Merry, Merry Christmas

December 25, 2009

Yes, dear readers, I'm still here. I haven't gone into labor yet, although the time is drawing near. I had my first real contraction yesterday, and my back and abdomen still feel tight and achy. We'll see what happens today. I'm sooo ready to meet little William!

Unfortunately, I'm spending today alone in the apartment. My husband was assigned 24 hour duty on Christmas day, so I won't see him until 9 or so tomorrow morning. We celebrated Christmas yesterday by opening all of our gifts. I managed to surprise my husband with an expensive, high-powered flashlight that he had been eying online. The thing can light up a building. My gift? A Plano 777 tackle box from Bass Pro Shop. Now, I know what you're thinking: a tackle box? Well, I've been waiting for weeks to get my hands on it. I'm using it as a bead caddy and tool organizer for my jewelry-making hobby. I spent two hours or so yesterday setting up all the compartments and arranging everything (it's a HUGE tackle box). I was more excited than a kid in a candy store...still am. I'll be making some more jewelry today.

In the time I haven't been blogging or playing with my tackle box, I've been trying to get everything ready for William's (and my mother-in-law's) arrival. So far I've stocked our freezer with 2 quarts of New England Clam Chowder, 24 burritos, 3 nine-inch deep dish chicken pot pies, and 16 chicken burger patties...all homemade by yours truly. I've also been cleaning and organizing the apartment bit by bit. One thing that has helped tremendously: a new computer desk. Up until a few days ago, the computer and all related electronic devices took up residence on the dining table. It looked terrible. When we moved everything to the new desk, I exclaimed, "Wow! It almost looks like people live here!"

As far as my mood...well, right now I feel relatively stable most of the time. The problem is that with the birth approaching, my hormones tend to fluctuate randomly. I'll be riding in the car or cooking and suddenly feel like crying for no reason. It's a bit unsettling.

As far as my dark secret goes, I haven't told my brother yet. I'm waiting for the holidays to pass first. No need to insert drama in what should be a happy time. Ignorance really can be bliss.

Hope you all are having the most wonderful Christmas ever.

How Hard is This?

December 19, 2009

Another rant:

I've been following the health care debate in this country for a while now, including attending a Town Hall meeting on the subject. Now, I am FED UP! Seriously, how hard is it to write this bill? What the Dems have come up with recently isn't worth the paper it's written on. Raise premiums? Cut benefits? How is that supposed to help anyone?

If I were sitting on Congress, this is the health care bill I would propose:

1. Reinstate anti-trust laws and allow businesses and individuals to buy insurance plans from any company, in-state or out. The increased competition to find the best cost-to-coverage ratio will lower insurance premiums.

2. Require businesses/employers to provide at least basic health insurance for all employees. Why? Because employers can purchase bulk health plans at a cheaper cost per policy than individuals. In exchange, the government could offer a tax break to businesses.

3. Reserve a government-run option for citizens living at or below the poverty line who are not covered by an employer's policy (to include children). The government plan would cover four clinical visits and one emergency visit per individual per year at selected clinics and hospitals offering quality care at the lowest cost to the government. Vaccines, school physicals, eye exams and glasses, and basic dental would be free for all children 15 and under. Low premiums--determined by income--would help cover some of the cost of the government option.

4. Cap award amounts for malpractice suits. Malpractice insurance comprises a huge chunk of current medical costs, which are passed on to patients in the form of higher hospital bills. Capping the award amounts would ultimately lower insurance costs for both doctors and patients.

5. Allow the importation of generic medications for beneficiaries of Medicare D. Such a move would help lower Medicare costs without cutting benefits, while allowing local pharmaceutical companies to retain a large market share with the rest of the public.

6. Require every citizen to carry some form of health insurance.* The more people who buy in, the lower overall insurance premiums should become.
*Only acceptable when there is free competition for health insurance as described in Part 1.

7. Streamline hospital and clinical admissions/processing to lower administrative costs. Every citizen has a social security number, right? Why not design a national health database system in which a receptionist at any clinic or hospital could enter a person's SSN and instantly access his or her medical records for the past year? Such a system would save untold amounts of time and money that are usually spent filling out, processing, and filing separate medical forms every time a patient transfers from one clinic or hospital to another. Some hospitals, like Roper St. Francis, are already trying to establish similar electronic filing systems.

I'm sure I could go on with other ideas, but this would be the basic plan. And it would have to work without increasing the federal deficit. Are you listening, Obama?

Can O' Worms

December 17, 2009

This month has put my Prozac to the test. Seriously. The holidays are stressful enough without being 9 months pregnant and nearly 1,000 miles away from family. But then I had to open my mouth and make life more complicated.

See, I finally spilled my darkest secret to my husband a little over a week ago. I had originally sworn that I would take said secret to my grave. But then a little piece of family news drudged up some unpleasant emotions, and I thought I might explode if I didn't tell someone. So I told my husband and spent the next few days moping in silence, trying to process the pain of a wound that had (I thought) been closed for years.

Now I have a new problem. My husband thinks I should tell my brother, since the information might concern him. The thought had crossed my mind a while back, but I convinced myself that it was easier to let sleeping dogs lie. Besides, any backlash resulting from releasing this secret will all fall on me: the guilt, the stress, the anger. And I don't know if I'm strong enough to live through all that again.

I almost wish I hadn't told my husband. But I didn't know what else to do. As it was, I had already kept it inside for far too long.

On top of all this, I've been ill with flu-like symptoms. The apartment is a disaster. My To-Do list for the holidays keeps growing. My body aches as it expands and prepares to give birth. I often feel like weeping. Sometimes I do.

I should probably seek counseling.

Love Lessons

December 15, 2009

Of all the things I've lost, I miss my job the most.

Strange thing to say, I know. But I have never experienced such a great sense of fulfillment as I have when working. I love to expanding minds of all types.

A little while ago, I started thinking about my short stint a couple of years ago as a middle and high school English teacher at a private Christian school in Tennessee. It was my first real classroom teaching experience, and right off the bat I was put in charge of grades 6 through 12, holding one class per grade a day. The prep work required for that much variety was a living nightmare, and within two weeks of starting, I was struggling desperately to keep up.

What I managed to teach those children about English, I have no idea. The 12th graders stonewalled me, the 9th graders fought me on every assignment, and the 6th graders soon required super glue, duct tape, and threats of death to keep them seated and quiet. (And, to my chagrin, such methods were off limits!)

However, I like to think that maybe I left those students with something more in their heads. One of my most memorable days in class, with the 11th graders, didn't involve Orwell's Animal Farm or SAT-level vocabulary. It started when one of the guys commented (for probably the third time that week) that he thought "fat chicks are disgusting." The utterance was particularly alarming considering that a rather large, sweet girl sat in the back of the class.

Really, for her weight, I thought the girl was stunningly attractive: soft, round, well-proportioned curves; nice skin; long red hair that shone like a copper penny; and a bit of spunk to her personality that kept things interesting. I couldn't bear seeing her self-esteem destroyed by the shallow words of an insensitive teenage male. So I stopped the assigned lesson and confronted the talking about love.

Every person from age 5 to 25 (and beyond) has an image in their heads of "the perfect mate." I know I did, and, in a way, still do. If given the opportunity, I'd consider licking whipped cream off actor Daniel Craig's gorgeous pecks. My physical preferences weren't much different as a teen. One thing I didn't like back then: body hair. I swore to myself that I would never marry a hairy man.

Then my husband came along: strong, handsome, witty, intelligent...and enough hair on his chest to put Sasquatch to shame. I was actually frightened the first time I saw him shirtless--frightened at the conflicting emotions the sight generated within me. But as our friendship deepened and turned to love, I not only accepted my husband's body, but I came to like and enjoy it as well. I never knew chest hair could be so soft and warm. It's now one of the things I like most about my husband, and I certainly couldn't imagine him without it.

And that was the lesson: love can be surprising, so you shouldn't limit yourself to just one physical ideal. You never know who might be listening to your snide, offhand comments. A fat chick or a hairy man may turn out to be the love of your life.

The classroom became so quiet during that speech, we could hear the walls creak.

The most important question I ever asked my mother was "How do you know when you love someone enough to marry him?" The answer she gave me has stuck with me for years: "When you can't imagine living a single day without that person in your life."

It took me a while to figure out just what she meant. When I started dating as a teenager, I tried to convince myself that I couldn't live without some of my boyfriends. I wanted to find someone who would "fit the frame" as quickly as possible.

But when I met my husband, the force of my mother's words hit me like lightening: I had to have this person in my life, everyday, loving me. All the other times I imagined my life without certain people in it, I always felt some measure of relief; I wouldn't have to put up with this one questioning my loyalty or that one trying to manipulate me. But imagining life without my husband was truly devastating. I didn't care if we spent the next 50 years just holding hands. I needed him with me.

The long-term effect of this little love lesson? I may never know. But the short-term effect was nice: no more "fat" comments in class!


December 3, 2009

OK, so it's no longer Thanksgiving, but I couldn't get this thought out of my head. On Thanksgiving Day, I recalled a poem I had written many years ago as a child, entitled "My House". I won't bore you with the whole of it, but here is an excerpt:

The house that I live in is not a new house:
There is a hole in the wall in which lives a mouse.
The carpet is worn from hurried feet,
And there is a stain on my favorite seat....

Many a day, many a night
I have spent in that house,
And I will regret it
When I have to move out....

Actually, that "house" was a gray single-wide mobile home, and by the time my family moved out of it, I was glad to leave it behind. Having a mouse as a roommate may sound whimsical, until it ran between my feet one night in the middle of a dark hallway. From the size of its shadow, it could have been a weasel. My heart nearly stopped.

My family tried to care for the things we had, but some objects inevitably wore out and there was no money to replace them. My mother had a white rug that lay under the coffee table in the living room, and after months of washing, it began to tear around the edges. The tears quickly widened into holes, but still we kept the rug. To this day, I vividly remember my (and my mother's) embarrassment as I spread that holey rug in the middle of the living room time and time again.

I could go on. But the point is that way back then I was thankful for what I had, even though it wasn't much. (I had friends who had less.) Now I wouldn't dream of living in any domicile that had worn carpet or too many nail holes in the wall--let alone a mobile home with a mouse. Recalling my childhood thankfulness last week was quite humbling, considering that I now own a new car and live in a gorgeous third-story apartment with bay windows and granite countertops. True, I still struggle to find happiness and fulfillment in my day-to-day life--despite the medication, depression still visits occasionally--but I can still be thankful for what I have: a wonderful husband, a baby on the way, a beautiful home, food to eat and clothes to wear.

And I am. Very much.

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. Thanks for reading.

The Center of the Known Universe

November 23, 2009

My husband's arm is heavy against my ribs as he cuddles me in bed. I stroke his face and we touch noses. My long-haired Siamese, Ling, sensing that I'm awake and cuddling without her, jumps onto the bed and stands at my shoulder. My husband's orange tabby, Abby, not to be left out, leaps onto my legs and stares at me pitifully with a face full of longing. And then baby William awakes within my womb and begins to flail his tiny arms and legs against my belly.

Suddenly, a feeling overwhelms me...the feeling that everyone is vying for my attention, competing for what little I have to give...a feeling I thought was weeks away. And it terrifies me. I freak out and elbow away the cats.

Where am I in all of this? My body is not my own. I have desires, but not the energy to carry them out. I look at the hair piling up on the bathroom floor and think, "I should sweep that," and then I don't. I want my job back; I want to work on my Master's degree...not to be known merely as "the incubator." I want to feel useful, liberated. But I'm stuck, trapped in place by others' needs.

Please, dear readers, take my confession with a grain of salt. I love my baby, and being needed by others is rewarding in its own way. This is just one of the many emotions that I face as motherhood draws near. It's a complicated time. I will go to school and work again, but those prospects are months away. In the meantime, I must put my life on hold and hope that my dreams don't slip away in the process. It's not an easy thing to do.

Advice for New Bloggers

November 18, 2009

No offense to anyone in particular; just had to get this out of my system.

1. You can't gain 30+ followers after publishing your first post.

Attracting followers takes time. Most readers want to see you well established before they commit to following. Many new bloggers abandon their blogs after the first few posts or run out of quality material. If you're serious about blogging, stick with it. Followers will come, but weeks may pass before you see decent numbers.

2. Don't fall for the "I'll follow you if you follow me" trap.

I can almost guarantee that these types of followers aren't reading your blog (which means they won't be leaving comments, either). They are simply using you to try to illegitimately boost their standing within the blogging community. News flash: it never works. Plus, your dashboard will end up cluttered with bad blogs that you'll never read...and the moment you drop them, they'll drop you!

3. Feel free to advertise your blog, but don't beg for readers.

Begging just makes you look desperate and immature, and is usually taken as a sign that the blog's content is sub par. Good writers don't need to beg.

4. Don't insult your target audience.

Seems like a no-brainer, but I've run into more than one blogger who did this routinely, and had few to no followers to show for it. Telling your readers that they're wrong or stupid only (surprise!) alienates them. People read blogs to be informed, entertained, or inspired--not to be lectured or ridiculed.

5. Paragraph spacing, length, grammar, spelling, punctuation, font color, layout and blog design count almost as much as content.

A black background with neon green font may look cool to you, but it's murder on the eyes. (Several fellow bloggers have admitted to me that they refuse to follow any blogs published on a black background, no matter how stellar the content.) Same goes for pastel fonts on a white background, blogs written in size 6 Times New Roman, or huge blocks of text that go on forever. Posts without punctuation, however, are the worst offenders in my book. A period indicates that a sentence (or thought) has ended. If your sentences never end, I cannot process the information--nor will I attempt to. If you want to be a writer, bring something of the craft to the table.

6. Shakespeare hates your emo poems, and so do I.

Yes, we all get it: your life is circling the yawning abyss of angst and darkness. But people can only read so much badly constructed verse about the waves of isolation sweeping over your soul before they want to gouge their eyes out with a shrimp fork. Vary it up once in a while with a fresh perspective or a different topic. Use allegories or metaphors. Better yet, study up on the craft of poetry. A creative rhythm or rhyme scheme, a clever use of vocabulary, or a profound insight can suck me in like a Hoover upright. Otherwise, I'm not interested.

7. Post regularly, but not obsessively.

It's true: the more often you publish, the more often your blog will come up when readers click the "Next Blog" button on the Blogger toolbar. But publishing five times a day isn't going to help you gather followers any faster. In fact, it may actually drive followers away! Many readers follow several blogs at once, and they don't have time to read a blog that features several posts a day. Plus, in my experience, obsessive bloggers tend to quickly run out of quality material, ramble, or publish posts that are too short and utterly meaningless. Quality always trumps quantity in the quest for followers.

8. To gain followers, become a good follower.

Posting sincere comments on other writers' blogs often leads readers to your blog. The key word here is "sincere." Don't use another's comment box simply as advertising space for your own work. Instead, provide positive feedback on what that blogger has written. Doing so will earn you the respect of other bloggers and increase your exposure within the community. In time, fellow bloggers may begin promoting your blog of their own volition.

Keep up the good writing!

Slow Day

Yes, today is a slow day. Not that other days haven't been slow, especially since my pregnancy weighs increasingly heavier on me as each day passes. Slugs probably crawl farther in one day than I have lately. But slugs don't have pelvic bones separating under the weight of their unborn. Can you say, "Ouch"?

I dread getting out of bed in the morning because of stiff body parts that have to move and a bladder that will probably need to be emptied three times in a row before the urge to urinate disappears...if it does so at all.

Also, getting out of bed means the first thing I'll see is my enviable cankles and sausage feet. How uplifting!

My husband is currently sleeping. He reported to his ship this morning, then came home and puked his guts out. Poor guy. Not a great way to start the day.

I've used up almost all of my jewelry-making supplies, so I'm waiting for more to come in the mail. Considering they're being delivered by UPS Ground, there's no telling when they'll arrive. In the meantime, I'm trying to write out thank-you cards for all the people who brought gifts to my baby shower...two weeks ago. I can usually get through 3 or 4 cards before I feel mentally drained and have to stop. I suppose I'll finish them sometime before my unborn son graduates from college.

I'm hoping to leave the apartment sometime today to visit Babies R' Us. I still have a car seat to purchase. I'm feeling a bit anxious to set up the nursery and procure the last of the baby necessities because I feel the birth drawing near. It may not happen this month (God forbid!), but I doubt I will reach my due date in mid January. My husband is obviously nervous about it. He has banned me from uttering the word "contraction" within his hearing.

I suppose I should really start packing that hospital bag...just in case.

Obsession (or Distraction)

November 14, 2009

I know I've mentioned my new obsession of making jewelry a couple of times, so I thought I would post a few photos of my work. I love this hobby because it distracts me from pressing thoughts, provides a creative outlet, and boots my self esteem whenever I sell a piece...all of which is very good for me.

I also thought that you, my dear readers, could use some distraction as well from my weighty writing.

The "Wintergreen" Set

The "Sweet" Set

Necklace to the "Old Lace" Set

Earrings to the "Elegance" Set

The "Classy" Set

The "Black & White" Set

Thanks for reading!

A Fine, A Private Place

November 8, 2009

Home. Home for me right now is Newport News, VA, in a beautiful third-story apartment with granite counter tops and hardly any furniture. Hoping to rectify the furniture situation soon. In the meantime, I'm glad to be here. My soul is no longer out wandering the earth without me.

I'm not feeling quite as hopeless as I did last week. I just get weary of people very easily at times, and visiting family doesn't always conjure up glowing memories of my past life with them. I love my family and often miss them, but their lives have always seemed chronically dramatic. Not Jerry Springer dramatic, mind brother only has one baby's momma, and that's his wife...but dramatic enough to make me grind my teeth on occasion. I also feel guilty whenever I visit because I think I don't get to spend enough time with everyone. (How's that for mixed emotions?)

However, I'm glad to be back in my private place, both inner and outer. As my pregnancy has worn on, I've become quieter and more pensive. Maybe it's the hormones. Or maybe it's my brain's way of trying to grasp the enormity of my impending motherhood. I laid in bed early this morning and thought to myself, "What do I do with a newborn baby?" He'll be so delicate, too helpless to even lift his own head. Do I just hold him all day? Watch him sleep? Or more: will I enter this massive transition in my life with calm patience, or go around tearing at my hair?

Or both?

Seriously, I could care less about BPA in plastic bottles right now or questionable chemicals in the baby's bedding. I have more pressing concerns on my mind equal to the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. (So far, the answers appear to be about as illuminating as 42.)

The problem is, weighty tomes equal to the size and volume of those read in college history courses have been published on the subject of childbirth and motherhood, and yet not one of them can tell me anything concrete about my child. Sure, he'll need his diaper changed often and need to eat about every 2 to 3 hours, but no book can tell me how often he'll cry, or if he'll experience colic, or how easily he'll learn to sleep through the night, or anything else that depends on the unique genetics and individual personality of the baby. Essentially, sometime after the delivery, a nurse will hand me my son--a precious, fragile, and totally dependent life--and say, "Just do your best until you figure it out."

And they call it a bundle of joy.


November 4, 2009

I must really despise Tennessee. Every time I come here to visit my family, I end up depressed. Thankfully, today is the last day of our visit. I can't wait to get back to our new home in Virginia.

I love my family and enjoy seeing intimate friends, but every time I come out here, I realize just how much farther I've grown from the people I know. And then I realize that I was never "here" to begin with. All my efforts in high school and college were strategically calculated to eventually take me far away from this place--or at least to encourage others to get out. A weak soul could die in a place like this, and often does. There's little here but abandoned dreams.

I feel so detached, like my real self is out hovering over a lake somewhere while my body sits dumb and empty like a dry husk. What can I say about myself? That the thought of becoming a mother in the next two months scares the hell out of me? That I feel alone in every thought and emotion? That the sight of my husband scarfing a half-dozen fun-sized Kit Kat bars in one sitting sickens and angers me? In the time I've gained 20 pounds, he's gained 30. I want to scream and tear my hair out, fall to the floor and implore him to not take another bite.

I laid in bed early this morning and wept--wept because I felt trapped between my husband and my unborn son. One drains me physically while the other takes from me emotionally, and no pause button exists for me on the remote control of life. So I just sink like a stone in a silent ocean, as far as I can get into the enclosed, secret places of my being, and shut myself in. I just want to go back to Virginia and absorb my mind in making jewelry again, finding comfort in the work of my hands and the brilliant colors of those small, glass beads.

I recently sold three pieces, so I have money again for new materials--a particularly bright spot in the week for me.

Bending Over is Hard to Do, etc.

October 25, 2009

Have I told you lately how much I love you, dear readers? After so many long absences, you're still here! Thank you!

Yes, nearly six weeks have passed since my last post, but I have a very good excuse. A few days ago, my husband and I moved out of state. After months of waiting for his military orders, we finally received them about three weeks ago. My new home? Newport News, VA, about a seven hour drive from the military base in Charleston, SC. So in less than two weeks, I went to my last doctors' appointments, resigned from my beloved tutoring job, and helped my husband pack all of our possessions, clean the house, and shop for an apartment in VA--all while entering the third trimester of my pregnancy.

Did I really sign up for this? Really?

Needless to say, it's been a tough go. On the second day of apartment shopping, I ended up on my hands and knees barking up my stomach onto the beautifully manicured lawn of the Newport News Hilton Garden Inn where we were staying. Not a good day for me.

Fortunately, the rest of the move went smoothly enough, but I'm beginning to slow down even more than usual. Carrying around an extra 20 lbs. on my small frame isn't easy. I can barely bend down far enough to put on my socks, let alone see my feet when standing. My belly grows by the day now. I waddle everywhere I go. And my energy (as well as my ability to think clearly) comes and goes in alarming ways.

However, my biggest problem lately has been abdominal cramps. Too much walking or bending causes sudden dull pains to shoot through my abdomen, so I've been trying to rest whenever possible. I don't want to end up with a newborn in my arms before Thanksgiving. All I have in the nursery right now is a changing table and a bouncy seat!

Despite everything, though, I'm happier than I've been in a long while. Right now, my husband and I have a beautiful apartment in a quiet community where the leaves are just turning brilliant in the cool fall weather. I feel a bit more settled into my pregnancy despite occasional discomforts. And I'm sure the double dose of Prozac isn't hurting either. :-)

Next on the list: visit family in TN, inform my health insurance provider of my new address, procure a new OB, sign up for birthing classes, and write a birth plan. Hopefully, I'll find some time for blogging as well.

My Apologies

September 19, 2009

Please forgive me, dear readers, for my three week absence. The gray days sort of took over, and I got lost in the fog. Trying to organize my thoughts into something coherent seemed impossible and overwhelming. So I took a mental vacation. I'm not sure if I'm completely back, but I thought I would at least stop in and give you a little something from me.

Outside of my depression, life hasn't been too bad. I finally got over the daily puke-o'-rama and started working at my tutoring job again, which I love. I tutor at a military college, so most of my clients are young, polite, physically fit men. What red-blooded woman wouldn't love that? I've also taken up a new (and expensive) hobby of making jewelry. It's about the only activity that completely takes my mind off of my stress. However, I need to start selling some of my pieces if I hope to continue. Right now, I'm going broke trying to buy more beads.

I also found out at my big ultrasound that I'm having a boy! My husband and I are ecstatic. We're naming him after his grandfather, my husband's father, who passed away last year.

Inside my depression, life hasn't been so pretty. For the past three weeks, I've felt exhausted all the way down into my soul. Getting out of bed at any hour has been a struggle. I nearly cried myself to sleep more than once recently, and yesterday I was absolutely consumed by the thought that my baby was going to die. Fortunately, I also saw my psychiatrist yesterday, who said we should double my medication. I don't mind. Whatever helps. I can't function when I'm this far into the dark. Today, though, the clouds seem to be lifting.

Thanks for reading and understanding. I hope to be back again very soon.

Gray Days

August 19, 2009

Last week marked the one-year anniversary of my father-in-law's tragic death. I had planned to write a post in honor of his memory, but alas! I failed.

Today marks week 19 in my pregnancy. I was planning on writing about that, too, but I don't think I will.

I'm trapped within a series of gray days. I'm not sad or wandering around in the dark, but I feel...what's the modern term?..."meh." I haven't touched my Japanese language program in days. Kitchen floors in mud huts are cleaner than mine is right now. Laundry is piling up in the closet. And I still have yet to work on finishing my novel.

My OB asked me two weeks ago to get a blood test to check my thyroid; I finally had it done yesterday.

This morning, I lay in bed and thought about why I might be feeling this way. I concluded that I feel like I have no control over anything. Right now, I'm waiting to hear whether or not I'll be tutoring again this fall. (The college where I work is having budgeting problems.) My schedule upon return--if I return--will determine whether I will be able to go to TN in September to visit my parents. I'm also waiting to hear whether we'll be moving in October or staying in SC until January, as well as waiting to hear where we will be moving when the time comes.

In the meantime, I'm still battling through this pregnancy. Last week, I came down with a 36-hour stomach virus. I puked so much that I nearly ended up going to the ER. Thankfully, the baby is ok. I feel the little one moving and kicking away every day now. (The six-inch bugger is strong!) However, I'm still struggling to gain weight. At almost halfway through my pregnancy, I have gained less than 10 pounds. I stepped on the scale this morning and discovered that I've actually lost two pounds in the past couple of weeks.

At the same time, I've been experiencing fairly strong heart palpitations. I stopped by my OB's office yesterday to ask if I should be concerned about them, and she wrote me a referral to see a cardiologist. I'm currently waiting by the phone to find out when my appointment is. (I'm also thanking God right now that I have amazing health insurance through the Navy.)

In short, I'm waiting to receive information on how...or when, or life is going to change. Until then, I'm just stuck in the endless gray fog of uncertainty, unable to move. Today I am a ship without a rudder, blown to and fro by the fickle winds of life, without a say in where I'm going. If it weren't for my doctors' appointments, I might not even know what day it is.

Stress sucks.

Week 18

August 13, 2009

In the past week, I have concluded that pregnancy is a miracle. It has to be, because there's simply no other way to describe it. At five and a half inches long, my baby has developed senses. He (or she) can hear my voice. The bones are beginning to harden, and the nerves are making their final inroads and connections throughout the body. It's literally the human form in perfect miniature. The remainder of the pregnancy is mostly for growth.

I also felt my baby move for the first time a couple of days ago. The experience was truly special...and a little sad. My husband will never feel another life moving and growing inside of him. I am in my own world.

I have also concluded this week that not all miracles are necessarily pleasant. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, at 18 weeks I'm STILL PUKING. Not everyday like I was a couple of weeks ago, but close enough. (I puked this morning, in fact. And yesterday. And the day before...) The congestion I've been fighting is also hanging on with a vise grip. I thought it was getting better until two nights ago, when a sudden coughing fit nearly caused my lungs to close up on me. I had to dig my inhaler out of mothballs to find relief.

While first-trimester woes continue to plague me, I'm now entertaining all the lovely ailments of the second trimester--mainly itchy skin and insomnia. I'm also convinced that the baby is nestled right on top of my pea-sized bladder. I'm making at least two trips per night to the bathroom, and I'm quickly working my way up to three. This could get ugly.

The good news? The baby is alive and well despite my barrage of meds, and I will find out its gender in about three weeks. My husband is coming with me to the big ultrasound, and we can't wait!

A Brother in the Band

August 10, 2009

Writing about my dad made me think more about about my family, which inevitably lead me to write about my brother, Andrew. I'm quite proud of him these days because he recently joined a band--not some silly garage band either, but one that actually has a manager and plays paid gigs around the country. He learned how to play bass at age 12 (without any sort of formal training!) and has since then dreamed of becoming a professional musician. After two years of waiting tables at a restaurant with his wife, he decided he'd had enough of watching his bass (and his dream) collect dust. So he put an ad on Craigslist expressing his desire to join a real band.

He received an email the next day requesting him to audition. He went, did his thing, and was made a member of the band on the spot. Now, at 20 years old, he's on the road doing what he loves most and having a blast.

In a way, I'm jealous. I think the kid has a magic wand up his sleeve. He's got a way of winning over people that would make Dr. Phil green with envy. He's insanely talented to boot, and he just barely graduated high school!

If you ever met my brother, you wouldn't believe we were related. He's about three inches taller and at least 50 pounds heavier than I am, with thick reddish-brown hair and a very pale complexion. Our personalities are just as different. I'm fairly cautious and reserved; Andrew acts on impulse and chatters almost non-stop. Growing up with him was...well, interesting to say the least.

Imagine this scenario: my parents--a meek father and a domineering mother--involved in ministry and constantly worrying about how others perceive them, and I--a quiet, obedient individual with near-OCD tendancies--welcoming into our family a fiery, ADHD redhead of perpetual noise and motion. Needless to say, our mother was soon beside herself.

We quickly dubbed my brother "Hurricane Andrew." One trip through the house, and Andrew left a path of destruction in his wake. Once he reached the age of two, my friends stopped coming over to my house to play with me. Andrew demanded constant attention. If I tried to lock him out of my room for a bit of privacy, he laid down in the hallway, put his mouth up to the bottom of the door, and loudly demanded that I either come out or let him in. When he became older, he discovered he had become strong enough to push (or kick) the door open in spite of locks. I clearly remember him bursting through my bedroom door early one Saturday morning, while I was in a dead sleep, to tell me about some cartoon that was on TV. The force of his entry splintered the door frame and sent a large chunk of it flying toward my head. Waking up to eye-poking projectiles in my own room is not my idea of fun.

That's really just the tip of the iceberg. Andrew always seemed to be getting into something as a child: urinating off of the front porch, punching his best friend between the eyes at school, cutting the corners off of MY school certificates of achievement, shooting his BB gun off of the roof, repeatedly flushing his underwear down the toilet, nearly setting our parents' bedroom on fire--the list is practically endless. I'd need a book to accurately paint the whole picture.

At the same time, my brother taught my family to laugh in ways we had never laughed before. I don't mean a chuckle here and there, either. I mean the kind of laughter that causes people to cry, and gasp, and beg for mercy. This happened most often around the dinner table when Andrew cracked a joke--he was brilliant at situational humor--or when I used my unique vocabulary to creatively recount his latest antic. I laughed so hard because of him once that I shot sweet iced tea out of my nose and into my dinner plate (thankfully, I had just emptied it). And to this day, my dad still laughingly recalls my description of Andrew's front-porch bathroom break: "...and suddenly, I heard this rustling in the grass..." I was only nine years old at the time, and gravely disturbed by my three-year-old brother's lack of propriety.

I'd like to say that I started out loving my brother when he first appeared on the scene, but that's not exactly true. OCD and ADHD rarely make good bedfellows. Yet over the years of having few people to depend on aside from each other, we developed a very special bond that I treasure. He's now out living his own life, successfully married, raising a beautiful daughter, and pursuing his dreams in his own special way. I have no doubt that when he leaves this world, he'll have crowds of people lined up around the block just to attend his funeral. That's just the way he is, and I'm proud to call him family. Way to go, Bro.

Family Therapy

August 7, 2009

It's amazing to me how the past can come back to haunt a person 5, 10, or even 15 years into the future. That's the situation I found myself in a couple of weeks ago, thinking about an incident from my childhood involving a man named Joe.

Joe was a missionary from Mexico, a rather rotund man in his late fifties with a large, graying mustache that curled up on the ends. As you may have remembered, my father pastored small churches for many years, so my family often hosted missionaries and evangelists in our home. Since Joe had received support from my hometown church long before my dad took over as pastor, he continued to make the annual trek across the U.S. in his tiny, battered camper to collect food and clothes for some of Mexico's poorest families. While in town, he stayed in the church's missionary quarters but came over nearly every evening to have dinner with my family.

One evening after dinner while watching TV, my mom and dad both stepped outside for a few minutes, leaving me and Joe alone. While they were gone, Joe called me over to where he was sitting. He then wrapped me in a tight hug that pressed me against him. While holding me like this, he fondled my chest and asked if I had missed him since his last visit. I don't remember my answer, but I was certainly freaked out. I was only around 11 at the time.

The next day, I told my parents what happened. A couple of days later, Joe was gone. He returned to town a year later, but he never stayed at our house and I never saw him again. However, my parents never told me what happened after that incident. Did they confront him? Did they tell others in the church? I never knew, and not knowing always bothered me.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided I had endured the silence long enough, so I called my dad and asked him what happened. Turns out my dad did confront Joe (albeit in his general roundabout fashion). Of course, time is the enemy of memory--he couldn't recall much about the conversation or what Joe's response had been. But what he did tell me was this: By the time Joe returned the next year, my dad was no longer pastoring the church, so Joe contacted the man who originally hosted him at the church--the church's previous pastor and my dad's good friend. The man had no room in his house for Joe, so he called my dad and asked if Joe could stay with us. My father flatly refused. When his friend asked why, my dad told him what Joe had done. A heated argument ensued. The man felt sure that some type of misunderstanding had occurred...and how dare my dad say such terrible things about a man he had known personally for so many years, let alone a missionary!

But my dad wouldn't budge, not even to save one of his only friendships. My dad told me that the conversation upset him so badly that he didn't sleep that night. But my dad was willing to do anything to keep Joe away from me. The sadness in my dad's voice as he told this story--sadness for what I had experienced--was heartbreaking.

I never knew.

Then my dad said something I had never heard him say before. He said I had endured so many terrible things, and he was proud of the way I had risen above them all and made something of myself. At that moment, a new love for my dad flooded my heart, and a great darkness caused by years of doubt and anger was lifted from my mind. It was the best therapy I had ever received.

Some people might criticize my dad for what he did--namely, letting Joe go. Some parents would have called the police or thrown punches or had Joe run out of town. But they don't know what it was like for my father, being such a meek individual, pastoring a small-town church where his extended family comprised half the congregation. My dad handled the situation in the only way he knew how, and--knowing my dad the way I do--that's good enough for me. Thanks, Dad.


August 4, 2009

As of today, I've been married for two years. Not a long time, I know. But I love to reflect on my life with my husband at special times like this. You see, we may have only been married for two years, but we've known each other for nearly nine. I met my husband when he was only 15; I was 17. And our story--I think--is rather unique.

We met at church and was quickly thrown together by a very cliquish youth group. The guys ran around showing off their tans and football prowess, while the girls talked non-stop about getting manicures and shopping at American Eagle. Being the fashion pariah of the bookworm world that I was--let alone of the preppy beachcomber-wannabe set--I was bored out of my mind at every youth service. And since my husband cared neither for tans nor football, we eventually gravitated toward each other. (He was also wickedly intelligent, which I found incredibly attractive. At 15, he ran the sound equipment for the church's adult services and youth services. He was more skilled at it than adults twice his age.)

We started a friendship that lasted for three years. I soon fell in love with him, but my husband proved to be a tougher nut to crack. At any mention of my feelings, he would avoid me--sometimes for weeks. The turning point came when an old boyfriend (whom I liked) came back into my life with marriage on his mind. Although I ended up telling my ex that I couldn't be with him because I was in love with somebody else, the incident proved to be just the wake-up call my husband needed. Two months later, we officially became a couple.

We dated for over three years, and in that time our relationship went though the fire. Eight months after finally snagging the man of my dreams, I said goodbye to him and boarded a plane to Japan to spend a year in a study abroad program. About a month after I returned, his father suffered a brain aneurysm that rendered him disabled for three years. (A man who had worked for years as a computer programmer now could not drive his own car.) Right as we began planning our wedding, our church split. We had to ask a minister from another denomination to perform the ceremony almost at the last minute. In order to help pay for the wedding, my husband worked two retail jobs for a while--one during the day, the other at night. He survived on caffeine pills and soda. I also took a retail job, despite just having earned my college degree, because I couldn't find any other work. By the time we were finally wed, we were both physically and emotionally drained. Our ages at the time of marriage: 21 and 24.

The fun didn't stop there. We had no money, so we took up residence with his parents. Two months after our wedding, my husband joined the Navy. Four months later, he left for boot camp. After graduating, he flew home, packed up our stuff, and we moved 800 miles away from our families. The week before the move, I came down with a severe upper respiratory infection. I was terribly sick for over a month. But the toughest ordeal was yet to come: a year ago this August, a major stroke took my father-in-law's life. Thankfully, we were able to spend his last two days with him and attend his funeral.

This is not what I intended to write. Last night, I bought my husband an anniversary card talking about how I remember our first kiss, the first time we held hands, etc. I do amazing detail. That's what I set out to write, because when I think about all the hardships we have endured together, that's what I recall--the joys of our life together. However, I suppose it's never too late to recount some joys.

First time we held hands: We were watching the first Lord of the Rings movie in theaters. The big flaming Eye of Sauron freaked me out.

First "I love you": December 31, 2003. He gave me a romantic greeting card at a New Year's party I was hosting for my friends. Inside the card he had written "This card pretty much says it all, except 'I love you.'" The gesture was extra special because he never wrote notes. Ever.

First kiss: January 4, 2004. We were standing in his driveway at night in the rain. That was the night we officially started dating.

First time he made me feel proud: I received one of two highly competitive scholarships at the start of my senior year in college. We attended a banquet where the winners were to be announced. He told me not to get my hopes up. After my name was called, he said he wouldn't doubt my abilities again.

Wedding day: August 4, 2007. My husband forgot to bring the marriage license to the ceremony. It was eventually located in his bedroom at the bottom of his laundry basket. (Don't ask.) A good time was had by all.

Last photograph: You're looking at it. (Yes, the skinny chic with the non-existent butt is me. That handsome fellow I'm hugging is my husband. Now you know what I look like.) The picture was taken two weeks ago when we visited Middleton Place Plantation in Charleston, SC. If you've never been, it's a gorgeous place. If you go, take bug repellent.

Thanks for reading.

Pregnancy Rules for Men

August 3, 2009

I thought this would be fun and entertaining to write.

Rule 1: Personal hygiene is now more important than when we were dating. Snogging me with your dragon breath is all fun and games until somebody (i.e. me) ends up making obeisance before the porcelain throne. Same goes for hugging me after sweating at work for 12 hours.

Rule 2: Due to constant fluctuations in hormone levels, my body may have trouble responding in bed. Frantically "priming the pump" is not the answer. Doing so will only make me sore in one of the few places that so far doesn't ache when I sit down. If it's not happening, it's not happening. Just carry on as usual.

Rule 3: I reserve the right to call upon your services as an exterminator at any time. Pregnancy has increased my squeamishness toward creepy-crawlies. With a quarter of my body weight now jutting out in front of me, my center of balance has changed, making me slow and clumsy. Michael Moore could probably outrun me at this point. So what chance do I stand against something with six or more legs? None. Chances are that it will get away, leaving me to wonder when and where it will surprise me next. Telling me to kill it myself in order to "toughen me up" is not amusing. I'm already dealing with the trials and tribulations of bearing your love child. That alone makes me tougher than a coffin nail.

Rule 4: Please flush the toilet regularly. You never know when I'll have to stick my face in it.

Rule 5: Household responsibilities may be added to your list of chores with little or no advance notice. Sorry, but with my bloodhound nose and weak stomach, simple tasks like loading the dishwasher or handling dirty clothes could be considered hazardous to my equilibrium.

Rule 6: Making cute comments about the baby increases your sexiness exponentially. It reminds me that I made the right decision by marrying you, which helps when I'm feeling monstrous.

Rule 7: I need your love and understanding now more than ever. For an explanation, see rules 1 through 5.

Rule 8: Always remember that I love you more than anything or anyone else on this planet. Otherwise, I wouldn't be having your baby.

Week 16

August 1, 2009

I'm starting to look voluptuous. Really, really voluptuous. I walked past a reflective surface last night and gasped. My belly has drawn nearly even with my boobs, and I have the kind of cleavage I only dreamed about having when I was 13 and still painfully flat-chested. The only thing that has yet to make an appearance is my butt, which stubbornly refuses to grow with the rest of me. Keeping my pants up is often a challenge as my waistline expands to dimensions hitherto unknown.

At least my underwear still fit. (I know. TMI, right?)

In spite of everything, though, I think I look pretty good--once I'm cleaned up and have my earrings in, of course.

Oh, yeah. Last week when I became ungodly sick, it seems I contracted some sort of sinus-related viral infection. Five steps out of bed, and I'm coughing like an old man. (So much for being voluptuous.) Thankfully, I'm feeling better now in spite of everything. Still sleeping quite a bit, but I'm getting to where I can function again. I actually managed to cook dinner last night. Practically a miracle!

Now I'm just waiting for my next OB appointment on Monday. I haven't seen (or heard) my baby for a whole month, and I'm anxious to see if it is OK after all the meds I have taken to keep me from drowning in my own mucus. Also, my doctor is going to submit the paperwork for the BIG ultrasound that will be done at the end of the month to determine the baby's gender. For the past three weeks, my husband has asked every other day when we will go "look for penises." Too cute! I told him it would be a little disturbing if we found more than one penis on the same baby. A friend suggested that a boy might be happy to have more than one. Maybe so, but they would make changing his diapers twice as dangerous!

Carpe Noctem

July 31, 2009

Midnight shift. That's what my husband is doing this week in the Navy. He goes to work around 7 p.m., comes home around 8 a.m., then spends most of his time at home sleeping. Wouldn't you? I would. I did a brief stint in the Army after I graduated from high school, and I got a taste of the midnight training shift myself. It blows monkey chunks. (Obviously, things didn't work out for me in the Army.) But yesterday, a slight reprieve. He woke up early and I felt human, so we went out to eat before his shift.

I don't mind the long hours alone too terribly. I can usually find something to keep me amused. I can stream Netflix movies to my Xbox, read a book, or study Japanese. Oh, yeah. I recently purchased the Rosetta Stone Japanese language program, and it rocks! It's a great thing to do when I'm stuck on the couch. And, of course, if all else fails, there's always housework. (Today, for instance, I need to buy groceries--before we run out of food and starve.)

It's going to bed at night that's the hard part. Not that the bed is empty, but the house is. Empty and quiet. When I go to bed, I have to check the locks and turn out the lights. Walking through the empty house when it's dark outside can be a little creepy. (Welcome to the Navy.) Of course, the real bogeymen are all in my head.

Last night, when I laid down to go to sleep, a strange and wonderful thing: I found a sweet scent on my pillow, as if an angel had touched it. The smell was delicious. I don't think I have anything like it in the house. I buried my nose in it and drifted off to sleep. This morning, when I woke up, I couldn't find it again. I had smothered it in the night with my stink. (With my heightened sense of smell, sniffing around anything these days can be dangerous--for my stomach, anyway.)

Oh, sweet scent, where did you go? Will you return again someday?

Some Comfort

July 26, 2009

After 10 weeks of puking nearly every day, I was finally getting used to it. The sickness had finally reached the point of becoming tolerable. I'd roll out of bed, spend five minutes in the bathroom, then go to the kitchen for breakfast and get on with the rest of my day. I wasn't exactly jumping through hoops, but at least I could function well enough to wash my clothes and visit the grocery store occasionally.

That is, until recently.

A couple of days ago, I started feeling strange--fatigued, light-headed, almost shaky. I'd eat but feel little better. I went to bed with headaches. Then last night, I became sick to my stomach again. This time, the vomit scratched my throat--so badly that I couldn't sleep for hours. I felt so miserable, I thought about dying again.

This morning, in desperation, I pulled my Bible down from my bookshelf and read a familiar, well-loved passage: Psalm 139. I read it often as a teenager when I was trying to cope with some deep emotional trauma that had occurred in my childhood. That passage literally saved my life back then. It gave me hope when nothing else could. Today, I zeroed in on the second half of the last verse: "lead me in the way everlasting." I could really use some "everlasting" right now.

Reading the Bible isn't very popular today. Many scoff at having any kind of religious faith; they say the stories in the Bible are nothing more than fairy tales. Well, so what if they are? Even fairy tales have their use. Red Riding Hood warns children not to talk to strangers. The Three Little Pigs shows the importance of preparedness. The Frog Prince teaches the values of acceptance and gratitude. To be honest, I don't really care if Moses never parted the Red Sea or if Noah's ark actually refers to a dingy Noah built to save his sheep from drowning. I still find more hope and peace in the pages of scripture than I've ever found in any textbook or great work of literature.

Am I delusional--as Richard Dawkins claims--for believing in God? Maybe. But all of mankind is delusional in some way: we just choose our fantasies. Some women believe that marriage magically changes irresponsible men into responsible ones (they have yet to experience marriage). Others believe that a lifetime of hard work will pay off financially in the end (it doesn't always). Still others claim that, with the right parenting, they can groom their children into Harvard grads (until the children turn 13 and exhibit a little thing known as "free will").

And when life falls apart at the seams, we all--even Richard Dawkins--turn to something for comfort: family, friends, alcohol, sex, drugs, pills, music...the list is endless. I turn to my faith. After years of struggling against the pain and darkness of life, I can honestly say that my faith has never failed me. It has, at times, wavered and grown dim, but it has never failed. If that makes me delusional or ignorant, so be it. I'm no more delusional or ignorant than anybody else on this planet.

Karl Marx once said that "religion is the opiate of the people." That may very well be true. But worse things than opium exist in this world.

Week 15

July 20, 2009

I'm still puking. Fortunately, the nausea is now mostly confined to mornings and not nearly so debilitating. Yesterday, I wrote a review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for my mother-in-law's wonderful book blog. (You can read it at I also said "screw it all" and went fishing with my husband on the beach. The evening was gorgeous beyond belief, and I had a blast--despite the aching joints in my backside.

I swear, my spine is gradually coming unglued vertebrae by vertebrae. Thank you, Relaxin.

My areolas are also gradually darkening, turning from light pink to soft brown. They will never go back to being pink again, even after I give birth. And even though I like the change, I also realize that I will forever be physically marked as a mother. The thought is sometimes distressing.

Sometimes, I want my pink nipples back. And my small, size B breasts. (Shh! Don't tell my husband.)

What I really can't stand is all the women who keep telling me that the discomfort of pregnancy is worth the trouble to have a baby. I know that. Otherwise, I wouldn't continue to put up with it. Sometimes the only thing that keeps me sane (other than the Prozac) is imagining the smiling face of my precious little boy or girl.

At my last OB visit, I saw my baby on the ultrasound. At twelve weeks, it appeared almost fully formed with flailing arms and legs. Occasionally, I take the picture out of my purse and look at the tiny gray body, wondering if the legs are really as long as I think they are, or what he (or she) will look like next time. In those moments, I find the determination to push through to the end.

You must understand: I'm not much for nostalgia or romanticism. I'm more of a realist, and I'm happier for it. But despite my rather harsh view the present, I know I will love my baby. I love it even now. I just don't love being pregnant. Is that so wrong?

A Light in the Darkness

July 16, 2009

Someone turned on a light. At least, that's how it feels today. About a week ago, at my wits' end, I called my psychiatrist and told him how bad I was feeling. He immediately called in a prescription for me, and I started taking it the next day. I didn't know 10 mg of Prozac could make such a difference in such a short time. My outlook is definitely brighter. I haven't wished myself dead in the past few days. Of course, the medication hasn't miraculously erased all of my stress. That's still there, and I still have to deal with it. But at least I can deal with it now without wanting to tear out my hair and run away screaming.

You have to know what a huge change in perspective this is for me. For a long time, I believed that people only took pills to avoid dealing with their own problems or emotions. I avoided getting help when I needed it as a teenager because my parents discouraged secular counseling. But something changed in me during my senior year of college, and I realized that if I didn't get help, I would end up hurting myself or someone else. I will be a mother in a few months, and I want to love and enjoy my baby. I am much happier and more confident getting the help that I need.

And I didn't mean to imply that my husband didn't care about my mental state. He cares. He just doesn't know what to do about it. He believes he should be able to do something special to help me on his own, and he can't--at least nothing more than he already does. Between my pregnancy and his very demanding training, he has more on his plate than he can probably handle at one time. I actually feel sorry for the guy. He still isn't thrilled about me taking medication, but I think he'd rather see me smile when he comes home from work.

Through the Crack in the Door

July 8, 2009

I'm back. I'm not sure why. These past few weeks have been hell. After throwing up seemingly countless pills and home remedies for nausea, I finally found something that at least keeps the sickness at bay. Unfortunately, I still have very little appetite. I struggle to force food down my throat. It's a wonder my baby is still living.

A couple of mornings ago, I woke up so weak that my whole body felt like tissue paper. I felt like I could have crumpled or floated away on a stiff breeze. If only I could have.

I keep fantasizing about my own death. I was so sick recently that I wished I would pass out face-down in the toilet and drown. I don't know how people with cancer and other hideously painful diseases continue to live. If it were me, I'd probably eat a gun.

This is why I haven't written in weeks. It has all been too much to express.

I visited my psychiatrist a couple of weeks ago, when I wasn't quite this far into the dark. He told me he wanted to put me on Prozac right away. My husband became upset when I told him the news. He thought the shrink should have at least offered me some alternatives to medication. He asked me what I thought of going on medication, and I didn't have an opinion. I said I just wanted to feel better.

What would my husband know about it, anyway? I tell him about wanting to drown in the toilet, and he doesn't seem to take it seriously enough. I probably said more to my psychiatrist in that 30 minute session than I had said to my husband all that week. His mind is so wrapped up in that damn Navy training that he might not notice if his hair were on fire. It also doesn't help that I see him less than two hours a day. And half the time he falls asleep during one of those.

I'll be glad when this shit is over.

The Darkness Cometh

May 29, 2009

More than a week has passed since I last wrote. My state, both physical and mental, seems to deteriorate by the day. This has been my life everyday for the past ten days or so:

1. Get up around 10:30 a.m. My husband has already left for training hours before. I could get up with him, but I've discovered that my stomach doesn't bother me as long as I sleep.

2. Eat a light breakfast around 11 a.m. and pray I keep it down. I adjourn to the couch in the living room to rest while my breakfast settles.

3. Eat lunch around 12 p.m. and snack at 2 p.m. I have to eat this often to stave off sharp hunger pains that somehow contribute to my nausea.

4. My stomach has usually settled enough by this time so I can take a shower.

5. I then try to accomplish something in the afternoon--change the sheets on our bed, vacuum, clean the kitchen...something. I usually have just enough energy to do one thing.

6. By 4 p.m., I'm back on the couch. I stay there until 6 p.m., then get up to cook dinner. This is a challenge.

7. My husband arrives home around 7:30 p.m. We watch a show while we eat dinner.

8. By 9 p.m., my husband is ready for bed. He convinces me to tag along. He doesn't like going to bed alone.

9. I usually fall asleep by 10:30 p.m., which means I will sleep about 12 hours.

On any given day like this, the only person I see or talk to is my husband. As appalling as I find this routine, any deviation from it at all is nearly unthinkable. Phone calls, trips to the grocery store, keeping appointments--even taking short walks around the block--all require effort beyond my current capability. Needless to say, I'm extremely frustrated. I've been so frustrated, in fact, that I haven't visited any of my regular websites in several days...or written anything for that matter. Bear with me. The darkness has descended again.

As a Dog

May 21, 2009

I haven't posted anything in three days because I've been sick. Two days ago, I came down with a terrible migraine. Of course, because I'm pregnant, I couldn't take anything for it. So I laid in the floor for a couple of hours, holding a damp towel against my head in an attempt to keep my brains from slithering out through my temples. My head hurt most of the day and night, and I ended up tossing my dinner in the bathroom.

By the next day, I was completely wiped out. My head had finally stopped hurting, but my stomach still felt queasy. I slept until noon, and then spent the whole afternoon and most of the evening in zombie mode.

Today, my stomach still hurts. I can hardly eat, and everything I do eat manages to give me gas, which just makes me even more miserable. I've probably only gained three pounds in the past three weeks, but I feel like I've gained 20. I feel monstrous. I can hardly bend over without feeling sick or getting cramps. My allergies have started going nuts, and I can't take a single &*%damn pill for that, either. To top it all off, I haven't had sex with my husband in over a week.

Needless to say, I'm starting to crack. I just can't go on like this for another seven months. I'm already having trouble getting comfortable in bed at night. What am I going to do when my belly is poking out halfway to my knees? My husband might have to hide the guns.


May 18, 2009

It's Monday, and my husband is back to training for the week. Another day alone for me.

I'm not a very popular person, so people don't usually stop by to visit when I'm alone. Aside from being unable to connect well with others, I can be a bit offensive. I have what you might call "unpopular opinions" and ways of debating them that drive most people insane. For instance, I had this conversation with a coworker:

Woman: "I think outlawing abortion would be wrong. I don't think its right to tell women what to do with their bodies."

Me: "But the law already tells people what to do with their bodies. Running around nude in public, taking drugs, and committing suicide are all things you can do with your body, yet they are illegal. You're not even allowed to drive a car without wearing a seat belt. Banning abortion wouldn't be any different."

Needless to say, she wasn't thrilled by my comeback. (Actually, I don't think abortion should be outlawed. Some women need it for medical reasons. I just like to pick apart the supporting logic.)

Nothing today is more volatile, though, than the subject of gay marriage. Say anything against gay marriage and you might end up Miss California. The funny thing is, I actually agree with people on both sides of the issue. Under the U.S. Constitution, gays should have the right to marry, and the government should protect the speech of those who disagree with gay marriage. You can imagine the type of response this statement draws from both sides of the line, especially from those who view any type of disagreement as "hate speech."

Of course, people might not consider me offensive if they weren't so easily offended. You can hardly have a civil public debate these days without someone getting his panties in a twist. Really, it scares the crap out of me. I don't mind being friendless, but I do mind raising my children in a police state.

What Dreams May Come

May 15, 2009

I've heard that pregnancy can cause weird dreams, but some of the ones I've had lately have been downright bizarre. Early this morning, I dreamed that Afghanistan nuked Washington, D.C., instantly vaporizing the President, the cabinet members, and all the members of Congress (a pretty amazing feat considering that Afghanistan doesn't possess nuclear technology in real life). For some reason, I felt compelled to assemble a new team of leaders for the U.S., who looked like Hollywood actors and quickly decided we should nuke the Afghanis in return. They also ordered the Navy into the Arabian Sea to supervise the bombing. Again for reasons unknown, I accompanied the Navy.

However, a surprise awaited us in the Arabian Sea. The Afghanis had already bombed themselves and completely destroyed their country in anticipation of U.S. vengeance. All that remained of the country was several large life rafts full of Afghani refugees, who begged for rescue and shelter within the U.S.

Soon after came an argument between me and a Navy sailor who was being a major jerk. He made this speech about how he had survived so many wars because he looks out for himself first and so on. I'm sure I called him a coward and spewed some other equally harsh insults.

At least this dream was better than the one I had about a week before I found out I was pregnant. I dreamed I gave birth to a baby boy so hideous, I couldn't stand to look at him. In fact, looking at his monstrous face made me angry, and I tried to kill him. My husband had to snatch him away to stop me from bashing the baby's head in. That dream left me in a cold sweat.

The rest of the pregnancy seems to be going well. I spent a few days nauseous beyond belief, but that seems to have subsided. Now I get sharp hunger pains around meal times; they come on suddenly and seem to drain all my energy. I've definitely had to step up my calorie intake over the past week. I've added applesauce, cottage cheese, and salads to most of my meals as fillers (I tend to be a "one-dish wonder" cook). I'm also starting to put on weight. In a couple of weeks, I'm going to have to buy new clothes. What's growing in there?

The best thing about pregnancy, however, is how I feel. Although I've had two small episodes of panic since the news, I haven't experienced that all-consuming darkness that I was fighting before. I think the pregnancy hormones have somehow evened me out. Life, despite the crazy dreams, is surprisingly brighter these days.

Oh, Husband!

May 14, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I went hiking in Congaree National Park, a protected swamp near Columbia, SC.

Last weekend, we took some kayaks back to Congaree and paddled the river that runs through the park. The scenery was more beautiful along the river than on the park trails, but because my digital camera would never have survived all the water I splashed into the boat, I don't have any pictures of our kayaking trip.

As I watched my husband paddling ahead of me, ducking under trees that had fallen across the river and skirting logs barely submerged in the coffee-colored water, I realized I probably wouldn't do this sort of thing without him. In fact, I know I wouldn't. If there's anything I can't stand, it's creepy-crawly creatures, and Congaree is full of them. Cottonmouths and Water Moccasins glided through the water between banks, and spiders waited in webs spun out over the river. I nearly threw myself in the muddy water desperately trying to kill an enormous spider that had landed on the back of my kayak and was crawling toward me. No way could I have handled being on that river alone!

However, I would have missed out on all that beautiful scenery had I stayed home. That thought made me realize just how much marriage has enriched my life. My husband often gives me the confidence to do things I would normally shy away from. And while he's far from indulging my little phobias, he graciously killed the spider on the back of my kayak. :-)

I sometimes like to imagine that I could handle anything on my own if required. However, I certainly wouldn't have a child, or consider jumping out of an airplane, or paddle murky rivers full of dangerous animals by myself.

Yesterday, while driving to the bookstore, my husband took my hand and kissed it. He's usually doing such things. But at that moment, the gesture seemed extra-special. I felt a reverence emanating from him--reverence for being the mother of his child, for cooking and cleaning and loving him the way I do. I was totally swept away.

He's not perfect, of course. He throws his dirty clothes all over the bedroom floor. He leaves a mass of crumbs on the kitchen counter when he makes toast or anything else involving bread. I have to remind him a half dozen times to pay certain bills every month. Yet, I don't care (at least, not that much). What he gives me in return is far more valuable to me than a clean house. His love is the essence of my happiness. Without him, my life would have no light. After nearly two years of marriage, we are more in love today than we were on our wedding day.

Do other women see their husbands in this way? Sometimes, I wonder.

Some Thoughts on Happiness

May 12, 2009

I have learned that happiness is...

...choosing the path less traveled.

Happiness is...

...being continually awed by beauty, no matter how often you find it.

Happiness is...

...having someone special to love, and being loved in return.

Happiness is...

...a big, fluffy cat snuggled on your lap.

Happiness is...

...waiting to see what's around the next bend.

Happiness is...

...the ability to look up.

May you find some happiness today.

Happy Mother's Day!

May 10, 2009

Blogging about anything other than Mother's Day today just didn't seem right. So, I thought I'd write a little about my own mother.

At age 19, my mom gave birth to me. My dad was just finishing up college at the time, but he wanted to be a minister. After struggling for a few years, my dad was finally hired to pastor a small, country church. Pastoring a small church, however, rarely pays well, so my mom managed the family's finances very carefully. She worked when she could with just a high school education, clipped coupons, learned to cut and style our hair, and rarely purchased anything for herself--though she very much wanted to.

My mother was never the easiest person to live with. She had suffered through a poor, abusive childhood, and thought that adulthood would eventually grant her all the things she wanted for herself. Therefore, it pained her to work so hard and still not be able to afford some of the nice amenities other preacher's wives enjoyed. As a result, she was often bitter and resentful. However, my mom decided that she would encourage her children to make better decisions than she made. And that's what she did.

Granted, my mother isn't the most understanding woman. A hard life has given her an extremely practical mindset, so though she recognized my ability to write, my decision to strive almost solely for authorship perplexed her for a while. In her mind, becoming a teacher or journalist offered a steady paycheck, which is the most important outcome of any effort. So you can just imagine her response to my brother, who said he wanted to forgo college to become a musician and has so far ended up waiting tables at a restaurant with a wife and baby girl to feed. (He's actually doing very well.)

Despite her shortcomings, my mother really is a loving, compassionate woman. For years, I watched her give to others, even when she had little herself. She is overjoyed to finally be a grandmother and loves to buy little outfits for my niece. She can also balance a checkbook to the penny and make almost anything with scissors, paint, construction paper, glue, fabric, and assorted cardboard tubes--including giant backdrops for church productions and beautiful wedding receptions. She can whip up a mean Hamburger Helper soup and make a budget stretch beyond belief. She can purchase a new wardrobe for just $250. She can out-wrestle most men. And she is always available when I need her.

Thanks, Mom, for everything you do. I love you.

Happy Mother's Day to everyone!


May 8, 2009

Scratch what I said in my last post about my writing. Since I found out that I'm pregnant, I've done NOTHING. I've been lying around the house in a restless stupor, feeling vulnerable and anxious. I don't know what to do or think.

I don't even know if I can take an aspirin if I get a headache.

Yesterday, I pried my backside off of the couch long enough to buy some Mother's Day cards for all the special women in my life. I promised my mom several months ago that I would get her one even though I treated her to a shopping spree for her birthday, which was two weeks ago. Thankfully, finding the right card kept me out of the house for a good half hour. I went down to the mini Navy Exchange on base and was treated to the most retch-inducing Mother's Day cards money can buy. Thank you, U.S. Navy! Not only did the cards feature some of the worst sentimental embellishments in existence (i.e., "You are the best mom in the world!"), most of the drippy poems didn't even rhyme!

Being the closet feminist that I am, I don't exactly feel conscionable about telling my mom or anyone else that "motherhood was your greatest accomplishment." In my opinion, any fertile woman can squeeze out a baby. I guess if your influence inspires your offspring to cure cancer, you could possibly make that claim. I realize I'm being terribly cynical.

On a more personal note, I think my mom makes a better banker than a mother. She can balance a till to the penny any day of the week, but she can't always show understanding when one of her children does something disappointing or out of the ordinary. I've just learned to accept it and love her anyway. I have to find a card that expresses that sentiment.

As I began rifling through the awful cards, I was struck by the realization that I, too, am going to be a mother. Shocking, I know. Right now, I just hope these Mother's Day cards improve before my child has to buy one.

So far, I've only told some of my family and a couple of select friends--and you, dear readers!--that I'm pregnant. I'm still processing the news, and I don't want to get too carried away. After all, I'm only four weeks along. Something unfortunate could happen between now and January, and then I'd have to tell everyone about that, too. I think I'll just let the news leak out gradually.

When is my husband coming home today?

Oh, Boy (I hope)!

May 6, 2009

Well, today was definitely interesting...even life-changing, you could say...

I now have my referral to see a psychiatrist. The doctor said it should arrive in the mail in about a week.

I also have a baby in my uterus. The doctor said it should arrive sometime around my birthday in January. Hee, hee!

Oh, boy. And just when I had decided I wanted to put off motherhood a couple more years.

I guess I'm really fertile. My husband and I had halted our birth control methods for only about six weeks, maybe less. I guess getting pregnant so quickly makes a fair amount of sense to me now: women in my family have never had trouble producing. My mom had me when she was 19. Her mother gave birth to six children, my mom coming in her mid-to-late thirties. And my brother, the one with the four-month-old baby girl, told me when I called to break the news that his wife might be pregnant again. They are going to the store tonight to buy a pregnancy test. He's 19, too. I'm thanking my lucky stars right now that I waited until 24 to get married.

I'm not sure how I feel about all of this. On the one hand, I'm intrigued. A baby: a combination of my and my husband's very different genes. (For starters, he's blond and blue-eyed; I look like a Native American.) What will our baby look like? What color hair will it have? Will it be cute? What kind of personality will it develop? Will it be smart? Will I enjoy feeling it grow inside of me?

On the other hand, I'm a bit nervous. I'm not sure what the psychiatrist will say about my current mental health. Now isn't necessarily the best time to be trying different medications. And with my husband in the Navy, we're scheduled to move sometime in October. We could very likely end up in Japan, because that's one of the bases we requested...when we thought parenthood was a distant scenario. I've been to Japan before; it's a wonderful country--if you don't mind living in a space the size of walk-in closet. If we get stationed there, we'll be living there for four years. How will I deal with raising a two-year-old in a walk-in closet? In a country where you can't buy macaroni and cheese?

At least my writing is going well.

Reading That Brings Happiness

May 5, 2009

I don't have much to say tonight, so I thought I would highlight four good blogs I've recently started following.

1. My Turn to Rant []
Really, this is probably my favorite blog so far. The author, a liberal woman living in ultra-conservative Texas, shares her wickedly funny views on current events. When I need a laugh, I pay a visit.

2. The English Muse []
Designated a "style blog," this little nugget features beautiful photos and thoughts from a Los Angeles celebrity columnist. The English Muse was recently featured as a 'Blog of Note,' and makes for a good, quick, light read.

3. wIeRd BiTs N pIeCeS... []
This blog just got up and running recently, but I'm already impressed with what the young author is putting out. She has a way of evoking emotions through introspective writing that few others can achieve. I'm anxious to see if this blog will go the distance.

4. The Sweet Life []
Another new blog that features interesting confessions of a 40-year-old mother in an open marriage. What makes this blog stand out is its subject matter involving a non-traditional marital arrangement. Potential readers be warned, though: this blog is intended for mature audiences only.

Happy Reading!

Conclusions on a Look Back

May 3, 2009

Dear Readers, please forgive my brief sabbatical from writing. A couple of nights ago, for reasons too personal to disclose, I became too depressed to write. Whatever is going on inside my mind and body exhibits very little rhyme or reason, and it often affects me in bizarre and strangely different ways. One day I feel like crying; the next day I'm on edge; a week later I come somewhat back to normal, except that I can't focus on anything or conjure up emotional responses to any sort of stimuli; and then I spend another week feeling about as energetic as a dishrag, struggling to roll out of bed before 11 a.m. Fortunately, I finally got through to the doctor's office and made an appointment for this Wednesday. I've hopefully taken the first step back to sanity.

The thought of taking pills to cope with any sort of mental or emotional problem used to disgust me. I knew a few people in high school and college who took Prozac and other such medication, and it seemed to me that they only used pills as a way to avoid dealing with their own issues.

Looking back, I believe some of them really did. The most memorable was a female college classmate of mine who sank into a mentally paralyzed state because she was doing poorly in class. Soon, she was using nearly all of her precious study time brooding and crying alone in her room, ignoring repeated invitations to join a study group another friend and I had formed. Finally, frustrated by her daily moaning and her refusal to study, I practically barged into her room one night and confronted her.

"I can't help it," she said. "I take medication for depression."

"So?" I said. "What's that got to do with anything?"

She gave me a bewildered look. "It means I just can't cope. I look at the material, and all I can think about is how I'm going to fail."

"Well, you're certainly not going to pass by not looking at the material," I said. "You don't need to let your depression control you like this. Instead, you take control. Make yourself do."

"That's possible?" she asked.

"Of course it is," I replied. "Right now, you're just trapping yourself in a bad cycle. If you don't study, you'll do worse in class, and if you do worse, you'll only feel worse about yourself and become more depressed. Soon, studying will seem even harder to do. Your only option is to crack open those books now and get busy."

Although my beloved friend resumed studying before I left her room that night, I realize now that I was probably wrong for saying what I did. My manner that night could only be described as completely insensitive. At the time, I didn't fully appreciate the debilitating effects depression can inflict upon a person. However, I will never forget the look on my friend's face as I spoke. It was one of epiphany. No one had ever told her that she could deal with some of her feelings on her own! How terrible!

I think the problem is that a fine line exists between the emotions generated by chemicals in the brain and the degree to which people immerse themselves in those emotions. One part can be controlled very little; the other, a great deal. But in the throes of intense feeling, how can anyone tell which is which? I think it comes down mostly to knowing one's self. I think I'm still learning.


May 2, 2009

I'm actually too consumed to write at the moment. My emotions are in knots.

Forgive me. I will try again tomorrow.

A Rant on the Side

April 29, 2009

Ok, I wasn't going to do this. I was just going to write about how my husband's Navy training is currently affecting me, but no. I just have to rant about...Swine Flu.

Seriously? Are we still pretending that these "pandemics" mean anything? I read today that 100 cases of Swine Flu have now been reported in the U.S., and one person has died. To hear journalists talk, you'd think civilization is coming to an end.

A hundred cases of Swine Flu, you say? Gee, let me strap on my respirator.

It seems every spring, a "deadlier" flu starts circulating around confined spaces. People take the news seriously, get whipped into a panic, go banging down the doors of medical clinics to get the latest flu vaccine, and then spend the next three weeks blowing their noses. I can't understand why people continue to waste their time. I haven't been diagnosed as having any type of influenza since I was about 10, and I never get flu shots. Sure, the elderly need to have them, but the average person between 18 and 50 probably has a greater chance of perishing in a fiery wreck on the Interstate than dying from any type of flu.

Some might say, "Oh, yeah? What about those hundreds of people who died of Swine Flu in Mexico?" Well, duh! Mexico is practically the third world country of the Western Hemisphere. Many places down there don't even have electricity and running water. Of course Mexicans are more susceptible to dying, simply because they don't possess the type of medical care we enjoy in the U.S.

What's worse, some government officials and political commentators are trying to turn the Swine Flu "epidemic" into some sort of political issue, saying things like, "I told you we should have spent more money on pandemic prevention!" Really. What's more money for "pandemic prevention" going to accomplish? Print extra posters on the importance of washing hands to hang in public restrooms? Please. We're not in kindergarten anymore--though you wouldn't know it from sitting in on a session of Congress.

At any rate, they can keep their flu vaccine and their scare tactics as far as I'm concerned. I'm confident the human race shall endure rather well, as it has every other flu season. Right now, the weather here couldn't be more beautiful, people are smiling and driving down to the beach, and there's not a sniffle to be heard anywhere.

Maybe Jesus does like me

April 28, 2009

Luckily, my horrible day didn't turn out to be so horrible after all. The Xbox 360 is fine. My husband came home and discovered I had just knocked a cable loose. I managed to get my car mirror straightened out. My boss's request for another grammar book may have been canceled, leaving me free to finish my novel this summer. There's still epoxy on my dashboard and I don't have a single doctor's appointment yet, but, overall, things are looking up.

I started reading a biography on Jonathan Swift, most famously known as the author of Gulliver's Travels, by Victoria Glendinning. Right off the bat, I became enamored with her prose. It's sort of eighteenth-century classic English meets new modern with a little Jackie Kennedy thrown in. I would kill to hear either James Earl Jones or Garrison Keillor narrate it. Ms. Glendinning supposedly has only one work of fiction on the market, entitled Flight: A Novel, and I can't wait to crack it open.

Writer's envy. It's a monster. Today, in between tutoring students on the last day of class, I spent time promoting my blog online. I discovered many bad blogs with many followers and several good blogs with less than three followers. Unfortunately, I'm painfully aware that my writing is not particularly interesting. Sharp wit and gripping prose elude me in a chronic sort of way. Which probably means that if I do manage to get published, I won't be fully appreciated until after I've died penniless, and then my dry-as-dust prose will be forced almost as a type of unusual punishment upon countless stone-faced, glassy-eyed liberal arts students who probably won't read it after all, but will just look up the plot summary on SparkNotes.

*Sigh* I suppose it's better to die hated than to die in obscurity. I'm sure some famous person said that.