Tuesday, March 30, 2010

testing... testing....

The world has a way of testing a person. Sometimes they are pop quizzes.Sometimes they are mid terms that allow you to raise your grade a little.Then there are finals, which make up forty five percent of your grade.If you screw up the final, well, you might be a  failure as a human being.
Along the way I have had my share of tests.I have had the daily "are you going to walk by the homeless person and give them a dollar" pop quiz, and usually gotten an A, if I have cash. I mean, how can you rationalize not slipping them a buck when they are lying on the sidewalk in a filthy sleeping bag surrounded by puddles of mystery liquid?
I have also had the end of the week surprise test where a transvestite customer forgot his bag, and I have to drive it the opposite way home to his apartment in a dangerous part of town at three a.m. I passed that one, reluctantly, but the bag had his whole persona inside-make up, brush, hair products. I got him drunk enough to forget his bag, and he tipped me handsomely.He did greet me at the door in a dressing gown and handed me a bag of hot popcorn for my drive home.
 I  had the challenging mid term test where a homeless woman gave me some starving ducks,which I have probably mentioned before. I was trying to find my car at the Convention Center parking lot after a catering job and came upon her and her shopping cart with a cage of ducks riding in the top.The ducks, one large and one small, were filthy and fighting over a piece of potato skin. I hesitated,thinking of the damage my enormous cat might do, but decided that they would probably end up on a makeshift spit in an alley somewhere soon if I didn't take them. I took them home, put them  up in my bathroom and found a place for them the next day. It took a few tries to find the right rescue group,  as I called amphibian rescue first and received a kind return phone call informing me that ducks are not,depite their webbed feet, amphibians. Sigh.All that private schooling.....
They took a bath, one peeping and the other quacking hysterically when they would lose sight of each other. They pooped all over the bathroom and eventually went to sleep nestled next to one another on a towel. They were taken to the ASPCA in the morning to await pick up by a  local "bird lady",Diane,  who had assured me on the phone that she wouldn't eat them. Got an A on that one, I think, and it was kind of an adventure. Ducks are really messy though.
I haven't had the final yet ,though I do hope I am ready.I really think that if a person is paying attention to their world as they go through it, they will pass the tests that come their way. I don't think it secures a spot for me in the afterlife, or makes Karma favor me, but it is simply the way we are supposed to live. We are not supposed to walk in fear.We are supposed to help each other out. Isn't society supposed to be the fabric that keeps it all together? Yeah, maybe it's a flammable polyester blend at best....
They did this show once where they set up a domestic situation in a public park right near some walking trails and had an actor play big guy berating his girlfriend in full view of  passersby. It was set up to see if anyone would step in, take the challenge, get involved.  I was shocked at how many people walked by and barely noticed his loud badgering and hostility toward her. He didn't outright hit her, but he did put his hands on her. Several women called out for him to stop but when they were met with the same hostility, they backed down.Only one older woman stood her ground long enough for them to stop the tape and explain what the deal was.  She wasn't so thrilled that it was a set up because it kind of wasted her time.And I couldn't tell if it was creative editing or what, but no men got involved.Not one.
I just failed a similar test last weekend. We were strolling back from our local farmer's market at around ten a.m. Over the normal sidewalk din came the shrill tones of a man screaming. We looked around and spotted a slightly rumpled fortyish man on the corner,in chinos and blue pullover,  ranting and pacing and shreiking at a plus size woman dressed in a green tunic, who calmly talked on her cell phone while she waited for the light to change. It was a bit surreal. Domestic issues rarely pop up on  a lazy Sunday morning in our quaint neighborhood. We were pulling the pre-nap kids in their wagon and had a grumpy house guest along as well,all of whom were eager to get home.  My husband and I stopped to watch and make sure it didn't get worse.The guy was screaming at the top of his lungs about being a team and asking her how she could treat him this way.She acted as if he simply wasn't there. There were at least fifty other people within ear shot of this scene,so, as we slowly made our way down the sidewalk and turned the corner toward home, I hoped that someone else would get involved. Little was screaming almost as loudly as the ranting man about some water spilled on her dress and I knew that if I went over to really get involved, we would soon  have our own domestic scene to rival theirs. I also had a small concern about him becoming violent with me, especially in front of my kids.But I should have tried to help her,or at least ask her if she needed any help.
As we walked home, feeling kind of icky,I started thinking about all the times that I have been part of a public failure to prevent something bad from happening. The one that comes to mind occurred when I was just twenty one. I was living in Echo Park in a converted Victorian with a view of the downtown skyline. I used to run around the Echo Park Lake and go up the boulevard where it got hilly and run back down again. One afternoon,after a long run, I was waiting at the stop light to cross the busy intersection of Sunset and Echo Park Boulevard. It was just twilight and the street lights had just flickered on. I had just missed the light and so had a little boy who must have been about three and a half.He wasn't holding anyone's hand but was giggling furiously and making faces at his mother and older sister across the street.He was standing about three inches from my left hand.  I wasn't really paying attention to him, but was noticing how pretty the light was, when he bolted across the street. Everything was suddenly in slow motion- his sister yelled "NO!".Everyone was watching him, hoping that he made it across safely. The collective energy was palpable. He made it to the middle of the intersection when a red sedan came through and hit him head on.Everything froze, except his body.It was like a scene from the Matrix.His body flew up into the air and landed about fifteen feet away in the gutter on the opposite side of the street. The car stopped about twenty feet past where his body had landed. Everything was eerily still for about ten seconds.He lifted up his head and let out a whimper and the intersection came alive.The man next to me burst into tears.His  sister screamed and ran to him, his mother right behind. People rushed here and there. I stood where I had been standing, motionless and realized  two things: 1. I could have prevented it from happening 2. I could offer nothing to help with my actor/waitress skills and broken Spanish.
I turned and walked toward home,feeling dazed and useless.As I passed the red sedan, I saw two women sitting in the car, frozen with fear.The Crown Heights Riot had happened the month before, and I am certain that the potential for a West Coast version was not lost on them, with their pale scared faces peering out at a sea of colors.I should have gone over to check on them, or given my information to be a witness.It wasn't really anyone's fault. Who knew he would run out into the street?
As I replayed the scene all the way home, I realized that, had I reached down and grabbed his hand, none of this would have happened. Now that I am a parent, I would have seen it all differently and immediately grabbed his hand. I would have assumed that he would run into the street, just as I would assume he would drink drain cleaner if he got his hands on it. Parental paranoia does keep kids alive, because it requires the keenest of anticipatory skills.
I know that there are worse failures that occur, like the people who watched an old man get repeatedly run over by cars on a busy street and did nothing.Or the woman who was forced to jump off a bridge to her death because no one got out of their car to stop her tire iron weilding assailant. I realize that accidents happen and that it wasn't as if  I pushed the kid in front of the car.But it still felt like a failure on my part, as a citizen of the world. Had I been connected to the situation, the outcome might have been different for him.Maybe if had been unlucky enough in my past to have a partner who screamed at me, I might have felt comfortable intervening with the unhappy twosome on Sunday.
Perhaps I grapple with this issue because my secret wish is to be a super hero,like Bruce Willis in "Unbreakable",silently aiding those in need while simultaneously stepping on the neck of the evil. And then going home to make dinner and give the kids a bath.
I can dream of this as I walk away from future domestic altercations, for whatever reason works at the time, a wannabe with a red satin cape bulging out of my "slimming" Not Your Daughters Jeans, hoping one day to make good on my pledge to save the world.....just as soon as I get those breakfast dishes done......

Saturday, March 20, 2010

It isn't easy being green...

 I got hit this week with a double dose of " you are a terrible parent and kind of a moron". So I feel a little uneasy about, well everything.
First, we have termites in our garage,which technically isn't our garage( we rent), so the termite people came to set up a time to tent the garage.I wasn't thrilled at the prospect of all of our stuff getting  sprayed with whatever nasty shit they use, but I figured that I could let it sit for a few weeks and lessen the impact on my family. I was planning on removing their bikes, any pillows or blankets that they play on-anything where residue might be an issue. I was planning on doing this all tomorrow afternoon, when I got a call from my neighbor.Long story short, he refused to sign the waiver letting the termite guys into his yard to put the tent on our garage. He said that he had been a reporter for years and had specialized in toxic chemicals and their use in urban areas.He said that they had moved out of their house while our house was tented before we moved in. For two days they went to a swanky hotel to avoid contact with the termite gas. It is that bad, in his opinion. Like our garage might be the next Love Canal.

I felt grateful and also a little stupid. I am someone who thinks of herself as sort of evolved in the areas of environmental stuff. I am  on the Green Team at my kids' school, am mostly vegetarian for ethical reasons,which has the added bonus of being the number one thing a person can do to help the  environment.I try and think before I buy and usually have a reusable bag when I go to the store. I try to avoid stuff that will pollute the ocean via our drain.We don't drive a Pruis or a hybrid,yet, and we haven't thrown out all of our kids toys that were made in China. We eat cheese, which is really as bad as meat in the ethical sense, not to mention that it is filled with pus from the infected nipples of the relentlessly milked dairy cows. We do soy milk,soy ice cream and some soy cheese at home. Butter for baking and special occasions only and occasionally whipped cream for a special dessert or as a treat on waffles in the morning.
My point is, I thought we were somewhere toward enlightened in the spectrum of environmental awareness, but the tone in my neighbor's voice clearly implied that I am just this side of a Chicken McNugget loving, Escalade driving, tap water drinking fool who would fit right in with the townsfolk in a film like "Idiocracy".

He might be onto something. For all our good qualities, we certainly do have some bad ones.
The amount of recycling and trash that leaves our house on a daily basis preclude us from winning any green awards any time soon. I don't know how to make cereal boxes less bulky short of making my own cereal. I have tried making soy yogurt in our yogurt maker, but it turned out like some tofu version of the Blob. We go through a fair amount of unrechargeable batteries every month,a few of which end up in the trash out of sheer frustration at the number of things I am responsible for every morning. I can never find the charger since the girls incorporate it into their toy zone if it is left in plain sight. We have given up any kind of baggies or disposable containers for school lunches, but I still get plastic bags at the store on occasion for things like cat box deposits and poopy diapers. And we are close to being done with diapers-yes disposable diapers, the worst eco crime next to fast food. I tried the eco friendly G diapers,which are sort of like a giant maxi pad insert for a sturdy lined cover, but it was too bulky to carry all the stuff I needed to dispose of it properly. Most days I can't keep pace with how hard it is to do it the right way.

Which brings me to the second reason I suck as a role model. At least one item in my kids' daily homecooked meals sees the inside of a microwave. Whether it is broccoli steaming in it's own bag or reheating the pasta for fifteen seconds or taking the chill off a soy based meatball, we use that sucker a lot. I googled the dangers of microwave ovens today, just to torture myself, and found the following list among the hundreds of blogs and pages issuing warnings about microwaves.The list of reasons to give up the microwave altogether made my throw up a little in my mouth.

1. Continually eating food processed from a microwave oven causes long term - permanent - brain damage by "shorting out" electrical impulses in the brain [de-polarizing or de-magnetizing the brain tissue].
2. The human body cannot metabolize [break down] the unknown by-products created in microwaved food.
3. Male and female hormone production is shut down and/or altered by continually eating microwaved foods.
4. The effects of microwaved food by-products are residual [long term, permanent] within the human body.
5. Minerals, vitamins, and nutrients of all microwaved food is reduced or altered so that the human body gets little or no benefit, or the human body absorbs altered compounds that cannot be broken down.
6. The minerals in vegetables are altered into cancerous free radicals when cooked in microwave ovens.
7. Microwaved foods cause stomach and intestinal cancerous growths [tumors]. This may explain the rapidly increased rate of colon cancer in America.
8. The prolonged eating of microwaved foods causes cancerous cells to increase in human blood.
9. Continual ingestion of microwaved food causes immune system deficiencies through lymph gland and blood serum alterations.
10. Eating microwaved food causes loss of memory, concentration, emotional instability, and a decrease of intelligence.

Well, slap me with the spoon I used to stir the Annies Organic Microwaveable mac n cheese (that I ate most of)....that is enough to make anybody want to sit  in the garage while they fumigate now isn't  it? Number ten might as well have a photograph of my face next to it.

So basically,I now know that,  for the sake of convenience( read laziness),I have possibly exposed my family to cancer, brain damage,lower I.Q.- as you can see the list goes on. The skeptic in me looks at the the other posts on that blog, though,  and sees a little bit of crazy vegan at work-but  even if she is only a little bit correct in her belief that microwaves are not a great idea, the news ins't good. And anyone with basic common sense (that they choose to exercise) could come to that very same conclusion. Obviously something is weird if the food is "heated" through the agitation of the molecules via microwaves. The mere fact alone that the monitors and cell phones go ballistic when we use ours implies that some heavy shit is being done to the food I am about to serve my family.

For some of you, this may seem  like the equivalent of  just now discovering,after all of the available information out there, how bad smoking is (another "common sense" kind of thing,too),but I had to search for it. I go to Trader Joe's and every other freezer item is "microwave ready". Every package of food has the directions for microwave preparation on the side. Everyone is doing it and no on is talking about the dangers.

 Except Hans Hertel. But somehow they gagged him, and then reversed it a few years later:

Court Removes Gag Order from Swiss Scientist on Microwaved Food

Hans Hertel is the first scientist to conceive of and carry out a quality study on the effects of microwaved nutrients on the blood and physiology of human beings. This small but well-controlled study pointed the firm finger at a degenerative force of microwave ovens and the food produced in them. The conclusion was clear: microwave cooking changed the nutrients so that changes took place in the participants' blood; these were not healthy changes but were changes that could cause deterioration in the human systems. Working with Bernard H. Blanc of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and the University Institute for Biochemistry, Hertel not only conceived of the study and carried it out, he was one of eight participants. In 1991 Hans Ulrich Hertel and a Lausanne University professor published a research paper indicating that food cooked in microwave ovens could pose a greater risk to health than food cooked by conventional means.

Significant changes were discovered in the blood of the volunteers who consumed foods cooked in the microwave oven. These changes included a decrease in all haemoglobin values and cholesterol values, especially the HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol) values and ratio. Lymphocytes (white blood cells) showed a more distinct short-term decrease following the intake of microwaved food than after the intake of all the other variants. Each of these indicators point in a direction away from robust health and toward degeneration. Additionally, there was a highly significant association between the amount of microwave energy in the test foods and the luminous power of luminescent bacteria exposed to serum from test persons who ate that food. This led Hertel to the conclusion that such technically derived energies may, indeed, be passed along to man inductively via consumption of microwaved food.
An article appeared in issue number 19 of the Journal Franz Weber in which it was stated that the consumption of food cooked in microwave ovens had cancer- type effects on the blood. The article was followed by the research paper itself.
On 7 August 1992 the Swiss Association of Manufacturers and Suppliers of Household Appliances brought an action against the applicant in the Canton of Berne Commercial Court. It produced an expert report by a professor at Z├╝rich Federal Institute of Technology from which it appeared that the applicant's research was worthless and his findings untenable.

As soon as Hertel and Blanc announced their results, the hammer of authority slammed down on them. A powerful trade organisation, the Swiss Association of Dealers for Electroapparatuses for Households and Industry, known simply as FEA, struck swiftly. They forced the President of the Court of Seftigen, Kanton Bern, to issue a 'gag order' against Hertel and Blanc. The attack was so ferocious that Blanc quickly recanted his support-but it was too late. He had already put into writing his views on the validity of the studies where he concurred with the opinion that microwaved food caused the blood abnormalities. Hertel stood his ground, and today is steadfastly demanding his rights to a trial. Preliminary hearings on the matter have been appealed to higher courts, and it's quite obvious the powers that be do not want a 'show trial' to erupt on this issue.

In March 1993, the court handed down this decision based upon the complaint of the FEA: "Consideration. 1. Request from the plaintiff (FEA) to prohibit the defendant (Dr Ing. Hans Hertel) from declaring that food prepared in the microwave oven shall be dangerous to health and lead to changes in the blood of consumers, giving reference to pathologic troubles as also indicative for the beginning of a cancerous process. The defendant shall be prohibited from repeating such a statement in publications and in public talks by punishment laid down in the law.
However, in 1998 that decision was reversed. In a judgment delivered at Strasbourg on 25 August 1998 in the case of Hertel v. Switzerland, the European Court of Human Rights held that there had been a violation of Hertel's rights in the 1993 decision. Under Article 50 of the Convention, the Court awarded the applicant a specified sum for legal costs and expenses.
The European Court of Human Rights decided that the "gag order" issued by the Swiss courts against the Bernese scientist prohibiting him from declaring that microwave ovens are dangerous to health was contrary to the right to freedom of expression. In addition, Switzerland was sentenced to pay compensation of F-40,000. This decision is to put an end to judicial censorship of persons drawing attention to the health hazards of certain products.

 Well, there you have it. First chocolate,then watches and now this? If I had a Swiss flag, I'd wave it. It's no  surprise that we aren't the only government that gags the truth in the name of big business,but it's pretty iamazing that he stood his ground for five years and eventually got what he deserved.

After reading the article I couldn't help but wonder,how did I miss this? With all the research I did on strollers and cribs and carseats, you'd think this would have come up. I really think I have just been in bubble.A giant stay-at-home-mom-frazzled-Calgon-take-me-away bubble where I took the easiest road in order to not lose my mind. Doing it the "long way" adds hours to any given week and takes me away from what I would rather be doing- writing, hiking, banging my head against the wall, sleeping. Doing it the "right " way reduces my life to the excriciating minutiae of domestic duties- mind numbingly boring domestic duties. But it is worth it to avoid the inevitable, it has to be. And  I suppose that it is easy to become an alarmist and believe everything that it out there, but if any of it is true then we have this to look forward to:

A trash strewn( over consumption), barren( no trees) planet,surrounded by toxic lifeless water we can't drink or touch or fish from(global warming/melting ice caps/pollution), overpopulated ( the pope)with an illiterate( education system), brain damaged( microwaves),tumor covered(aspartame) people who do nothing but fuck( over exposure to pornography),fight( overexposure to violence) and sleep( overly medicated).The only benefit to knowing this is that maybe we use the premise to make millions writing the blockbuster movie and move to Mars with the  gazillionaires when it comes to pass.Anyone want to write a script? Screw green, I think red is my new favorite color.....

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

a few minutes of someone else's hell

Last summer we were sitting with a gathering of people from our new nursery school. We were at Griffith Park, the largest urban park in the country, under a tree that was adjacent  to a large expanse of grass next to a baseball field.It was flanked by playgrounds and dotted with birthday parties and moon bouncers, as it was on every lazy Sunday afternoon at the height of summer.While it is a common meeting place for families with young children, it's hardly a safe haven from the dangers of city dwelling.They find from three to six bodies a  year in Griffith Park,sometimes more.
We were having a lovely chat when our new friend suddenly and quietly asked her husband where their older girl was. The child had just been there, eating grapes and fixing the picnic blanket. Her mother  had been holding their second child, who was a teeny baby, and their first,who would be two in January, had simply vanished.
The father quietly put down his lunch mid sentence and stood. He looked first at the play ground directly  behind us, then to the picnic tables, in the hope that she was playing between the benches. Then to the dirt road, then to large expanse of grass that disappeared into the bushes adjacent to the freeway.We all stood and looked, semi frozen with the reality of what had just occurred. The park  looked like a video game-kids running,people jogging all directions, single men walking slowly across the grass, couples lying on blankets and kissing.All this activity, and no child in sight. He began to call out her name, as we all did, but there was an eerie sense of futility, not that she was actually gone, but more that it seemed impossible that we would ever find such a small person in such a large, crowded, and  perilous space. We split up,each taking a different direction, yelling her name and scanning for a hopeful sight of her adorable small frame ambling across the grass. I happened to take  the section to the rear, and walked directly across the  grass to the far side where a moonbounce was tucked under a large oak tree.As I approached, I began to run. I saw only  unfamiliar silhouettes jumping up and down. I started to call out in broken Spanish about a small missing child to the smiling hispanic woman who was  peering in at the jumpers when I saw her. In the corner of the moonbounce,I saw  her round sweet head atop her small precious body,quietly rolling around.I called to her, and she looked up,with no sense of the trouble she'd caused in wandering off. I coaxed  her out and scooped her up, feeling a wash of relief, and  the smallest flash of anger that children have so little understanding of the trauma they cause in silently pursuing their bliss. I told her that her parents would be very happy to see her right this minute, and we ran across the lawn, rushing to spare them even one more second of the blinding, chest crushing, dizzying terror that they had been experiencing for the last four minutes. I think someone saw us and called out to them.They met us on the grass,a  cool layer of calm over full body petrifaction. There was no admonishment, just hugging and semi hysterical laughter as an attempt to salvage the rest of the afternoon.
We may tuck them in bed that night and thank our lucky stars, but we  never quite recover from those experiences. As parents,it scars us subcutaneously,deep in our psyches, because we know that it was we who let them slip away unnoticed.We know in our hearts that we just got lucky and happened to find them safe, this time.
This happened again a few months ago at the zoo with a stranger's child.I saw the beginning of it, just as before, with the alarmed questions to each other about where the middle girl had gone. They were two women with two other kids.They immediately split up, calling her name frantically. I approached, and asked what she was wearing.She told me a brown dress with pink flowers and pointed to the younger girl they were with."Just like that with blonde braids.She's five...",she said, breathlessly, and told me her child's name,Brooke.I left my two kids, safe with Daddy by the penguins and went the opposite direction, secretly patting myself on the back for often dressing my kids alike for this exact reason. I scanned the crowd as I passed the otter exhibit, feeling again like I was in a strange video game, with elephants, and macaws and popcorn carts moving in the foreground. I was overcome by the same feeling of futility, because there were so many possibilities of where she could be. I got to the top of the crowded trail and saw a huddled group by the fence,with a small blonde braided girl in a brown shirt with pink flowers. I told them her name was Brooke, and asked her to come with me.They had a fleeting moment of suspicion as I swooped in and took her by the hand back down the hill. I told her that her parents were looking for her by the penguins.I followed the sound of their voices,hoarsely calling out for her, into the snake exhibit.They were reunited in front of the boa constrictor window. Three minutes of hell, over at last. Again, no admonishment, just hugs.The mother had the same layer of cool over abject terror.The adrenaline surge must have been exhausting.She thanked me, not for just helping, I think, but more for understanding exactly how she felt.
I returned to my family, who were ready for ice cream and tired of waiting for me.
As we walked back up the hill to the Dippin' Dots cart, I  felt a terrible and overwhelming sense of compassion for the families whose hell never ends.The ones who look all afternoon, and eventually call the police.The ones who tearfully describe what she was wearing to the officer and explain that they had only looked away for a minute. The ones who have to get in their car as night falls, and  drive home, leaving behind  the last place they saw their child alive. They lie awake wondering if she is still out there, lost, scared, alone.Or worse yet, is she with someone who may wish to do her harm.
It is unimaginable that people endure this,let alone survive this. Life is so fragile, really, painfully and punishingly fragile.
I think I will GPS my kids until they are in college.  That's legal, right?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Thank you for being a frenemy.......

Big has a frenemy. She doesn't understand it at all,but I sure do. Resisting the urge to grab the kid by the face and hiss something terrifying in the kid's tiny pink ear ( as my mother did on one occasion when my sister was small),I smile stiffly in the kid's presence and kill with mock kindness. The oddest part is Big's insistence on engaging,despite the unhappy outcome. I tell her all of the tired old advice from my youth-"ignore them", "stay away from them"," it's their problem". I even suggested that she pretend she can't hear the kid in the hope that the child would be reduced to screaming the offending words and be overheard by the parent so perhaps it would stop. Big thought it was a funny idea but won't try it.She is almost too curious still about why the meanness is happening. Perhaps her self esteem is so high that she truly can't fathom how the child isn't enthralled by her.

I found this to be of interest:
"Aristotle distinguishes between three kinds of friendship. The first is based on utility; one person is friends with another because the other is useful to him. The second is based on pleasure; one is friends with the other because the other provides pleasure. The third is based on the good, however in this case one is not friends with the other for his own gain or desire. Instead, one wants what is best for his friend. The third friendship is qualitatively different than the first two. The other kinds of friendship are fundamentally selfish and fleeting: once the utility or the pleasure is gone, the friendship is dissolved. Friendship based in the good, on the other hand, is far more stable."

Having experienced all three types of the relationships he describes, I do prefer number three. I have had the girlfriends who take advantage, or suck the life out of you with their drama. I have had the girlfriends who only want to hangout when your are flush or famous. I don't need any if it anymore.I'd rather be alone.
I have a handful of friends that I cultivated in my twenties and thirties that gradually moved away or drifted away.I can always pick up the phone and call a couple of them, and it is as if they never left.Three thousand miles is a long distance, but a real friendship can survive it indefinitely.

At the ripe old age of forty, I can safely say that I finally have the sense to know who is a real friend and who is classified as other.I have no actual enemies that I am aware of,unless Anonymous, from a few posts back, is busily assasinating my character for my less than appreciative reply to his/her comment.. I now have, in large part thanks to my kids, a few marvelous newish friends who are, as a whole, incredibly self-effacing, honest, funny, introspective, beautiful, widly creative,intelligent,like long walks on the beach, snuggling in the rain, white zinfandel and George Winston records. But, really, their attributes do read like a personal add.

A true friend is someone who is happy for your success,monetary and otherwise, and who doesn't secretly derive pleasure from your failures. This is nearly impossible to find in our modern screwed up world. I seem to have found a healthy handful who don't blanche, trump or denigrate when I share good news and don't smirk,relish or simply run away when I share bad news. I have girlfriends who appreciate my kids, praise their good qualities and politely ignore their not so good qualities. They trust that I have it under control and don't feel the need to give me a bunch of unsolicited advice. I have girlfriends who don't suggest I drop a few pounds,or tell me never to wear that shade of lipstick. I have girlfriends who will listen to my rants about this or that and advise without an agenda, empathize without usurping the issue,and strategize with great diplomacy and tact. I made the mistake, years ago, of telling a girlfriend what I really thought of her recently exed boyfriend.She rekindled within the week  and never forgave me. I was trying to be honest because I thought she deserved someone better. Honesty is important, but it isn't that simple. True friendship is knowing the person well enough to know how what you have to say will affect them.
My desire  is that Big will learn by osmosis, and routinely shed the frenmies and the girls that make her feel less than stellar. I hope she can look to my relationships with women and see that it is a lot more fun to hang with the smart goofy chicks who don't give a shit about having a Birken bag than trying to play the unwinnable game of who has the coolest stuff. I made a conscious choice in eighth grade to walk away from the group I had been with for two years, the group that spent lunch drinking Diet Coke and comparing cup sizes. All they talked about was who was prettier,thinner,had better clothes.Boring.Excruciating, in fact,since I was never even a contender in their limited scope of things.I should probably thank them for their short sighted obvservations because it forced me to make a decision. One lunch period, I got up and walked across the lawn to where the slightly awkward, smart, shy girls were sitting, unadorned, in their off brand clothes and gladly joined their ranks.
I have decided that the only girlfriends I want are the ones that make me feel like my best self.
So far, so good. I only hope I can give back in kind.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

February was bitch and so am I...

Okay, so February SUCKED. The first two weeks were peppered with spontaneous vomiting- the kind where you leave two happy playing kids alone in the foyer for twenty second and return to find Little holding a vomit filled shoe and a confused look.

Big says with certainty " She throwed up in her shoe".

"I can see that", I say, "and on the rug too".

The clothes come off, streaking wayward vomit across her torso and into her hair.The shoes get rinsed but always have a lingering odor and can't ever be worn without socks again. She is fine.She isn't sick.I take her temperature forty times until the screeching sound she makes when I come close to her with a thermometer in hand drives me to the computer. I find GERD,reflux, ulcers, brain tumors and lots and lots of people whose kids throw up A LOT. Oh, Jesus, really?

A few days later, Big announces that Little "throwed up on her night gown".I go upstairs to find a teaspoon size amount dribbled down the front. I change her nightie and take her temperature again. Normal.

This happens three more times in the following week.I call the doctor.He tells me to lay off the primary suspect,rice and beans, for ten days. We eat it almost every day,so now the added challenge of what else to eat looms like thick grey clouds on the horizon.

The next morning,Big gets pinkeye.I get her the drops,for 72.00, and she goes back to school two days later.That afternoon she gets the stomach flu.She throws up four times that night-in a bucket, in her bed and expertly in a toilet. The bed happened because she was asleep when it started. I change the sheets and spend a sleepless night listening to her coughing on the monitor,rushing in to make sure she isn't going the way of Jimi Hendrix. There was no fever so she stays home the next day watching movies while I sleep on the couch.I haven't written or exercised in days and am awfully cranky.

I begin packing for a long weekend trip up north and wonder when Little will catch Big's flu. By Friday, everyone seems fine and we leave for the trip-a glorious four day romantic family Valentine's Day weekend in Santa Barbara, a misnomer if ever there was one.

We have an excellent time, though Little seems a bit off. She isn't eating much and is a little crankier than normal. I am right there with her. I finally get a chance to take a solo walk,but I end up in the grocery store buying wipes and snacks for the hotel room. Saturday night comes and so does our sitter.We leave the kids with a smart twenty year old student who arrives with a stack of colored paper and pens.Big falls in love and we depart, ready for our big romantic night out.I get a text thirty minutes later that Little has vomited all over herself. The sitter said it was sudden and furious and that Little didn't seem sick.She told us not to come back since both kids were going to bed. We might as well have gone back, since that is all we talked about over our overpriced, over salted, entirely mediocre meal served to us by a bona fide surfer dude.We returned to a vomit scented room at eleven thirty, and I gave the sitter a forty dollar guilt tip for cleaning up better than I would have.Grrrrrrrrrrrr............

I make an appointment for Little to see a GI doctor for the following week.

We come home on Monday night to a broken refrigerator filled with spoiled food. I spend the rest of the evening throwing away smelly, dripping, rotting food and finally get to bed at eleven. Double grrrrrrr..

Tuesday morning,Little wakes up,pale and clingy and vomits on the couch.Hacking cough,slight fever.No school for Little until Wednesday. No exercise for Mommy, again...ggrrr...

On Wednesday, the teacher mentions that Big is scratching. She has checked for the dreaded lice, but found nothing. I take them swimming and,once home, take to Big's hair with a magnifying glass and a flashlight. After finding what appear to be nits in her hair,I rush her the the Hair Fairies,whose sole job is to deal with this sort of thing, to be told that she is "off the charts" and at least a month into a full blown infestation. Aside from feeling like a totally shabby parent, I am forseeing all of the laundry I have to look forward to in the next month, since everything needs to be chaged and vacuumed and sprayed and swept to eleminate stray lice.No school for Big or Little on Thursday.No exercise for Mommy.I spend the morning combing my long thick hair to find four bugs and a few nits. Lovely.Little has one bug and three nits. I take Big and her thick curly impossible hair back to the Hair Fairies and 200 dollars and an hour and half later we are nit free until Monday.We get a note allowing Big to return to school. Little stays home again on Friday, low grade fever and nasty cough.ggrrrm*therf$ckin$rrrrrrrr...........
I wake up on Saturday with pinkeye and Little is still too sick to go to ballet. We lie around watching Nick Jr. and eating challah bread while Big and Dad go to ballet. Sunday everyone is miraculously well enough to go out, and we have a nice family afternoon visit with an old friend. Monday comes.The anticipation is killing me. Everyone seems healthy,enough, and I am salivating at the thought of my time back.I have not been alone in what seems like a year and am dying to exercise and write.Little wakes up and has a fever,again.She stays home from school AGAIN. I decide to go to the doctor. She has something brewing, and he gives her antibiotics. Back to the Hair Fairies that afternoon. Big has 6 nits,down from over 100.They both return to school on Tuesday and I am FINALLY alone. I take the rest of the week to recover from what has just occurred-the runaway need wagon out of some bizarre western movie that has been riding roughshod over my life has finally ridden off into the sunset,but my freedom feels foreign. In my will to survive these last few weeks, in my eventual submission to the reality of being a Mommy when the chips are down, something has been lost. I have a hard time diving back in with my former gusto. I don't call friends and set up playdates. I vant to be alone.....

I take Little to the GI doc on Tuesday and she is given a 162.00 reflux prescription to try for a month. She hasn't vomited since Valentine's Day,and a small part of me is wondering if it was a statment about the holiday itself rather than a digestive issue.That afternoon,I have an impromptu ice cream playdate with a dear friend whose February was worse than mine.We sit numbly as our children rearrange the store.I have nothing to say to my hilariously funny, inspiring friend except that February is a mean mean month.

Thursday we go back for another 95 dollar visit to my new favorite hangout, the lice salon, and are declared nit free.We have one more appointment in one week and will be officially back from the tea tree zone. The weekend comes and so does the school carnival. Big asks me to make butterfly wings for her Purim costume, and I do,out of old tights and a coat hanger, then flies at me in a rage because they aren't exactly like the picture she drew for me. As she screams and stomps on my effort, I am reminded of the scene from "Enemies a Love Story" where Yadwiga,the Polish servant girl, who has hidden Ron Silver from the Nazis in her barn for two years, is informed by him that he is running off with Lena Olin. She breaks down and screams " I clean your sheeeet!I clean your sheeet!". I feel exactly like her in the moment where my now perfectly healthy daughter is punching my arm and yelling about imperfect butterfly wings. I think of the many loads of laundry I did in the last few weeks,the nightgown changes,the dryer running 24/7. I think of all the days home from school in the last month, where I returned to the grind of fourteen hour days with two kids and no sleep. I think of all the doctor visits,pharmacy visits,lice salon visits and realize that February kicked my ass. I spent an entire month in a constant state of quasi-bitchiness, and I am tired. I don't resent it like Yadwiga, because there were no Nazi's, but I feel a little bit better about being so bitchy about it all.