Tuesday, December 29, 2009


If my recent post about the Pit of Despair wasn't enough of a clue, I'm seriously fighting off some depression right now.

It started about two weeks ago and I told my husband I could feel that depression blah setting in. The tiredness. The listlessness. The feeling that no matter how happy your life is, you can't be happy. You just look at it analytically and say, "I should be happy. Life is great. There is no reason to be unhappy, but there is no way to feel otherwise." If you haven't experienced it (or if you aren't currently experiencing it), it's hard to understand how real this is.

I'm not in some catatonic depressive state where I can't get up in the morning or brush my teeth. I'd call this mild depression. It's just that constant, nagging feeling of unhappiness and lethargy that I can't shake. It's annoying. I am living my life in black and white instead of color--but I'm still alive and kicking. I'm still making plans and getting things done and being a (pretty) good parent.

But there are little troubles that irritate me. My oldest is constantly dragged down by my mood. His mood is very dependent on mine and he is really bothered that I'm not being fun and cheerful and laughing with him. In other words, he's bummed out that I'm bummed out. I feel for him and I'm bummed out that I'm not being more fun.

The other thing that is really irking me right now is that I see myself entering a more serious stage of depression. This one I like to call the "Push Away Anybody Who Cares About Me At All" stage. This is the self-pitiful, moody stage where I make myself so incredibly unpleasant that nobody wants to be within a mile of me. I frown. I complain. I am a Piece of Work.

I look at myself logically and wish I could get away from myself, but I'm stuck here living inside this Piece of Work that I don't recognize. She's a stranger to me--so foreign to my naturally sunny and optimistic temperament.

Four more months and the baby will be here. My heart will recognize its' biological speed limit again and slow down so I can fight this with some exercise. And if things are getting worse, I at least have the option of an anti-depressant. I don't like to pop the pills but I'll do it for Joseph. He deserves to have his Mom back.


Why, oh why, do I expose myself to the world this way? We've gone over this before. I'm not ashamed that I was built this way: overly anxious and occasionally prone to depression. That's not a choice I made. It's something that was dealt to me in my genetic deck of cards--the same way some people are dealt diseases or handicaps. I know how to fight this and I always do. I'm proud of how thoroughly I've made this a non-issue in my life (except when I'm pregnant... and getting pregnant scared me to death for that very reason) ... but I remember the first time it hit and I was unprepared. I felt so alone, so misunderstood, so ashamed of who I was. 

This is a common, but mostly unspoken, problem and I want others to know they're not alone. I want to shout down into the abyss that others have fallen into and tell them there is hope. Maybe that will be enough of a rope for them to cling to that they can eventually climb out and find normality again.

That's why.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Lights Out

I am dreaming and the world looks so black, so cold.

There is a void ahead of me and I am swirling in closer, closer. It is a pit. A blackness. A never-ending shiver that I have tried to shelter myself from.

I turn away, only to fear that I will lose my balance and fall backward. I must face it, stare it down, back away. But it is calling me.

I am tired. I don't want to fight. I just want to fall, fall, fall ...

Now I am standing on the brink, staring into black oblivion. A haunting voice without words calls to me from the depths. It is waiting to welcome me. It says that I am home.

The only string holding me upright is the truth that I will one day want to climb out of the darkness and it will exhaust every reserve of fire inside me. Would that fire be extinguished if I fell down, down, down...?

I awake to discover I've never been asleep.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I've known for three weeks, but wanted to wait until after my 20-week ultrasound to put it on the blog. Now I can really, truly, officially state:


I can't even begin to describe what this is like for me. We'll just say that I've found myself standing in the middle of the kitchen floor, water dripping from my hands as tears form in my eyes at the realization that I'm finally having a baby girl.

It feels like an enormous responsibility all of a sudden. I don't know how to raise a girl. What do I do with a girl, for heaven's sake?

But for heaven's sake ... thank heaven for little girls.

Flowers & Clueless Employees

I bought myself flowers today. Why shouldn't I? Do flowers have to be symbols of romantic love, friendship, sympathy or best wishes? No! On the most basic level, they are not symbolic of anything. They are beautiful and, occasionally, fragrant. They are pleasing to the senses.

As I walked past these flowers, I was first struck by some large, peach-colored roses. It is my mother-in-law's birthday and I knew they'd be perfect for her. Then my eyes wandered toward some beautiful stems of unique, white flowers. I don't know what they are but I know I adore them. I have a thing for white flowers. I found some beautiful rust/red flowers to accent both of the other bouquets and took them home.

I snipped them to the right length under some warm water, gave them their flower food and arranged them admirably. Maybe I'll tell my husband I bought them "for him" to make him feel appreciated. He needs to be more appreciated around here. I'm not easy to live with when I'm pregnant. True story.

Clueless Employees
I am one day shy of 20 weeks pregnant and loving it. This is a crazy journey and I felt like an absolutely inhuman monster during my first trimester. I'm human again now (but still hard to live with) and looking forward to May with excitement and trepidation.

Those who know pregnancy will know that "20 weeks" means more than just a halfway stepping stone to delivery. It means an in-depth ultrasound to see if baby is growing the right way and to make sure everything looks healthy.

It's hard to explain this amazing experience to somebody who hasn't witnessed it. It's the point at which the blob of seeming-fat on your front side is suddenly a living human being. It's proof that two individual cells can come together and miraculously turn into a variety of specialized cells, tissues, bones, blood... It's one of those amazing moments that just floors me.

Today is my 20-week ultrasound. I've been looking forward to it for about 18 weeks now and didn't want to miss a moment of it, so I went to the store to buy a DVD-R to record it for my children and family. I was stressed because the ultrasound tech told me a very specific type of DVD to buy. I think she said a "DVD minus" (DVD-R as opposed to DVD+R) but called the office to confirm. The receptionist sent me to an answering machine. Dang.

An employee was next to the DVDs, stocking shelves, and I hoped he might have something to shed on the subject. (Really, I just wanted a little reassurance but wasn't hoping for much.)

I asked, "Do you know the difference between the two types of DVDs?" [Edit: My actual words were, "Do you know the difference between the DVD-R plus and the DVD-R minuses?" but I was too lazy to type that out until a comment made me realize I was being ambiguous....]

"There's no difference," he replied. "They're made by the same company, but some of them are made in a different factory." He looked at as if he was letting me in on a big secret and shrugged. "They just package them differently. Stupid, really."

I squinted my eyes at him just a little in disbelief, dropped my jaw and tried to control the facial expression that I knew I was about to form. I am a big believer in being straight-forward with people and this guy was clearly way off in left field. I appreciate honesty in others so I don't have to second-guess myself or them. But there are times when it's just not polite (and completely unnecessary) to clue people in to your mental process. This was one of those times.

I tried to adjust my face to appear thoughtful for a moment*, smiled at him and quietly said, "Thank you." Then I wheeled my cart away and hoped I was buying the right thing.

* Like Steve Martin in the movie "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" when he is being hit in the leg that he claims is paralyzed, is in terrible pain but trying to mask his pain by looking intensely thoughtful. Great stuff.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Pit of Despair!

No, this is not about the Princess Bride. That would be funner.

I was sick. I couldn't sleep last night. I was extremely irritable when my 7-yr-old son came pounding down the stairs around 6:30 a.m. (one of the rare times I was sleeping instead of tossing or turning) to tell me he was "scared." Mentally, I knew I should be supportive and loving. Emotionally, I didn't feel like it.

My husband jumped in and took him out of the room so I could rest a little longer. Then my husband left for work, leaving me alone with three loud, rowdy boys who naturally needed their Mom. I didn't want to be needed. I didn't want to take care of anybody else. I wanted to curl up under the covers, cry myself back to sleep and have somebody else take care of me. Hmph!

This was selfish. I was in a very rotten state of mind. I yelled at my son and when he demonstrated a very bad, rebellious attitude, I sent him to time out. That took about 30 seconds from start to finish. He slammed the door as hard as he could and things escalated. Eventually, he left the room and I sat in my bed in tears, feeling like the worst Mom in history of Bad Momness

My son poked his head around the corner timidly, asking what was wrong. I told him I was sick and tired and just not feeling well, which was true. Like the little codependent he's learning to be--sigh--he immediately assumed this was not true and that I was crying because he had misbehaved. He apologized and told me he wanted me to be happy. I tried to reassure him that (a) this wasn't his fault, and (b) that's not his responsibility. A few minutes later, we were sitting across from each other with bowls of cereal in front of us.

My son had completely forgotten the prior trauma and remarked, in response to something I'd said, "I think you're the perfect Mom." I wanted to snort milk out my nose and scream, "HA!" because I had just demonstrated the worst character traits imaginable a few minutes before. I didn't, though. I thanked him and tried to remind myself how innocent and vulnerable my children are--making it that much more important to grow up and stop blaming my children for my misery when I'm feeling ill.

We'll see how that turns out. If I could turn off all my negative emotions with a switch, I'd do it. I'd love to be purely compassionate, reasonable, kind, supportive, and validating all the time. It's just not that easy when life is swirling around me crazily.

I felt depressed the rest of the day until a surprise phone call jolted me out of my self pity. It was somebody who I hadn't talked to in over six months--somebody that I had a "professional" relationship with, meaning she was under no obligations of friendship to keep things positive between us. She was calling to say she was so sorry that she had missed an opportunity a few nights ago to hear me sing. She wanted to make sure I understood that she was very disappointed that she had to leave before my turn came. I thanked her and felt immediately buoyed up. She reminded me that she had heard me sing a few years ago, thought I had a real talent and hoped I would continue my progress there.

I hung up and smiled at my rambunctious children. It didn't make everything all better, but it was a nice little shot of optimism to keep me going. That's the kind of thing my kids need in large doses to counteract the crazy world they're growing up in: optimism. What am I thinking when I yell at them and make home a miserable place to be? That's not good for any of us. I need to practice patience and compassion 100% of the time--not just when I'm feeling healthy and well-rested. And I better practice fast because soon there will be a new baby in the house and there will be no more sleep for a long time.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sweet Surprise

Cinnamon. Ginger. Cloves. Molasses. Add in some flour and butter and you're pretty close to my favorite Christmas-time snack: Gingerbread.

Only one caveat: it can't be cooked. That ruins gingerbread. Gingerbread cookies are meh. Gingerbread cookie DOUGH is divine. I don't know why this is true, but it is irrefutable in my mind.

Yesterday, as I promised my son that I'd make gingerbread people with him, I tried to tell myself I had to be well-behaved. Raw cookie dough is a risk--one I'm willing to take most of the time, but not when I'm pregnant. Everything is riskier and more serious when I'm pregnant, so I was mentally steeling myself to stare at the spicy goodness without indulging even one little bite.

This morning, I got up and mixed the dough together. When I was all done, it hit me: no eggs. This recipe has NO EGGS. That means no raw eggs... no fear of poisoning... and that means the cookie dough is perfectly safe!

I stared at the recipe in amazement. I stared at the tantalizing bowl of deliciousness and let my Pavlovian instincts take over: time to salivate. I washed my hands carefully and reached in for the tiniest pinch. Pure heaven! I mentally congratulated myself for having the forethought to make a double batch. That means that I can indulge without taking away the sugary delight of fresh-baked cookies from my children.

I sat down and played board games with my twins for over an hour. I stood up and reached into the fridge for another pinch of dough.

Life is sweet. Oh, so sweet.

Friday, December 11, 2009

On My Mind & Neighbor Gifts (Part II)

A few things on my mind today, plus a bonus(!) Lengthy Commentary Probing the Psychology and Interpersonal Implications of Neighbor Gifts, the Lack Thereof or the Substitution Thereof for Other Ideologies.

Let's begin.

* The "Ranch Rolls" at Maceys Supermarket are surprisingly good. They have a little chew on the exterior and softness on the interior that sent me thousands of miles away to the homes of my cousins in Europe. Good rolls like that belong in Vienna or London or a small home outside Kassel, Germany. Not Maceys Supermarket. Perhaps it was a fluke. Maybe the next one I bite into will just be another bland, American-style, squishy excuse for bread. Let that happen as it may. The last one was heaven.

* I have entered a new stage of pregnancy: the "I Can Look at Raw Meat Without Gagging Violently" stage. I am very excited about this and I am celebrating by cooking some chicken for enchiladas. I am wondering why I still gag when I see dried-on bits of cereal in my children's unrinsed breakfast bowls. I hope that stage comes soon.

* I think my random blog posts (like this one) are my favorite.

* I think that it's time to break down and go buy some new maternity clothes. (1) My old ones are not only hideously unattractive, but also a tad on the big size. I've lost some weight since my last pregnancy ... which was a multiples pregnancy. (2) My current favorite non-maternity pants are so threadbare that they finally developed an unsightly and immodest tear in them two days ago. And I've worn them for two more days anyway.

* On to my Lengthy Commentary:

I blogged about neighbor gifts last year and here I am feeling flummoxed yet again, so this is an issue that I am clearly not at peace with. My dilemma stems mainly from three sources:

(1) My neighborhood has developed a sort of "tradition" of asking people to give food to charity or donate to a cause or some other High And Worthy Purpose instead of spending money on neighbor gifts.

(2) But I like cooking. And I like giving gifts to people. And I give money to charity year-round, including supporting a foster child in Cambodia.

(3) I always come back to The List. Whom do I skip by with a guilty conscience and whom do I give to, even though I know they haven't given anything to me for five years but I saw the plate of goodies they gave to my neighbor sitting on her counter so they're clearly doing more than the above (#1) High and Worthy Purpose?

This is not a major source of stress for me, but it keeps my brain more active than I usually care to admit. Last year, I made photo cards and added a message that I was donating food to charity for every card we handed out. This felt wrong for several reasons:

   (a) Doesn't a card like that say, "Look at how noble and good and charitable and admirable I am! Admire me ... from a distance, please."

   (b) My husband accused me of never following through on donating the food. Ahem. Who does the grocery shopping? Who does the budget? Thank you very much, Mr. Doubter, but I did so.

   (c) It felt like a cop-out. Like taking the easy way out. Like cheating. Which is what I needed last year, which was a very stressful time for me. But times have changed since then so I don't need a cop-out this year. (See above #2.)

So this year I printed up my Christmas cards and addressed all of the out-of-towners and then sat back to wonder what I'd do about the neighbors. I have fabulous neighbors that I adore and I like to drop a little something on their porch every year, but then the stress started creeping in. I started doubting myself. I decided to just buy something this year--maybe some Anna's Cinnamon Thins. I was all set on this plan but didn't make the trip to IKEA that day and started doubting myself again.

Then I thought, "Bah. I don't need to spend that money--I'll just give everyone a card with a few candy canes tied up with ribbon. It's the thought that counts!!" I walked into the grocery store this morning, determined to follow through on this plan. Then came the secondary wave of self-doubt. I realized that my insecurities are to blame for my hesitancy to bake ... after all, what if the cookies I give them sit on the counter for two weeks, get stale and then they think I'm a terrible baker? Harsh! What if I give everybody a certain treat just to find out that Mrs. Better Baker made the same thing and mine are suffering by comparison? Oh no!

Then came the moment of truth. I laughed at myself. How silly! I love baking and I love giving gifts, so I am going to bake something for my neighbors this year. Even if it turns out badly and everyone knows how human I am. Even if it takes two weeks to get it done. Even if it's not cool and now everybody else thinks I'm not into High and Charitable causes because I brought people cookies instead. I'll still give to charity. I'll still be generous. I'll just do those things AND make silly little plates of cookies for my neighbors too.

Plus, I'm not sure how High and Charitable it is to beg off the neighbor gifts to donate $20 to a Better Cause. It's great and socially conscious and all that, but don't you think there's just a teensy, tiny, little hint of laziness involved, too? Oops, did I say that publicly?

If I get burned-out, I have a backup plan: three dozen candy canes sitting on my counter in case life just gets in the way.