Tuesday, November 30, 2004

what child is this?

Always a generous soul, without any prompting, Mike tells me my six-month pregnant body looks "elegant." I waddle my naked self back over to the full length mirror thinking maybe I missed something. Hmm. Well, we're all entitled to our own opinion.

There is my beach ball belly (a given), my stretched out bellybutton, and … whose boobs are these, anyway? Maybe it's just that all the holiday music is already playing nonstop everywhere you turn, but lately I can't seem to shake this one ditty from my head. It's a composition of my own: "Whose boobs are these?" sung to the tune of "What child is this?" (Whose boobs are these/ that came to rest/ on Kitty's lap lay sleeping… etc.)

But I also can't escape without examining more closely the original song, its title leaping out to me no longer as some kind of sacred rhetorical question, but one that maybe Mary really asked and wanted an answer to. I mean the stories all circulate around the shepherds, the angels, the wisemen, yammer, yammer. And we seem to have some inkling that Joseph was probably somewhat freaked out being named da baby daddy n all. But what about Mary? I mean, sure, her statues cry blood here and there, she shows up on cave walls or grilled cheese sandwiches from time to time, but what do we really know about Mary as a mom? Not mother of all, virgin idol, but the talk-about-unplanned-pregnancies!, mom.

Maybe she indeed asked What child is this? A lot. Here she is living her life, maybe thinking career first, not even the hint of a bio clock ticking, when WTF?? And did her ankles swell by the third trimester? Did Jesus give her indigestion? Because let me tell you, my little savior is killing me over here. Did people in her preggo yoga classes that talked about what they got at their baby showers piss her off too? People on the street coming up to her, rubbing her belly like a Buddha statue, "Do you know what you're having?" "The son of god. Now back off!"

Naturally, we'll never really know the truth about these kinds of details since men wrote this shit down back then. The questions still plague me, however. A big one is, how was she on body image?

Right now I'm reading Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. The book is good, but the pictures still freak me out. I try to refrain from the "ewww." reaction as much as possible, but sometimes I fall short. Just one more thing to work on. I show Mike and, ignoring the screaming head stretching through a once much smaller opening, I ask frightened, are my boobs gonna end up looking like that? My poor, helpless husband rubs my back, calls me elegant again. I hope Mary had someone like him.

Monday, November 22, 2004

being pregnant

You are told you look "great", a lot. Too much. You grow suspicious. You don’t look any different than you usually do. No, you look a little different - your belly sticks out and you have that blemish on your nose that hasn't gone away for 5 months. You got an exfoliating facial just to prove how bourgeois you could be, but the blemish is still there (belly too). You suspect they mean "great, seeing as soon life as you know it will come crashing down around you" or "great, considering you've gained 15 pounds so far" or "great, since when they told me you were pregnant I expected to find a wheezing, ankle-less slob in flowered overalls stained with pickle juice."

You glide through baby sections of department stores trying to create a registry to offer people who want to buy you gifts and benefit from such things as registries. You are afraid to touch anything. It would feel like admitting defeat. You are lulled into a stupor by the wash of pastel colors. You wonder what ducks and giraffes have to do with being a baby. Oh, you see now, they are baby ducks and baby giraffes. Well, as long as that's cleared up.

You have questions. Question to husband: "What will you do if I run away and leave you with the baby?" Answer: "We will miss you." Question: "What will you do if I crack up and get committed?" Answer: "We will visit you."

You discover you and your husband have different ways of preparing for the baby, although you suspect your paths are obscurely related. You read birthing stories and focus on the one where the woman in labor screams at the other women in the room that they are crazy for ever having done this or telling her she could. Your husband asks you where the fire extinguisher is.

You figure you'll have to do the dishes after every meal now since you don't want to get caught in labor with a messy kitchen. Your rationale is solid. Midwives apparently deal with blood and slime and exposed genitals, but you doubt they'd tolerate what's in your drain catcher.

You tell the cats on a regular basis that "things are gonna change around here" and that "I can't be at your beck and call every minute any more, you fuzzy little rats." Then you lie on the floor and pull a shoe lace slowly past waiting paws.

Sleep is a joke. There aren't enough pillows in the world. You dream restless dreams about job interviews. Your husband asks if you're okay. You think about smothering him with one of your pillows.

You are often really hungry.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

adults only

In an entry entitled "something I can do for my child from within the confines of my own egotistical mind" on October 18, 2004, our heroine pondered the reasons behind her sensitivity toward being mistaken for much younger than she is. We join her now as she picks up the thread of that dilemma and jogs off with it into the obstacle course of tangents we like to call, "Fetal Positions"…

The beginning of this week was challenging. Mostly physically challenging. I had to do a lot more running around than usual. In a painful turn of events, husband-guy threw out his back on Monday. Yeah, I know, exactly what I thought – the little bugger doesn't want me to have all the attention! Can you believe it? Can't stand the idea of me being the only one in the family going to the chiropractor. (although I still win because I doubt they give him the preggo donut pillow to lie in, belly hanging through the center. A sweet idea, and yet, obviously still invented by a man since there is no allowance for the boobs. smoosh. ouch.)

So husband-guy could barely walk on Monday. Wifey-chick wound her way through a flurry of a time that included picking husband-guy up at work, driving him to a chiropractor appointment, the drug store, home again, making him dinner (way outside my contract, I am not the cook in this arrangement), preparing my classes, checking on the upstairs neighbor who just had eye surgery, volleying emails about work stuff, back to husband-guy, etc etc etc. He's spent his days since in a repetitive routine of recline, walk briefly, go to the chiropractor, put ice or, in his case, a bag of frozen peas, on his lower back. I'm trying to keep up and be as helpful as I can. I help him into his underwear, as called for, or I remind him when it's again time for him to stick the bag of frozen peas in his pants, for example. I try to jump up before he does to get the water he wants, or the book he's dropped, or the remote control. All of this is challenging because frankly, my back doesn't feel all that great either, and the belly, it doesn't bend well or make for extended cardio workouts like climbing out of bed. I realize I'm not really a very sympathetic character in all this, but give me credit for writing truth.

The other day I had planned once again to nail down some publications that might want to print my raving commentary, convinced as I am that this, this thing, this publication thing, this time, will be my key to happiness, fame and fortune. Instead of having the time to cruise the web, download submission guidelines, and ferry my fertile words off to eager (ha!) editors as I'd hoped, I tried the next best thing I could think of when I found myself waiting for my husband at another chiro appointment. – I sat in the waiting room with my Bitch magazine and a legal pad, ready to do some investigative reading.

Prisms in the windows send bits of rainbow light over the brown waiting room chairs. I watch as my husband tip toes into the exam room, his poor wrenched back making for an awkward posture, hands poised on crooked hips. His stance looks like one a person might take just before launching into Riverdance. My Bitch magazine falls open to ads featuring pink dildos and people in neighboring chairs look away with a jerk, suddenly extremely interested in something in the opposite direction. I manage to scribble a few notes, mostly about the other patients I've frightened before intermission is over and my husband reappears ready for Act II of Riverdance. I pack away the pink dildos and we walk around the block, doctor's orders.

And how does any of this relate to a deeper understanding of my sensitivity toward being taken for younger than I am? Glad you asked. Because I'm a grown up living in a grown up's world and I want credit for that. Monday in the midst of running-running to help Mike and meet our responsibilities, one of my errands was to stop by a dinner where we were originally meant to be that night. It was with a group of our Italian classmates who'd wrangled one of the local Italian restaurants into opening specially for them. We owed them to at least pay our share and pick up our food, and so I dropped in to do that. I stood speaking to our friends who had organized it while steaming plates of spaghetti were dished and passed.

At one point our friends introduced me to the woman to their side, whose personal space I was crowding while we conversed. The woman and I greeted each other pleasantly in Italian. The old man across from her stared at me. "Are you in the class?" he demanded accusatorily. Well, I was last term, I explained, somewhat taken back by his tone. "You're speaking Italian," he informed me. At this point, my friend chimed in to allay his alarm and once again explain how while not currently attending the class, I had done so in the last months. "Oh. I thought you were their babysitter come to let them know how things were going," he blurted. My eyes nearly left their sockets. "Well," I said lowering my voice only slightly and turning away from him to face my friends more fully, "isn't that the most offensive assumption I've heard in quite some time."

That night, when I finally fell into bed beside Husband O' Restricted Movement, I was exhausted and overwhelmed. I realized that I had become used to being the one that got taken care of. I realized that this comfort wouldn't serve me in the least post-baby. I realized I need to rest more than I do while being this harbor of baby. And I also realized that one of the reasons old men who think I am the babysitter get to me so badly is that I want credit for living in the adult world, dammit. The adult world can be hard and sucky and if I have to live in it/through it, I better sure as hell be recognized for my efforts. I am not the freaking babysitter. I am all adult and I cook meals and rearrange my plans and bring my husband his ibuprofen even when it means rolling out of bed again with my big baby belly and my own aching back. Old men who think of me as twelve might be shocked to see what's on my average day's schedule, not to mention what's in the pages of my magazines.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

poet mama

Being pregnant and accepting this new motherhood thing is so much easier when I can simultaneously embrace the things that keep me sane and creative. However, those very things are as likely to drag me into the undertow of major moral questions as buoy me past the big waves. My hobbies and passions sneakily create in my mind dilemmas over how to raise my child and/or what world will be waiting for this baby, to serve as its background noise while it tries to make its way and its own moral choices. (You mean, I don't have to/get to make all the decisions for my offspring??!) So, I'm trying to rally to maintain self during the first trying months. Poetry must not be set apart from mommy-ing, for example, or mommy will lose it.

I run a poetry slam. It's fun, and perhaps something to put on the "do not discard" list for my postpartum world, but it doesn’t automatically make me a poet; it makes me an organizer. However, I do write poetry. And sometimes that makes me a poet. This week is a particularly good week for that. Three appearances under the title "poet". After the famine, the feast. The first of the week was last Friday. I got to do a featured reading at one of the local bookstores along with another poet friend of mine. It was so much fun, not just because I read stuff I felt confident about that had been begging for an audience, but because so many friends came out to support me. Friends rule. I still maintain that the highlight of deciding to get married, was the reward of having so many friends in one place at one time.

Sometimes the coolest stuff is just that – cool. What more can you say? While stuff we thought might be weird or boring or potentially less than cool, holds our interest the most in terms of the analysis we do in retrospect of it, or the stories we seem to keep telling about it. Yeah, so, I did this other reading this weekend. It was a 15-minute slot in a line up of various entertainment for an event held in a shi-shi-foo-foo hotel to benefit the local hostel. While the word "hostel" brings up images of bedraggled backpackers clutching maps and bumming cigarettes, the word "benefit" brings up images of clam shells bursting open to offer their single pearls, jewels of nature, to be strung and hung around the necks of blunt cut blondes in hounds tooth. Slightly incompatible mental pictures in my world. And I wondered how my pedestrian poetry was going to fly with the over-55 bling-bling crowd of the central coast. I know it's probably an unfair assessment all around. Life is unfair, get used to it.

So I read my stuff. They chuckled and nodded and in general seemed engaged and attentive. Hmm. Nice. In one piece of mine I read, there is a brief line in Spanish that repeats and is integral to the poem. I asked beforehand if there were any Spanish speakers present. Not a hand went up in the packed room. Not a single hand. In a room of people sworn to be undying supporters of travel and cultural exchange, hostelling their way to a better understanding of the world. In a room of people all living for most of their many decades in a state originally held by Mexico, in a city that was the center of Mexican California, in a town full of streets with names of saints and topographical elements all in Spanish, where so much of daily life is posted bilingually, you'd have to really go out of your way not to pick up at least a skeleton vocabulary just by osmosis. Maybe there were Swahili speakers there instead, or perhaps several people knew the basics of Urdu. Still.

I couldn't help it. I was shocked. You would have thought I'd asked who would be willing to come in the servants' entrance. I tried to hide my horror and amazement and move on quickly, translating the line, as I would have even with some bilingual souls at hand. But if anyone was watching closely, I'm sure they would have been able to detect those suspended moments of incomprehension in my eyes before I recovered.

I want to believe that it's different now. It's a generational thing. I want to believe that my child will grow up in a world where this kind of thing just couldn't happen. I want to believe that I'm not just a snobbish linguaphile, and that being monolingual is no longer an option. But I'm concerned. I'm thinking about the distinctions among cycles, evolution, and that simple pendulum effect. What brings about one or another? Which is truer? Will ethnicity matter more or less in the foreseeable future? Will the painful realities of global markets and the undeniable truths of global interdependence be reconciled? Will it be the age of GMOs or CSAs? Can we cherish our neighbors across the globe while demanding local justice? Will poetry be in vogue when my baby is a hip high school hormone factory?

Nonetheless, in the moment, we carried on, the audience and I, each with our judgements, our scripts firmly secured.

At the break after the reading, I was surrounded by half a dozen well-dressed women who wanted to compliment me on my work. The first to corner me, daintily holding to her tiny square of brownie and her glass of purple punch, wanted to discuss a poem of mine I wrote about my ESL students. "I cried when you read it," she told me, and promptly proceeded to well up again. Dude. No way.

Sure, I've had people cry around me and writing before, but usually in writing workshops. In these incidents, it's the unsuspecting novice who thinks they'd just like to take this class and --what-the-heck-- try out writing, who ends up going with some seemingly innocuous prompt until they find that unexplored pain – it's always right below the surface – and much to their surprise are weeping through a reading of their free write. Writing is dangerous territory if you plan to tuck away your blemishes and remain guarded. I try to warn them, but they have to experience it themselves. I let them marvel when they tell me, "I can't believe I'm crying!" I keep it to myself that it means we're both doing something right. They've dealt with enough for one day.

But this was different. Something I wrote brought someone there. Well, whaddaya know. And since I'm usually such a leaky Sally, it's so nice to have someone else do the crying for a change! Foiled again, Batman, a pearl necklace does not an insensitive soul make. Now maybe I can also hope that someone really did catch the momentary flash of fright in my eyes when no hand lifted to claim knowledge of Spanish, that they saw it and they got it. Give me evolution. Pendulums are for politics; we are people.

All this, food for thought. Feed me poetry and I can manage anything. Even motherhood. But despite prettied lines or eloquent commentary, the questions you're left with don't get easier.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

traitorous instincts

We are in that minority of parents-to-be these days who are choosing not to discover the sex of our baby. We want to be surprised. And I wish I could be. But I know anyway. It's a boy. Just an instinct. Not that I'd be disappointed if it were a girl. And thinking it's a boy has given me these months of getting used to the idea that (good-god!) I might have to raise a boy, and so I feel it's prepared me for either array of genitals.

I’m not really sure why I think it's a boy. I did have that dream the day I found out I was pregnant that pointed out a very specific boy name I should take up. But since then I really haven't had any boy dreams, or baby dreams much at all, to tell the truth, besides a recent one and in that one, it was a girl. But it's a boy.

I tire of typing the "s/he" nonsense, when I just want to say "he". I have to qualify my answer when people ask (every day, 30x a day), "Do you know what you're having?" (Apart from the subject at hand, that is a rather strange question, wouldn't you say? "Do you know what you're having?" A baby. I think it'll be a baby. I'd be more comfortable if it came out a kitten, but they tell me it's not possible. I'm having a baby, you dolt.)

Friends and strangers tell you all kinds of things that are supposed to be fool-proof methods of determining the sex. With girls you're sicker, with boys you gain less weight and carry it in a compact ball, blahblahblah… No one seems to care that with any of these guesses, the odds are a healthy fifty-fifty. It ain't the race track, people. But I'm still going with mother's instinct: boy.

So, if my instincts are right I'll get to be regularly peed on by a tiny little man. Figuratively speaking, not that different an experience from what I've encountered all my life. A microcosm of society right here in my own home.

Of course, I don't rule out the possibility that I'm wrong. The last time I trusted my "instinct" it went something like "I guess it's possible I'm pregnant, but my instinct tells me it's just stress."

Monday, November 15, 2004

my little fruit fly

I've been a vegetarian for something like 13 years. People ask me if I've had "those red meat cravings yet." I grow weary of the ultimate certainty so many have in their world view. If only I possessed such confidence. (This goes for more than diet choices.)

My baby wants fruit. Lots of fresh fruits and veggies. It's by far my biggest craving. And I'm happy to oblige. Oranges, strawberries, watermelon, pomegranates, tart apples (none of those shiny red things), spinach, carrots, asparagus. I'm a long way from my beginnings eating TV dinners in a once-farming town raised by a mother who, when given the choice, to this day takes canned asparagus over fresh every time.

I grew up in a town that suffered from an image neither here nor there. It used to be many things, but was nothing else yet. By the time my family moved there when I was ten, most of the fields were planted with Burger Kings and 7-11's. Of course, there was old Bill Andersen who steered his pickup truck around town with his one and only arm -- the other having been torn off by the soybean processors when he was just eighteen. He didn't make the farming history real for me though, just creepy. And there was the Lima Bean Festival every October - stuffed lima bean dolls smiling dumbly through red felt lips, tee shirts gloating over the mental faculties of local elementary school kids and how they used their “beans,” the crowning of a Miss Lima Bean, who would undoubtedly use her reign to further world peace, or at least get a stop sign at the traffic circle and introduce non-fat milk at the school cafeterias. None of this told me anything of what those beans might look like growing in the fields, or what they might smell like fresh picked and pre-canned.

At home, I failed to see the relationship between the greyish, watery vegetables my mother scooped from cans on the shelf, and something that once grew in the ground. Potatoes grew as flakes in a box, rice cooked to flavorless starch in minutes, pineapples floated in stick syrup, "cherry" was most often followed by the word "flavored". The world came canned, sealed, packaged, bagged, dried, sweetened, chopped, and pitted. And while I suspected there could have been a better way, I didn't know what that was or where to look.

I find it significant that one of my strongest childhood memories centers around my cousins coming to visit from upstate New York. The significance of the memory isn't in the visit itself, but that I remember in preparation for the visit, we bought grapes. Other than my cousin breaking my rocking horse that weekend, it's the grapes I've stored in my brain all these years.

I can see I may already be falling into the trap of parental overcompensation. The "I never had, so I'm going to give my child X whether s/he wants it or not" trap. But then again, when it comes to food here, I feel I'm simply following directives from within. It's not as if what I'm doing is so heroic. If my little fruit fly asked for cheesy poofs instead, far be it from me to deny the wee beast. So lift a banana to us. Here's to never having to say "Eat your veggies."

Monday, November 08, 2004

the chemical make up of ginger chews

Early on in pregnancy you get to find out just who your real friends are. Trader Joe's Veggie Rice Bowl, for example, is the enemy. It precipitated one of my most noxious vomiting episodes and I can't imagine ever wanting to eat it again in this or any other lifetime.

I've thought about naming all the chapters of my fabulous upcoming pregnancy journal book (wish it true, wish it true…), the food items I was able to keep down in the first trimester. What eager reader wouldn't want to dive into Chapter One: Chocolate Pudding and Root Beer, or not be tantalized by a peek ahead at Chapters 19-23: Peanut Butter on Saltines and Orange Juice, White Cheddar Popcorn and Grapes, Carrot Sticks and Cinnamon Coffee Cake, Honey Nut O's and Mashed Potatoes, and – that crazy cliffhanger – An Apple and A Hardboiled Egg, respectively.

Most of these food items were only fair weather friends it turns out. Sure they soothed for a couple days, but when things got tough most of them turned on me. I was a moaning, whiny blob of rotating cravings. Each time I found a food I could eat, I thought I was saved. Thinking we'd discovered the miracle cure for morning sickness, we'd go out and buy bottles and bottles of root beer, for example, only to discover a day or so later that if I even looked at a glass of root beer the room started spinning.

Something we bought in bulk before we caught on to the pattern of rejection were ginger chews. (My former doctor informed me once in the most sincere robotic voice she could muster, shrugging off the probes about numbness in my arms and long after the morning sickness had subsided, that some people thought ginger calmed an upset stomach. Ah. I see. How can I put this?… um, DUH! What a waste. Four friggin' years of medical school and all she had to do was ask my mom, or three out of five folks walking down the street. Aren't your people looking for you back on Planet No Shit?)

For the time that they worked, I piled these little ginger miracle chews into my pockets, carried them in my purse, stowed them in my car, … you get the idea. I was particularly fond of stuffing handfuls, desperate as an addict, into the bag I used for my teaching materials. In an attempt to just get through the end of my summer class without having to call the janitor, I snarfed these suckers before, after, and during class. In a recent rearranging project in our tiny apartment (nesting??) I rediscovered the summer teaching bag. It was completely intact, like some sort of time capsule. I hadn't cleaned it out or filed it away or tossed it altogether. There it all was, my list of grades, my extra copies of newspaper articles about immigration, my post it notes directing me to read journals and email Rosa. And the "connecting force" through all this work? The ginger chews. Gluing paper to paper, ballpoint to folder, the chews had melted into some other form of life, leaving nothing unscathed and taking no prisoners.

The wrath of the chew didn't stop there. I've found them around the house, as gummy cat toys or self-stick coasters, forming ink blot shapes I don't need to analyze. I know you've come to know me as a rational, even-tempered person, so it may surprise you to hear that I tend to yell at the ginger chews when I find them in these states of decay. I throw away what I can still scrape up with force – just to show them.

There is no winner in this ugly game. Hey, I'm normally not one to go in for misdirected dichotomous visions of GOOD and EVIL. I mean, the doctor, she wasn't all bad, she had nice sandals. And even in my predictable cast of characters who've traipsed through this blog, that is, me = negative psycho weenie, and husband guy = saintly optimist, there is sometimes a third dimension to our paper thin personalities. How about when I admitted I'd probably love my baby, or when husband guy fell asleep instead of attending to my needs?? Yeah, see, not that black and white anymore is it, huh?! In a world gone to hell and a country gone to the religious right, it's all I can do not to be swept up in the duality and the pointing of fingers, not to have the veggie rice bowl and the ginger chew absorb my own dark, projected feelings. – Oh, but there's so much instant gratification in the blame game.

Friday, November 05, 2004

the conversation I dread

Sure, it's true that for now people like us, when they aren't freaking out about this whole pregnancy/parenting thing - still, 5 months into it ("You've gotta get over it," Eve tells me. "You've gotta get over it." I know she's right, but then what would I write about?) - we're concerned about basic things. A baby that's healthy, for example. Things look good for us in that department so far. We did an ultrasound about a week ago. Things were positive. In fact, the little monkey was lying on its back with its feet over its head playing with its toes. It appeared to have all the toes generally considered necessary and not any extra that I could make out. Frequently over the last several days, my husband or I will stop what we're doing. "Wait! Wait! Who am I?" we'll plead, and try to pull our feet to our forehead. He's more successful at it than I am, probably because I have the real thing in the way. This activity is somehow one we find wildly entertaining.

Healthy is important. But why stop there when you can worry years ahead? I'd like to think I'd be the kind of parent that could accept my child for just who s/he is. But, I'm afraid I'm not as open minded as I'd like to be. There's one conversation I dread, that would break my heart into a million teeny, tiny pieces. What would I do if one day my child approached us and said, "Mom, Dad, I'm a Republican." Nooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!

Children do rebel, you know, the potential implications of which leave me shivering with fear. I dated a Republican once. I was young and foolish. We used to joke that if we had a kid we could live in Central America where mommy would work to save the rain forest and daddy would be stationed in that rain forest staking out local guerillas "unfriendly" to the US. But thank goodness we never planned such a child and that such a child never happened. I'm sure I had my reasons for dating that guy. He must have had other highly redeeming qualities… What were they again?

Studies have shown (quick, can you find the tired, meaningless catch phrase in this entry?) that the capacity for things like empathy don't necessarily develop in the brain in childhood. This is worrisome. In addition, higher critical thinking skills don't kick in until someone is about 22 or so. My boss when I was teaching freshman composition at the university announced this to me one day, all bright and cheery. Yeah, it explains plenty, but I didn't see why I should be happy about it. My dear, dear students. Jaded fairies with clipped wings and nose rings. Every once in a while though, we'd make a break through. One day in class, a student who was King of Inappropriate Behavior suddenly quieted after a debate about current issues we'd been attempting to have. I happened to know that at the time he was also slogging his way through a Wendell Berry essay (his choice) trying to make sense of it and his research paper which was approaching two weeks late. He spoke tentatively. "Sometimes it seems like, I think, maybe, like, the US doesn't really do the right thing." The innocence in the room was palpable.

Perhaps we could send our kids on vision quests. Maybe that could grow em up. It could be a whole new market to explore. P Diddy could change his name to Running Bear and start a "sit out in the woods by yourself for a week or die" campaign.

Do I really think vision quests would produce fewer Republicans? Well, yes, frankly. But anyway.

In my mainly Democratic town, Republicans show themselves in the oddest of places. I've noticed that craft stores seem to draw them like flies on ca-ca. Craft store parking lots are dangerous, dangerous places. At least my craft store parking lot is. It's always full. The drivers are always ruthless. And the bumper stickers, I can't help but notice, are always pro-Bush. Things get mean out there. These people need their quilting squares, so get out of the way!!! It's not unlike my experience with the parking lot of the church of my youth. Behind the wheel? mean bastards, these Christians! The closing words of the priest would always be "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord." But I think some people only heard the word "go." They'd bolt for the parking lot, Catholics with Cadillacs, while my mother sang the recessional hymn through clenched teeth. She'd watch them go, glowering, and mumble about them under her breath when the song was over. Her blood pressure was always up after a Sunday morning of worship.

Once you make like a character in an 80s video game and get the hell out of the parking lot, the craft store itself isn't much better. Craft stores are filled with moms wearing American flag sweatshirts they puffy painted themselves and dragging around shopping carts full of kids and items connected to little projects for two holidays ahead of wherever normal people are on the calendar. The clerks in craft stores carry their burden visibly. They stagger around like tranquilized game and answer my questions about the location of items as if I've asked the question 100 times already. "All the paint we have is in aisle 16. Everything we have is out."

What makes a Republican? How can I shield my baby from this road to hell and the craft store? If the day comes when my child confronts me with such a reality about his or her selfhood and tells me "Mom, I'm a Republican," I hope I will be liberal-minded enough to handle it. But just in case, I'm thinking of buying up some pretty little molds from the craft store and making some pretty little soaps to wash out a pretty little mouth.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

preggo for prez

If I were president…

- mayonnaise would be illegal
- siestas would be mandatory
- the entire country would have public transportation
- Israel would have to just fucking stop it
- production of all Hummers would stop and all existing Hummers would have their roofs cut off and be used as planters
- pomegranates would be the national snack food
- They Might Be Giants would sing "Dr Worm" before baseball games
- the Bushes would be exiled to Ohio and the borders sealed (let them live with what they've done!)
- anyone harming or abandoning an animal would be exiled to Ohio
- authors of pregnancy guide books would be exiled to Ohio
- TVs would be banned from airport waiting rooms
- Jane Pauley would never be allowed to do another interview
- Eddie Izzard would be my Press Secretary

laughter in a blue state

Everyone I know is depressed. I believed it was possible. I hate Ohio. I think we should steal all the red crayons from crayon boxes across America. It's the most productive thing I've been able to come up with so far.

Right now I'm sad. Sad doesn't lead to action. Anger mobilizes. I'm gonna have to call some up, but for now, I only have anger memories to share. And a few other emotions…

My midwife asked if I'd officially broken things off with my doctor. I told her um, yeah, I think it went something like, "Expect a request for transfer of records!!" Yup. I didn't escape what I knew would be my final visit to my doctor a couple weeks ago without completely melting down and losing it on her. I have this annoying personality quirk that drives me to try to make people who are incredibly stupid and do things that fuck with me understand their own stupidity. While rarely successful, this most recent instance was a particular failure. I was so angry I was babbling incomprehensibly. I'll spare you the details of what set it off.

I was embarrassed and exasperated by my little display and jaunted roughly 12 steps backwards in anger management. If this baby is going to change me so much, why am I still an inarticulate hot head? But I'm holding out hope that it just goes along with all the other emotions that have intensified since I've started carrying around this little person. I cry harder than I ever had before pregnancy. It comes from somewhere deeper than it used to. I also laugh louder and more fully than I've ever laughed before. This is probably the most dramatic change I've experienced being pregnant. Flat out. My new-found laugh resonates with a timbre I don't recognize. Just for those moments that it lasts, it laughs me to a release from and, simultaneously, a comfort with the world. And as we all know, it is a volatile world. But I now share my laugh with someone who doesn't know for red or blue states, who couldn't be less affected by Bill O'Reilly or Haliburton. I'm going to drink that purity as long as I can.

Years from now, when my child asks me where the red crayons are, I'll laugh. It'll be a strong laugh. One I almost recognize. And we'll melt the wax, assign new meaning, start again.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

the guest bedroom

So our little trip to Tahoe this past weekend brought to mind something I find fascinating but hadn't thought about for a while. We went with another couple and stayed with their family who live there in town. Maybe some of you have also pondered the meaning behind this phenomenon toward which I cast my curiosity. It is known as … the guest bedroom.

After this pregnancy journal, I swear I'm gonna write a guide book called America's Guest Bedrooms: the Underbelly of Suburban Life. And since I always tie in my blog entries clearly and exclusively to having an unexpected baby on the way, I think I'll propose that I am pondering such things as guest rooms now because of the nesting instinct we all know goes along with pregnancy and motherhood. The preparation of house and home for the new arrival. The thought that goes into decorating the spare room with duckies of the proper color – colors which, naturally, must be determined by the sex of the fetus. We all know how infants demand separation on the basis of gender from the moment their little pee-pees and wee-wees form in utero. I don't think I have to tell you that, if you're having a boy, at a certain age, say, three years old, you'll have to trade in the duckies all together for more manly ornamentation, say, grenades. Girls may keep the duckies until they trade them in themselves for creased posters out of pre-teen magazines of some hunka hunka 20-year-old singer whose favorite color is blue, just like hers(!).

Don't fight it. It's biological. … kinda like … this nesting instinct, to which people in the know will assign any move on the part of a pregnant woman that resembles domestic thought in the least. Dad tip: Offer to carry large heavy pieces of wood if your partner decides she must build a giant stork for the front yard. (Sorry, got carried away. Was I lapsing into the language of the What to Expect If You Want Be Accepted into the Monomaniacal Society of Mainstream Bullshit book du jour again? I give you my wrist. Go on and slap.)

Now that you understand fully my motivation, I return you to our regularly scheduled blog, "the guest bedroom."

Guest bedrooms of people my age and generation have, until recently, usually consisted of a futon mattress on the floor and a computer. This cozy set up has begun to change somewhat, but I don’t want to admit that. I remain in my mind a sloppy college student and so must my friends. Guest bedrooms of the older generation, now these are fascinating.

If a kitchen is the soul of the house, the guest room is the appendix – you don't really need it and the rest of the house functions perfectly well without it, but as long as it's there you might was well use it. They are never in progress. They are always finished products. Quite. They sometimes don't match the rest of the house. They are often somewhat sterile and wallpapered with pink rosettes. There are lamps, gold-trimmed and chairs, not so much stark as simple. These rooms are warehouses of odd, but proudly displayed trinkets. I try desperately to imagine the day of the decision…"I think I'll puuut….the vase of fake tulips….um….riiiight….Here! Yes, that's it!"

I remember one guest room we slept in at the house of a friend of a friend. On the nightstand there was a clock radio and a picture frame. The picture frame, displayed in decorative colors clearly chosen to match the décor in the rest of the room, contained no family snapshot. Just the thin reproduction of a photo of smiling models the manufacturer had slipped in, and over that, the price tag. I suppose you could look at this item as proof of some unfinished project, a crack in the veneer. But I see it as determined in its drive for completion, so much so that the items in the room need not be necessary or sentimental, only the right color (like the duckie nursery).

Despite the fact that they aren't used very much, there is never any dust in rooms like these. And there is nothing cluttering the space. I grew up in a house where clutter and stuff ruled large. Consequently, specimens like the dresser top empty of anything but a doily and the fake tulips intrigue me to no end. It is as strange and beautiful a thing to me as an exotic jungle bird. I approach it slowly. I am drawn to it in wonder, yet almost afraid, as I have nothing in my realm of knowing to compare it to. I brush the tail feathers lightly, the silk leaves ruffle under the silk flower petals and then return to still.

Sometimes you can find paintings hanging in guest bedrooms, oils, say, in heavy wooden frames that are signed with a last name corresponding to your hosts'. These dark landscapes or portraits of children with large, round eyes have been painted by a grandmother or an uncle no longer living who was, your hosts will tell you upon inquiry, an artist. You know instinctively and with a certain sadness in your heart that their artistry never went beyond the guest bedroom stage. The reason for this is either because they had other, "real" work to do – dishes and dusting, or paid work that cracked the palms of their hands and won them a seat at the head of the table. Maybe their art only came out of the garage after they'd passed away.

The most extreme examples of the type of guest room I'm describing really lie just this side of hotel rooms in terms of character. They have no personality on their own, but wait for the personality you lend it with your visit to leak out little by little from overnight bags that spill tiny tubes of toothpaste and jolly ranchers, themselves a shock of black against the rosettes and doilies. However, for all their quiet façade, these rooms usually have a secret past. Most only became guest bedrooms after the kids moved out and many years went by. If you look closely, you might find little signs of this other time, like a wink to the past. It might be the first few letters of a childhood nickname barely scratched into the dresser. Check under the fake tulips.

wait for us!!!

You know how all those Get Out the Vote campaigns always say it doesn't matter who you vote for? … Oh my god, they are LYING. Are you crazy?? It SOOOO MATTERS. Look, vote and don't vote for Bush. That's it. That's the bottom line. I mean, I have a BABY to think about!!! Diplomacy has no place in an election year. And shut the media the hell up until the west coast polls close. It is sincerely my least favorite thing about living here – that the exit polls from West Virginia are streaming in while we are barely out of bed. Knock it off!!! Vote like your life depends on it – not your gas tank, not your favorite moral issue, not who's gonna be mayor of Boo-Foo Glen, Anywhere, your LIFE, because it does. And by that I do not mean to imply that you should vote in a way that in some twisted, fucked up vision might deter terrorism. Terrorism starts at home.

Monday, November 01, 2004

a day late

Came up with the perfect costume for Halloween. Only a day late. Mike and I should have been a sperm and an egg. I suppose we could still do it next year and bring around the baby too – just put an equal sign on him/her. Most people seem to dress up their infants in fuzzy little animal onesies with hoods and ears, but we could buck the trend and dress ours as, well, a baby.

Next year with baby?? Time and space between now and then is so grand its unfathomable. Like trying to grasp the concept of the stars at their true distances. You can't really wrap your brain around it, so you stop trying but still talk about them since they are part of the landscape.

Just back from a weekend in Tahoe where the snow was on the ground and the sun was in the sky. Luminous. The gracious purgatory between way-past-summer and not-quite-ski-mania made for an extra calm beauty. The lake, having purged itself of jetskiing nimrods, hosted the mountains like a true debutante. The snow melted off the pitched roofs in frantic fits of glitter dust, like they couldn't wait to change chemical form. (Maybe there's a profound analogy in there somewhere, but I'm afraid to look.)

We went to a Halloween party at one of the casinos in Tahoe. Didn't turn out to be quite the display of creativity one hopes for in a Halloween party. The bumblebee, his tights starting to bunch around the knees, walked by on a cell phone, while two women in identical dominatrix outfits greeted each other like long-lost friends, and three dead Elvises crowded around the giant pumpkin guy for a Kodak moment. This is why we reserve words like "luminous" for snowy mountains.

Political Caveat:
Do I have an instinct or do I have an instinct? Curt Schilling just introduced Bush at some huge rally. Stay away from the man with the bloody sock.

And, this is probably really old to everyone else cause I'm slow and I don't have cable anymore, but… If you haven't seen it you MUST go to the link and watch Jon Stewart of the Daily Show on Crossfire, and then Jon Stewart back on the Daily Show talking about his appearance.

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