The One That Got Away

New York doesn’t have a heart. She will forget you the minute you leave her. Turns out you loved her more than she ever loved you. She immediately traded you in for a younger model, one without a family. Or a model who has made it financially in a way you never will. Or a model who is just more fucking tenacious than you are, a model who won’t give up and leave just because living with her is hard.

I have had two great loves in my life. Z and New York. For years I was married to both of them, but Z grew to despise the third wheel in our marriage. Hell, he and I grew to despise each other as well. My love for the city was the only constant in our lives. It would have made sense to give up on our marriage. It was a shambles. But somehow we decided to choose each other. Which meant there was no longer room for the city. I passionately loved her, but she wasn’t good for me anymore.

We moved away 8 years ago. My husband has a heart. He loves me back. He doesn’t seem interested in trading me in for a younger model. I made the right choice.

That doesn’t mean I don’t mourn my other love. Or wonder what might have been.

I was in New York for a few days to attend a conference at the UN. Thursday night I splurged on a cab to Brooklyn. The drive down Atlantic Avenue felt like a slap in the face. For every veterinary clinic sign that greeted me like an old friend there was a new clothing store, or real estate office, or yoga place that I didn’t recognize. Hank’s Saloon was still there, placating me a little. But then the behemoth that is the Barclays Center loomed over the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic, completely disorienting me.  This was no longer my city. I am not a New Yorker anymore.

If we had stayed the changes would have felt organic, unnoticeable. On the way back to Brooklyn yesterday afternoon I stopped at Nha Trang, a Vietnamese hole in the wall in Chinatown. Z took me there for the first time in the summer of 1998. You want cheap, fast, delicious food? It’s your place. The wait staff was mainly the same as it was 16 summers ago, and 12 summers ago, and 8 summers ago.  I felt a goofy grin take over my face when the elder statesman of the waiters came to take my order. But the grin faltered when I realized one side of his face was a little slack. He must have had a stroke. He didn’t remember me, but he was delighted that I knew how to eat the spring rolls properly, wrapped in half of a lettuce leaf with a cucumber slice and a mint leaf tucked inside. He might have been the one that showed me and Z how do to it back in the 90s. I wanted to hug him when I left. Of course I ignored that impulse and swallowed back tears as I hustled to the subway.

Me heart was pulled in new directions. As I road the 5 train downtown I didn’t try to catch or avoid the eye of the cute guy in the same car. Anyone who has lived in the city knows exactly what I’m talking about. I swear the subway system runs on hormones and the flirtations of strangers. But the cute guy didn’t hold my attention. The three year old boy seated next to me did. He absentmindedly leaned into me and hooked his little leg around my own. His small but solid bulk comforted me. When the train pulled into Union Square I didn’t want to get off. I could have sat next to him for hours.

I missed my boys. The piercing pain of being away from them took my breath away. Don’t I always beg for a break? Isn’t getting away for a few days good for me and them? Of course, but Z and I were away for 5 days in January. I guess I need time off less frequently than I assumed.

I missed my boys, all three of them. But something magical happens to me in the city. My anxiety might have been in the stratosphere leading up to the trip, but once I stepped into the city I relaxed. There is nowhere in the world where I feel more at ease. Since the first time I visited the city as a high-schooler it felt like the center of the world and exactly where I wanted to be. If we moved back she would be mine again in a matter of months. And part of me is hers, part of me will always be hers.

nha trang

The place setting hasn’t changed at Nha Trang since I’ve been going there.

gwb

Amtraking it home. Riding under the GWB.

Hudson

An icy Hudson River.

A big thank you to my dear friends A and M for opening their home to me. Do you know what was even better than being in New York? Having a night to laugh with A. I miss the hell out of her. But she is the kind of friend that is simply too good to let slip away. I’ll be calling her for advice decades from now. M ain’t so bad himself.

When I Grow Up….

A million years ago Z and I were regulars at the most perfect bar in the history of the universe. It was located on a quiet Brooklyn street next to the church that Al Capone had been married in. According to city laws the proximity to the church meant that the bar couldn’t serve liquor-just beer and wine. For a number of years it thrived. The beer and cider selection was unreal. There was a killer jukebox, pool table, dart boards, and a Ms. Pac Man machine. Sparky’s was named for an owner’s dog, I believe, and it was dog friendly. The bartenders would bring their pooches, patrons were welcome to do the same. And then as time passed it just…starting falling apart. There were money problems. The crowds dwindled, the long line of taps were frequently connected to nothing.

The bar was on Court Street in Carroll Gardens. We found it when Z started working in Red Hook. No trains go down to that neighborhood and it is cut off by Robert Moses’s folly, the BQE. Stopping at the bar was a reward for the 20 minute hike back to civilization for the crew in the drafting room at Showman Fabricators at the end of a long day. This was back before Ikea and Fairway moved in to Red Hook, before the ferries to Manhattan–Z began working there in the heartbreaking fever dream that was the fall of 2001.

One night I was playing darts with a group of friends in the back room. We were quickly crawling through the perfect window of opportunity of buzzed dart playing in which you were suddenly a rock star who could hit the triples and bulls without much fuss and on our way to the free fall of terrible drunken dart playing. We were also smoking up a storm. Damn, it was just one of many fantastic nights at Sparky’s. It was perfection. Drunk, irresponsible, young perfection. Man, I miss that place.

A woman about our age, a woman who was certainly not a regular, hustled over to us and got very nasty. She yelled at us for feeding her dog. The pup had wandered back to us several times unattended. But we didn’t actually have food. It was a liquids only event for us. This was reasonably pointed out to her and it had the desired effect of taking the wind out of her sails. She did have the decency to blush and stammered, “Well….this is a dog bar you know!” before flouncing away, probably to find the group with the takeout so she could yell at them.

“Huh,” someone much cleverer than I mused. “I thought it was a people bar.”

She was a caricature of a certain type of entitled New Yorker (Ok, to be honest we were as well, just a different flavor of entitled) I mean, if you don’t want your dog to eat takeout tidbits at a bar shouldn’t you be watching said dog? In fact, if you have a dog in a strange place shouldn’t you be watching it no matter what? Do you really expect others to intuit how to treat your animal?

Though this was years before Z and I became parents I remember thinking if she was such a shitty dog owner it would be awful if she had kids. Obviously I have no idea of who she was as a human, but in the last decade plus I’ve thought of her often. She has become a larger than life cautionary tale to me. She is the person I don’t want to be when I grow up. She is the person I fear I am deep down inside.

The last post about T and his classmate really wasn’t about those four year old kids. I told the story wrong. It was about parents, it was about me.

So far we haven’t had an interaction with a parent like the one with that girl in the bar all those years ago. We are lucky enough to have the boys at an extraordinary preschool. A couple of years ago I remember finding out that T had hit another child on the playground. I approached the child’s Mom the next day and apologized. She could not have been more gracious about it.

That ridiculous gal in the bar in Brooklyn has become a bit of a talisman (Can a memory be a talisman? Does it need to be an object?) to me. She reminds me to check my behavior. She reminds me of the kind of grown up I want to be. I will not attack others in an effort to mindlessly protect the ones I love. I will not teach my child that if he comes crying to me I will defend him to the death, but that his own actions will be unexamined. What a terrible disservice that would be to him.

And if the day comes in which we do need to approach parents about an interaction between our children I hope Z and I will do so with care and compassion knowing we might not have the full picture of events rather than with hot headed accusations.

Funny, I’m grateful to that girl in Brooklyn. She might not understand it, but even though I was off my ass drunk she got through to me. She taught me a huge lesson that night.

Jesus, Sparky’s really did rock. Wish it was still around.

sparkys

The night that Sparky’s closed.

k and z last night at sparkys

Good lord, we were a messy. Closing night. Think it was after the smoking ban happened, but that night nobody gave a shit.

snowmen

Alien snowman and robot snowman made by Z and T.

cold c

Cold C at the Atlanta Zoo with Grandma and Grandpa last week.

long haired t

I’m not going to lie. I miss the long hair.

Kids Being Kids Part 1

Walking the tightrope between respecting my sons’ privacy, writing honestly about issues I’m grappling with, and respecting the privacy of friends and acquaintances is becoming more difficult.

The readership of this blog is tiny, not even a blip in the blogosphere. But over the last year or so I’ve connected with more local people on social media. It would be wrong to assume those people are now reading here, but it stands to reason they have at least seen a link to a post float by their feed on facebook.

If I want to write about an issue concerning a friend I ask. If the friend isn’t comfortable with it I don’t do it.

I am friends with some of the teachers and other parents at the boys’ school on facebook. So I’ve been going back and forth about writing about a particular issue all day. Here’s where I’m at: I am not friends with the parents of the kid in this story, but if his/her parents were to come across the post and were able to identify their kid I feel confident that I’m not writing anything hurtful or unkind. That said, I am nonspecific enough that I’m pretty sure the parents wouldn’t identify the kid in the first place.

The issue I want to discuss isn’t really about T and his classmate. It is about how we react when our kids face hard things. It is about recognizing that no child is an angel all the time, just as no kid is “bad” all the time. It is about coming to terms with the fact that your kid is going to be the one doing the hurting at times.

I’m trying to face that ugly fact. T (and C when he is gets a bit more language) will be (um, probably currently is) hurtful to other children. The sooner I accept that the sooner I can take steps to guide him towards being a kinder human.

Sweet Mary, raising another human being is hard.

Part 2 will be coming along tomorrow.

twins in tub

Today I asked T who was in this photo. “Two Charlies.” he said. I pointed to him and said, “No, who is this guy?” He pointed to C, “That is Charlie 1.” And he pointed to himself, “And that is Charlie 2.” I’m going to start calling him Charlie 2. It really is crazy how much they look alike now.

cute kid

This kid has plenty of personality not matter how long his hair is.

Undermined By the Bitch

Sometimes I am jealous of bipolar people.

I know. That sounds insane. It sounds like I don’t understand what a terrible and serious disease bipolar is. I do understand. Really. And I promise I don’t have munchausen syndrome.

I have a chronic and pretty severe anxiety disorder.

If I’m stuck with a chronic mental illness seems reasonable that I’d fantasize what life would be like with some of the other mental illnesses out there. For the most part I think that many of us who wrestle with unrelenting crazy learn person specific coping mechanisms that make getting through the day a little bit less painful. Over a year ago there was an interesting thread on a friend’s fb wall about dealing with mental illness. People seemed happier that they had their own specific illness rather than some other variety-me included.

Kind of stands to reason.

I have had once severe depressive episode in my life. It sucked me into the nothingness, I wanted to escape this world, I was robbed of emotion, of feeling anything except profound self hatred. The depression lasted for about a year. The thought of another depressive episode scares the shit out of me, I have no idea if I’m strong enough to make it through again. Anxiety on the other hand has been my constant companion for over 20 years. Naturally my coping mechanisms are much more sophisticated in that arena.

It was comical in a rather macabre way to read this thread-the depression people saying they would much rather deal with that than anxiety, those like me grateful they didn’t have to deal with depression.

But. All day Friday I was sick to my stomach with anxiety.

On Friday night 9 (would have been 10, but someone was traveling-we missed you J) of us met at a local restaurant for dinner. Without kids. Ok, there was one kid. But she was barely a month old and as every parent knows that doesn’t count.

Please do not get me wrong, I wanted to go. I couldn’t be more thrilled that we have found a group of friends that we enjoy so damn much. The majority of the time we all hang out at our place. Our friends are always thanking us for hosting. But the deal is doing it at our place means I get to enjoy myself like a normal human. The anxiety is still there, but it is muted. I feel unencumbered by my sickness.

Of course we had a fantastic time. Of course I am glad I went. Hell, I can’t wait to do it again.

But I really fucking resent the anxiety for causing me so much discomfort on Friday. I am really sick of being hog tied by fear.

We are at my folk’s house right now. We flew down yesterday. On Tuesday morning Z and I will drive to the airport and fly to Miami. We’ll fly back and pick up the boys on Sunday. It’s our first chunk of time away from them since we became parents.

I’m so excited I don’t know what to do with myself.

I’m sick to my stomach with anxiety.

Am I going to ruin this amazing trip for myself? Is that bitch anxiety going to win? Will I ever get out from underneath her?

The bipolar thought occurred to me this morning as I was jogging. During our trip down south for the holidays I made fantastic strides with the jogging. I was also better rested than I’ve been in ages. Z let me sleep in almost every day. There were a lot of naps. Z went to work the day after we got back home and worked through the weekend as well. For the last two weeks I’ve been sleep deprived, which is my usual state. The jogging improvement evaporated. Today’s 5 miles were an exercise in frustration. Every step was a fight. I’m tired, compounded not just from lack of sleep, but because of the anxiety. Anxiety steals energy and leaves emptiness in its wake.

I got angrier and angrier at the anxiety for slowing me down. Why can’t I harness that energy into something worthwhile? Why can’t I be fucking manic for a bit? Why am I stuck with a condition that takes and takes and takes?

Ok, I don’t really want to be bipolar. Manic episodes are unpredictable and can cause terrible upheaval and hurt in the lives of those who suffer from bipolar. But the energy that I spend on the anxiety…I need that energy. I fucking want it back. I don’t want to fight this fight anymore. I want to be better. So I can enjoy the anticipation of a great night out with friends or a vacation with my husband. So I don’t have to move through the world encumbered by what feels like a 100lb coat made of my fears. I am pissed off at that bitch anxiety and how much she controls me.

But there isn’t a cure. She isn’t going anywhere. She is as much a part of me as my mousy brown hair and blue eyes. The only way I will ever get the best of her is to fight through her bullshit. To go out to dinner and have a fucking awesome time after a day of lightheadedness and diarrhea caused by the bitch. To enjoy Miami even though this morning I woke up with an anxiety attack so bad that I had to take a chill pill immediately. To continue my jog even though my body is screaming at me give up. To keep trying. For Z, for T, for C, for myself. I will live my life in spite of her, hell I will live my life to spite her.

sleepy travel companion

My adorable traveling companion.

plane nap time

Z quietly sang C right to sleep after we took off.

bad jog

Pissed off jogger. Sometimes we have bad days. Feels pretty honest to document them as well.

Risk

Early this week a friend from high school posted this status update on facebook: “Friends who are parents, especially parents of children still in car seats: Would you leave your toddler, strapped into their seat while you ran into the post office? Car is turned off and your quick dash is at least 4 minutes long. It’s 55 degrees and you’re in a suburban/city area very close to a major highway. I’m especially interested in (names removed for privacy) thoughts as they live in very similar areas.”

Eventually 40 responses were typed. I’ve read them all and haven’t been able to get the thread out of my mind. In fact, my thoughts are so scattered that this is my third go-round in trying to write a post about it. The responses were given with an assumption of some sort of privacy, so I’m not going to name or quote anyone.

Two parents copped to doing it. Most everyone else said no. What surprised me was the number of people who cited their parental love or the preciousness of their children as motivation to not leave them for several minutes. The implication was those who made the choice to run into the store loved their kids less, were inferior parents, were exposing their child to a catastrophic risk.

A staggering 258,000 children were kidnapped in a single year according to an oft cited report issued in 2002. The vast majority of those children, 200,000 of them, were abducted by family members. 58,000 were taken by people they knew or strangers, but according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children non family member abductions were least common. Of the 258,000 kidnappings in the report 115 were “stereotypical” kidnappings, which means “the child was held overnight, transported 50 miles or more, killed, ransomed or held with the intent to keep the child permanently“.

I am not trying to make light of kidnapping. As a parent the idea that someone would take my child from me is my absolute worst nightmare. It does happen, it is real. In 2002, the year the kidnapping report was released, there were 72.9 million children in the United States. Less than 115 of them were killed by a kidnapper.

In 2010 approximately 171,000 kids were injured in car accidents and more than 1,200 were killed.

Yet, I don’t break out in a sweat when I’m strapping my kids into the car seat.

Fear distorts risk.

Do you guys know about the blog Red Wine and Applesauce? The author is a mother and a journalist who specializes in vaccines, parenting, and prenatal and child health. Last week she wrote a post about the flu vaccine in pregnant women. According to the latest peer reviewed scientific studies health benefits for mother and child were found when the mother was vaccinated against the flu. She also included an anecdotal account of a friend who lost one of the twins she was carrying after contracting the flu. I had never commented on her blog before, but the inclusion of an anecdote bothered me enough to voice my opinion.

I am pro vaccine. Even after C experienced an adverse reaction to the chickenpox vaccine that eventually snowballed with other illnesses to land him in the hospital I am pro vaccine. Based on the results of varied research studies conducted within the academy and published in peer reviewed journals I believe the risk of disease is greater than the risk of the vaccine itself. I believe in herd immunity. I believe that it is my responsibility as a member of this society to vaccinate myself and my children in order to help protect the vulnerable who are unable to be vaccinated due to health or age.

The anti vaccine movement often relies on anecdotal evidence to prey upon the fear of parents. The “studies” produced by the movement are not published in peer reviewed journals, which require adherence to scientific method and ethical data collection and use. It bothered me that a writer that I respect would also use anecdotal evidence to bolster her point.

I’ve been to the anti vaccine sites. Not going to link to them here, but you could find them with a simple google search. I’ve read the heartbreaking stories of families affected by adverse reactions to vaccines. Those reactions can’t always be conclusively linked to vaccines, but sometimes they can. They are not to be dismissed. They are tragedies and my heart aches for the families. Still, I vaccinate my children. Because the risk of disease is higher than the risk of injury. Because although I fall prey to fear on a regular basis in this case the science and statistics speak louder than the anecdotes.

Back to the kid left in the car. Would I do it? No. But I’m sort of envious of the person who did do it. I honestly don’t think it is a big deal. My parents did it with us as kids. My Mom tells a story about running into the dry cleaners with a baby me in the car in which I stole her fries from the bag of fast food and chowed down.

I wouldn’t do it mostly because I know you can get in trouble for doing it. And do you know what I do fear disproportionately? Authority.

***Kidnapping, vaccines, issues that get us hot under the collar as parents…if you disagree with me I do welcome your comments, if you agree with me I welcome your comments. I am going to ask if anyone decides to comment that that we all keep it respectful. It doesn’t do a lick of good to name call or act superior. Whether you agree with me or not.

overalls

There should be a law that two year olds are required to wear overalls.

new slippers

Amazing alpaca slippers from Uncle A and Aunt B! Perfect for Syracuse winters.

No, Seriously, We Are Thankful

There is a french door of sorts that closes off the tiny wood paneled vestibule that is the entrance of our home. It was open when I came out of the powder room making it easy to notice that the second pane from the bottom on the right side was cracked. I hollered for Z who hollered for the boys. They were playing by the door in our hallway moments before while Z made the dough for rolls and I decorated gingerbread cookies.

broken glass

Z asked T what happened. T stood on the stairs taking stock of the situation–the cracked glass, the furious parents. “Well.” he started, “Well. You see, it was a squirrel…”

“NO!” Z spluttered. “Do not make up a story! Do not lie to us! TELL. US. WHAT. HAPPENED!” Z noticed I’d turned my back to T, unable to stop the shaking of silent laughter. “Go to the kitchen.” he hissed to me.

I fled, thankful to get out of T’s line of sight. T eventually told his father C’s head made the crack. T pushed him into the door.

I’ve never seen Z so angry at one of the boys. T is up in his room and he’ll be staying there for a very long while. He has lost his bedtime routine-no story, no songs, no cuddles until he goes back to school on Monday. It’s the biggest punishment we have doled out thus far. But dude, (and we did explain this to him) C could have been seriously hurt.

As Z pointed out we do have much to be thankful for–we could have spent the day in the emergency room.

piece of work

What a piece of work this kid is.

Rewind 33 years or so. I was T’s age. It was summertime and the screen door was letting a breeze into our kitchen. My folks had left me alone at the table to finish my meal, perhaps they were putting my sister to bed. The stick of margarine sat in front of me in the butter dish. It looked delicious. Yellow and soft and I just had to try it. I reached out my finger and skimmed it along the top. It was even better than I imagined. Five minutes later and there was an enormous divot in the middle of the stick. I was filled with dread, there was no way to hide what I’d done. Eventually Mom and Dad returned. My Mom, who notices everything, saw the margarine right away. “What happened?”

I panicked. “A bear came through the door and ate the butter. I was really scared.”

My punishment was no treats for a week. Both Mom and Dad were able to hold it together until I’d left the room before they burst out laughing.

Bear. Squirrel. This kid, man this kid is a carbon copy of me. Only vastly improved. I mean, a squirrel is a million times more believable.

thanksgivukkah

Thanksgivukkah cookies.

One more quick story and I’ll stop imposing on your holiday time…We had a Friendsgiving this weekend. More than 20 people at the house. A table made from an old hollow core door and sawhorses joined the beautiful dining table Z made back in grad school. The kids ate on a blanket spread in the living room, picnic style. It was a fucking awesome night. So awesome I didn’t take a single picture.

Everyone had gone home save our closest friends who were packing up their gear. T was holding on to the leg of one of us (I will not sell out which one) and that person let a lovely, loud, and resonating fart rip. We all laughed. T collapsed onto the floor and laid rigid on his stomach with his hands by his sides. “I’m a turd!” he proclaimed. I do believe it was the funniest thing he has ever done and it was definitely the most perfect end to Friendsgiving imaginable.

us

Told Z I needed one more picture for the post. He agreed, but then pulled this shit. Eh, it’s more honest than one of us smiling would have been. Happy Thanksgiving, folks. My wish for you: may none of your children slam their sibling’s head into glass today! Yup, that’s how much I love you.

Double Date

On the phone this morning my Mom asked how yesterday’s date night was. Z and I went out to dinner with friends. We got a sitter and everything. I told her we had a terrific time. The food was yummy, which was a big deal. I do love living in Syracuse, but the food scene is pretty abysmal. No offense, Syracuse.

We’d been planning the evening with our friends for several weeks. We’ve been very tight with this couple for about three years now. They are our closest friends here in town. But in all that time the four of us haven’t gone out for a meal together. Most of our hang-out time takes place at Z and my home. With two young kids it is the easiest way to spend time with friends-have a meal and then put the kids to bed so we can drink and talk the night away. And J and C have been extremely accommodating about pretending our home is a awesome place to hang.

If I’m honest (and you know I will try to be) the kids aren’t the only reason we hang out here. If I can mangle an old James Carville quote–it’s the anxiety, stupid. Hanging out at home means I get to participate without a panic attack.

Back to that phone call this morning. Mom had me on speaker and Dad was there too. He piped up with “Hey, thought you couldn’t go out to a restaurant without an anxiety attack.” He was trying to point out that it was pretty great I hadn’t had one.

“Well about that….” I started.

C and I were texting about coordinating driving down to the restaurant in one car late yesterday afternoon when I let him know that I was anxious enough to need a pill. Although I was still really excited about going. He suggested we take different cars down so I’d feel like I had an escape plan. He knows me really well.

I avoid social situations outside my home for a ton of reasons. It’s fucking hard to do something that’ll make anxiety worse, even if I know that thing will be a ton of fun. It’s embarrassing to have a panic attack in front of an audience. And a big one is I worry my friends will think my anxiety is a reflection of how I feel about them. Which could not be further from the truth. On top of that stuff I fear it is a royal pain in the ass to deal with me and my problems. I’m not easy to be friends with. My anxiety is a perpetual third wheel.

All of that said, J and C knew that my anxiety didn’t have anything to do with them. They acted like it wasn’t a big deal. We did have a fantastic time. The food was great. My cocktail was a blueberry connection with the fetching name Veruca Salt. The conversation was the best part. The only miss was dessert. 

I feel lucky to have friends who really know me and still don’t go running for the hills. They make me feel safe and loved and like I’m worth it.

We won’t wait three more years to have another night out.

beautiful T

No pictures from last night. We were too busy having fun. When T isn’t paying attention I can sneak a quick shot of his heartbreakingly beautiful face WITHOUT his tongue sticking out or him grimacing.

how T watches tv

Watching TV. As one does.

5 miles

I know, I know. The post jog selfies are obnoxious. But yesterday I ran 5 miles. I am still in total disbelief. Took me almost an hour. The overall pace was a snail-like 11:48. But I jogged the whole time. In four and a half months I’ve gone from not being able to jog at all to 5 miles. This whole exercise situation is starting to make me believe that anything is possible.

Let Down

Last week was awesome. Last week was terrible. Last week was overwhelming. Last week was normal.

It was probably the busiest week we’ve had as a family of four. A glimpse into our future life when the boys are in elementary school and have activities all the time. The exam for my class happened on Tuesday, the whole weaning C thing, we had a make up speech therapy session for C, so a total of three for the week, Z had work stuff a couple of nights, Friday both Z and I were room/snack parents for C and T’s classes, we had a playdate after school, and a dinner with friends that night. I was piping decorations on cookies before 8am and used C’s naptime to make a key lime pie that day.

Life. Normal life. Stressful, but doable.

I mean, doable in that I did it. Doable in that I will have to do it a million more times during the boys’ childhoods.

And that should be the focus. I shouldn’t give the anxiety a voice. But she dogged me all week. She whispered in my ear that I was hurting my son by weaning him. She told me that the 86% I got in the exam was embarrassing and pathetic. That if I can’t get an A in this class that there is no way I will be admitted to grad school. She told me to just give up on school, get out of the way so the real academics can do their work. She told me while I was at it I should give up jogging as well. Because I suck ass. When I realized I bought the wrong kind of juice for the kids’ snack at school (supposed to be 100% juice, the stuff I got was half lemonade half juice) she asked how I could even show my face in the classroom. I had to blink back tears as I explained my mistake to T’s teacher, mortifying myself completely. I was miserable most of the morning I spent there, which is so unfair to T. I hated myself for making the mistake and then for making such a big deal about the mistake. I couldn’t make eye contact with anyone. Almost bowed out of T’s playdate. Almost didn’t go to the dinner with friends.

None of the shit I had my panties in a twist over was terribly important. It continues to be humiliating to find regular life so hard. But I have an anxiety disorder. Engaging in life will always be a fight. I can either wallow and let it defeat me or acknowledge it and attempt to live anyway.

I do a lot of the former, but I’m trying hard for the latter.

The important thing is I met my obligations. Until I didn’t.

We got a babysitter for Saturday night. Z was part of the band playing a show at a venue in town. He was thrilled to be playing live again. One number was going to be performed by the band on half a dozen canjos he’d made for the occasion. He was debuting a song he wrote for Thomas and playing on two of the beautiful ukuleles he crafted. The plan was for me to help the sitter get the boys to bed and head down for the second set. About an hour after he left my anxiety rose, clawed up from my belly till it had me by the throat. I could barely breathe when the panic was joined by a migraine.

Cancelled the sitter, called Z to let him know. He didn’t act surprised. I’ve let him down so many times over the years he must have been expecting it.

He is the person I am closest to in this world. Which makes him the safest person to disappoint. Yet he is also the most painful person to disappoint. He knows I don’t do it on purpose. The anxiety is real, the migraines are debilitating. But it doesn’t change the fact that I missed the show.

After a week of trying my damndest to engage in life I feel like that bitch anxiety finally won. She always wins. She puts me in my place. She reminds me that I’m unreliable and I hurt those closest to me. She croons in my ear that it is ok to wallow, to give up. She makes it feel impossible to dust myself off and try again. I hate her. I hate her. I hate her.

z preshow

As he was packing up for the show I snapped this. He made the uke he is holding. And the boat chair he is standing next to. He is one hell of an amazing person.

cookies

Cookies for Friday’s get together. Got to figure out how to give Ms. Pac Man eyelashes next time.

grandpa

Happy Veterans Day, Grandpa. He was one of the most dignified and open people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.

Thankful

There is a teeny tiny chance that one of our best friends will have to be in the city for work near Thanksgiving and maybe, just maybe he’ll be able to come up here for the holiday.

When he texted me about it yesterday I couldn’t believe it. This is the first year we haven’t had solid Thanksgiving plans since moving to Syracuse. We aren’t traveling to see family. Family isn’t traveling to see us. We are sad about both of those facts, but we have obligations at home and just can’t travel this year. Our closest Syracuse friends are going out of town. We invited Berkshire friends who had come for Thanksgiving a few years ago, but they already had plans. I told Z I wasn’t doing a huge turkey dinner for 4 of us and he agreed.

But I love Thanksgiving. I love cooking a huge meal. I love taking the time to be thankful for our life. We decided to have a Friendsgiving the Saturday before. It looks like we are going to have an incredibly full house. The usual suspects from Halloween plus a bunch of other people. We can’t wait.

And we received an invitation to a day-after-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving. So we will be celebrating plenty.

Z is very into celebrating when the mood is right. He cares less about specific days when you HAVE to do something and more about sincerity of intent. Because he is a thoughtful person. Um….I care about the day. The actual proper day. And tradition. Because I have a stick up my ass.

Yesterday our dear friend let us know he might be able to be here for Thanksgiving. Suddenly there was potential for the actual day to be significant. And last night Z was at a Halloween party. One of our friends asked if we wanted to go to his folk’s house for Thanksgiving with his family. In one day we suddenly had options. We will get to celebrate not only around the day but actually on the day.

When we lived in Providence one of my work friends took Z and me under his wing and always invited us to spend holidays with his family. He was horrified that we didn’t have family around and let us borrow his wife’s and his. Our friend here is doing the same. To those of you who live near extended family? I know it comes with a different set of issues than living with no family nearby, but during the holidays it can be pretty magical. When you guys share your families with holiday orphans you really are doing a great kindness. People being nice. Rapidly becoming my favorite part of life.

woody guthry

Totally stole this picture from FB. Z as Woody Guthrie last night.

We had two Halloween parties to attend last night, one with the boys and one after they went to bed. But our sweet T is rocking a pretty terrible cold. At the last minute we pulled the plug on the first party so T could veg on the sofa and we could mop up the intensely prolific flow of snot from his nose. He was upset about missing the party, but we gave him a bonus piece of candy and let him watch Return of the Jedi. Jabba the Hut makes everyone feel better. And I stayed home while Z went to the second party.

hair cut

My little snot head is a bit better today. He and I got our hair cut. For the first time he sat on the seat himself instead of on my lap. I did ask him if he wanted his hair short, we are letting him drive the boat when it comes to length. But he said in his husky sick voice, “Nope. Just a trim!”

Anticipation

We had a fucking blast last night. Over the last few years we’ve become friends with several neighborhood families. When we are planning a get together it doesn’t feel like a big deal because it is just the usual suspects. Z and I invited the gang over for dinner before trick or treating last night. I was making beans and rice anyway. We had a ton of vegetarian leftovers for the non-meat eaters. Wednesday night Z and I realized that the not-big-deal included six kids and ultimately nine adults. The cool part is it still didn’t feel like a big deal. We were relaxed and actually excited about having everyone over. There always seems to be plenty of food. The chaos is actually a hell of a lot of fun. We’ve gotten used to having a large crew over and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Which is good because by this time next year two more babies will have joined the group.

Bonus: it was warm last night. So warm that the steady rain didn’t seem to matter. There has been snow on several of the Halloweens since we moved here. Warm and wet is infinitely better.

After we settled the exhausted boys into bed Z and I loaded the dishwasher and chatted about the evening. He told me that he and our friend had a disagreement about what was better-anticipation or the event itself. Our friend thought experiencing the moment was better and Z insisted the anticipation was best.

I think both Z and I were a bit shocked by the vehemence of my reaction. I couldn’t believe he would think anticipation was better. I was actually furious. And sad that he didn’t enjoy actually living as much as he enjoyed thinking about future events.

“The week before Christmas is way better than the day after Christmas.” he said. “Duh.” I replied. “But it isn’t better than Christmas morning!” “Well, what is sexier? Lingerie or nakedness?” “Um….nakedness?” I answered. It was his turn to get frustrated, “NO! Lingerie! The unknown is always sexier!” “I’m sorry, dude. Are you actually saying you’d rather think about sex than have sex? Because that’s just sad.” “Oh….well, ok.”

Ah. I was starting to get somewhere.

A moment later I had it. “Are you telling me that anticipating holding your son for the first time was better than actually holding him?” I looked at his face and knew I had him. “No,” he admitted. The vindication I felt was completely juvenile and stupid. I was relieved enough to tease him. “And what about marrying me? How could the anticipation of marrying a crazy person hold a candle to actually dealing with being married to someone this crazy?” He shook his head at me, “Oh Karen. When we got married I had no idea how crazy you actually were.” Valid point.

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What was the deal? Why should I give a fuck if he likes anticipation better than the actual event? Why did I care about convincing him otherwise? It isn’t like the dude is living in his head. He embraces life. He’s fully engaged. I wish I was more like him.

This morning it came to me.

Anticipation.

Anticipation.

I have an anticipatory anxiety disorder. Anticipation isn’t excitement to me. It is fear. And migraines. And panic attacks. And diarrhea. Anticipation is the very worst part of life. The kicker is that often what I’ve been anticipating turns out to be not only bearable, but wonderful.

If anticipation makes Z happy so be it. I shouldn’t berate him until he comes around to seeing it my way. My bizarre reaction last night was basically because anticipation scares the living shit out of me. Literally. No, no. Not how the kids these days misuse literally. I really mean literally.

So what say you, friends? Anticipation? Or the event itself? Which one is better? I promise not to fight with you, I’ll respect your opinion.

brothers

I just wanted a decent picture. T started off by tormenting C.

back off

C has started to fight back. Boys! Pull it together!

best of the bunch

Ok, this is as good as it gets these days.