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.