Posts filed under ‘writing’
I am moving this blog to Cinco de Mommy. Please update your links and readers and such!
I’ve been looking up some tips/tricks for doing NaNoWriMo, and today’s prompt was, What is your character wearing? Why did he or she choose this? What does it say or not say about your character? Here’s my just-over 1600 words (NaNo daily goal) about what my current main character wears
I wake up and take a quick shower – our apartment is dry and my skin becomes scaly and red if I stay in too long – before taking a look at my closet. At my job, at the infusion center, I can wear scrubs or business casual. Jeans and cancer-fighting-slogan tshirts on Fridays. It’s a Wednesday. My favorite scrubs are blue and washed so much that they’re soft like slim leather. I don’t remember if they are faded and soft because they’re high or low quality material, but it doesn’t matter. I love them. It’s like working in my pajamas but slightly less provocative. Nobody seems to notice how wonderful these scrubs are, that’s another thing I like about them. They’re my secret scrubs. Patients notice if I wear holiday scrubs – Christmas trees and Hanukkah menorahs and Thanksgiving turkeys and red hearts for Valentine’s day – but nobody comments on my soft blue scrubs. They’re light blue. Dark blue seems to highlight blood, black is morbid, pink is far too perky for me (the exception being the breast-cancer pink scrubs we all buy for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which our office manager tells us should be every month), yellow seems juvenile like a LPN or what a student would wear. Light blue suits me. Sometimes I wear green, but it makes my skin look sallow. Another thing the office manager warns us about – looking too healthy or not healthy enough. There is an entire wall of windows in the infusion room, and the patients look alternately better and worse when they get infused on that side. If they’re really ill, small and sickly in their clothes and blankets, the harsh light only serves to highlight and create an image of impending death. They all look bleak and tired and unwell. If they’re unwell – and occasionally we get a seemingly healthy person, like someone with a stomach condition who isn’t absorbing iron, so they’re not all unwell – you can usually see it more clearly when they’re against that wall. If they’re on the other side, the side with the walls and the equally harsh (in my opinion) fluorescent lights boring down on them, you can still see. But not as much as with the natural light.
I have various shades of blue scrubs, but the soft light blue ones are my favorite. I wear them once a week, sometimes once every other week. I try not to wear them too much, and I also try not to save them. It’s a delicate balance. Luckily we don’t work with children or I’m not sure I could handle those types of scrubs. Cartoon characters, smiley faces, animals – those would freak me out, especially in a center where most people have cancer. I prefer my straightforward monochromatic scrubs. I think purple would be okay too. I haven’t come across a pair of purple scrubs that seem appropriate or something I would like – they are either too bright or too deep, too close to the color of blood. If I could find a nice mauve pair, I’d buy them. I usually wash my scrubs several times when I buy them – they’re so stiff and unyielding that it’s like wearing cardboard for the first few days. I hate that. Which is why I love my blue ones, I love soft. I also have a brown pair, but I scrutinize myself to make sure I don’t look like I’m wearing poop. Another thing we have to deal with. Or to make sure I’m not the same color as the infusions themselves. We have infusion drips that are brown in color, although at least we don’t have brown butterfly needles. Our butterflies are yellow or blue or green or purple; they can be very colorful and pretty in a weird sort of way, if you notice that. I had a patient once who always asked for a certain color. She wanted a different color each time. She was only getting ten infusions so it wasn’t very hard, but I struggled with her over which color connector would count. Each tube has multiple connectors, and she made some rules about which connector counted toward her color scheme. The possibilities are truly endless. You can have a red connector with two blue ends for tubing. You can have yellow with red – you can even have different shades of the same color, like green. Most people don’t care. I liked the patient who wanted different colors, she was different. She didn’t take the chemo too seriously. She didn’t even seem to think about it much. She knitted scarfs and hats for her grandchildren while I infused her.
A lot of the older women knit, and some younger women as well. Some do cross-stitch. Some crochet, although one of the women told me that crocheting is considered not as high class as knitting – I couldn’t believe it. As if people care about that sort of that thing, but she said they do. She had a book called, “Happy Hookers Stitch and Bitch.” I cracked up every time I saw that title. She was a tiny old lady with non-hodgkins lymphoma who looked about 80 years old although she was spry. She showed me pictures of her grandchildren and her children. They lived nearby, she told me, and took care of her although she hated their cooking. I pointed out that sometimes things taste funny when you’re having chemo, so maybe the food wasn’t so bad. She laughed and said it was truly that bad, that her daughter never used enough salt or seasonings, and her son-in-law overcooked everything. I agreed that was pretty b ad.
Some of the men knit, but mostly they watch TV. The younger men, in their 30s or 40s or 50s, tend to watch ESPN sportscenter or Court-TV documentaries or History channel or PBS. The women watch Lifetime or Bravo – I’ve noticed a real uptick in the amount of Real Housewives watching during the day. Some people read. Some listen to iPods – until a few years ago it was CD players. Now a lot of younger people – and by younger, I mean my own age – play on their cell phones. They bring in their laptops.
I like most of the doctors at the infusion center. They’re hematologist-oncologists. Not a very cheery profession, but most of them are kind and easygoing. We get the occasional resident or intern. The doctors give their orders to the nurses, who type them up and email them to us, and we prepare the infusions. It usually moves fairly quickly. The longest time is starting a line, or flushing a line. Sometimes we get someone who has an allergy we don’t know about until after the first round is finished and they start getting itchy or having difficulty breathing. We give them Benadryl or zofran or both, and we make large notations in their chart. We flag them. One of the doctors doesn’t like to give iron infusions unless the patient is half-dead; he’s convinced that half the world is allergic to iron. I’ve only seen that once. Most people seem to tolerate iron pretty well, and they feel better after a week or two of infusions, especially the pregnant women who aren’t absorbing any orally thanks to the parasite inside them, as one of the docs, a cocky guy in his late 30s, likes to say with a head shake. I once said to him, “Most pregnant women don’t consider their babies parasites, you know. Most of them are pretty happy to be pregnant and don’t mind it.”
He smiled, not in a totally condescending manner, but in a somewhat thoughtful manner, and told me I was right. “But, from another point of view, anything that steals valuable nutrients from its host is a parasite.”
“It can be a symbiotic relationship. The host is getting something too.”
“Dirty diapers and sore nipples and sleepless nights? Doesn’t seem too beneficial for her.”
“Oh, I think there’s a little more to it than that,” I tried to sound vague.
“You don’t have kids, do you?”
I half snorted, half laughed. “No. Not me. No kids.”
“I don’t either. But a lot of my friends do, and you’re probably right, there is something a little more to it than bodily functions.” Then he got called for a phone consult from another doctor at the large teaching university a few hours away.
Kids are not allowed in the infusion center, although they can wait just outside and watch TV. We run into that situation once in a while, where a mom doesn’t have a sitter and needs treatment. FMLA works, but only after the husband has taken all of his vacation time – and it’s unpaid. Recently a mom brought her daughter, a sweet girl of about eight, with her to get treatment, but the office manager made the daughter wait in the waiting room just outside the infusion room door. The daughter was fine – we turned the TV on to Disney, and gave her some crackers and juice and cookies while her mom got treatment. I actually think she might have enjoyed it. The mom checked on her several times, but she was just sitting there, with her knees pulled up to her chest, watching Hannah Montana or The Suite Life of Zack and Cody or something new that I didn’t watch as a kid but I’ve read about in People Magazine. The patients can walk around if they want, dragging their IV pole behind them or next to them, although most just sit watching TV or knitting or reading. This mom was up and down every ten minutes or so, although I kept checking on her daughter myself and she was fine. Later the office manager reminded us that if the situation came up again, we were not to give any children cookies without their parents permission. I know I gave her at least one package, and there’s always five or six nurses on the floor at any time, so she may have gone home with a stomachache.
It’s Friday, y’all.
(By the way, I’m just going to pretend that I’ve been blogging continuously for the last month. It’s cool, right?)
For the last few weeks, and for the next two weeks, I have iron infusions on Fridays. And Mondays and Wednesdays. It started when my hemoglobin went below 9. Which is like, if I saw you on the street and you happened to share that your hemoglobin was below 9, I’d probably ask what charity you wanted me to donate to in lieu of flowers for your funeral and also, you look really really really pale. That was me. Every morning was a big dramedy because I’d think to myself, there’s no way on god’s green/brown/blue earth that once I go downstairs I’m going to make it back upstairs unless there’s a giant cockroach down there that I need to escape from and all the downstairs doors are dead-bolted from the inside and I have no other choice but to run upstairs like some idiotic soon-to-be-dead heroine in a horror film, so I better have everything I need. And thank goodness my kids are old enough to run up and down the stairs for me.
I sat in My Chemical Romance’s “battery charger” and ignored the following:
We wasted a lot of expensive raw milk because I didn’t have the strength to pour it into the kids’ cereal bowls. So I let them pour. In addition to having no energy, motivation, or desire to breathe, I also had some pretty nasty diarrhea. I wasn’t too shocked when my labs came back sucktastic; I was shocked at HOW sucktastic they were.
The OB I see occasionally, who knows I’m planning a homebirth and generally leaves me alone, called me to make sure my brain was functioning and said that the labs had been run twice and yes I really needed to start iron pills. Which I take, by RX, twice a day anyway. So I called the hematologist and went in to see him and we agreed on the iron infusions.
I really didn’t want to turn this entry into a whine-fest. The basic are: I felt sucktastic, I started getting iron infusions, I’m continuing to get them, my amazing friends have been ABSOLUTELY FREAKING AMAZING at helping me with the kids and around the house (and honestly I feel terrible because Das Goofendorfer scrubbed my kitchen floor on her hands and knees and in about 2 days it was back to dirt/sand/mud/dog fur/dry food), and now I’m feeling better and very glad for Jugs.
Also, My Chemical Romance got a new car, and I’m doing NaNoWriMo in November to kill time before Tax Deduction is born. Nice-Nice and Das Goofendorfer are doing it too! I’m pretty excited. We all know I’m the best writer in the history of ever, but now we’ll see if I can actually harness my awesome into 30 straight days of writing. So far, we know I kind of fall off the face of the earth every few weeks, so this will be a challenge.
I liken it to labor and birth — lately I liken EVERYTHING to labor and birth — because I think at times it will be uncomfortable and difficult and I won’t want to continue (NaNo vets say it happens in week two) but ultimately I’m only “competing” against myself, and the glory is all mine.
1. Organic Milk. 2%.
This isn’t that weird — except for the fact that I’m craving non-raw milk right now. Maybe it’s the consistency of raw that is turning me off. The first few cups of raw milk are practically cream; the last few cups are like drinking skim ::vomit:: Sometimes the place I buy my raw milk runs out, which is how we’ll end up with a gallon or two of organic, and I’m totally hoarding it.
I just finished Orange is the New Black and it was the best book I’ve read in a long time. Which is really saying something when you consider that I probably read two books per week. Another recent nonfiction winner? Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth. I’m on a wait list for the Oprah bio; I can’t wait for that one either. Along with The Imperfectionists, which is supposedly creative non-fiction.
I love to cook, that’s not a secret. Baking has never been my thing because it’s so scientific; you really can’t play around with it. You can see or taste if you put in too much flour or not enough baking soda *Not that I would ever do that. Perhaps baking is appealing to my current control-freak tendencies, leading us to #4…
Yes, that evil witch with her stupid fairy wings and lace-up shoes — and her ridiculously clean house. I’m trying to form a long-lasting relationship with my “swish-and-swipe” routine. FlyLady is probably improving my marriage: she has taught me that expecting My Chemical Romance to do all the dishes is futile; six people plus a Dog Without a Downside use more plates and bowls than one person can keep up with. Even when using that modern convenience called a dishwasher — and we always use a dishwasher. I am morally opposed to washing dishes by hand. It is perhaps the one way in which I’m totally not-crunchy.
5. My Sixth Sense for Pregnancy
Recently I’ve noted that two women were pregnant long before they even announced it. One, I realized it on the very day she peed on a stick. Another was from a Face*book status. I thought it was abundantly clear to everyone who read it, but so far I’m the only one who has even guessed. Clearly I’ve got some ESP going on with my fellow breeders.
Oh, whine. If I pick up one more book that involves a “birth gone wrong” scenario, I’m going to live webcam my homebirth so that people can see that birth is normal. Seriously, even that bestseller that I waited on a library lists for months for, The Postmistress, somehow brought in a HORRIBLE TRAGIC BAD BIRTH STORY. The most frustrating thing is trying to find a book that (1) is well-written (2) doesn’t involve HORRIBLE TRAGIC BAD BIRTH STORIES (3) is well-written. Seems like you get either well-written or you get normal birth/no birth.
2. My therapist
Actually, I love her. Possibly too much; I want to know how much longer therapy is going to continue. I started seeing her because I needed a note from a psychologist clearing me for weight-loss surgery; two years later I’m skinny and still problem-plagued. At least in my mind. But having a therapist is a bit of a crutch for me: I use her to gauge where I am, and I need to trust myself to gauge where I am. She says I’ve made progress. Eh, I probably have, but who’s to say I wouldn’t have progressed on my own without her and her $10 copay?
3. Pregnancy brain
What was I just typing about? Where am I? What time is it? I got on this computer to do something, and now I find myself doing something completely different with absolutely no recollection of what I am supposed to be doing, and a vague sense that I’m forgetting something important when I go out in public, like my purse. Or a bra.
4. The Library’s New Hours
Or lack thereof. Due to city budget cuts, my local library is currently open four days per week, two of those days only until 5pm. All I want to do is read (nonfiction; or well-written fiction about non-breeders) and I get agitated when I realize it’s going to be three days before I can even browse paperbacks again. The next closest library is 20 minutes away.
5. The Heat.
GO. AWAY. Seriously.
I didn’t have “colorectal surgeon” in my cell phone contacts until after I lost 130lbs. Prior to that, my only experience with a proctologist was watching Katie Couric’s colonoscopy on the Today Show.
I had other issues though, at nearly 275lbs. Mostly that I was exhausted and depressed, and self-loathing. I tend to be harder on myself than I am on others; you might be fat because of bad genes or a really stressful time in your life or a medication that causes you to gain weight but I was fat because I was lazy and had no self-control.
The most difficult part of the decision to have weight-loss surgery was flying the surrender flag. Choosing to have bariatric surgery meant that I had failed every diet-and-exercise-lifestyle-change-program on the planet. I was not ever going to call Jenny (again). I was not ever going to attend another We*ight Wa*tchers meeting (again). I was throwing in the towel instead, and throwing in my lot with a surgeon whose specialty is rearranging the intestines of the morbidly obese.
I had a Biliopancreatic Diversion with a Duodenal Switch on November 4th 2008, election day. (I woke up from anesthesia and asked, “Who won?” and when my mom said “Obama,” I replied, “Really?” and fell back asleep. She claims we had the same conversation eight times. I don’t remember.) I had my stomach cut and a portion of my small intestine moved and connected near my pylorus and duodenum; I no longer absorb much fat or protein in my meals.
My lowest weight, less than a year after surgery, was 129lbs; I’m now between 135lbs and 140lbs. I wear a size six.
When I was morbidly obese I used to think that thinness would cure all my problems. I knew in my rational brain that it was a fallacy, but it seemed like my problems always came back to my weight: I avoided intimacy with my husband because I felt my body was disgusting; I avoided making friends because I didn’t feel worthy of friendship; I rarely played with my kids because I had no energy to do so; I spent too much money buying clothes I hated because I couldn’t shop at normal stores and instead went to Lane Bryant; showering several times a day caused a high water bill; our energy bill was even higher because I was hot and kept the air conditioning going most months of the year.
The surgery and subsequent weight loss did solve some of those issues: I am intimate with my husband, in more ways; I have a lot of friends; I have the energy to play with my kids; I can buy things off the clearance rack at O*ld Na*vy; I usually shower only once a day day.
(Our energy bill stayed high because I was freezing cold all winter.)
However, more intimacy with my husband does not mean my marriage improved; I would not have friends who are fat-phobic in the first place; having the energy to play with my kids is not the same as having the desire to play with them; I still wear the same type of clothes I wore before (shorts or jeans and a solid-colored tshirt or long-sleeved shirt); and there are new problems.
That caught me off-guard. There are new problems.
I could not imagine a size six would have problems. Apparently I was sizist; what possible problem could one have when one fit into an airline seat properly and only needed to shower once a day? What else was there to worry about?
But as I typed the words “colorectal surgeon” into a search engine for the first time, I had to admit, even thin people have problems.
Since that first time, I’ve seen the proctologist three times; recently while on vacation with my kids and dog in Florida I had to have anal surgery. My insurance only covered 80% of the procedure, leaving me with a hefty out-of-pocket bill – and having to purchase a plane ticket to Florida for my husband so he could drive us home. I had taken our four kids (and the dog) by myself on vacation; I thought I’d recover quickly and still be able to drive us all home on my own. I was wrong — the surgery was intensely painful — and I couldn’t drive for days. It’s been nearly two weeks and my butt still hurts. This is a problem.
The issues for which I needed a colorectal surgeon are because of my surgery; specifically how my gut reacts to its new arrangement and how I treat my tender, rearranged intestines by what I eat.
There are other issues, too, daily issues: I do not have much good bacteria in my intestines, and bacteria are very useful to a colon. Just ask the gastrointestinal doctor; another new one on my speed-dial since Obama was elected. Even though I eat yogurt daily, and take a probiotic, sharing a bathroom with me isn’t fun. If you do a search for “Duodenal switch” and “bathroom issues” you will get a million sites. Maybe even my blog.
The leftover skin – the skin I swore I wouldn’t mind, because who cares, it’s just extra skin! I’m not going to worry about that when I’m skinny! – migrated to my mid-section and most days that I don’t wear mom-jeans I look pregnant. I have been asked by well-meaning strangers when I’m due – this means that not only do I look pregnant, I look pregnant enough that total strangers think it’s socially acceptable to ask me about it.
The first time someone asked, I was deeply offended and proffered a very snarky reply; the most recent time, I simply said I had a stomach condition that causes severe bloating. Combine extra skin in the mid-section with a body that lacks the hips to hold up pants; combine the occasion bout of bloating with not standing ramrod-straight all the time and you get me, looking like I’ve just finished my first trimester.
I was wrong when I thought being thin would solve all my problems; it solved some, exacerbated others, and created new ones. There are benefits to physical smallness: I love buying clothes off the rack; I love my underwear drawer full of size mediums and my cute bras. I feel great: I can run around like never before and jump on the trampoline with my kids, and my treadmill is no longer a towel holder. My self confidence has increased dramatically.
But in return, I’m married to my Biliopancreatic Diversion with a Duodenal switch; it’s with me every second of every day, and unlike the days of diets and exercise this has changed my entire body forever, I can’t ever throw in the towel on my own body.
I was raised Jewish, so of course I feel guilt more intensely than, say, Jesse James or Jack the Ripper.
And, believe it or not, blogging causes me some amount of guilt. Thus proving I could never rob a bank or steal fruit from a grocery store; I can’t even type words on an empty page without feeling bad.
(I’m also a terrible liar. My friend Wii is the smoothest liar I’ve ever seen; once, while sitting in the office of a very prominent criminal defense attorney, she ran into an acquaintance who worked in the same building. The acquaintance, who clearly attended the Cream of Mommy School of Tact, asked incredulously, “What are you doing here?” Wii smiled a very kind, very mysterious smile and said, “Just in the neighborhood.” It was probably her smirk that put an end to that conversation.
Still, if you’d asked me the same question, I would have said the following:
“Who me? Here? Are you asking me why I’m here–” not snarky (for once!); just trying to buy more time “– well, um, I know it probably looks like I’m here to defend myself against committing a crime using this prominent defense attorney in whose lobby I am currently sitting looking very very nervous and guilty and flipping through Charlotte Magazine, but actually there’s another reason why I’m here. And it doesn’t involve a crime. Particularly NOT a felony. I swear. Um. There was this cat. It died. And I had nothing to do with it, but since everyone knows I hate cats with a passion, and because I happened to be the one who found the dead cat and reported it to the police, they think I did it!”
That is verbatim what I would have said.)
But, despite the fact that I do hate cats passionately — my friend Emily’s husband used to hate cats too, and he once told me that while in school he had to dissect a cat and did so “with relish;” I relished that story until he went and DIDN’T DISOWN EMILY WHEN SHE BROUGHT HOME A CAT, AND IS NOW A HAPPY CAT-OWNER, THAT TRAITOR — my guilt is about blogging.
1. If you’re reading my blog, and if you’ve ever commented, I have probably read your blog and not commented. And I feel bad about that.
2. If you blog, and your blog is even remotely funny/snarky/interesting/relating to the following topics: attachment parenting; food; cooking; your family; hating cats — basically if you’re more than borderline literate and have anything to say about anything — you probably have a great blog, that I may have saved to my Google Reader, but I am not caught up on it, and I feel bad about that. Alternately, I am not reading your blog, and your blog is teh awesome, and I feel bad about that.
3. If you’re following me on Facebook or Twitter, I’m probably not following you back, and I feel bad about that.
4. If you are Animal, Mineral, The Informant, My Masterpiece, My Chemical Romance, or The Dog Without a Downside, and you’ve ever needed me to wipe your butt/give you a bucket to vomit into/find you something clean to wear so that the neighbors don’t think we’re exhibitionists, and instead I’ve been blogging and let you walk the dog while naked with little poo-flecks on your rear end, while someone vomits into our pyrex bowls that never get cleaned in the dishwasher, I feel bad about that.
5. If you’re my neighbor, and have seen me wearing my pajamas at 3pm, while my children ride their bikes naked with the dog’s leash attached to their handlebars so she can get some exercise, for heaven’s sake and maybe someone is throwing up into a bowl because I’ve been too busy blogging to take a shower/do laundry/walk the dog/ensure my children are using toilets to hold their bodily fluids — I feel bad about that
The truth is, I love reading — and writing. I’ve loved writing ever since The Evil Fourth Grade — fourth grade! — Teacher Who Shall Not Be Named But Forced Nine-Year-Olds To Write Book Reports Each Week For The Entire School Year assigned her very first weekly book report. I hated doing them — seriously! nine years old! fourth grade! — but I had a talent for writing. And my writing improved. I got a lot of A+ on those book reports; once I got an A- during an off week.
I went on to earn a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan.
And yet, until the last few weeks, I’d hardly written in anything beside my journal since I graduated. I was busy getting unplannedly pregnant, with twins, who had Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome, then being a single mom of twins; then meeting My Chemical Romance, then getting married; then moving cross-country; then being a wife and mom of twins; then getting pregnant with The Informant; then moving to another state, then being a wife and mom in a really really depressing small town; then becoming a doula; then having My Masterpiece; then being a wife and mom of four kids ages four and under — all while only knowing my husband for that long; then finding My Chemical Romance a job away from the small depressing town, then moving cross-country again, then being a wife and mom and doula in a completely new part of the country; then having weight loss surgery –
And I’m kind of annoyed at myself; I did so much stuff over those years and I never wrote about it. Only imagine what I would have called the town we lived in on the border of Mexico, where My Chemical Romance learned Spanish slang so offensive he couldn’t tell me — me! Only imagine what I would have written as I lost 130lbs.
I almost feel bad about not writing. Looking back, it seems disingenuous.
I’m making up for lost time. I’m here now.