Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I can tell that I need to take the rest of the week to re-charge. My life is usually pretty social and filled with people. It's hard not to be when you live with four other people. But I think I need to take advantage of the kids being with their father and some friends being out of town and just kind of retreat and take some time to replenish. I woke up today feeling a little spent, like I've been giving out too many bits of myself without  making sure I have reserves. I can tell that I need some time alone because I keep thinking about getting back in bed. I don't need a nap. I need time to myself. So, I think I'm going to shut off my chat programs and retreat a little bit.

This doesn't happen to me every day (on Facebook)

It's not uncommon for me to wake up to a new friend request. Particularly from someone I don't know, but has friends in common with me. Hazard of small town life.

This morning, the friend we had in common is a fake identify (the doll of a friend's daughter-- don't ask), so I wondered if this might be too.

Within a half hour, I had this in my Inbox:


Between You and Names have been stripped to protect the innocent
December 30 at 12:25pm
Thanx for accepting my frindship request,are u married,do u live alone,where are u from.whats the age...
Dude. I didn't think my profile picture was that good. 
Edited to add: Haha, I blogged this too soon. 

Got this in reply: "Oh thats nice thank god for u.well dont u have anybody so beautiful like u for me?doesnt matter age..."

Hmmm... maybe I should just go for it?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Out of the Body Travel

And once
when I rose from her body
it was like
water I looked into
water I had held.

-- Stanley Plumly

Monday, December 28, 2009


Bangkok, my friend writes, is evil
and she is going to
save it
from Buddha and Nirvana.

Sundays, I like to read
and drink coffee
when I should be in church.

I fell my friend that I am
chaste and devout
as lilacs
because she asks, because she wants me
to be because she is
in Bangkok.

Yesterday, I forgot my coat.
Bangkok, she writes, is hot.
It clings to her,
mosquito net,

tangled in the dark.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

On relationships

I have been thinking a lot lately about relationships, desire, stimulation, connections, boredom, interests, and how all of these things come together.

I have long believed that you can know something intellectually long before you know it emotionally. And sometimes, at least in my case, until you know it emotionally, it doesn’t really resonate or click. Intellectual knowledge is pretty limited: A judge who doesn’t have children can’t possibly understand the terror involved in a custody battle, the fear of not being able to wake in the same house as your children every morning. And so it is with things that I learn emotionally either through thinking about them for a long time or having new experiences that teach me.

There are probably a number of these things, thought and experience, at play in the conversation I have had with myself.

All of your life, you hear that you can’t really rely on anyone but yourself, that you can’t really know another person. That mostly what we know of other people is the combination of their behaviors (including writing and verbal conversation) and actions. We infuse these things with our own projections and come up with an understanding, or construct, in our own minds of who this person is, and what our relationship with them is like. It’s sort of like trying to figure out where in the jigsaw of your life this person fits. Do they fit neatly into the puzzle right next to your piece? Or are they several pieces away, but you can see them?

The problem with this analogy of course is that the pieces are always changing. And sometimes pieces that once fit together well don’t work anymore. In this way, the puzzle also changes. So, it’s also fitting and appropriate to say that not only can we not every really know another person, we also cannot every truly know or understand ourselves. I do/think/write/say things that surprise (and sometimes shock) myself all the time. So, if I am capable of surprising myself after 40 years, then how am I supposed to know someone else?

I suppose, though, that I do spend a lot of time trying to know and understand myself, my place in the puzzle, my shape, how I can fit. I recognize that my life is a part of a puzzle, though, and that I am neither puzzle nor a lone piece that exists as a tiny island or puzzle. That means I have interactions and relationships with others.

Bear with me. I have to state the obvious to build up to my learning experience here. If I don’t take you on my journey as much as possible, then if you have already had this learning experience, you will say, “Duh,” and if you have not, then you will find me [even more] difficult to relate to. [It always fascinates me when people cannot relate to me, by the way, because I genuinely like people in general and I go out of my way to be pleasant and polite. I realize that I am odd, but does that also equal unlikeable? In some cases, apparently it does, but I don't have much energy to try to figure it out or change it].

Over the years, I have had some fantastic and amazing friendships and some fantastic and amazing conversations. Some of those conversations have occurred in letters that I still have—letters that I have never even had to re-read because the conversations are part of me now. They are so intrinsically tied to who I am that I re-live them every day, in small and important ways. However, I think that I get so excited about these conversations that I start to think that the excitement comes from the other person, getting to know another person, having that interaction, both of us spending time reading and writing, and I start to crave it.

What I have come to realize lately, though, is this:
1)The common denominator in all of these conversations is me.
    2)   What I am probably responding to at a very visceral level is the stimulation of thinking and the reading and writing that I am doing. My own engagement with something.

I have written/talked about elsewhere this Fall (here too? I don’t remember and I’m too lazy to go look right now—if I start re-reading my own damn blog right now I’ll lose this thread of thought) about the fact that I tend to think of about 5-10 things over and over and over again. I mentioned this to my friend Jamie, and he laughed and said, “I think mine is about three.”

Some writing instructors will tell you that there are only so many themes or ideas. Everything is just variation on these things. Fine. [Haha, originally I typed "Find." I thought that was a great accident] There may only be so many things that we can think about before we start repeating ourselves. It’s clearly an iterative process. I don’t mind returning to the same subjects again and again. It’s usually better to do it with other people, new people, who can bring in fresh ideas and perspectives, but I am also changing enough to be able to do it with myself.

So, back to those 5-10 things over and over. When I read a new book or learn something new or meet a new person or write a new poem or see a new movie, I get excited because I’m not thinking about one of those 5-10 things. I am excited because I’ve stepped out of that dangerous merry-go-round that binds us to it with the centrifugal force of inertia, boredom. I hate being bored. I hate it. I try not to be bored. However, at times, it is not possible not to be bored with oneself.

There have been times this year when I have been bored with myself and therefore had contempt for myself. Or when I have mistaken the need simply to be in the world without acting in it as laziness, and also had contempt for myself. So, when I am engaged in conversation with others, and I am happy, what I have realized this week is that it actually has very little to do with the person I am conversing with (sorry!!!). The excitement and stimulation come not only from the relief at having something new to think about, but also from the way I view myself. When I am writing and reading and my mind is engaged, I’m really happy.

But in the same way that familiarity can breed contempt in our relationships with others, it can also breed contempt within us. It’s no secret that I love the movie Before Sunrise (it accompanies the wonderful Before Sunset). Ethan Hawke’s character Jesse says to the young and beautiful Julie Delpy (Celine) something to the effect that whether he is alone or with other people he is so sick of himself, but there isn’t really anything he can do about that. And he has heard all of his stories and laughed at all of his jokes. So, if he is sick of himself, how can he expect someone else not to get sick of him too? That’s probably why it’s better to have a little mystery in relationships—because otherwise we get bored. I think this can be mitigated if people in both friendships, families, and romantic relationships continue to grow and learn and change—even if the ways in which they grow are vastly different from one another. Perhaps it’s less how much we alike people we are but how much we just like them. However, and this is critical to what I learned this week: I think that what ultimately happens is that we find ourselves, sometimes in relation and proximity to other people, liking OURSELVES a lot more. Liking who we are when we interact with these people.

When I was younger and I would fall in love with a new boy every day, I would pine for the boy. If he was absent from class or stayed home from school, or there was a winter break, I was miserable, obsessed with thinking about this dumb, boring boy who wasn’t thinking about me and who was probably whacking off in his parents’ basement and playing Nintendo. I thought somehow that it was the boy himself whom I liked and wanted interaction with (even though that interaction was usually limited simply to crushing on him, and seriously, a picture lasts longer). I now realize that how I feel has very little to do with the company I am in unless I notice discernibly that I am capable of being someone I really like (or in some cases, someone I really dislike) in concert with knowing another person.
So back to reading and writing and stimulation: It occurs to me that the only person who can satisfy every need and want I have from conversation, friendship, sex, love is me. I am the only person who knows that all of the needs and wants are, what the most salient points are in the conversation for me, and I am certainly the only person who has the time or interest to contemplate and then attempt to meet those needs. So, when I am excited or interested or stimulated in something, it is important for me to realize that I am capable of duplicating or re-living that excitement, interest, and stimulation all by myself, and for myself. I told my friend Erica a few weeks ago that I am not really an emotionally dependent person, and this is what I really mean by that. If someone doesn’t write me a letter, call me, hang out with me, send me a text, answer an email fast enough or deeply enough for me, then I can find the satisfaction I am craving from either engaging in the act of writing myself (behold), or I can in some other way that releases other people from any responsibility for my own happiness.

What is interesting is that I think for a long time, I have experienced a cognitive dissonance between what actually makes me happy and what I think should make me happy—because I have been sold some bill of goods by someone somewhere that I have accepted as gospel truth. I was talking to my friend Ilona earlier this week (yesterday?) and told her that I was feeling guilty about something, and then I further said about it that I felt guilty in the context that I didn’t think other people (un-named, faceless, judgmental people! Whom I wouldn’t invite for dinner or sit next to at Mass!) would approve. Even if they would never find out, I still felt guilty.

Ilona was shocked. She said, “Your guilt is external and not internal?”

Pretty much. Unless I hurt another person, which devastates me. But if what I am doing doesn’t hurt someone else, I’m pretty much okay with it. I have, however, let my fear of these judgmental others dictate not only my actions and behaviors but also my very thoughts. That really scares me. But somehow it seems to take a lot of energy every day to let my thoughts be the loudest, my needs be the greatest, and to have the integrity to be who I am (and to learn and accept that that shifts and changes and will continue to shift and change. If there is a core to my personality, it is as hot, moltenous, and shape-changing as middle earth).

But I will conclude by saying that it’s so nice to be writing again. I like who I am better when I am writing. And I also realize that it’s more effective for me to have a blog, to have an audience of some kind so I can set these words forth. And even though even with a blog, you’ll never have enough viewers or commenters, people will never respond to you in quite the ways you anticipate—but sometimes it’s even better. And because I can’t anticipate or manufacture someone else’s response (not even with a grant), I just have to try to like who I am. And if I don’t, if I am unhappy or think that someone else is not meeting my needs by talking to me enough or thinking about me enough (my god, how presumptuous is that?), or liking me enough (how would you ever know? How do you quantify that, and how on earth can you prove it? ) that it’s actually a result of dissatisfaction with myself. I am being lazy, I want someone else to provide entertainment for me, I am sick of myself, etc. And there are a multitude of ways of changing that. So, I need to go find one and do it.

It is at once liberating and paralyzing to understand that in a world full of people, you are truly alone, and that you are pretty much all you have. But the sooner you realize it (or remind yourself of it or re-learn it, and when I say “you,” I am, of course, talking about me) the sooner you can start giving yourself those things you need. And it can be like falling in love. (And I’m not talking about narcissism—I’m talking about self-love and self-efficacy).

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have relationships with other people—those exchanges and interactions can be absolutely the best things we experience. But I think we should temper these relationships and our expectations of what other people can provide for us—and make sure that we don’t blame others for what we are failing to provide for ourselves.

So. Two things I am working on right now:

1)   Making sure that what I am doing doesn’t hurt other people. Wow, that’s actually really hard. I think the best we can do is try not intentionally to hurt them.
2)   Being interesting to myself/ not blaming others for failing to give me what I can give to myself.

Happy Boxing Day!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Facebook just recommended that I friend someone. The name seemed familiar, but I was a little startled when I saw our mutual friends and realized that it is my brother's birthmother.

I just hit the X. Not really ready to do that.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"Dude, did you lose a ton of weight?"-- Missy

[re-post from Facebook because I know some of you (okay, just one, Liza) are not on Facebook and missed this.

I posted before and after pictures of myself from the past 7 months to illustrate just that: Yes, Missy, my size has changed. I'm hedging about how much weight I've lost because I don't know. I am afraid to step on the scale because that is always depressing-- but I do know that Between August 17 and August 29th, I lost ten pounds. I was at my parents' house and weighing myself during that brief period. Because I have continued to lose inches this Fall, I can safely assume it's more than ten pounds.

It's funny-- people always want to know why and how someone loses weight, but we don't ask (and why would we?) why and how people GAIN weight. Because we know why, right? We gain weight by eating too much, right? And we lose it by restricting our food intake and exercising, right?

That's what I thought for the past 7 years. But I couldn't figure out for the life of me why, when I was up to running 8 miles at a time two or three years ago, I couldn't lose any weight or change my size. It was horribly defeating: I began to view myself as a person who couldn't take care of myself. Every attempt I made to eat healthily and exercise resulted in... nothing. No changes. I still felt sluggish and tired all the time. Ask my blog readers ( about my posts from the last two years at LEAST. The recurring theme is that I was *tired*. So tired.

I have spent the past seven years telling my doctor how frustrated I am that I can't feel better, can't make myself healthier. I spent two years complaining about the fatigue. It was only after Christian was diagnosed with diabetes and I insisted that something be done that he actually paid me any mind. He prescribed Wellbutrin, guessing that my anti-depressant (CELEXA-- REMEMBER THAT WORD) had "pooped out."

With the Wellbutrin, I did notice a change in energy. But when I complained (AGAIN) about my weight, my doctor shrugged it off: We worry more about active lifestyle (by that time I had stopped running. It was difficult to run, it was slow, sluggish, and it didn't do any damn good. So, why bother?). He told me that people my age who are thinner than I was are hungry all the time. Even the most disciplined person usually can't sustain a weight loss. Well, that's encouraging.

But it doesn't explain the smaller 40-year-old women around me.

Finally, when I was visiting with my ob-gyn nurse practitioner (hurray for nurse practitioners!) in August (between trips to Utah to help my father after his heart surgery), she asked me what kind of anti-depressant I was on. I said CELEXA. She said, "Oh. NO NO NO NO NO."

I had suspected for YEARS that maybe the Celexa was contributing to my inability to change my size. However, I was afraid to change my medication (and my dr would just say, "Is it working?" How do you know? Because you're not suicidal? Even though the rest of your life is in the toilet?) so I stayed on it (because weaning myself off the anti-depressant inevitably failed-- I became instantly anxious and depressed and un-focused by the time I was done with the weaning.)

So, my wonderful nurse practitioner prescribed PROZAC to go with the Wellbutrin. I began taking it that night, and flew back to Utah the next day. I was depressed about leaving my family, but I was oddly elated and in a good mood in the Las Vegas airport. Interesting.

I weighed myself two days after I had started the Prozac and was elated to note that I had lost 2 pounds. ELATED. Because it was the first time my weight had budged (apart from brief thyroid troubles the summer before).

So, the picture in my album that is dated August 2009 reflects about ten days of the Prozac. When I came home, my family and friends noticed an immediate difference.

I have been posting this Fall about my running. The running has nothing to do with my weight loss, any more than overeating had to do with my weight gain. I am running again because it doesn't suck to run anymore. I have gotten faster and it feels good.

I *am* eating more healthily-- in that I have tried to eliminate processed foods from what I eat. But I don't run daily, or even, in the past month, more than once or twice a week. And I have continued to hear, "You look like you've lost more weight just in the past WEEK."

That's great. That's nice. I feel really good, and I am writing poetry again and productive and making strides on organizing my house and my life in ways that I haven't had the energy for for literally YEARS.

But I feel like I sort of lost 7 years, you know? My joy is tempered with the sadness of that fatigue, those feelings of helplessness and worthlessness I experienced-- my perception that I was slothful because I was unable to make changes no matter how much I tried.

Our society needs to re-examine the idea that there is an equivalent equation between calories in and calories out. It needs to re-examine the idea that weight gain is normal in women because they have reached a certain "age." I'm not saying that what happened to me is happening to everyone else, but I am willing to bet that this will resonate with some of you.


Oh don't worry-- it's mostly joy and relief at feeling like myself again! It's funny how fast you can remember what that feels like. I didn't have time to finish my note earlier, so I wanted to take the chance to finish, because it's relevant to that paragraph about the sadness.

My dilemma now is what to do about my doctor. This is not the first... well, let's just say that it is not only NOT the first time that I have seriously wondered whether I should find a new one. I just hate to yank my family out of his practice because he has known us for so long. However, he convinced me to cancel an appointment 90 miles away with an Endocrinologist, insisting he could provide my thyroid care.

When he suggested that we also ditch our Diabetes team in Columbia so he could monitor Christian exclusively, I was struck with the inappropriateness of his suggestion. He has only had 2 patients with diabetes. Ever. So, even as I am writing this I am wondering, actually, how I could consider NOT finding a new physician. Just for the simple reason that I think he did not and DOES not take me seriously. I think if he had really listened to what I was telling him, or if I had insisted earlier or changed physicians earlier, perhaps...

Of course, you're right. But I just want to round this up by saying that I am not dwelling on this (or inclined to)-- I just think that I should ACT on that reality of 7 years and a) stay proactive about my own health care and b) find a new doctor.

I have thought about writing about this as an essay for a medical journal (that is kind of what I do for a living, so I even know where I would send it). However, I don't think I can claim this is a comment on anything except my own situation. Anecdote is not the singular for data. Even though my NP based her prescription on clinical trials that suggest that Wellbutrin and Prozac can work together to assist weight loss, that doesn't mean it will work for everyone. (Again-- see Melissa's study and Arwen's comment below).

I feel *less* that I have lost weight and more that without the Celexa, the obstacles to my happiness and sense of self have been removed. Ha, that's pretty ironic, isn't it?

Anecdotally speaking, maybe the push I can make here is for us all to realize that our health is ultimately our own responsibility. And I'm glad I kept complaining about it-- because if I had just given up and accepted what my body was refusing to do, I'd probably be as tired and inert as I was before. Don't give up on yourself, and don't doubt yourself. I feel that I spent about ten years of my adulthood learning how to doubt my intuition and instincts, so I am actively trying to hone my awareness of my instincts, and not to back down when I know that something is not quite right. 


Tonight I sit on my couch and watch for you
and I can see the light of the moon on the street.
I picture you in your car,

Sitting in darkness with music,
the night all around you,
headlights and moon on the road.

What is the strength of a vision? Maybe
you are not in your car, coming
back to me, Missouri from Kentucky.

Neils Bohr saw electrons in the laboratory
and said our cosmos depends on observation:
If you have a vision, you will see it.

Even Ezekiel saw the destruction of the Temple
years before it began. He started
mourning so when Judah really fell

he was ready to live again.
So I sit here on the couch, eyes closed, and
I am with you, unseen, in your car, and will it so.

We are pushed and pulled each day by
contradictory forces, standing up against gravity
and drawn always toward the center of the earth

its moltenous, destructional core.
Is that why we seek the cold
loveliness of the moon? Her constant presence,

changing, shape.
Tonight I feel buoyed up
thinking not of destruction

but of the temple as a body.
Remember the Phoenix, how it rose up
spread its wings in the ashes and flew?

So it is with Ezekiel, and me on the couch,
while you, mile by mile from Kentucky,
drive though the silver dark

the moon at your side as she guides you
with her green levitational pull.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fa la la la la

Yesterday, I am not sure I moved from one spot for... hmmm... it was a long time. I probably got up to go to the bathroom. I half a bagel before I went outside, and took coffee with me, which cooled every time I tried to get a new cuppa going, before I could drink it. At some point, my friend John brought me a mocha. About ten minutes after he left, Jeremy showed up with some Red Bull (which he consumed eventually, 9 hours later, when I had left it untouched).

I admit that I was chainsmoking. In fact, I would periodically reach for my cigarette, discover that none were lit, and light another one. And so it went.

Actually submitting a federal grant is something else. Weeks ahead of time, you have to register with the granting agency. Then, you have to get all kinds of confidential numbers and passwords from your university saying that you are, in fact, allowed to submit grants on their behalf. Fortunately, I did all that weeks ago. In fact, I scared a few people in the business office by emailing them and asking them for our Tax ID information, LOL. I could almost hear the collective whiplash as they tried to figure out who I was and how I dared ask for it, all the down the street at my house. I don't have a lot of time to try to figure out the appropriate protocol, and they called all the right people, so it all got figured out.

So, last night, I fill out all of the treacherous application forms, attached the right attachments, and breathlessly hit the "Save and Submit" button. I got email confirmation of its receipt... and then it was bounced right back to me. Claiming that I was not an Authorized Organization Representative. WHAT?????

So, I went and retrieved all of the emails saying I WAS, and logged into the website, and then got on the phone with those poor people who are fielding calls all night from panicked, pissed off, and fatigued people like me. There was one more stupid button I had to press on that damn website, and then I was in. I had to close out of the grant (panic time) and then re-open and re-submit it.

While I was on the phone with them, THREE PEOPLE were calling me and two texting AT THE SAME TIME. It was very chaotic, but that is that.

Then, I poured some Bushmills Black and just sat in the studio with Talia, Jeremy, and Dereck for hours, watching first a Cindy Lauper DVD and then a Deathcab for Cutie DVD, and I started crocheting.

My dad called me this morning while I was just lying in bed thinking about how tired I was. He laughed and told me that I now know why the median number of federal applications that ANYONE submits is ONE. They never want to go through that again. I can understand it, but it was also kind of a high. I felt like I had just given birth to a baby that I never want to see again.

I have another grant due in January. This one is 15 pages, as opposed to the 71-page application I just turned in.

So. Christmas. I hear there's a holiday coming up. We have no tree yet (today?), but we do have very pretty blue lights up outside, and some myriad holiday decorations put up, no thanks to me. The kids (I have great kids) readily admitted around early November that there wasn't anything they particularly needed or wanted for Christmas. At least, not like previous years when they have had very specific wants. So, we told them that we were imposing a $40 budget per person on the holiday. So, if they could think of things that fell in that price range, good. If not, then they'd take what they got. So, Christmas this year is comprised of all sorts of books, a couple of videos and computer games, and two down comforters. Damn. Need to get a hooded sweatshirt, but there is still time. I don't think my kids read this blog yet, but they can be pretty savvy, so I won't mention anything that they don't already have a strong sense about.

It's nice, particularly as the children get older and nobody believes in Santa anymore (oh the trauma, but last year was our first Santa-free Christmas, and apart from the flu that felled us all, it was fine). This allows us to focus on the true spirit of Christmas: the FOOD! Oh my god. I have baking to do, but this house is bursting at the seams with things like camembert, spiked egg nogg, Bailey's, crackers, sharp cheddar, lox, bagels, and whatnot. Even though I didn't eat anything yesterday except that half bagel in the morning and then a broiled bagel at 2:00 a.m. with camembert on it, I am deeply appreciative of the holiday goodness abounding in this house. If it weren't raining today, I would probably try to go running, too. But it is, so I won't.

It's unbelievable how I still have this nagging feeling that there is something I am supposed to be doing, but nope. Nothing. Nothing that I don't want to do.

This afternoon, we are going to take the kids to the grocery store and let them get stuff to donate to the Humane Society, and then we will take it out there. We were thinking about getting a real tree, but we have a fake one in our attic (two, actually), and it's raining...

I found out this morning that my friend John will be here for Christmas. His travel plans have been curtailed by the weather. Chris will be here too. I am unbelievably excited-- I feel like my family just told me they would be home for Christmas. I hadn't planned to go to Mass because I'm lazy and nobody but me really likes it, but John and I will go at Midnight. I really do love high church at Christmas-- though, I don't think anything could really compete with Orthodoxy, especially the monks at St. Tikhon's monastery near Dereck's parents' place. That link takes you to a slide show-- it's certainly very beautiful, in a very old and sort of dead space, dusty sort of way compared to the modern, show-offy glitz I saw in the Mormons' Nauvoo temple. Their imported chandeliers and persian rugs pissed me off-- there is so much suffering in the world, and you are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on THAT? I remember going off on a rant about it to my mother several years ago when she innocently asked me what I thought of my tour of the temple... (If you are playing catch up and new to Jen's blogs, I was raised Mormon, and my parents live in Zion Utah).

I should go now. It's nice to see my kids again after being a virtual mole in the studio for the past ten days. Merry two days before Christmas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Alive and Dead

For some reason, I always seem to have a much more intense need to write when I am under the gun of a big grant deadline, as I am now. This morning, I was thinking about it when I ran out to the grocery store to get the lancets they forgot to include with Christian's prescriptions yesterday. There are plenty of other things in the house I could use to make him bleed, but I am fairly certain the AMA and AAP would frown on the use of a well-sterilized thumb tack. (Although, really, look at the word "thumb tack." Perhaps they were invented for blood sugar testing. Probably not.)

Back to the need to write paired with an intense deadline. My ex-husband always liked to tell a story about a young student who came from a small, rural area (this is a folklore story, by the way, or as my ex used to ask at the beginning of such tales, "Is this a Polish student?"). He amazed his professors and excelled in philosophy, English, psychology, sociology, anthropology. And when he graduated, they had high expectations that he would continue to graduate school to become one of the nation's most important thinkers.

Imagine their dismay when he returned to his father's farm. "Why," they demanded, feeling as if somehow they had been robbed or denied something, "on earth did you bother to go to university?"

His reply has always made me smile: "So I would have something to think about while I am standing behind the plow."

That has always struck me as the best possible reason there is to get an education.

So, keeping the threads of this going, I am working on a grant, and yet here I am blogging.

My career requires not that I plow or dig or wash or sew or clean or walk or lift. My career requires me to think. Because, in order to write the documents I am paid to write, I have to be able to think cogently about the content. So, it's always there, a constant underhum, even as I write this, I can picture in my mind the last graph and table of contents I have to put together today. My mind is working on it even while I am writing this. If I were not writing this, however, my brain would be competing between these thoughts and the grant, and I would be less efficient, less able to get things done.

I won't lie: The tradeoff of being paid to think is good financially, but often wearying emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. By writing and thinking for other people, I am giving them pieces of myself, and then I often need time to get those pieces back. Time that I don't get very much. That is why last year, after the largest grant I've ever done (934 pages), I had to take six months off just to try to get some of the pieces back. It has actually taken a full year for me to feel whole again.

So, despite the fact that I earned... well, my ex likes to think that he and Dereck are both supporting me, and that my career is sort of a little hobby, so officially, I didn't really earn any money last year. But if I had, then sometimes I have to ask myself whether the creature comforts we and the boys enjoy are truly worth the fact that I was almost catatonic for 6 months, for all intents and purposes.

I don't know that the boys think it is worth it. However, I am not looking for a career change at this point. Just ruminating on the fact that I think it's somewhat ironic and amusing that thinking is one of my favorite activities, but I have a career that, by its very nature, prevents me from thinking about what I want to think about for large chunks of time.

I may have just realized why I always say I am going to retire to New Mexico and become a ceramicist. Imagine the possibilities of being able to make art and think at the same time! Two processes coinciding in one moment. It's almost too much to want. My friend Jeremy is a visual artist and a musician. He keeps dreadful hours-- he is truly a vampire, staying awake all night and sleeping all day. I wander out to the studio in the morning to find full ashtrays, fewer cigarettes in my pack, and the detritus of coffee cups and Taco Bell, a red peanut M & M on the floor this morning. Almost every single day, he changes the tuning on my guitar so I have to change it back, and he has had to replace more than one string (but he always does, so, kudos!). I have asked him what he does all night (besides listen to music-- there is always music on on the studio, and we have jerry-rigged these awful computer speakers to try to make the sound better, but we really need to think about getting some Bose).

The first time I asked him that question, his reply sealed our friendship for life (at least for me). He replied,  "I think."

Perhaps what I envy about the visual arts is that you get to think and produce something that doesn't necessarily look like anything you were thinking about. That sometimes happens with writing too, and those moments are always exciting.

Okay, now I've done enough writing that I can put this line of thought to the back of my mind and concentrate for awhile. The pressure of all this thinking can be intense, though, so this is a nice release on the pressure valve. I know that people who see me on Facebook or taking photographs or laughing or writing this blog or poetry while working on a huge deadline may not realize that I am a) letting one part of my brain do the thinking I must do before I can write, and b) letting pressure release. I don't really have a choice-- if I don't do these things, I'll crack up.

I will leave you with these two thoughts:

1. At the pharmacy, an older woman beamed at me-- by older, I mean probably in her late 70s, gauging what she looks like compared to my own parents (who are younger). I smiled back involuntarily and said, "Happy Holidays!" She told me Happy Holidays too, and then leaned toward me conspiratorially and whispered, "Nobody has kissed me! You're supposed to kiss the cook, and I'm the cook, but nobody has kissed me!"

For a brief second, I looked at her mouth and then her cheek and wondered whether she wanted me to kiss her. I decided instead to say, "You need to put up some mistletoe. That will do the trick!"

2. This morning, a package arrived, as will happen right before Christmas. The kids said, "What's in it?" Honestly. What do you think we are going to say?

So, I said, "It's Schrödinger's cat."

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Artist Clayton Merrell

Clay and I were friends when we were at Brigham Young University together. He and my friend Valerie (his wife) also ended up living in Kirksville (where we live) for two years while he taught here. She and I had babies within a couple of months of each other (her first, my third).
At The Foot of the Stairs

The Cat who sat in the Puddle

Anne Lamott told a story in Operating Instructions about a cat that a friend had that was sick and lying in a puddle.

Concerned people worried for the cat. “Shouldn’t we take it to the vet?”

But one smart person prevailed: “No. If you attempt to move the cat, it will die. It is doing what it needs to do. Just let it lay in the puddle.”

I feel like last year I just had to lie in the puddle. And maybe now I’m starting to take care of myself again and come out of the puddle.

It’s nice and safe in the puddle though. There is comfort in just lying on John’s dirty kitchen floor too drunk to move. I am starting to understand, for the first time, Heather’s fear of success—and of even trying for fear of failure.

Inertia is such a powerful, evil thing.


In the twenties, Niels Bohr performed experiments with electrons: He fired electrons through two small slats in a wall; depending on which opening, upper or lower, that the electrons passed through, they hit the upper or lower part of the final wall that stopped them. So: can you picture a machine that fires electrons, fired through two slats in one wall, to travel through a space, and then stop at a second wall?

Next, he closed the bottom slat; the electrons went through the upper slat and hit the upper portion of the wall.

Next, close the upper slat, and see the electrons pass through the bottom slat, to hit the lower portion of the wall.

Then, just for fun, he fired the electrons through both slats, and after they had passed through the slats, he closed the upper slat. There is no way for the electrons to have known this. Yet, they hit the lower portion of the wall. He tried it again, by closing the lower slat AFTER the electrons had passed. Again.
Again. Again.

He determined that observation determines reality.

Learning how to Learn

My freshman year of college, I took a life-changing course called Learning How to Learn, or something very close to that. It was an Honors Colloquium which combined the disciplines of English, math, science, and psychology for freshmen. I remember being shocked by some of the things they gave us to read about evolution, about the nature of truth… It seemed to me that our professors were deliberately giving us materials that would lead us away from the church—or at least make us question it thoroughly. I still do not know if that was their objective, but I do know, after teaching a freshman class myself, that critical thinking is a Dangerous course to teach because it can definitely lead to little revolutions.

Even now, with a Masters in English and three years of university teaching behind me, I can see how distinctly unique this class was. And later I realized that the critical thinking skills I obtained in this class, the connections I learned to make, eventually assisted me in the utter and completely destructive war I waged upon my faith during my twenties. In a search for truth and integrity, in the interest of living an honest life, I single-handedly cut down every tenet of truth I had held dear through my most formative years.

And, of course, it was only in the aftermath of that destruction that I was able to see that in the course of destroying ties to ideals that did not hold up under scrutiny, ideals that seemed impossibly beautiful and miraculous to me because they were fictions, I had also destroyed my very happiness and peace of mind.

So, the trajectory of my life has been the simple, clean faith of my teen years; the destruction of the faith in the pursuit of Truth in my twenties; and the reconstruction of my very soul in my thirties.

My children have a book about forest fires. Forest fires are a necessary, if not happy, way to clear forests for new growth and new life. After forest fires have decimated every dead branch or blade of grass in the forest, and choked to death every animal who could not escape, it must lie barren and wrecked for years before the first tiny buds of grass return and the forest begins to rebuild itself. It has taken me years to realize that the forest of my spirituality is not, in fact, dead as I had suspected. It was merely dormant in the aftermath of that destruction for nearly eight years.

Baptisms for the Dead

Before I went to the temple in Washington D. C. with my family to be sealed for time and all eternity, I went to the temple with a youth trip. The LDS Church’s mission is to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone who has ever lived. Perhaps you know that if you want to do geneaology, the place to do it is in Salt Lake City. Well, there is a reason for this.
In order to spread the gospel, it is important first to identify every person who has ever lived. And this occurs through geneaology. For every relative a member of the church identifies, a name is submitted to the temple.
In the temple, work is done for the living and the dead. The LDS teach that work can be done by proxy for the dead. So, LDS people are commanded to go often to the temple. The only time you do work for living is the first time you go, and you do it for yourself.

Before any additional work can be done, a person has to be baptized. And because the adults are busy doing work for adults (there are sacred covenants called endowments that people make in the temple. Having never gone through the temple as an adult, I am not in a position to describe what happens at these times. These ceremonies are sacred to the LDS people, and there are plenty of other sources for the curious), the baptisms are usually left to the youth.
You have to be twelve years old before you can enter the temple to do baptisms for the dead.

Before this happens, though, you usually have a member of the stake presidency (organizational note: a congregation of 100 or fewer people is a branch. A congregation of 100-250 or so is a ward. Wards and branches in a geographical region make up stakes, and they have their own presidencies composed of a President, a first counselor, and a second counselor) comes and talks to the youth about masturbation and what a sin it is. So don’t do it. So, there you go.

I was so naïve, I wasn’t even embarrassed during this conversation, but I’m willing to bet I was the only one who wasn’t.
A few months later, when they are sure masturbation is under control, and when they can get people who will go and supervise the youth, drive the youth, and when they can get people’s parents to pay for the trip, a trip of youth is organized.

So, the youth need temple recommends.

First, you go and talk to your bishop or branch president. First you pray. Then, you sit across from each other, and he asks you the following questions: Do you believe Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God? Do you believe in the gospel? Do you believe the LDS church is the one, true church? Do you believe that the current president of the church is a prophet of God? Do you keep the Word of Wisdom? Do you pay 10% of your income as tithing? Are you chaste? Are you honest in your dealings with your fellow men? I think they even ask the youth whether or not we are obedient to our parents, but I can’t remember.

Then you have a closing prayer.

Then you have an identical meeting with the Stake President.

And whether or not you lie during this interview is purely up to you. I never did, but I certainly know people who did and didn’t feel a smack of remorse about it afterward. Nor have they been struck by lightning, that I am aware of.
After all the meetings, you receive a little recommend the size of a business card. They are quite nice now, laminated, with a picture of a temple on it. This recommend not only allows you into the temple, but it also marks you as a member in good standing. For example, if your car breaks down in a strange city and you need assistance, you can call the local bishop, and tell him you are a temple recommend holding member and he will help you. He may or may not help you if you aren’t—but it is more than likely that he will not be suspicious that you are trying to take advantage of him if you have the card.
Now, you have the trip arranged and the recommend, and so you are ready to go to the temple.

We went in a van, and I don’t remember where it came from, but it was larger than just somebody’s van. And there was a sixteen year old boy on the trip that I had a crush on. Jeff Strong. So, I was just in bliss.

There weren’t many of us on the trip—we were a small branch after all. We played cards on the bus and talked during the eight hours. When we got to Washington, D.C., we went out and had Chinese food, and I was nervous because I had never really had it before, and they kept teasing me about what might be in it. I’m sure I had also read a juvenile fiction book about it, too. But, of course, it was really good.

We went with a lovely young couple named Marcia and Walt Stewart, and their baby daughter Karen. After dinner, I think we walked around a bit, and then went to the hotel. I don’t really remember that at all.

The next day, we went to the temple. When we first walked into the temple, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. There were old people dressed all in white everywhere. The temples are very elegantly clothed: imported rugs, chandeliers, huge murals on the walls. And this is just the entrance way. If you ever have the chance to tour an LDS temple before it is officially dedicated for the members, do it. The story behind the Washington, D.C., temple is that it is suddenly just there after you turn around a bend, and it caused a lot of traffic accidents the first night it was lit up, in all of its majesty.

We were taken, in the temple, to dressing rooms, and given white baptismal garments and white undergarments. Everything has to be white.

Then, you go to the baptismal faunt, which is much grander than the one I was baptised in at the church. And it is surrounded by statues of oxen. I cannot remember the significance of this.

When it is your turn, you walk down steps into warm water, and there is a man waiting there to baptise you, by immersion. You cross your left arm across your front, and it holds your right elbow. Your right hand holds your nose. The baptiser has his left had on your left upper arm, and his right hand on your right arm, and he says, “___________, In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, I baptise you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.” Or something to that effect. And he is reading from some kind of prompter of names. And after he prays, he dunks you completely. And he does this 70 times for 70 names.

Then, you get out.

The people who have died are in the Spirit World, being taught about the same gospel of Jesus Christ that you are being taught about in church, by members of the church who have already died. And those people, who have their eternal souls, and their free agency, can accept or reject the baptismal work that is done for them. You hear stories sometimes of someone having a revelatory experience that someone has accepted the work that has been done for them. For a long time after my experience, I remembered one of the names, and wondered if that meant she had accepted her baptism.

I can’t recall the name anymore.

Generally, the LDS have to get permission from the dead’s family members before their names are submitted to the temple. Of course, this does not always happen perfectly.

All of the presidents of the United States have had their temple work done for them.

But a few years ago, the LDS started baptising in the name of people who had died in the holocaust. Of course, once it was made public, they stopped.

I don’t think I need to say anymore about this. Where would I start?


Months ago
they cupped their hands around one lighter
and the tip of his cigarette
burned her right middle knuckle

The small white scar an emblem of
that scalds her now, scalds her now.

Birth in a Denver Hospital

It's been at least thirty years since I saw her
if I saw her then at all.

I don't know how it was that day:
Her hair was brown or blonde, long,

it swept her shoulders, short,
it got pushed back.

Her eyes were blue.
She was awake or asleep,

she saw me or she did not.
It doesn't much matter to me, now

does it?
The lights were probably bright,

the room busy and cold.
She was probably in pain.

The only thing I really know is this:
I was there before I left.

I was naked and small,
and her blood was all over me.


Your wife, thirty-seven years, had
all of her teeth pulled out.

She stayed with her

another town,
her mouth open in gaps.

The next day she went back. Twenty-
eight straight white teeth will not take off

weight, nine of your children,
years of marriage.

They will change
her whole face.

She will smile more, laugh more,
She will feel more. She will want you

to respond to this. She wants you to take her in your arms,

kiss her shiny
new teeth,

run your husband
tongue all over them.

Dust in its Infinite Lightness

Dust, in its Infinite Lightness,
can double the weight of a mattress in ten years.

You stand at the foot of the bed. The sheet, a blue canopy,
hovers and rests for a moment on dust or air, inertia,
the energy of its own rise before it falls.

Physics tells you a feather will fall at the same speed as a brick,
but the sheet wafts down unevenly, rests and settles,
wrinkled on the bed for you to straighten.

You can think of these things, physics and weight,
ten years of accumulated dust,
the cleaning and the straightening and the crawling into bed,

or remember how the breeze lifts the curtain
and the sun catches dust in a stream of light
while you stand, arms raised, attached to the sheet

that billows out before you on the air.

The Thinnes


The day he was born
he drew milk from her
so fiercely
what should have been teaspoon
spilled out of her by late evening.
Her body opened: milk bood baby
water on the same day.

Those were the things she wondered
what her body could do.


It was years before she knew
it could claim her
closing her
one cell at the time.


The son can still see her
waiting for him
on the top step
on the front porch
hair pulled back in thin strings.
She sits, a wisp, with her cigarette
smoke curled round her,
then into thin air:
Thumb and forefinger
the width of her wrist
her skin
white in the porch light
doesn't pinch from the bone.
She can feel her own thinness,
leafmark on the back of her hand.


Remember this?


It is all song:
voice of hands

Here we are fire
and steam, we

dance the absence
without loss

Body knows the drum-
beat is all time

Fall down music dance
head and arms

in the womb

We are all drums:
bongoes, kettle, bass

and snare we dance
contract of blood and bone

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I have survived the weekend.

Just barely.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Last night, I dreamt that I wrote a poem. It was a kickass poem. Today I woke up and it wasn't true. I really wish that dream had been real.

I know, I know. Go forth and make it real!

Ha ha. Easier said than done.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I am a creature of habit. Bad habits, as a matter of fact. I tend to "loop" on things, which means I just go over and over them in my mind, rather than breaking the loop and being healthier, wasting less time, being more productive, etc.

Take, for example, my blog. I didn't want to update until I had time to fully update on ALL the FUN things! That have been going on this summer!

But today I finally realized that that train has left. I will have to let it go on without me, without you, and I will just have to accept the fact that I cannot simultaneously live my life AND document it, no matter how much I'd like to. I narrate my life constantly in my own head, saving up posts, but then I can't type enough to keep up with it.

Suffice it to say, I am having a fun summer.

The second example of bad habits and looping is this: Whenever my client work slows down, I pause on the last assignments, drawing out the time between getting them and doing them, because I don't like the idea of having NO work. It doesn't occur to me that maybe I'll get MORE work if I just DO the work I have!

For the past four years that I have been self-employed, even though I have had dry patches, I have always gotten the work I needed, when I needed it (knock on wood, spit on the floor, stave off the evil eye). However, this does not stop me from lingering over the last assignments, or flinging resumes into the wind desperately, or cringing my hands and worrying and thinking about getting a job telemarketing so we don't starve. I worry to Dereck that my clients secretly think I suck (and they probably do when I DON'T FINISH THEIR WORK), and that I have had a good run, but now it's over, and I don't know what I'll do to earn the money I need to earn.

Dereck is patient with this loopiness, but he is always the first to tell me (and he is right) that the work will come, that I don't suck, nobody thinks I suck, don't personalize it, it will be okay.

So, my goal for the day is to finish my assignments (one I won't quite be able to finish today, but I can get a head start) and then to try to enjoy my time between assignments.

I have had a goal every day this summer that I have not yet met (No, Heith, it's not to blog daily, though I did sort of set that as a goal, didn't I?): My goal is to return to my poetry roots and to begin writing again. I have started playing the guitar daily, and I have some wicked cool blisters, but can't actually play anything yet. However, I have not written. Anything. Nada.

I realized the other day that when I wrote my thesis, I wrote most of my first drafts on yellow legal pads, and then typed them on my typewriter. Instead, I have all of these wonderfully cool notebooks, which I end up either giving away to other writers, or just carrying around, or just leaving on the shelf. So, I got some yellow legal pads. That was two days ago, and so far two people have used them, but none of those people were me.

My parents just came out for a week-long visit. They left for the airport hotel yesterday afternoon. It is odd to be in the living room without them to chat to. It was a successful visit as defined by the fact that I did not lose my patience with my mom. I have noticed that she is very good at pushing certain buttons I have, and for her, it's probably just the ritual, the loopiness of conversations we've had for years. But instead of engaging, I murmured soothing words of, "I'm sorry," about her pain, her health, her troubles. Instead of engaging, I took her into the children's room and gently rubbed her back. My friend Jamie noted, when I mentioned this, that I was replacing words, the verbal, the metaphorical, with touch, with love.

I think I did this, I chose this, because the first day she was here, I didn't get a chance to rub her back, and I was devastated that evening that I hadn't even performed that simple act for her. So, I made a point to do it every day after that. Just to take some time to touch her, to love her. And the act of loving her, the physicality of it, helped me to soothe her and to soothe my own nerves, helped us to reconnect in ways we had connected when I would rub her back when I was a teenager.

That's how long she has had the pain-- for about 25 years. She mentions that she has never been in so much pain. This may be true, but I've heard it before. She mentions that sometimes the pain is so great that she wants everything to be over with her. This usually gets a pretty big rise out of me with some yelling and some tears. This time, I just rubbed her back and said, "I hope you don't. I'm so sorry you have to bear this. I love you."

I am hopeful that after four years of her making comments like this that it's just something she says, something she needs to articulate, rather than something she would act on.

I told her that I would come out to visit her for her birthday in October, and I will. Something for us both to look forward do, something for her to hang her endurance on, something concrete and specific.

Something to live for.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Uh Oh.

I told my friend Heith that I would make an attempt to blog every day in June, although I know some of the posts will be very short.

And look at me! I'm three days into June and I've goofed it up already.

This is either a place holder for me to return to after I am finished working OR this is today's post.

If you don't follow me on Facebook, then you might not be aware that I know 5 guitar chords now (ACDEG) and I have my first blister from practicing. I think that's kind of awesome.

How are you?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Mulanix Street Orchestra

I have some friends who are in a band. A good band.

I met them through some other friends and we just clicked! Even though they are all in their early twenties. One of them is asleep in my studio right now, and the lead singer is asleep in my kids' room (she has been sick and her roommate is out of town so she's nervous staying at her house alone, so I asked her to stay here and have been stuffing her with Mucinex and orange juice).

The one in the studio is also an art major. He has been using the studio to work on collage posters advertising their next show, which is this Friday, in town. They are also playing two shows in St. Louis next month-- one with a band that has been on David Letterman called An Horse. It's a band they are huge fans of, so playing with them means the world to them.

I think I have learned more about new music in the past few weeks than in the past twenty years.

J likes to hang out here because nobody knows where he is. It's a respite from his busy life and people constantly stopping by his house and making demands on him. It allows him to think and work on his art and be anonymous. Every day when I go out there, he has hung another poster or another piece of art or in some other way made it a cooler place to be.

At any rate: With all of these musicians hanging around playing guitar until the wee hours, I pulled out Tommy's guitar and learned to tune it (okay, still learning) and yesterday I learned two chords. I had to cut down my nails to be able to hold down the strings on the frets. It took me awhile to learn just two simple chords, so I just practice them over and over.

E, the singer with the cold, can really write the HELL out of lyrics. I am really amazed. They have a great sound (J is the drummer, but he plays multiple instruments, completely self-taught, and so is she).

I haven't really met or hung out with their bassist yet-- just have met him a couple of times at J's house.

At any rate, this has all been very fun and absorbing.

Sam has been at his father's since Monday, but the boys are here for a few hours today and I swear, this morning he is taller. He said he has noticed that he can look his father directly in the ear now. Good grief!

As for work, I am really busy right now! Which is great! I am a little leery because I am engaged to work on another huge grant this summer-- same grant, different clients. And we haven't really gotten started yet. I've been working on manuscripts for them, though, and a group in Toronto, so basically every day this week, I've been engaged with one manuscript or another. I have two more to do this week, and then one more next week. I just want to knock them out so I can get back to writing poetry! (I admit, the band and E in particular have inspired me to get back to it).

My knitting has stalled out since Christian's diagnosis-- I had to rip out a lot in the hospital because I kept messing up, but I am still "working" on a new shawl! With baby Alpaca. I think I'm focusing on guitar and poetry this summer, but I am sure the knitting will be in there too!

So, anyway, now you know (at least in part) why I've been so busy and too busy to blog!

In other news:

1) I hit a car in my drs parking lot on Dereck's birthday. Fun!

2) I am on anti-inflammatories for my rotary cuff and they are helping

3) The Wellbutrin is still helping me act like a normal person (aka, awake)

4) The children are now out of school!

Anything beyond that, well, I just can't remember because I had a running list of things to report in my head and then too many things happened to remember them all. But the important thing is that life is good and I'm having a hella lot of fun. I feel vibrantly alive-- which is the opposite of how I felt for most of winter.

I hope you are well!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Still alive

I just wanted to check in and say that I have given up on trying to update everything that is going on (good! mostly good!) because it's been so long. But I'm still here and will resume regular blogging tomorrow-ish.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Older, but not Wiser

Last night, I was ready to go to bed after watching House. But John texted me and asked if I wanted to hang out. Then Heather called and without violating either of their privacy, it was clear that they both sort of needed to hang out a bit last night, so I told them to come on over. Two other people joined us, and Dereck, so we all hung out and ended up toasting my birthday at midnight.

I went to bed finally at 1:00 a.m. I got up at 3:00 a.m. to test Christian's sugar. I got up at 6:00 a.m. and went to his bedroom to test his sugar before having him leave his warm covers for his shot and then his bath before breakfast. (He eats 1/2 hour after his insulin shot, and he is not supposed to go back to sleep in that time).

While I was in my bathrobe in Christian's room, I heard my friend Chris's voice in the kitchen, talking to Sam. I thought, "Why is Chris in my kitchen at 6:00 a.m.?"

By the time I went in to find out, Chris was gone and had left: A full thermos of coffee; additional packets of Paneira coffee (we don't have a Paneira in town, by the way); a loaf of bread from Paneira, and a lovely fruit and cheese danish tart. Oh, and a lovely, pottery forest green pitcher filled with brightly colored sunflowers, with a card from him and Talia. Isn't that a nice way to wake up???

I tried several times to return to sleep today, but the phone rang, and then I had to de-skin some chicken breast for dinner because Dash had to run to campus. And then I had too much coffee, so every time I tried to lie down, I couldn't sleep. I had coffee with a friend this morning, and then Heather and Chris came over for some House this afternoon. So, it was a great birthday, except that I am psychotically tired right now, and am expected to show up at karaoke because not only is it my birthday, it's a BIG birthday. I am so tired, I was trying to help Christian with his sixth grade math; I didn't understand it, so I was snapping at Dereck, who was trying to help. Heather was nodding off at the table, and by then, Chris has left for work and Talia and John had gone to play rehearsal.

Dereck finished up the homework, while I dozed on the couch. Heather left to go brush her teeth. Now, I am counting the minutes until I put the little ones to bed and wondering if I can lie down for an hour before karaoke. On the one hand, I really need to go to sleep. That would be the responsible thing to do.

In these situations, I always think of a line from the great Richard Russo book Straight Man. The lead character is a beleaguered chair of an English department at a university in a small town. His wife is out of town. He has excruciating gall stones. He has recently caught up with an old friend whom he doesn't even particularly like. They are in a bar, and his friend has engaged in a fight. So, our weary narrator thinks about his pain, how mad his wife will be, his job, and says, as he rises to join the fight anyway, "We do not want what is good for us."

That has resonated with me for the past ten-to-fifteen years since I read the book. Sadly, I have based some unfortunate decisions (that usually involve staying up way too late) on the fact that I also do not want what is good for me.

I'm going to karaoke.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Why doesn't anybody at the hospital know how to pronounce the word "Christian"?

In spite of my Wellbutrin and going to bed at a reasonable time last night, I feel tired today. Like, I should get up and go get the list of Christian's blood sugars from the weekend and update the computer form, but I don't want to go to the effort. Days like this are almost never productive.

With one notable exception, it has been an exhausting four days. First Tommy got a fever, and then Christian did. And fevers will never be the same in this house again. Fevers cause blood sugars to spike. And when that happens, you have to introduce urine testing for ketones and additional insulin into the mix. Giving Christian additional insulin makes me very nervous. I hate it.

He stayed home from school Thursday with Tommy (both had fevers). Then, Tommy's went away, and Christian's got higher. Friday morning, it was 102.6 and he complained of chest pain. When his blood sugar gets high, he gets paler, until he gets the flush of fever which is too bright, two red stains on his cheek.

I called the doctor and his office was closed. So, I called our team in Columbia and they recommended that I take him to the ER just to be seen. So, I gave him his lunch and packed his sugar meter (what is that thing even called?), snacks, glucose tablets, insulin of both kinds (slow acting and fast) and needles, my laptop, video games, cell phone and charter, novels, and off we went. I told him, "If we pack as though we will spend the night, maybe we'll get out of there before dinner."

Well. If you take a child into the ER and say, "He has juvenile diabetes," you will not have to wait. I have never gotten such fast (urgent) service in my life. In fact, it wasn't even until they had strapped heart and blood pressure monitors on him that they asked why we were there. They did a blood panel and an X-ray after listening to him. They determined that what he had was viral and sent us home. We were home in time for his afternoon snack.

Friday night was a mish-mash of dinner with friends and watching a little bit of the Battlestar Galactica preview show Caprica. However, with Christian's fever, I had been up more frequently checking his blood sugars and I knew I would be again, so we called it an early night.

His blood sugars plummeted during the night because we had to give him extra insulin Friday night. So, we'd wake him and give him milk and then back to sleep for a couple of hours. Rinse, repeat.

On Saturday, he still had a temperature, but was feeling better. Dereck had plans to take the kids to a snake exhibit on campus, and my friend Jamie was in town this weekend and wanted to go out for a cocktail. Dereck left me lying on the bed with a sinus headache and wondering how I could manage to duck out of my drink with Jamie. So, I called my friend Talia and invited her to join us. She and Jamie came here first. I tried to convince them that we should just stay home and drink cider, but they wanted to go out. So, Jamie drove us up to Il Spazio... where Dereck had a surprise party waiting for me! For my 40th birthday, which is tomorrow.

I think I have had maybe one other surprise party, but the other one was notably smaller: When I was 18, my friend Diana and some other friends surprised me for my birthday and took me out.

This one took the cake: The kids had known about the party for two weeks, but nobody blabbed. Unbelievable. Sam said, "Why weren't you suspicious?" and I looked at him and said, "Because today isn't my birthday!"

My headache vanished and I was able to enjoy good friends, appetizers, and decadent cake. A few friends followed us home for dinner where we got some chicken and side dishes for supper.

And then. I was calculating Christian's insulin at 6pm because he needed to go up a step for his evening dose. But I got the morning dose in my head. I gave him 22 units of insulin, instead of 11. I said, "Oh, I have to give you one more, because I forgot to go up!" He and Dereck said, "Wait. The evening dose should have been 11."

I don't know when I have been more panicky. I gave my kid twice his dose of insulin! Fuck! So, I got hold of the Team Doctor on call and he said that it's a common error. He told me I wasn't a bad mother. He said, "Just check him every hour or two and feed him sugary drinks." So, I ran out for pop and Skittles and we checked him every hour or two. And gave him milk and chocolate milk again, depending on how low his sugar was.

Yesterday, his blood sugars were still wonky from the insulin, but his fever was much lower. He did have a temperature though, so I have kept him home today. He is much better today, but I just wanted him to have one stable day. I spoke with the school nurse and she said, "Don't rush him back. Don't feel like you have to send him back tomorrow either. Kids have been out with this for a week, and they don't have diabetes."

It's a little like diabetes is a trump card for everything. It could go to our heads if we let it.

The other night, Christian wanted to play on the computer before bed. I told him that because he was sick, he could either go lie down in bed and read or go lie down on the couch and watch TV with Tommy. He said, "If you force me to make this decision, I'll just get sicker."

I said, "You can lie down in bed or lie down on the couch. I am your mother, and you are sick. And you are not going to manipulate me this way."

He apologized immediately and went to bed. Wow, I can see how some kids might use illness as a way to get what they want! If you don't do what I want, I'll stress myself out so my blood sugars spike!

Oh, hell no.

My dad is an asthma researcher. Self-management. He said that when he began, a lot of the kids at the center where he worked would induce asthma attacks because the hospital was fun: TV, ice cream, no school work. So, he took away the TV and the ice cream and brought back the school work. Suddenly, the rate of hospitalizations went down. They told me down at the hospital in Columbia that some kids will impose high blood sugars with ketones so they can be at the hospital-- because the hospital is nicer than where they live.

That breaks my heart.

Jamie and his wife Karen gave me a book of poetry by C.D. Wright called Rising, Falling, and Hovering. I started reading it yesterday afternoon and it is beautiful, but also writes unflinchingly of poverty and war in Mexico, Central America, Iraq. Situations that I, sitting in my living room, cannot imagine. Cannot fathom. Noam Chomsky says our society breeds us for apathy. Isn't that true? Isn't that horrifying?

I don't know what to do about it. I should pack up and move to a third world country and make things better. Maybe when I am not so busy poking a small boy with sharp instruments every two hours, I will be able to go out and make the world a better place. Until then, I am afraid I am very much tied to my homestead.

Christian's diabetes reminds me of when the boys were newborns, only instead of them waking me with their cries, my alarm wakes me and I pull on my robe and quietly go to his bedside to check his blood sugar. It's both nice and a little overwhelming to be so needed. The blood sugar is getting to be routine; the shots aren't so much yet. I asked at the emergency room if there was a trick to not hurting him and at the same time checking to make sure I haven't hit a vein (by pulling back on the plunger). The nurse told me no. But this morning when I had my own blood sugars tested for insulin resistance, the nurse told me simply to keep the needle still.

Now, that wasn't so hard, was it?

I am lucky: Christian is okay. Yesterday was the 6 year anniversary of Sam being hit by a car. He is okay. Tommy was playing with our friend Heather's mandolin all Saturday afternoon. He was writing songs, and Jamie was writing them down, recording them, and paying Tommy $5 to perform. Yesterday, Tommy found a mandolin on Ebay for $27, and we got it for him.

School will be out soon. Summer will be upon us. I don't have any grants due this week. Yet, I do have work to do. Even though I have often felt like I have been pummeled by the universe this year, I still know I'm lucky.

I do.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Today was better... but weird. It's like yesterday there was a huge earthquake, and so today I was just sort of wading through the tremors. The silence was deafening.

Sorry I can't be more specific. But you know how it is. I went for a walk with a friend tonight to catch up and it took me AN HOUR just to tell her about YESTERDAY. By the end of it, she was slightly in tears on my behalf. I do sort of feel like I must have a bull's eye on my forehead lately.

But, things will work out.

How will they?

I don't know yet.

(Sorry, a little Shakespeare in Love for you.)

That's about all I've got. Except that Tommy and Christian both have fevers (Christian's is very low, but now I have to practice due diligence), so I may have two kids home tomorrow.

Sam is a little miffed that his temperature is normal. I can't say I blame him, but I'm glad somebody is healthy.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dancing Through Life

Today was a no-good, terrible, awful day. And I mean that for me. No other members of my family are represented by that statement, though Christian had his lowest low at school today-- and it was a half hour AFTER his morning snack! And he has had the same breakfast and snack with me that he had all of last week. So, I am a bit baffled. But, he had a glucose tab, then some milk, retested a half hour later, and he was fine. I appreciated the school nurse calling.

Back to me (because although I find Christian's diabetes interesting, I am not sure I want this to become Christian's Juvenile Diabetes Blog). The day was intense, stressful, and long. But at least, thanks to my Wellbutrin, I got to stay awake for all of it. Yay me.

I can't write about why it was bad. Let's just say that I'll live, it wasn't tragic, and everything will be okay.

One of the things I do, one of my callings right now, is to drive my friend John around town. He lives near me, and due to a series of unfortunate events, he is car-less. Our town is small, and it only takes me about five minutes to drive him anywhere he needs to go; it takes him considerably longer to hoof it. And he also has arthritis in his knees (and he is only 25, poor kid!). So, this evening, before dinner, I left Christian in Dereck's care (after his insulin shot, and with semi-low glucose, and a timer set for when he should start eating) and went to get John from work and take him to his next destination.

I have been listening to the Wicked soundtrack non-stop lately, and watching every YouTube video about it that I can find. Usually, I listen to "Defying Gravity" in the car, and belt it (despite my horrible cold). I'll never be Idina Menzel, but man. She can sure sing. However, Christian and I had been talking about Wicked, and I was telling him about when Glinda and Elphaba say goodbye, and so I listened to "For Good" on the way to get John. And by the time I got to him, I had made myself cry. Fortunately, John got me hooked on Wicked to begin with, so he didn't mind, and we listened to it again. By the time we stopped, I was weeping, and John just hugged me. I said, "I had a bad day." He asked if I wanted to go for a drive, but I told him I was okay and I'd see him later. Then I came home and listened to it just one more time, and cried in the driveway.

The song reminds me of him, but it also reminds me of her, my Glinda, or my Elphaba, whichever you choose. So, I came home and copied the lyrics and sent them to her in an email. We only talk now a couple of times a year, but because I knew her, I have been changed for good.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I just came out to the studio to work because this is where my laptop has been living. And by work, I mean blog. And by "where my laptop has been living," I mean that I can smoke out here.

You'll be happy and proud of me to know that I went to my doctor on Friday, FINALLY. I had made the appointment at the same time I wanted to have Christian checked out for an ear infection... Well, I think we all know how well that turned out (on the plus side, they did cure the ear infection in one night, with a single, IV dose of anti-biotics).

So, I walked in with my list and said, "Please keep in mind, I made this appointment BEFORE what happened with Christian, so let's just keep that out of the equation for now."

I was nearly sure that he would tell me that my fatigue was caused by going to bed too late and then having my sleep interrupted by driving kids to school and my subsequent returns to bed. But when I asked about that, he started shaking his head almost immediately.

Apparently, when you've been on anti-depressants long enough, you can have a condition called a seratonin poop-out. I am not kidding. Google it. You will also start to see words strung along with it. Words like chronic. Words like fatigue. Words like syndrome. All strung together, for convenience's sake. Chronic fatigue syndrome.

Basically, I need something else to compensate for the fact that my body doesn't produce its own seratonin anymore. So, he prescribed wellbutrin. The fact that I am not nappy this afternoon MIGHT be a placebo affect. I mean, I probably could nap. But I tried yesterday afternoon and... couldn't. Even though I was on an anti-inflammatory drug for my sore rotator cuff, and I felt dizzy for hours. I didn't like that drug at all, so I stopped taking it.

We also discussed my weight and insulin resistance. He is going to check me for that on April 27 (I have a massive deadline this week, so I can't afford to starve, drink disgusting sweet drinks, and then run back and forth for them to check my blood five times).

Then he dangled this little tidbit in front of me: There IS a drug that can help with the insulin resistance. And it can cause people to lose weight. A LOT of weight. It's NOT a weight loss drug, however (but if it walks like a duck...).

Here's the catch.

I have to quit smoking first. Because then I'll gain about ten pounds, and then I can go on the drug and I'll lose more. BUT, if I quit smoking after I've lost a lot of weight, I'll gain it all back. My body will be confused. So, naturally, I said...

"Well, I'm not quitting smoking right now..."

Of course, what he failed to point out is that if I just NEVER quit smoking, all will be fine. Yes? No? Well, a girl has to try.

So, now I'm mulling that over.

I'm willing to try following the low carb diet right now, though. And I must admit, I am hungrier. Christian is allowed to have more carbs than I am, so he's always full. I have been drinking tons of water a la Jennifer Aniston in an attempt to pee so much that I don't notice that I'm hungry. But I notice. It makes me feel sorry (eye roll) for skinny celebrities because they must be hungry ALL THE TIME. But, wow, when you really have to learn about portion sizes you realize, hey, dude, I was eating about, well, a LOT more carbs than I should have.

Christian is doing well at his father's. We all (Dereck, their father, the boys and I) went out to lunch for Chinese food today to see what Chris can have. We even weighed stuff. Let's just say that it's not entirely all clear and that occasionally, he can have Chinese food, and once again, lows are worse than highs. He has been having enough low readings lately that none of us minded if he went a little high today, but I don't think he did: He was all about chicken on a stick.

Now, I should go look at a grant application. The client called me on Thursday: I still don't have a contract, and they haven't heard from the contract office. They had to warn me that there is a possibility that I won't get paid for this work. Well. I have a four-year relationship with this client: What am I supposed to do? Ditch them? On the other side, they don't want to take advantage of me. So, I told them that I just wouldn't stay up all night or put my health at risk. And since I seem not to be napping, I might as well go work on it.

I hope you are all enjoying a nice Sunday.