Wednesday, February 25, 2015

12 Things Worse Than Throwing Up All Day (But not as bad as Ebola, cancer, ALS, plane crash, being chained to a train track, getting beheaded by ISIS, traveling back to a previous life only to find yourself on the Titanic, etc.)

This is not a definitive list, nor is it in order of terribleness.

And obviously it's subjective. I mean, there are probably those among us who'd be fine eating a plate of runny egg whites. And many humans like Will Ferrell.

Yesterday after 2.5 hours of dental work, during which time I was afraid I'd throw up (Could I ever live down puking on my dentist?), I came home and spent the rest of the day vomiting. I couldn't sleep in between running to the bathroom because my whole body hurt.

As one might imagine, I was feeling quite sorry for myself.

I hate throwing up with the burning hatred of hatey-hate. I'd much rather have diarrhea. I'd rather go skydiving naked, even though that sounds really cold and windy and possibly deathy—three more things I loathe.

I felt such self-pity that I listened to For Good sung by Kristin Chenoweth, which I was introduced to by my dear ex-blogger friend Steve, and which always makes me cry. I couldn't watch, but put my phone on the pillow next to my ear and gently wept.

Yes. I was there.

When I get to the point of thinking "What could be worse?" I tend to start making lists of things that could be worse. So.

12 Things Worse Than Throwing Up All Day 
(But not as bad as Ebola, cancer, ALS, plane crash, being chained to a train track, getting beheaded by ISIS, traveling back to a previous life only to find yourself on the Titanic, etc.)
  1. Bleeding from your eyeballs.
  2. Guinea worm.
  3. Forced marriage to Dick Cheney.

    This one turns out to be contentious. My practical Canadian friend Rob points out that he is 74 and worth $90 million, so really. Now, I have considered foot prostitution as an alternate career (but have since been told by foot lovers that no, I couldn't make it as one), and I do think we all have our price...but I guess this means my price is higher than $90M?

    Also. I believe that Cheney has Horcruxes hidden all over the planet and as such, will never die.

    My friend Andrew also says how could I be sure he'd have me?

    Listen, people, all I'm saying is, this would be a thing worse than throwing up all day.
  4. Botfly (thanks for the reminder, Jessica!).
  5. Having to give an elephant a blow job (credit to Kristin for this one).
  6. At the risk of being repetitive, having your limbs hacked off by Hutus. Or anyone, now that I think about it some more.
  7. Being locked in a room with a continuous loop of Will Ferrell movies on high volume.
  8. Having to eat a plate of runny egg whites.
  9. Some of my Internet dates. Like this one and the mean one that inspired this post.
  10. Sitting in the window seat of a no-recline aisle on a long plane flight, both without the feeling of easy access to an emergency exit (aisle seat! I need an aisle seat!) and near an over-used bathroom.
  11. Getting attacked by a rabid raccoon. Or potential rabies. Let's just say potential rabies. Because actual rabies is in the beheading category.

  12. An hour with one of my old bosses. The one who insisted that we make Canada smaller than the US on our website map, so that American members wouldn't think we thought Canadians were more important.

    I would definitely rather vomit all day than spend time with her. I might even rather bleed from my eyeballs.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Child-rearing guilt and angst: Kindergarten edition

Today's episode of parenting frets will be devoted to Jordan and school.

DC has schools that start at Pre-K 3, and so, at age three, Jordan started school. Prior to that he was in daycare, and daycare in DC is costly. So for us it was no question but that he'd start school at age three rather than us continuing to pay many and many thousands of dollars for childcare.

In any case, he was going to be somewhere outside our home, whether it was daycare or school.

He has an August birthday, and there's a September 30 cutoff, so while he's not the youngest in his class, he's among them. There are kids in his grade who turned six in October, so are nearly a full year older.

We have Jordan in this terrific bilingual school. We bought in this particular area of DC so that we'd be guaranteed a spot.

His two prior years were at a different school. We loved his teachers and the school, but the Spanish instruction depended on the teacher. For us it was miss rather than hit. This was fine, because his primary teachers were wonderful for him. He just didn't learn much Spanish.

Now he's in Kindergarten at a school where half the day is spent in Spanish. He's learning math in Spanish.

He says he hates it.

He's in a good mood when I pick him up at the end of the day. I know he likes his teachers. He has friends.

But every morning he doesn't want to go and over and over he says he hates his Spanish-speaking teacher. And when you ask why he wails, "Because I don't understaaaaaand him!"

Jordan is, like his mother, someone who sits on the side until he is comfortable. Someone who is anxious about making mistakes. Someone who will not just jump in and barrel through. He wants to know he can do it well before he does it at all.

I'm sorry about the genes, little pal. And also all the stress I was under while pregnant with you. Oh, and the PPD. Did I do this to you? (Guilt and angst, guilt and angst.)

I wonder if we should've started him a year later. This is a pointless fret, because we did what we did.

But now we are wondering if we should have him repeat Kindergarten.

His class has a wide range of abilities, and he is at the low end in terms of reading and writing. When he brings English books home to read to us, I know he's just reciting what he's memorized, or what the picture is making obvious. "There is a tree."

When it's a Spanish book, he has no idea, refuses to sound out letters, and generally makes it all so miserable that I am just like fine, fuck it, never learn to read and go ahead and limit yourself to miserably few low-wage employment options.

I don't say that, of course. But I hate reading his Spanish homework with him. He whines and cries and says it's too hard and I just have to remember to breathe and be patient and try to remind myself that wine is not the solution.

But I've started to think that repeating this grade might be the answer.

I mean, I know that he will learn to read and write. I don't actually have that concern. Nor do I feel a need for him to be at the top of his class. What I want is for him to be happy.

Instead of struggling so hard, instead of feeling like he's hanging on by his fingernails, maybe he could feel good. Right now he feels like everyone in class knows what's being said and he doesn't (this is not the case, but it is how he feels, so it's real to him).

But if he did Kindergarten again, maybe he could actually be comfortable. Maybe he could feel like he knew what he was doing, and perhaps even do some things better than others. Which (I think) would make him a much more confident student.

However. I also worry about him feeling bad about himself for still being in Kindergarten when his peers go on to first grade.

I talked to the teachers, who said they could go either way with him. He could stay on grade level and get extra support. Or he could repeat. We're going to have this conversation again in June and decide.

Ultimately, we'll make this decision with his teachers and the administration. But I'd like some personal stories as I consider it.

Do any of you have experience with this? What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Brian Cuban in DC February 25

My dear friend Mark Bennett asked me to share this information with you, and since I'd do pretty much anything for him, and the topics resonate with me and might with you as well, here we are.

Interestingly, Mark is the one who gave me my favorite pair of jeans in high school. The Levis he'd grown out of, and the ones that became my benchmark for being thin enough through years and years of weight struggles. Of starving and exercising too much and getting depressed and gaining weight and getting it all under control and getting skinny again.

When I'd get skinny enough to fit into those jeans, I was thin enough. Which meant I was pretty enough and good enough. (Pretty enough? Good enough? For what?) And then I'd gain weight, which meant...the opposite, right?

If you haven't heard of Brian Cuban—and I hadn't—he's a lawyer, an advocate, and an inspirational speaker. He talks about his personal experiences with eating disorders, drug addiction, depression, and attempted suicide. He'll be in DC speaking at GW on the evening of February 25. Details are on this poster.
You know I am a sucker for the super-personal tales of struggle. Eating disorders and mental illness? That's like an evening at the movies for me. Plus, Mark says he's an awesome speaker.

So if I can swing it, I'll be in the audience.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Ourselves like we were yesterday

It's Valentine's Day, and so we think of love and roses and smoldering I don't know what.

I was single for Valentine's Day for most of my life, and as such, felt inadequate and unloved. And then the rare times that I was Valentined, it was easy to relax and not be so uptight about what we did, because hey, I had someone who ostensibly loved me!

But the fact is, and we actually know this but it doesn't sell cards and chocolates, love is so much broader and deeper than the kind of love that takes you out for dinner on Valentine's Day.

In January of 1990, I met my friend Leigh. We were both in the same Italian History class in the same college in Rome. She'd just started college and was living with her parents. I was escaping UNC and having a once-in-a-lifetime glorious experience.

We started chatting on the bus ride home together. How can I not remember the bus number? I rode it all the time. Anyway, she'd get off at Guido d'Arrezzo. I stayed on until Termini; I rented a room on a residential floor of a nearby church.

It was one of the best times of my life.

We immediately became fast friends. I will either meet you and like you fine but we will be surface people. Or we will sit down and have a heart and mind meld and then I will basically never let you go.

We became the latter. I loved her and I loved her parents. I loved her boyfriend. I dated but didn't have a steady boyfriend, and the three of us did lots of stuff together. He and I stayed friends after they broke up. So did her mother and I.

Anyway, Leigh.

She'as the first person I can remember telling me I was smart. One evening I'd gone over to their apartment to write a paper, as Leigh's mom had a computer. And Leigh said, "You go ahead and start. I'm not done with my outline."

I said, "Outline? You make an outline?"

And she said, "How do you start if you don't know where you're going to end up?"

And I said, "How do you know where you're going to end up if you haven't started?"

We have very different brains. We process so differently. But and some point, she said "You know, Lisa, you're really smart."

Smart? I'm smart.

(If you meet her she will also tell you how our friend Kassie and I convinced her to accompany us to Tunisia for spring break. We somehow gave her the impression that we knew what we were doing, and we so very completely did not. It's a humiliating story and she tells it whenever she meets one of my friends.)

So we were dearest friends. And then I left Rome and eventually she went off to UVa, and I went off to Peace Corps. And when I returned to DC for grad school, she had this new boyfriend,  Stephen.

Stephen didn't like me. I don't know if it was personal, or if Leigh and I were just too close to be threatening. But I was never, ever allowed to talk to Leigh alone. He had to be there.

Maude and I would eventually call him Icky Stephen. Behind his back, I mean. Not to his face.

And then one day, one day Leigh just stopped returning my calls. She'd call back in the middle of the day, when there was no chance I'd be there. Eventually, she stopped calling at all.

I'd never been dumped by a friend before. Well, that once in 6th grade, but even though my dad never forgave her, we reconciled in a couple weeks.

But this was dumped dumped. No explanation, no return. It was so much more hurtful than a boyfriend, because it was a dear friend. Someone who really knew me and loved me unreservedly despite all my flaws. Someone I was totally myself with. Someone I didn't keep anything from.

(This tells you a little about my romantic love relationships, too, I realize.)

I was flawed and she was flawed and we are all sorting things out as we go along, you know? But I didn't have any perspective then.

Eventually I let her go, because what are you going to do? But I didn't forget about her, because your heart people, well, they don't just go away.

And then years later--really just a couple years ago--I saw her on Facebook! We'd both stayed in touch with Marco. I agonized, because what if she really didn't want to be friends and it hurt all over again? Eventually, I sent a friend request.

She responded immediately. "Give me your number!"

She called and said, "My mom said that the first thing I have to tell you is that you were right about Stephen!"

And it was just like always.

So I was right. It didn't make me happy, because in the end, it caused her a lot of pain.

But here we are, so very many years later. When we talked the first time I said, "My God! I'm older than your mom was when we met!"We are more than twice as old as we were, riding those buses in Rome, trying to remember Italian historical facts and only recollecting that Vittorio Emmanuele II used to feel up the chambermaids. Or was it Mussolini?

Anyway we are still dear, dear friends.

Months ago I decided Jordan and I would visit her for the Valentine's Day opening of her flower shop out in her town in western Maryland. And then Leigh came and stayed and Betty asked if she could go, too. And then India asked if we'd take her. And then then Nick said he wanted to join.

As it turned out, hotel rooms are booked. Because Saturday is Valentine's Day! I was like, "People go to hotels for Valentine's Day?!?" Apparently they do.

So Jordan and Betty and I are going, because Nick's back has been hurting, and he can't sleep on an air mattress. He and India are going to have some good time together.

Love is in so many places in our lives. Sometimes it seems so obvious, but it's false. Sometimes it's subtle, and takes us a while to figure it out. And sometimes we have to grow into understanding it.

And sometimes we have to take a deep breath, wipe off the oatmeal, and say yes, yes you can have some juice and pleasedearlordplease stop whining, and just embrace the love, no matter what.

Valentine's Day is a made-up day that causes way too many people anxiety. But something that shoves the love in your face can also be a nice reminder that love endures.

Nothing matters more in this life than the people we love and the people who love us.

I believe this with all my heart.