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Double Down

10 Feb

It seems insomnia is my most persistent muse. It may have been the ill-timed coffee at 5 pm. It may be the headache I can’t shake and the weird right ear pain that has me anxious it’s another throat thing.  My throat and I are at constant odds with each other. It might have been checking in on a blogger I haven’t read in years. Her name just popped into my head and I checked in to find out that her husband of 14 years was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and then died four short months later at the age of 44 leaving behind four children and, well… her. It might be all of these things working together on my brain, but they have left me here.  Wide awake at 2:05 am.

I just took 2 Tylenol PMs.  They should deal with both the pain and the racing thoughts in about 20 to 30 minutes. The writing is a less chemical method to achieve the same results.  So I’m doubling up.  Doubling down.

I got my kids haircuts today.  There are three men who work at this place. We walked in at 3 and they looked aghast to see us.  There were people waiting everywhere.  Steam collected on the windows.  Music blared on the radio and each of the three TVs played a different station at full volume.  They are methodical in their work.  No amount of customers will cause them to rush a haircut, which is one reason I like them, but can make for an awfully long wait. Can you come back at 4:30? they asked. No problem.  We came back at 5 and waited a few minutes.  There was hair everywhere.  It was clear that these men had been cutting hair for hours and hours without a break.  One barber, in between each client, would just pound down like a liter of water and then call the next dude up and start all over again. I wondered how much hair went home with them on their shoes and pants.  A lot, I imagine. I like these men.

Sam got the best haircut of his life. When he was done, the barber asked if he could take a photo to put up on the website  Sam, a little shocked by the suggestion, agreed.  The barber said “Ok, but if you’re going to, you have wear these” and handed him a pair of aviator glasses.

Craig is asleep on his feet these days.  Exhaustion has claimed him. How many days til the end of grad school, I wonder? He tries to stay awake, to watch a show, to feel normal.  But his head droops within minutes of trying to relax.  He always goes to bed before me, after much persuasion on my part. I follow him up about an hour after.  I lay down in bed and find his wrist and hold onto it. He tenses up for a second when I  coax him out of sleep by pulling his arm toward me, but immediately relaxes back into wherever he was.  This nightly holding of his wrist, he is unconscious to it.  I am 100% present for it.  It’s bittersweet.

I contemplated making mashed potato casserole tonight at 2 am for the Sunday supper I’m making tomorrow.  But I wrote instead. Now it seems too late. 2 was a possibility.  2:30 is absurd. Good night. I hope.




7 Feb

It’s late on Wednesday. I ought to go up to bed.  I’ll regret staying up this late tomorrow morning when I have to drag myself downstairs to get my kids to school on time.  But I can’t help it.  The quiet hum of my home in the middle of the night is my favorite sound. The chaos of my day now lies slack-jawed in a mess of sheets.

It’s a comfort.


27 Sep

I tune in for the testimony for like 3 minutes before I have to switch away, just disgusted and hopeless.  My facebook feed is intolerable.  I took my dog to get her nails trimmed and pulled up next to a car that read “I don’t believe the liberal media. I stand for the flag.”  I sighed and brought my dog in and smiled at the only other customer in the grooming shop who was the likely owner of the car/bumper sticker.  She seemed nice. It made me sad.  I know lots of nice women who don’t believe liberal media.  We have our differences, but I try to remember that politics are only a part of what make up a human.  I understand that we can coexist. That we have to coexist.

But I cannot, for the life of me, understand how a woman would not stand in solidarity with another woman who has been sexually assaulted.  I. can. not. Not only would not stand with her, but would mock her in a public forum.

Because I know that every woman on the face of the planet has been sexually harassed, sexually demeaned, or scared that they were about to be sexually assaulted multiple times in their lives.  I know it like I know the thrum of my own pulse.  Where did empathy go?  Common sense? Just basic respect for a woman as a human being? How could they do that to another woman when they too have experienced something like it?

It’s just been a shit day in this regard. I’m so sick to death of the mental gymnastics being used these days to justify the fact that we, as a collective nation, have unofficially agreed to just kinda shit all over women.

Perhaps this is dramatic.  Perhaps we are making strides and there have been good developments for women as a collective group.  But today, it doesn’t feel like.  Today, the world feels drab and dreary and gray.

In other news, a man at Aldi today was SO EXCITED about his recent doctor visit that he was practically shouting about how he was gonna go fix him up some hamburgers for dinner with his grand baby.  His cholesterol was fine!  His A1C was fine! His blood pressure was great! And that hamburger was calling his name.  He was so joyful and funny and happy about these hamburgers and sharing them with his grand baby and was telling all of us about it. Watching him celebrate this win felt like the scene in Wizard of Oz where we finally see that yellow brick road in the sea of gray.

Craig has been working like 18-20 hours a day for the past two weeks and has one more week to go. I can’t fathom how he isn’t complaining like 90% of the time, because I sure as hell would be.  But he’s not.  He just does his work and soldiers on. He comes home at like 10 at night, exhausted, and still sits on the couch and peppers me with questions about my day.  And after I’m done telling him, he retires to our dining room table to do homework for grad school. Then he slips into bed, undetected and rises at 5 am to go do it all again.  He’s the real deal.  I can’t wait til he’s done with this big work project next week and I can have him back in my life, because he is obviously an amazing person.  I want to have a campfire in the backyard to celebrate.  I want to hold hands, and drink hot chocolate and stare at a fire for a few hours, just him and me, looking straight into that technicolor glow.


5 Aug

I run downstairs to get the anti-itch pill that the doctor prescribed to him, when I hear Gus call out “Mom, I’m just going to take a little nap in the tub!”

“No no no!” I call back, “I’m coming with your medicine.  Don’t sleep in the tub, silly!”

I hurry back upstairs to find him playing quietly.  He is sliding around on his belly in the tub with his mouth open wide and then lifting up his head and letting the water drop out.  It’s been such a long, fun-filled, exhausting day, I just let him and don’t chide him not to put the bath water in his mouth.

I admire the stark contrast between the brown of the small of his back and his white butt as he slip slides around. A summer well spent.

He finds his way out of the tub and I gingerly pat him dry.  It’s been a week since he first got poison ivy, but it only seems to be getting worse. New blossoms of red appearing every morning, every evening.  When will we be on the downward slope of this particular boyhood rite of passage?

I keep re-reading articles on the internet about poison ivy hoping to glean some new information that can make it stop.  But there is no new information.  It all says the same things.  It usually lasts two weeks but can last longer.  You can only get it from touching the oils, not from touching someone else’s rash. You can’t spread it to new parts of your body by scratching it and then touching another part of your body. (Well you can, but only when there is oil still on it.)  New patches can appear long after the first ones appear  for a variety of reasons.  It will look as if the rash is spreading, but it is not actually spreading.  It is just finally awakening what was there all along.

I read about it each night and wonder the same thing: how many more blossoms of poison ivy are hiding on this sweet child, waiting to bloom?

He hates the creams the doctor prescribed to him. One for his face. One for his body.  But he sits docile on his floor and allows me to hunt down the red splotches that weren’t even there this morning and rub the cream in.

I help him dress tonight.  I put him in some of his older brother’s pajamas. Loose, breezy, covered. He is happy to be channeling Henry for the night. Dressed for bed as one of his heroes.

He does not complain about the creams, or the itching, or the fact that he’s completely, utterly, totally exhausted.  He just crawls into bed and I shut off the light. He looks at me seriously “Mom, I don’t think I can sing tonight. I think I can only listen to singing tonight.”

So I sing our song, and he listens, He is immediately drowsy. I watch his pupils dilate and his eyelids droop and then some thought or sound brings him back to me and he looks at me alert and smiles contentedly. And then he’s fading into sleep again.  Over and over we do this through the whole song. And I am singing as soft as I can, which is requiring me to remember how to use some very rusty vocal technique, but I want this song to last as long as I can make it last.

When I am done, my silence brings him back to alertness. He smiles at me, content. I kiss his forehead which smells of shampoo.  He watches me until the door is closed.  I know this because I close it, and then need to open it almost immediately for one more look at him. I find his eyes still fixed on the crack of the door where my face just disappeared.  I blow him a kiss and then finally close the door to let him sleep.

I descend the stairs feeling a fresh blossom of love blooming for him, like ivy. The opposite of poison. Deeply rooted. Always there. Just waiting for the right moment to appear.

Two Pairs of Socks

10 Mar

Craig and I said goodbye this morning with a quick and sleepy kiss.  We won’t see one another again until Sunday night around 9 pm when I (hopefully) get home from work.

I came downstairs to a hysterically crying Gus.  Somehow he had inferred that his brother Henry was telling him that he was not allowed to eat any of the cereal that he had specifically chosen at the grocery store the day before. Henry was defensively explaining that he was NOT saying that Gus could not have any but that he was only saying that he, HENRY could ALSO have some.  This escalated and became shrill and intense. There was much tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth.  I felt sad that my day had started thus. Again.

I mediated and then doled out the Lucky Charms thinking “this is what I get for actually letting my kid pick out Lucky Charms. Chocolate Lucky Charms, no less.”  And then I headed upstairs to get myself dressed and maybe slurp down some coffee before descending back into the madness of morning school drop off.

On the stairs, I found a love poem Craig had left me…  One he’d written specifically for me.

You see, the night before, when I dragged myself up to bed,  my husband said he was going downstairs to do a load of laundry and would see me up there in a minute. (that’s not even the romantic part.)  And while he was downstairs sorting and folding and hanging, he must have thought, “Gen has two days of work coming up and she probably doesn’t have any of her favorite work socks upstairs and she’ll forget them on Saturday morning and be too tired on Saturday night and she’ll certainly forget them on Sunday morning”  And so he folded them and brought them up and left them on the stairs for me where I would be absolutely sure to see them.


I swear I looked at those socks and thought, “I have to be the most happily married woman this side of creation.”

And on I went with my day, eagerly awaiting 9 pm on Sunday night.


8 Mar

When I was pregnant with Sam and my body decided that it was time to push, there was no stopping it.  The nurses begged me to stop pushing.  The doctor isn’t here yet.  Don’t push. Don’t push. Breathe. Breathe.  They chanted it to me with a desperation that I understand now that I am on the other side of health care.  And I tried to stop my body from doing what it must.  I tried to, but I failed. I breathed and panted and yet my whole body squeezed itself into the contraction.  Someone came into the room and said my doctor was “on the way” and had said to just turn up my epidural.  I refused.  I don’t want more epidural.  I won’t be able to feel anything at all to push once she gets here!  I don’t need more drugs.  I need to push!  I yelled out to them as my body pushed and they begged me to stop.

Craig jumped in and demanded another doctor be brought into the room to deliver my baby.

I wonder now who it was.  Who was this savior who stepped into place and pretended to be an authority?  Certainly it had to be someone unqualified.  First year resident maybe.  Been on L&D rotation for 2 weeks.  And here she was being brought in as the expert. I admire her, whoever she was.  She stepped into my room and assured me that all was fine.  Even though her heart must have been hammering away inside her chest.

And so my body pushed.

Later my actual doctor walked in.  She was angry with me that I had not followed her directive.  That I had not allowed her to medicate my body into submission for her tardiness to my birth. Craig asked her how are you Dr. D?  And she glared at him and said like a steel blade, “Harried.”

And we carried on. Later, in the pushing she made a point to make eye contact with me and said “if you can’t do any better than that with your pushing, I’ll get this baby out myself in the OR.”  I wanted to reach between my legs and grab her throat and strangle her.  But instead I pushed as hard as I could.  I pushed harder than I could.  And I ripped myself in two, very nearly, just to be rid of this awful awful woman.  And Sam was born and the world pivoted.  And we all forget about the Dr. that I later learned everyone in the hospital referred to privately as Dr. Diablos.


This week I admitted a baby that needed a to be intubated (a breathing tube.)  The doctor worked patiently with the residents and allowed them a moment to attempt intubation on this tiny human.  He spoke quietly to them, stopped them gently when they were about to do something that might cause undue discomfort, he encouraged them and even gently guided their hands and said yes yes, look, you are doing it. And then the baby cried around the tube and we all exhaled as he pulled the tube out and stepped in to do it himself, still offering praise and encouragement to his pupils. You very nearly had it!

He quickly (and easily) intubated the patient and then it was my job to secure the tube in place. I lined up the device and confirmed with my respiratory therapist that I was in good placement on the other side before pressing the adhesive to the baby’s face.  As she said yes and I looked to see if it was well placed on my side before I pressed down, the doctor grabbed it from my hand and slapped it down.

His patience had been bled dry for the residents. I was too timid, too slow, too hesitant and he was exhausted by it. Bled dry of his praise and encouragement.


Later, when he left the room, the therapist and I had to redo the job to prevent the patient from accidental extubation.

I’ve ordered myself a new daily planner.  It is a detailed planner created for high achievers like CEOs.  For people like my husband who are strategists for large businesses. Serious women and men who wear snappy suits and have meetings that require them to plan long range and talk about profits and quarters and employee engagement.  It is meant to help them set goals and then create plans to pick away at them and achieve them.

It was not made for 41 year old brand new nurses trying to keep tiny humans alive through the night.  People who have no discernible schedule or rhythm to their day to day life.  Who wake up and basically put out blazing fires all day (all night) long. It was not made for people who are so low on the totem pole at work they may as well be the part that is buried in the dirt.  It was not made for mothers of three school age children who all have such deeply different schedules and needs and all seem to be missing their mom in some secret message sort of way.  It wasn’t made for people who can’t seem to keep their house clean for more than 3 minutes or cook proper meals more than two times a week; people who can’t eat healthy or exercise regularly or volunteer at church or at school or at Scouts.  It was not a planner that was created for people like me.



My natural state is one of tension.  Not unlike my body was during labor with Sam.  Tightening, wrapping itself forward and pushing onward with no discernible plan other than to do more than what I am already doing.  Always this press to do better, do more, to excel in all arenas, to pick apart all my own minor failures and magnify them so as to better examine and fix them.  My list of what I’d like to accomplish is absurd. Yet, I press on with this list as if it is written law. And I exhaust myself in the absurd effort of it.

Well, I am using my planner to lasso this natural tendency  of mine to white knuckle it.  And I am strategically setting some goals to slow my roll.

Yesterday, instead of cooking dinner for my children, I threw some leftovers on plates, heated them up and then snuck into the living room while they ate.  I sat in the sunny patch on my couch reading Bel Canto and ate a big bowl of chips. And when I was done, I went and checked it off my list in my planner. Like a motherfucking boss.


A Morning Alone

26 Feb

I have the day off from work today and all three of my kids are at school.  It’s sunny outside.  And before we walked into the preschool Gus and I stopped to listen to the birds chattering.  The impending sound of spring. I said they’re so happy, aren’t they? And he replied, yes they are because now they can play with their toys…. wait… do birds have toys.  And I replied, Of course they do!  They have wings!  which seemed to satisfy his four year old brain immensely.

It was a nice way to start the day because just minutes earlier he was angry at me and giving me the silent treatment because I took screens away from him after school for disobeying me and being disrespectful when we were trying to get out the door for the morning.

I’m grateful for the sweet little conversation about birds.  And he seemed to be too.

I had a brutal day at work on Saturday and I am still not fully recovered from it.  Yesterday I felt like I was recovering from the worst hangover of my life.  My theory is that my adrenaline was pumping so fast and hard all day Saturday that my body basically collapsed in on itself on Sunday.  I had to go to a Scouting event Sunday afternoon and I was nervous that my face looked as exhausted as it felt.  If it did, no one really said anything.

I still don’t really feel fully physically recovered today which seems weird.  I told this to Henry as we drove to school and didn’t he think it was weird that I was still worn out from work 2 days ago? (He did.)  He seized on this point as an opportunity to express that he does not think it is fair that I get to rest today on a Monday when he has to go to school. And how he is tired of grown ups telling him that what he does is not work because he actually does work very hard at school and then it sent him into a spiral of talking about all the things in his life that he thinks are unfair.

Internet, truth be told, I wanted to reach in the back seat and slap him for taking like that because I just can not even cope with comfortable, healthy, beloved people talking about how life is not fair to them at the moment.  I have no space for it in my brain.  But he is my son, a human that I deeply love.  He is also only 8.  And frankly, at this moment in his life, his proclivity for discontent is essentially Craig’s and my responsibility. So I worked on it in the drop off line. We chipped away at that big “unfair” chip he often hoists up onto his shoulder.

I left the dog outside during drop off because she enjoys eating rabbit poop in the yard.  I normally FREAK out about her eating the rabbit poop and demand for her to come inside because it makes me so sick to my stomach that I feel like I’m going to vomit.  But today, I just let her have the moment because I didn’t have to think about it while I was gone.  She’s getting lots of gray all over her head and snout.  And she is truly one of the most gentle, shy little souls who ever walked this planet. So I let her feast on poop and then I gave her a greenie. I’ll take her for a short walk later.  She can’t handle distances.  But we’ll just take it slow today and listen for the birds.