Thursday, September 30, 2004

a fine screed

Lileks says it all.

guilt, and other assorted feelings

Guilt. I got a "hey, how's it going there? everything OK?" e-mail from a friend. I'm supposed to be shipping her some artwork, and haven't done it yet. But that's not the source of the guilt. I replied, (relevant portion only) "I need surgery, the dr thinks it's cancer." There was more, but once you hit that line, I'm pretty sure the brain just stops. It takes a bit to absorb such a concept, at least it takes me a bit to absorb a concept like that. I don't think anyone ever expects that kind of a response to that kind of e-mail. It's like the "hey, how are ya?" we all casually toss out. We don't really want to know how everyone is, but it's not quite a rhetorical question. There's a social contract underpinning the asking and answering of such questions, and I feel like I broke it. Thus, guilt.

Mortality. OTOH, I really do need surgery and the doctor really does think it's cancer. I find myself thinking things like "I'd like to accomplish that before I die," with the accompanying feeling that the named event will happen sooner rather than later. I'm trying my best not to give my morbid feelings any credence. Rationally, there's no reason to believe that my life expectancy is any shorter this week than it was last week, when I had no such sense of impending doom. Of course, last week was before the diagnosis.

Uncorked? I've decided that it's impossible for me to not write about political stuff, but also that this is not, generally, the place to do it. The solution to this seeming dilemma is to post lengthy comments around the blogosphere. I think Ambra may get sick of me, soon, but most days won't be like today. Lively discussions at VodkaPundit and BelmontClub are engaging as well.

I've also been reading Andrew Sullivan but that just makes my head want to explode. Seriously, after reading Wretchard's analysis of NYTimes data on the Iraqi insurgency, it's hard to believe that Andrew himself believes things are going as badly as he says. I'm not saying Andrew is being disingenuous, it's just that it doesn't make any sense to me. Someone's living in a fantasy world here, and I'm pretty sure it's not Wretchard.

Nervous... First debate tonight. My nerves are jangling. GWB looked great in his recent interview with Bill O'Reilly, whereas Kerry turned orange over the weekend. Who knows what we're actually going to see tonight?

More later, perhaps. Time to see to dinner.

Update, post debate:
Relieved. Glad that's over. I couldn't focus and found it tremendously boring. I was spitting out policy points and a bit annoyed with GWB for all the things he didn't say. (Hello, Mr. Kerry? You voted against the Kyoto Treaty!) OTOH I think GWB managed to get in a quite a few zingers. Kerry needed to knock it out of the park and he didn't, so therefore, he loses. All in all, I don't think this will have any affect on the race at all.

Enlightened. Wretchard (God bless him) must've detected my pain because he has expertly fisked Andrew Sullivan's "Iraq is the new Algeria" tirade that made my head hurt earlier.

For the record: substantial fatigue, early signs of depression, sore throat, fuzzy voice.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Things went OK today, even though I was up until like 3:30 this morning (that gives me less than 4 hours of sleep).

My throat is sore and talking gets difficult (my voice sounds "skritchy" to me, DH agrees that it does sound funny) but I did a lot of talking today anyway:

I went into the new-ish coffee shop next door to Blockbuster and ended up in a networking conversation with a local photographer. Lots of good info which I then passed on to a friend who is an excellent amateur photographer, and could definitely follow the path this woman took to becoming a professional and bringing in a good income.

Talked briefly to my sister and filled her in on the medical stuff. She has her own med woes and we commiserate easily. Unlike DH, she did not bust me for saying that I have cancer. The dr said she thinks it's papillary cancer, there's no point in tiptoeing around the fact that is probably what is going on. Yes, it's true, there is no definitive diagnosis of cancer yet, but that's immaterial at this point.

My brother called, having just talked to my mom and hearing the news of my impending surgery. He's troubled and trying to reach out, but I could just deck him: he told me that mom is really upset by all this, as I knew from my conversation with her yesterday. Still, it doesn't help me at all to know that my mom is in tears with worry over me. I spent about 10 minutes reassuring her yesterday that I would be fine, obviously it's not enough. Poor dear. I feel very badly for putting her through this. Being a mom is really hard.

Had an excellent, far-ranging conversation with DH this evening (post kid-bedtime), too. He's the best.

I'm motivated to do a lot of things but I wonder if I will get to any of them? I'm so easily distracted these days! I had my pity party yesterday, so today it was all business, no point in being in a funk, it accomplishes nothing.

The kids were awesome today. DD and DS2 had a lot of fun playing with/in the water table this afternoon. They poured water over their heads and got their clothes soaked... it was too funny. "Um, bathing suits, guys?" They forgot! Silly. No big deal. DD moves from one end of the behavior spectrum to the other, extremely kind one moment, willful and obnoxious the next. I'm hopeful, though, since the kind moments are coming more frequently.

And that will have to do, as I am about to fall over here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004


So many nice things happened today, it was as if God was showing me that there's no need to despair.

One of my favorite quotes: After all, it's not having things that makes us happy. It's being a part of things.

From whence this font of wisdom? John Corbett's character, Chris, on Northern Exposure. I'm pretty sure he was quoting someone, or maybe not -- I've never been able to find an attribution for the quote, and I've spent a few hours looking. It doesn't really matter who said it, because it doesn't change the fundamental appeal of the sentiment. Stuff is just stuff, people are what matter.

Today, I reached out to a few people who were all there to support me. And serendipitously, a small handful of others called or sent e-mails for completely random, uniformly kind, reasons.

I thought back to that friend of my friend, talking about her experience with cancer and her uncertain prognosis. "This is my death, and no one can share it," she told my friend. I am in nowhere close to such a dire position, but my feelings echo hers:this is my thyroid surgery, these are my myriad biopsies, ... I have to do all this, no one else can do it for me, and even if they could, I wouldn't ask. I'll do it. I will. It is a lonely realization, but it's the brutal truth, and in times like this you must be brutal with yourself.

But in the midst of the numbing loneliness of the long road ahead of me, so many people reaffirmed their connections to me that it was impossible for me not to feel a part of things -- family, friends, community.

For such a bad-news day, I'm feeling paradoxically happy.

the big "C"... probably

The first thing my endocrinologist said to me this morning was, "It's going to have to come out."

The lab report on the FNA was not horrible. There was no definitive diagnosis of cancer, but:" a rare pseudonuclear inclusion is identified" and that was the deciding factor for my doctor. Only 2 of the 6 samples had any cells, which is one of the problems with FNA. The endo suspects it is papillary cancer in the very early stages.

The treatment is surgical removal of the thyroid, followed by RAI depending on how much cancer is found. She said I can expect about one month of being really hypo, because they have to kill all the thyroid -- after that, I'll go back on thyroid hormones and will go through the fun process of tinkering with doses to get me back to some "optimal" level.

I have an appointment with the surgeon for Monday morning, and we'll see how it goes from there.

Now that this is real, there is a sense of almost-relief. I am dreading going through the procedure and its aftermath, but I'm hopeful that I'll be feeling better by the holidays. December 1 is my last scheduled appointment with my dermatologist, too, so by mid-December, I should be all patched up and back to "normal" -- done with medical stuff for a good long time. Here's hoping.

Monday, September 27, 2004

bad girl

I'm having tea, and chocolate cake.

At the computer, without a fork.

DH just cleaned the carpet in here on Saturday. I better pick up these crumbs before he gets down here...

the kind of day I'm having

Just got back from the doctor with bandaged left shoulder and right hip. We had a not-amusing discussion at the beginning of the appointment, trying to figure out which suspect moles to biopsy. Since DD is sick (likely strep throat) and I have to take her to the pediatrician this afternoon, we opted for the upper-body moles.

At the end of the appointment I asked the doctor, just to be clear: which ones, exactly, are you going to take off? As he started ticking them off, it soon became clear that there were more than six that he wanted to biopsy. In fact, there are ten.



I'm pretty sure the reason I feel like crying now has nothing to do with the thyroid nodule.

two more positive notes

When I first met my husband, he was just a nice guy who seemed way too interested in me. I didn't have a very high opinion of myself at the time, since I kept screwing up relationships. I'm not sure when exactly it happened, but within a few months I fell completely in love with him. I realized this when I looked at him one day and thought he was the most handsome man I had ever seen. The really cool thing is, ten years later, I still feel the same way. I was just looking at that promo pic for the Farscape mini, and Ben Browder and Claudia Black look just terrific. But my husband is still way cuter than Ben. Hee!

I rhapsodized about appropriate handling of eggs a few days ago. A day or two after that, DH told me that DD actually won't let him make her eggs, she likes my eggs better. Here I thought she was completely unaware that she was getting perfectly scrambled eggs (with cheese) every day, when nothing could be farther from the truth. DH may be my most gorgeous guy on the planet, but he's not a scrambled egg perfectionist the way we girls are. Moments like this are a kind of parenting progress report: yes! something is getting through! I know my values regarding how eggs should be scrambled don't even approach the top of the list of important life lessons parents are supposed to teach, but they do appear somewhere in that book, right? Yeah, I think so. I'm content with that.

Sunday, September 26, 2004


I was out from about 10 this morning until nearly 5, and then dashed out again for another quick errand. I had coffee with the girls, got a quick lunch at Pei Wei, and then did a lot of (not-)shopping. It would be nice to think I accomplished something during that time but I'm not sure that's the case. The biggest score of the day was school polo shirts for the kids on sale at the Gap for a ridiculously low price, so I bought tons, particularly for DS1. Second score was some stuff for the house I may end up returning, so I won't go into it. Third was sf Torani syrups on sale at CostPlus...

I tried on a lot of clothes and hated them all. Actually, no, I found two pairs of pants that actually fit and looked nice at Ann Taylor Loft, but I refuse to pay $40 for pants that are, essentially, play clothes -- the kind you can wear to your kid's pre-school and not care paint gets on them. It's ridiculous. I'm just cheap, I guess. The others were gorgeous, a very muted gray plaid, and were well worth the $50 but I have very similar gray pinstripes already, and I really couldn't justify it. Shoes were a total bust, too, and I noticed with dismay that my very cute, very cheap Payless white sandals are starting to come apart. You really can't expect to get more than one season out of Payless shoes, and I've been wearing these practically every day since I bought them in July.

So basically there was a lot of wandering around and not much came of it.

The coffee talk was quite depressing for a number of reasons. First, one gf has a case of maternal insanity... well, that's not very nice, but I don't know how else to say it. She's constantly talking up her kids, but it was pretty obvious today that she's trying to convince herself that what she's saying is true. Of course no one is going to contradict her when she insists her kids are bright or whatever... we just nod and go along. She struggles. Her husband is the "extra child" type, basically useless with the boys (they have 4: 8, 6, 3, 1), but she knew he would be like that when they got married. Still, it's difficult to see/hear her sometimes. She's the one who always makes me appreciate my kids' behavior (and lack of misbehavior) more, as she always seems to be lurching from crisis to crisis. That happens to me, too, of course, but since I only have 3 peewees, it doesn't happen as often.

Then again, when I got home DH told me that DD had been running a fever all day, and he had just never thought to mention it to me when we talked on the cellphone. It's not as if I could've done anything differently, I just felt bad that I wasn't at home to take care of her. She slept a lot of the day away, apparently.

But back to the coffee talk. The second reason it was depressing was that another gf has a friend (not in our circle) that has stage 3 colon cancer. She had surgery a little while ago, and has less than a 50% chance at this point. She has two kids, teenagers. GF talked at some length about her friend's struggles and philosophy: you do whatever you can to hang on, because you have to be there for your kids. GF told her, "you are so brave, you are so strong," and she dismissed that: "you would do the same thing. You do what you have to do, because your kids need you."

The most devastating thing she talked about was how her friend would lie awake every night, knowing that she is likely going to die very soon, and being completely alone. Why doesn't she wake up her husband to talk to him, for comfort? Because he needs to sleep, so he can stay healthy and go to work and support the family. Besides, this isn't something he can help with. The reality of her impending death is not something that he can change. She can't whine about this all the time, because she doesn't want to wear him out; there will be a time when she needs to rely on him for everything, and she doesn't want him to resent her when that time comes.

So we talked a little about how was she diagnosed? She's only 46, which is young to have this problem. It took her a while to get a proper diagnosis, and at that point the cancer had metastized into her lymph nodes (not all, but some). The biggest clue was that she had been losing weight.

And there I'm sitting, The Twig, size 4 everywhere. 120-odd pounds stretched out over 5 feet, nearly 8 inches is not very much. My weight is at a set point now that is about 10 pounds lower than it used to be. Maybe that's OK, but an acquaintance I see only from time to time asked me yesterday if I was trying to gain weight now? That was worth a pause. At least I know I don't have colon cancer, because my colonoscopy report from the spring was frame-worthy. OTOH, I'm getting two biopsies of possible melanoma spots tomorrow, and Tuesday morning I may find out whether or not I have thyroid cancer. I may not, though, because sometimes the biopsy samples are inconclusive. I should find out whether or not I need surgery, though. (roll eyes here)

The conversation turned to how we would handle it if we were diagnosed with something fatal. I did not say a word about my appointments this week. (Not that I think I'm going to be diagnosed with something fatal. I do have a feeling that I will be diagnosed with cancer, though.) I totally, completely agree with gf's friend, who hates the way people change when they hear the news. The pity, the concern -- like Dan Rather's memos, these emotions are fake, but accurate. The people who love you, love you the same. Why can't everyone else treat you the same, too?

I didn't talk about my upcoming medical nightmares for a lot of reasons, but that's one of them. I didn't want to bring them all down, for another -- two of them are about to head off on family vacations. I didn't want to be the focus of attention for more than a sentence or two. I don't want to be emotionally vulnerable in front of the uber-mom, as she can be a vicious gossip and I don't want to be grist for that mill.

We discussed whether or not it was "fair" to keep such vital information from people who might genuinely care about you, but whose own lives might be going at breakneck speed at the moment... sometimes even your dearest friends can fall off the radar from time to time. GF declared: them's the breaks, essentially. I realized I agree. I'm feeling very negative about this medical stuff, but I'm also feeling very much that it is the business of only a few select people. (Aside from any number of perfect strangers reading here - hee!)

Another reason not to talk about is that my own thinking is pretty confused on the subject. I know intellectually that even if I do have melanoma or thyroid cancer or both, that we will have caught it in the very early stages, and the outlook should be very good. I told DH, "Nobody ever dies of thyroid cancer," which is nearly true. There are very rare horrible untreatable cases, but those are extremely unusual. People do die of melanoma, but that's why I go visit the dermatologist so often.

Unfortunately, the rational part of me can't do much to control the irrational panic that's playing on an infinite repeat loop in my brain: What if I have cancer? I don't want to have cancer! I'm not sick! But what if I am, what if I am?

Enough, woman! This whining is boring even to me, and I'm the whiner. I'll know more on Tuesday. I do not handle the run-up to unpleasantness well. Now, that would be a great life skill to cultivate, wouldn't it?

Saturday, September 25, 2004

heart, a-flutter

So, I was watching Trek (TOS: Is There in Truth no Beauty?) on Skiffy last night and I caught, for the first time, the promo (links to numerous bits of video) for the upcoming Farscape mini-series.

It's impossible to pretend I'm not a geek -- check out the URL of this blog -- but even I was surprised at how visceral my reaction was to that 30-second spot.

How is that I could've forgotten how much I love Farscape? I liked it so much that I ventured into the great unknown of bboards and USENET, and found community, and a voice I had forgotten I possessed. I launched a website and wrote tens of thousands of words about it. I assembled and edited a fanzine -- The Jigsaw Farscape Special -- at the request and with the great help of Bob Furnell, Canadian sci-fi fan and fanzine publisher extraordinaire. I was's Farscape's reviewer -- my first "professional" (although unpaid) gig, which lasted until they were bought out and re-org'ed into something completely different.

I can't say that Farscape turned me into a writer, because I always was a writer. No,Farscape gave me something to write about, and inspired me to sharpen my skills and actually make some use of them. March 1999 seems like it was two lifetimes ago, and in some ways, it is. But seeing that promo last night I had the same sense of excitement I did, back in the early days, when Farscape was just an obscure series on a third-rate cable station that hardly anyone watched. Yes, I was there at the beginning, and some part of me is still jumping up and down in keen anticipation of the mini come October.

Still, it's not all good: when Farscape was cancelled at the end of its fourth season, even though Skiffy had supposedly already given the nod for Season 5, I was one of the first to get the word out -- somehow or other, my notice of the cancellation got picked up by SlashDot, and my site traffic exploded. I did early research into contacting Skiffy, Skiffy's advertisers, and anyone else who would listen. It was fascinating to watch the FS community coalesce into a small, dedicated army of fans who just would not give up.

But I gave up. Health problems cascaded down on me, and I had more important things to deal with than the campaign to try to revive a dead scifi show. Sure, the show is destined to be a classic -- it already is classic, IMO -- and may someday enjoy cult status approaching Trekkian levels (it's that good), but there were too many flakes involved in the campaign, too many power brokers looking for money or fame or whatever it is you get from knowing that lots of people have you up on some pedestal. When good advice went ignored -- not just mine, but from others I respected as well -- and things got truly weird, I just faded into the background.

When the news of the mini first surfaced, I briefly flirted with the idea of reviving my ezine, just to keep fans up to date on the mini's progress, etc. More health problems and the advance of technology conspired against me: I used to just maintain my mailing list in Outlook (so shoot me); at one point, I had more than 700 confirmed subscribers. But spam filters everywhere prevent me from sending that way anymore, and I really have no desire to look into what it would take me to setup shop as an online publisher again. Maybe some day, but that day is not today.

So I have moved from the heart of Farscape fandom, one of "The Ancients" on the vibrant Skiffy FS bboard, to being well out on the periphery. I'm still maintaining FarscapeWeekly, and intend to, pretty much forever. There is still a boatload of content I never uploaded, including that Jigsaw Special, when I was forced to move from WebSeed. I'd like to do a major redesign of the site, but once again, technology's advances are leaving me in the dust: I developed the entire thing in FrontPage Express under Windows 98, and my new Windows XP machine doesn't have anything like it. I need a good simple HTML editor for maintaining Make It Low Carb, though, so I know I will tackle that problem, and soon.

Maybe actually seeing the mini will give me the motivation I need to put FSWeekly in order. It certainly shouldn't be left languishing the way it has, all these many months. I have an internal dialog underway now: go ahead, you can do it, just do it! - no, that's crazy, you're going in for surgery soon! -- that's not definite, why be negative? go ahead, do it! do it! -- but I can't, I don't know what's going to happen, and I'm just so tired these days -- couldn't you just do it anyway?

And the 3-year-old inside me says, "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
But the grown-up says, quite sadly, "I don't know."

Maybe it's enough, now, to be just a fan. And maybe by the time the mini actually airs, I'll have a better grip on what's happening in my life, and I'll be able to put FSWeekly in order. Until then, I'll just be happy that I have something really cool to look forward to:

Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars premiers on SCIFI on October 17 at 9/8C

For those new to the show, SCIFI is re-running the entire series M-F from 8AM-4PM beginning October 1 through October 15. Start your TiVOs!

Friday, September 24, 2004

(cyber) home at last

Lately, the blogosphere has been permeated with references to scifi classics. Star Trek and Star Wars themes abound, and there are many other, other-worldly references as well.

Check out Lileks' exceptional Bleat on the score for the TOS Trek episode "The Doomsday Machine". The guy's on fire.

Then, there are the great blog entries comparing John Kerry to C3PO in the original Star Wars movies: see Swimming through the Spin and James Taranto's further exploration along the same lines, here.

Then there's the reference to the "United Federation of Bloggers" right on Blogger's homepage. I've seen musings about Greedo shooting first on at least 3 different blogs, and that's probably just the tip of the iceberg on that subject. I can usually count on Jonah Goldberg to toss in a classic scifi reference at least once every other day over at The Corner on NRO. VodkaPundit recently indulged us by giving a mostly positive review of the last two-thirds of Alien vs Predator, just one day after posting a killer tip about how to score the new Star Wars DVD for the absolute lowest price. Hugh Hewitt ran a great contest comparing the Dan Rather/CBS memo debacle to LOTR. (Check the archives, I couldn't link directly). Even Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit himself, frequently links to scifi-themed blog entries -- that's where I first saw SpinSwimming's great C3PO piece -- giving equal opportunity to Trekkies by also linking to a Borg piece.

Is it any wonder why I love the blogosphere? It's the class reunion of the cultural school that none of us were fully aware we were attending. Sure, we're still geeks and weirdos, but we're all articulate and (how best to put this?) at least to outward appearances, for all intents and purposes: happy. That is to say, I'm sure there's a good deal of turmoil in all our personal lives, but the one common characteristic of all the sci-fi riffing bloggers is a sense of optimism. This optimism doesn't render them naive, but it does give them each the ability to recognize and laud the good that is in the world, and they are all blessed with a fine sense of humor. I find this crowd illuminating and entertaining, and, well, comfy. Cool.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

reframing the question

This morning, I was a little early to pick up DS2 from Atrium. There were a few other moms there, friends, and we all congregated in the shade by the building while we waited for the kids to come out. I'm just a "familiar face acquaintance" to these women, but I couldn't help join in their conversation, since I had some advice to offer.

What do you do about little white lies, they wondered. One mentioned that her nearly 6-year-old would casually lie about things that were easily verifiable: did you brush your teeth? did you eat your lunch? None of them knew what to do to prevent it, but all agreed that they didn't like it.

Well, here's what you do: reframe the question.

What we need to do, as parents, is remove the opportunity for the easy lie. Instead of asking about the teeth-brushing, ask which toothpaste she'll use today. Instead of asking "Did you eat your lunch?", check the lunchbox first, and if she hasn't eaten it, ask, "were you too busy to eat today?" The even-more-general question, "What happened that you didn't eat your lunch today?" can be used with great effect with older kids. Maybe there wasn't time, because they were late getting out to lunch. Maybe she doesn't like what you sent. Maybe it's too hard to eat it, it takes too long to chew. Maybe she has too many loose teeth to bite into a sandwich! You can easily see for yourself whether or not the lunch was eaten; what you really care about is why, and what needs to change to make sure that lunch is consistently eaten. This is all part of reframing the question.

I learned this technique about six years ago in the old MomsOnline forums, from their then-"parenting pro" Ben McCart. He described how, most of the time, all the kids are trying to do when they lie like this is avoid conflict. What we need to do is take the conflict out of the situation. If you ask about eating lunch, she may be afraid you'll be angry she didn't eat. If you ask, calmly, what happened that the lunch was not eaten, it won't even occur to her to get scared about it.

The beauty of this technique is that you avoid unnecessary subterfuge and get right to the heart of the problem. If there are two kids playing and one starts crying, it's pointless to ask, "Did you hit the baby?" Much better, "What happened to make the baby cry?" (Avoid "why" questions with really young children, they really can't process that concept.) With an open-ended, neutral question, you're much more likely to get to the truth: the baby fell and bumped his head, or maybe, the baby took big brother's toy, and big brother took it back and gave him a whack to make sure he never did it again. Either way, you'll have the information you need to handle the situation correctly.

The downside is that you have to be on your toes and not fall back into asking those questions that instantly spring to mind. "Who did this?! What were you thinking? Why would you do such a thing?" You have to understand: for most typical situations, the answers to these questions don't matter. It helps to focus on what needs to be done now, and not be too concerned with what happened in the past,and therefore can't be changed.

Here's an example: the playroom is a mess, there are toys all over the floor, bins upended, cupboards open. It needs to be cleaned up, so you gather the kids. You could start up with, "Did you make this mess?" but what's the point? You know they had a hand in making the mess, even if there were other kids involved that are no longer present. It doesn't matter, the room still needs to be picked up. How much better to say, "Wow, look at this mess! Let's get it cleaned up." When the kiddos start protesting, "But I didn't play with those toys! Why should I have to clean it up," you can explain, "We all share the playroom, so we all work together to keep it clean. We're a family, and that's how families work. Would you like it if I only did things for myself? What if I only cooked my own food?" Just a few examples like this will demonstrate to even very young children that we share responsibilities for taking care of our things, and sometimes that extends to cleaning up messes that they didn't make.

There are people who are obsessed with understanding their kids' motivations. I don't understand this. Unless there is a serious problem, most motives are transparent. Kids get angry, they get frustrated, they lash out. They also get distracted and wander off. Either way, they are still responsible for their actions. We can't control what we feel, but we can and should control our actions, including what we say.

I'm not saying we should discount our kids' feelings, because they need to learn how to identify them and deal with what they are feeling. We need to give them the tools to do that. But we can't excuse bad behavior because of strong feelings. The parent who asks, "Why did you do that?" walks a dangerous path; often, he'll hear, "I was mad!" So what? Do you give the kid a pass because he was mad? Better not, because such kids will learn quickly that being mad, or sad, or otherwise piqued will get them out of any responsibility for what they've done, and that's not a path you want to go down.

As adults, it doesn't matter why we were speeding, or why our report was late, or why we forget to pick up the dry cleaning. We still have to pay the speeding ticket, file the report, and get the dry cleaning: life goes on. Then we also have to go traffic school, work overtime, and cook our husband's favorite meal to get back in everyone's good graces. Sure, the boss and the husband may be interested in why you didn't do what you were supposed to do, but it's important to them to be able to rely on you, just as it's important to every other driver out there that you drive responsibly.

A big part of reframing the question comes down to recognizing that people screw up, but then we recover. As parents, we have to believe that our children are not malicious, and that they can and do learn from their mistakes. If we freak out and scream at them when something goes wrong, even reframing the question won't work, and they won't admit to anything -- and then they'll never learn. Our kids have to trust us, and trust their own ability to recover from whatever misdeeds they've committed.

Kids have to understand that we all make mistakes, and it's how we deal with our mistakes that will determine the quality of our lives. If we deny our errors, and get angry at those who point them out and force us to take responsibility for what we've done, we'll spend our lives being miserable. If, on the other hand, we acknowledge that we are not perfect and try to learn from our mistakes, we have a much better chance at happiness. Very few mistakes are unrecoverable.

We have to give our kids faith in us and in themselves, and hope for their lives. Without this faith and hope, the possibility of success for them becomes vanishingly small.

* * *

The worst part of last night's miniature crisis with the nail polish was DD's reaction to it. She was angry and defensive, and insisted she should be punished, even given away to another family! It was horrible. Yes, she had done a bad thing and made a big mess, but her reaction was completely disproportionate to her offense. She simmered and stewed, and when it was time for bed, she wouldn't let me give her a kiss. You have to understand that I didn't scream at her -- I didn't lose my temper at all. She was shrieking and crying and when I finally saw why, I felt more sad than anything. I told her to take off her nightgown and go get other jammies, and then I cleaned up the mess. Her consequence for disobeying and playing with the nail polish is no manicure this week, something she had been really looking forward to -- but this only makes it more appropriate.

I was able to clean up all the nail polish, including her beautiful nightgown, but when I told her that this morning, she shot back at me, "I don't care!" I knew that was a lie, and it about broke my heart to see her acting this way. Did she really think we loved her so little that we would kick her out for a spill? Did she really think that she's a bad person? (We never, ever call our kids bad -- they may occasionally do a bad thing, but that's a completely different situation.) She seemed to think that she had done something irredeemable.

So this afternoon we had a little talk, just long enough for me to tell her that not one of us is perfect, and we have to believe in ourselves enough to recover from our mistakes. God did not put us here to do bad things, and God certainly believes in our ability to be good. If God believes in her, and Mommy and Daddy believe in her, then (I said) I hope she can find it in herself to believe in herself, too. I told her, "you're a little girl, you make little mistakes." We learn, we go on. We have hope.

At the end of this little talk, she remembered other times when things had gone wrong, that we still loved her: when she once broke a china plate (she was 3!), helping to clear the table: "you didn't get mad at me!" Yes, because those things happen. They happen to everyone, and it doesn't make us bad people.

I could see her relaxing the more she thought about it, and she lost that chip on her shoulder. I hope she can remember this talk, but if she doesn't, I'll remind her. Attitude makes all the difference in the world. We all need faith, and hope.

Note: To remove nail polish from fabric, lay it out, stain down, on several layers of paper towels, and then blot, blot, blot with nail polish remover, repositioning the paper towels under the stain until the color is gone. Rinse thoroughly and launder as usual.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

change of plans

I was going to write something insightful and (hopefully) witty, but then DD spilled nail polish all over the place, including the front of her very pretty, nearly new "princess" nightgown.

All time previously slated for writing has been diverted to nightgown-saving activities.

Needless to say, this incident has given me at least 3 more topics to write about.

cat blogging

Her new favorite hangout. I'm not sure if it's because the monitor is nice and warm or because she's close to me. I endulge myself with the fantasy that it's the latter.

The VCR is in temporary (and much detested) residence there as we slowly transfer our library of home videos to digital. The thing is a clutter magnet (right now it's covered with junk) and I can't wait to be rid of it... only 20 or 30 more tapes to transfer! They're only about 30 minutes each. Hmmm, at 3 tapes a day, I could be done in 10 days! Then once we've got it all on disc, we've got to edit it and burn it to DVDs. Sounds way too much like work to me.

Meanwhile, I should be writing that column and I'm fooling around here. Ah, procrastination, the sharpest tool of the lazy.

family portraits

Here is a picture DS2 drew of himself and DD:

When he was finished, it made him so happy that he put it up on the refrigerator. Every time I look at it, it just makes me smile.

And here is a picture DD drew of our entire family. I love how she draws us girls in our dresses and pigtails.

And here is an awesome comment from DS1's first quarter progress report:

"suddenly, they were in England"

What is it that possesses people that enables them to think it's OK to exit from a gas station in the left lane? When I stopped, my headlights were staring directly into the headlights of an oncoming vehicle. I looked to my right to see where I was, if I had turned too wide or something: No, I was definitely in the in-bound lane. Unfortunately, so was the land yacht on its way out.

The driver of the other car and I sat for a second or two, and then I cranked my wheel hard, and passed him on the right -- the guy was so far over I couldn't pass him and stay in my own lane -- and then went and filled my tank.

Nobody said anything or mouthed anything or even made any gestures. "Suddenly England" popped into my head but I didn't say it out loud until after the land yacht had gone on its merry way. I am grateful that things didn't get ugly.

I can't take credit for the "England" remark: an old friend of mine used it frequently whenever he'd witness similar boneheaded maneuvers. I think it was this same friend who cautioned me about driving in parking lots: all rules are suspended, he said -- "people think they're driving boats or something, and lane markers are only suggestions." His wisdom and my attentiveness today prevented a fender-bender.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

that's just not right (breakfast edition)

A well-scrambled egg is a wonderful thing.

Most people abuse their eggs egregiously. You can't scramble an egg over high heat in 30 seconds; you'll end up with all the liquid squeezed out, leaving you with nasty yellow rubber curds in a watery whey.

No, you've got to be gentle and use low heat and be patient, and then you'll be rewarded with creamy delicious fluffy eggs, the way God intended.

Which is why it's just wrong, wrong, wrong that I've found myself eating reheated scrambleds these past few school days. I wonder, what has happened to my standards?

It's like this: the 2 older kids get up around 7, to leave for school at 8. The little guy doesn't need to get up until later, since his school doesn't start until 9, and he only goes Wed-Fri anyway. I also get up at 7, and take my thyroid meds and first round of antibiotics. Then I can't eat for an hour.

DD likes scrambled eggs for breakfast. So do I, and so does DS2. Both DD and DS2 eat about 2/3rds of an egg each. I can't eat when DD eats, it's too early; it's perfect (and friendly-like) for me to eat with DS2. I could make DD a single egg, and then cook 2 more eggs later for me and DS2, but that leaves me short (1 and 1/3 eggs is just not enough for me), but 3 eggs for me and DS2 is just too much -- and DD never eats a whole egg, so we're already wasting some there. I'm not all that thrilled about having to go through the entire egg-making process twice every single morning, either.

So, I make 3 scrambled (with cheese), and DD eats them in their divine perfection, all oblivious. Then about a half-hour later, I nuke the remainder and divvy them up between DS2 and me. They're OK -- better than a lot of eggs I've had, really -- but not what I really want. DS2 is oblivious. He's three, it's good he's oblivious, since I don't need or want more hassles in the morning.

One round of cooking does make the mornings go easier, but I'm wondering if it's worth the convenience, having to eat not-the-best eggs. Once you know how good they could be, it's hard to settle for anything less.

In other news: I made the most astonishing chocolate cake today. Really astonishing, because it had zuchini in it, and because both DD and DS2 really liked it a lot. I made Seven Minute frosting for it, which is kind of like meringue. The kids liked it, mostly for its resemblance to marshmallow fluff, I think. It was basically nothing but sweet. At any rate, now I have a recipe for this month's column, which I plan to write tomorrow.

I was hit with fatigue today, and I'm not even going to bother to speculate as to why. I had a furious itching spell last night just after lying down to sleep, so I'm skipping my selenium tonight to see if that's the culprit. It is the weirdest thing to just be lying there, ready to drop off to sleep, and suddenly start itching everywhere. This happened a few times a couple of weeks ago but then it went away, now it's back... I have no idea what's going on, except that I think it must be linked to my last supplements of the day, because it always happens about 20-30 minutes after I take them.

Tomorrow, DS2 has school and I don't have to do anything while he's there. I may go window shopping. What a lovely thought.

OK, I lied about the not-speculating: I'm sitting here typing, and I haven't had any of my evening supplements, and the itching has already started. I wonder if this may have something to do with my thyroid meds being inadequate. Is this plausible? "Oh no, there's no more T3! Make her itch!" Since I take my meds about the same time every morning, it would make sense for them to "wear off" about the same time every night. I'm just gritting my teeth and hanging on until next Tuesday, when I should know more about what is happening, and what is going to happen.

Update: didn't want to forget this. I checked my BP at Sam's Club this afternoon, after stopping with the kids at In&Out for a double-double, protein style. mmmm-mmmmmm. I had a very active morning, baking the cake, cleaning up, picking up DD from school, driving, blah blah blah -- basically on my feet all day, and my bp came in at a whopping 94/56. It's a wonder I can stand up these days. I've noticed my minocycline does make me dizzy (but I can shake it off) for a few minutes, a half-hour or so after I take it.

Monday, September 20, 2004

don't blink, you'll miss it

Just like that, it's the end of the day.

Where did it go? I know I spent way too long trying to figure out that picture-posting bug, but seriously, what happened to the rest of it?

I dunno. I did make a good lemon pudding cake for dessert tonight. The boys didn't like it, but everyone else enjoyed it. DD is a little lemon fiend (like me!). DS2 contented himself with a bowl of whipped cream.

Sometimes, it's so easy to please them. Whipped cream is one of those things, it takes about 3 minutes worth of effort and it makes them so happy. The other thing that they get a big kick out of is going over the train tracks on Chandler Blvd at about 40 mph (which, btw, is not speeding, the limit there is 45mph) -- the city fixed the tracks last year so they don't mangle your car, and there's this kind of a rise-then-dip in the road that gives you that kind of roller coaster feeling if you're going fast enough. If traffic allows, I goose the gas a bit to give the kids a thrill. DS2 will reliably say, "That was fun! Let's do that again!" Hee. I have to tell him I'm not driving around the block just so we can go over the tracks again, he'll have to wait until later. He's usually OK with that.

It was weird reading old entries here and seeing how much pain I used to have. I don't really have any pain these days, save the occasional twinge in my hands. It's nothing like what I remember, re-reading those old posts. Man, that is so cool. It's nice to feel I have a handle on some aspect of my life!

so much for that idea

You know, I thought it would be cool to post a picture of the stemware my mother-in-law sent me. I thought, "This should be easy!"

Harumph. I took the picture with the digital camera, popped out the flash card and plugged it into the computer. I got the photo off the card, then ftp'd it up to my website.

Then I composed the post, which involved trying to remember the HTML for inserting a picture, which required installing an HTML editor, and lots of other silly running hither and yon online. Finally, ta-da, it looked spectacular, except that my entire right column was missing! I use those links a lot! I need those links! So, back to the drawing board: I figure maybe it was too big, sucking up too much resources or something, so I compressed the picture and uploaded the new smaller version. Re-publish. Still no good, no links!

Screw it, you'll just have to click on the link.

Update: I just tried it again, and again, it seems like including the image is making the entire right column disappear. How odd!

Update again: it seems like this is a bug with the template. I went back through my archives to other posts with photos, and saw exactly the same behavior. Looks like I'll have to adopt a new template, if I can't figure out what's going on!

Update again: trying a new template. I really want to be able to do more photos!

Update the last: the new template shows the same bizarro behavior, even though it's the same template used by Magnetic Moments (at right), which is currently showing pictures and has the right column intact, but then again, MagMo hasn't been updated recently. I fired off an email to Blogger help, and we'll see what happens. Weird. I hope whatever it is gets fixed soon.

Update the last: I needed to make the pictures much, much smaller: 314X235 seems to be the magic setting. Huzzah! I feel silly now, but I'm also glad I kept at it and figured it out.

my mother-in-law is the best

The nice UPS man just dropped off a package my mother-in-law sent. Here's a nice picture of the contents.

These are Hanover Gold stemware from Waterford Crystal. DH and I picked out the pattern 10 years ago, and are still very happy with it. It goes nicely with our Lenox Liberty china. The proportions of the bowl of the tea cup in the china matches the propotions of the bowls of the stemware. It took us a long time to find ones that did! (For the record, that's an outrageous price for a 5-piece place setting; Ross-Simmons has much better deals, and often offers free shipping.)

This summer the girls (MIL, DD, and I) went out for a "shopping day" and stopped at the Kitchen Etc. on the way back home. Kitchen Etc. was a reliable source for well-priced kitchen and dining stuff, but they went out of business as of July 30. We were surprised to see that not only did this particular Kitchen Etc. have some of my Waterford pattern, they were also discounting it along with everything else in the store. It wasn't much of a discount (10%), but that's 10% more than you will ever find anywhere else; Waterford never goes on sale, and is always exempted in the fine print whenever a store runs a "X% off everything" promotion.

In the 10 years that DH and I have been married, my MIL has been buying me crystal for birthdays, Christmas, and anniversaries. She told me she has felt guilty the last few years because she has bought me other things (as if that were a problem!?). Anyway, she insisted on buying up all that they had in my pattern, and even said, "I'll figure out how to get it out to AZ, don't worry about that."

So, I told her she now doesn't have to buy my another gift for next 5 years. (hee)

The stems are here safe and sound and beautiful, and when the in-laws are here for Thanksgiving, we'll definitely use them for dinner. I hope to use them more as the kids get older, too. Just now, it's a bit more prudent to leave them in the china cabinet, safe and visible.


This morning I popped into the journal page of that forum that has been weighing on my mind lately. There were a half-dozen new entries, all with titles reacting to something serious, but I didn't know what. I clicked over to check new posts and there was an announcement that the site's founder's husband had died quite unexpectedly this morning.

It's a story we've all heard any number of times: he was fine, and then he was gone. In this particular case it seems he may have a heart attack. He was one of the unfortunate ones mentioned in that statistic that some huge percentage of first-time heart attack sufferers die.

Thsi is one of the oddities of online life. I've never met this woman in person, and we have corresponded maybe half a dozen times. But she is someone that I've known for over a year now, and from reading her journals, posts, and articles, I really feel as if I know her, and I consider her a friend. Just last week the poor dear suffered the loss of her beloved teacup poodle, and I was left feeling inadequate, that I wished I could do more.

Today, that feeling is magnified a thousand times. She lives a thousand miles away and has never laid eyes on me, but that doesn't stop me from wishing I could just put my own life on hold and go and take care of her: cook and clean and shop for her, and drive her or her children wherever they need to go, so that she doesn't have to be concerned about day-to-day life details in the midst of dealing with the horror of their loss.

I know a little what she must be feeling, as I once had to deal with having my future torn away, everything I thought would happen thrown into the trash. It takes a long time to recover from a shock like this. I hope she has a good support system.

Now all my whining about my own problems seems even more petty. I wish that had been demonstrated in a less brutal way, though.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

reality check

My conscience twinged when I wrote below about the likelihood of getting "you deserve [cancer], you bitch," comments in an online forum in which I have been less than gracious in trying to defend my religion. I can state with 100% certainty that with the exception of perhaps 3 people, no one over there would ever say such a thing. Those three people, though? They probably wouldn't say it, either, although I suspect that they might think it. But nobody can be convicted for thinking nasty thoughts, which is a good thing because I would've been locked up long ago were that the case.

The thing is, I realized, I am actually embarrassed about the current slate of medical procedures I'm facing. Since Oct 31, 2003, I've had a hysterectomy and cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal). On top of that, I had developed an infection in a sebaceous cyst that had to be drained (twice) and then removed. I was on some medication for my rheumatoid arthritis that did a number on my digestive system, and after my gallbladder surgery I had both endoscopy and colonoscopy to try and nail down the problem. When I finally dropped the medication, the problems cleared up, but it took way too long to realize what was really going on. It seemed that between October 2003 and May 2004, I lurched from one medical problem to another. I find it really distressing that it looks like this fall may be a replay of last year's.

Friday evening, I asked DH in all serious, "Do you think that I'm doing something that's making all this stuff happen? Or is there something I should be doing, that I'm not?" He brushed it off as a silly question. No one chooses to make their thyroid go off, and it's not as if I can control the rate at which my spots become mutant. I don't exercise regularly and I don't get enough sleep, but my weight, blood sugar, and cholesterol are all stellar, and my nutrition is generally good. I even think I maintain a positive attitude about my health, because I realize that is important, too.

Yet it seems every time I turn around there's something else waiting to whack me upside the head.

Mary Shomon's most recent newsletter highlighted Everything Happens for a Reason, a new book I am too lazy to link just now. Is that really true? What lesson am I supposed to be taking away from all this? What am I supposed to be doing differently? I'm trying to find the answer, and I can't. When I look back and pinpoint when all the changes started, I can see that the downhill slide started during my 3rd pregnancy. It's not like I can undo that now, you know?

So I'm stuck. I will end up asking for help even though it means more embarrassment, more admitting that I'm falling apart in spite of my best efforts... no one I know will make me feel bad by asking the obvious question, "Girl, what are you doing to yourself?!"

But I bet they're all thinking it.

what it really means

I'm reflecting with some sadness how estranged I feel from one of the forums I am active on, following the big blow-up in August. Many women post there in the "off topic" area when they are having some trouble -- men, money, health, employment -- and get support and encouragement. I wonder if I would get the same response. I don't think I would, and I don't want to open myself up to the kind of "you deserve it, you bitch" comments I might get.

I also find myself not joining discussion threads in which certain other people are participating. They have already told me they don't want to hear anything I have to say.

This thinking brought me to the realization that whenever anyone says, "I prefer to think for myself," what they really mean is, "I'm following a specific set of rules here, only they are the cool rules (emphatically not your rules), the acceptable rules, and the rules tell me that I'm thinking for myself, and I'm fooling myself into thinking that I am, so quit challenging me about it, OK?"

Seriously. "I prefer to think for myself." There is just so much wrong with this statement, where to begin?

On the face it, it's obnoxious because it implies that the listener, the person to whom the statement is directed, doesn't think for himself. As if it's not possible for a thoughtful person to weigh evidence and come to a conclusion different from the speaker's. The arrogance and condescension are unmistakable.

Of course, every functioning adult "thinks for himself", how could anyone survive otherwise? Do we need overseers telling us how to order our days, when to pay our bills, when to hug our kids? Of course not, although many is the day when I'd appreciate someone just telling me what to cook for dinner, but that's not the same thing.

It's obvious that the speaker isn't talking about these day-to-day trivialities. No, anyone who says "I prefer to think for myself" is most likely referring to a larger philosophical or moral issue, and that's where I think it gets very dangerous indeed to "think for yourself."

I'm 41 years old and still grappling with many thorny issues, but I'm lucky because so many men and women, much more intelligent, articulate, and holy than I am have gone before me to show me the way. We've got writings in their own words, and we have accounts of their lives to guide us. When I hit upon a difficult issue, I consider myself very fortunate that I am not left "thinking for myself." I have learned so much from reading and listening to other's experiences and insights, and I continue to do so every day. Of course, I take it all in and integrate it, but I can't say I thought for myself all of these ideas, because I didn't. I learned them by listening and reading.

A big part of the cache of "I prefer to think for myself" is that it rejects authority, which, when you're a rebellious teenager, is the height of cool. As a parent, I understand the role that such rebellions take in the separation of child from parent, and in the formation of the child's identity within himself, as opposed to his identity within the family. For teenagers (and toddlers), rebellion is a necessary part of growing up.

But wholesale rejection of an entire culture's moral tradition isn't cool, it's sophomoric. The thinking-for-themselvers are saying that they know better than everyone that's gone before them. They've carefully weighed all the moral and spiritual implications of the position they are advocating, and they've deconstructed the arguments against them. Or so they would have us believe. If that were true, such folks would deservedly get my respect. But I have yet to have a discussion on the substance of a matter with any of these folks. They can't do it, because, you see, they're thinking for themselves. Tossing out that line is a the grown up equivalent of the kid-practice of covering your ears with your hands while chanting, "la la la, I can't hear you!"

"I prefer to think for myself" really means "I'm smarter than you, and I know more than anyone else ever could about this subject." It really means "I am too caught up in my own superiority to even listen to opposing arguments." It really means, "I am incapable of discussing anything or defending my position, because I'm really just repeating the mantra of my crowd, and I'm not going to allow you to challenge that. I may just be bleating along with the herd, but at least I'm thinking for myself."

Go ahead, discard the knowledge that humanity has painstakingly accumulated for millenia. Discount the experiences of countless generations; they are irrelevant when you want to do a little social engineering. Do whatever you want! Who could tell otherwise, when your own thoughts represent the pinnacle of human moral development?

Sometimes I come off as arrogant, and sometimes I am a know-it-all. I can be condescending and inconsiderate. But it takes my breath away when I understand what "I prefer to think for myself" really means. I suppose I should admire such people for their courage, for their willingness to set themselves up as unassailable, for their belief in their own infallibility. But since their courage is born of arrogance, I'll have to pass. Smart ass that I am, even I don't -- can't -- pretend to have all the answers.

Cliches are cliches because they are true, you know? In just the same way, fundamental truths underly our moral traditions. These "old" ways work. How do we know they work? Because they have been working for thousands of years. I'm not saying this is Utopia, because we all know there is room for improvement. But over the course of our history, I think you can honestly say that there has been improvement in our human condition, and I think it's in large part because of our moral tradition.

Perhaps the greatest blessing we share as humans is that we are not limited to our own individual life's experiences. We have the ability to examine other's lives and learn from their failures as well as their successes. You're lucky if you can learn from your own mistakes, but you're doubly blessed if you can learn from someone else's mistakes and save yourself the trouble of making your own. It seems obvious to me that this applies not just to the practical world but also to the philosophical and moral realms as well. Maybe these folks don't see it that way, though, and that's why they "prefer to think for themselves."

I say, why limit yourself to what one consciousness can conceive, one mind can discern? What a sorry thing it is to reject the wealth of human experience available to us.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

testing the limits

Today was a fairly productive day, in spite of my sleeping in until 10. I resisted DD's attempts to get me up at 7:30, she came in complaining about something her brother was doing and I kicked her out: "What a great way for me to wake up in the morning! Do you really think the first thing I want to hear when I open my eyes is you whining about something?" To put this in its proper perspective, her father was already awake and downstairs. Apparently he wasn't enough of an authority figure for her, or perhaps he just ignored her. Obviously it wasn't much of a crisis, because I closed my eyes and slept for another two and a half hours.

DH took DS1 out for a haircut and then to buy a new bike, then they caught lunch at Jack in the Box. While they were out, my older sister called and we had a good talk, catching up. And while I was on the phone, I de-cluttered the bookcases in the breakfast nook and I tackled the disaster that was the playroom. I think that every single toy was on the floor. The blocks and dress-up clothes, play tools, army men, Bionicles, Thomas the Tank Engine, plastic dinosaurs, Star Wars figurines... what a mess! When tackling something like that, it helps to be methodical: choose a box, and fill it. All in all, it went pretty quickly, since there actually is a place for everything in that room. Part of the problem with this house: it's so big, we really do have room for all this stuff. I've mentioned several times to DH that we should move to a smaller house. He thinks I'm crazy, but I'm serious.

After that, I'm not really sure what happened to the day... we're having odd weather, the tail end of some hurricane is blowing through today and tomorrow. I took the umbrella to Mass and I'm glad I did, it was pouring when we got out. DS1 complained about being cold and I laughed at him. It was like 85 degrees and raining. It wasn't cold, but he just isn't used to being rained on at all. We don't even own raincoats or boots or anything other than umbrellas, it rains so seldom here. After supper I went out to empty the paddling pool (DH had started filling it before the rain blew in) and the weather was just gorgeous: very windy, with that just-rained, might-rain-again wetness hanging in the air, and everything smelled so clean. It felt good to be outside in air that was not parched and 105 degrees.

Supper was clean-out-the-fridge leftovers, and miraculously no one complained, and then I dashed up to Trader Joe's because we were so close to being out of milk as to make no difference, and we needed other things, too.

So you see, I got a lot done today, but it has all been as if slogging uphill, none of it came easily. What I really want to do is stay in bed, pull the covers over my head, and hide until the 27th when I find out what's going to happen. Clearly, that's going to far: I have three kids and big house to manage, not to mention a charming husband who deserves a wife who is at least present if not exactly useful.

There's a constant sub-surface conversation going on in my head, like a little buzz-buzz-buzz: you have cancer, you know well, maybe, but it's not the kind anyone ever dies of, and besides, it might not be cancer well even if it's not cancer you still need surgery! yeah so? what am I supposed to do?

Impossible options:
1) freak out, cry, and require sedation I don't think so, this one requires too much effort
2) withdraw completely, and just sit staring at the wall while chaos reigns in the house who am I kidding? Someone's got to keep track of these people. I can check out for an hour, maybe, but after that? No way.
3) talk about the possibilities, call everyone I know and regale them with my woes, whine incessantly about having all these things happen to me again... takes to much effort. Besides, I don't really want to talk about to anyone else until I know more; I've told my immediately family, and no one else needs to know right now, anyway. The whole sympathy-play makes me very uncomfortable.
4) Spend hours and hours on the web researching thyroid nodules and thryoid cancer, thyroidectomy, and ferret out every last detail of the ins and outs of what may be going on with me Eh, no. I've already done about an hour, maybe two, of research, and found what I need to know. Frankly my eyes started glazing over after a while. I'll probably do another round of research when I've got my diagnosis, but until then? No thanks: I've learned enough already to be prepared when my dx comes in. There will be no other test.
5) Indulge in various escapist extravagances: eat too much, drink too much, stay up too late, watch stupid TV... Shop. I have no appetite, alcohol makes me feel like puking... OK, I have been up late but nothing out of the ordinary for me, and I've even been limiting the stupid TV. It's boring. Shopping? For what? I did a lot recently and I don't really need anything. And I really don't feel like shopping. Again, too much effort.

So I'm left with trying to be patient, trying not to freak out, trying to remember to eat. Dealing with the sore throat (no better today... time for some ibuprofen) and feeling tired, more than tired: wrung out. "Been through the wringer", that's me. What's making this hard is that nothing has actually happened yet. Anticipating difficult things is very draining, and I have 3 double biopsies coming up, and most likely a thyroidectomy, too. No wonder I feel flattened these days.

Another thing I did today was put the photos from our summer vacation into an album. I kept out the picture of the beach and put it up next to the computer. It's a really good picture, just the long view down the shore that you would see as you walked along the beach. When I look at it, I feel... confused, I guess. I remember being there and feeling so well, so peaceful. And I feel sad because I am so far away.

But then I wonder, do I really feel sad? The nodule on my thyroid feels exactly like the lump you get in your throat when you need to cry. I find myself feeling inexplicably sad these days, but there's no reason for me to cry. For once, I can honestly assess that I am not depressed. I think that I'm actually getting a physical cue from my body: perhaps a good cry would clear the lump in my throat? Alas, that won't do the trick! (Who says "alas" anymore? Me, apparently.)

So, no beach for me, but the Patriots-Cardinals game tomorrow will be fun, even if I can't yell because it makes my throat hurt. I sang in church today, and I hope I will still be able to sing after my surgery. One thing the thyroid nodule has done is improve my singing voice -- an unexpected blessing, and I hope it will last. I really like to sing and over the past few years my range and pitch have really improved. I knew there was something going on -- I knew I had nodule -- but I wasn't going to look that gift horse in the mouth. Now I'm glad I've been taking advantage of it while I could, because who knows for how much longer I'll actually be able to sing?

See, that's another one of those negatives that I'm just stuck waiting for. And I hate wishing for time to speed up, because I frankly don't want my life to be any shorter than it is destined to be. (I wish I could figure out a way to phrase that without offending my own sense of free will and my rejection of the idea that our lives are mapped out for us and we have no choice but to follow some pre-ordained path.) So all that leaves me just here, present and "normal", I guess. The temptation to reject normalcy because bad things are coming is very strong, but at this point, normalcy is the biggest comfort I've got.

Friday, September 17, 2004


Went up this morning for my thyroid ultrasound and FNA. I knew it was going to be bad. The pain is not so much in the needle sticks as it is afterwards, because when they put the needle in there, they kind of wiggle it around a little bit to get a tissue sample, you know? So it still hurts now, hours later, and it will probably continue to bother me for a good part of the weekend.

The endo reviewed the u/s and seems pretty sure that at least the side with the nodule will have to come out. See, I've had the nodule for a few years now and all of a sudden it is much bigger (not just me psyching myself out), plus has different characteristics... she doesn't think it should stay. If the biopsy shows cancer, they'll most likely take both lobes of the thyroid, otherwise they'll just take the half.

So she did about 6 sticks in the throat, but then I needed 3 more sticks (both arms, right hand) before they could find a vein that would give blood for the lab tests... I'm just feeling battered right now.

DH and I made plans today to see the Patriots on Sunday. The high temp is only supposed to be 88. Here's hoping -- I really need a good day out!

the question

In the last post, I got so caught up in the details of the day's suckitude that I forgot the point of the thing. I could edit it but I'm not in the mood, and besides, it stands perfectly well on its own.

The question is, what am I supposed to do when my kids break my heart?

That sounds all melodramatic and frankly, stupid, but DS1's sneering Who needs you? was as bad as a slap in the face. It quite took my breath away. I didn't know what to do, so I left.

I think maybe there are tears queuing up, but that's not going to help. I need to figure out what to do when I have been hurt to the quick by these tiny vicious things. When they are babies it's easier, because they don't realize they're hurting you. DS2 is still unaware for the most part, but the other two: they know exactly what they're doing. They are still children and can't restrain themselves from lashing out at someone who has pissed them off, or hurt them, or prevented them
from watching Cartoon Network for 10 consecutive hours. You know: me.

It's just that they are so good at it. I really have to develop thicker skin, but how? I'm 41 years old and tend to think, "well, this is it," in terms of personality traits. It's no good to say, "Oh, you're fine, really, you're just under a lot of stress right now," because I will pretty much always be under a lot of stress, so I better figure out a way to deal with this, and soon, or I'm going to end up with a completely adversarial relationship with my kids.

DH cooked dinner for the kids after we settled on salmon for us: "What are you going to make for the brats," I asked him, not giving him much choice. He didn't mind (or if he did, he didn't give me even the tiniest inkling). And he made me laugh, a lot, when it was time for the Tooth Fairy to collect DD's first lost tooth.

Lord, thank you for putting this man in my life, and opening my eyes to see him and my heart to love him. I wouldn't be the "me" I am now without him.

See, there's one thing I can do on days like today: ask for help, and trust that it'll be there. Sounds like a plan.

Thursday, September 16, 2004


The too-tightly-wound string that I've been these past few days finally gave out today.

The stresses really weren't that great: DS2 had his first Atrium class this morning, another growing-up milestone that went fine but still makes me a little emotional. Then this afternoon DD got into a state about something (ah, yes: making a paper snowflake did not go as she wanted it to) and drew me yet another picture saying: "My Mom thks I am stooped" (translation: my mom thinks I'm stupid) Showing me, smiling, pointing at her, frowning. What I really think is going on there is that she thinks I am stupid, but knows she can't get away with saying that. Or she's just frustrated because she wants to do everything perfectly the first time and won't practice anything, but she still gets upset when things don't turn out the way she wants them to. At any rate, I don't think she's stupid at all, it's remarkable for a 5-year-old who just started kindergarden to be able to write like that! She's smarter than smart, but she has an attitude problem. I guess "My mom thinks I have an attitude problem" is beyond her capabilities, though, so I'm stuck with "My mom thinks I'm stupid."

At any rate, this just piled a heartbreak (bad kind) on top of a heartbreak (wistful kind).

DS1 contributed his share with this charming question: "Who needs you?" He was doing (or rather, not doing) his math homework, which took him about 10 minutes when he finally applied himself... but when he said that to me, I couldn't take any more. "Apparently, not you," I replied, and I walked upstairs, went into my room, closed and locked the door and lay down on the bed, where I remained until shortly before DH got home.

I'm pretty sure this rather extreme response is because there is just so much going on: between DS2's bloody nose the other day and the cat's latest bout with whatever it is that is going on with her, there have been a number of spectacular messes to clean up lately, including cups of milk dropped on the floor. We had a minor infestation of sugar ants again (gone now, I hope for good) when they found a new place to get in, they are so tenacious!

So there has been house stuff weighing on me, but the really big stress is of course the medical stuff: I need six biopsies. It's freaking me out. That's just too many to contemplate; I'm scheduled out till November, and that's doing them 2 at a time!

Tomorrow morning, I go for my thyroid scan and FNA, and I swear the lump in my throat has been getting bigger every day for the past week: here's hoping that's just me, psyching myself out.

If I'm going to have cancer, I'd rather it be the kind that can be taken out with a punch biopsy. I don't want to have any more full-blown surgeries this year. Or next year. Hey, you know what? Ever.

Hands were a little stiff today, no big deal, maybe a 3-4 on the 1-10 pain scale. No swelling, though. I missed several days of B5 and perhaps that's what's causing it. OTOH, the weather is supposed to cool down in the next day or so, and the change in weather could trigger a flare, too. Or it could be cyclical... I have no idea, but it's good to note it, just in case. Oddly enough, my feet have not been bothering me... usually when the hands go, so do the feet. Hmmm.

I'm trying to keep a positive outlook. Tomorrow's appointment will be over by 11, so I only have to be this uptight for about 11 more hours. Well: the pain will be over, then there's the waiting for the results. Whee! I'm going to have make a real effort to keep the dread/panic feelings under control, otherwise they're going to taint the remainder of this entire year. (rolling my eyes, here)

Time to go get driving directions to the endo's, I hate going into the Phoenix office, it's such a zoo there...

that'll teach me

At least twice now, possibly three times, I've had posts eaten by Blogger. The common factor? They were all posted right around 1AM MST.

No more late night posts for me.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

a mom's life

DH and I had a lovely evening together watching the news and speaking harshly to the various assembled partisans, who of course couldn't hear a word of it. He went up to go to bed while I stayed down here puttering, as usual, but within minutes he was back downstairs with a still-sleeping DS2 in his arms.

The boy's face was covered with blood.

I vaguely remember DS1 having an overnight nosebleed at some point, but nothing like this. I cleaned up the boy while DH held him. In an apparent miracle, no blood got on his pjs. In another apparent miracle, no blood soaked through the pillow case or down to the mattress cover, because almost all of it (a rather large pool, it looks like) was on the top sheet. DS2 sleeps all over the place, seldom with his head actually on the pillows. This works out well when things like nosebleeds, or puking, happen.

I spent about 10 minutes scrubbing the blood out of all the bedding, and now it's in the wash. I'm sure it will come out fine. I'm not sure at all what is going on with DS2, though. Web searching on pediatric nosebleeds points to the probable cause: dry nasal membranes. It just seems odd, is all.

It's very strange, as a mom, to see your child covered in blood, especially when you know it's his. The lizard brain -- instinct -- panics, but the human brain clamps down immediately and says, "What's wrong, what happened?" and goes into problem-solving mode. It's very easy to tick off what's right: he slept through the whole thing, so obviously he wasn't in any great pain. And the bleeding has stopped on its own. Those are the most important things, and they are good things. Most likely DS2 will wake up in the morning and not even know anything happened. He probably won't even notice that he has different sheets on his bed.

After the boy is cleaned up, the bed stripped and remade, the bloody sheets scrubbed and thrown in the washing machine -- then the lizard brain gets a few moments' control, and the panic is thrown into brief relief before scuttling immediately back to worry, and fear. Is there something terribly wrong here? Most likely: No, but I'll have to keep an eye on the little guy for the next few days and make sure he's OK. Fear is exhausting. I try to push it away, too, and only partially succeed.

Early today I hustled the boy to the doctor because his lungs were squeaky last night. Ears, throat, and lungs all checked out OK, as I knew they would, but sometimes this little one gets persistent infections and I didn't want that to be the case here -- he has this brutal cough, but only from time to time. My lizard brain is telling me that it was too soon to bring him to the doctor, that it's next week when he'll be needing the anti-biotics...

I hope the lizard brain is wrong this time, but I fear it is not. It's not wrong often, and we've done the 2-trips-in-2-weeks doctor visits before. There are times when you just know that your kid is not right, but you have to accept that it's too soon for the doctor. It is difficult waiting until they are miserable enough to get treated, but it's also not easy to see $25 and an hour and half go down the drain for basically the information that your kid is not quite sick enough to merit anything other than OTC treatment.

My prayers tonight will be for no more nosebleeds, and improved conditions for everyone. I have my dermatology appointment tomorrow and if DS2 has to stay home from school I will be in a difficult position, since I already rescheduled this appointment from last week when DS1 was sick!

I'll just have to see what tomorrow brings. I hope I won't have to wash anymore sheets.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004


I've been reading a lot of political blogs, and commentary blogs, and thinking it would be great to do a serious blog and get it "out there". But then I realize I need some space where I can talk about stupid things I did, whine about my health, rhapsodize over my amazing children... all those type of things, and not worry about boring my readers to tears.

So for now I'm sticking with this one. I can be deep here from time to time, that's OK. It's also good to keep track of the nitty stuff, too.

Still feeling lousy today, not as bad as yesterday. Up too late because of the icky feeling, basically. I think it has subsided enough now that I can sleep.


Sunday, September 12, 2004


There's something wrong with me, and I'm not exactly sure what it is. Most likely, it's some variation of the stomach virus the boys had. Whatever it is struck after dinner last night, and I initially blamed it on the 2 glasses of wine I had. Given that I drank the 2 glasses over a period of at least 3 hours, you wouldn't think that would be enough to make anyone sick, but it was my first thought. I don't think that was it, though, because if it were, I'd be better by now.

I haven't puked in over 12 years (including 3 pregnancies) but I came pretty darn close last night and I still am of a mind that I might feel better if I had... or just now, if I could. This can't be food poisoning, DH had exactly the same things to eat as I did, and he's fine. I just feel wretched. My stomach is queasy and I get the accompanying clammy chills followed by feverish sweats. I feel fine for an hour or two and then spin back down into this whatever-it-is.

So I laid around the house all day, mostly. I did clean up the kitchen at least twice (breakfast and lunch) and made dinner and did 3 loads of laundry, in spite of feeling as if puking is imminent whenever I stand up for any length of time. I've also eaten 4 slices of toast, 2 poached eggs, a bowl of yogurt with blueberries, a few TLC crackers, and I think 4 (5?) cups of peppermint tea.

I'm feeling a bit detached, wondering if that is the illness, too? I dunno.

Tomorrow, school, and RE begins for the 2 older kids. I hope I'm feeling better. Pickups and dropoffs are going to be nasty if I'm feeling this gross.

Blogger ate my post from 2 days ago. Here's hoping this one survives.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

what day is it?

DS1 has been sick for 3 days now, and DS2 is on-again, off-again sick as well. So far, DD appears to be spared. She, like me, rarely succumbs to stomach-virus type things. I'm grateful.

The overall effect of having sick children is one of dislocation. All concept of time goes out the window, except to note the interval between vomitting sessions, which has been disturbingly short today. Hopefully the guys will feel better tomorrow.

As for me... having consumed all 5 volumes of Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain in the past 3 days, I'm feeling perversely relaxed and rested. It was a mental vacation, apparently much needed.

I cried when Fflewddur sacrificed his harp, though.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

getting out

There is probably nothing more boring to read than a catalogue of someone else's pleasant day's activities. But on the other hand, there is some novelty involved, because most personal blogging that I've read deals with angst, pain, or tortorous journeys of discovery. Well, there will be none of that here today!

It was a good day: Slept in until 10, dawdled around on the 'net for a couple of hours, then we rounded up the kiddos and headed out to lunch at Chili's, which is never spectactular but usually dependable. I varied from my usual burger and got the grilled tuna steak sandwich -- I had forgotten how good that is. I'll have to remember it for the next time, which hopefully won't be for another month -- I've been to Chili's twice in 5 days! That's quite enough, I think.

After lunch, we scooted over to the mall, where we dropped the children off at the new play place at Harkin's Theater, and then we went to see The Bourne Supremacy, which was great. Then we picked up the kids and came home, had margaritas and ordered Chinese food for dinner... my sister called and we chatted for a while, DH went and got dinner...

You see, it was nothing spectacular, just nice. Also, I had the entire day off from cooking which was really lovely. I do get burned out from that.

Yesterday was a similarly escapist day, except I dove head-first into Lloyd Alexander's The Book of Three, which I ostensibly bought for DS1, but had to re-read since it was so long since I had read it. It was a fun read although I think now it may be a little too much of a push for him, the chapter books he is reading now top out at about 80 pages of larger type. He doesn't seem particularly interested now, either, although I expect that to change later. He's too much like me not to be interested...

DS2 is growing up so fast. He is into getting dressed all by himself now, and refuses help in the bathroom(!!), and has finally figured out how to work the door getting in from the garage. Today he put his sandals on all by himself, too. What happened to my baby?! I'm happy to see how good he feels about himself being able to do these things on his own. The best "self-esteem" is born of a sense of accomplishment, I think.

I am very grateful for everything I have, especially for being aware of it all.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

running the cancer tests gauntlet

This week I got my mammogram. Next week I see my dermatologist for a "mole check", and the week after that is my thyroid scan and FNA (fine needle aspiration biopsy).

IOW, we're doing the comprehensive cancer-sweep, and I won't have a clean bill of health until close to the end of the month, or possibly later, the way all these things typically work.

It doesn't seem like it should be much, but it is psychologicly draining going through all this. The tests themselves are not so bad, with the exception of the FNA ("Here, let me jab this big needle into your throat, repeatedly!"); it's more the waiting around for the test results that gets to me.

Since I'm hyper-observant about my state of health, I know that if I actually do have anything, it will be in the nascent stages and most likely easily dealt with. Unfortunately I have this sense that, since I've already lost 2 internal organs, I'm going to continue to lose non-essential ones until I run out. That means I'm up for appendicitis any time now, and that eventually my thyroid will go crazy and I'll have to have a thyroidectomy, too. The same voice that once spoke in my head telling me it would be so much easier to deal with things when "they" (my breasts) are gone continues to murmur now and then to enjoy 'em while I have 'em.

If I were a normal person, I'd brush off that last as a bit of a (health)paranoid delusion, except it was that same voice, that same knowing/feeling that I heard the very last time I stocked up on menstrual supplies (it was a very steep sale and I bought a lot of my favorite stuff, which I later packed up and sent off to my sister and nieces): "I don't know why I'm buying all this, I'll never use it up." Now, why would a healthy 40-year-old woman -- finally having regular menstrual cycles after years and years of irregularity -- ever have occasion to think such a thing? Seriously, you can never have enough of that stuff around; 40 is nowhere close to menopause. I just figured some part of me knew my uterus was not destined to last my entire life's journey, because it checked out only a few months later.

One of my hallmarks of depression is the inability to get to bed at anything close to a decent hour. Lately I've been in that pattern again, obsessively reading everything I could on the election and politics. It has been a terrific distraction. See, I do not think that my recent late nights are the result of depression (on the contrary, I feel more grounded and content than I can remember feeling), they are more the result of fear: when you know you're going to die, you don't want to waste time sleeping.

I don't (human brain) think I'm going to die any time soon. But I realize I am (lizard brain) afraid of hearing that I'm going to die a lot sooner than I am hoping for. Here's hoping that this airing of the topic will act as a pressure valve of sorts. The whole thing is rather absurd and while this discussion is somewhat simplified, it does help to just get it all out there.

Friday, September 03, 2004

nice day

Kind of went by in a blur, though.

DS2's first day of school went off with nary a hitch, and only a few rough spots for the little guy. First, he cried a bit at circle time because he didn't want to sing, so we told him that was OK. Second, he cried at snack time because he didn't want to eat pretzels for a snack. We told him he didn't have to eat them and he pouted for a while, sipped his apple juice, and recovered. The kid has remarkable self-control.

I think he really enjoyed himself and I took an entire digital photo essay of his first day, many of the things he did. Today was not hard because I was expected to stay with him, and staying with him, of course, is easy. He hates it when anyone says this, but he is my baby, and the idea of leaving him for 2+ hours without his brother or sister is very rough on me. He has never been alone like that in a setting like that. When there is a lot of commotion he tends to shut down. I'm wondering how he will handle next week when the entire class (16 kids) is in attendance, as opposed to today, when only half the class was there. They give the kids one day with the half-class to get the routine down, which I think is a splendid idea.

I really love the school. I have been there for so long that I easily fell back into the old encouraging/guiding language that is best for little ones who are so easily distracted. This is a huge step for all of these kids, and there are a lot of skills to master: sharing, waiting in line, a whole host of social skills as well as dexterities and academics... it's extraordinary, and I'm glad my kids had/have the chance to explore all that in such a great environment.

One of my dear friends picked DD up at school for me and then we met at Mimi's Cafe for lunch, which was really good except by the time our food arrived I was starving, so I at my entire burger, which I have literally never done before. Then, of course, my friend ambushed me with the restaurant "Happy Birthday!" and a nice slice of chocolate mousse pie. I was already full but I ate it anyway. It was good, and I was relieved that I didn't feel gross or sick the rest of the day from eating too much. Sleepy, though.

Then I spent the rest of the day in a haze of reading blogs, news, and editorial coverage of everything going on. I can see I have to develop some ground rules for myself on this issue!

Three day weekend, no plans! Yay!

everyone survived the RNC

I have to stop obsessively reading the reportage and analysis of the happenings in NY this week. At least now that the convention is over, there should be a drop-off in sheer volume of verbiage produced, so I'll have a chance of keeping up.

Oh, why do I bother? It's an illusion! I'll never get caught up because I keep finding interesting new blogs to read. Then I'll casually click over to see what the hyperbole-generators are spewing on Salon or MSNBC and there goes another hour. I really have to stop doing that.

DS2 didn't start school yesterday after all, since he woke up at 2AM Wed morning and puked. After that he seemed fine, maybe a little peaky. He's good to go for tomorrow, though. I think I am, too.

Lileks refers to his daughter (approaching 4yo) as Gnat. For some reason I find this incredibly charming. It makes me wish I had thought to coin adorable and yet completely anonymous nicknames for each of my children, but I didn't. I may yet. They don't have nicknames IRL, as DH and I gave them rather nickname-proof names: short, easy to pronounce, easy to spell, no confusion -- IOW, no need for nicknames. But I imagine it would help the narrative flow and also give readers more of an impression of their personalities.

I really liked the convention wrap-up at Vodka Pundit, but I'm waiting for Ann Althouse (linked at right) to weigh in before declaring a favorite.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


I am drunk on all the new ideas and information I am absorbing. I could easily stay up all night reading and writing. I remember feeling this way when I was a freshman in college... electrified, truly alive.

This is awesome.