She was tall and had the longest, thinnest legs I’ve ever seen. She was like a giraffe, a giraffe with a pixie cut, anyway. Her delicate fingers held her cell phone as she snapped photos. She walked in whispers, in waves. And then in one fell swoop, she saw my books. “Oh,” she said. I could smell the distaste as the word dropped from her lips and hung there. “These, all of these must go,” she said, and one of her arms gestured, as if I could use a magic wand to POOF them away.
Giraffe lady’s business card was shiny, waxy, and I folded it over and over upon itself. Her leopard-print kitten heels clicked along our scuffed up wood floors. They sneered at my New Balance tennis shoes from Costco.
I couldn’t keep up with her. She wanted our life put into boxes, compartmentalized, hidden, camouflaged. Like only the house existed, not the people inside of it. No evidence. Clear the crime scene, no human beings have deigned to breathe within the confines of these walls! No children or adults have sullied this place, look how pristine it is!
Giraffe lady emailed a to-do list of eleventy billion things that needed attention before proceeding.
I heaved myself up and began. What else was there to do?
I’m a little fuzzy about the first time I stumbled upon Postpartum Progress, yet I’m certain it was long before Piper was born in October, 2011.
My episodes with postpartum have blurred together, making the lines foggy for me…because I’ve also struggled with regular depression off & on since I was in college.
But I can say that PPD and PPA (and depression in general) are isolating. Those who haven’t experienced it themselves often have trouble relating or knowing what to do, say or how to help. I remember stumbling into my two-week post-op appointment after the twins were born via c-section. I couldn’t stop crying and my Ob/Gyn handed me a pamphlet about PPD. And at my six-week checkup after our youngest was born, pretty much the same thing happened.
Depression is not only a liar, but it’s lonely. Which isn’t a winning combination.
I’ve met Katherine Stone in person and have had the honor of hearing her speak at several conferences. She is easy to talk to, always willing to talk and help, and she’s a fighter and a mama and someone I admire. I’m proud to support Postpartum Progress and to be a part of this special week in her honor!
It’s how I feel in a papery hospital gown. I can’t stop thinking about how it’s been worn by hundreds (thousands?) of other naked people.
It’s how I feel when my braless breasts go sagging out to the sides as I lie down on the gurney.
It’s how I feel as the nurse tap tap taps on my hand to get the vein after she ties the tourniquet.
The needle shoves past my freckled skin. The prick of pain and the breath I yank in and the tears that gather.
It’s freezing in the OR and although I can feel some medicine starting to work, I’m hyper aware that someone is tying each of my ankles to something hard and cold at the foot of my narrow bed.
The medicine makes me feel wonky and swirly but my brain and body are strong and fighting it. I’m acutely aware that now my ankles are being being cranked up by pulleys, drawn to the top of each of two skinny poles.
Everyone knows there is nothing on underneath a hospital gown.
I start to cry. The anesthesiologist peers over me with his blue mask and tells me it’s going to be okay. But how is it okay when strangers can now see my most private parts?
My body is on display. They’re used to it, they see all kinds of naked bodies day in and day out.
But I’m not used to it.
I don’t remember what else the anesthesiologist says to me, but I remember getting hysterical. The embarrassment of the surgery I was about to have rivaled the level of pain my fissure was causing. I cried hard. I wanted to disappear. I didn’t want people looking at my lady bits, my flabby white cellulite-ridden ass.
All I know is that the medicine is working, but it’s not enough because I’m still awake and conscious enough to feel the cold air hitting my bare body. I’m conscious enough to feel gross and ugly and inexcusably human. All my parts.
So it has come to this.
I sob as the room spins so much I feel like retching.
And then from somewhere above my head comes a mask and I’m told to inhale deeply and count.
At long last, everything goes black.
When I wake up, there’s scalding, searing pain like an iron. Sharp like the tip of a knife.
There’s no one there with me, and I try to call out for someone, but I can’t even make my mouth move.
I roll to my side and pull my knees up, fetal position.
Jennie Goutet is not only my friend, but also the author of a brand new memoir: A Lady in France. Her book appealed to me on multiple levels, and I’ve always been drawn to Jennie’s openness and honesty when it comes to addressing tough subjects. I have felt a kinship with her for several years now, and so I eagerly devoured each chapter, always yearning for more.
If I’m being completely up front, I was apprehensive about reviewing her book because I knew a big piece of it was about religion and Christianity. And I’m not a very religious person. I’m Jewish, but for me, it’s more about the culture, heritage, and the traditions, and less about the spirituality, prayer, and God. Jennie chronicles her journey to God in a way that didn’t feel preachy or condescending at all; in fact, if anything, it’s made me question the depth and breadth of my core religious values.
Jennie’s book opens when she’s 19 years old, studying abroad during her junior year of college.
Why did I go to France in the first place if I was so fearful?
And I am one of the most fearful people you can meet. I have been terrified of
everything outside of my small life, haunted by the “what ifs,” accosted by
worry and the fear of flying or of grief, ever since I can remember.”
Jennie is painfully honest throughout her book, and confessions like these bring us closer to her. The irony of it, however, is that time and time again, she comes up against something so scary and instead of running away, she confronts the very thing that terrifies her. It’s also inspiring to read about someone (whom I can so closely identify with) abandoning everything to chase after her dreams…literally, since Jennie dreamed at age 17 about meeting and marrying a French man. And she sets out to find him and do just that.
Jennie will hold your hand and bring you along with her as she comes up against loss (suicide and death), depression, and addiction. She’ll describe the cultures and scenery with such vivid detail that it seems as if you’re right there with her; you’ll feel the monsoon, curse the Celiac disease, weep for the dying baby in her arms. You’ll fight back tears when she loses her brother and her fourth child, Alistair. You’ll cheer when she marries Matthieu and they bring their babies into the world. And you’ll laugh with recognition as she appreciates the little things (Fanta and hot showers), schleps strollers up and down stairs, and deals with construction workers and their endless dust.
Jennie manages to woo us with her grace and her immense well of gratitude…that never runs dry despite the many miles she travels, the experiences she has, and the life lessons she learns along the way.
From the second I wake up each morning until I fall asleep each night, I hear a running commentary in my head. It usually goes something like this:
“You’re so freaking stupid. I can’t believe you did that.”
“What is wrong with you?”
“Of course you screwed up. You always do. Typical.”
“You’re an awful mother. If you worked with her more, she wouldn’t have delays.”
“Don’t bother showering or putting on something nice. You’ll still look like shit.”
Before you can ask, no, I’m not kidding.
There’s a very old record player somewhere inside of me. And this same record has been on the turntable for years. Because it’s scratched in places, some parts just play over and over again. Drumming it in. Sealing it. Locking it tight.
“Just shut up. You don’t have anything important or intelligent to say.”
“I can’t believe you left the house looking like that. You’re disgusting.”
“Look at your flabby stomach. You’re so lazy. You need to go on a diet.”
“Why haven’t you been exercising? It’s your fault you are so out of shape. What a slob.”
I had a Fisher-Price record player similar to this one. Did you?
I talk to myself inside my head and the voice I hear is my own, but it is not very nice. It’s loud and coarse, angry, bitter and demeaning. There are no manners, no niceties. I’ve been doing this for so long I can’t quite remember when it began, or how or why. I don’t recall a time when I didn’t hear these things. Sure, the language evolved a bit over time and cuss words got sprinkled in here and there, but otherwise– it’s the way it’s always been.
And although I just became aware of how severe the problem is, it’s an entirely different matter to try to stop it. The behavior is so deeply ingrained, so habitual– it lasts all day long, every day. The idea of not doing it seems too daunting a task. Removing a ritual that’s been in place since I was maybe 10 or 12 years old? How do I even begin?
My therapist said, “It’s no wonder you’re depressed and feeling so strung out. Think about how it makes you feel to be beaten down in this way, all the time. That takes a toll on a person.”
I chewed on that for a few minutes before I started to cry.
I am, and have been, my own worst enemy. Self sabotage at its best.
And you know what’s almost comical? The things I say to myself I would never dream of saying to someone else. Not even on my worst day or if I was really upset. You just don’t speak to people that way! It’s rude and downright mean. It’s fine to have an opinion on something, but if you disagree you still need to be respectful in the process. There’s certainly no need for name calling.
But it’s totally acceptable to treat myself like shit. Because after all, I deserve it.
You know how sometimes you’re driving in the car and you wind up at your destination with absolutely no clue how you got there? You pull into a spot and shift into park and all of a sudden it’s like you snap yourself awake.
How did I get here? Wait, what? I’m in carpool line? I drove here myself? When?
It’s life on auto pilot. You go through the motions because you’ve done them a million times before and so you can multitask with the best of ’em.
And so is the way with my inner critic.
My children don’t know about my inner critic. I hope they’ll never find out. And I pray every day that they’ll never develop one themselves.
Do you have an inner critic? What does he/she say to you? And if not, am I all alone in this?
I wrote a post recently that resonated with many people: Top Eight Grammar Mistakes. It went over very well and in the comments, several of you left suggestions for other common grammar errors. So I decided it would be helpful to do a Part II, a follow-up post of sorts.
It’s important to master proper grammar because your writing is often the first thing people see about you.
In no particular order, here’s a(nother) list of commonly made grammatical mistakes:
1.) Pique, peak, peek
Three totally unrelated words. Pique is a verb, peak is a noun, and peek can be a noun or a verb, meaning a quick glance (noun), or to look at something furtively (verb).
Examples: Her blog post about social media mavens piqued my interest.
He hiked all the way up to the peak of the mountain.
If I’m worried about burning dinner, I just peek into the oven.
2.) Lay vs. lie
Lay means to put or place in a horizontal position, to set something down (or to lay eggs!). Lie is a noun and a verb. As a noun it means a false statement or an untruth. As a verb it means to either tell someone something untrue or the act of resting or being in a horizontal position.
Examples: I asked her to lay her book down before taking the test.
When his son came home late, he lied about where he’d been.
Whenever I have a bad headache, my mom tells me to lie down for awhile.
3.) Principal vs. principle
Principal can be a noun or an adjective; as a noun, it’s the head or director of something, i.e. the school principal. As an adjective, it describes something that is first or highest in rank. Principles, on the other hand, are guidelines or rules.
Here’s an example to help you remember: The high school principal is your PAL. Get it?
The principles behind calculus have always eluded me.
4.) Then vs. than
Then is a noun (time), an adjective (being such at that time), & an adverb (at that time, next, or soon). Than is a conjunction used when referring to a comparison or a preference of some sort.
Examples: They did their homework, then they went outside to play.
The then president was impeached.
I’d rather jump off a cliff than eat bell peppers. He’s smarter than I.
5.) Faze & phase
Faze means to worry, bother, or disturb. Phase refers to a stage in a process of development; OR the phases of the moon.
Examples: She was so used to being bullied that the mean words didn’t even faze her.
My toddler throws tantrums all day long; they say it’s a phase, and I can’t wait until it’s over!
6.) Piece vs. peace
Piece is a part of something, or a slice of pie. Peace is the absence of any strife, war or disagreement.
Examples: Do you have a piece of gum?
As the mother of three, I often wish for peace and quiet.
7.)Your & you’re
Your is possessive and you’re is a contraction, short for you are.
Examples: Is that your glass of wine or mine?
You’re going to drive me crazy if you don’t stop that.
So what am I leaving out this time? Be sure to leave me some examples in the comments! And thanks again for your suggestions for this post!
I didn’t plan to launch into a discussion about Hitler and Nazi Germany.
Last month I read an article about the actress who plays the role of Liesel Meminger, Sophie Nelisse. Her performance in the film belies her age (13 years). According to our local newspaper, Nelisse turned down some serious gymnastics dreams in order to pursue this part. My daughters saw that I was engrossed in something and asked me what I was reading. So I told them about Nelisse, and explained that the book was so good I couldn’t wait to see the movie.
I was too impatient to put off seeing The Book Thief any longer, so I suggested they play in the basement for awhile. When they asked why, I told them there might be some scary parts. When they asked what those scary parts would be, I suddenly found myself in unfamiliar territory.
I knew I should keep it simple. I mentioned a mean man named Adolf Hitler. They remembered hearing a bit about him from one of their favorite movies, The Sound of Music. I told them Hitler didn’t like Jewish people and he wanted to separate them from everyone else. Apparently that fact alone wasn’t intimidating enough; I gently told them that he managed to kill many Jews during World War II. I didn’t talk about Auschwitz, Dachau or Bergen-Belsen. I didn’t tell them about the tattoos, the gas chambers, the labor camps or starvation. I didn’t tell them about the six million. But I did tell them about Sophie Nelisse’s character, Liesel, and how her family hides a Jewish man, Max, in their home during the war. Their hearts warmed and grew lighter upon hearing that non-Jews were willing to put their own lives in danger in order to do the right thing and help others. These are the lessons I want to teach my daughters.
I don’t believe in hiding everything from my kids, and I don’t like lying or sugar-coating reality. They’re old enough to know and understand plenty of things; and while they don’t need to hear the gritty, gory details, I’m doing them any favors by shielding them from something like this. They’re mature enough to handle the basics. After all, the Westboro Baptist Church is very much alive in Kansas City, and, well…history is doomed to repeat itself unless we educate our youth. They need to know that the world isn’t always such a pretty place. They need to know that even in 2014, people don’t respect differences.
“And that’s why you have to keep making films like this– because there’s a whole generation of kids who think that Adolph Hitler is a football coach.”
And that’s just it. My kids may not be learning about the Holocaust in school yet, but eventually they will. In the meantime, conversations can and should start in the home when children are ready. This is only the first of several such discussions we’ll have with our daughters.
Have you talked about the Holocaust with your kids? Have you brought up other difficult topics? I’d love to hear what you said and how it went!
yesterday I took Piper in for an appointment with a pediatrician who specializes in child development. she’s had some delays and issues and we’ve been working with a wonderful team of therapists since early last summer. i can’t say enough about her speech therapist, physical therapist, and nutritionist. they’re all phenomenal women and we’re so lucky to have benefitted from their knowledge and expertise.
but still. it’s very slow going. communication is tough — for everyone– because she can’t convey what she wants, or when she tries, we can’t understand her garbled speech and attempts.
it escalates. she becomes frustrated. i become frustrated. and upset. she starts fussing and crying. tantrums follow.
and i sit there, throw my hands up. i don’t yell much since the new year began. but inside i’m knotted up, cinched tight. i realize my fists are clenching and unclenching involuntarily. i get irritated. i don’t know what to do. i don’t know how to handle her.
i know she doesn’t often throw these fits at preschool. i don’t know if it’s because she’s surrounded by her peers and she’s so busy emulating them and interacting… or if it’s just because she knows there are firm(er) limits there and no one’s going to put up with any bullshit.
consequently, things at home have been, well, less than pleasant. i need Nanny 911. i’m trying to be firm and not let her steamroll me (because i think without even realizing it, we’ve been catering to her, indulging her…after all, she is the “baby” and she has delays).
it’s often hard to tell if she’s just testing me. is she being a typical two-year-old in some regards? i’ve been down this road before, but i’ve forgotten just how difficult this stage can be. and couple this with my own struggles lately–with depression and weaning off the benzos— and yeah, it’s not always very fun around here.
so the doctor we saw yesterday made some recommendations for further testing– to see if there could be a reason behind her delays. it’s entirely possible there is no underlying explanation; some kids just have delays. there are easier and quicker ways to get some answers, i.e. blood draws and chromosome studies. then there’s the flip side, an MRI of her brain. invasive and would require putting her to sleep. i don’t think we’ll be doing the latter. it was a lot to take in, but i’m grateful to have the input and to know that…we can investigate further if we choose to, or if she doesn’t progress, or if she (G-d forbid) regresses.
and then there’s this blog, this space. MY space. i’ve been stifled in some ways, feeling as if i shouldn’t publish anything that’s not useful or good or interesting. in blogging there’s something to be said for not publishing a post every time you feel like it just for the sake of putting something up that day, or on a regular basis. but i’ve gone the opposite direction. i’ve stopped putting much of anything out there because it doesn’t seem to measure up to the other blogs i read regularly. where do people get all their ideas from?
i spend too much time reading and sharing others’ posts and not enough time on my own work. maybe if i put more effort in here…there’d be more worth posting.
Last week reminded me that it was time to (re)stock my car with some essential items. One of the girls came down with a stomach bug and nearly got sick in the car. Fortunately I had a few things to help until the inevitable happened, and by that time we were coincidentally at the pediatrician’s office, where they gave me the best thing ever. Which brings me to number one on my list:
1. Plastic bags (and preferably some hospital-grade barf bags like this!)
The nice thing about these is that they’re molded to fit right around the mouth and they can hold A LOT. So older kids can use these pretty efficiently should the need arise. But if you have a toddler, you may have to wing it with regular old plastic bags. And you’ll want a few of those anyway for your regular kiddie trash, i.e. wrappers, gum, dirty wads of Kleenex, and fallen french fries. And also to put the used barf bags in.
2. Antibacterial wipes
My minivan does have a built-in DVD player, but until the day they start making them with a sink in which to wash hands, we’ll have to make do with some antibacterial wipes. For tough jobs involving any sort of bodily fluids I prefer Clorox wipes (go ahead & call me a germaphobe), but otherwise Wet Ones or something similar will do.
3. Hand sanitizer
After you finish cleaning up car barf on the go, you’ll want to get those pesky microbes off your hands, and everyone else’s, too. So get thee some Purell!
4. Baby wipes and Kleenex
For less worrisome or minor yucky things (“Mommy, I have a booger!”), I always keep a pack of baby wipes or Kleenex handy. I vote for baby wipes because sticky hands are quite common.
5. Bottles of water
I don’t love plastic, so I don’t buy bottled water on a regular basis. Don’t get me started on how we can “just recycle” (that’s another post). But I will buy a few bottles to store in the car. I often hand them out to homeless people I encounter while we’re out and about. And the rest stay in the trunk or center console for times I hope we’ll never need them, i.e. if we get a flat tire, have an accident and need to wait for a tow truck, or there’s a traffic jam. Because inevitably that’s when at least one of your kids will decide to throw a tantrum because of thirst.
See # 5. Kids are always whining about being hungry or needing something to munch on. Also, I keep a bag of high-protein snacks in the car year round for handing out to the homeless. For my own brood, I stock potable applesauce (it’s more fun to drink it and less mess for me), Goldfish crackers, and granola bars in my ride.
7. Cell phone charger
If you have my kind of luck (which is to say no luck at all), you’ll find yourself stranded with screaming kids, no gas in your car, and your cell phone will be dead so you won’t be able to call AAA for reinforcements. I keep my charger in my minivan all the time, and whenever I head out I usually plug it in just to be safe.
8. Medication for you & kids
You never know when two Advil could save your sanity. Or some Benadryl could convince your toddler to nap instead of scream in her carseat. In all seriousness, I keep Children’s Advil with me, too. Just be sure to check the label because sometimes extreme temperatures can affect the medication. I stash it in my purse or baby bag just to be safe.
9. Towels (or an old blanket or two)
You might have to make friends with the cold, wet, or dirty pavement so you can change a tire or dislodge a giant tree limb stuck to your vehicle’s underbelly. Or you might need to drape it on the lap of a sick kiddo in transit.
10. Hand warmers
My husband introduced me to these when we moved to KC and went to a Chiefs game when it was snowing. I’m sure I’m a worrywart, but I do have some of these in my car as well. It would suck to get stranded with a dead battery and kids with chattering teeth. You can find these at most drugstores or on Amazon.
Do you keep some (or all) of these in your car? What would you add to the list?
1. Your “About Me” section on your blog says you’re writing a book. Fiction or non and what’s it about? Okay, so here’s the thing: there is no book. Yet. But there will be one someday. Our miracle baby sorta threw a wrench in the writing gears. And the blogging gears. The now miracle toddler also has some delays that can make life a little more, erm, difficult sometimes. The book will likely be memoir/non-fiction, which means no one will bother reading it.
2. You are very open about your religious beliefs. Do you have any traditions with your family that were passed down and that you hope your children will continue when they are grown? I didn’t grow up with much religion at all, really. I’m Jewish by birth, but I’ve sought out my own Jewish life and heritage by choice. The traditions we have are pretty loose now, especially with the girls still being so young; I hope that as they get older we can plant more seeds and create special memories. I love lighting the menorah with them at Hanukkah and saying the prayers. We haven’t been great about Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath, which starts every Friday at sundown and ends on Saturday at sundown), but I’d like to get back to baking my own challah on Fridays. And then using it for French toast on Saturday mornings! Now that’s a tradition I can get behind!
3. You write fiction that feels SO real…how do you find inspiration for your characters? It’s funny that you say that since I dabble in fiction so rarely. I’ve only ever written flash fiction, and it’s usually inspired by a prompt. My characters typically have bits and pieces of all sorts of people I’ve encountered, and some I haven’t yet. The idea of trying to write a longer piece of fiction scares the crap out of me. I just…don’t know what the characters would do. But I suppose they can’t DO anything if I don’t…write that far.
4. As a mom of all daughters, what do you hope to teach them about becoming women someday? I am still learning as I go, but for right now, my goal is to teach them to love themselves and their bodies. I don’t want them to grow up with self loathing. I don’t want them to pick and choose parts of themselves to hate or obsess over. I want them to feel and know that they’re beautiful and smart and funny and kind and creative. I make sure that, as their mother, they don’t hear or see me putting myself down. They learn from watching me, so I keep negative things to myself. It’s my hope that they’ll never know about my self esteem issues; or perhaps I’ll conquer my demons before they’re old enough to handle a frank conversation about all of it.
5. Which of your personality traits do you see the most in each daughter? My oldest is instinctively a good speller, it just comes very naturally to her as it did and does to me. My middle girl is on the shy side, quiet, introspective. That’s also me. And the jury’s still out on my youngest, but… she’s averse to loud noises, she loves anything crunchy, and she appreciates a good long afternoon nap. Those are all pretty much me (I never nap, but I often wish I could!).
6. Which of your husband’s traits do you see the most in each girl? I’m so grateful that my husband has instilled in our girls an appreciation of and a love for athletics (I’m not a sports fan and I haven’t got a clue about the rules). He teaches them spontaneity when I’m one who prefers (and thrives upon) a routine. They are more laid back and relaxed because they’re his daughters, and I’m so happy about that.
7. Your work with The Gay Dad Project has given you opportunities to meet lots of people. What has been your favorite experience so far? It’s so hard to choose just one! I really enjoyed our time at the inaugural Salon LGBTQ conferenceDeb Rox put on in Atlanta last fall. And then we spent a week in San Francisco during Pride. We interviewed and talked with other “kids” who have had a parent come out of the closet. It was eye opening and amazing and overwhelming all at once.
8. What is the best advice anyone has ever given you? Don’t take yourself too seriously. Be your own best advocate. Do your homework. Sleep on it. Drink your milk. Write.