Thursday, May 31, 2007

You'd think

...this car stuff would all be done now, but no.

A. got the car yesterday. She had to wait for the lying agent to copy the keys after she got there, even though we specifically delayed picking up the car for a day to give him time to copy them after he failed to do so for a week.

She then collected the car and moved the carseat from the loaner to the newly transmissioned, newly batteried, new-to-us car.

And while she was there on the dealership's lot, leaning into the parked car and adjusting the carseat, what should she feel but a big bump? Well, what she should have felt was nothing at all, but what she did feel was another customer sideswiping our car. The car now needs bodywork. The other customer is in a complicated insurance situation. We need to get an estimate and her boyfriend will pay it. (Lest the word "boyfriend" lead you astray, A. described the other customer as a sixtysomething Main Line lady with dyed blonde hair and flipflops.)

Because it would be too easy to just have a car and drive it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Imagination and satisfaction

Today I saw the beginning of involved, imaginary play with Z. She's done imaginary feeding with us ("Can you eat this for pretend?") but this was a step further--she was the babykitty and I was the mamakitty. To fulfill these roles we both needed to say meow (which I always spell in my head the French way, miao, but it looks like ciao when I type it.)

In other Z. news, today we had excitement on both the way to and from school: on the way to, we saw a baby bird and discussed why we weren't going to touch it, and on the way from we saw a real, live digger, putting a trench about 12 feet deep into my neighbors' yard. (That's not an exaggeration, since the yard rises above the sidewalk quite a bit.) We have paused at various times to look at diggers, but never so long and so close to one that was actually digging. It was an entirely fulfilling commute.

A picture for the pixies

If anyone wants to take up temporary residence on the bench on my patio, here's what you'll see:

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

It all depends on your point of view

Z.: Are you my mama?

S.: Yes, I'm your mama.

Z.: Are you my big mama?

S.: Yes, I'm your big mama.

Z.: Is that my little mommy?

A.: snorting We know who wears the pants around here.

S.: I think it's time to join Weight Watchers

This car stuff keeps dragging on

Today the service guys called--we can come get the car! Hooray! I had to head back to work to help close, but A. and I thought through the intricate timing of pizza dough rising while she and Z. went to get the car. It looked like it would work.

"What about the key?" I asked. We only have one set of keys to this car, plus the valet key. The last time I was there the selling agent made a point of finding me and telling me he'd get another key cut while the car was in.

"I'll call to make sure it's with the car." A. called. And the agent claimed to have no idea that the car was there. Which was a lie.

So the car stays there another night while they cut a key they could have taken care of anytime this week.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Woodlands and woods

Woodlands is the name of the cemetery where much of my mother's family is buried. Yesterday we had a two-year-old birthday party out that way, so we visited the tall Celtic cross with the dates ranging back to the 1830's. I realized that I didn't really understand the genealogy, so I looked some of it up. My grandparents--my mother's parents--are there, and my grandfather's grandparents, aunt, and uncles. But his parents must be buried somewhere else. And there's an infant girl a few years younger than my grandfather who lived eight days. I don't think she's his sister, at least I've always heard he was an only child--perhaps a cousin? A tragedy 100 years old. I wonder if she were my great-aunt, how that might have affected my grandfather, always a quiet and distant man in my memory of him. But a cousin seems just as likely.

We picked buttercups, and found rocks, to leave on a ridge in the base of the cross. Once, maybe ten years ago now, when my grandmother was still alive, I was walking in Woodlands and came across a hand-tied sprig of holly at base of the cross. It was close to the anniversary of my grandfather's death: a glimpse into my grandmother's widowhood. Until yesterday I simply hadn't done the math, but she outlived him by nearly two decades. They were married more than 50 years, and she still outlived the marriage my more than half of my lifetime. She wasn't a centenarian, but she came within a year of that mark.

Today, we went to a branch of the "big woods" that forms a natural boundary to our part of Philadelphia. In The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen compared a neighborhood near ours to Narnia, which I think was a misreading of Narnia more than of the neighborhood, given the rest of the way he skewers the neighborhood in the book. Although the woods and the local stone used in the houses gives the neighborhood a fairy-tale quality--the stone, also used in our more down-to-earth zip code, sparkles with mica, and even the dirt that we track in from the garden glitters. But our neighboring neighborhood is pedigreed and civilized beyond the normal run of old-money suburbs, making it an easy target.

The woods at its edge do lend it a wild flavor, but it's an illusory wild. You walk down a decently maintained path to a small creek that flows into the larger one that gives the trail system its name. This little branch was burbling nicely with the past few nights' rain. The trees, mostly maples, rise in a filigree cathedral of green above you. You feel you're outside the city, but in fact the woods exist because the city protects it as part of the park system, and the grades are so steep that it was never easy to build. The forest, like the forest in most of North America, is second-growth, and this close to people's homes it's peppered with garden escapees and invasive species. The walk down to the creek begins with English ivy, garlic mustard, and bishop's weed under the canopy, giving way after a few yards to ferns and other more native-looking understory plants. On the way down I noticed dogwood and jack-in-the-pulpit, as well as a lovely volunteer hosta and two japanese maples sheltering among the more prosaic trees.

We ate on a roughly-assembled retaining wall near a lovely place where the creek is accessible to the path, pausing on its way down in a series of small falls. Z. was excited to see a black lab hunker down in the little pool, smiling, clearly trying to communicate to its owner that yes, this was enough water to play ball in (despite the dog filling the small pool entirely). We had our tofu and nectarines and raisins and pretzels, and then it was time to walk back. Going uphill, mostly I noticed the poison ivy.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Brainstorm with me

I don't usually--er, ever--post about my staff. But one of my staffers had Something Bad happen to her laptop, and she is a poet, a bona fide poet who shows her portfolio to people who then give her fellowships and admit her to MFA programs and send her to writers' retreats, but she is also a young poet who has not much been published.

She has hard copies of her finished work, but no back-ups of anything still underway. It will cost a great deal of money by mostly-unpublished-poet standards to get all of her notes and works-in-progress off of her hard disk, if they can be gotten at all. The place that will do it has told her they won't charge her if they don't succeed, but success would mean a lot of money and she is loathe to ask for it "just" to spend on her work.

I am trying to talk her into fundraising, but fundraising would still be with the goal of paying someone back. (For the record, the someone in question is not me but a relative of hers.)

Gentle readers, what would you do if you had such a young woman in such a dilemma on your staff?

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Magpie has a post about extended breastfeeding and weaning today that's almost like she's reading my mind.

I had a rough start with nursing, though not as rough as Magpie's. For a long time, I couldn't nurse in public because nursing was so painful I cried every time. Even after the most intense phase had passed, I was just gritting my teeth through every round of blanching and niacin, and through each new blocked duct, saying "one year, one year, one year." But by the time I got to one year, there didn't seem to be any reason to stop, so I just kept going.

Pumping was crazy when Z. was at daycare and still nursing exclusively, and she didn't start solids until 8 months. But it got easier. "Nana" was Z.'s first real word, and she is still doing nana at 26 months. I haven't taken flak for it because somehow I don't get flak for decisions like that (homebirthing, etc.). I think I just come across as someone who won't take flak. I did teach high school, after all.

At the same time, she hasn't nursed on demand for a long, long time. The weaning process has been long and conscious--once she started on solids, which was late, I started eliminating things from our routine as they began to feel burdensome. No "top-off" nursing in the glider at day care before I left for work. No nursing away from home (that was easy to accomplish, b/c if we're out and about she's always distracted). Night weaning was miserable, but once we managed that the remaining nana routine was pretty liveable.

Eventually the come-home-in-the-afternoon nana fell away on its own, and then we were down to sleeping and rising, morning, nap, and bedtime. It wasn't good for either of us to have her dependent on nursing to fall asleep, so A. took over the bedtime routine until Z. had new habits.

We just do nana in the morning now. Sometimes it's pretty perfunctory, especially when she has a cold, and sometimes she gets distracted and skips it, especially on weekends when A. gets up with her and lets me sleep in. Sometimes when she's sleepy it's more like old times, lying down and cuddling. But it's more likely to just be a quick visit to touch base, and I think that it would be very easy to just let it drop, if I chose. It's not "if I chose," though, it's "when I choose," and that has me all in a quandary.

The nursing relationship, like the parenting relationship, is one that appears to be one way, but is in fact another way. It appears that because your life and physiology have been rearranged by the child or nursling, then the child/nursling has power. But she doesn't. She is radically dependent, and also cognitively immature. The decision to complete weaning isn't Z.'s but mine. So there are ethics here I haven't really thought through, and I think I need to before I can figure out when and how best to wrap this up.

This one's going out for Co

Doesn't it suck how dehydrated you get when you can't breathe through your nose?

James Joyce, eat your heart out.

The scene is the dining room table, after dinner.

S.: Holding wipie. Let me hold your hand.

[Z. puts hand out, S. takes it]

S.: Let me look. Oh, there's all this dirt here. Points to beet juice and ice cream marks. Do you see all this?

Z.: Yes!

S.: May I wipe it?

Z.: Yes! yes! yes! yes! yes! yes! yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yesyesyesyesyes, but I said yes, yes, yes, YES! yes! yes! yes!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


This evening, as I was mulching the planters by the patio, Z. was playing a game where she would sit on the edge of her digging box (a raised bed that I took out of vegetable cultivation) and then after doing some lackadaisical toddler counting to get up the appropriate courage, she would half-lower herself and half-fall over backwards into it. This made her so filthy that I think those clothes will henceforth be designated garden clothes. (But it's good dirt.)

I was nearby and cheering at each tumble, but not really paying her too much attention as long as she was entertaining herself. Then I realized that this is what I was hearing:

"1..2..3..4..5..6..7..oopsie!" And over she would go.

That's right, my baby girl was counting to seven repeatedly. Counting had become half the game.

And then she got to eight.

I started encouraging her to say it again, and she was so eager to figure out what it was that she'd done that I was looking for that she got all tangled up again. So I decided to get re-involved in my mulching.

And then she did this, three times in a row before we went in for supper:


Let's not quibble about that missing 11. As far as I know, no one has explicitly taught her her numbers. Letters, yes. Numbers, not really. She has long been fond of the sequence 6-7-8, and of course she knows 1-2-3, and recently added four. But putting it all together? Am I right to think that this is not the usual 26-month thing? I'm delighted and also a little intimidated.

Driving in our car, car

Last night in the comments on Strangely... E. brought up a point I haven't talked about--the way all this car stuff is not just a hassle to deal with (sometimes a huge one), but is also making me feel unsafe and unmoored. I don't like A. taking left turns, and I don't like taking them myself. Heck, even my mother is being cautious about left turns. And all of this business with rentals and car shares means that I've driven four different cars in the last two weeks, not counting test drives. I don't like all this car-hopping--I don't like always being unfamiliar with the controls and where my wheels are, and these cars have all been bigger than the Civic so I'm not quite sure where I begin and end when I'm parking, and none of them have handled as well as the Civic.

I really don't like not trusting a car we just bought a week ago. It turns out that the little whine I heard when I drove the car home from the dealer was the very beginning of the demise of the transmission. The mechanic at the dealership tells me that it will escalate into knocking and various other problems, so even though it would be good to drive for (he implied) thousands of more miles, they did order a new transmission, all of it covered, not a problem. I don't think he was implying I was fussy--I think he actually was impressed I caught the whine so early and pleased to be able to offer me a complete solution. He was implying that I should come out to the effing dealership again and pick up the car while he waits for the new transmission to be delivered. When I explained how recently we bought the car and how often we've been out there since, he was very accommodating. But I don't want accommodating! I want a car I can just drive and be done with it. It will take me awhile to trust this car, even though it is in almost every way identical to my old car. (The biggest difference is the automatic transmission, which I detest but am resigned to.)

The new transmission, combined with the death of the battery last week, is making me wonder about how this car was treated by its last owners. It's a 2005! It has less than 28,000 miles! It's a Honda! It's certified! That's why we paid more for it. It shouldn't have problems like this. Granted, our 2003 was a little beat up from encounters with vandals and panel vans and city parkers on our crowded block, and it had one largeish dent caused by a parking-while-pregnant incident* that we decided not to remedy because it was purely aesthetic, not even any paint damage. But we took it in for all its checkups and we drove it gently (it was a stick shift, so we were able to control RPM's ourselves) and it gave us no mechanical grief at all.

Since Z. was born I am hyper-aware of my vulnerability in a car anyway. While Z. was exclusively breastfeeding, I could get myself all choked up behind the wheel by thinking about what would happen to her if I were killed in an accident. (I think this was a PTSD symptom, but maybe it was just adjusting to motherhood--in my case the two are not easily separated.) I still can't go through an intersection without a faint, caution-inspiring anticipation of the impact that's about to hurl itself into Z.'s side of the car.

There is another part of this, too, which is driving within a couple. I am an excellent driver--my father would have it no other way--and this made me prone to speeding and impatience in my younger days, though I've mellowed. But on the road, I'm generally aware of everything around me and I anticipate most of what could come up. When we met, A. was a cautious and slow driver, hesitant about passing trucks and uncomfortable near jersey walls. She didn't own a car, so most of the driving fell to me naturally. When we lived in Wisconsin, we became more car-reliant and we bought a car together when my old car died of old age, so just as naturally she began to drive more.

I confess I have not always been a good driving mentor. I have occasionally been a real jerk. But when I was pregnant I was often too tired to drive, and also during Z.'s infancy if we were both in the car, A. did most of the driving because Z. would be cranky in her carseat and need my attention, or I would be feeling invalid-ish. Also, when I was growing up my mother usually took the passenger seat while my father drove, and I'm sure I was reproducing this. (Most of the errand-running still fell to me, so I probably did more driving overall--which, come to think of it, is maybe why my mom let my dad drive.) During this period, A. pointed out to me that since we have been together her driving has improved, and I reflected on what she said and realized it was so. Just her need to say it explicitly was a signal to relax about this and give her more credit. I surrendered some of my driverly vigilance and became more of a passenger, less of a back-seat driver (that's "less of," rather than "no longer:" navigation is still a sore point.)

But in the past five months we had one very scary near-miss that was definitely A.'s fault, but she was only driving because I had told her I wasn't good to drive (which I wasn't, but neither was she). Then this latest accident which was not her fault, but which has had more repercussions. I am trying not to let it affect our couple-driving dynamic, but I do wonder if I've let too much of the driving responsibility pass to her. Have I left her more slack to pick up than is realistic or fair?

*I swear I wasn't too tired to drive when I got in the car--parking it 20 minutes later I was in a completely different state of consciousness.

Monday, May 21, 2007

100 things

Yes, this is my bloggy coming-of-age 100th post. I've been working on it for awhile: an autobiography in 100 lines. (It's not like I didn't know it was coming!)

1. I'm a native Washingtonian.
2. So is my sister.
3. I guess that makes my brother Saipanese.
4. It's an open question whether he can ever be president.
5. What? Saipan. It’s on the map. Near Guam.
6. There was a lot of ocean there.
7. And not a lot of clothing.
8. My parents were working for Micronesian Legal Defense.
9. It was sort of like the Peace Corps for Justice Department lawyers.
10. I stepped on a rusty tin can right before we climbed a dormant volcano.
11. I was quarantined with chicken pox when we were visiting Palau. Or was it Ponape?
12. Pacific Islanders freak out about chicken pox.
13. As well they should.
14. It was very beautiful.
15. I didn't want to come home.
16. I was 3 when we left and 5 when we came back.
17. I had to start school.
18. My parents sent me to the local public school.
19. In kindergarten, I was strangled in the bathroom.
20. But they kept me there another year.
21. My first grade teacher was emotionally abusive.
22. Then I went to private school.
23. I loved it.
24. But it was awfully damn small to be there for 11 years.
25. I was a teenage francophile.
26. And also good at trig.
27. I spent my senior year in France.
28. Until my host family kicked me out because their daughter was crazy.
29. That pretty much cured me of my francophilia.
30. I arranged my own flight home.
31. When I arrived at JFK, English sounded like a foreign language.
32. When I came home, my friend's father was dying.
33. His death partly inspired my conversion to Judaism.
34. And the day of his funeral was also the first day I came out to myself.
35. Number 34 meant I put off number 33 until my senior year in college.
36. In college I was a Big Dyke on Campus.
37. I ran two queer organizations simultaneously and co-founded a radical feminist journal.
38. Not so much of that later on.
39. My immediate goal after college was to work in a bookstore.
40. And also apply to graduate school.
41. I thought the bookstore would be a diversion and grad school would start my career.
42. I seem to have gotten that backwards.
43. At least I hope so.
44. I moved to Philly for graduate school.
45. My mother's family has been in Philadelphia for over 150 years.
46. I have been in Philadelphia for less than 13.
47. I decided not to go into academia but I still finished my coursework.
48. Then I spent 3 months hiking the Appalachian Trail.
49. I tore some ligaments in my arches around mile 85.
50. Then I hiked another 915 miles or so.
51. Thruhikers are like that.
52. Forests calm me.
53. Even though I have a pretty good story about a near-miss and a bear.
54. I'll tell it to you some time.
55. When I could walk again, I looked for a job.
56. I thought I would teach high school.
57. I was more prepared for this than you might think.
58. I was very good at teaching high school.
59. I was very bad at grading on time.
60. I still thought I would finish my dissertation.
61. Until I took time off to do so.
62. Then I was so relieved not to have any grading.
63. And the PhD seemed pretty useless.
64. So I had an existential crisis.
65. Which I cured with lots of yarn and some swimming.
66. I have been knitting for almost 30 years.
67. I used to have only one project at a time.
68. Until I worked in a yarn store.
69. And then all hell broke loose.
70. I am a very, very good knitter.
71. This didn't used to sound like a brag.
72. It sounded like saying "I'm a very, very good tatter."
73. Maybe tatting will be the next craze.
74. If so, I'll probably sit it out.
75. I have two tattoos, however.
76. But I got them before I converted.
77. I am not Jewish because I met A.
78. I met A. because I am Jewish.
79. We met in shul.
80. Twice: the first time was premature.
81. A. and I rewrote our ketubbah in the feminine.
82. We were being feminist.
83. And also grammatical.
84. To win A.’s heart, I volunteered to live in Madison, WI for two years.
85. I understand what the big fuss over Madison is all about.
86. I liked the lakes, the co-ops, the crunchy culture.
87. And I learned what -20 degrees feels like.
88. For months on end. (See existential crisis, above.)
89. Nice yarn stores, though. (Ditto)
90. But not nicer than Rosie's. (See Philly blogroll, left.)
91. I decided to have a bookstore.
92. And open up a baby.
93. No, no, the other way around!
94. The bookstore is named for ... wait! oh, yeah, anonymity. I'll have to tell you at a meet-up.
95. Z. is named for 6 different foremothers.
96. Four of whom are packed into her second Hebrew name.
97. My hair is long enough to sit on.
98. I prefer to wear it braided.
99. I sometimes do not react graciously when it’s loose and I receive compliments from strangers.
100. I need to work on this.

Oops! (Making up the numbers)

This is a tricky back-timed post to make my 100th post really my 100th post--I saw that I'd hit 100 but I forgot about another one that's still in draft (frankly it might not ever make it out of draft). Blogger counts draft posts as part of the total on your dashboard, which threw me off.

Carry on, now, please.

I am your only hope

Your results:
You are Obi-Wan Kenobi

Obi-Wan Kenobi
Luke Skywalker
Qui-Gon Jinn
An Ewok
Princess Leia
Han Solo
Boba Fett
You are civilized, calm, and
have a good sense of humor,
even when those around you don't.
You can hold your own in a fight,
but prefer it when things
don't get too exciting.

(This list displays the top 10 results out of a possible 21 characters)

Click here to take the Star Wars Personality Quiz

For the record, I am not the Ewan MacGregor Obi-Wan. I am actually the Alec Guinness Obi-Wan. It is even possible that I am really the Alec Guiness George Smiley. And what's with 59% Boba Fett??


...I am posting this from a computer in the lounge of the Honda dealership, and all the Blogger buttons are in Chinese. Go figger.

The car saga continues, and continues to intersect with the therapy saga. (Sorry, I'm not up to hunting down html for internal links in Chinese, but the post about switching therapists and car problems is in my archives under Depression. I'll try adding the link later.)(Okay, it's later now, and here it is.)

On Friday, I was going to have my last therapy session with my ineffective therapist. What I haven't said about Ineffective Therapist is that almost the first thing she did when we started last Fall was offer me medication, while also acknowledging that I'm not the type to want to use it. I didn't want to use it, and the idea of going on antidepressants still scares me and, honestly, makes me burst into tears if I think too hard about it. But Ineffective Therapist, now that I think about it, didn't have a lot else in her bag of tricks. She put me on other ingestables instead--vitamins and minerals and Bach flower remedies. The supplements probably helped some, but it wasn't enough.

Here's what happened Friday: the car wouldn't start. I had cut it rather close because I had to open the store on Friday, and I hadn't gotten Z. to day care before store-opening time, so by the time I called Ineffective Therapist to cancel it was very close to the time of my appointment. And she asked if I wanted to reschedule. Which I didn't. I stopped therapy with her over the phone instead, explaining I was going back to Dr. L. She took it okay, not great but okay, and ended the conversation by saying that if I wanted to start medication she would be happy to help.

After that phone call, I called daycare to say no Z., because I figured there was no guarantee I'd be done with car stuff in time to pick her up. Then Z. and I had adventures with tow trucks and extremely nice co-op shoppers--the tow truck couldn't accommodate a car seat even though I told the dispatcher I was travelling with a toddler, and Extremely Nice Co-op Shopper saw me while she was loading her groceries into her car and offered to follow the truck. Good Samaritans just stop me in my grumpy tracks--and I gotta pay it forward next chance I get.

We were in the dealership a good long time, and it wiped Z. out and she was sick all weekend with low appetite and spiking fevers, but she seems okay this morning, except for waking up at 6:00. That was because I needed to get the car here early enough for a loaner. And why am I back here after spending most of the day on Friday? They replaced the battery, but didn't have time to check out the whine. And so here I am, waiting for that loaner so I can get to my first full session with Dr. L.

What I think about antidepressants is that they seem like an easy solution to a hard problem, and I'm not sure that they don't do more papering over than actually solving anything. I don't like the idea of feeling worse while they kick in. I don't like the idea of side effects so severe that many people can't tolerate them. I don't like the fact that they're only slightly more effective than placebo, and help only half or less of those who use them. I don't want the effect on libido--really, really, I don't think my marriage could take that. I don't like facing a withdrawal process getting off of them. And I don't like the idea of something chemical affecting my mood, though if the rest weren't there I think I'd be more willing to risk it. But I'm not, not yet.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The view from two.

Z.: When I'm a grownup I can have scissors just for cutting toenails.

* * * * *

Z.: I'll get bigger, and bigger, and bigger! and I'll open the ketchup by myself.

A.: It's good to have goals.

Z.: Now I'm too little.

A.: Oh, are you too little?

Z.: Yes, I'm are.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Politics makes smart people dumb

Philly had an election yesterday. Nope, it's not November yet, but this is a Democratic town, so the primary is the main event in local politics. There was a complicated and lackluster field running for mayor, but the best option won there, so no complaints. Well, complaints about the lacklusterness, but not the result.

In our district, we had four candidates for city council: our lazy and miserable current councilwoman, and three perfectly fine alternatives, one of whom matched the racial/gender demographics of the incumbent and another of whom actually ran a good campaign. What happened? They split the vote. Which has happened in every councilmanic election since I moved to the district. The three challengers combined received more than twice the votes the incumbent did, but she won the plurality, so she's going back to the council without so much as putting up a single lawn sign in my neck of the woods. If even one of the challengers had bowed out of the race in acknowledgement that not only was winning impossible (something obvious to everyone not running) but the very fact of his/her campaign was going to land the incumbent back in office, we wouldn't have to put up with her for another term.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Car update

For those of you wondering about the latest accident follow-up news:

Because Z. had a timely tantrum Friday night and the car lot is, of all things, closed on Sunday, we didn't actually purchase the new-to-us car until last night. It took an unconscionable amount of time, a fair portion of which was because we didn't bring our insurance card. A. had to go back for it--she was reacting so badly to the fluorescents that she literally raced out of the dealership to drive home, leaving me with Z. and no diaper bag for the next 45 minutes or so. And no binky. And no change of clothes, not that we had that to begin with.

From here you could probably write the end of the post yourself, couldn't you?

I can only hope that the bathroom walls of the dealership are very thick. Z. was red in the face with tantrum, refusing to sit on the potty, pants around her ankles because she wouldn't let me wipe her, making herself a moving target, finally peeing on the floor (not entirely sparing her pants or shoes) and still repeating over and over "Put my diaper on! I want to poop in my pants, I want to poop in my pants, put my diaper on, I want to poop in my pants!" The word "poop" is hilarious, of course, but a distraction. She is intensely invested in learning about this process and getting some sense of control over it and there I was, interfering all over the place. I don't blame her for being mad, but we were also in public and she was a mess and getting messier.

Here is what finally worked: leaving the room. This has been working magically recently. I tell her that I will leave so she can get herself together, or stop crying, or get ready to go to sleep, or whatever the situation demands. I tell her I will be right on the other side of the door, and that is where I go. And as soon as the door is shut she tells me "I stopped cwying" or "I got myself togedder" in a tone of mixed wonder and pride. So it went last night. Once the bathroom was cleaned up and she was made as presentable as possible, we found a sippy cup with a silicone top that could substitute for a binky, and walked outside until A. returned.

Driving home in the new used car, a buzzing insect whine made itself heard at about 37 mph.

House of books

When the Alarmingly Expensive Renovation was done, a couple of years after I moved in to the house, the architect put in two bookcases on each level of the stairs. Because of on-the-fly construction decisions, there is also a built-in in the living room and two in what is now A.'s office. We already had 5 full-size free-standing bookcases and numerous smaller ones (one of our early outings when we were dating was to IKEA to buy bookcases--convenient that we chose matching ones for our then-separate homes, no?) The headboard of our bed includes one modest bookshelf for each of us in lieu of a bedside table, and a broad and sturdy top for all the bedside-table-type stuff displaced by books. We are not above pressing milkcrates into service, graduate-student style.

These shelves were all full, or nearly, before I began being inundated each month by free galleys from publishers. And before Z.'s arrival brought a third "reader" into the house. Books now settle in corners of our house like dust.

There is no shelf in our house that doesn't have a book on it, at least from time to time. No windowsill, no toilet tank, no dish or pantry or glassware shelf. The tea shelves are only spared because they are too full of tea and too narrow for cantilevering, anyway. The mugs on the sideboard support a thin layer of books. The stairs, until my mother decluttered them, held piles of books waiting for months to be shelved with their kin. Each bathroom has a small but overflowing box of picture and board books next to the potty. Each easy seat in the living room has its reading light and pile of books-in-progress.

As chaotic as the piles are, once they reach the bookcases, each book is sorted by genre or topic, and often alphabetically and chronologically as well. This is as much a product of my love as my garden.

How, my readers, do you live with your love of books?

Inspired by Niobe's post on this theme.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Carnival tubes of fun

Oh yes, I got a hit that way. I guess they were willing to take a detour.

Here are some Z. gems to lighten things up. (I know, you can't keep me off the computer today--actually two of today's posts were written late last night and dated for this morning. I spent most of the day outside digging up plants and putting them back in the ground somewhere else. Beats doing almost anything else.)

Gem #1: After our (childless) houseguests headed out for a fancy dinner, Z. observed: "When grownups go downtown, they don't take their babies."

And then this conversation for Gem #2:

Z.: I want my dinner!

S.: I'm sorry, you lost your dinner when you dumped your water.

Z.: Can I look for my dinner? Will you come help me?

A.: No, we're still eating.

Z.: Can the dogs help me look for my dinner?

S.: If they find it first they will eat it.

Z.: Dogs, don't look for my dinner! I will find it by myself.

(Z. heads for kitchen.)

A.: Z. goes on a vision quest.

The original Mother's Day poem

Mother's Day Proclamation - 1870

by Julia Ward Howe
Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God -
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

I have been confused by my association of Mother's Day with WWI. I've always wondered how old Howe must have been by then--she wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic, after all. It turns out that the "honor your mother" version of the holiday is what was enshrined in 1914. The Virginia-Woolf-in-Three-Guineas version was in reaction to the eruption of Franco-Prussian War.


The central fact of my sensory life right now is depression, but I skirt around it here. I name its source (PTSD), I sometimes go into its effects (meltdowns and financial screw-ups), but I don't often describe it. Here goes:

It feels like a grey, empty place at my center, from my lungs to my belly. It is as though there's a little less light reaching my retina than there should be. My hearing is somehow less differentiated, as background noises fuzz their way up to the foreground. The emotional high notes of my life have been muted, but not the low ones. Happiness will reach me as a trickle coming down, unhappiness as a spring welling up.

My thoughts proceed as though my brain is wrapped in a duvet--it's muffling and hard to get out of. My follow-through is lousy. My memory is patchy. My sense of time is off. My sleep is irresponsible. I think I must prefer exhaustion to remembering my dreams. Books and blogdrift are my anaesthesia.

I started therapy last fall. I felt that being so marginally functional for so long was unfair to A., and I called up a woman whose name my midwife had given me when I was a wreck right after Z.'s birth. I keep deleting descriptive sentences because everything I can think of to say about her would identify her to anyone who knows her even slightly, and I don't want people to think any less of her because of something I write here. Let me try it from another angle, then. Therapy with her has never felt like therapy. Sometimes I leave feeling better, sometimes not, but I don't feel like this is going anywhere. I don't feel like there's anything to be engaged with when I'm not there. I am seeing her again on Friday, and although I haven't told her yet, it will be for the last time.

I realized that in the Fall when I started seeing her, in my heart of hearts I went mostly to demonstrate to everyone who sees me falling apart that yes, I know that I am falling apart and ought to be in therapy. When I met her, I liked my current therapist and I think she would be a good match for me if I were looking for advice and wisdom. Unfortunately, advice and wisdom are not doing it for me. I am not getting better. I don't even see the route to better.

I want to be in therapy to get better.

Surprisingly, I didn't understand this before now. Having understood it, I can't stay with a therapist who isn't really helping me.

Unsurprisingly, this is not at all the first time I've been in therapy. I briefly had a bad therapist in college, and then for a year I had a much, much better one. And finally in grad school I hit the jackpot. I found a great therapist. I was in therapy with her for a few years, jumping in and out as necessary, trying to break some relationship patterns I didn't like, and I stopped therapy with her because I had succeeded in breaking them, which is a heck of a lot to say for your therapist. I think I always knew that if I was really serious about getting better, I would need to call her.

For the sake of bloggy anonymity I will call her Dr. L. Somehow this appeals to me exactly because it's not what I call her: I use her first name, but Dr. Lastname is what she uses on her answering machine.

Last Sunday night, A. asked me to call Dr. L., in a tone that meant she needed me to do this for her. So I did. Dr. L. found a time in her schedule for me. Better than that, she sounded warmly happy to hear from me after 6 years. Thursday morning was my appointment.

Here's where things went to pieces. A. had told me she would wake me at 6:00. I woke on my own at 6:30. A. came up, saw I was awake, waved at me and dashed out of the house for her train. My mother was visiting until Wednesday afternoon, making it the first morning since the previous Friday that Z. had only one grown-up helping her get ready for the day. Heroically, I headed off fuss after fuss and we were both set to walk out the door at 8:30--with parking, it's a 2-minute drive to school, 5 minutes to settle Z. in, 30 minutes for drive in rush hour to Dr. L.'s office, 10 minutes for finding parking, 5 minutes to walk from parking. Eight-minute cushion.

I grabbed my keys from the hook and found no key to the rental car. Now I had a 2-minute stroller-wrestle, 10-minute stroller-walk, 2-minute stroller-wrestle, 5 minutes to settle Z., 5 minutes to walk to SEPTA, indefinite wait for train, unlikely to catch one before 9:00, probably boarding train around 9:15, maybe 9:20. Twenty-two-minute train ride, switch to trolley, not sure which trolley anyway, indefinite wait for trolley, let's say switch+wait is 10 minutes. Not sure how close trolley would get me, let's say 10-minute trolley ride and 10-minute walk. These are probably all low estimates. Now my session is probably ending as I arrive. There is resistance to therapy, and then there is sabotage.*

I called A. at her school and told her to look at her key ring. She said, "Oh no." She said, "I'm really sorry." She suggested SEPTA. It was instant meltdown for me--"I can't make it, how can I make it, I have to walk Z. to school, there's no way I can make it. SEPTA! Do you know how long SEPTA takes?" (She does, she used to live not far from Dr. L's office when we were dating.)

Mama in tears. Z. patting Mama's face, saying "I made you happy." This is not how I want her to grow up.

The next 40 minutes were me forcing function to overcome meltdown. It was a little convoluted along the way, but the final piece was me once again teary, briefly explaining the tears in order to ask the synagogue office (Z.'s daycare is at our synagogue) if I could use a phone to reserve a PhillyCarShare car. The rabbi offered to help me in any way he could, which I believe I interpreted correctly as an offer of pastoral counseling--and very decent since the minyan I belong to within the synagogue is lay-led, therefore he barely knows me. I think once I feel settled in the new therapy I may take him up on it.

Five minutes before my appointment, I was finally on my way. By the time I got there, with the end of rush hour in my favor, I still had 20 minutes in my session. Those 20 minutes were fairly breathless since I had to fit 6 years into them, but even so I felt like I was returned to good hands. She listened, she asked the right questions, she knows me already and I know her (at least as a therapist). She asked to see Z.'s picture and saw in her face just what I would want her to see.

She told me that even though I am clearly distressed, I seem to have bloomed in the past six years. I can't tell you how hopeful that makes me feel.

*On sabotage: A. lurks here and some of you know her as well or better than you know me, so I don't think I can just say this and move on. I think it's clear from the post--but worth restating--that I don't think this was conscious. A. says it was not the case, she was simply enormously tired, forgot she had told me 6:00, and didn't look at her key ring because she saw I was up and so she didn't lock the door (our front door opens into a fenced and gated sideyard, and we have two very barky dogs to scare off bad guys ... so we don't always lock it). Since A. didn't take out her keys that morning until I called her and told her to look at them, she didn't remember that the rental key was there. It's certainly true she has been tired, and still shaken from the accident. And although I thought of it independently, she did leave messages suggesting PhillyCarShare and called daycare to make sure I checked our messages. I do believe that she wants me to be in effective therapy, but going back to Dr. L. is the first step towards us finding a couples counselor and the fact I can't get past is that A. could not have undermined it more elegantly and effectively if she tried. She brought me roses on Friday as an apology for doing it, whatever the motivation. They are red, long-stemmed, and organic.

Who's reading today?

Often, my posts are influenced heavily by knowing that one of the "characters" in the post is one of the central people in my life and also one of the people reading it. If you've read my take on anonymity, you know that by and large I accept the constraints of having my readers know me in the world. I maintain semi-anonymity as a way of trying to keep my readers in two groups: the group of people who know me and are reading because I invited them to by actually giving them my url or by identifying myself on their blog (if they blog); and the group of people people who are reading and know me only as I present myself on the web. (Which is another way of saying that I hope that if anyone who knows me stumbles on this blog they will either identify themselves or stop reading.)

Usually it's the real-life friends who make me conscious of what I write. But today it's a circle of bloggers whom I've joined from a place on the edge--women who have lost babies. I found them via Niobe, whom I first met when she commented on my story about Z.'s stay in the NICU, saying that she read it expecting to find Z. had died. She thought she had been reading too many babyloss blogs, but you know? That's what Z.'s first week felt like to me--like a death, like grief in its purest, train-wreck form. Of course, Z. didn't die, but there is a way in which Z.'s survival is the thing that has pulled me through her death that didn't happen.

Which I know is messed up--why do you think I'm in therapy?

So. Today is Mother's Day. And I know that this day must feel like a punch in the gut to many of my readers. I was thinking to sidestep the issue entirely by doing an anti-war post, and maybe I still will, later on, but I don't want to do one just to avoid looking at how hard this day must be for someone whose motherhood was cut short. (Although Mother's Day was first conceived as an anti-war event precisely because mothers of soldiers had the authority of grief on their side.) The women I have met via Niobe's blog speak so eloquently of their grief and their isolation from people who don't share their experience of loss, even as they support each other beautifully online. I don't want to add to that isolation. It could have been me, so easily.

What I would love would be for everyone to head over to Julia's and read her post on being a mother to both of her children. And if you know someone who has lost a child, or children (most of us do, if we haven't strategically forgotten), please be gentle with them today.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Sentences you can't believe you're saying

"We can find something to do that's just as much fun as pooping."

Friday, May 11, 2007

Dealing with things

My mother has come to my aid recently by visiting and helping me declutter.

I think in this blog I come across as in better shape than I am--humor me, if I don't. In real life, I find that if I'm left on my own I just kind of wind down. So my mother has been coming up to keep me functioning.

This last visit was from Saturday to Wednesday, long enough to really get things done, and the last items displaced by the great bed move have settled into new spots in the house. She undid the huge pile of cardboard that we had created in the future mudroom, carting much of it off in her station wagon (we don't have curbside cardboard recycling here.) She entertained Z. She bought us take-out and took us to the diner. She made things easier. Walking through the house where the displaced items used to be is nearly shocking. So many things are missing it feels like we have moved. From one corner of the house, anyway.

In the garden, she went to town on the dandelions. In return, I sent her home with shade plants for her north-facing front yard: trillium, sensitive fern, allegheny pachysandra, dogstooth violets, and one volunteer heuchera. Also some daffs that needed dividing, though that project is only barely begun.

My garden is unevenly kempt, but it never feels beyond me. My house almost ALWAYS feels beyond me. Aside from the obvious fact that if I am in the garden, I am in sunshine (don't underestimate this benefit in a SAD sufferer), I am not sure why this should be. It is evidently more difficult and time-consuming to create a drip irrigation system than it is to clean a bathroom, but only the latter feels daunting.

In other news, the insurance check is supposed to be on its way, and we are likely to buy a car with it this evening--used, 2 years younger, fewer miles, otherwise same make and model. We will be financing a good chunk of it, but with everything that's going on, I'd rather pay more for a certified car with the warranty intact.

Post in process on changing therapists and my bad morning yesterday--but after we car-shop, shabbat will be here, so it may have to wait until Sunday.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Week of firsts

In the same week Niobe tags me for my first meme, Mad Hatter, who hosts the Just Posts awards also gives me one for my Blogging Against Disablism post. Blogging is so much fun when the links are flying!

It's so, well, healthy to read what other people have written. (if you didn't hit my first link, when you have time you should get yourself over there to check out the list.) It's good to get some analysis and righteous indignation going. It makes me think I should look up from my navel more often. Which I think is the part of the point of having the award?

Now if I can figure out where to put the button!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

One that didn't quite fit the list

I'm are!

I am, I am, I am Superman, and I know what’s happening

I am older than I look

I am hard to conjugate

I am hard to find

I am looking at my hands

I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees

I am not a Christian

I am my mother’s daughter

I am my daughter’s mother

I am in over my head

I am not who I used to be

Niobe at dead baby jokes tagged me for this meme. You are supposed to write a list of statements that begin with I am. I don't do this justice the way Niobe does, but this is the first meme I've actually been tagged for and I'm all tickled.

I tag Magpie at Magpie Musing, Susan at Crunchy Granola, Goldfish at Diary of a Goldfish, and Lo and Co at The Family O.

And you, if you want to play!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


Attention to the men among my readers: this may get into the realm of oversharing across the gender lines. You're probably used to that, but I thought you might like some warning.

Edited: If you are reaching this post from the Going Braless site you will find this is not exactly what you thought you were getting. The link was put up on that forum by someone who apparently didn't read the piece very carefully, and who certainly did not consult me.

When I was in college and a women's studies major and very steeped in feminism all the, all the, all the time, I went without a bra for awhile. (I admit that the politics behind this were a little vague.) The thing is that I have fibrocystic condition--my breasts are lumpy and can be painful, varying with my cycle. When I got premenstrual, I'd put the bra back on, then a few days later relegate it to the back of the drawer. I'd have to readjust to not wearing one every month. It got to a point where I realized I was uncomfortable a good portion of the time, and I abandoned the project.

I was what--19? And several clothing sizes smaller, a 36B who hadn't seen much gravity, let alone pregnancy or nursing.

But the boobs, they have attained boobaliciousness, at least when properly supported. When I got pregnant I went from a 38B/C to a full C cup before I saw the second line on the peestick. By the end of pregnancy, when Z. was pushing all my innards upwards, I was a 40D. By the time my milk supply was established, I was a 38F or 40DD, more or less, depending on the make and model. That is where I've stayed, even though Z. is down to one nana session a day. If I thought fibrocystic condition was uncomfortable, nursing just blew that right out of the water. And then there was the leaking. Moms who've nursed, you know what I'm talking about. Bras are just not optional, not at all.

Last week, though, my dermatologist looked at a mole on my back, said "biopsy," injected lidocaine, and scraped. Because of the location of the mole in question (it was benign, just so you know), I walked out of there with a band-aid under my bra-band. It didn't heal right. It got itchy. It kept oozing. I'm not normally allergic to latex, but if my skin is already irritated I develop what look like mild burns in the vicinity. These appeared under the band-aid. A. started treating me twice a day with warm washcloths and neosporin ointment. After a few days of this I decided get rid of the band-aid, and then the bra for the duration.

I sure ain't 19 any more. I'm walking around the neighborhood in 80-degree weather with layers of tank tops on to control wobble, rather than bounce. It's not terrible, but I'll be glad when the mole-spot finishes itching. I find that I'm paying attention to other women's breasts, especially large-breasted women, out of something like professional interest. (Yeah, right, you say. It's true! Not that I'm blind most of the time, but I am 1) happily married to a lovely woman and 2) pretty low in the libido in my current hormonal situation.)

My bra drawer is rather lacking in civvy (non-nursing) bras, and I will need to restock over the next little while. Going bare (funny how under all the extra layers I feel naked) is making me feel like I'm approaching this question from outside of the bra-wearing population. What I find myself wondering during these braless days is what kind of engineering is happening in the lingerie? Or elsewhere: I passed a woman quite a bit larger than me at the bus stop and it looked like the engineering was all via spandex in the outerwear, with no room for nothin' underneath.

I feel that I ought to end with some kind of audience-participation question, but I can't really think of an apt, clever, or elegant one. So I simply turn the floor over to you. Bra experiences, anyone?

Just one link away

Someone got here by googling who is leery polyp's mom. I hope you found your way to Jo!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Content lite

Your Inner Child Is Sad

You're a very sensitive soul.
You haven't grown that thick skin that most adults have.
Easily hurt, you tend to retreat to your comfort zone.
You don't let many people in - unless you've trusted them for a long time.


I am, of course, none other than blank verse.
I don't know where I'm going, yes, quite right;
And when I get there (if I ever do)
I might not recognise it. So? Your point?
Why should I have a destination set?
I'm relatively happy as I am,
And wouldn't want to be forever aimed
Towards some future path or special goal.
It's not to do with laziness, as such.
It's just that one the whole I'd rather not
Be bothered - so I drift contentedly;
An underrated way of life, I find.
What Poetry Form Are You?

Also, having just noticed a familiar set of forenames on a check in the last deposit, by my calculation I am up to three customers who are in my blogroll who aren't, you know, people who came to the store because they know me personally. I know that one knows that I am blogging and that I try to keep my identity un-googleable. I am pretty sure that another doesn't know about this blog, but we have a real life friend in common so I'm comfortable if she finds this. The newest name is someone whose name wouldn't have meant anything to me if I weren't blogging, and I only occasionally lurk on her blog (like pretty much every blog in my local list). I should mention that I was not in the store when the purchase was made. Are there any blog ethics involved here, do you think?

Accident update

Thank you, again, everyone who gave sympathy and expressed concern (and welcome, Julia). Especially for those of you who know A., she is mostly okay, but she's still very much looking forward to seeing the chiropractor on Wednesday. I thought she'd get in sooner, but apparently because insurance is involved, there's a set format the visits need to follow and they can't just squeeze her in. Meanwhile, her neck does seem to be bothering her less, and her spirits are better. She's been getting more sleep than usual, which helps.

She stayed home Thursday, the day after the accident--those of you who know her will know how badly she was feeling to give in and do this--but unfortunately much of the day was consumed in dealing with the logistical aftermath and clearing out our car. I feel bad for letting this fall to her, but I really had not been at work enough lately to take the whole day off. A. went back to work on Friday (a half day for students).

On Friday I had a physical scheduled, and it wasn't until I was two blocks into my three-block walk that I realized our garage is right next to the doctor. Have I lived here for 8 years? Yes. Have I used this garage and this family practice this entire time? Yes. Was I in denial? You decide.

As it turns out the doctor's office didn't think I had a physical, so after [re]scheduling one for next week, I stopped in to see the car, figuring that must be what the universe wants, right? I had decided not to look at it, and A. thought that it was better for both of us if I didn't, but then I went and walked right by it, twice, and the gravitational pull of seeing the back of the car from the street was just too much to resist.

A. had described the car as "shorter," and that's fairly accurate. The space between our front license plate and the engine was reduced by about two-thirds or more, I'd say. The damage to the front end was both better and worse than I'd imagined. The right headlight was cracked, and the whole front fender was pressed flush against the engine block, but there were no accordion folds and the damage to the rest of the car was only what was there before the accident, the stuff I'd procrastinated on fixing. I was impressed with Honda's engineering. It was also strange to open the door and have the newly non-functional car beep at me in that endearing, "the key's still in the ignition, you doofus" way that it has.

None of this got to me.

What did, what actually shocked me were the deployed airbags, especially the driver's side one. I saw the airbag burns on A., I know she was spared much worse injury because of them, but even though I prepared myself for seeing the front-end damage, it didn't occur to me I would see the airbag until I was actually looking at it pouring out of the steering wheel of our car. The passenger's side one had also deployed, but it seemed theoretical, since no one had been sitting there. The sight of the one on A.'s side made me stop to catch my breath. And make a mental note to thank my father.

I know what went into that airbag being there. Most of the time I was growing up, my father worked for the Department of Transportation, and one of his ongoing projects was the fight to make passive restraints mandatory. Not that he was the only one working on it, but it took a lot of doing. Automakers resisted vigorously, even though the technology (airbags) had been around since the late 60's. Now recall when your steering wheel first got that big, airbag-in-the middle shape.

I'll pause to let that one sink in.

The industry feared that if they acknowledged how dangerous cars are, we would stop buying them. That's right, they thought that the risk of death in collisions was some kind of trade secret.

On a slightly cheerier note, I now have an inventory of the things that live in our car, other than junk. All of this is now in the foyer:

a second-hand Maclaren stroller
a second-hand Brita carseat (actually, this is in the rental)
a mirror-thing that hangs in front of the carseat to distract the offspring (ditto)
a telescoping mirror that suctions to the windshield, for viewing the backseat
a first-aid kit
a telescoping shovel
an ionizer that plugs into the power point
two cell phone chargers, one for a phone we've lost
two ice scrapers
a partially-used gallon of windshield fluid (this is actually in a closet, away from dogs and toddlers)
a bottle of Windex
one mylar folding screen for the windshield, needing to be replaced
a membership decal to a local arrboretum
a club
a handful of cd's
two sheets appropriate for dogs to sit on (actually in the dryer, waiting to be folded and returned to the foyer)
two spare leashes
an extra dog dish for water
maps for the northeast and midwest (we haven't lived in Wisconsin for 2 1/2 years)
myriad pens and pencils
and, last but by no means least, our E-ZPass tag

A lot of furnishings for a small space, no?

The insurance has totaled the car, as expected. We'll get about $12,500 for a car we bought new 4 years ago. My mother helped my sister shop for a similar car about a year ago (really--my sister's car is identical to ours in everything but color), and thinks this isn't a bad deal, so I guess it isn't. We won't see the check for another week or so, but I called the Honda dealer that sold us our car and they have both Civic and Accord hybrids on their used (oops, "pre-owned") lot. With luck, I may even be able to get a manual drive.

Right now we've got a rental PT Cruiser, which is about the most awkward car I've ever been in.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

I'm okay, but...

...don't you hate the way your belly sinks when a phone call starts that way?

A. was in a car accident yesterday. She called me at the-moment-that-Z.-must-be-picked-up-from-day-care-or-we-are-fined, to tell me to get Z. and then come pick her up. She was three blocks from our house, not thinking very clearly about bringing a toddler to the site of a recent accident. I told her I'd meet her at home. The car, she said, was not okay. She had been turning left on yellow just when someone was barrelling through the yellow from the other direction. Because there was a car facing her also waiting to turn, she didn't see the oncoming car. The other car was an Explorer. Ours was a Civic Hybrid. The other guy wasn't hurt, negligible damage to his car. Symbolism, or just one more reason to curse SUV's. (Requiring uniform bumper height would go a long way to mitigating SUV threats on the road.)

I called day care (we weren't fined), and tried to calm myself down on the walk to get Z. We followed our (new) usual routine as much as possible. There were snacks on the patio as I periodically paced down to the top of the garden stairs to see if A. was coming yet. When she did arrive she was shaky and in great need of a hug, a little banged up with friction burns on cheek, hands, and knee from the air bag deploying. Z. and I ministered to her with hugs and cookies and lemonade and tea and ice packs and rescue remedy and arnica. Today her neck is stiff but there doesn't seem to be much bruising or burn marks--arnica is amazing.

Today I'm almost giddy. Thank god it was just the car. Thank god for insurance. Thank god for family. Thank god, thank god, thank god.

Here's the thing--in my usual state of overwhelm, I never took the car in last week, as I had planned. The hood was damaged when a panel van backed into it with open doors--that was in December--and last month some kid sprayed a streak of red spray paint along two panels on the driver's side. We did get a pay-out from the panel van's insurance, but with one thing and another I hadn't managed to get the work done.

Never say that procrastination doesn't have its benefits

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Blogging Against Disablism, One Day Late

My home DSL is still out, so I wasn't able to post this yesterday. Apologies, Goldfish. And apologies, also, because this is somewhat meandering.

One of my tags on this blog is PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. I have PTSD as a result of Z.'s birth and subsequent hospitalization (a misdiagnosis--she's fine. I'm not.) What's important for the topic of the day (or of yesterday), is that this experience has underlined for me the ways in which our health-care system is skewed heavily towards responding to crises and there is little to no support for people emerging from crisis, often with significant damage to their psyches as well as bodies. If there is psychological damage it is even more difficult to get what you need because it is hard to acknowledge that it won't get better by itself. Or through, you know, your steely determination, which you may be surprised to find is in shreds, just part of the damage. And yet the myth of "getting over it" persists.

This is being played out right now as veterans return from Iraq. Do you know what at least the past century and a half of soldiers' "total war" experience has shown? PTSD (or shell-shock, or combat fatigue) is not really a disorder, in the sense that we usually understand a disorder. It's not something that happens if something is wrong with your emotional system--expose any person to enough trauma, and he or she will respond in this way. It's a normal response to being hurt: in other words, it's more like an injury than an illness. The only question is how quickly individuals reach their limit, and length of exposure to trauma is a factor. Everyone has a limit, and experiencing war or sexual assault are what most reliably push you past it.

The New York Times magazine had an article a few weeks back about female soldiers experiencing the double whammy of sexual assault by fellow soldiers and combat exposure. These women are being injured twice over by the patriarchal war machine (quite literally), and then they're left nearly alone to get over it. I would much prefer not to have a patriarchal war machine, but that is a topic for Blogging Against Patriarchal War Machines Day. As long as such a machine is operating, it seems obvious that if our soldiers are being wrecked by their experience, we need to take care of them and we're not. In part this is the shameful inadequacy of the VA system to respond to 1) psychological damage of any kind and 2) the needs of female soldiers. And inadequacy #1 seems linked very much to the focus on the heroic rescue, which means a focus on physical injury and a blindness to emotional ones (including those that accompany physical injury).

In this war, resources are being poured into speedy response to traumatic physical injuries that would normally be fatal, also without adequately supporting these vets in their lives after injury. Saving a life is heroic. It's even manly. But the slogging years of recovery and adaptation and plain old survival--which are much more domestic somehow, much more feminine--those need to be supported, too.