Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Heart of the Matter

As I've mentioned in passing, Diminutive One is seeing a psychologist. Contrary to my expectations, he has been cooperative and enthusiastic. While this is certainly a welcome surprise, I'm a little puzzled by it. But I've learned during his 8 years on this earth, not to look a gift horse in the mouth. If he's happy, I'm happy and we will continue as long as he is benefitting from his sessions.

His uncharacteristically cheerful acquiesence, however, has caused me some concern. I'm worried that she isn't being exposed to the behaviors that led us there in the first place. I'm worried that the real Diminutive One has yet to be make an appearance in the cozy confines of her office.

On the day of his last visit, Diminutive One woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Husband and I have learned that when this happens, there is very little we can do except roll with the punches. He cannot be charmed, cajoled, bribed or beaten into affability. So I left him to his own devices and even rejoiced a bit. Finally! I thought, She'll get to see the little monster in all his glory.

The boys were off for Thanksgiving break, and I was consumed with preparations, so the day went by mercifully (for all concerned) fast. When it came time to leave for the appointment, he began to grumble. I don't think he harbored any real reticence about going, he was just grumbling to grumble, which is par for the course when he's in one of his moods. I reminded him how Dr. A always makes him feel better, and his anwer to that was that he didn't want to feel better, fuck you very much.

We went anyway, if only because I was desperately looking forward to sitting in the quiet, comfortable waiting room reading trashy magazines for an hour.

When we arrived, her office door was open, but we seated ourselves and waited for her to invite us in. We had a late appointment, and the waiting room had obviously been cleaned and straightened for the day. Diminutive One went straight for the giant bin of legos. I stopped him and explained that he would be going in monentarily, and that someone had obviously just spent a great deal of time cleaning up. I told him not to dump the Legos. As expected, he argued with me. I remained calm, sure that Dr. A would be impressed with the way I was handling him. She would see what a competent parent I am.

Dr. A and I spoke briefly before Diminutive One went in. She told me that she would be asking him a lot of questions today as part of the ongoing evaluation process. I warned her that he wasn't in a particularly accomodating state of mind. She thanked me for the warning, but was visibly unfazed.

He went in, and I strained to hear, certain that I would hear my fractious offspring telling her in no uncertain terms, what she could do with her questions. I, yes, somewhat gleeful, anticipation.

Strangely, I heard nothing for the first twenty minutes or so except low, unintelligible murmuring. Then, I heard...a chortle? was a guffaw. And it was followed by more guffaws. By and by, there was even a belly laugh. What the hell? Were they having fun in there? How dare they? And where was the little beast who had plagued me the entire day? Where was my validation?

The remainder of the hour went by with me stewing about just how she was going to help him with his behavioral issues if they evaporated the moment he crossed her threshold. I was unable to enjoy any of the plentiful and purely frivolous reading material. I could not savor the fancy flavored coffee. The entire session was ruined for me.

At last the door opened and a relaxed and smiling Diminutive One emerged. He and Dr. A exchanged a conspiratorial look, matching grins upon their faces. She motioned me in, and I complied. I was irritated. And I knew my irritation was irrational, which annoyed me even further. Why should it bother me that he was charming, cooperative and jovial with her when he had been such a truculent little twerp with me? Why indeed.

We only spoke for a few moments. She said it had gone well and handed me some evaluation forms for husband and me and his teacher to fill out.

On the way home, I was still brooding. In startling contrast to the ride over, Diminutive One chatted happily, sang when he knew the words to the songs on the radio, and hummed when he didn't.

At one point, after a long silence, Dimiuntive One said, "You were right Mom. I do feel better. I really like Dr. A."

"Oh?" I said archly. "And why is that?"

"Well," he said "She's interested in me and she doesn't stress me out."

And there you have it.

Straight through the heart, kid. Straight. Through. The. Heart.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

And So It Begins

Last year, it was a daily struggle to get my 11 year old son to groom himself. He would blithely saunter out the door with food on his face and his hair in rioutous disarray. If his clothes happened to match, it was simply a happy accident. Shopping was pure, unadulterated torture. When I had to drag him along to try things on, he would quickly settle on the very first thing that fit, and then refuse to try on anything else.

This was both frustrating and freeing.

He would wear what I laid out each evening without question. He never complained about having to wear Target brand clothing. I'm not sure he even noticed. He never expressed any kind of preference, even though his peers were in the beginning stages of brand consciousness, precipitated by the materialism that seems so pervasive here.

Never have I known adults to be so focused on designer fashions and following trends. Who knew the affluent were such lemmings? But I can't think of any other explanation for the proliferation of SUV's (they don't make much sense economically or ecologically, after all) skinny pink cell phones and those ridiculous flippy hair do's.

Anyway...he never asked for the latest thing. He never cared.

This year, everything is different.

This year, suddenly, he is super conscious of looks, brands, And while part of me is happy that he finally cares enought to wipe the milk moustache off his upper lip before leaving the house, this extreme preoccupation with conformity is already driving me somewhat crazy.

Now, don't misunderstand me...I totally get wanting to be cool. I remember the fads that dominated my childhood and how I so longed to be like the other kids. I often wasn't, becase my parents simply couldn't afford Nikes, R.D. Simpson jeans, or genuine leather clogs with a wooden heel. And while I certainly don't want to promote the ideal that what you have and what you wear is more important than who you are, I can empathize with wanting to fit in. Nobody wants to be an outcast. Nobody wants to be the geek, the dork, the spaz, the doofus, the nimrod...or whatever misfits are being called these days.

In so many ways, self-esteem is grounded in these formative years. A kid that constantly finds himself on the outside looking in will eventually begin to believe that he belongs there. And I know from watching my younger sister struggle with feelings of worthlessness and inferiority well into her thirties that such a stigma can plague a person throughout their life.

So I find myself wondering how I can balance his very real need to fit in, with my own need to instill in him a strong sense of self, independant of fashion, fads, and material belongings. How do I make him a leader if I allow him to be a follower? And how do I make the point that there are times that it's okay to follow the crowd, and times that it's essential not to?

I don't have an answer for that.

Husband and I are both pretty self-assured and confident people. I think we tend to lead, rather than follow, in ways that matter. All I can hope is that our children will somehow absorb some of that.

Yesterday Pre-Pubescent One asked me to take him to a popular clothing store. I agreed, with the stipulation that I was not necessarily going to buy him anything should the prices turn out to be more exorbitant than I could afford.

I have to admit, that I enjoyed putting together outfits and basking in his approval at my choices. Until now, my entire brood has been thoroughly averse to shopping of any kind, and I've rarely had either company or an accomplice. It's a small thing, but I remember shopping with my Mom and how much fun we had. It's the kind of purely frivolous fun I never really expected to have with my boys. And it was fun.

When I agreed to purchase a pair of jeans that cost more than I've ever spent on any I've purchased for myself, I felt a little guilty about succumbing to the superficial standards that I've struggled with all my life and perpetuating such a harmful ideal in my son. But I also felt good knowing he would go to school Monday morning and feel cool.

The ear to ear grin on his face was pretty rewarding, but I think I bought those jeans as much for me as for him. I bought those jeans for the little girl who longed for clogs and designer jeans.

We'll work on being a leader some other day.

Friday, November 24, 2006

North And South

We are doing the family thing this weekend so I will not be spending a lot of time blogging this weekend. What spare time I do have will be spent working on my book. Yesterday was the first opportunity I have had since the funeral to talk to family members and do some real research. What I got was amazing, and I'm very energized. I was so consumed with the food I was bringing that I didn't think to bring my laptop, but I made pages of notes. I got the kind of details that I could never invent, and charming little anecdotes that will breathe life into my story. I can't wait to get them down on paper.

I've posted this several times before, but it's still one of my favorite pieces. It's about the first year that Husband and I spent the holidays together. I think about it every year at this time, and it never fails to bring a smile to my face.

North and South

I am a Yankee by birth. I was born on the frozen tundra of Wisconsin in an igloo. We were transported to and from school by dogsled. In the winter, we did not venture from our glacial home for months on end because do so would mean risking life and limb, or at least a really bad head cold. Chronic hat head and the need to layer robbed us of our fashion sense, so we grew up assuming that one cannot go wrong with flannel. Due to a congenital tongue malformation that has plagued generations of Wisconsinites, we are incapable of pronouncing the fricative "th", and so subsitute the plosives "d", (dere, dat, dah) or "t" (tirty, tree, tirty-tree)

Unbeknownst to me, these were some of the misconceptions that I faced when I journeyed South at the tender age of 18. I learned a lot that first year and after almost 20 years in the South, I'm still learning.

Despite the yawning chasm of cultural divergence, I married a Southern country boy. And though he had been succesfully citifed by the time I met him, his family remained firmly entrenched in their small town ways, antiquated attitudes, and stereotypical beliefs regarding those who hail from North of the Mason Dixon line. It has made for some mighty entertaining moments over our 13 years of marriage.

The first time I took my then fiancee, who had never been further north than Tennessee, home to Wisonsin was Christmas of 1992. They were having a brutal cold snap, with wind chills near 30 below zero. I, who had journeyed home a week before him, called to remind him to dress warmly. He assured me he would. My parents and I went to pick him up at the small municipal airport, which did not have the luxury of jetways like the large international airport from which he had departed. We, along with many other families eagerly awaiting the yuletide return of widely scattered loved ones, watched as passengers deplaned and made their way to accross the tarmac. As my beloved appeared at the hatch dressed in a leather bomber jacket, a silk shirt, blue jeans and cowboy boots, two things happened.

First, the smile on his lips froze in place as the saliva on his exposed gums instantly crystallized, turning his boyish grin into an agonized rictus of disbelief. Secondly, his testicles retreated into his abdominal cavity with such force and velocity that he was momentarily convinced that they had simply disintegrated in the savage cold; frozen solid and fragmented into tiny, sperm laden shards. Everyone saw his reaction to the frigid conditions, and a collective exclamation of pity was heard, sort of like "Yeahhhoooooh." My Dad, though trying to amenable, could not resist muttering to my mother "Doesn't that boy have any sense?"

Well, yes, he had plenty of sense, but he had Southern sense, not Northern sense. He simply had no frame of reference for judging cold of such bone piercing brutality. "Cold" in Georgia means throw on a jacket and you can always take it off if it's too much. Cold in Wisonsin means long underwear and Goretex, and a stadium blanket in the trunk in case its not enough. I blamed myself for not explaining the difference between stiff nipple cold and mother of god I can't feel my butt cheeks cold and specifying that we were dealing with the latter. But my Dad wasn't buying it. He grumbled sotto voce to my mother, "It's cold, you put on a sweater for Chrissake."

Despite the rocky start, my husband and my family actually hit it off quite well, and the rest of the week went smoothly. My parents' annual New Year's Eve bash was my first opportunity to show him off to those outside the family. Being a pretty great guy, he made a good impression and scored big points by proving his willingness to laugh along with everybody else when he complained that the beer sitting outside the back door would not be sufficiently cold for his taste and when it was revealed in a semi-drunken revelry that he knew all the words to "Sweet Home Alabama."

He endured it all with good humor, but the first Thanksgiving with his family a month previous has proven just as harrowing for me, so he owed me one. After five years of spending my solitary Thanksgivings in front of the tv eating pumpkin flavored ice cream out of the carton, I was looking forward to a family Thanksgiving dinner. My mouth was watering at the thought of turkey and stuffing, and all the accompaniments. I chose a nice dry Chardonnay to bestow upon my future in-laws, hoping to make a good impression.

When we arrived, the kitchen was awash with aromas; some familiar, some decidedly alien. I spied several dishes that were unidentifiable to me, but, being gastronomically adventurous, I resolved to try everything. I hugged my future mother in law and handed her the bottle of wine. She thanked me graciously, then apologized for the lack of a corkscrew and placed the bottle on the uppermost shelf in her kitchen cabinet, next to a coffe can full of nuts and bolts, and a bedraggled plastic floral arrangement.

My fiancee whispered in my ear "Chattooga is a dry county, hon." Wha??? A dry county? I thought those were a myth, like tar paper shacks and people marrying their first cousin, both of which, I later found, were not in fact, myths. "Why didn't you TELL me?" I hissed back. He shrugged..."I thought you knew." I momentarily considered asking for it back; it was a $40 bottle of Mer Soleil, after all. But I decided it would be in poor taste, so I resigned myself to drinking ice water with the meal. I couldn't help but cast one last longing glance at the lovely Chardonnay, which did not go unnoticed.

We settled in at the table whereupon I was given the dubious honor of saying Grace. I couldn't help but think it was test of some kind, though in reality, it was most likely just a kind gesture meant to made me feel welcome and included. Having already exposed myself as a raging alcoholic, I was reluctant to add Godless Heathen to the quickly lengthening list of shortcomings. Nevertheless, I passed the buck to my fiance with as much diplomacy as I could, as my mealtime prayer repertoire had never evolved beyond "Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub." The ease with which he channelled Jerry Falwell was slightly disconcerting, but I chose to overlook it in light of the fact that he had saved me from being branded a drunken impious wretch by people I would have had to spend the next 30 or 40 years sucking up to in an effort to convince them that I am not the devil's concubine and our children his imps.

At long last the food was served, and most of it seemed perfectly palatable. By and by, however, I was passed a Pyrex bowl filled with something that resembled kelp and smelled like feet. I looked up to find half a dozen pairs of eyes fixed upon me expectantly. My future father-in-law proudly pronounced, "Them's Collard Greens. Linda boils em with streaked (pronounced stree-ked) meat for flavor." "Is that so?" I replied. I did not know what streaked meat was, and I wasn't sure I wanted to. Reminding myself of my resolve to try everything, I enthusiastically placed a pulpy dab upon my plate.

I found myself repeating that reminder when I was handed a bowl of liquid the color and consistency of snot. I hesitated, uncertain of its exact purpose. My savior fiancee once again came to my rescue and informed me cheerily, "It's giblet (hard G, as in gross) gravy. You serve it over the cornbread dressing." Ah yes, the granular substance that was passed to me immediately preceding the snot. Gotcha. I dipped the ladle into the viscous fluid, carefully avoiding the unindentifiable animal matter bobbing merrily on the surface, surmising that is was a pancreas or a gall bladder or some such thing. As the aroma wafted up from my plate my resolve weakened somewhat. But, I reasoned, I had swallowed plenty of snot over the course of my life, and since this was an actual foodstuff, it couldn't possibly be any worse. It turns out I was wrong. Profoundly, tragically, egregiously wrong.

The lesson I learned that day is....don't put anything that smells like feet in your mouth, and there are things in this world that taste worse than snot.

To be fair, there were some truly delectible dishes on the table that day. My mother-in-law can make the lightest, flakiest, most succulent apple turnovers you have ever tasted in your life. They call them fried apple pies. I call them orgasmic. She can make biscuits of transcendant fluffiness, creamed taters that melt in your mouth, and fried chicken that defies description. I've never mastered the art of frying chicken despite her patient instruction, and I definitely do not have the biscuit gene, so despite the initial shock of my first experience with collard greens and giblet gravy, I have to admit to her superiority in the kitchen.

Since that fateful day 13 years ago, we've struggled through many issues related to our cultural differences. Some, such as collard greens, were trivial, and easy to laugh at later. Some of the differences were deeper and harder to reconcile and some we still labor to overcome. But I've learned that my in-laws are good, kind, and generous people and that a lazy drawl can disguise a keen intellect and quick wit.

I still pine for home, of course. And no matter how many years I've been here, I still can't get into the Christmas spirit without snow or cope with the crushing humidity during the interminable summer. But I've learned to appreciate the genteel charm, rich history, and easy hospitality of the South.

After 20 years, I guess it's growing on me. Now, if we could just do something about the Metro area traffic, I might be persuaded to stay.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Unsung Hero

I know, I know, there are a bazillion "Thankful" blog entries floating around the blogosphere. In that respect, this post will not be unique, so if you've had your fill of the ubiquitous gratitude thing, feel free to skip this post. And, if you're not feeling very charitable toward your Husband or Significant Other right now, you may want to skip it as well.

Because I am about to gush about my husband.

Sometimes I still marvel that he is my life partner. Because prior to meeting him, there were two serious relationships that could have resulted in marriage, but which, I am certain, would have ended in homicide extreme remorse and deep, abiding bitterness had we actually made it to the alter. The fact that I had the presence of mind to extricate myself from these doomed relationships only to stumble upon husband literally, weeks thereafter, still amazes me, as does the fact that I didn't actually strike him dead with my patented stare of malevolence when he asked me for my phone number. Karma is a funny thing.

Aside from a couple posts that I wrote; one on our anniversary, and one about how we met and married, I don't talk about him much except in passing. I don't post about him when he have argued, and I don't post about how he loads the dishwasher incorrectly and leaves his underwear on the bathroom floor. It's a small demonstration of my respect for him, but it's also because I feel that to do so diminishes all the ways in which he is a truly fabulous person with whom to share a life.

He isn't perfect. He really does load the dishwasher all wrong and sometimes, he really does leave his underwear on the bathroom floor. But so do I. There are other things that we bicker about of course. There's a lot that goes into raising a family and building a life together, and we don't always see eye to eye. But these minor annoyance are really and truly trifling when I consider everything that he has given me and our children.

When I was 8 weeks pregnant with Pre-Pubescent One, I lost my job in a really disheartening turn of events. Our decision to start our family had been based on the security of two incomes, so understandably, during my pregnancy, husband counted the days until I could go back to work. He was worried and I think, somewhat overwhelmed at the thought of being the sole provider for me and the baby.

When PPO was born, I realized that I couldn't do it. I couldn't leave him. So I fearfully and tearfully told Husband that I wasn't going back to work. He was angry, at first, but his anger was grounded in fear. After some thought, he came to me and told me that whatever I thought was best for our baby was the right thing to do, and he would support me one hundred percent. From then on, he has made it his mission to accomodate my need to be at home with our children.

And yet...when I expressed to him that I was feeling lost, and unfulfilled and depressed because I had no identity outside of motherhood and because all I had to look forward to each day was more drudgework, he again offered his unconditional support. Whatever I wanted and needed to do was not only okay with him, he would do everything in his power to make sure I achieved the sense of purpose that I needed. And he has. He has been far more optimistic about my ability to become a published author than I and has never wavered in his belief, even when my confidence has faltered. Even when I have dismissed the idea completely, he refuses to give up on me.

He works long hard hours, and very rarely reaps any personal benefit from it. Sometimes I feel that all the poor guy does is hand over his heard earned money to three outstretched hands. One needs braces, one needs counselling, one needs eye surgery. But he does it, and doesn't complain. Even if it means he doesn't get a new car this year as we had tentatively planned. Even if it means that boat he has been dreaming about is one year farther away from being a reality. He provides for our wants and our needs with unquestioning and unselfish devotion. That's the kind of husband that he is.

The kind of Father that he is, is the kind who will leave the house at 5:30 am so that he can put in his eight hours and leave on time to coach little league baseball. Often going straight from work to the ballpark, with no dinner, and no downtime. He is the kind of Father that will come with me to meet the Psychologist, the ENT, or the Teacher. He is the kind of father that never misses plays and performances. He is the kind of father who is a kid at heart and who never hesitates to be silly. And he is the kind of father who knows to suggest an outing or an adventure when Mommy is at her breaking point or to enforce a strict code of silence when Mommy has a migraine.

My husband is not a saint, but he is a truly kind, generous and loving person. And I feel incredibly thankful that I somehow stumbled into his lifepath. He is my best friend.

Sometimes, I wonder what he gets from everything that he gives us. It certainly isn't plentiful sex or a spotless home or meek and slavish devotion. Instead he gets to share his life with cute, but ungrateful children and a headstrong, opinionated wife; both of whom bleed him dry.

Maybe he is s saint afterall.

Edited to Add: I forgot to include the not insignificant fact that he finances my book habit (it's pretty hardcore) and puts up with cats (we have three) because I love them, despite the fact that he is allergic. He watches chick flicks without complaint. And, he is an incredible gift giver. One year for my birthday, he stood in line for hours and hours to get a signed copy of my favorite (at the time) author's newest book. Also, he gave generously of his DNA even though I'm pretty sure the kid thing wasn't high on his list of priorities at 25.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Agony of A Broken Hip

Only a few years seperate me from 40, and one of the ways I quell my anxiety about that, is to mentally catalogue all the ways in which I am still hip. I tell myself that I have not fallen prey to Mom syndrome. Why is it important for we women to feel this way? I think that not giving up our style is representative of not giving up ourselves. It's a means of establishing and maintaining an identity apart from Motherhood.

So I treasure this list and consult it regularly.


  • I do not wear Mom jeans. (See Exhibit A)

  • I have an iPod, and I know how to use it.

  • I have a blog and I know how to use it.

  • I have a laptop and I know how to use it.

  • I listen to current music and I even like some of it.

  • I resist the urge to ponytail and clip my hair just because it's faster.

  • I am not afraid to experiment with hair color.

  • I'm considering a hybrid.

  • I know what my core muscle group is.

  • I am up to date on current film and literary trends. I know who Borat is, for instance, though why behaving like a complete asshat is entertaining escapes me.

  • I eschew sweatpants.

  • When I heard PPO and his friends discussing Wii, I knew they were talking about the new Nintendo game system and not referring to themselves as a group.

This list varies from day to day, depending upon what's relevant in my life. But it's always there, always running. It's my internal security blanket. And most of the time, it does a pretty good job of deluding convincing me that I'm still me, and I'm still cool.

But every once in a while, something comes along to pull the metaphorical rug from beneath my feet. Ergo, something that demonstrates with embarassing clarity, that I am, in fact, a fossil.

Sometimes, its hearing something terse and autocratic such as "Because I said so!" issuing from my mouth in my Mother's voice.

Sometimes, its realizing that I've worn the same pajama bottoms and oversized team jersey every day this week to take Pre-Pubescent One to Intramurals...and not caring.

Sometimes, it's sitting home on Saturday night in my housecoat with a mudpack on my face and cotton balls between my toes, sipping wine and watching sappy movies with husband...and realizing, I'd rather be doing that than dancing the night away.

And sometimes, its my complete and utter mystification at things such as that in Exhibit B.


Don't get me wrong. I love this woman. I admire her individuality even if I don't always appreciate her sense of style. I like that she's a stong, confident career woman in charge of her own destiny. I like that she's making time to be a Mom, but not surrendering her identity. She has not enlarged her boobs or starved herself so I think she's a fairly acceptable role model, which is good since she's a pop culture icon.

But the artistry eludes me.

In fact, that is quite possibly the stupidest song I've ever heard. And I think she is selling herself way short by singing this crap.

There I go...channelling my Mother again. I swear to God she said the very same thing about Madonna when I was in high school.

I think I have some Mom jeans in the back of my closet somewhere. Perhaps they fit better than I thought they might. And really...I guess that's okay. Cause they don't make low rise jeans with an elastic waist and frankly, I'm growing weary of having my middle aging ass crack on display. So while I'm not quite ready to stop waxing my upper lip or let my roots grow out, I am starting to be okay with being uncool.

The great thing about approaching 40 is finally understanding that chasing fads has nothing to do with who I am.

And I've realized that I don't want to be young and hip forever. It's too damned exhausting.

Middle I come.

Our House

In the Middle Of Our Street. Our House...

I am knee deep in home improvement. Husband and I are not exactly what you call "do-it-yourselfers", but since we can only afford to pay someone to do the stuff that requires real skill, the scut work falls to us. Yesterday I stripped wallpaper and pried 147 glow in the dark stars off the ceiling. Today I am cleaning and sanding woodwork.

Pre-Pubescent one is embarassed by the teddy bears and fire trucks that grace his walls, and who can blame him? He's nearly 12 and stuff like that is becoming really important. I've noticed he only invites only a select few long time friends up to his room anymore, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out why.

I remember that age well. I grew up in a beautiful turn of the century craftsman style home that my parents still own. They bought it in a pretty sorry state, seeing it for the diamond in the rought that it truly is. But they often struggled just to put food on the table, and for many years, the house remained run down. My Mom did her best to spruce it up with paint and fabric...she was a whiz with a sewing machine...but those things couldn't disguise yellowed linoleum, or ancient fixtures, or cracked and crumbling plaster.

I was embarassed to bring friends home. And I felt guilty for being embarassed. Because my parents worked so hard and they did so many other things to make us happy. There were times that they made the impossible possible by doing without things that they needed. And we knew that, though they tried to keep it from us. But still, I was embarassed. I never, ever told my parents that, but I'm sure they knew. And years later, I found out that it always bothered my Mom that we didn't have the kind of home where our friends gathered. She really wanted that for us.

But we didn't have a large house. We didn't have cable, and in my teen years that meant no MTV. We didn't have Atari or Colecovision. We didn't have a constant supply of snacks and soft drinks on hand. My sisters and I shared a room and so, we didn't have much privacy. My mom always hoped to finish the basement and use it as a hang-out, but it never happened.

We tended to congregate at homes that had all those things.

My Mom understood why we never invited anyone over, but there wasn't much she could do about it. So she did her best to make the big shabby house cozy and inviting for us, and it was. We always had fresh sun dried sheets on our beds, and cheery lace curtains on the windows. One year she made my sisters and I matching floral quilts from bedsheets. She hung beautiful botanicals that she had cross-stitched herself on the walls, and made pretty fabric photo frames from scraps and remnants. I loved our house, even with all it's faults. It had warmth, and character. I was happy there.

Now, as an adult, I loathe the bland, unappealing little crackerboxes that stand in rows wearing their uniforms like little soldiers. It's ironic, then, that I live in one.

We don't have a big, fancy house. Like my parents, we bought an older home (20 years old...around here, that's ancient) in need of work to keep our costs down and allow me to stay home. It is slowly, slowly coming along. But because so many large issues needed addressing (roof, siding, new heating/ac) not much cosmetic work has been done.

Still, it's much, much nicer than the home I grew up in. And while part of me would love to have a sumptuously decorated home, I don't want my kids growing up thinking that's important or necessary. We're trying very hard to instill proper values in our kids and part of that is not living beyond our means as so many these days are.


I do want my kids to feel comfortable bringing friends over and I don't want them to be embarassed. And so far, teddy bears and firetrucks notwhitstanding, we're doing okay in that regard. I usually have at least one extra child in my house at any given time, and often, there is a large group of boys hanging around. Yes, it gets loud and chaotic, and sometimes, I want to chase them all out and just have some peace and quiet. But mostly, I'm glad they wanna hang out here. I wanna keep them hanging out here. And short of providing a keg and strippers, I'm willing to do what it takes to accomplish that.

You see...a Mom hears stuff, if she pays attention, when kids hang out at her house. It's amazing what kids will talk about when they forget that you're right there. And it's good to be in the loop.

So, goodbye teddy bears and firetrucks. It seems like just yesterday that I hung the border with such care over painstakingly sponge painted walls. I was heavily pregnant with Diminutive One, and I was weepy over the fact that Pre-Pubescent One was losing everything; his Mommy, his room, his way of life. I decorated that room to assuage the guilt I felt over kicking him out of the nursery. He was three years old, and that's old enough to understand being usurped. It ate me up.

Like the teddy bears and firetrucks, the new room represents a life change. In that room my son has grown from a toddler to a little boy. And in that room, he is growing from a little boy into a young man. I think this will probably be the last time I redecorate this room for him. 8 years ago I hung teddy bear wallpaper, but I don't have 8 more years this time. I have 6. He will go off to college, and for a while, the rooom will stay the same. Because he'll come home on weekends, right? But then, as I begin to accept that my little boy is not coming home to that room ever again, it, and life with it, will change once again.

Maybe I'll get some bunkbeds for the grandchilren.

...I remember way back then
when everything was true and when
we would have such a very good time,
such a fine time, such a happy time.

And I remember how we'd play,
simply waste the day away,
then we'd say nothing would come between us
two dreamers....

Something tells you that you've got to move away from it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Skinny on Skinny

Yesterday, Diminutive One had his first meeting with his psychologist. I was prepared for resistance, but he was very open and forthcoming. It was really just a meet and greet between him and his doctor, so there was no real progress made. But they established a rapport and she addressed any questions or concerns he had about why he was there. It was very productive, and I am enormously relieved. Had Diminutive One decided he was not down with the whole psychotherapy thing, there would simply have been no point in persuing it.

We spoke briefly after their session, and she was very encouraging. Due to his receptiveness, she feels they will be able to make some positive changes in his behavior. He told me afterwards that she was "pretty nice". If you have an 8 year old boy, you know that a comment of that nature is downright effusive.

But that's not what really what I want to write about today.

Dr. A. is part of a fairly large practice. Two of the other doctors in this practice specialize in eating disorders, one of whom shares a wing and a waiting room with her.

As I sat leisurely thumbing through InStyle and sipping coffee in the warm and inviting waiting room, the door kitty corner to Dr. A's office opened and a young woman came out. She was horribly, painfully, frighteningly thin.

She was swathed in layer upon layer of clothing, but one could tell nevertheless that there was simply no meat on her bones. Her face was not merely was cadaverous. There were deep hollows around her eyes and aubergine shadows beneath them. Her cheekbones looked as if they might pierce the tender flesh stretched so tightly across them and her lips were thin and colorless. She couldn't have been more than 20, but she moved with the slow, deliberate shamble of an elderly woman. I was thoroughly taken aback, and I'm sure my shock registered on my face.

Despite the way her body had been ravaged by starvation, she was wearing jaunty hoop earrings, and beneath the heavy coat and sweater, she wore designer jeans. Her hair, though lanky and dull, was stylishly cut. It was incongruous and puzzling.

And then I realized with a bit of a jolt...she thinks she looks pretty.

I wanted to weep for her. I wanted to hug her, gingerly. I wanted to take her home and feed her hearty, filling foods. I wanted to tell her that she doesn't have to starve herself to be beautiful.

I don't know if she was there voluntarily, but her fastidiousness would suggest to me that she had not yet accepted that her appearance was frightening and disturbing.

And really, why would she?

All you have to do to find someone similar in appearance is pick up a magazine, where equally skeletal women are painted and adorned and draped in designer creations. All you have to do is to tune into one of the many programs that focus on celebrities and their lifestyles to see bony sternums, jutting hipbones, and dessicated thighs laid bare as waifish young starlets posture and pose on the red carpet.

As I sat there, hugely conscious of the more than ample flesh on my own bones, I felt two things.

First, I feel relieved that I have boys.

I don't know how on earth I would be able to raise a girl with a healthy self image in this day and age. I don't know how I would be able to make her believe that her worth does not lie in her appearance, when everything in our society promotes that ideal with relentless self-serving efficacy. I don't know how I could combat the powerful influences that dictate and uphold impossible standards of beauty and acceptability. I don't know how I could ever convince her that she is beautiful and smart and special enough without enslaving herself to these ridiculous and destructive ideals.

Second, I felt angry. Very angry.

Because these emaciated young starlets that prance and preen for the cameras are the reason for that. And because THEY are trying to live up to a standard that has been created by people who exploit their innocence and their appeal for financial gain.

In short, the media is killing our daughters, our sisters, our wives, and our mothers.

Now, I understand that eating disorders are often about more than appearance. I know there are deeper issues, I know there are secret fears and heartaches and disappointments. I know that these women feel lost, alone, powerless and worthless.

But when you combine all that hurt with those unrealistic and unattainable standards, no good can come of it. The seed of self-destruction may have already been planted, but then it is fed and watered by the media, society, stars and star-makers, who seduce them with promises of love and accpetance if only....if only they can look like this...everything will be better. Everything will be better if they are beautiful. They will be beautiful if they are thin.

So what can we do?

Well, I believe, for one thing, that these young ladies need to realize that when they court fame, or infamy, they become symbols, role models, icons of beauty and desirability. They need to take some responsibility for the ideals they are promoting. They need to understand that young girls will do anything to be like them.

But they won't, of course. The pursuit of celebrity is not an aspiration that inspires altruism or accountability. So where, then, does that leave us?

I don't know. But I do know that when an entire sub specialty of medicine has evolved to treat this problem, it's time to take a serious look at how to cure the disease, instead of just putting a band-aid over the wound. You can force feed an Anorectic, but can you ever really remove the self-loathing? Why not focus more of our energy and resources on preventing the seed from germinating in the first place?

We need to teach our girls that they are beautiful because of who they are. A Bookworm. A Brain. An Athlete or an Artist. Every gift is reason to celebrate. Every girl has worth.

And a face....a face is just a window to the world. It can't define, it can only reflect.

The young lady turned to leave, and as she did so, our eyes met. She smiled at me. And I found myself hoping, praying, wishing for her salvation. I hope that someday, her spirit will be restored and she can stop starving herself. I hope she will be happy.

Shortly after that, my round and dimpled Diminutive One exited Dr. A's office. He was so beautiful it nearly made my heart stop. I vowed right there never to say say another word to him about his little pot belly.

Dear God, if you are up there, please let him always know that he is special and beautiful. Let me say the right things. Let me be the right example. Don't let me screw this up. And thank you, Dear God, for having the wisdom to give my sister the girl child.


Footnote: Thanks to C2C for pointing out that young men are not immune to this disease. Currently only 1-5% of those who suffer with eating disorders are male. But that doesn't mean we can ignore the need to instill a healthy self-image in our boys. For males, weight is viewed in terms of strength or weakness; fat being weak, thin being strong. We need to avoid labelling boys who display less conventionally male attributes as effeminate, wussy, or weak. And just like our daughters, we need to teach our sons to love themselves no matter what shape or size they are.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Lasik; Week Two

I had my Lasik 12 days ago, and so far things are going well. The red spot on my eye is almost gone, and I'm really glad, because I was tired of the strange looks. Several times I found myself contemplating saying something like "WHEW, That was a close call! You Mom was right. It does stop being fun when somebody puts an eye out." or, "My husband thought the pot roast was dry." I didn't though.

What I want to impress upon anybody who is considering the procedure, is that it is not an instant fix. I was told that my vision would fluctuate for two weeks, after which it would become much more stable, but could still be inconsistent for a couple of months, and that I could expect intermittent side effects (dryness, blurred vision, halos, sensitivity to light) for as many as six months. Also, if you haven't researched it on your own already, for about 5% of those who have Lasik, those side effects are permanent.

My vision has been steadily improving, with longer periods of clarity, and the frequency and severity of side effects decreasing every day. But it's still not perfect. Sometimes I have absolutely crystal clear vision. But sometimes, one eye will be blurry, and sometimes both. This can last for a few moments or a few hours. I'd say that it's really a pretty minor issue. The most troublesome thing for me has been dryness, which at times, has been extremely uncomfortable, and the eye strain headaches from constantly trying to refocus. Certain things seems to exacerbate that, one of which is using the computer. If I had a job where I had to be on the computer for a large portion of my work day, I think it would really be problematic right now. The other is not getting enough rest. When I'm tired, these issues are much more pronounced.

My right eye is giving me the most trouble, because it required a much higher degree of correction. The side effects are much less severe in my left eye, so if the right had been similar to the left, I think my recovery would have been pretty easy. Some people have told me that there was no pain and that they went back to work the next day and I can see how this might be true for people with less severe vision problems.

So anyway, all of this is NORMAL, which is something I think most people don't realize. I know I didn't, until my consultation. Even though I know all of this, I had a pretty major anxiety attack after reading about Kathy Griffin's Lasik nightmare and viewing pictures on her site. Long story short, her surgeon pretty much butchered her eyes and then tried to fix them. She ended up having five surgeries, (with a new doctor) the last of which left her with seventeen stitches in her EYEBALL. Yikes. The vision in one of her eyes is irreparably damaged; not even correctible with glasses or contacts, and she has an visible spot on her eye.

Now, while I tried to be as informed as possible, I did make a conscious effort to avoid Lasik horror stories, because I knew I would never go through with it if I convinced myself something like that could happen to me. Even after the fact, it has made me question my decision, which is just silly, since I know I'm healing well and that my results are exactly as expected. So, do yourself a favor and don't go to her site. I'm purposely not linking it here because I don't want you to be dissuaded by one horrible and tragic example of Lasik gone wrong.

I will say this really underscores the need to choose your doctor carefully. Kathy went to Dr. Maloney, who is a well known, well trained and experienced surgeon. He has performed Lasik on hundreds of celebrities, and has been featured on Extreme Makeover. She chose him because he was "the" doctor to go to. He was high profile and glamorous and he owns his own practice, which means he is not accountable to anyone else if/when he screws up. He can cut corners, he can bend rules, he can push the envelope. I do not consider that an ideal situation when someone is pointing a laser at my corneas and that's one reason I chose Emory Laser Vision. Emory is an extensive health care system which has a solid reputation in a variety of fields. They do not let just anybody put their name on the door.

I am pleased with my results. Even if my vision never got any better than it is right now, I could cope quite nicely. Everyday I marvel at the fact that I can drive, watch television, read, shave my legs...all without glasses. Everyday, there are small instances that remind me how profoundly I have been liberated.

Today it is has poured rain from dawn until dusk. And after dashing to the car for the umpteenth time as I ran errands today, I realized I hadn't had to stop once to wipe the rain from my glasses. WOW.

I wonder how long it will take before I stop groping the beside table for them. Every morning for the last two weeks, without fail, I have reached for them. Well, I guess a thirty year habit is gonna take some time to break. :?)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Fair Warning From Mama Bear

Pssst....Hey Kid....Yeah you...The moron with his ass crack showing. You with the ridiculous looking rectangle of hair underneath your lower lip. By the way, us gals call that a landing might want to rethink that look Dude.'s the thing...I'm highly skilled in the art of humiliation, son. You don't want to mess with me, or my kid. So, the next time you call my beautiful, sensitive, kind and gentle Pre-Pubescent One, "squirrel face" or "bucky" or "can opener" not only am I going to slap the taste right outta your mouth, I'm going to tell every girl in the 8th grade that you've got pubic lice. That's some heavy duty social sigma...some seriously bad mojo. And there is no cootie spray for that brother. You can forget third base until you're at least 25.

And why do you have to be such a mean little bastard anyway? Are you trying to make yourself feel better about the pimples, the clown feet, and the string bean physique? Listen, I know that it's tough, I've been there. But Dude, that's all temporary, I promise. There's no reason to fuck up every body else's adolescence because of it. Kids have killed themselves for less, and you don't want that on your conscience, believe me.

So, though I am trying to be understand where you're coming from, what you gotta understand that when you mess with my baby, the only thing I think about is wringing your scrawny little neck..if I can get my hands around that gargantuan Adam's apple...that is.

Right now, I'm doing the right thing. I'm telling him to ignore you, to take the high road, to turn the other cheek. But if you don't knock it off, eventually, I'm going to give him the go ahead to kick your ass. He may be a pacifist, and I know you see him as an easy target because of it. But he'll only take so much. And believe me, you don't want to take on a 5'3" 110 lb 11 year old who has been pushed too far. Ask the kid down the street who tried to hit him with a baseball bat last summer.

You seem to be a reasonably intelligent person when you're not making farting noises with your armpit or hocking loogies on the 6th graders, so I'm sure you can grasp that it's no more his fault that he has buck teeth than it is yours that you have unusually prominent brow ridges. He'll get braces and with any luck you'll evolve and everybody will be happy.

There's just no reason for the name calling.

So consider that fair warning. Leave my son alone, or I will make you sorry, you knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing, Adam's Family Butler Looking little pissante.


Sunday, November 12, 2006

America Subdivided

I live in suburbia. Around here, people hold their little half acre piece of the promised land very dear. They tend it with an almost maniacal zeal. And they expect others to do so as well. Why? Because they worship at the altar of property values in the church of HOA, where they preach the gospel of compliance.

  • Thou shalt not paint thy house any color but taupe.

  • Thou shalt not allow thy grass to exceed 3" in length.

  • Thou shalt not make thy property unique and interesting.

  • Thou shalt consult the HOA on all matters pertaining to any dwelling or property contained under the auspices of said HOA.

  • Thou shalt not, under any circumstances, undertake that which could result in lower property values for thy neighbor.

To be fair, I do realize that HOA's serve a purpose; and one for which I am grateful. We bought an older home in an established neighborhood when this area was not terribly desirable. An explosion of growth here has resulted in our neighborhood being one of the lower priced in area which is becoming almost exclusively populated by McMansions in the 400k to 700K range. An area that was once considered "the middle of nowhere" is now very trendy. All that, along with the fact that we have some of the best schools in the county, has caused an influx of lower income families to our neighborhood.

This is not a bad thing. And the increased diversity in a formerly homogenous enclave has been pleasing.

But. You also get a lot of flakes and losers that way. And we have.

You know the kind of folks I'm talking about...

They usually have three or four vehicles, only one of which is running at any given time. None of them is the same color all over. It appears that their definition of "landscaping" is relying on the dogs that are kept chained in the yard to discourage any from grass from growing, which eliminates the need for mowing. There seems to be a proliferation of household appliances, which results in the surplus being stored on the front porch. They believe that rebel flags make mighty fine window dressing. And there is still a sizeable scorch mark on the back deck from last year's deep fried Turkey fiasco.

Obviously, I'm grateful that our HOA has a number of commandments standards in place to prevent that kind of thing.

But I don't particularly care if the guy next door wants to paint his front door chartreuse. I don't particularly care if the lady accross the street wants 27 flamingos and a gazing ball on her front lawn. I don't particularly care if the young gal down the street wants to hang cloth diapers on a clothesline. I don't care if someone wants to build a pergola or put in a koi pond and I don't even really care if there is a washing machine on somebody's front porch, as long as it's only one.

America has lost it's character to Homeowner's Associations and subdivided sameness. We've lost a sense of community in these little rabbit warrens of cul-de-sacs and bends and chases. We've been cut off from one another and from the establishments that tie a community together; The Post Office, The Corner Store, The Coffee Shop....we've allowed ourselves to be impressed into a solitary existence by a precept which still mystifies me - Subdivided living. I don't know how or where this idea gained support, but it seems like a perfectly utilitarian and hygienic way of living, which, perhaps, was the point.

But I long for the color and character of the neighborhood in which I grew up. Sure, occasionally, a screwball neighbor would paint his house turquoise. And sometimes the neighborhood eccentric had a few too many lawn ornaments. And maybe a harried young mother would leave her laundry on the line for days on end. So what? People get a sense of one another from those things. They begin to know one another in way that can't be communicated through variegated shades of taupe and pre-approved varieties of heliotrope.

There was a sense of community then and there that is increasingly rare. People walked places. People talked over back fences. People encountered one another as they went about their lives. They nodded and smiled and knew the mailman, the grocer, the librarian by name. It's a way of life that is quickly disappearing in the pursuit of a sanitized American Dream.

Strangely, what prompted my thoughts on this issue, was the fistfight that almost occurred between two neighbors yesterday. One neighbor was blowing leaves into the yard of another. The leaf blowing neighbor tends to his property with a zeal that borders on obsesssive. He blew leaves for seven hours yesterday (Dude...ever hear of a rake??). The other party is not quite so tidy, and in fact often lets his yard get pretty bedraggled before taking matters in hand. This of course, infuriates the leaf blowing neighbor. I have no doubt that the leaf blowing was an act of retaliation. And understandably, this irritated the blowee to no end, especially since he had hired a lawn crew just a few days prior to come out and spruce things up. They argued, and only the intervention of the blowee's elderly father prevented things from getting physical.

What has it come to when grown men will come to blows over a few leaves?

Let's bring back neighborhoods. Let's act like neighbors again.

I'm biding my time here in suburbia and towing the HOA line. That neighborhood I grew up in? It's still there. And amazingly, it's still very much the same. And just as soon as I can, I'm taking my kids there to learn what the word "neighbor" really means.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ernest Hemingway, Eat Your Heart Out

Due to this little snafu, we have been discussing diversity quite a bit around here. Diminutive One seems particularly interested in and concerned about all the different ways in which people are discriminated against. And, as always, when he is trying to wrap his mind around something, he writes to reconcile all the thoughts and feelings that consume him (In some ways, the proverbial apple has fallen gratifyingly close to the proverbial tree). And so, he has come up with a series of short stories about the day to day struggles that minorities face. They contain some fairly sophisticated prose, if I may laud the literary prowess of my progeny just a bit.

First he wrote "Everybody is Different" which preaches the importance of accepting people for who they are, and not what they look like. You should like people even if they are really fat or really ugly. Because on the inside everyone is pretty. You should like people no matter what their skin color is, because on the inside, everyone is white. Okay, perhaps we need to explore that concept a bit more, but I think what he meant was that everyone is the same on the inside.

Then he penned "The Big Game" which tells the story of a kid with two left feet. With insight far beyond his years, my son has captured all the heartbreak of congenital klutziness with a startling poignance. If you have't already guessed, the protagonist in this tale ends up saving the day by scoring the winning home run, thereby teaching a valuable lesson to the other players, which is...never underestimate the value of being able to execute a really good face plant.

In "Dan's Kindergarten Days" a shy, diminutive kindergartener (hmmmm, an autobiography, perhaps?) learns the hard lesson that bullies are a fact of life. During a school assembly, Dan learns that bullies are really just sad and scared on the inside. He attempts to make friends with the bully by demonstrating compassion and empathy. In so doing, he learns a lesson within a lesson, which is, sometimes, the only thing bullies understand is a good ass kicking, after which, they are much more receptive to compassion and empathy.

But the jewel in his crown, the piece de resistance, the pinnacle of his literary genius, has got to be....

"Sometimes It's Hard to Be Rich"

It is an insightful and lyrical tale that chronicles the struggle of the poor, misunderstood well to do. My budding author has managed to capture and convey all the heartbreak, isolation, and frustration of being rich beyond all measure. Nobody really understands the responsibility that comes with great wealth. There is counting the money, laundering the money, hiding the money from the never ends. And when one is richer than King Solomon, one never knows if people like them for who they are, or if they are just along for the ride on your private jet.

So, the next time you encounter a rich person, spare a moment to smile, ask them about their solid gold toilet day, and let them know that you care about their troubles. Demonstrate that you don't hold the fact that they've never had to dig change out of the back of the couch for Happy Meals on the day before payday against them. Remember, Moguls are people too.

That kid of mine.....he cracks me up. He was so very, very serious when he read these stories to me. Now he's hidden them away and I don't know where. I want to swipe them for his memory box, but first I need to laminate them. They're going to worth a fortune when he's a famous author.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Low Down on Lasik

Thanks to everyone for the well wishes. The procedure went very smoothly, and at my post-op check Saturday morning, my vision was 20/20. That was less than 24 hours after surgery. Absolutely astounding. People who told me it was no big deal, were right. And people who said I would wonder why I hadn’t done it years ago, were right. Though I usually avoid characterizing things as such, this is nothing short of miraculous. In Pre-Op, I asked the nurse what my current vision was. She said, “Ummm….I don’t really know, we kind of stop quantifying after 2400. That’s if you can’t see the big E.” I couldn’t see the big E. I knew I was legally blind without my glasses, and though I haven’t been able to see the big E for many years, I didn’t realize it had gotten that bad. Denial, I guess.

For those of you who have been considering having Lasik or a similar procedure, I thought I would give a blow by blow account, from the perspective of a bona fide chickenshit. If you don’t already know, I am extremely phobic about medical procedures; surgery in particular. And the fact that I would be awake and watching everything did not make it any more attractive to me.

But, I had grown increasingly weary and intolerant of contacts, and my glasses had become incredibly expensive. Because my prescription is so strong, I really have to have high index lenses to make them wearable. The term “coke bottle glasses” was quite literal in my case. Even with the special grinding, my lenses were still too thick for certain frames to accommodate, and the rimless style was completely out of the question.

In addition, due to the growth of blood vessels on the surface of my eye, caused by almost 25 years of wearing contacts, it was only a matter of time before I was unable to wear them at all. I just wanted to be able to see. So I pushed my fear aside and made an appointment for a consultation.

I chose the Emory Laser Vision Center. Why? Well, because you don’t get to practice at Emory by being last in your class. It’s that simple. With my issues, I needed to know that the person doing the surgery and the facility in which it was being done had a proven record of success and excellence.

The consultation was very thorough and extremely interesting. I had no idea that one could ultrasound an eyeball. I felt that the doctor did a good job of explaining all the risks and benefits adequately and she encouraged me to ask questions. Which I did. A lot. Because of a “steep spot” on my left eye, there was some question of whether I would be able to have Lasik on that one. She explained that insufficient corneal tissue prevents them from making the “flap” that is used in Lasik, but that I would still be a candidate for a corneal ablation. In terms of results the two procedures are very comparable, but the ablation has a much longer recovery period; about 3 weeks. She surmised that I had significant corneal molding from wearing toric lenses. I was told not to wear my contacts any more and the day of the surgery, it was found that the steep spot was gone. I was ok’d for Lasik on both eyes.

The day of the surgery, I arrived at 1:00, sans make-up, and was immediately taken to be prepped. There was really very little involved in preparing me for surgery. She went through the procedure step by step and warned me that I might experience a brief loss of vision at one point during the procedure. It was good that she warned me, because with my issues, I would have panicked immediately had I been unprepared. I was offered a low dose of Valium, (5mg) which I accepted. Then, I was given numbing drops, antihistamine drops, and antibiotic drops. I got a shower cap and shoe booties and I was ready.

I laid on the table, which was amazingly comfy. I was not strapped down, but I was warned not to move my arms or legs during the procedure. I was told to relaxe while they calibrated the machine. Relaxe. Right. But really, considering how anxious I normally am about medical procedures, I was much less freaked out than I expected to be. Even prior to taking the Valium, I was pretty calm, and I had slept just fine the night before. My husband kept asking me if I was alright, because he is fully aware of my tendency towards extreme anxiety. But I really was okay.

He was shown to an observaton window where he could watch the procedure, and he also had a video monitor where he watched everything close-up. Ick. But he thought it was cool and it didn't gross him out at all, even when a blood vessel on the surface of my eye burst. More on that a little later.

When the machine was calibrated, they slid me under it. Above me was an array of bright lights. I was told to focus on the green light in the center. First, they taped my eyelids open, then they inserted the retractors. I thought that part might bother me, but it really didn't. It wasn't uncomfrotable at all, and I actually felt relieved that I wouldn't have to worry about blinking. They placed a patch over my left eye.

Next, they placed a circular device onto my eyeball, and told me to expect some pressure. Suction was applied to pull my cornea into the aperature. It was an odd and mildly disconcerting sensation, but it didn't hurt. That was the point at which everything went dark, but it was brief. Once my cornea was fixed into position, I could see again.

Next came the slicing, which was the only part of the procedure that freaked me out a little bit. I could see the machine moving across my eyeball, and there was a lot of pressure. There was no pain, but after a moment, I realized that I could feel the cutting, and I could feel an the tissue separated. This was the only point at which I felt that I might panic. But it was very brief and of course, after the first eye, I knew what to expect.

The laser part was a snap. I had been told that there is a "fragrance" associated with higher degrees of correction as the laser reacts with the corneal tissue. Well, I wouldn't call it a "fragrance", but it wasn't really a "stench" either. The technician told me it would smell like burning hair, but to me it was similar to the smell when you're having your teeth drilled.

That was it. They patched the right eye and moved on to the left. It probably took about five minutes per eye, though I was probably on the table for about 20 minutes all told.

When I was done, the doctor told me that everything had gone perfectly. The only complication was that one of the prominent blood vessels on the surface of my eye had burst when the suction was applied. As a result, the white of my right eye has a large red area that looks somewhat alarming, but does not impact the success of the procedure or my overall eye health. It's really just a bruise on my eyeball. Or a hickey.

My left eye was crystal clear from the moment I left the table, and I have had absolutely no pain or discomfort whatsoever in that eye. The right eye, which, again, was my bad eye, had a lot of discomfort that day. I was told it would feel like I had an eyelash in my eye. I'm sure it varies from person to person and with the degree of correction, but to me it felt more like a boulder. Have you ever unknowingly put a torn contact in your eye and then wondered...MOTHER OF GOD why does that hurt so much?!?!? It was like that. It was irritating to the point that I really just wanted to keep my eyes closed and that's what I did. The doctor told me that was best anyway. When my eyes weren't closed, I was instructed to put saline drops in my eyes every ten minutes. And I have to put steroid and antibiotic drops in my eyes four times a day for seven days.

Saturday, the discomfort was MUCH better, and when I went in for my post-op appointment, my vision was 20/20. It is not consistent, however, and that is normal. My vision will fluctuate for a couple of weeks while the eye is healing and my vision will continue to improve for up to six months.

My main complaint right now is extreme dryness in my right eye, which causes haziness. It's kind of like when you've worn your contacts for too long, and in fact, I have stopped myself several times from reaching up and trying to pluck a lense from my eye. The fluctuating vision and the dryness make reading or using the computer for long periods of time tiring, but I am able to drive and do all my other day to day tasks with no problem. I can shave my legs without wearing glasses in the shower. I can read the bedside clock at night. Diminutive One caught my horrible cold, and while I was giving him medicine in the middle of the night last night, I realized I hadn't had to fumble around in the dark for my glasses or hold the measuring cup half an inch from my face. It was a heady realization.

So...was it worth it??? Yeah. Absolutely. It wasn't nearly as scary as I thought it would be. And even with the haziness and fluctuating vision in my right eye, it's amazing to be seeing as well as I am without glasses or contacts. Miraculous, really. If both eyes had been as easy as my left eye, I would say this was a piece of cake. An expensive piece of cake, but one well worth the price. The right eye will come along, I just have to be patient. I was warned that because my right eye is so bad, it might need some "tweaking", but I will be completely okay with doing it again if need be.

I hoped that helped someone who might be trying to make a decision about the procedure. It really was an amazing experience.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Random Thoughts

WHEW. That was tough. I'm finally starting to feel human again, but it was touch and go for a while. I actually considered going to the doctor. Yeah. It was that bad. You laugh, but when a chronic doctor avoider such as myself even considers involving a health care professional, believe me, it's bad.

A couple years back, I got terribly, terribly sick. I was so sick I was practically comatose. I didn't want to move. I didn't want to open my eyes. I kept telling my husband that if he would just leave me alone I would be fine in a day or two. He believed me for a while, but when I started speaking in tongues, he took the initiative to call the Dr.. Then he dressed me, half carried, half dragged me to the car and drove me to the office. It turned out I really was very sick. I got even sicker when I had a bad reaction to one of the meds that had been prescribed, but again, I insisted I would be just fine. Hubby once again came to the rescue. He called the doctor, explained that now, in addition to the laundry list of symptoms I had when I went in, I was puking my guts up in alarming quantities as well. Anoter medication was prescribed and I got better.

You'd think I would learn, right?

So anyway, I'm feeling better now.

Some random thoughts from me, since I still can't really conjure up any brilliance or insight....

I'm reading Stephen King's new book "Lisey's Story" and I'm not digging it. It's a little disjointed, a little cryptic. The voice just doesn't seem right. It's a little contrived. And though he has successfully and convincingly written from a woman's perspective before, this time, it sounds like a man trying to write from a woman's perspective. I had high hopes for this book because I've always thought that he did such an incredible job of getting down to the bare bones of relationships and emotional baggage and the raw neediness that people have for one another. I'm disappointed. Maybe I just need to read a little further.

Why do politicians send pre-recorded phone messages? People HATE telemarketers. People HATE spam. Political pontification via my telephone really PISSES ME OFF and I can't imagine I'm the only one. What marketing genius told these people telephone campaiging was a good idea? You know what works? Those little signs that people put in their yard. The couple who just moved in next door have a sign in their yard in support of a candidate for Insurance Commisioner. Because they are a gay couple, I was curious about what kind of issues this candidate was supporting. I went to his website, I did some research. I will be voting for him. Voila.

My cat is eating his ass. He hasn't been outside for six months. Six long months. He has no fleas. He is not eating anything new. But all of a sudden, he seems pretty intent on eating all of the flesh off of his posterior and tail. It's nasty. I put the collar that he wore after his surgery back on him so he couldn't gnaw on himself anymore. He is not amused.

We consulted a psychologist about Diminutive One this week. His behaviors have been escalating to an alarming degree and he is not doing well socially or academically. He is not a bad kid, and I don't want him to think that he is inherently bad. But when he is constantly being told he is bad, that is exactly what is going to happen. I've got to help him find a way to navigate through life without pissing people off so much. When asked if he would be willing to talk to a special kind of doctor about his feelings, he immediately and surprisingly responded in the affirmative. I feel a little relieved because the responsibility is no longer resting on my shoulders alone. Maybe someone who knows what the hell they are doing can help us.

I have been watching the new show "Jericho". I have never been much of an alarmist or a doomsayer. In fact, I usually practice the Ostrich defense when it comes to large scale crisis. When 9/11 happened, I didn't turn on the tv if I could help it. It was a bone of contention between Husband and me, because he was compelled to be tuned in every waking moment, whereas I couldn't deal with the constant onslaught of horrifying sounds and images. When people were stockpiling food and water for Y2K, I scoffed. But this show's freaking me out. It's making me want to put together an emergency preparedness plan and start squirrelling away tampons and toilet paper. In this show, many major cities have been decimated by nuclear explosions, Atlanta being one of them. The fact is, I live on the outskirts of a city that is an International hub. It's not beyond the scope of believability that it could be targeted by terrorists some day. I wonder how much it would cost to build a fallout shelter.

I am also watching "Heroes". The guy that plays Mohinder? SSSSSSSSSMOKING.

Tomorrow I go in for Lasik. It's going to be somewhat surreal to see without glasses. I wonder how long it will take me to stop trying to push them back up on my nose, or reaching for them in the night. I have been monumentally selfish in pursuing the surgery. It's going to make things tight for a while. I could have saved us a lot of money if I had waited until after the first of the year and used the flexible spending plan, which takes pre-tax money from Husband's paycheck and deposits it in a medical savings account. But if I hesitate, I will lose my nerve. It's as simple as that. So I am going forward, selfish though it undoubtedly may be.

Forgive my inattentiveness and lack of commenting this week and thanks to all who stopped by and left comments even though I have not been able to reciprocate. I will be back to my regular blogging self by Monday, I think. I have a few ideas swirling around in my head and I will try to coalesce them into some riveting reading. If I'm able to read after surgery, I will make the rounds and try to catch up.

Wish me luck. GULP.