Monthly Archives: December 2009

Snow day (look! pictures!)

We interrupt this irregularly unscheduled blogging hiatus to bring you: snow day.

It started out much like any other day: the Boychick nursed in the morning for the first time in over a week (he’d nursed but twice in the week prior to that, once at bed time and once when he wanted to nap — we really are coming to the end, I think), I attempted to refrain from filicide, we went to lunch with The Man, then dropped him off and drove around aimlessly (well, aimless after the obligatory Starbucks run) for an hour or so. And then… snow.

You have to understand, we live in the Pacific Northwest. Portland, Oregon, to be more specific. It doesn’t snow here. It does. not. snow. here. It’s practically in the state’s constitution; I think they hand out a guarantee along with Stumptown citizenship stating that here, it will never snow. Rain, yes. Fog, yes. Drizzle for 150 days in a row with never more than five minutes of sun: quite possibly. Snow? Well, sure, for five minutes every third year, or overnight every thirty. Last year was the once-every-third-of-a-century years, where we had snow on the ground for three weeks running, and the entire city shut down during the weeks around Christmas. So, we all figure, that’s that out of the way, no more snow this side of Mt Hood until our kids are raising their kids, right?

Ah… no.

It snowed.

Snowy street

Snowy street

That’s the hill I live on. I took this photo from my car. You can’t see the tracks from me trying (four times!), and failing (four times!), to get the car up the street to my house, because they’re already filled in, not 10 minutes later.

What. The. Fuck.

It had just started to snow when we got to the bookstore about 15 minutes away. The forecast swore up down and sideways it wasn’t going to stick, but I figured, we live up in the hills, might as well go home so we can try to play in the dusting of snow for a bit. Turn around, get home half an hour later — foreshadowing the worst day of traffic Portland has seen in 20 years — and this is what greets me. A hill I cannot make it up in the car.

Of course, I can’t leave the car either, because of this:

Asleep in the snow

Asleep in the snow

His first nap in nearly a week. Good timing, kid.

So there I am, stuck in the car, at the bottom of the hill, my nice warm snug house just in sight, with a sleeping child and a full bladder, and no one I know around to watch him so I can jaunt up to the house to take care of at least one of those problems. (No way am I going to try to carry a sleeping child up that steep a hill in the snow. The morning urges notwithstanding, I am not actually filicidal.)

So I wait. I watch the families from blocks around flock to my hill, and sled down in front of my house, down to in front of my stuck-down-here car. I freeze. I read way too much fanfic, and long for my knitting. I exchange pictures via text with The Man, and he agrees to leave his bike at work and take the bus home. (He had thought he might just bike to the bus and then walk it down the hill. Ha! Haha! Hahahahahahahaha!)

(Ahem. Getting ahead of myself again.)

Eventually, of course, the Boychick wakes up, as children are wont to do, and I lure him up to the house with promises of mittens and a return trip outside as soon as I can walk without sloshing.

We’re outside for the next hour and a half.

Except, of course, to run inside for the carrot nose, two legos (excuse me, Mega Bloks), and a small handful of large beads.

Two happy snowy people

Two happy snowy people

Believe it or not, that’s not only the Boychick’s but my first real snow person. Did you know snow actually does that thing where you roll it and it gets bigger??

(In case you couldn’t tell, I grew up in California, in the San Francisco Bay Area. I led a sheltered life. Earthquakes I know about. The basics of snow person construction? Clueless. Interesting note: I also thought entirely indoor, multi-level schools were made up for TV. Doesn’t everyone go to schools with outdoor hallways?)

I finally managed to convince the niviphiliac to come inside, just a bit after he threw a snowball, entirely on accident (c’mon, he’s not even three, you expect him to be able to aim?), during the baby’s first jaunt out into the snow in his father’s arms, right in our 9-month-old neighbour’s face.

Oops.

Meanwhile, at that point The Man is still not home (by the time I get the kid inside, he’s been trying to make it back for two hours) — but alas, I don’t have any pictures of the mess of stalled cars nor the not one but two sideways buses he passed after he decided to give up and walk home the 5 miles and 500 vertical feet from downtown. In the snow. I’m sure by the time he’s ninety, he’ll have been barefoot, too.

He does, eventually, after three hours (uphill! in the snow! in the dark!) make it home, and we celebrate with weird Mexican take out, mulled wine — and high-res Doctor Who, because my family decided to indulge my unfathomable obsession this Christmas:

I am a Doctor Who dork

I am a Doctor Who dork

So that was our snow day. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll follow in the example of Ms Snow Woman, who looks about ready for a lie down as well. See, she’s already taking off her face:

Think she got into the mulled wine?

Think she got into the mulled wine?

Of course, by tomorrow she’ll be, at best, a puddle of slush, the child will be a puddle of inconsolable tears demanding the snow come back, and I’ll be marching in to the Mayor’s Office waving my No-Snow-Guaranteed card at them. Or, since I’m pretty sure I made those up, demanding they issue one promptly.

Or maybe I’ll just go buy a sled. I’m thinking it might not be another 30 years until the next chance to use it.

Two whispered words

It’s a phrase inevitably whispered, two words to strike fear and hope and the embodiment of ambivalence: “I’m late.” It simply must be whispered, voice low but weighty, urgent, breathy, breathlessly.

But WordPress doesn’t do “whisper”, so: I’m late.

…to blog about my period. Two whole days. I know, you’re shocked and disappointed in me that I didn’t keep you up-to-the-minute on the status of my uterus. (…or that I’d yank your chain like that.) What can I say, it’s the holidays. (…and I’m slightly evil.)

Once again, I am definitely not pregnant. And I’m still very not ambivalent about that: we are still very much trying to avoid conception. But… it no longer feels like an impossibility. Having another child is still definitely not an inevitability, either, but I can picture it now, where once the idea left me wide-eyed and wondering where the nearest Planned Parenthood was.

This where I pause to say: Dear family and friends, I will consider the next person to ask me when we’re having another to be volunteering to pay for that child’s education from ages 2-22. We’re thinking private school, followed by small liberal arts college. Out of state. Any of you have anything you’d like to say now? …I thought not.

Right, back to the topic: at which point I decide that I’ve had too many cookies tonight (and we’re baking more tomorrow!), and direct you to Hobo Mama, wherein she discusses many of the various sides for and against having a second-and-would-be-last child, in a way I’m simply too sugar-dosed and sleepy (and crampy and blood-loss-y) to manage right now.

And PS: I apologize. I promise to never again fake a possible-pregnancy maybe-announcement ever. I swear on a stack of cloth pads. Cross my womb and hope to bleed for a month. Honest.

Solstice

I type in the light of a candle and a Douglas fir adorned with electric strings of incandescent filaments.

I’d realized earlier it was solstice, Yule, the rebirth of the diminished Sun, my religious holy-day, and I’d “done nothing”. My lifemate, my atheist, found me a candle and a match, and brought it to me to light. In a dark night, at the end of a dark conversation in which I poured on him the dregs of my soul — I am nothing, I will be nothing, I can do nothing, all the oft-repeated protestations of a sleep-deprived anxietic –, he brought me exactly what I needed to bring forth flame. A little fire, while my soul strains for conflagrations. But enough.

There is still dark. I sit in the dark. But there is light, too, and I am surrounded by those who are here to help me make more. Day by day, a little more light, a little more sanity, a little more love and peace and hope: not handed to me, but crafted by me with the support of many hands.

Happy Solstice. May you have a candle in all dark times, and someone to bring you one when you lack.

Christmas: a time for cookies, carols, cookies, and conflicting ideals

Today I have a new piece hosted over at Annie’s engaging blog PhD in Parenting: Christmas: a time for cookies, carols, cookies, and conflicting ideals, on how The (atheist) Man and (Wiccan) I attempt to deal with the pervasiveness of both secular and religious Christmas, in which I (over?)extend a cookie metaphor:

Cookies are the perfect metaphor for all I love about Christmas; artificial flavors and colors is the perfect metaphor for all I loathe about Christmas. American Christmas is a plate of home-cooked cookies from store-bought dough topped with frosting filled with Red Dye #3: what I love and what I loathe are inextricably linked.

I want to share all the joys of Christmas with the Boychick, and teach him to reject the dominant culture (to reject domineering as an acceptable cultural trait); I want to give him presents, and teach him not to be greedy; I want him to see through lies, and share with him the game of Santa. I want him to learn the blessing of giving, and the blessing of not-buying stuff.

It’s a bit of a dilemma.

In my ideal world (it’s Christmas, I can dream big, right?), my culture would bake up wholesome cookies, a giant sample box of real-food sugar cookies and rumballs and gingerbread people, with vegan and gluten free and kosher options, and a side of carrots and kale for those who don’t want cookies at all. But what I’m presented with are genuine Pillsbury cutouts, with frosting that will stain lips and raise blood sugars, without pesky things like flavor or nutrition.

Read the whole thing here, and then share your thoughts and plans and traditions (or lack thereof) during this holiday season.

A study in endurance and ableism

November 24

I am sitting in a chair, a sturdy folding table before me. My hands are clenched; my eyes are fixed on them but do not really see. I feel every systole and diastole of my heart, and it feels like it is trying to move five gallons of blood this hour, not just five liters. My foot is jittering, bouncing my leg rapidly but wildly out of time with my heart; the contrast of rhythms is chaotic, but feels appropriate. My shoulders strain to meet my ears, through which blood is rushing, the sound of an ocean overtaken by storm. My whole body is tense, twitching disjointedly, but united in the thrumming urge: “not here, not here, anywhere but here: leave, flee or smash, scream or bellow, go go go, do!”

I do not.

I endure.

I doodle.

I twitch.

I scrape my scalp, and fist my hair.

I wish for a wall.

When the words threaten to escape, burning, boiling up my throat like bile, I write them down, scratching my rage in paper with ink and metal, cutting through to mark the page below and the page below that as I underline “bullshit!” twice, thrice.

I am in a Pathology lecture at massage school, listening to my life described with words like “unbearable” and “debilitating”. Tonight the class is supposedly studying “Mental/Emotional Conditions”; I am studying endurance and ableism, the grain of the table, the depth of my cheek before I chew through to a vascular layer and taste the copper tang of blood.

The juxtaposition of an article whose subtitle calls depression “This Debilitating Condition” and whose first paragraph says “the stigma that this disorder once carried no longer stings” is almost unbearable. I am afraid to start laughing for fear I might not stop; I need to laugh, or else I’ll cry, I’ll rage, and I’ll prove them right.

This perhaps is the hardest part of this experience: if I give even an inkling of an idea how much I am bothered by it, how much it hurts me, how much it enrages me — if I give in to a single urge that tugs at my body, prompts me to go run flee fight — I will only confirm all the stereotypes being tossed around so casually, so painfully, about “those people”.

“Those people” are sitting right here. “Those people” are not abnormal specimens to be dissected and studied, not monstrosities to be tsked and pitied, not cases whose violence quotient needs to be queried. “Those people” are in this class, are working with you, are massage recipients and massage students and massage therapists and damn good ones at that.

According to this class, “one factor” in my depression is “passiveness”, which through a thousand previous exposures I readily decode as “you brought this on yourself; just think positive and be proactive and it will all go away”. According to this class, my generalized anxiety doesn’t affect my lifestyle, but my panic and agoraphobia do, and are likely to make me a shut in (when to the contrary, generalized anxiety has at times left me unable to function — in this ableist society –, and my panic attacks are for the most part transient and cope-with-able). According to this class, compulsive eaters eat to get fat to look like me to avoid love and intimacy, because who could ever desire someone who is fat like me?

There is more. There is so much more: name a stereotype on addiction or eating disorders or mood disorders, and it is in the notes before me, or in the mouths or minds of those around me. Or so it seems. So it feels.

I am not safe here. I am not safe. That is what my sympathetic nervous system is screaming at me. So many times before, I have outed myself as someone with bipolar, with depression, with anxiety and panic attacks. I have done it in this school: in private to my instructors, and in a different class before fifteen fellow students. Here, now? I am not safe. I am not safe enough to speak up, to speak out, to out myself or even risk such outing by countering the myths, deriding the misinformation — if I could even draw breath enough to do so.

This is what they think of those like me. We are not human. We are not persons. We are not whole. We do not laugh, we are not loveable, we lead lamentable lives, we are broken.

I am broken by their believed-compassion, their disdain so cloaked in concern they don’t know it for that themselves, wouldn’t believe me if proclaimed the truth of it, if I told of my pain from it. I am broken by the hate poured on me, and so I hide. I hide, and so the hate continues to pour.

These are the double binds of oppression. Say nothing, and allow kyriarchy to have its way; say something, and provoke the burn of white iron that brands one “crazy”, “bitch”, “angry” — mad, in all its meanings.

Later, I will say something. Later, I will gather my resources, tap my reserves, schedule a meeting and voice my complaints, calmly, clearly, collectedly. I will do this despite the pounding in my chest, to spite the terror that clenches my throat. I will do this because I can, because someone must, because the next student to be so assaulted might not be able to. I will be as calm as still deep waters, strong as a deep-rooted willow, proud as a cloud-touched mountain. I will bring better similes, and when I smile I will try to mean it. I will command respect, demand improvement.

Now, though: now is only to get through. Now the muscles pulling at my mouth form anything but a smile, though my lips pull up in mimicry of one. Now I focus on anything else; now I pull air into my lungs and feel my heart contract and listen to my blood bring nourishment to every cell. I am attacked, my being belittled, but I survive. I endure. Despite what they say, to spite what they say, I live.