Friday, March 31, 2006

Put the hammer down and keep it full speed ahead

Today is the birthday of my oldest friend in the whole world, Erica. Not oldest like she's ancient or something, but oldest as in we've known each other forever. Since before we had boobs.

She's an excellent artist and a fabulous friend. She's brave and talented and prone to finding reptiles in her backyard, apparently. She was the maid of honor at my wedding.

We've been friends for twenty years (dear god, we're old!) and I'm looking forward to twenty more. At least.

Here's to you, Louise! Happy Birthday!


Thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Do those teeth still match the wound?

I've discovered a new and alarming syndrome that seems to be directly related to Annoying Song Syndrome, or ASS, which I discussed earlier. (It's not really new, but I just thought of a nifty acronym for it, and so I shall pretend it is new so I can post about it.) It's called LIARS, which stands for Lyrics Inadvertently Are Replaced Syndrome, and it is equally as if not more contagious than ASS. It seems to manifest itself right along with ASS, much as Kaposi's Sarcoma oftentimes manifests itself in conjunction with AIDS.*

What happens is this: Sometimes, when I have an attack of ASS and the song continues to reverberate** around inside my skull, a small portion of my warped brain decides to try to replace the real lyrics to the annoying song with made-up lyrics that are germane to the situation, thus triggering an attack of LIARS. For example:

One of my nicknames for Nolan is Pooter Man. I don't know exactly why or how this nickname came to be, just that I have always called him that. So, naturally, he needed a Pooter Man theme song. I suppose I could try to write my own music for one, but I'm probably not that talented and besides, why bother when the Spider-Man theme song works so well? To wit:

Pooter Man, Pooter Man
Does the things
A Pooter can
Pooter Maaannn, Pooter Maaannn
Diapers in his diaper can

And that's as far as it goes. Here's another one:

When Nolan was a little tiny guy and was still solely breast-fed, he would occasionally have these giant bowel movements that would fill (and sometimes overflow) his diaper, necessitating an immediate bath and complete change of clothing. We took to calling these "monster poops." What better tune to sing whilst changing a frighteningly messy baby than that Halloween hit "The Monster Mash?"

He had a poop (It was a Monnnnster Poop)
A Monster Poop! (It threw his parents for a loop)
The Monster Poop! (His losses could not be recouped)
The Monster Poop! (They wished they had a pooper scoop)

The replacement lyrics rarely spring immediately to mind completely formed during the first attack of LIARS. But one of the characteristics of this debilitating syndrome is that each time the situation that triggered the initial attack reoccurs, the same song gets stuck in your head, and you can't help but mull over possible replacement lyrics each time. (It took a number of iterations before KB came up with the "recouped" line above.)

The only LIARS attack we ever experienced where all the lyrics came at once happened to KB shortly after we came home from the hospital with Nolan. He was in the other room holding the baby in the rocking chair, and I heard him sing (to the theme song from "Rawhide"):

Nolan Nolan Nolan
In the chair he's Nolan
Everywhere he's Nolan [last name]!

(I realize that doesn't work as well without telling you our last name, but I promised KB I wouldn't.)

Most of the songs I am afflicted with are in fact just short snippets of songs, the chorus mostly, because that's usually the catchiest part and the one that springs to mind most easily. But occasionally, after months of having the same song gouging a track through the hard drive of my brain, I will come up with an entire verse of substitute lyrics. This one is from pre-Nolan days, when our cats Jake and Lola were the center of our attention:

(To the tune of "Copacabana")

Her name is Lola
She is my kitty
She's got a very fuzzy head
And she sleeps upon the bed
She's got a brother
His name is Jake
His head is fuzzy too
and they both make a lot of poo
They site there, two felines
They think they're so sublime
They are so cute and they are so fuzzy
and they Are! My! Cats!
They're Jaaaake, they're Jake and Lola
The only word that rhymes with that is granola
They're Jaaaake, they're Jake and Lollllaaaa
Cu-ute and fuzzy and spastic and lovely
They're my caaaats
They are my cats.

Sad, isn't it? Think of all the mental energy wasted by this pernicious disease that could be better applied elsewhere. Once again, I hope that someone, somewhere, will discover a cure. Until then, I will continue to suffer in (non) silence.

Thanks for reading.

*Yes, I just compared my silly little made-up syndrome to AIDS. I'm so going to hell.

**If the word is re-verberate, what does it mean to verberate? Is that the first time the sound is made?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye

Caspar Weinberger, former defense secretary, Reagan flunkie, and pardoned Iran-Contra affair participant, died yesterday. The only thing I thought of upon hearing this news was this:

"The wind doth taste of bittersweet
like jasper wine and sugar.
I'll bet it's blown through other's feet...
like those of Caspar Weinberger."

It's from a Bloom County strip of long ago - Opus is sitting on a hillside, struggling to write a poem, and that's what he comes up with. After the Caspar Weinberger line, Portnoy sits up from further down the hill and says, "Start over." I would link to it, but Berke Breathed has a thing about not putting all his comics online for free, I guess, so I can't. Alas.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. Confidential to Electric Mayhem: Happy Birthday! Your (late) card is in the mail!

Monday, March 27, 2006

What the hell am I doing here? (Nobody walks in LA)

Nolan and I walked to swim class today. That was partially because it was a nice day outside (finally!) but mostly because KB has the car today.* On the way home from the Y, we encountered a number of people also walking, as you would expect with such nice weather.

But you have to ask yourself, who is walking around town at 11 o'clock on a Monday morning? Who has nowhere else they're supposed to be? Stay-at-home moms (or dads), high school kids playing hooky, and skeevy unemployed men, that's who. So guess which ones we kept running into? The skeevy unemployed men, of course!

Skeevy guy #1 - Shirt inexplicably open almost to the waist, showing a remarkably dirty chest. He is carrying a mostly empty black plastic garbage bag (contents unknown) and smoking a cigarette. He asks if I know where Fourth Street is. I think for a minute, mostly to give the appearance of thinking about it before I get my child the hell away from his cigarette smoke, but also because I really don't know of any numbered streets in the immediate vicinity. (This isn't surprising - I know as much about navigating in Boston as I do about brain surgery. Which is to say, just enough to cause damage. You don't want to ask me for directions anywhere.) I say, "No, I'm sorry, I don't." He keeps walking. We're going the same direction, just behind him, so I go slowly so as not to be walking in his hanging cloud of secondhand smoke. Then it occurs to me that he may have said Fort Street, which is right nearby. So I call after him, "Did you say Fourth Street or Fort Street?" He turns around and says, "Either one." Okaaaay. So I point out Fort Street to him, he crosses the street, and we move along, happily smoke-free.

Skeevy Guy #2 - Not two minutes later. This guy is wearing shorts. It's a nice day for March, but it's certainly not shorts weather (unless you live in Wyoming, that is). He is coming towards us on our side of the street. As we get closer and I debate whether to make eye contact or not, he shouts, "I bet I know what your favorite color is!" This creeps me out, even if Nolan and I are both wearing green and walking along with our green stroller. That's just not something you say to a complete stranger on the street. You say, "Nice day, huh?" or "What a cute baby!", not "I bet I know what your favorite color is!" So I laugh my weak courtesy laugh and say, "How'd you guess?" and keep moving.

It was nice to walk, though. I felt like I got some decent exercise for once. And as we came up the street to our house, I spotted these crocuses in our front yard:

Which means, Yay! Spring!

Thanks for reading.

*It's the weirdest thing. We used to have no car. We walked or took the T everywhere. This worked just fine for us. We saved money, didn't need gas or insurance or any of that. Belonged to Zipcar for those occasions when we did need a car. When Nolan's birth was imminent (and I do mean imminent - we bought the car May 20th and he was born June 7th), we finally bought a car, figuring we would need one at the very least in case of emergencies, but also to be able to buy diapers in bulk and cart them home, etc. Now that we have the car, KB is more able to work in far-flung places. But when he works in far-flung places, Nolan and I don't have the car at all because he's got it. It's almost like we need two cars. Like that saying about martinis (and breasts) - one isn't enough and three is too many.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Of course I've had it in the ear before

Everything old is new again. Or some cliche like that.

I mostly listen to this radio station when I'm tooling around in the car. I think it's the only non-college-radio station around here that isn't owned by Clear Channel (of course, I listen to lots of college radio, too; how could you not, living in Boston?) It bills itself as "true alternative" radio, but it mostly just plays a slightly different selection of songs over and over, as opposed to the Clear Channel stations that play the same "top hits" over and over. Sigh. (Side note: Why, when the DJs are talking about a new album coming out, do they have to say "drops"? "The album drops March 28th." I hate that. Just say it comes out March 28th, for pete's sake.)

I've been struck lately (ow!) by how many acts from my relatively long-ago youth (we're talking late high school/early college years and yes that's more than ten years ago now) are either still a going concern or have re-surfaced after disappearing years ago. Driving to a doctor's appointment with Nolan a couple weeks ago, I heard: Morrissey* (new), Depeche Mode (new), Nirvana (old, obviously), Red Hot Chili Peppers (new, but sounds old) and Nine Inch Nails (new and sounds like crap).

Now, you could certainly argue as to whether these guys ever really went away (Depeche Mode) and come back or have just been lurking around the whole time putting out mediocre albums (Chili Peppers and NIN), but I can't believe that there aren't more new bands out there that could blow these guys out of the water.

(I remember driving around my podunk little hometown with Nine Inch Nails in the tape player [yes, tape player] with the volume cranked, shouting "I'd rather die! Than give you control!" at the top of my lungs. It fit right in with being 16 and aching to get out of there - out of my parents' control, out of high school, out of that hellhole of a small town. Perfect teenage rebellion music for your mom to say "Turn that crap down!" to. But these days, Trent Reznor's lyrics just sound stupid and pointlessly belligerent to me. I mean, "There is no fucking you, there is only me"? Then who the fuck are you singing to, Trent?** Maybe it's time to pack it in, buddy.)

I think part of it, of course, is the corporate culture of the music industry today, with big behemoth media companies like the aforementioned evil megalith Clear Channel being so unwilling to risk taking a chance on new acts that haven't already been proven sellers. They keep putting their marketing and publicity machinery behind the established acts because they know there's big bucks in it for them. I'm glad for the "revolution" in the industry taking place now with the Internet giving smaller acts a chance to build a following and get some oomph behind them so the corporate-owned radio stations have to take notice.

But I also think part of it is that the shelf life for any given act or song is incredibly short. I heard The White Stripes described on the radio the other day as "elder statesmen" of alternative rock. I was like, "What the fuck? Elder statesmen? They've been around, what, five years?" Elder statesmen are The Who. The Rolling Stones, for fuck's sake. Even U2 or R.E.M. I could accept as elder statemen of alternative rock - they've been around for twenty years. But The White Stripes? Come on.

It's MTV's fault.

Thanks for reading.

*Have you ever heard a more Morrissey-esque lyric than "As I live and breathe, you have killed me, you have killed me"? I gotta get that new album.

**This brings me to another tangent: Songs that have contradictory, oxymoronic lyrics. I hate them. Two prime examples are Carly Simon ("You're so vain, I bet you think this song is about you" - well, if it's not, then who are you talking to, Carly?) and Meatloaf ("I would do anything for love, but I won't do that" - well then you wouldn't do anything for love, now, would you, Mr. Loaf?) Hate them!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

I can't stand it

I don't know about everybody else, but I'm having a hell of a time uploading pictures to Blogger. I have three posts waiting in the wings, but they all require photos, and every time I try to upload them, I get a blank friggin' screen and no photo. I'm starting to get really frustrated. Does anybody know anything about this?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Your own personal Jesus

This church is right down the street from our house.

I thought Jimmy Kimmell landed on his feet after he left The Man Show - didn't he have his own talk show or something? - but I guess I was wrong.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Ain't no drag

I hate this.

These are two different trees in my backyard, each with a plastic grocery bag stuck in the branches. I don't know how the fuck I'm going to get them out without renting a cherry picker or something. The one on top has been there for like, three months, and is consequently somewhat shredded. The one on the bottom is brand new. I'd been stewing all winter about what to do about the first one and I looked out the window the other day and was like, "What the fuck?" I hate that these things are all over the place.

When KB and I went to Ireland for our honeymoon, we went to a grocery store in Kinsale to shop for items for a picnic. The checkout girl asked us if we wanted a "sack." We had a number of items, so we said yes. So she added the price of the bag to the total - they charge ten cents a bag over there. And we were sort of surprised and not a little bit indignant - "They charge for bags? For pete's sake!"- in true asshole American fashion, until we thought about it. It certainly helps cut down on the number of bags you use, and if you bring them back to the store and re-use them, they take five cents off your bill for each one.

I wish the U.S. did this. Even more than that, I wish the U.S. would start making biodegradable bags mandatory. Many other countries use biodegradable bags in their grocery stores. Of course, they're slightly more expensive, and God knows we're all about the bottom line here in the United States. Good for the environment? Sure! We'll do it! Oh, wait - it'll cost an extra two cents per bag? Fuck it. No way.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, considering we have a president who still hasn't acknowledged that global warming is real and not a hoax.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Raindrops keep fallin' on my head

Aaaaaaaaand the good news just keeps on comin'.

KB's mother is in the hospital. Her friend took her in last night after her regular doctor said she needed to go to the emergency room. She had an emergency appendectomy last night at 9pm.

We're waiting to hear how it went. Supposedly, an appendectomy is fairly routine and shouldn't be a big deal. Her appendix hadn't ruptured, so that's good. If it ruptures, they usually keep you in the hospital for a week. No rupture, 1 to 3 days.


Thanks for reading.

UPDATE: She's doing well. They're keeping her overnight tonight for observation, but the surgery went exactly as it should. She'll be out of commission for a few days and will miss a planned weekend trip to Calistoga (bummer!) but otherwise, she's okay. Thank goodness.

More sweet than bitter

When we were down in New Jersey visiting my grandfather in the hospital, we had to spend some time in the hospital cafeteria. It was pretty tiny and lame as hospital cafeterias go, but I guess it's all relative. I'm just used to the MGH cafeteria, which beats the pants off a lot of buffet restaurants* you could go to. (King's Table, anyone?) I guess Mass General has to have a kick ass cafeteria when 11 THOUSAND people work there. (That's more people than live in my hometown. I'm not sure if that says anything about the hospital, but it sure says something about my roots.)

We were there around lunchtime both Saturday and Sunday, so we would feed Nolan his baby gruel at one of the tables down there, and then share an overpriced turkey sandwich or salad bar between us. On the Sunday, my younger brother was also there, and he came down to the cafeteria with us.

There was a table-tent advertisement for a Valentine's Day promotion on a lot of the tables. (Only a few weeks out of date.) It basically suggested that you buy your sweetheart a slice of dessert pie at the cafeteria. 'Cause nothing says "I love you" like hyperglycemic shock, I guess.

Nolan took a liking to the little paper tent, and decided to sample it. Or maybe the picture of the pie looked good to him. Whatever the case, he went after it:

He likes to chew on paper items like the newspaper and magazines. I usually give him one of those heavy cardboard paper junk mail flyers whenever I'm opening the mail to keep him occupied for a bit. The trick is to get it away from him before he gets it so soggy and shredded that he's able to ingest pieces of it. That we don't like. (I've found bits of paper in his diaper before - I don't think it's harmful, but I'd rather avoid it if possible.)

So that's what we did with the little table tent - took it away before the saliva reached critical mass.

Then we put it back on the table.

Then my brother decided to augment it a bit with his pen and return it to the table. Here's how we left it:

You gotta take your fun where you can.

Thanks for reading.

*Not that restaurants have pants. But you know what I mean.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I'm gonna see the cow beneath the sea

Confession time.

I have a disease. A horrible, debilitating disease. It's not one of those front-page headlines kinds of diseases, like breast cancer or Parkinson's. It's a shameful disease, with no celebrity spokespeople, no telethons, no 5k runs to raise money for a cure. People don't talk about it. They're too embarrassed.

But I have decided to break the silence. I have taken it upon myself to be the courageous one, the sufferer who finally tries to let some light shine into the darkness.

I have Annoying Song Syndrome. Sometimes abbreviated ASS.


Yes, it's true.

I'm ashamed to say I don't know exactly where or when I contracted ASS. It may have been during my freewheeling college years as a theatre major - going to parties where everyone sang along with the Grease soundtrack and traded lines from Rocky Horror. Some of those days are a blur. I may have been infected while I was drunk or passed out.

For those of you who aren't familiar with ASS, let me share with you some of the more common symptoms: An attack usually begins because of a trigger. It varies from case to case, but for me, the trigger is most often a situation that reminds me of the lyrics of a particular song. In some instances, actual dialogue in my life quotes lyrics verbatim from a song, but more often, it's just a close approximation. Even that close approximation is enough to set off the song in my head, and from there, things spiral quickly downward.

For example: In the above paragraph, when I said "I may have been infected while I was drunk or passed out," I triggered an attack. The phrase "drunk or passed out" is rhythmically similar to a line in the song "Bobby James" off the N.E.R.D. album "In Search Of..." where the protagonist sings "I'm just one hit away from being passed out...young, and assed out." That similarity is enough to start the song on an endless loop inside my head. (The truly horrific thing is, it's my least favorite song on that album. Why not "Rock Star" or "Truth or Dare?" I guess because those songs aren't annoying, and it wouldn't be ASS if the song was kick ass.) Who knows how long "Bobby James" will live inside my head? I can't tell you. But it will be a lot longer than I would like it to. This is the price I pay for sharing my pain with the world.

Sometimes the only relief comes from inflicting the song on an innocent bystander. (Usually, in my case, my poor, long-suffering husband, KB.) I will sing the annoying song to the unsuspecting person in the hopes that just venting some of the pressure will allow the song to completely escape my head. Often, this tactic works. Occasionally, the technique backfires and both of us get the song stuck in our heads - this shows how virulent ASS really is.

I used to preface my singing with the statement, "I've got the most annoying song stuck in my head-" but most of my friends and relatives have learned that this is code for "I'm about to inflict unimaginable annoyance on you" and they quickly going into ASS defense mode: Fingers stuck in ears, singing the theme from "The Flintstones" as loudly as possible, they run from the room. So I usually don't tell them what I'm about to do. I put my own comfort ahead of theirs (I'm so ashamed) and knowingly infect them with ASS. I'm such a shit.

Sometimes I can derail the ASS attack by running to my CD collection and playing a completely different, but equally catchy song. I have a few favorite "go-to" tracks that, while others might find them annoying, serve as much-needed balm for my aching head. "One Week," by Barenaked Ladies comes to mind. I have come to terms with using them as temporary fixes - all previous joy at hearing these songs for their own sake is gone. It's sad, but this is the harsh world of ASS.

If, as they say in the Twelve Steps, the first step towards recovery is admitting you have a problem, then let this be my first step. Let this confession start me on the road towards healing, towards the day when it will no longer be a social stigma to blurt out "Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the fandango?" in a crowded restaurant.

Perhaps sharing my pain will be the push that other ASS sufferers need to admit their own problems. Maybe even a celebrity sufferer of ASS will come forward and be the driving force needed to bring ASS to the public's attention. (Fiona Apple? Mike Myers?) I hesistate even to voice these hopes, as they may be dashed on the rocks of reality all too quickly.

But where there is truth, there is hope.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Tell me something good

My dad got his orders from the Army. He's definitely going. March 29th he has to report to Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Then from there he goes to Fort Benning, Georgia, and then overseas. They're still saying Kosovo, for the moment.

I was reading the paper this morning and found an article about how Milosevic just died in jail a month before his alloted defense time in his trial was up. They say it was a heart attack - I hope the fucker died because he was finally overcome with remorse and guilt over all the people he killed. Probably not, though. I hope there won't be any more mishegass* in Serbia like there was six years ago. Apparently popular opinion there is pretty generally upset that the war crimes tribunal took so long that the guy died. People feel like they didn't get justice.

So that's the atmosphere my dad will be going into. The Army has told him six months, which may put him back in the US around September. I just hope the government keeps its word. (Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha! Yeah, right. How naive is that?)

I was able to talk to him this weekend and tell him why I was upset he didn't tell us sooner - maybe we could have changed our travel plans over the holidays and come see him before he left. His POV was that since the Army sent him an e-mail (that was how they first told him he'd be shipping out) he wanted to wait and see if it was for real - he didn't see any point in upsetting people until he knew for sure he'd be going. I guess I can understand that.

I'm still bummed, however. Hopefully he will have e-mail. He definitely will not have his cell phone. Maybe he'll read this site? Who knows.

Thanks for reading.

*Yes, I realize "mishegass" is probably not an adequate word to describe government-instituted genocide and years of civil war. I don't, however, know enough about what happened in the Balkans to be more politically astute about it, so "mishegass" will have to suffice.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Loving would be easy if your colors were like my dreams

I have seriously bad car karma this week.

As I've mentioned previously, Nolan and I go to a playgroup at a senior citizens' residence on Friday mornings. This past Friday, when the group was over, I walked out to the car, put Nolan in his car seat (which is always a struggle, he HATES the car seat) and got into the driver's seat. Then I noticed something stuck under the windshield wiper. I first thought it was a flyer, but I looked at the cars on either side of me and didn't see anything under their wipers, so it wasn't that. I got out and pulled out a brown paper bag with writing on it. The unsigned note said:

"A Volkswagon Golf Silver color Lic # XXXX Hit your rear bumper parking next to your car I tried to question him but he just walked away."

Fabulous. So I look at my car and sure enough, there are lovely little scratches on the left rear bumper. The silver Golf is still parked next to me. It has matching scratches on the front right bumper. What to do, what to do?

I removed Nolan from the car seat (oh joy, oh rapture!) and went back into the residence and asked the women at the front desk if they had any way of finding out who the silver Golf belonged to. They said if it was a resident's car, they'd have the license number in their registry. So they looked, but of course it wasn't there. Must be a visitor's car, they said. I asked if they had a PA system so they could say, "Will the owner of a silver VW Golf..." et cetera. They said they didn't. They suggested I call the police.

That would have been a feasible option if the damage was greater or it wasn't lunch time (actually past lunch time, the group was fun that day and we went over our usual time) for Nolan.* So I decided to leave a note of my own for the VW Golf owner.

I went back to the car, tore a page out of my notebook and wrote:

"I have a witness that saw you hit my bumper while parking. I will be reporting the incident with your car's make, model and license plate to the police and my insurance company. Call me at 617-XXX-XXXX."

It wasn't really that much damage, I just thought it was crappy that someone would hit the car and not leave a note. If they had done that, and said "I'm so sorry, here's my number and I have insurance please call me if you want to get it fixed" I probably would have looked at the scratches and gone, "Eh." But since they didn't, I felt all pissed and righteous and left my snotty little threatening note. I figured I'd never hear from the person.

To my surprise, the guy called me yesterday. He actually IS a resident at the senior's home, so I don't know why his car wasn't in their little log. He sounds like a sweet, befuddled old guy who probably shouldn't be driving anymore. He admitted hitting the car but said he saw someone in the driver's seat and since they didn't approach him, he didn't think it was a problem. Obviously there was no one in the car at the time, so who knows what kind of mental status this guy has. He couldn't remember the name of his insurance company, but he said he would get in touch with them and have an appraiser come look at the car and do a repair estimate. So who knows if that'll happen. I'm feeling kinda bad about forcing the issue. I really just wanted an apology.

Thanks for reading.

*To the tune of "Springtime for Hitler" from The Producers:
"It's lunchtime
for Nolan
and Mommy
It's time for
this boy to
get fooooood"

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Don't you know that there's no devil? That's just God when he's drunk

Things are going pretty well for me, emotionally speaking, considering all the crap going on that I posted about last time.

I think back to the time when I was seriously depressed when I lived in LA - serious enough to be medicated and in group therapy three days a week plus one-on-one therapy twice a week - and look at what was going on in my life at that point. And the answer is: absolutely nothing. I had a good job that I liked okay and paid me well, I had my own apartment that I could afford, I lived in a place of (almost) perpetual sun, I had plenty of friends and was not lacking for dates*, et cetera. And I couldn't get out of bed in the morning. I lost 30 pounds because I wasn't eating. What was the problem? I have no idea.

*This, of course, was before I met the fabulous KB.

Now, with all this stuff going on, I feel pissed (at my father) and sad (for my grandfather and our family), but I don't have that awful, bleak what-is-the-point-of-it-all feeling that I did back then.

They say depression is a genetic disorder, a chemical imbalance just like diabetes or high blood pressure. That's true, but I also think part of it is this: my brain likes a crisis. Car accident? No problem. Once the initial "Oh shit this isn't happening" moment is over, I am cool as a cucumber; I'm all about calmly exchanging insurance information. Sick family member? I got it covered. I can Florence Nightengale with the best of them. I do well in emergency situations. I thrive under pressure. It's when things are hunky-dory that I fall apart.

But even that simplistic explanation isn't enough for what going on with me right now.

You know what I think it is? I think it's Nolan. Not just in the sense of "Oh, I have a baby, I'm too busy to be sad" way, although that's certainly part of it. It's hard to be depressed when you have a 9-month old who wakes up happy every morning, a giant smile on his face. I try to get up before him in the morning to have some coffee and a few minutes to myself before he gets up. When I hear him talking to Grover and Purple Bunny (his two crib buddies) over the monitor, I go up to get him, and when I walk in the room, he's so excited he starts kicking and yelling like crazy. He loves being awake. He loves being. He fights sleep because he doesn't want to miss anything that might be going on while he's asleep. It's pretty difficult to be a cynical crank in the face of that.

Look at that. How can I stay sad, or mad, or depressed when he looks like that?

Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Nothing ever happens on Mars

We're back from Dirty Jers.

Not to get all existential on you, and this is not as big a tangent as it will initially seem, but do you believe in God? I don't, really, not as a militant atheist sort of "God is Dead" non-belief, but more of a I-don't-really-think-about-it-that-much-and-it's-not-a-big-part-of-my-life kind of thing. I bring it up now because several monumentally crappy things have happened to me in the last few days, and those are the times when people who have religion* turn to God and say, "Why me?"

Something I read recently on Mimi Smartypants's site has gotten me thinking about this issue. She takes to task people who use phrases like "You are special to the universe" as meditation mantras (the underlying assumption being that they don't believe in God but need some sort of spiritual woo-woo to think about whilst meditating) with the old "if everyone is special than no one is special" argument. Then she says something key: "Remembering how totally un-special I am to the universe is particularly helpful when shit is going poorly, because then I feel less picked on."

Right now, shit is going poorly, and I'm feeling pretty picked on. We drove down to New Jersey on Friday, leaving Boston at 2pm because KB was able to get out of work early. A drive that should have taken about 5 hours (plus a little more with bathroom/gas/nursing stops) took us 8 hours, mostly because we spent about an hour and a half pulled over to the side of the 287 in New York after being sideswiped by a box truck which then left the scene of the accident and drove away. We had to call the State Troopers and wait an hour for someone to come and take an accident report with Nolan fussing (with good reason, he was hungry) the entire time.

The car is drivable, however, and no one was injured, thank goodness, so we pressed on. We got to my mom's at about 10:30 at night. Then, in the morning, while talking to my younger brother about his possibly coming up to NJ to see our grandfather, I find out that my father is being deployed to active duty in Kosovo at the end of the month. My father is a colonel in the Army Reserves, and spent six months in Afghanistan at the end of 2002. Kosovo is somewhat less nerve-wracking a location than Afghanistan or Iraq, but it still means my father will be gone for six or more months with very little access to phones or computers. There's also the problem that the Army brass are perfectly within their rights to tell my father one thing (say, where he's being deployed or for how long) and then turn around and go, "Oh, guess what? When we said Kosovo? We were wrong. You'll actually be stationed in Abu Ghraib for twelve months! Sorry about that! Ha ha!"

My father has known about his deployment since December, but for reasons known only to himself decided not to tell anyone until now, a mere three weeks before he leaves. He and my stepmother are going to San Francisco next week to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary, and then he has to report to his "staging location" before being deployed. Yay.

Then there's my grandfather (this is my mother's father). We saw him in the hospital on both Saturday and Sunday. He wasn't actually as bad as I had feared he would be, but he still looked awful. He's been having dialysis to compensate for his non-functioning kidneys, which is helping, but at this point his care is palliative (meaning they're just trying to keep him comfortable and lucid) rather than curative.

I'm glad we got to see him while he was still pretty much himself. He dozed off a lot and was quite weak, but other than that, he seemed normal. At one point, Nolan was playing with some mylar "Get Well Soon" balloons that had a reflective surface he was just fascinated with. My aunt Patty kept bopping him gently in the face with one and he would squeal with laughter every time. Then she bopped me in the face (not quite as gently) and I squealed and pretended to be just as delighted as Nolan. Pop looked at KB and said, "You married her, not me." Which got a laugh.

So for the most part, we just hung out in his hospital room and did what we normally do when we get together as a family, which is tell embarrassing stories about each other and make snide jokes at each other's expense. You know, just like other normal, loving families. I think having people around was good for Pop, and I like to think that seeing Nolan made him happy. One of my aunts feels that we shouldn't all be visiting him, because everyone descending on his hospital room makes it seem like he's going to die. I understand her feelings, but it's not like he's not aware of how dire his situation is. He knows. I think the visits make him happy and maybe even take his mind off things for a little while.

The thing I wanted to ask Pop that I didn't was "Are you scared?" It would only have been to satisfy my own curiosity and wouldn't have made him feel any better. I wanted to know if he really believes he'll be going to Heaven or wherever in the afterlife. Does he believe he'll see Grammy there? The priest at his church came to see him and left some...I don't even know what to call them. Devotional items? Talismans? It was a little picture of Mary washing Jesus's wounds and a book on trusting God to take care of you. Do those things make him feel better? I don't know, and I didn't want to ask in case he wasn't really up to the questions.

In the end, I'm glad we went. It was a lot of driving for a short weekend, but worth it. He may die soon, or he may keep fighting and live for another few months. In either case, I'm glad we saw him while he had his wits about him and could appreciate our company, and we his.

I have more crapola to post about religion, God, and Waiting for Guffman as metaphor for the search for meaning in life (no, really!) but this post is too long as it is. So I shall end it here.

Thanks for reading.

*I don't really like the phrase "have religion" because it sounds like a disease ("Wash your hands after you touch John - he's got religion.") but I think it's appropriate in this case. It's not something I have, clearly, and I think it's one of those either-or things.

Friday, March 03, 2006

I'm the man who loves you

My grandfather is dying. He's had bladder cancer for about 10 years now, but he's had a number of cystoscopies and been in remission (on and off) for most of that time. Now it seems things are coming to a head. The cancer has metastasized to his kidneys and lungs, and he's been hospitalized for renal failure. KB assures me that renal failure is a very peaceful and easy way to die - not much pain or suffering, and fairly speedy. I guess that's good, as far as anything about this can be said to be good.

We're leaving today to drive down to New Jersey to see him in the hospital. Even though Nolan won't remember the visit, I'd like him to see his great-grandfather at least one last time, while Pop is lucid enough to enjoy seeing him.

When Grammy, his wife, my grandmother, died (almost four years ago now) we were all very surprised that she was even sick. Pop had always been the sick one, and no one expected Grammy to die first. She was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, was admitted to the hospital to start chemo, and died eight days later. I didn't get to see her while she was still conscious, although I was able to be there and hold her hand when she died, and I've always wished I could have spoken to her once more to tell her how much I loved her.

So we're driving to New Jersey today.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

I watch the sun come up while you're sleeping it off

I have this bizarre fear of the mailman. I'm not afraid of him, exactly, I just don't like being there when he delivers the mail. I never used to be home when the mail was delivered (usually around 11 in the morning) because I was always at work. Now that I'm home every day, I'm always acutely aware of when the mailman is going to come.

It's usually the same guy, a gruff stocky older guy with a buzzed haircut and a salt-and-pepper beard. His name is Joe. I know this because one year we left him a Christmas card addressed only to "Mailman" with ten bucks in it and he gave us a card in return that was signed "Thank you, Joe (last name)."*

That was before the Great Snow Shoveling Dispute of '05. We went away for a week in March of last year, when I was six months pregnant with Nolan. It was kind of our last hurrah Vacation By Ourselves Before The Baby. We went to California and spent half the week with KB's mom in the bay area and the other half in LA with various friends from our old lives. We had a cat sitter come once a day to feed the kitties, bring in the mail, etc.

Well, the first day we were in California, it snowed about a foot back in Boston. The cat sitter didn't shovel the walk, of course, because why would she? She could still get into the house, and we weren't paying her to shovel our walk for us. So the mailman decides that we aren't holding up our end of the mailman/resident contract for mail delivery, whatever that is, and stops delivering our mail. Apparently the whole "Neither rain nor snow nor dark of night" thing is no longer a going concern for the US Postal Service.

The whole week we got no mail. The cat sitter told us about it when we got back. We shovelled our walk, but still no mail. KB called our post office to complain, and the supervisor transferred his call to our actual mailman, Joe. KB was like, "What the fuck, dude? Where's our mail?" and the postman said since it wasn't safe for him to come up our sidewalk to the door (we have a mail slot in the door rather than a mailbox), he didn't deliver the mail. KB was like, "The walk's clear now. Why haven't you delivered our mail? Are we being punished?" And the mailman totally denied he was being punitive, but the next day we got that day's mail. We had to physically go down to the post office to get the backlog of mail, he wouldn't deliver it to us.

Ever since then, our relationship with Joe the Mailman has deteriorated. A week later when the snow started to melt off the roof of the house, we had some icicles hanging over the front porch, and we got a note with our mail saying, "Clear icicles off of overhang." The unspoken threat was, "Or I'll stop delivering your mail again, you douchebags." So we cleared the icicles. (That word doesn't look right. Icicles? Icycles? Iceicles?)

Now it's kind of a running joke for us. Whenever it snows (which thankfully hasn't been much this winter) we joke that we'd better hurry up and shovel so Joe the Mailman won't put out a contract on us. Needless to say, Joe did not get ten bucks in a card from us this past Christmas.

So now that I'm home during the day, I feel weird being there when he brings the mail. If I happen to be right by the front door when he comes, I freeze. Like he can sense movement. I'm weirdly afraid he'll bend down and peek through the slot and go, "I see you in there." That would be creepy. Sometimes I work up my nerve to open the door and take the mail from him directly. I always say, "Thank you!" real bright and friendly-like, like I'm so thrilled he's managed to hand me my mail, and he always gives me this "Welcome." that sounds affronted, like, "It's my frickin' job, lady, I have no choice."

I'm probably overthinking the whole thing - I'm sure he has about a thousand houses he delivers to, and we may not even be a blip on his radar screen. But I'm still relieved when there's a relief mailperson on duty instead of Joe.

Thanks for reading.

*It was a Christmas card, but the theme was monkeys. There were three monkeys celebrating Christmas on the front of the card - wrapping presents, drinking, and eating. All I could think was, "Monkey card?"