Putting the "MO" in MOFO since 2004

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

 

Santiago and his chicken

When I was in kindergarten, my teacher called my parents in for a conference.

She was concerned. I couldn’t count, she told them. Not even to ten. I was falling behind the other students, and perhaps I lacked the aptitude for kindergarten. I was the youngest student in my kindergarten class, after all, and maybe I just wasn’t ready.

My parents informed my teacher that I could count just fine. In fact, I could count all the way to one hundred. This confused everyone.

Why did I flat out refuse to count for my teacher, at the risk of looking like I was incapable?

I didn’t like her.

In my young mind, why in the world would I jump through hoops for someone I didn’t even LIKE? Who the Hell did they think I was anyways? Some kind of teacher-monkey trick pony?

I don’t remember WHY I didn’t like her. I have a vague recollection of feelings of residual bitterness over the fact that I didn’t get the pretty teacher who wore her long brown hair in a bun. My teacher had short gray hair. I was already predisposed to prejudice based on appearance. I admit it. I was barely 5 years old. Sue me.

Throughout my elementary school academic career, I flip-flopped between good years and bad years based on whether or not I liked my teacher.

In the first grade, I had a great teacher, Miss Kreevey, and I did well. In the second grade, I had an okay teacher, Miss Archibald (we called her Miss Itchy-boobs). My year can be summed up by one word: “meh”. In the third grade, I cried all the way home from the first day of school. I had been assigned the “mean teacher” Miss. Hanson. I was inconsolable. This proved to be my first lesson in forming my own educated opinions about people. Miss Hanson ended up somehow communicating to me that I was definitely not stupid, I just needed to TRY. And I blossomed that year into the avid reader I am today. That was a great year, because Miss Hanson was a great teacher, even if she did talk incessantly about her childhood dog, whose name escapes me now, which is driving me batty.

In the fourth grade, my happy school days and the learning that went along with them, came to a screeching halt. You know how Jerry Seinfeld can only speak Newman’s name with utter disdain? That is the only way I can even utter the name of my fourth grade teacher. “Miss Wenger” (hiss). The fourth grade brought with it the pinnacle of my academic trauma in the form of a year-long stand-off with the worst, meanest, nastiest teacher I ever had. She didn’t like me, and I knew it. Miss Wenger (hiss) SUCKED. She only liked girls like Jessica Rose, who had long hair, and perfect freckles, and wore pure white pleated skirts and new shoes, and probably bathed with regularity. If you could conjure up the image of a girl exactly the opposite of that, you would have me, in the fourth grade.

The fourth grade was the year of “Santiago”. “Santiago” was a story in our class reader, about a boy and his chicken. I spent the majority of my fourth grade year on the story on Santiago and his fucking chicken. I started out the year in the highest reading group. By the time I finished that goddamned story, I had fallen back two groups. Miss Wenger (hiss) would not let me move on to the next reader until the stapled packet of goldenrod paper with questions about Santiago and his fucking chicken was completed with no errors whatsoever. It will suffice to say that I was not the worlds most detail oriented child. She refused to educate me further until I had every comma and period in the right place. Reading comprehension, and the big picture, meant nothing to this woman. She was all about the details.

I turned the packet in, Miss Wenger (hiss) marked it up with her red pen and gave it back to me, and I erased my errors and started over. Repeat this scenario approximately 47 times over the course of 6 months for which I was kept inside for recess. When I had erased my wrong answers so many times that I created HOLES in the goldenrod packet for the story of Santiago and his fucking chicken, I was given a new packet with which to start over. This was the only act remotely resembling generosity I ever witnessed from Miss Wenger (hiss).

I would like to say that I carry no hate in my heart, but I HATE Miss Wenger (hiss). She is dead. And I still hate her. THAT’S one for the confessional.

My mother, who is and was a teacher, had to request a meeting with this horrible woman to insist that I move past the story of Santiago and his fucking chicken, thus releasing me from Santiago and his fucking chicken purgatory, to read a new story for the love of God. The reading packet for the subsequent story was mercifully NOT goldenrod.

The evil in this woman only found a new host in the form of our winter poem packet. Miss Wenger (hiss) assigned us the task of writing an entire book of thoughts, feelings and poems about winter. My first poems were written in neat letters, and went something like this:

“I like snow. Snow is nice. When it’s snowing, I eat rice.”

Towards the end, after I was forced to stay inside for recess for 2 months straight, the poems took on a darker tone:

“I hate snow. Snow is yucky and dirty. And I hate it”

This was scrawled, nearly illegibly, by a pencil in the hand of a very angry and frustrated fourth grader.

And that is all I have to say about Miss Wenger (hiss).

In a lovely bit of merciful luck, my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Bevans, was truly amazing. She raised my broken self-esteem up about 25 levels and I will always love her for it. She reminded me that I was bright and creative and worth getting to know. God bless that woman. She was a gifted teacher.

This story comes to mind this week for a reason.

It’s time to leave the Hellish purgatory of Miss Wenger’s fourth grade class and the story of Santiago and his fucking chicken.

I am disappointed in myself for not finding a way to get past this habit I have of not performing to my full potential for people like Miss Wenger. I cut off my nose to spite my face, it seems, when dealing with the Miss Wengers of the world. But I have spent a long long time on the story of Santiago and his fucking chicken, and it’s time to move on to happier classrooms. Because I know I can do better. And I don’t care to impress Miss Wenger, because I can’t stand her.

It’s time I moved on to a classroom more like Mrs. Bevans’.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

 

All I have to do

All I have to do tomorrow, is get a replacement fish for Dorothy. Dorothy was our goldfish. We had to euthanize her last night. She was a good fish. She was a good friend to Edgar, the blue Beta. Edgar is now the sole resident of our tank. It was a difficult decision, but when a goldfish is swimmimg belly up, and no manner of poking revives her, it's time to do the humane thing.

Choosing a new goldfish is the only thing on my agenda, and that makes me very happy.
Don't get me wrong. I am sad about Dorothy, because she really was a good fish.

But facing an entire day with only one thing to do feels good right now.

Off to read a book. Goodnight!

Friday, August 18, 2006

 

My head has eyes. Eyes which I now want to scrub with clorox bleach

Warning: Spoiler Ahead.

If any of you all were thinking of seeing the movie "The Hills Have Eyes" I want to make sure that what happened to me, doesn't happen to you. Save yourselves. Please. Let my poor judgement be a lesson to you all.

Is there some kind of a magnet I can swipe my head past to erase the memory of this film? I would forget all about romping around with my daughter earlier in the evening, and perhaps my name and the names of my loved ones, but I would still gladly come out the victor, just for deleting this atrocious movie from my brain. I want my brain back in it's previous near-pristine condition.

I can recommend a few alternatives that can similate the experience of this movie for you that mercifully, don't involve actually watching it.

Look up the level three sex offender list in Appalachia, examine their photographs closely, and read detailed accounts of the crimes. Then watch "Deliverance". Then, carefully study a pile of gutted dog carcasses. Draw your own rendering of the pile of dog carcasses. Get the dog carcasses BURNED IN YOUR BRAIN.

Then read the last chapter of "The Grapes of Wrath", except instead of an emaciated geriatric dustbowl geezer suckling on Rose-of-Sharon, picture a murderous three eyed, rotten-toothed deformed radiation victim Hill-Dweller. Who then kills Mommy with a gunshot to her face, and steals the baby (because he wants to eat it with both his teeth). Then, in your now totally disturbed and damaged mind, hunt the funky man down, puncture his skull with a nail on the end of a two-by-four and watch the blood shoot out with alarming velocity. THEN, imagine the man with a lumpy, veiny, 75 pound head who can't get out of his rocking chair (because of his 75 pound head). Imagine freaky cranium guy walkie talkie-ing someone with an order to kill the baby and eat her. Then, imagine finally saving the baby, but not before her grandpa is beaten severely and then burned to death in a tree with his children and wife watching and screaming and carrying on.

I won't even mention what happens to Grandma and Auntie. Those would be gratuitously violent details.

If you, like I, enjoy things like having an appetite which allows you to ingest food, and possessing a general sense of well-being, do all the things I mentioned above instead of seeing this movie. You will only be one fourth as nauseated and mentally disturbed as I felt after watching this film.

It's that bad. Consider this a public service announcement.

Thank you for your consideration.

Monday, August 14, 2006

 

I am a house-hunters superstar! And I am also expecting a visit from child social services at any moment.

I am a celebrity. Did you know that? I am!

I made a guest appearance on an episode of "House-hunters". Two of my very best friends, who happen to be sisters, starred in their very own episode in which they scour Minneapolis for a nice Urban home to buy. So technically, I am a celebrity hanger-on, but who's keeping track, really........

My big part is at the end of the show, when the sisters host a barbecue for their friends to show off the house, and the updates they made.

And people have NOTICED.

Here is one recent comment from a coworker regarding my superstar status (said to my friend J, who I happen to also work with):

“Hey, I thought I saw you and Meghan on an episode of “House-hunters”, except Meghan was pregnant. And drinking a beer!”

HAHAHAHA!

And then J said “THAT WAS US!”

And I am not certain whether or not she chose to use that opportunity to clarify that I wasn’t actually gooning Malt Liquor, but rather, I was taking an enthusiastic chug off of a bottle of non-alcoholic root beer in a deceptive brown glass bottle.

Note to self: When 8 months pregnant and being filmed on television, DO NOT WEAR RED.

Also: DO NOT PUT YOURSELF ON CAMERA TAKING A HUGE SWIG OFF OF A BROWN BOTTLE THAT LOOKS LIKE IT CONTAINS BEER. YOU KNOW, AS TO MAKE IT LOOK LIKE YOU ARE GUZZLING BEER WITH AN ENOURMOUS PREGNANT BOOB AND BELLY “TRIFECTA".

It was ROOT BEER. It really was root beer. But the only people who know that are the people who were actaully there at the barbecue. The percentage of people who were there compared to the people who have seen that episode are like 19 to 450,000.

Nice.

It was ROOT BEER!!!!!!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

 

Does the man EVER work?

Terrorists are apprehended not long before boarding planes with explosives to murder thousands of Americans in a terroristic plot. "There was no immediate public reaction from the White House. Bush is spending a few days at his ranch near Crawford, Texas".

How do you think the vacation days of your average single working mother stack up against "W"'s?

Thank God the British showed up for work today.

Monday, August 07, 2006

 

Mind the Crap

Our local kiddie pool runs amok with small, wriggling human creatures slathered in sunscreen. They like to scream and run and turn and crank various levers, all of which activate high-velocity jets of water which, no matter where I am standing, are subsequently shot directly into my face. This happens most often exactly during the rare moment where Maggie loses her balance and stumbles face first into the water. Blinded, this leaves me to frantically search with my hands (because my eyes have been displaced by water pressure to other parts of my cranium) until I manage to locate her and pull her, choking, out of the water to safety.

After this undoubtedly occurs, I glare at the offending urchin with the hatred of a thousand burning hot suns. The offending urchin then typically considers me for a moment with an off-hand glance, before shrugging their shoulders and moving along to continue their wide path of total destruction and terror elsewhere.

I am often loathe to wonder what kind of excrement lies trapped, lumpy and soggy underneath their swim diapers. I especially wonder this when Maggie eagerly lowers her chin into the water, sips delicately, and exclaims “MMMMM. GOOD!”

These are just a few reasons why I am happy to announce we have graduated to the big pool. The big pool, where there are fewer e coli bacteria per cubic liter of chlorinated water, where there are no blinding streams of water shot at my face, and where there are no play structures on which to trample main, and knock down my sweet, innocent Amazon girl.

This summer, Maggie has grown considerably bolder in the water. She climbs up and down the stairs of the shallow end. She leaps from the ledge into the arms of her father and mother, and she jumps up and down with gleeful wild abandon. It has been a joy to watch her confidence grow.

I had been eying the big waterslides attached to the big pool for the last two summers, but have not tried them because I didn’t want to flout my motherly duties. Even when my husband and I are both there, Maggie seems to prefer that I stay within arms reach in case she needs me. And I am okay with that. Our time at the pool is fun family time, not mommy goes on wild rides by herself time. The waterslides did not appear to be for toddlers, so I just let it go. Not that it was easy. I love rides. The scarier the better. I also hate to go on rides alone. So imagine my excitement when I was informed by a lifeguard that as long as I rode on a tube and held her in my lap, Maggie and I could go down the waterslide together. And faster than you could say “e coli”, we were setting off down the chute.

I worried a little bit that she would be scared. Actually, I worried that I would scar her for life, and that she would never ever want to go in the water ever again. That I would have to give her sponge baths with wet wipes for the rest of her life. We swirled through a dark tunnel, flew into the sunlight, down the shoot, around several corners and shot with a big splash to the bottom. Her only comment as we climbed out with our tube; “Go again?”

I am so excited about the first of many thrills we will share together.

She might look like a miniature, girl version of her father, but that child is mine. One hundred percent.

Friday, August 04, 2006

 

Letting the cat out of the bag

I disclosed something very personal and very frightening to two mothers in two separate conversations this last weekend at the BlogHer Conference. I admitted what it has taken nearly two years for me to muster the courage to share.

Well that’s not really true. I made the same admission to a good friend of mine once, while we were walking, about a year ago. She had just had a baby, and because of that, I thought she would understand. I blurted it out, and my words were met with a look of sheer horror. My friend’s mouth gaped open, and she promptly slapped a hand over it. I quickly brushed it off with a “But I’m fine now”, and kept right on walking. I decided then and there, that this was something I was better off keeping to myself.

This weekend, for some reason, I shared the same admission with two women in two separate conversations. Neither one of them looked one bit horrified. In fact, both of them nodded in recognition, and shared their own frightening and personal experiences with me in turn.

When my daughter was tiny and helpless and newborn, I was afraid to walk by the butcher block on the kitchen counter while I was holding her. I was afraid that my body would involuntarily pull a knife from the butcher block and use it to hurt her. And I was terrified. I didn’t know at the time where these wild thoughts came from, but I know now. I was suffering from postpartum depression.

PPD is terrifying. I don’t think I have ever been as afraid of my own mind as I was in the first few months of motherhood. All my life, I knew I wanted to have children. When I was pregnant, I fantasized about what my daughter would look like, and how I would talk to her and hold her, and how I would do everything in my power to keep her safe and help her grow. I loved her long before she was even born. With all my heart, I wanted to adapt to my new role as mother with aplomb and ease. I wanted to feel a connection with her, and I wanted to do right by her, because she deserved all the love the world could ever offer up in a million years. I wanted to be a good mother.

But my mind was uncooperative and stubborn. It just wouldn’t work right. I didn’t feel connected to my baby, or to anything for that matter.

I dreaded the sunset every night. The impending darkness stirred up the very worst of my anxiety and panic. Every night at dusk, claws of terror gripped me until I was nauseated and shivering with cold. I sat on the couch next to my husband and sobbed. I sputtered things through my tears like “she deserves a better mother than me! What if she gets cancer? What if she gets hurt and I can’t help her?” And I would look at my tiny baby girl and just cry. I was inconsolable.

The thought that anything bad might happen to my daughter shook me to the core. Yet there I was, afraid to walk by a maple butcher block full of the gourmet knives I loved to cook with. It was not the knives that scared me. It was ME that scared me. I felt crazy and disgraceful and ashamed for even conjuring up such a horrible image. I didn’t trust myself, and wondered “What kind of mother THINKS these things?”

My worst fear was confirmed. I was a horrible mother. I had no business caring for an infant, and I was mortified by my inadequacy. I sank deeper into isolation. I was afraid of being judged an unfit mother. Instead of seeking out help, I dug my heels in, and attempted to muddle through. I refused to fail.

I didn’t seek out medical help because deep down in my soul, I knew I was not capable of hurting her. Looking back, I think it was very unwise of me to ignore those frightening symptoms of post partum depression. But I did ignore them, because I didn’t want to be weak. I didn’t want to be weird.

At the time I really could not recognize what was happening. I thought that even if I had to fake it forever, she would at least have a decent parent in her father.

Depression is funny in that it’s very difficult to recognize when you are smack-dab in the midst of it. Two years distance has me looking back thinking to myself “knock-knock puddinghead! That was a CLASSIC case of Postpartum Depression, and you were taking an enormous risk, tackling that on your own.” But at the time it was terribly confusing and I kept thinking I just needed to walk it off.

It wasn’t until I started feeling better that I considered admitting there might be a problem. I have always been frighteningly good at faking it. Eventually, during a phone conversation with my mother, I managed to squeak out “I think I’m having a little bit of a hard time.” That statement alone seemed to set off a few alarm bells, and I started receiving daily phone calls from my mother and sisters just to check in to see how I was doing. As someone who has never liked giving any impression of weakness or neediness, it was really hard to accept that kindness and concern, but I will be eternally grateful for it.

I told my husband, about six weeks into it “If I don’t feel better in two weeks, I am going in to talk to the doctor”. Then it was one week. Then it was two days. By then I felt like maybe, just maybe, I was beginning to hit my stride and the oppressive force field I was trapped under was beginning to let up.

Things did get better. I gained confidence, and eventually I got to a point where I felt right, being her mother. One day I just knew with all my being that there was no one else in the world who was better equipped to take care of her than me. The love I have for that child knows no boundaries. It has seeped into every corner of my life. It has made me a more compassionate person. It has taught me to slow down and pay attention. It has helped me to be more forgiving, even to myself.

I am a great mother. I can acknowledge that now, with confidence. I didn’t always feel that way. I did not have a white-light moment in the delivery room. It took a little time for me to get to know my daughter, and to get my footing in my role as her mother. I know now what I didn’t know then. Once you fall in love with your own child, it’s impossible to un-do the power of that connection.

This is what babycenter says about post-partum depression:

Our society also makes it difficult to admit to having negative feelings about motherhood or the baby. When mothers do express feelings such as ambivalence, fear, or rage, they can frighten themselves and those close to them.

It was shame that kept me from seeking out help. Postpartum Depression is a physiological and psychological condition that deserves medical attention. I hope that sharing my story helps remove that shame from the equation for someone else. It was the courage of the two women who shared their stories with me that helped me muster up the courage to write about my own experience.

Postpartum depression can happen to anyone. Even the best mother in the Universe.

I would not allow things to get so bad a second time around. If I have another child, I will be much more aware, and much more careful. If that scenario plays itself out again, I will be on the phone to my doctor faster than you can say “anti-depressant” to get some help.

For anyone out there who might be struggling with Postpartum Depression, here are some links, and here are the symptoms, according to wellmother.com:

• Feelings of sadness or "down"-ness that don’t go away
• Inability to sleep, even when the baby is sleeping
• Changes in appetite – eating much more or much less
• Irritability, anger, worry, agitation, anxiety
• Inability to concentrate or make decisions
• Inability to enjoy things you used to; lack of interest in the baby; lack of interest in family
• Exhaustion; feeling "heavy"
• Uncontrollable crying
• Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
• Feelings of hopelessness or despair
• Fear of being a "bad" mother, or that others will think you are
• Fear that harm will come to the baby
• Thoughts of harming the baby or harming yourself
• Thoughts of death or suicide


Please don't let fear or shame prevent you from recongnizing and treating a very serious medical condition. Postpartum depression can and should be treated.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

 

We had joy, we had fun....

I can't quite do justice to the ugly, the bad and the good (in that order) that took place this long, wild weekend in San Jose at the BlogHer Conference. So I won’t even try.

I flew home on Monday, after spending the night as a refugee with Kris in the gorgeous home of the gracious and wonderful Grace Davis and her handsome husband George. Who, by the way are two of the loveliest people in all of California.

On the flight home, I was seated next to a twenty-something young man. As I settled in with a magazine, I noticed him paging through some kind of Nickelodeon “Highlights” style kid’s publication. Feeling sorry for a grown man left to thumb through a children’s book, I grabbed my bag, pulled out a magazine, and offered him a spare. He looked at me. No. He stared at me. He stared ominously, with eyes as big as saucers. He held my gaze for an uncomfortable and seemingly endless amount of time. Finally he grunted a “No” and returned to his “Highlights”. Then, he flipped the stainless steel lid of the impotent relic formerly known as an airline ashtray backandforthandbackandforthandbackandforth. It was then that I noticed that I had offered him an “Us” Magazine with a huge mug-shot of Lance Bass grinning from ear to ear like a stuck pig, with an enormous caption that read “I’M GAY!!”.

The man spent the rest of the trip alternately flicking everything in sight and giving me long and creepy sideways stares.

It was right around the fourth time he asked the flight attendant "do you have any candy?" that I realized that he was mentally disabled. I was relieved that not only did he probably not want to kill me in a homophobic rage, but also, he might have just liked what he was already reading, thank you very much.

It was the perfect ending to a long, crazy weekend. A weekend that otherwise might have ended with merely a marathon debauchery session, and finally, Jenny and I being walked to our room at dawn by an enormous man named Sasquatch.

Thank you to all the lovely ladies I had the pleasure of meeting, greeting, and slobbering over.

Thank you to Lisa Stone, Jory Des Jardins, and Elisa Camahort for creating such an incredible and empowering event.

While I was gone, my daughter grew approximately three inches, and learned to speak in complete sentences. In Latin. She will be two the end of this month, and I am confident she will be far ahead of her peers, both in size and intelligence when she starts kindergarten in the fall.

I was never the kind of child that was prone to homesickness. I was always at the home of a friend or relative. It seems it took having a child to bring out the wussy in me. My home is wherever she is. Based on recent experience my quota of days away from her before having a full emotional break-down is four. Now I know.