Monday, February 17, 2014

Teenager

The biggest mistake I made, when embarking on this parenthood journey, was not thinking through the biggest consequence of having babies, which is that babies grow into teenagers. I was a FABULOUS birth to age 5 parent. No small children were as snuggled and adored as mine. I wasn't too bad in the 6-12 range either: At that age, my lame jokes were still funny, and I had the knack of knowing when a hug or a hair ruffle would be appreciated and when to play it cool. 

Thirteen however, is when it goes off the rails. Now, I had, rather cleverly I thought, birthed my two children five years apart, so I always had one in the "easy" birth to 12 range.

But, like all good things, on a sunny day in early May, preadolescence came to an end. My baby, instead of remaining a child, followed in her older brother's footsteps and became a teenager. 

At first, it wasn't too bad. She's into fashion and makeup, and I found I really enjoyed talking about makeup with her, comparing looks, commiserating over tightlining, and it was really fun to have someone in the house for whom purple and green eyeshadow  could be bought. (Our coloring could not be more different. I yearn for purple eyeshadow, but am stuck with browns and coppers.) She also began developing a more mature perspective on (some) things, and became an actual contributor to family conversations about society and politics and social justice and whether we should watch Firefly again, or Doctor Who.

Then little annoyances began to creep in. Like the way she refuses to look at, let alone try on, pants that are not skinny enough. Like the way she tries to convince me that she needs a fifty dollar hoodie which differs only from the seven dollar hoodie I offered to buy her in the addition of giant letters stitched across the chest, spelling "aeropostale." (Which, how is that pronounced? Every time I have to say it, I feel like she's judging me.) 

Still, despite the eyerolls when I say "Oh, there's a clearance rack over there, let's go look for some jeans!" I generally like her and would rather have her around then otherwise. 

But now? Now she has started a sinister new phase: Perfume.

She doesn't own any perfume, so the suppliers must be girls at school. She got into the truck at school pickup the other day smelling like a rose. A big rose. A GINORMOUS rose.

Eyes watering, I managed to suppress the cough trying to burst from my lips and speak past the tightness in my throat. "Hi sweetie! How was school is that perfume you're wearing?"

She affirmed that it was, saying that a "bunch of us" were swapping perfume and makeup during lunch. 

"It's nice," I croaked. "Maybe a little heavy?"

She looked at me, as though I had something bewilderingly stupid, like "Flared jeans are really cute."

"What's the point," she said, slowly, as though I afraid of confusing me, "of wearing perfume if no one can smell it?"

Touché. Point, Erica.

Husband asked me that evening if she was wearing a little perfume.

"No, she's wearing ALL the perfume. There is no one else, ever, who can wear perfume, because she has it all."

He was quiet for a moment. "Mom thing, " he decided. "This one is all yours."

I'm going to have to do something about this, and pretty much immediately, because this morning Husband asked me to sniff the air, and to my horror, I smelled patchouli.

I despise the smell of patchouli, though not as much as Husband does. "Get rid of it, today." He gritted to me, before leaving for work.

So now I'm wondering what to say to her. I mean, the patchouli issue is easy--the two people who pay the rent don't like it, it's not going to stick around. I'm thinking more about the fragrance issue in general. I love perfumes in theory, but only a few in practice. The Grace series by Philosophy and Gucci Guilty are the only ones that spring immediately to mind, and I like fun scents like the body sprays at Bath and Bodyworks. However, she is DRENCHING herself in these, and worse, she's choosing scents that don't actually get along with her body chemistry. I don't want to outright ban her experimentation, but rather to set limits on it, but it's hard to quantify "too much." The line between enough perfume and ohmygodwaytoomuch is fairly fine, and if I don't define it for her, she'll keep crossing that line, and if there are many more scents as bad as patchouli, her stepfather will eventually issue a decree banning perfume (for her, anyway. Just try to decree ME, buddy) and she will file this injustice in the same place she stores the fifty dollar hoodie incident.

And the fifty dollar hoodie incident is brought up every time we go shopping. EVERY TIME.

This was simpler with her brother. Except for the brown sugar incident and the fire, his teen years were easy.



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Mea Culpa, Skinny Hippies.

About 15 years ago, I bought a Yoga DVD.  Every day for about a week I would circle the thing, warily eyeing it, and thinking about popping it in. But knowing how inflexible and clumsy and generally uncoordinated I am, I was too afraid to try it. At the time, I was fairly broke, so the 20 bucks it cost represented a huge amount of money for me, so I was unable to throw it away. It moved around with me, getting packed and unpacked over the years, always relegated to the bottom shelf of my DVD case. 

Over the years, I heard about ways to make yoga safer and easier for beginners, so I purchased a yoga mat, a yoga brick, and a yoga strap. Still, I  never quite got around to trying it out, and the equipment lived in the darkest corner of whatever closet was least useful to me.

Then I met Husband, and became a bit of an exercise snob. Husband, a 6'4, 300 pound boxer, was into weightlifting in a big way. He followed a program called Heavy Duty, developed by a professional weightlifter named Mike Mentzer. (Check it out, it's actually a pretty cool program.) We both did Heavy Duty for a few months, until life interfered: A job change for both of us, and a move, ended up costing us our gym membership. The muscle gym we liked was just too far away, and we couldn't find another affordable one near us. Husband has free weights, and has kept up his training, mostly. I don't have the nerve to do reps to failure on free weights--I want the safety factor of a machine, so I eventually lost everything I'd gained from the program. Anyway, I told you all that, to tell you this: In my mind, strenuous exercise is hard cardio followed by Heavy Duty. Yoga? That's for skinny hippies.

So, flash forward to now, where I am very heavy and out of condition and trying to claw my way back to good health. I decided to give the yoga dvd a tryout. This particular dvd  features four people. One does straight-up yoga, one does slightly modified moves, one does slightly more modified moves, and one does VERY modified, beginners-look-here moves. Despite my assumption that yoga was an easy workout, I figured my lack of coordination and flexibility warranted a slow approach, so I did the fully modified workout.

You guys. I was so very wrong about yoga, and I apologize. Fifteen minutes in, my feet were cramping. I kept having to stop for a few seconds and wiggle my toes and flex my feel to soothe them. Twenty minutes in, and I was struggling to keep my breathing at the pace the dvd wanted. I needed MOAR AIR. At the thirty minute mark, I turned off the heater in the living room. By the end, 45 minutes later, I collapsed gratefully into the relaxation post (rolled blanket under my spine, head supported, just breathe) and seriously considered never getting up again. I was exhausted. I spent the rest of the afternoon, fighting the urge to take a nap, and finally forced myself to hit the treadmill for half an hour. That gave me enough of a boost to get through the rest of the evening, and by nine-thirty, I was ready for bed. My head hit the pillow, and that was that. I don't think I moved, let alone woke up, at any point until Husband's alarm went off.

Today, I am sore, but not in a bad way. In fact, I feel really, really good today. Still kind of tired, but good. I'm trying to decide what to do today. Part of me really wants to do the dvd again, but I'm afraid of overdoing it. I'm thinking I might just do a treadmill routine today, and do yoga tomorrow. Then again, a repeat of yesterday also sounds really appealing. I seriously cannot make up my mind here.

I also feel weirdly taller, but I think that's just from hearing the instructor talk about lengthening my muscles on every move.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Footsie

When I look back on 2013, it's gonna be remembered as the year my feet sucked nonstop.

First, there was the ingrown toenail of January, caused, I am certain, by my going on a running kick for three weeks. As evidence, I present the fact that by February, both my urge to jog and the ingrown were both gone, and neither has recurred.  Science, bitches!

Then came the long, drawn-out drama of the plantar wart.  One day in early March, I noticed a pain in the ball of my left foot. Upon examination, I found a tiny red dot. That's it. Very insignificant looking for the amount of irritation it was causing, but it was right on that part of the sole that one's weight rolls onto as one walks, and directly on the spot where all pressure from walking lands if one is wearing heels. When I brushed my finger over the dot, the feeling was very reminiscent of having a splinter. I thought this was odd, as I am not a go outside barefoot kind of person, but then I remembered that I had dropped a wineglass the previous weekend. I had cleaned up afterward, of course, but whose to say I got every tiny little splinter and sliver of glass? Since I couldn't actually see anything under the skin, my assumption that it was a tiny piece of glass was bolstered, and I assumed it would work its way out on its own.

I have rarely been more wrong.

A callous developed over the site, and the pain increased to the point where I was always limping. I couldn't wear any shoes other than Keds, and even with those I had to add extra insoles to cushion the callous. I consulted Dr. Google and discovered it was a plantar wart. I spent the next six months alternating between surprisingly painful cryosurgical treatments at my doctor's office (IT BUUUURNSSSS!!) and treating it with salicylic acid at home. But that wasn't the worst part. The worst was this: I couldn't get a pedicure all summer.  I couldn't stand the thought of anyone touching that foot, for one thing, and for another, I felt it would not be a good citizen-type move to risk exposing others to the virus that causes this type of wart. This is a big deal to me, because I don't like my feet unless they're dressed up, and I am terrible at doing my own nails. I hate having hot feet, and because of the combo of no pedicure plus limp-making pain in non-sneaker shoes, I spent my summer wearing close-toed shoes. I am a girl who loves her strappy sandals and peep-toe pumps.  Then, about two weeks ago, I was walking the dog and realized my foot didn't hurt. Over the last few days,  the callous has completely gone and I have no more pain.

In that foot, anyway.

Suddenly the plantar fasciitis that I've had off and on over the years in my right foot flared up again. Now I can only wear shoes that my orthotics will fit into. I've also had to step down my cardio routine a little bit, which is annoying, because now I feel caught in a trap: I need to lose weight to stop the fasciitis, but I can't exercise as much because it causes the pain to flare up. Very frustrating.

I told you all that to tell you this: I got a pedicure yesterday, and I was so happy! I cranked the massage chair up to eleven, settled in with a People magazine and blissed out.

Until it was time for color, and no one, including me, in the entire salon could get the top of my color unscrewed. And it was the last bottle of that color in the shop.

Well played, feet.

I went with an inferior color and could only laugh in agreement when Erica said "Man, these first world problems are so hard!"

That's alright, though. Inferior color or no, my feet are looking pretty damn cute right now.  

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Cicada Parenting

I'm pretty sure I saw this somewhere else online, years ago. It has more of the ring of memory about it than of original thought, but anyway: Cicadas have the right idea. They bury their young in a hole until they turn 17.  

Erica is thirteen. For the most part, she is a pleasant, fun child to be around. She's a huge foodie, she loves anime and weird Korean robot singers called vocaloids. She likes Doctor Who, and has been known to sneak up behind me and trill "Are you my mummy?" in a faux British accent, making me shriek and flee the room. Doctor Who fans know why. (OMG. Those gas masks! Eeeugh!) 

However. 

She is a firm believer in the idea that once she's gotten an inch, she really does deserve a mile. And if I don't agree with her, it's because I'm stupid and unfair, not because she's wrong. Take Halloween this year as an example. Erica wanted to go trick or treating with a few of her girlfriends. That's fine, I said, but you have to do it in our neighborhood. Our neighborhood isn't great, but it beats the one these particular girls live in. I wouldn't walk around that block after dark, let alone turn a bunch of thirteen-year-olds loose there. I told her that the girls could come by after five, because I didn't want to deal with a bunch of kids at dinner time, not knowing who likes what and who's allergic to this or that. I would be happy to take everyone home, they just needed a ride to our place. After a few days, it was apparent that none of the other parents were interested in driving kids to my house, so I amended the plan to allowing the girls to walk home with Erica, and be here all afternoon. I told Erica to inform the girls and their parents that we would leave our house to take people home at 8:30, since it was a school night. Erica was furious. "That means we have to be home by 8:15! That's not fair! We only have one more day of school after Halloween, it doesn't matter if we're tired! I want to stay out til nine!" 

We went back and forth on this for a couple of rounds, with me pointing out that it's not just about it being a school night, although that's the biggest part of it. It's also about the fact that everyone will be amped up, both on sugar and the high of hanging out with friends, and costumes, and being out alone after dark, and will need some quiet time at home to come down. It's about the fact that I am tired, and I will  be the one cooking and providing entertainment for people until it's time for trick or treating. It's about the fact that I get up early on school days, too, and if I drive everyone home at 8:30 it will be 9:30 before we're home, and I like to go to bed around 10 on weeknights. I pointed out that my entire afternoon, evening, and night are being given over to her, and she should be grateful this is happening at all. She said, "I don't see why that matters. I never get to do anything, it won't kill you to be tired on a Friday, either!" 

Seriously? That pissed me right off. By now, we were parked in front of her school. (Oh yeah, this conversation occurred during school dropoff, because nothing beats arguing in the morning.) I put the truck in park, took off my seatbelt and turned to face her. I could see by her face that she knew she'd stepped in it. In a deadly calm voice I said, "Well, that's it, then. I'm done with this whole thing. Your friends can find somewhere else to trick or treat, and you can plan on staying in on Halloween. Go to school." She stormed out of the car, and I went home and suffered guilt for several hours. 

You see, she doesn't do a lot of socializing. She has these three good friends, and one of them has very strict Tiger-mom parents. Tiger Kid never gets permission to come out, so the fact that her parents had unbent enough to allow her to walk home with another kid, go trick or treating, and come home after 8 on a school night was a big deal. The other two kids are siblings, and spend every other weekend with their non-custodial parent, like Erica does,  and usually their weekend away doesn't match up with Erica's so it's tough to schedule fun stuff with them. We finally had a night where it all works out, and I quash it because a teenager got a little attitude-y. Plus, I know she's acting up because she's nervous and excited about this night, plus PLUS she is very rarely a difficult teen--I really should be a little more patient. And at the bottom of it all was this: I am tired, and I didn't really want to do this. In some ways, I'd almost been hoping she'd step out of line so I had an excuse to cancel. I felt a bit small.

So I backed off my righteous anger and allowed the event to go on. It wasn't fun, because there were four thirteen-year-olds in my house at once, but it went well. I made a dinner which all the girls ate eagerly (in fact, they didn't leave any leftovers) they giggled and watched movies and adjusted their costumes until it was time to leave, and they returned home precisely on time. They were all polite and thanked me for driving them, and they laughed whenever I told lame parent jokes. 

The whole thing left me a bit nervous, though. I'm not very patient when it comes to being argued with, and teens LOVE to argue. This was just a tiny little skirmish. How will I manage full-on battles with Erica? Right now, at 10:23 on a Saturday, I can feel my  blood beginning to simmer, because I asked Erica to get out of bed 45 minutes ago, because I want the dishes done and the floor swept early today, in case the power goes off (it's stormy here)and we have to spend the day huddled around the only fireplace in the house with a stack of board games. I know she's out of bed; however, her bedroom door is still closed, and the dishes are still on the counter. If I call her out here right now, she's going to drag herself out, and when I tell her again to do the dishes, she's going to spend ten  minutes pouring cereal and making tea, and then twenty minutes to eat, and ARGH!!! My head will explode, and so will my voice. And this is just a dispute about doing chores in a timely manner and getting up before noon on the weekends. What am I gonna do when it's about a baggie of weed found in a pocket, or sneaking out to see a boy? 

I'm doomed.

Friday, November 1, 2013

NaBloPoMaybe?

Back when I first started this blog, one of the things I looked forward to was NaBloPoMo. After all, it was my favorite time of year as a blog reader, so obviously I would love it as a blog author, right? 

Hahahaha. Oh, my sweet summer blogger self! Fast forward a few months to my paltry store of published posts, and it's obvious that I can barely post once a month, let alone once per day. Still, I'd like to give it a try. I can't swear that you're gonna get thirty high-quality posts--hell, I can't swear you're gonna get thirty posts, of whatever quality. But, one must try.

The nice thing about being such a slacker is that the first post back almost writes itself. I spend a bit of time updating previous posts and handing out excuses for why I haven't written. Easy! So without further ado...:

Nothing But a Family Thing, Part Two: Aunt Violet has made a complete recovery. Like, she's so recovered that I find myself wondering if my cousins exaggerated the seriousness of her condition. I'm not the believe in miracles type, so that's really the only explanation I can come up with as to how one goes from comatose for nearly a week with an almost non-existent EEG to a few weeks of physical therapy to back on Facebook pestering me with game invites and posting Inspirational Jesus quotes on my wall. It's weird. I should call her myself. After all, her suicide attempt/accidental overdose (depends on which version of events you believe) caused a slight Tragic Blue Screen of Death to happen in my brain, as I flashed back to awful things best forgotten and her kindness during the awful things. Unfortunately, I've had to build a wall around myself, in order to shut out the people responsible--and since she stays in close, happy contact with those people, I have to keep her at arm's length as well. I've worked too hard to be the just barely functioning human I am today. I can't let the wall wobble. It's not safe. Besides, how awkward would that conversation be?  "Hullo, there, Auntie. So, was it suicide or what? Also, were your kids full of shit when they told me that they might have to unplug you and leave it up to Jesus? 'Cause you seem pretty damn healthy for someone they were about to send into the light?" Yeah, no. Can't do it.

Depression, Yet Another Update Upon: Eh. Still feel exhausted every single day. Still have to force myself to hit the treadmill. Still manage to be very healthy til about 6 p.m. when I realize I am STARVING and proceed to eat all the food.  I'm doing a lot better though, since leaving the Temp Job From Hell, where I was simultaneously stressed out and bored to death, resulting in some EPIC emotional eating.  I managed to cold turkey the need to eat chocolate from 2:30 p.m. to 4:56 p.m. every single weekday, and am now weaning myself off my pre-bedtime bowl of cereal.  As to exercise, I've discovered a new way to motivate myself on the treadmill: NETFLIX.  I suddenly remembered that I have Netflix on my Kindle Fire. Twice a week, I cue up a 45-50 minute show on the Kindle, and walk briskly up and down simulated hills for the entirety of the program. I'm at nearly 3 miles in that time, which for legs as short as mine, especially considering how heavy I am right now (see EPIC emotional eating, above) is actually a pretty good pace. In the next few days I plan to add in basic body weight stuff like squats, pushups, planks, etc. into the routine.  I alternate the 50 minute workouts with 20-30 minute workouts two or three times a week, courtesy of Songza. Which program I cannot say enough nice things about, so thanks again MariaMelee for introducing me to it. 

Speaking of the Kindle Fire, the first show I picked for workout viewing was Orange is the New Black, about which I have many, many things to say, but for now will just mention this: I watched it through once and loved it. LOVED. I got pretty tired of Piper pretty quickly, but with such a big, awesome ensemble (Crazy Eyes! Poussey! Captain Jane-Er, I mean, RED!!! Love!) it's pretty easy to ignore Piper. Then I read the book. And I really, really liked the real-life Piper. She's nothing like the character Piper. Now, on re-watch, I find the show less wonderful. After seeing the depth and dignity of the real-life people, the show characters seem shallow and cheap. And show Piper is INSUFFERABLE. I swear to god, she mentions Barney's one more time... Anyway. It's still a good show, don't get me wrong. But it was a very striking example to me of the way TV (or Streaming Media, in this case) will alter things for the sake of drama, and it made me feel a little small to realize how eagerly I had consumed that drama, much--most--of it untrue. Still, I highly recommend reading the book. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Nothing but a Family Thing

I gave the bare bones on Twitter, but I need to get this out.

I had a horrible childhood. My mother was distant, my father absent, my uncles and older cousins were predators.

My dad's younger sister was a sweet, loving woman, born to the wrong family. She deserved better. All of the sweetness and tenderness I remember from my childhood came from her.

We drifted apart in the last few years--there's a lot of miles between us, she became foster mother to two of my second cousins when their mother died, and as an adult, the pain my dad's family caused me pushed me to become very aloof toward my relatives.

We talked on Facebook sometimes. Not often. She'd had some health problems. Something wrong with her lungs...it wasn't emphysema (not yet, anyway) but she'd been a two pack a day smoker for years. Now she carries an oxygen tank, and can't really draw a full breath. She had some knee and hip problems, she has fibromyalgia.

On Monday night, her daughter called to chat around nine. They talked for a few minutes, Aunt said she was tired. Her son called just after ten, and got no answer. He assumed she'd gone to bed. He went over to her house around 8 on Tuesday morning, and found her barely breathing, unconscious,  face down on the floor of her room. An empty six pack of beer was beside her, as was a prescription bottle. It was her muscle relaxers, and they believe she took about 90 pills.

She meant to die.

She has not regained consciousness. She will have an MRI either later tonight or tomorrow morning. We will find out then if she gets her wish. If there is no brain activity, the family will withdraw life support.

This hurts. I wish she'd called me. I wish I'd called her. I wish she didn't hurt so much that she thought this would help.

Please send good thoughts. Her name is Violet.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Summing Up

Depression: Obviously, still there.  I mean, if you don't really do anything about depression, it will settle in and get comfy, and I haven't really done much to address it. I am forcing myself to be active, to go outside a bit more, and to get at least one thing (laundry, change bed sheets, wipe down sink, etc.) done every day, and that has been surprisingly effective. The sense of satisfaction derived from doing something, anything, versus wallowing has been helpful. Now, if I can get my eating behaviors under better control, I may be able to fix one of the main contributors to my sense of worthlessness: my weight. Baby steps, right?

Rats: Mostly eradicated. The rat guy came out, rolled his eyes at my landlord's griping, and did a rock-solid job of closing off all the openings that the rodents were exploiting. He also set several traps in the attic. After ten days, he came back, double-checked that no one had gnawed through his work, and cleared several dead rats from the attic. He warned me that since we hadn't signed up for the maintenance plan (landlord unwilling) we would need to be conscientious about walking around the house every few days to make sure that there were no new incursions. He also added, almost as an afterthought, that we may occasionally hear sounds from the rats trying to get back in. Sure enough, last night, we hear the weirdest noise. I can't even describe it. Almost a grinding. It was in the same place where the original rat hole was, so we realized it was a rat trying to chew through the metal grates that now adorn our soffitts. Since we are survivalist nutjobs, we happen to have some very powerful pepper spray on hand, so we crept out to the backyard and doused the area the rat had been chewing with the spray, then scurried back into the house. Back in bed, we smugly congratulated ourselves on outsmarting Mr. Rattus rattus, and settled down to sleep. I can now attest to the fact that rats are not deterred by pepper spray. I shall have to do some more research to figure out something that will repel them.

Job: Still don't have one, but I've updated my resume pretty much all over the internet, and I continue to apply to several jobs a day. I've dropped my minimum salary requirement a little bit, and am hoping that will help. Ideally, I would find a way to be paid to troll Facebook, write tweets, and play Candy Crush, but that job does not seem to be hiring.

Food: We signed up for a CSA share, and I've been enjoying the challenge of using all the veggies every week. So far, I haven't been super creative; a lot of veggies end up in a broiler pan underneath a bunch of chicken thighs, or sauteed in some olive oil and served over pasta, but hey...gotta start somewhere. We keep getting these tiny, tiny beets with greens attached, and let me tell you, you roast those under some chicken for 45 minutes at 475, and they are UH-mazing.

I also tried a recipe I had never heard of, but which is apparently quite common: Beans and Greens.  I found this while searching for uses for Escarole, which I had never cooked with before. This recipe allows a lot of customization, so I'll share my version:

1 lb Bacon
1 head Escarole
2 cups of fresh Spinach you still have from last week's CSA, and really need to use up
2 cans White Beans with liquid
ALL the garlic
3-4 bulbs spring onions, finely chopped (also in my CSA share this week, you could probably sub shallots or white onions)
Dash or two (or more if you like) Dried Red Pepper Flakes
Splash of Half and Half (totally optional)

Chop bacon into bite size pieces. Fry over medium heat in large skillet til crispy. Set bacon aside on paper towels. Move one or two tablespoons of bacon fat to another skillet, and set over medium heat. Remove bacon fat from original skillet, leaving one to two tablespoons. Add beans to bacon fat in original skillet, along with garlic, onions, and pepper flakes. Stir to combine, and allow to come to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to simmer. While this is happening, chop escarole and spinach into bite size pieces, and add to second skillet. Toss leaves to coat, and allow to wilt for seven to ten minutes, tossing frequently. When escarole is done, add it to bean mixture, along with reserved bacon pieces.  Season to taste with salt and black pepper, and add a splash of half and half, if desired. Allow to simmer another five minutes for flavors to combine. This is a good time to slice up a loaf of crusty bread. Serve beans and greens with bread. You can probably skip the spoons, the bread is fabulous for scooping. Inform husband that he will have to find his own food, as you do not wish to share this.