Monday, July 27, 2015

Sucking the marrow and knowing I'm not even getting at it

For the past few mornings, when M has come downstairs into the kitchen with Woofy-Paws in his arms, I have been overwhelmed by the desire to hug him and listen to him chat in his squeaky 5-year-old voice for hours.  I wrap my arms around him and have to force myself to let go as he squirms and wiggles away to go play with his brother.

In these quick minutes, I am paying the wispy hairs scratching at his ears and needing to be trimmed, at the skinny legs poking out of his yellow pajama shorts, at his scrawny arms and chest inside the Perry the Platypus pajama top, at the softness of his skin, his flat feet, the space of two missing teeth in his bottom gum.  

I know full well there is nothing babyish about him anymore since he is as tall as some second graders, but I see my baby.   I look at N, my rising middle schooler who is a mere 2.5 inches shorter than me, and see my baby.  I look at gangly G, with his adult teeth in his 7-year-old mouth, and see my baby.

I am beginning to think I may not have as easy a time transitioning to all 3 kids being at school full-time as I thought I would.  Freedom sounds good until I remember that it also means closing the door completely to something I've been doing for over a decade.  

The thought keeps going through my head, "I didn't even enjoy it as much as I could have.  Why did I not enjoy it as much as I could have?  Why was I asleep?"

I start to feel a deep sadness and try to talk myself out of it, reminding myself that the goal is to see them grow up, that my ancestral mothers' greatest desire was to see their children live to adulthood, that the only way to keep them small for eternity is for them to die.  These thoughts are a great antidote to depression since they are so up-lifting.  

Henry David Thoreau comes to mind next.  I recently posted my senior yearbook stuff on this blog, where I had used a HDT quote:  Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars. I cannot count one. I know not the first letter of the alphabet. I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born.

Even though Thoreau was talking about living in the woods, I thought enough of his sentiment to know it was pretty important, that he was a pretty wise individual.  

(Of course, I also used a quote from Pump Up the Volume's (1990) Hard Harry which is proof I was a fairly regular teenager.)

I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. 

Isn't that all any of us wants to do, to live deeply, to experience life, to feel the fullness of it even in its meanness and sublimity?  

In order to sink myself even further into bittersweet sadness, I think of Thornton Wilder's Our Town, about Emily who shares infinite wisdom with the reader after her death and who cannot bear to be a witness to her own life and its memories after death.  Living beings cannot see life as the dead do; they are so hurried by living and time's passing.

My heart aches as I read Emily's lines....

"Oh, Mama, just look at me one minute as though you really saw me...."

"I can't.  I can't go on.  It goes so fast.  We don't have time to look at one another."

"Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you."

"Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?---every, every minute?"

And I know her answer.  I would know her answer even if I'd never read the play.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

I didn't miss you, Panic

For my adolescent psychology grad class, I'm doing an examination of the research on anxiety, focusing a lot on the brain structures involved, cognition and memory.  It has been really fascinating.

I immersed myself in GAD and OCD a decade ago when I was diagnosed, but this study is a nice reminder of how sucky these disorders are.

Since yesterday, I have also been experiencing pretty much nonstop panic all day.  That feeling of wearing a very tight life jacket while my heart beats erratically. My mind spinning into all the catastrophes my amygdala can generate, while my rational mind tries desperately to

N hurt her ankle a bit at Tuesday night's field hockey auspicious beginning...and my amygdala has been rattling off things like, "She won't be able to play all season. You've spent this money on equipment, and she'll keep getting hurt, and then she'll suffer a head injury and be a vegetable for the rest of her life."  My prefrontal cortex is saying things like, "She is young, and it was her first time wearing cleats.  Some ibuprofen and ice, and she'll be fine."  Amygdala says, "SHUT UP!  NOT TRUE!  CATASTROPHE IMMINENT!"

I have been trying to get reimbursement from the doctor in FL who treated D's back spasm in June.  They need to refund us $142.  My amygdala says, "You'll never get this money back.  They cheated you.  Don't ever go on vacation anywhere because insurance is awful and what if someone is seriously injured and has to be hospitalized.  It will devastate your finances."  Prefrontal says, "This amount of money is not going to break you.  It would be nice to be reimbursed, but it is a drop in the bucket.  Calm down.  Write a complaint letter to Humana."  Amygdala says, "SHUT UP!  NOT TRUE!  CATASTROPHE IMMINENT!"

If panic is not enough fun, I purchased new curtains for the living room and office and am spinning all the guilt that ensues when I make what my brain considers "frivolous" purchases (read:  things that give me a little pleasure).  Just writing this small paragraph made the life jacket tighten around my chest.

It is a perfect storm of monthly hormones, not getting enough exercise, grad class, a magazine article to write, planning for my fall classes, uniform shopping to get done, field hockey stuff, Girl Scout planning to do, and being emotionally exhausted from being with my children all the time.

 All I can do is ride it out.  

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What the what have I done? (I encouraged a sport)

Last week, a mom friend from the kids' elementary school texted me about field hockey tryouts at the middle school that both N and her daughter will be attending.  N was at Girl Scout camp, so I contacted the coach to see if she could tryout this week.  


One of my former (and now current) colleagues, who is also a friend and mom of 3 girls, had suggested getting involved in field hockey as a way for N to meet some girls and get more comfortable with middle school.  So I had talked to N about it as a possibility way back when she applied to this school.

Field hockey is not a sport played around these parts in elementary school, so pretty much every kid who comes into middle school has zero or very limited experience.  As it happens, this 6th grade team doesn't cut girls; basically, if you want to play, they will teach you.  


When I was in 4th grade, I tried out for basketball at my elementary school.  I'm sure I wasn't good, but I tried out anyway because I wanted to play.  They ended up having an "A" team, a "B" team and a "C" team.  I didn't even make the "C" team.  Even as an ignorant and immature 4th grader, it seemed to me that if you are going to rank the teams, why not just let all the idiots like me be on the "C" team to at least learn the game and practice.  This singular event turned me completely off from competitive sports and hate jocks.  Maybe there were non-competitive girls basketball leagues way back in 1982, but I didn't investigate nor did my parents.  My identity as an athletic person was destroyed at least until I got older. (I'm taking a graduate adolescent psychology class right now and feel like I have come full circle.)


Given the aforementioned ancient history, I wanted N to "tryout" for field hockey.  If she went the first night and hated it, I certainly wouldn't make her play.  It wouldn't bother me one iota to not schlep her to practices and buy equipment and go to games.  
But I figured this could be a win-win for her:

Meet girls=CHECK
Learn the game=CHECK
Don't have self-esteem destroyed=CHECK
Get exercise=CHECK
Possibly have fun=CHECK


Mine and D's personalities can be understood pretty well in the following photographs:

These are from my senior yearbook.  I was the girl who was involved in high school from the get-go.  Was voted "Most Leadership" by my peers in the Senior Superlatives.

This is from D's senior yearbook:

His name.

I wanted to be involved and was probably OVER-involved.  
D didn't want to be involved and was probably UNDER-involved.  
To this day, I am the one who gets over-extended with activities, and he is the one who has to be forced by threat of death to do anything beyond the scope of work.  


M....he begins full-time school next month, so his interest in sports and other extracurricular activities remains to be seen.  

G seems to be like D---he has zero interest in doing clubs, teams, sports.  He wants to be left alone.  He is only in 2nd grade so I haven't nudged him out of his comfort zone.  Yet. 

N has shown interest in things and asked often in elementary to try sports.  She mentioned volleyball, basketball, cheerleading, cross country.  I let her do track because it didn't interfere too much with my life, and it met all the other qualifications:  

Meet friends=CHECK
Learn the game=CHECK
Don't have self-esteem destroyed=CHECK
Get exercise=CHECK
Possibly have fun=CHECK

In elementary school the most important thing was that it not interfere too much with my life.  My brief introduction to middle school sports, just based on the tome of notarized documents needed to even tryout, suggests that the older a kid gets, the more his/her involvement will interfere with my life.  I have to be prepared to change.  

D was concerned that N felt pressured by me to try out for field hockey, which made me worry.  I don't CARE whether she does it, but I also don't want her to shut the idea down without giving it a chance, without trying.  If you try, and it sucks, don't do it again.  But at least try.

Especially since we don't know if track is a no cut sport.  I hate for her to shut down this opportunity and then be cut from track (if she opts to do that in the spring).    D worries that N is like him and will go along with things even if she doesn't want to just to avoid conflict.  

And the whole time, including this whole bloggy post, I keep thinking, "All this internal rigamarole over field hockey."  But it isn't an isolated situation.  In parenting N (and G and M), D and I are pulling in our personalities, our failures, our successes, every experience and what we know to be true for ourselves.

But our kids aren't ourselves.  They are them.  

It is sometimes hard to remember that.  

Monday, July 13, 2015

If your child is a weirdo, he/she will find a weirdo to love

I don't believe in soulmates or any of that junk, but I do think that many of the weirdest people end up finding an equally weird person with whom to live and love.  They have equally weird friends who they hook up with for dinner or discussion.

Many of these people are related to me.  (Heck, I might be one of them for all I know.)

You know, those weird family members who, when they walk up and start talking, make everyone who has been sitting there contently for 3 hours decide they have to immediately go to the bathroom or refresh their drinks or check on the kids.  (Typically, there is one "nice" relative who gets stuck listening to the weirdo and waits for someone to "save" him/her.)

And I've thought to myself, "How in the world did that person ever find that other person to marry?"  And they are fortunate they did find that person because who else would put up with their crazy sh*t?

I find myself thinking about these weird relatives of mine whenever I think of G.  Maybe it is because we are halfway through summer break?  Maybe it is because I've been spending WAY too much time with him, especially in the car when there is no distraction for either of us?

The other day, I told him, "I don't think you will ever find someone to marry if you talk to them about their poochy bellies the way you talk to me."  He criticized my do-rag, and I responded with something like, "Good luck getting dates with people when you get older if you are going to share your opinion about everything and criticize everything about them."

I realize he is 7, but he needs to learn to put a dang filter on it.

I worry that he will live in a bare apartment playing video games when he is 40.  I know that isn't the worst that can happen to him.  I suspect my MIL had similar worries about her own son, and he ended up with awesome ole me.

So I try to remind myself that the most unbearable cads I know have managed to fall in love, have families and, even if not forever, have some type of relationship fulfillment in their lives.  They have friends, who may also be unbearable cads, but they are unbearable cads together.

You take solace where you can get it.

Friday, July 10, 2015

"Carrie is disgusted:" A meme

I've had this photo hanging up in my house for awhile.  I think it is my favorite from my childhood.

I was 3-years-old in this photograph.  The funny thing to me is how perfectly this photo, arms crossed and generally disgusted look on my face, sums up my adult personality.

D has a tendency to take photos of me making faces like this:

When I asked why he takes photos of me making goofy faces, he said, "Well, those are the faces you normally make."    

And it's true.  I meet the world with that "Are you serious?" look all the time.  

Another one.....although this one is basically me being flummoxed.

Anyway, I posted the childhood picture on FB, and a friend jokingly suggested I do a "Little Carrie is disgusted by" meme.

And so I did.

1. Carrie is disgusted by male strippers.  
This is NOT appealing.  

I guess I can't help thinking "Would I want D, even if he looked like this, to shake and grind in front of me in his skivvies?"  The answer is a definitive, "NO!" (D breathes a sigh of relief.)

What I find sexy is a well-dressed, physically fit man, dancing well.  It leaves a lot to the imagination, and that is where things are most sexy, at least in my opinion.

THIS!  This is awe-inspiring right here.  No need for nudity or partial nudity.  No need for dancing, even.  Just stand there.

 Ok, next.

2. Carrie is disgusted by forced reality.  
The same premise over and over and over.  

My children have been watching this on Netflix since it WON'T.STOP.RAINING.  I don't watch reality shows because the premise is just dumb.  Every episode is the same.  Some forced time frame.  Some goal they have to meet.  Criticisms by the judges.  How the people react, which is always the same--"I worked so hard to get here.  I can't be eliminated or I will cry."

And this one:

3. Carrie is disgusted by "blow-hards."  People who just run 
their mouths, talking smack without giving a seconds 
consideration to what they are saying.
Carrie is also disgusted by the media that gives them attention.
Bread and monkey circuses, baby.

Ahhh, this has been fun.  Gives me something to do instead of my grad class work.  

Thursday, July 9, 2015

What would you be if you could be anything?

I never liked science fiction as a kid or teen.  I clearly remember reading To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer in either 9th or 10th grade and just thinking it was weird.  Of course, it did make an impact because I remember the premise of the novel to this day.

I think D has had a big impact on my increased interest in science fiction.  He is a true sci/fi nut and tends to read it exclusively (along with fantasy).  I read most of the Dune series after he and I watched the miniseries in 2000.  It is certainly not the primary genre I read, as evidenced by my Goodreads list, but the ones I have read, like Dune, stick with me--- Old Man's War by John Scalzi, Time Machine by H. G. Wells, Children of Men by P.D. James.

Some 15 years ago, a student recommended Ender's Game to me, and I loved the entire series.  I have gone on to read and like (as much as you can like) dystopian novels, which are closely aligned with sci/fi.

My latent interest in sci/fi is probably more expressed in terms of the films I love, like Inception and now Interstellar.  We watched this last weekend, and I'm still thinking about it.  Thinking about time and the various dimensions our brains cannot perceive.  Wondering whether in another dimension we can move time so that we don't think of it as chronological.  There cannot be a "this happened first" if time can move any which way.

I love thinking about all the questions that we cannot understand, about time, about space, about what our brains perceive that we don't recognize.

Last night I heard an interview with Jason Padgett who suffered a traumatic brain injury which left him able to see the geometry in everything (it also left him with debilitating OCD, which I also found interesting).  I have his book, Struck by Genius, on reserve at the local library and almost cannot contain my excitement to read it.  Listening to him talk was fascinating.

If I could be anything at all in the world, I would be an astrophysicist.  I rarely think of myself as having grand designs for any of my children, but I admit there is a secret part of me that hopes G (the most existential/mathy/geeky of the bunch at this juncture) will go along some kind of physicist route.

I have no natural talent in this regard.  I despised geometry in high school and flunked my final, but I wish I did have a better understanding of it.  D watched a TED talk recently about black holes, and though I was in the kitchen and attempting to cook dinner (therefore only half listening), I enjoyed what I did hear.  I like that fuzzy, kind of exhausted feeling in my brain that happens when I begin thinking about time and space.

Yesterday, as part of some professional development I did for the cottage school, I took a multiple intelligences test for myself.  I scored highest in Verbal (shocking!), Intrapersonal (also a bit shocking), and Naturalistic.  My lowest scores were Musical, Interpersonal and Visual.

My highest scores put me equally "balanced" in terms of analytic, interactive and introspective (for whatever that's worth).  It reaffirmed that I should probably be doing what I'm doing---being a writer and a Language Arts teacher.

But it also made me think of how cool it would be to be something completely different.  

Friday, July 3, 2015

The news, where I stand, and why I'm quiet (oh, and being married to an atheist)

So much big news, and I'm still considering where I stand on much of it.

The older I get, the less likely I am to voice my opinion to people beyond D, my neighbor H (with whom I can discuss topical/controversial ideas without getting into a row), and my best friend, K.  And my mom.

There are many reasons for this.
One is that nobody beyond me actually cares what I think.
Two is that I think I vacillate most of the time in the narrow space surrounding the middle ground.
Three is that most issues, and especially those that have made the news lately, are too complex for there to be one solid, complete right answer.
And if there is one solid, complete right answer I don't know it or have it.

I think I'll go with the easiest topic for me:  the Confederate flag.

I think it should be removed from South Carolina's state capitol for the sole reason that by being in the state capitol it is suggesting that the Confederacy and what it stood for is what the state as a whole and the state's government supports at this day and time.  There is so much negative symbolism to the Confederate flag that its removal from state grounds is needed.

I listened to a public radio program in which it discussed The Cornerstone Speech by Alexander Stephens.  I had never heard of this before, but he lays out exactly what the Confederacy was founded upon:  Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.  

The Confederate flag, in symbolizing this then, symbolizes this now.  It wasn't at the South Carolina state capitol until 1961.  

However, I don't think statues of Confederate generals in South Carolina or in other states should be removed.  I don't think military forts or streets or anything else should be renamed unless there is a grassroots movement within that community to make changes.

There isn't symbolism (or nearly as much) in a statue of one man or many men who fought for what they believed in.  However wrong we may think their choice, there is something to be learned from their choices.  We cannot rewrite American history entirely, nor would be want to.  How many people, after all, would even recognize that men other than Ulysses S. Grant or Robert E. Lee fought in the Civil War?  I suspect a large majority don't even know who these two fellas are either.  (I had never heard of the aforementioned speech, and I like to think I'm a pretty enlightened individual.)

[Earlier this summer I read Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg by James McPherson, and it reminded me of what a horrible war it was.  So much bloodshed on both sides.  I'm teaching my middle school students Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt, a novel which really shows the difficulties of the civil war regardless of what "side" a person or family was on.]

I also think it is BEYOND ridiculous for all sorts of businesses to stop selling Confederate flags.  I'd be curious to know what much money places actually make in the selling on the flags?  There is a big difference, to me at least, in what symbolic gestures a state makes (which represents or is supposed to represent a large group of people) and what symbolic gestures an individual makes.  Should my personal freedom to purchase what I want be trumped?  In this instance, I have to go with personal freedom.

And the removal of The Dukes of Hazard on television?  That is plumb, balls-to-the-wall crazy!

Ok, next:  ACA

Was it a poorly written law?  Maybe.  There are lots of poorly written laws.  I look to the tax code as perhaps the prime example of such.

Is health care something that is unlike any other type of "product" or "business?"  How do we put a value on our health?  Is my health more valuable, more important than your health?  Why?

I am a supporter of universal health care coverage because of its unique nature.  It isn't like a cell phone or a handbag or a pair of shoes.  It isn't like a car because it doesn't have replacements (like a bike, subway, bus, or a pair of legs).  If my health is destroyed, I am out of luck.  I can't get replacement health that is Dollar General Store level or boutique level.

There are plenty of people who take shitty care of their health, but there are also plenty of people who, through no fault of their own, have terrible health.

Because of health's unique nature, I think a for-profit model is not the right one for governing it.  I would prefer a system in which health care is like the grocery store.  Tests or visits cost what they cost, and those costs are public and don't differ much between Alaska and Hawaii.  A 10-day supply of medication X costs pretty much the same everywhere.

Have you ever called a pharmacy and asked what a medication costs?  Or asked a hospital how much ear tube removal and replacement costs?  I have, and if you enjoy Dr. Seuss-like conversations, I suggest you try it.

This is not the way it works, and until or unless it starts working in that way, I'm going to have to support allowing everyone to have a reasonable shot at getting health care insurance coverage they can afford.  The ACA is the closest thing to it at this juncture, however flawed and imperfect it may be.

Ok, now gay marriage.

I am not gay, so this law has no impact on me personally.  My marriage to D isn't affected one iota.  The Supreme Court's decision does nothing to minimize the importance of our marriage to me (and us) any more than Ben Affleck's and Jennifer Garner's marital demise impacts our marriage and its importance.

With that being said, if any or all of my children are gay, I would certainly want them to have the same rights and protections as any other person in the country.  You read about people who have very strong religious beliefs about homosexuality until their child comes out as gay, and then suddenly there is a shift.  They may still believe the same, but their love for their child softens them.  I listened to an interview with Matthew and Monte Vines, a father and son who struggled with this very issue, and it was compelling.

I'm no bible scholar.  This is the biblical law that guides me most, Matthew 7:12:  So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.  Wait, no, it is this:  John 13:34--A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  

Those are pretty much the same, aren't they?

Most people pick and choose the parts of the bible that mean the most, that resonate with them.  I doubt there is anyone who doesn't.  I don't know if you can exist in the modern world if you try to follow every single one of the laws and rules throughout the Old and New Testaments because many of them contradict each other.  Turning the other cheek is the complete antithesis of taking an eye for an eye.

I don't think people choose to be gay, any more than I chose to have OCD and GAD, any more than a person chooses to be black.  I have been wired this way from birth.  Due to stereotypes and prejudices about being black, gay or having a mental illness, some people might think, "Well, it certainly would be much easier for me if I wasn't black/gay/mentally ill," and it would.  But I haven't had much luck with changing reality.  It is what it is.  So you live your life as a black person, as a gay person, as a mentally ill person with as much dignity and kindness and honesty as you can.  And living in such a manner, you hope that any rights granted to everyone else are also granted to you---to live, to be free, to pursue your happiness.


I very much have a "you believe what you want, and I'll believe what I want, and let's try to live peaceably together" mentality.  I think some of this is from being in my relationship with D for 20 years.

He is an atheist, and I am a whatever I am, a believer in God and Disciples of Christ church-goer as of the past few years.  I don't think he fully understands where I come from, and I don't fully understand where he comes from.  I don't ask that he attend church with me, and he doesn't ask me not to attend church.  He is ok with me raising the children with some type of Christian background if for no other reason than it will make them comfortable within a religious setting, something he is definitely not.

Our marriage would be terrible if either of us tried to force our belief system (and atheism is a belief system after all) on the other.  We do have conversations about religion, about church, about God, but we keep things respectful.  Both of us recognize that it would be futile to try to change each other's view.

I am fortunate to be married to an atheist, which sounds pretty weird, but I think it would be much harder for me to be married to a deeply religious person who felt compelled to evangelize and save me.  I would fight against this and resent it.

D and I try to respect each other's right to think and believe what we think and believe.  Negotiating this relationship for two decades has made me work very hard to accept people's beliefs for whatever they are, acknowledge their freedom to believe what they wish, but also diligently strive to ensure that my right to believe what I want doesn't infringe on their right to live how they wish.