waited for a call back.  Finally, since it was a holiday weekend and I knew I would not hear back for several days, I called her office. She picked up the phone and acknowledged that she’d forgotten to call. And then she informed me that I was miscarrying. She couldn’t remember to tell a patient that her pregnancy had failed?  Inexcusable. At that time I switched to Dr. B.  I liked Dr. B a lot. He was kind and was sensitive to my situation.  Had he not retired, I would have been happy to remain as his patient.

Once Dr. B retired, you inherited me as a patient.  From the start, I did not feel comfortable with you as my doctor. However, I’d already “fired” two doctors and am fully aware that I am the common denominator here.  Am I a difficult patient?  Maybe. I’m not sure.  I felt like I should hang in there and put up with all of the insensitivity, the insistence that I still had every chance of carrying a pregnancy to term.  It has always been more important to you to be right than to be compassionate.

I know you believe I have a low IQ and am not capable of understanding my own medical history, but I have a slew of auto-immune conditions and firmly believe they play a part in my inability to carry a pregnancy to term.  However, it’s a moot point because I already have a child (via adoption) and have no interest in being pregnant or having a baby.  Plus, I’m 43 now so the odds are not in my favor even if I did want a baby. I’m not sure if you noticed when I was in your office, but I have my daughter’s name (in her own handwriting) tattooed on my chest, right over my heart. She is all I ever wanted and all I will ever need. Instead of telling me over and over that I could become pregnant and have a baby, I wish you would have said, “Hey, I think it’s great that you found a way to become a mom. Congratulations!” Instead, my child is a non-entity. 

The reason I didn’t come in for an exam last year was simply because I did not want to go.  When a woman has miscarried four times, she develops a special kind of hatred for the stirrups.  If only someone had said, “I’m sorry about what happened to you,” it almost would have been bearable.  Instead, I am asked over and over again about my medical history.  How many live births? How many pregnancies?  When your nurse asked me yesterday if I had terminated my pregnancies or if I had miscarried, I felt like I might explode.  Could anything be more insensitive?  I don’t buy this “we have a new system” excuse. This was not the first time or the second time I had been asked the same questions.  I have been asked over and over again. I have worked in software development for 17 years and I don’t believe for a minute that it was not possible to export any data from the old system. I don’t care if it had to be printed and then entered manually. There is really no excuse for asking me if I had terminated my pregnancies. It is tantamount to having some horrible wound slit open again and again.

In April I ended up in the emergency room as a result of excruciating pain in my lower abdomen.  I was diagnosed with ovarian cysts and was advised to follow up with my regular doctor. I dreaded going, but made the appointment anyway. You informed me that my cysts are completely normal and basically gave me the impression that I had had no reason to go to the hospital. 

Yesterday you asked me if I had any questions. I did have questions. I had lots of them.  However, I’ve grown frustrated with being told I’m mistaken in every single thing I’ve ever tried to tell you, so I kept my questions to myself. And, left in tears. As usual. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Bond

We held a pet blessing service at my church yesterday. I took my boy Giddy along. During the service I read a piece I'd thrown together a day or two beforehand. So, I'll just cheat and share it here.

What binds us to our non-human companions?   What do we seek in them?  

I live with three dogs – two of my own plus a long-term foster dog.  They are all Boxers. I’ve also lived with cats for most of my life, until the passing of my cat Ella Fitzkitty last year.  

The dogs, my clan of knuckleheads.  What can I say about them?  Well, for starters . . . they eat an awful lot and have expressed an occasional willingness to eat their own vomit. And by “occasional” I mean “every single time the opportunity arises.” They drink too much water and sometimes pee on the floor as a result.  They have floppy jowls and like to shake their heads, flinging tiny bits of food and unidentified goobers onto my walls. They emit waves of gas that bring a tear to the eye. They bark at strangers and friends alike. They jump up on visitors and walk horribly on leash.  The dogs have all passed basic obedience classes, but only by the skin of their teeth. They have denied all knowledge of basic commands since then.  “Sit? What is this ‘sit’ of which you speak?” As far as I can tell, they are planning to spend most of the summer attempting to slay the neighbor’s dog through a one-centimeter space between the fencing slats.  Or, if not to kill the neighbor’s dog, at least to bark relentlessly at her through that opening. I picture them lobbing “your mama’s so fat” jokes and other rude barbs at the little black dog. 

What binds me to these unruly beasts?  It is challenging, indeed, to articulate my devotion to them.  Their devotion to me may be, in part, derived from the fact that I feed them. I feel confident that they’d just as happily accept a meal served to them by Charles Manson. But, I like to think they have some appreciation for me that extends beyond, say, what they’d see in a random stranger.

When I come home from work, they act as though my arrival is the very best thing ever to happen to them. If I walk outside for thirty seconds to get the mail, they act like my return is the stuff of miracles. I appreciate their excitement over the little things in life – dinner, a walk, a car ride. I envy their ability to be free of worry. Their hearts are pure, their actions mostly devoid of ulterior motive. Well, except for their less charitable feelings towards the dog next door.  If you accidentally step on a paw, they forgive.  They sense when I’ve had a bad day and stay close in case some emergency tongue-to-the-face action is needed to in order to soothe me.  My dogs hold masters’ degrees in the dual arts of spooning and consoling. 

Gideon, in particular, is my boy.  My heart dog. When he is sleeping, I sometimes say to him, very softly, “Are you my boy, Giddy?” and even in his sleep, he wags his nub. Yes, he tells me, I am your boy. We have quiet moments, just between the two of us.  I get down on the floor and sit cross-legged while he presses the top of his head into my sternum.  I hug him and tell him he’s the bestest dog ever.  I worry that he’s starting to show his age, but have decided to ignore the grey muzzle and stick to the theory that he might just be immortal.  

Spending time with Giddy and the other dogs . . . well, it nourishes my soul in some small but meaningful way.  Their joie de vivre helps me to let go of the little things that often draw my focus.  I suspect that my canine companions do far more for me than I ever do for them.  I love the slobbery galoots and don’t mind admitting that they make my heart all gooey.  If I can forgive the goobers on my walls, I can admit that these goofy little spirits make my life just a little bit sweeter.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The lies we tell girls

Lately I've been wondering if it is about time to start talking to my daughter about one of the worst things what will ever happen to her: menstruation.

As much as she frustrates the bejeebers out of me with her inability refusal to turn off lights, comb her own hair, etc., there are signs that she is growing up. Last week, I took her grocery shopping with me. My preferred grocery store has good prices and a better-than-average selection of vegetarian stuff (also, a huge-ass liquor store). The bad news is that the store is about the size of a football field and it takes me the better part of two hours to work my way from one end to the other. Anywho, last week we were at the register and I realized I'd managed to forget milk. My kiddo volunteered to go and get it even though the milk section was as far from where we were as it could possibly be. "Okay," I said, a bit nervously. See, we drink almond milk. And not only that, it's a specific kind. Not unsweetened, not vanilla-flavored.  We buy the original flavor of Almond Breeze.

I proceeded to unload the contents of my cart onto the conveyor belt, while wondering what I would do with the wrong milk she would surely bring back. But nope! Moments later, I saw Short Stuff winding her way through the crowd of people twice her heart.  With the right milk carton cradled in her arms. So, see what I mean?  Growing up. Plus, in one week she is flying to Oklahoma by herself. I feel like she can handle the trip. I'm the one having a minor panic attack every time I think about it.

Although she's only eight, in a few short years she will probably get all teenagery on me. It seems like girls are menstruating earlier and earlier these days. I was 13 but even then, all of my friends made it sound like I was the last one to experience this miraculous event. Knowing what I know now (coupled with the fact that I can't have children anyway), it would have been fine with me if I had never started at all. Anyway, I'm starting to think I should probably lay the groundwork for profoundly awkward conversations later on by starting out with menstruation. I mentioned it to P and saw a look cross his face that reflected something along the lines of "glad I'm off the hook on this one."  The time he spends his daughter involves helping with math homework, reading comic books together, and playing "slug bug" in the car. Under no circumstances are lady parts discussed.

I don't know. Maybe it is still too early? I'm trying to remember when I got the menstruation schpiel in school. Fourth grade, maybe?  Fifth?  I remember filmstrips (yes, filmstrips) showing flowers in fields. I believe there was also a short movie (reel-to-reel action) showing smiling adolescent girls and, as I recall, more flowers. Also, soft music. I was told that a wonderful thing would be happening to me soon. I remember being baffled by the line about "you'll need to take a shower instead of a bath" while you are menstruating. I was so confused. "OH MY GOD WHAT WILL BE SO WRONG WITH ME THAT I CANNOT TAKE A BATH?!"

As I recall, we had to sit through a human reproduction program (girls and boys separated) every year for the next few years. When I was in sixth grade, I'll never forget poor Mrs. Crawford (the very best teacher who has ever lived and if you try to say otherwise, I will cut you) reading students' questions off 3x5 index cards and then talking about "public" hair. God bless her.

What we didn't learn in those classes: menstruation is not fun. Not fun at all. It ruins your day in more ways than I can count. Mrs. Crawford never mentioned ruined clothes and debilitating cramps and all that jazz. Before I try to talk to my daughter about how she'll have public hair in a few years, maybe I should go to the library and find a book that explains it all with a bit more cheerfulness than I'm likely to muster.