Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Conversation among Sisters


Addie:  Nolie, you know when you're older and married, you're not going to like toots and poops so much.

Nolie:  You don't know that.

Addie:  I do know it.

Nolie:  It's not true.

Addie:  Is so.


Nolie:  Is not.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Urgent Silliness

Why yes, yes we did end up back in urgent care just one more time last week, before E. got home from Switzerland. 

See, we invited one of Addie's friends over for a playdate, which was great!  We had dinner and did a little crafty thingy and then the girls played upstairs for about 20 minutes while I cleaned up and had some tea.

It was a little bit quiet up there.

I enjoyed, rather than investigated, that quiet.

Anyway, then we had to take our friend home, since it was a school night.  Everybody was bundled into our nifty microvan Shakira, and was happily reading poems to each other.  We are poetry nerds around here, so this is totally normal.  Look away, everyone.  Nothing to see here.

Except that Nolie was sniffling.  Like, a lot.  A LOT!  And even though I was tired and sleep-deprived and pretty out of it, I happened to notice this crazy sniffling.  And so I asked, Nolie, how come you're sniffling?    See, I got instantly worried she had found some paprika or something, some hidden paprika stash that I did not know about, and that we were having a reaction again.

We were not.

Instead, we had decided to put a silly band up our nose.

Yes we had.

Silly bandz, in case you don't know, are elastic rubber-band-type bracelets in various shapes that the kids love to wear in multiples on their little wrists:

They also come in ring sizes.  Which I'm grateful for, elst the night could have turned out differently.

I started laughing and crying at the same time, of course, and by the time we got to our friend's house at about 7pm I was begging them to help me get that thing out of her nose and, like good friends, they said they would.

But we couldn't.  We had her blow and blow and we used a flashlight and though I could feel it when I squoze her little nose up high, we couldn't see it or get it out.

So, off to urgent care.  Where they stuck myriad forms of instrumentation up my baby's right blowhole.  and couldn't get it out.  And couldn't get it out.  And couldn't get it out.  And then started talking about knocking my baby out and doing a little surgery.  And she was grabbing me and sobbing so hard the whole time and I could tell she wasn't quite all there with us from the trauma but I told her we were taking a little break and there was snot pouring out of her nose and the doctor gave her a tissue and told her to try blowing one last time and it came right on out.

We were in bed by 9.  And that was our second trip to the urgent care during the week that E. was gone to Switzerland.  And yes, I did keep that thing.  I figure it can be her "something blue" when she gets married.

P.S.  On the way to school the next morning, Nolie informed me that she "always puts silly bandz up her nose, but this was the first time it got stuck!"  Which, I guess, might solve the mystery of her unpredictable nose snifflies that we thought were maybe seasonal allergies but didn't respond to allergy medicine.  Hmmm.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


So, I've never taken a Myers-Briggs test.  I realize I'm probably the last person in America not to have, but in reading Fried, I decided to take one.  You can take one here, if you're interested.

I'm totally shocked, to be honest, because for one thing, I came up as a "Provider," which I never would have guessed, and then reading my "how providers deal with stress at work page," it's pretty much so dead on as to be scary.  I'm pasting it here so that I'll read it again.

Dealing with Stress from Work: Guardians Bearing Up
How do you deal with work-related stress? Each personality type has different stressors and copes in different ways. Better understanding of your own stressors and coping mechanisms can help you reduce the tension and anxiety work stress often creates.
When stressed, Guardians usually report being sick, tired, sad, or worried.

Of all the Guardians, the Supervisor tends to take on the largest amount of external authority, responsibility, and pressure. When they've overdone it, their only recourse to relieving these pressures is to become sick. Of course, they don't choose to become sick, it is simply their body's response to the overload. They want to be recognized for their accomplishments and contributions. They want respect more than they wish to be liked. They will work harder and harder to earn this respect. They are drained by overly emotional responses to their directives. If disrespect continues for a long period, they may become hypersensitive to their feelings and that of others. To return to equilibrium, they need silent support from others, to cut back on responsibilities, and to practice healthy living by exercising and eating better. Says Dirk, "I learned a lesson when my doctor reported that I had high blood pressure and I needed to cut my stress level. I started to delegate more and not jump when any new opportunity for responsibility came up. I thought that was the only way to advance, but I'm getting better work from those I supervise and getting more respect from management since I became more relaxed."

The Inspector is the most likely to complain of being tired. They have a greater need for private time than the Supervisor. They, too, will assume a great deal of responsibility. Their need to be exacting coupled with too many drains on their time can lead to their becoming stressed. They can become obsessed with details and criticize their underlings or co-workers for imperfection. They can become fearful of anything that is not well-proven, tried-and-true. If they become impulsive or talk excessively about potential catastrophes, they are showing high stress. To return to equilibrium, their concerns need to be taken seriously by others and efforts need made to reduce their workload and give them more private time. Says Janice, "I find that if I keep taking on new responsibilities, I'm less effective and much more tired. My husband finally laid down the law that I needed to cut back, so I did. I enjoy my job more and my home life has improved."

The Provider is the most likely to first become angry, then sad and complain to anyone who will lend them an ear. This is quite different from their normal style of spreading happiness and making everyone around them comfortable. What triggers the stress is when others do not trust them or when they experience too much pressure to conform to a standard with which they do not agree. Interpersonal conflict with a boss, co-worker, or underling also takes a toll on the Provider's equilibrium. When stressed, they may become excessively logical and critical in their dealings with others. To return to normal, they will need less pressure from others and more solitude. Sometimes writing in a journal will help them with their sadness. They may need coaching in how to deal with adversity and decrease their need for harmonious relationships. Changing the people they interface with may help. Says Haime, "I had to learn to be more tolerant when I'm in conflict with another. I was lucky to have a mentor who helped me through a conflict with a co-worker. He advised me that most bosses don't like to deal with conflicts between co-workers. He helped me loosen up and find a way to be less intense when dealing with conflicts. It's helped a lot."

The Protector is the most likely to become excessively worried. Their highest skills come from preventing problems, and to do that one must think about what might go wrong and prevent it. But too great an overload can trigger excessive worry. Being forced to face too many new experiences can be daunting to the Protector and cause them to talk about potential catastrophes. They may experience a loss of control and even become impulsive while trying to fix all that they see going wrong. When others see them in this state, it is important to give them help and to lower their expectations about always being able to prevent every problem. Until they release some of their need for control, they will experience high stress. Rest, good nutrition, and treating themselves to peace and quiet will go a long way towards healing their stress. Says Barbara, "I was lucky that I had a boss who could see that I was too tightly wound up and worrying too much. She helped me evaluate what was important and what was not so I could let go of some of the fine details and find a better balance. Work is more comfortable for me now."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Don't Carry It All

It was just a little hard to open my peepers this morning.  Bedtime wars with Nolie again last night, though after waking at midnight and crying for a while she finally fell asleep in her bed and stayed there until morning.  My back hurt from sitting all day yesterday.  Faithful feedback mechanism.

But there was coffee, and then the rain came down in great, pounding sheets.  We skyped with E, who is using someone else's computer and comes through as user "Luca Piazza."  We enjoy saying that, over and over.

On the way to drop the kids off, the sun broke through, and the mountains were covered in fog, and every last thing seemed unbelievably green--the pregnancy of spring.  Nolie and I were quiet in the car, just looking at it all, sleepy but grateful for the startling beauty of the morning.

This is my anthem for the week.  Death, rebirth, surrender, acceptance, giving.  It's got it all.  Give it a listen.

Here we come to a turning of the season,
witness to the arc towards the sun,
the neighbors blessed burden within reason,
becomes a burden borne of all in one,
but nobody nobody knows,
let the yoke fall from our shoulders,
don’t carry it all don’t carry it all,
we are all our hands in holders,
but meet this bold and brilliant sun,
but this I swear to all
A monument to build beneath the arbors,
upon a cliff the that towers towards the trees,
but every vessel pitching hard to starboard,
lay it’s head on summers freckled knees,
and nobody nobody knows,
let the yoke fall from our shoulders,
don’t carry it all don’t carry it all,
we are all our hands in holders,
beneath this bold and brilliant sun,
this I swear to all, this I swear to all
Buried wreath of trillium and ivy,
laid upon the body of the boy,
lazy will the long come from it’s hiding,
return his quiet certitude to the soil,
so raise a glass to turnings of the season,
and watch it as it arcs towards the sun,
and you must bear your neighbors burden within reason,
and your labors will be borne when all is done, and nobody nobody knows,
let the yoke fall from our shoulders,
don’t carry it all don’t carry it all,
we are all our hands in holders,
beneath this bold and brilliant sun
and this I swear to all
and this I swear to all
and this I swear to all
to all
to all
to all

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Today I Don't Like Anyone

I'm reading a book called Fried:  Why You Burn Out and How to Revive by Joan Borysenko.  I believe I purchased this book for the Kindle while waiting in an airport to go somewhere to do something for work, in tears because I wasn't quite sure where I was going or for what and I just felt tired and need some answers right then.

But, ironically, I was too tired to read the book and it just sat there, taunting me.

So, months later, I am finally, slowly reading it.  It's an interesting book.  Not fantastic, but useful.  For example, Borysenko says that one of the symptoms of being fried is that you lose your ability to enjoy things--pleasure is harder to come by.  This differs somewhat from depression--you're still able to function, you still seek out joyful activities.  You just can't enjoy them.  You can think of the moment in Eat, Pray, Love where Julia Roberts goes on and on about not being able to taste her food because something in her life is missing, so she has to go to Italy to have pasta, etc., etc.

The way being fried manifests for me is that I fall into deep wells of self-pity, task-counting, and disdain for all people including myself.  Also, I make lots of little mistakes that enrage me.  At myself.

For example, when I'm fried, I enter into thought patterns about how hard I have it.  Now, I know I don't have things hard, objectively speaking.  My life is full of joy and blessings on a regular basis.  Not that I don't struggle--Lord, how do I struggle in my own sad little ways.  But most of the time I'm able to really appreciate all the good things and enjoy them.  But when I'm fried?  Nuh-uh.  Everyone has it easier to me.  I find this a particularly appalling quality in myself, and I feel like everything I say comes out sounding like one big whine.  It's awful.

Related to that, I task-count.  I make lists in my head of everything I've had to do today and all with no help and this is going to go on forever and something has to change now or I will fucking freak out!  All this is said in a very demanding voice in my head.  Threatening, even.  Like somebody better save me from myself, or they're going to get it!  Sometimes these little internal diatribes leak out my mouth.  This is always unfortunate.

Third, I dislike everyone when I'm fried.  I was in a meeting today which, to be honest, was the last place on the planet I wanted to be, and my good friend and colleague said something, and I reacted, and you all know how good I am at hiding my emotions, and he kindly said he noticed from my "body language" that I disagreed with him, and I wanted to smack him and tell him, "no, it's YOU I don't like."  But I DO like the guy.  Lots.  I was just out of kindness at that particular moment.

My bucket of kindness, as Nolie would say, was empty.

And finally, I do stupid things I wouldn't normally do when I'm fried.  Like drop the kids off and leave the car to go walk the dog, but leave the lights on and toast my battery.  Which will make it so I can't shower before a very long day, and definitely have no time to sit with my coffee and journal, like I had hoped.  Which only adds to my friedness, because I like 20 minutes of quiet time before starting the heinous 10-hour workday Wednesday, and when I don't get it I have to pull over to the side of the road because I'm crying very, very hard and can't see through my tears.

This leads me to forgetting to pick Addie up at the right spot after school, which makes it so I'm late getting the kids home, and a new (male) babysitter whom I've never met is watching the kids so that I can teach class, and so I have to order pizza for all of them and go to class with kale in my teeth.

You get the idea.

I'm doing two more of these Wednesdays, to finish the semester, and then never again.  I'm done with it. I realize being fried is a byproduct of being a professional these days, and that it will happen once in a while.  I get it.

But it doesn't have to be a way of life.  Because you know what?  My day was actually filled with kindness--somebody jumpstarting my car, people asking after Nolie (who is just dandy, by the way), people laughing with me, hugging me, being on time, being kind, absorbing my negative energy and not sending it back my way.  I just couldn't really appreciate any of it because my bucket of kindness was really, really empty.  I need a refill, and that will take a little free time and disengaging from so much of this doing all the time.

As Mark Nepo would say, there may have been clouds over my heart today, but that doesn't mean the sun is gone forever.  I'll try to remember that.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Joy 29: Project Recap

I was hoping to make it to Joy 30, to do a full month, but I was too busy having fun this weekend to do both posts.  That's a good problem to have, I think, don't you?

I've had so many treats this week, so many little ways people have reminded me that they are there, and they love me, and that I am so blessed!  There were many very large coffee drinks, which I usually don't splurge on but very much enjoyed:

This one was as big as my head. Don't know if you can tell that from the pic.

There were also many gifted extravagant luxuries that blew my mind:  spending money, a cardigan fit for a goddess, gift certificates for massages and dinners and dance lessons, gorgeous spring flowers, books, and vodka.

And friends and friends and friends and food.

And laughter.

It was one of the best birthdays ever, and I've had some great ones.  This was my best year so far, too (and I think I said that last year!) so it was a wonderful way to end that.

I won't belabor the fruits of the joy project overly much.  But it was fruitful.  I am definitely happier now than I was a month ago, when the blues felt heavy and oppressive.  Here are just a few quick observations:

1)  Looking for joy, and praising it, increased my joyfulness.

2)  There is something philosophically and spiritually significant about consciously making room for joy in one's life.  This might mean creating opportunities for joy (having a hot bath, making time for a long walk, stopping work so as to be with my family, blogging) or simply noticing the everyday joy of life (listening to Nolie sing, appreciating the handsomeness of my husband's face and lingering in his arms, drawing with Addie).

3)  It is surprisingly useful to record my encounters with joy.  It was a pain some nights to upload the pictures and write a little something about them, but mostly it was useful to remind myself of the good, joyful things in my life everyday.

So, that's it.  What will I take forward?  Making time every day for joy. Taking time to notice.  Journaling about the good as well as the pressures and fears and worries.  And posting about it all here, once in a while.

Thanks for hanging out with me this month.

A Little Too Much Excitement

E left for Switzerland yesterday for a week-long trip to a medical lab, where he's setting up a laser.  We had a busy weekend, so yesterday we were scurrying around a lot trying to get chores and errands done before he left.  I needed to go to the grocery store--we were out of coffee, which for me would be like a heroin addict being out of heroin before being tasked to babysit a troop of chimpanzees for a week--so E had the kids for an hour while I ran to do that.

Before I left, E had the kids set up with a "kitchen mixing" activity.  The kids like to help with cooking and baking so, sometimes, I'll set out little bowls of ingredients--flour, sugar, salt, water, oil, raisins--and they like to spoon things into their mixing bowls, make messes, spoon them out into muffin tins, etc.  E does this activity with them too, but gives them gross ingredients, like ketchup and pickle juice.  Or tahini and tikki masala sauce, apparently.  Blech.

Long set up.  I'm getting there.

I get home from the grocery store.  Kitchen mixing is over and E is on his way out the door to the airport, at right around 4pm.  The house reeks of curry and oregano, but I don't think much of it.  I go in to the studio to check email.

At 4:07, Nolie comes in, whimpering, her shirt still covered in tikki masala and flour.  I figure she and Addie are having a tiff and that's why she's crying, but then I look at her.

Her left eye is almost completely swollen shut, with huge, puffy lids on either side getting redder and bigger by the second.

I gasp and call her doctor immediately (for a half second I was proud of myself for having that number memorized).  But it's Sunday, and we would have to wait for the on-call nurse to call us back, so I hang up and tell the kids we're going to the hospital NOW.

Why I did not give her Benadryl right then and there, I do not know. I mean, I went into anaphylactic shock myself twice last fall.  You'd think I would have that part figured out.  I don't know what to say.  I panicked, and we headed to the ER.  As a result, it would be almost an hour before she got any meds at all.

I must have called E ten times on the way to the hospital--I figured I would need to know what she had played with to get her treated properly.  But he wasn't answering.  When I finally got a hold of him later he told me about the tikki masala and tahini.

Nolie's other eye began to swell shut on the way to the hospital, and she began sneezing and coughing.  Big welts were also breaking out in the creases of her elbows and knees.  Addie was giving me the blow-by-blow from the backseat.

Nolie, despite her eyes really hurting and itching, remained remarkably calm.  "You probably think I have an allergy, huh, Mom?" she asked, at one point.  "My eyes sure are blurry!"  And, as we were checking in to the ER, her eyes totally closed, curled in my lap, she noted, "These hospital people sure are nice!"

That kid is something.

Anyway, we finally did get Benadryl and steroids and were able to be home in time for dinner and a bath.  Addie was a very kind nurse to her sister, rubbing her back and reading her stories while I made dinner, nursing my shakes and nausea while the adrenaline left my body.

Then we all collapsed into bed and slept deep.  Nolie crawled into bed with me at 2:30, and I woke every hour or so to listen for her breathing before nodding back off.

It's moments like this that give you a taste of what it might be like to lose someone you love.  I'm probably being over-dramatic here, but I had lots of visions of Nolie's throat closing on the way to the hospital and it being my fault for not calling 911.  It took them so long to get her any meds once we got there, and I had visions of her seizing in my arms, not breathing anymore while I screamed at a nurse.  All because I didn't keep calm enough to give her some Benadryl right away.  And E would have been gone.  It would have all happened on my watch.

None of that happened, thank God.  We were all kept totally safe and, aside from some residual puffiness, redness, and sniffles today, Nolie is definitely doing better.  We're all staying home from school to recover, too, and for that I'm grateful.  So, so grateful.

In the meanwhile, we'll be doing some more allergy testing.  My guess is a severe skin allergy to paprika--one of the main ingredients in curry, which is in tikki masala.  Nolie's only every had one other bad allergic reaction and it was at a dinner party where there was hummus, which often has paprika in it.  How random would that be?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Joy 28

When I put Nolie to sleep at night, she asks me to put a bubble around her, her bubble of love.  It's made of out of mommy love, daddy love, Addie love, the love of all the nanas and papas and aunties and uncles and cousins and friends and teachers, and even of all the people who don't know her but love her.  It's made of the strongest thing in the world--love--and it can never break, and it keeps her safe and warm and nothing bad can happen while she's in there.  It surrounds her all the time, even when she's forgotten about it.  She can always call it up just by remembering it's there.

So, for today:  I'm grateful for the joy of a million thoughtful blessings.  Thanks to all of you for reminding me I'm surrounded in a bubble of love, too.  I feel it, I do.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Joy 27

Morning walk.  Church Ranch Ditch.

The sound of rain.
A glass of Wednesday wine.
Another week closer to summer.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Joy 26

My joy for today is that I'm not going to work anymore tonight, but am instead going to crawl into bed with my husband, a glass of wine, and Jon Stewart.

Well, Jon won't be in bed with us, really.  Though I wouldn't mind that.


Joy 25

So, here's something interesting.

I overcommit at work, usually because I feel like I'm needed on certain projects and also need to prove my worth.  Then I get stressed trying to get all my work done.  So I overwork, thinking if I just get that last little thing done, I will be able to relax.  Except, I'm not able to relax, because I've been overworking and have built up that stupid pattern, which is hard to break out of.  I feel miserable and lose my sense of self.

Then, I overcommit some more.

Rinse, repeat.

And I wonder why I can't find my joy.

So, my joy for yesterday is in realizing that working more will not help me to relax or feel joyful.  Only making time for joy and being myself will help me feel more joyful.  But I have to overwork sometimes to remember this.  Duh and duh.  What can I say.  I'm a fool who must relearn the same lesson over and over again throughout my entire freaking life.

Also, I received a very beautiful sweater and some cash for my birthday, and though that may not be the deep kind of joy I think I'm seeking, it was still pretty awesome :).

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Joy 24

A quiet day of catching up on chores and a little bit of work and a lot of hanging out.

We've spent money on swim lessons for the girls, of course, but the single most important thing that has helped them to swim has been E. taking them to the pool, every weekend.  Addie used to be afraid of putting her face in the water and wouldn't swim without a floaty.  Now she can freestyle, and both girls do this:

Things like this feel like miracles when you've have to fight for such baby steps, and then they take big leaps on their own.

We had a yummy dinner, and then Addie cashed in on her birthday present, which was a shopping spree at the Brass Armadillo antique mall ($25 on mama).  She had fun picking everything out, and I had a blast watching her evaluate everything for price, quality, texture, and whatever other ineffables seven-year-olds consider important (cuteness, cuddle-ability, oddity, etc.).

What she bought with her money:  A doll for Nolie (the most expensive thing).  A book for Nolie.  A keychain with different kinds of plastic dollar bills attached.  A fake barbie doll set (because there were eight pairs of shoes and a "wine" bottle and glasses and two outfits).  A Care Bear.  A jacks set.

Another perfect day.

Joy 23

The perfect re-entry.  I was so wiped out from crying over Pru and traveling and trying to hold it together, and E let me sleep in, then brought me coffee.  I finally got up and started one of the 20 loads of laundry we had to do this weekend (Pru had fouled a couple of the beds, unfortunately) and then we took Milo for a walk up at Church Ranch ditch.  The sun did us all good.

We hung laundry on the line all day, worked in the garden, but not too strenuously, and eventually I succombed to the call of the hammock. E and I looked at each other and said, simultaneously "margaritas."

We put the call out on Facebook, and friends filtered in and out all day.  I realized my new favorite word was "togetherness."

So, so glad to be home.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Joy 20

Boy, what a day.  Bittersweet.

Miss Addie officially turns 7, and so I picked up Nolie from school and then we picked Addie up from school, and took her to lunch at her favorite restaurant, Noodles:

So fun.

I took the kids back to school, and when I got home, I found that PruPru had vomited again on the bed.  She's not holding down food anymore, her tumor has grown gigantic, and she's starting to have more frequent anaphylactic symptoms.  So E. and I have decided that, unless the vet gives us a reason otherwise, we will say goodbye to her on Friday morning.  Or, I should say, Eric will say goodbye to her on Friday morning.

I had to leave this afternoon for San Francisco for a workshop, so I had to say goodbye to her today.


I'm going to write these words for me and my cat now.

Pru.  Dear Prudence.  You have been such a gift to me.  You have been my constant friend and companion for 11 years.  You were here before my husband, before my babies, before my PhD, before my "career," before I learned who I was.  You were my family when I felt all alone.  I remember you as a kitten, jumping from the floor to the top of the curtain rod without even trying.  I remember how despondent you were when Migi died, and how pissed when we tried to replace him with Sadie.  You have always been a great cat.  A wonderkitty.

You were, and are, perfect.

I have your face memorized--the soft white of your chin, the coarse stripes above your eyes--your purr beats with my heart, your spirit full of love and light.  I'm so grateful to have had you in my life, to have felt the weight of you on my chest these last few months while you have been sick, and somehow you have still been able comfort me while I cried, desperately missing you already.  You have been one of my many sisters on this crazy-ass path, and I'm going to miss you so much.  Thank you for all the joy and comfort you have brought me.  You, Pru, are a joy.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Joy 19

Water in the ditch...

blue skies...

some green in Van Bibber...
Milo rolling in the grass...

red-winged blackbirds back in the trees...

Ferdinand smelling the crocus...