Friday, March 31, 2006

A Moment of Peace

I had a perfect moment of peace this morning. While rare, I am learning to listen for them more and more these days and then let go and allow them to fill me up. I was driving home from dropping my daughter off at school, looking out at the gorgeous day shaping up. Blue skies and enormous fluffy clouds in the background framed by cherry blossoms on both sides of the road.

On impulse, I reached over and picked up a heart-shaped stone I keep in my car and felt its smooth coolness. I fit my middle finger into the cleft at the top and let the point gently prod my lifeline just inside the palm of my hand. It fits there perfectly and feels so natural in that position. Just then one of my favorite songs came pouring out of the speakers. "I don't know where it all begins. And I don't know where it all will end. But we're better off for all that we let in..." sang Emily Saliers (one half of the Indigo Girls).

A clarity, an open space grew inside me like ripples in a pond, ever widening and I felt at peace. I don't have control over the beginning or the end, but I can increase the size of my portal to let more in and truly feel that I will be better off for holding all of it. I'll take the pain and the joy, the heartbreak and the happiness. At this moment, I know I AM ENOUGH. I don't have to understand it all or "fix" any of it, I'm just going to let it shine in and sit there. This is peace.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Which way to the MenoPops?

Lollipops are great. My kids aren't terribly fond of cough drops, but they will suck on a lollipop, so some very smart person invented lollipops specifically for kids with sore throats. Wish I'd done that! Standing at the checkout counter of my local kids' consignment shop the other day, I noticed a rack of lollies designed to prevent morning sickness. They are called Preggypops and are ginger-flavored. When you can't manage to keep anything else down, you can at least suck on this, ladies! Hey, it's worth a shot.

Well, someone else will have to do some market research and let me know what you think since I'm done having kids. But because of some freak of heredity, I am 34 and in the throes of menopause, so could some chemist/herbalist/investor types with lots of time on their hands please invent a MenoPop? I would love to feel a hot flash coming on and be able to stop it cold (ha, nice pun, I know) by simply popping some creatively crafted confection into my mouth. Chocolate would be a good flavor, or caramel. Perhaps vanilla bean would work for some women.

While you're at it, is there some mixture of herbs or chemicals that can keep me from bleeding for seventeen days in a row? How about a new kind of ice cream that I can consume right before bedtime that will ensure I don't have to wake my husband up at 2am to change the sheets because I've just soaked the sheets with copious amounts of sweat? Ooh, ooh, and then perhaps some extravagant scone (passion-fruit or mango, perhaps?) that I can have for breakfast every morning so I don't grow a mustache or ear hair?

I don't mind taking hormones, per se, but this menopause thing would be so much more acceptable if there were some fantastic remedies that would feed my sweet tooth as well as keeping me from turning into a sweaty, red-faced puddle of neurosis without warning. I'm sure my husband and kids would appreciate it, too. So, could someone please get on that? Trust me, you'll make millions!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Several things you may not know about me...

Okay, so I've been tagged. For those of you who don't know what that is, it means I've been given a questionnaire of sorts to fill in with my own, personal information. No matter that the person who tagged me probably knows all of the answers to the questions - perhaps there is some nugget of information you, the other readers, are dying to know. Or maybe not. In any case, here goes...

What were you doing 10 Years Ago?

I was living in a dinky little apartment with my new husband and two adorable cats. I worked as a surgical assistant for a group of plastic surgeons and, except for the commute, absolutely loved it. We performed quite a range of services, from cosmetic surgeries (not my favorite, although there really is an art to it - don't go to a surgeon who doesn't think so!) to major reconstructions (these were absolutely the best, most fun ones to be a part of) and hand surgeries.

That might sound odd, but back then most plastic surgeons couldn't count on enough business from simple cosmetics, and most insurance companies wouldn't pay for reconstructions, so they did sub-specialties to generate more income, and most of them were trained to do hand surgery. We got a lot of traumatic injuries - typically people who had lost a finger and needed it reattached. It gave me a sort-of thrill to see someone sitting in the waiting room with a blood-soaked bandage and a cup of ice in the other. I know that's terrible, but the cup of ice almost always contained something really cool that we could put back together. Let's just say I love to "fix" things and that job was the ultimate! Unfortunately for my husband, he's very squeamish, and I used to come home and be bursting with stories of interesting surgeries that day, so he was forced to listen to gory details over dinner. He was happy when I left that job!

P.S. Little known fact: Thanksgiving Day is the worst day for finger injuries for women - tragic kitchen (usually Cuisinart-induced) accidents! The first of spring brings out the men who've stupidly decided to stick their hand under the lawnmower to remove something without first turning the engine off...

5 Years Ago?

I was adjusting to staying at home with my first child and just beginning to build my network of new-mommy friends. I was also doing some consulting - building databases for a mental health facility to track their patients, but mostly I was reveling in my little girl's new skills. I was trying to convince my husband to remodel our painfully ugly kitchen at the same time I was feeling guilty that I was no longer bringing in money of any consequence to the household.

1 Year Ago?

Having a major nervous breakdown. Crying at the therapist's office once a week and discovering just what a true prince my husband is. I started menopause (yeah, even if you do the math, it doesn't make sense - I'm 34, I know it's ridiculous, but truth is stranger than fiction, right, folks?) and fell into a pit of depression so deep there was no light at the top. Thankfully, when I chose my life partner, I got lucky to get one who believes in "for better or for worse" and who was willing to go get a bigger plate on which to pile my crap and his. My kids were learning that supermommies should not exist, and I was learning that asking for help is not pathetic and weak, but the human condition.

Five snacks you enjoy:
1. deep, dark chocolate (preferably Lindt swiss dark chocolate truffles)
2. Erin's original popcorn
3. cheese
4. crisp, sweet apples
5. did I mention chocolate? Not milk chocolate, and don't even push my hot button by uttering "white chocolate".

Five songs (you think) you know by heart:
1. Hammer and a Nail (Indigo Girls)
2. Gloria (U2)
3. Adia (Sarah McLachlan)
4. Hotel California (The Eagles)
5. These are Days (10,000 Maniacs/Natalie Merchant)

Five things you would do with a LOT of money:
1. Donate to NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and some fund who will find a viable, actual Democratic candidate for President!
2. Buy a 1962 Corvette convertible
3. Stock my kids' college funds
4. Buy a little cabin near the water somewhere in the Pacific Northwest
5. Help my sister and brother financially

Five things you would never wear:
1. Uncomfortable shoes - life is too short!
2. A belly ring - it hurts me just to look at them
3. A thong bathing suit. Nobody should have to see that!
4. I'm with Miss Devylish - no muu muus! (btw, what the heck made you think of that?)
5. Those long feathery-looking earrings we had in the 80s.

Five things I should never have worn:
1. Jellies (remember those horrible plastic sandals?)
2. Culottes
3. Pastel plaid shorts
4. A strapless prom dress - let's just say I didn't have enough to hold it up. Thank goodness it was dark at the dance!
5. Headgear in public.

Five things I enjoy doing: Reading, playing Legos with my kids, laying in bed with my husband on Saturday morning before the kids are awake (doesn't happen often), holding my husband's hand, working in the garden.

Five bad habits: Chewing my lip, cracking my gum, driving while mediating fights between my kids, not flossing my teeth, yelling when I'm frustrated

Five people I would like to do this: I'll just leave this for now and not pass it on.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Yoga virgin

Okay, so I took my first yoga class this weekend. It's difficult to believe that I haven't done this before, being a suburban housewife in Seattle who has a history of vegetarianism and is an extreme liberal (is that stereotypical enough for you?), but I haven't.

My options were to get up and be at the gym (with my two children) at 7:15 on Saturday morning for the Power Yoga class or to make it there by 10:15 for the regular yoga class. I don't know about you, but just managing to get up, dressed, feed my kids and get them ready to leave the house by 7:00 on a Saturday would take so much energy that I wouldn't have any energy left for yoga. I figured more "power" to those who can do that, although I suspect there aren't many participants in that class with small children.

We arrived at the gym daycare with just moments to spare and I signed up to join the class. The kids were thrilled that they were the first arrivals in the playroom and instantly ran from station to station like rats in a maze trying to decide what to do first. I clutched my virgin yoga mat, a gift from my sister-in-law after she discovered a passion for it herself, and headed off.

My first worry was that I would not prove capable of turning my brain off enough to fully enjoy the meditative aspects of yoga despite the fact that putting a temporary stop to the whirling neural connections up there was the majority of the reason I signed up. I took a spot in the back of the class so as not to be terribly embarrassed in front of the seasoned pros in the class and tried to concentrate on my breathing.

Several punishing poses later I realized why people love yoga. My body slowly warmed up with stretches in the cozy room and lilting music surrounded me. The lights were turned down low and I was so busy trying to wrap my brain around how to a) get into the next pose and b) not fall over that the constant buzzing of my thoughts had been shut down.

I am pleased that yoga involves a constant building of strength and flexibility and if I find myself on a plateau, I can push a little more and accomplish something new. I was also quite fond of the last pose. The name is something I have yearned for but have not been able to achieve in years - total relaxation. As I lie on my now sweaty yoga mat, legs and arms fully extended, listening to my breath for five minutes, I vowed to return to this class soon. Maybe even Sunday. That was before I felt the soreness of my muscles the next morning. Oh well, maybe next Saturday is soon enough to find some total relaxation...

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Dog Days of Spring

I don't know how it's possible, but my dog is my youngest daughter. I am fairly sure that one has to die in order to be reincarnated, but perhaps there was a twin-separated-at-birth thing and the other soul entered my dog. In any case, the similarities became very clear yesterday when my dog caught spring fever.

It was a gorgeous, unexpectedly warm day and my one-year-old retriever, after depositing a ginormous pile of poop on the front lawn of the only neighbor who doesn't have a dog, managed to recruit one of his brothers (who lives in our neighborhood) for a sneaky escape to the creek. By the time I found them, they were both neck-deep in the water and having an absolute frolic-festival. I swear they were giggling. I tied my rogue pup up onto the deck to dry and with one hefty jerk of his neck, the clasp on the leash broke and he was free. Free to find the nearest pile of cat poo and roll in it.

There is something really comical about seeing a 65 pound dog balance on his back and writhe back and forth, all skinny, fluffy legs flailing in the air. That is, until you realize that his sole objective is to completely coat himself in cat poop. Don't ask me why, that's another blog entirely.

After another bath, during which I swear he was shooting me evil looks for ridding him of his newly acquired eau de parfum, he was tied to the front door so he could dry in the sun. Fifteen minutes later, he managed to finish chewing through the leash in two places (one would have been sufficient, but I think he was sending me a message) and I was forced to put him in puppy prison.

He spent a couple of hours drying off in his crate, whining and pawing at the door every once in a while just to let me know how pissed off he was. I decided to let him out to play a bit more but it soon became evident that this was just not his day, or maybe it was mine that was doomed. In any case, instead of fetching a ball or sniffing out some particularly interesting wildlife, he spent a half hour mounting the neighbor's dog who is in her teens and has horrible arthritis in her hips. My youngest daughter was delighted, screaming that he was getting a "piggy back ride" and laughing every time he managed to chase the other dog down and torture her.

I hope it rains tomorrow.

Singing Toilet Lady

I love to listen to my daughter talking to herself. I am positive that she would be angry and embarrassed if she knew I was eavesdropping (although I am perfectly certain I am within my rights as a parent to do so and feel no guilt whatsoever), but it is so damn cute! The conversations she has often involve her indignantly explaining something to an imaginary friend (for example, “It says it will respond to you. Don’t you know what respond means?”). She is a very willful person, anyway, so this doesn’t surprise me, but I have this fantasy that if she expresses her inner bossy-girl in this fashion more often, she won’t have such a propensity to do so with actual people.

There are certain times when she is more likely to engage in this behavior, most often when she is sitting on the toilet. When it first started, I would hear the low hum of her voice through the bathroom door and assume that she was calling for me to assist her. By the pointed silence that occurred after I responded to her, I quickly realized that this was not the case. Occasionally I can hear her giggling in response to the imagined conversation and have considered planting a hidden baby monitor somewhere so I can get better access to what’s going on. I do have some scruples, though, and that seems like crossing a pretty big line.

My favorite times are when she settles in on the toilet and just starts belting out a song. Sometimes it is an actual song, but more often she is free-associating to an orchestra in her head. My youngest has started to mimic this behavior and her songs are much less socially appropriate but, as far as I’m concerned, very cute. My girls seem to be oblivious of each others’ propensity to sing while on the toilet and I’m not sure if they have completely tuned it out, or just don’t see it as unusual. I’m fairly sure that I don’t sing while I’m doing my business, and in twelve years of marriage I’ve never observed my husband doing so, but perhaps it’s perfectly natural for little girls to sing on the toilet. Occasionally, one of them will get lost in her song and 15 minutes will go by with her warbling contentedly on the pot, door wide open to the kitchen, and I can hide around the corner smiling to myself. If they catch me listening, they instantly get embarrassed and angry and either slam the door or finish up quickly and stomp by me indignantly on their way through the kitchen. It is all I can do to restrain myself from chuckling or offering commentary on the song, because that’s just pure evil.

My mother tells me that for a while when I was little (3-5 years old), my nickname (coined by my father and brother) was “the singing-toilet lady”, so apparently my children come by it honestly. I do wonder, though, when and why I stopped, because I certainly don’t sing on the toilet now, and can’t remember having done so in the last 20 years at least. Honestly! Now, everyone knows that the acoustics are best in the bathroom, although most people take advantage of it in the shower, so I’m not really surprised that I began singing on the toilet, but why don’t I do it anymore?

The toilet isn’t the most comfortable seat in the house, but you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll get some privacy if you’re sitting on it (unless you have small children who don’t yet understand or embrace the concept of privacy), so that’s a plus. It could be that it’s easier to come up with lyrics when your body is otherwise engaged in a basic biological function, thus letting the creative side have free reign. I want to know if there are any lyricists out there who have discovered that this works for them. I won’t say that any of the songs my girls come up with are top forty hits, but they’re still little, so maybe that will come with practice.

Or maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe employing the creative side of your brain in some mindless endeavor makes it easier for your lizard brain to take over and perform its biological functions more efficiently. Could some university design a study for people with constipation or enuresis that tests whether singing on the toilet is helpful? You won’t get a pharmaceutical company to fund it, but if it works, I can envision an entire new line of musical devices. Goodbye Metamucil, hello iPOT…

I imagine I stopped singing on the toilet because I simply couldn’t afford to take the time to do so anymore. I recall having a series of bladder infections when I was in first grade because I simply couldn’t be bothered to stop playing just to go pee. I would hold my bladder for hours and even came up with a fairly complex set of twisting/clenching/squatting maneuvers that would stave off the urge to go for a little while longer. I clearly remember my mother’s head poking out the front door of our house yelling, “Kari, you’re doing the potty dance again. Get in here and go right now!” No matter that all my neighborhood friends heard every embarrassing word, my mother wanted to avoid taking me to the hospital for another round of antibiotics, and now that I’m a mother, I can’t blame her, but back then I was too worried about missing some crucial element of the game we were playing to take time out to use the bathroom. Of course, one eventually has to go or risk peeing all over yourself in front of your friends and siblings (who are terribly unforgiving in such situations), so I eventually worked out a system.

I never wore clothes like overalls that take a long time to remove and put back on. I rarely wore pants with zippers or buttons. Thankfully I grew up in the 1970s when polyester elastic waist pants were in fashion. I would race through the house, thumbs in my waistband, slam the bathroom door behind me with my foot and shimmy toward the toilet pulling my pants down on the way. Grab the toilet paper while I was unleashing several hours’ (perhaps as much as eight) worth of urine as fast as I could, contracting my stomach muscles to push out every last drop, wipe, pull up my pants, and head back outside. Forget washing my hands! It is not that I wasn’t concerned about germs – au contraire! I convinced myself that so long as I was careful to only touch my bottom with the toilet paper and not get any pee on my hands, that washing was completely unnecessary. My rule was that if even the most minute, miniscule drop got on my hands, I would wash them, but I was not about to wait for the water to get warm, and I would use a ton of soap in order to compensate for the frigid temperature of the water.

As ridiculous as this little ritual seems, today I have a bladder of steel. During my pregnancies, I was able to complete my normal commute to work (1.5 hours each way) without having to stop to pee, and I never have to get up and pee in the middle of the night. I probably only go to the bathroom two times every day and I’m hoping that this will afford me some good fortune as I get older and my girlfriends are shopping for Depend Undergarments. I am hoping that all of those bladder infections and my little “potty dance” were akin to childhood Kegels and will make it easier for me to contain myself when I’m 65 and have a powerful urge to sneeze.

I much prefer to use my time on the toilet these days to read. Occasionally I lie to my family and excuse myself to the bathroom simply to escape into a room with a locking door. Once there, I sit on the toilet lid and read three or four pages at a time without fear of interruption. It is clear that my children have found me out when my youngest daughter yells from the other side of the door, “You gonna read the WHOLE book in there, Mom?”, while my older one snickers in delight. But I don’t mind; I just stomp past them indignantly on my way through the kitchen.
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