Monday, November 28, 2005

guilty as charged

I can't stop pondering an article I read yesterday about current parenting trends. The author suggested that today's parents are so stressed out that they seek solace in, of all sources, their kids.

In order to render the kids capable of providing such a service, stressed-out moms and dads have to simply pull out the wallet and buy a few bribes, the higher-tech, the better. It further behooves the parents to adopt a general attitude of laissez-faire to ensure the cooperation of the offspring. Additionally, any and all legal numbing techniques are advised; gorging on junk food in front of the TV is an effective tool for the whole family. The author stopped short of recommending Ridalin or Prozac.

Keeping the kids "happy" prevents them from being yet another source of stress for the parents, at least, even if they aren't exactly comforting. At first glance, the idea seemed absurd.

Yet I can't help thinking of my own situation. I constantly feel guilty for buying more "distractions" for my child than is reasonable. That's how I keep the peace. My life seems more liveable if I run a conveyor belt of bribes into my child's world. I'm buying time and sanity. If he clamors for fast food, I give in rather than live according to my values. That way I don't have to listen to his crying and screaming. The latest video game might occupy him for a couple hours tonight. Isn't that worth $50? And if I don't buy him a gift every time we shop, he might sulk. Heaven forbid. I seek solace, not sulking.

Just for today, I will refrain from buying any bribes. I will feed my child only reasonably healthy food. I will tolerate his inevitable whining and crying- in fact, I think I'll double up on my Holy Basil. When he says he's bored, I'll offer a trip to the library, a yoga session, reading, or a walk in the park. I will stick to my guns and go to bed tonight having been a Good Mother No Matter What. Please wish me luck.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Recipe for Repugnance

I dubbed yesterday "Be Kind to Betty Day". It was one of those rare days when I was off work and my kid was in school. What uncommon freedom! My first inclination was to chuck the running shoes, hit the couch and turn myself over to a regime of bonbons and soap operas.

But instead, Betty's Brain took over and decided that haute health was a better idea. By now I should know better than to listen to that voice...

After depositing the child into his schoolbus I headed for Whole Foods Market. So did most of the population of this city, it turns out. I didn't realize that most people grocery shop for Thanksgiving on the Monday before the holiday. Well, at least I didn't have to stand in the free-range turkey line.

Being a devotee of Dr. Pete D'Adamo's blood type research, I was on a mission to satisfy every single type-A blood cell in my body. I bought up the organic version of just about every food type known to be beneficial for type A blood, and by god, I was going to put it all in a pot and cook it.

I spent a ridiculous amount of money on 10 bags of food, hauled it home, and pulled out the most major extravagance item in my house- my Le Cruset pot. I bought it because it's orange and I thought it might inspire hitherto unknown culinary activity. I've had it three years and this is the second time I've used it.

I filled this pot with my ingredients: amaranth, lentils both red and green, kelp, ginger, carrots, onions both green and yellow, garlic, parsnips, kale, collard greens, apricots, prunes, pumpkin, yellow squash, pumpkin seeds, 7 almonds, tofu, peanut butter, mozzarella cheese, and at the end, miso.

The motley mix emitted a mighty odor impossible to describe. I let it fester for a few minutes, fearful that it might explode.

Glancing at the clock, I saw that it was time for my favorite soap opera, so I turned off the stove, dished out the glittering stew, and, plugging my nose, carried it to the television. It took some time for me to summon the courage, but eventually I did venture a bite.

Mind you, I am the type who will eat anything (despite the dire warnings of Dr. D'Adamo) but this concoction stopped me in my tracks. It may have been the parsnip, I don't know, but honestly, I couldn't eat it. And here's the real coup de grace: the Chihuahua wouldn't eat it. This is the same dog who fishes used tampons out of the trash and devours them.

Be Kind to Betty Day ended with a feast of Oreos.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Attracting Electrons

Today I, Betty, the Dutiful Mother, took my child to the science museum under the assumption that it would be much less crowded than usual right before Thanksgiving vacation. For once (on an issue having to do with child rearing) I guessed correctly. The place was mercifully quiet.

While my budding scientist threw balls at the ceiling, I wandered over to an exhibit which invited me to stick my hand inside. Feeling a bit adventurous, I inserted my hand and watched the blue colored electrons inside a transparent ball rush to my fingertips.

I was oddly flattered by this attention from a cluster of electrons who hardly knew me. They didn't get tired of me, either; each time, they rushed back for more. They didn't care that I was wearing a faded, worn out T-shirt from my kid's preschool or that my hair was windblown. They didn't stop to assess my parenting skills, marital status or income level. They didn't critique my choice of conversational topic or demeanor. Each time I offered my hand, they totally accepted me, as is; no hesitation, no judgment, no question.

Perhaps my new best friends, the electrons, can teach us their ways, of total acceptance, as is.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Lost Post

It's no great loss, to be sure, but I am not amused. The post I thought I published on my blog this afternoon has been lost somehow.

As I've mentioned before, I try to find meaning in whatever happens, so this must mean that I'm supposed to say something else today.

Since whirling is what I do best, that's what I'll do instead of trying to find a topic.

My day started with a tidbit in the newspaper which caught my eye. A man killed his wife, saying that he was mad because they had lived in their house for four years and they still hadn't unpacked. This pointed out several things to me:
  • I guess maybe it's good that I'm not married.
  • There are people crazier than moi out there.
  • Lack of good housekeeping skills can threaten one's well-being.
The main reason I was so taken by the article was because of my own questionable housekeeping habits. Oh, I try; I'm just not terribly effective. Had I been married to that man, I'd have been six feet under a long time ago, probably before my child was born. I guess the murderer would have been my child's father, had I lived long enough. It just goes to show- things can always be worse.

All my life I have speculated as to the source of this problem. It was bad enough when I was alone, sharing the chaos with only my pets. But now a child is having to plow his way through my daunting disorder.

Whenever I think of this problem I recall a long ago conversation with a very good- looking, successful Japanese man from work who liked me. He was trying to invite himself over to my apartment.

"I'm sorry- you can't come over!"

"What?! Can't come over? Why?"

"Well, I have this problem..."

"What problem?"

After much prodding, I finally gave in.

"I'm a slob."


"A slob."


He never did get it, and he eventually moved back to Tokyo. Over there where space is at a premium, slobs do not and cannot exist.

Perhaps I have finally found a solution. I can move to Japan.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Betty Does the Mailman

That's a lie. Betty actually DOESN'T the mailman. You see, my dear neighbor, in a fit of compassion, tried to set me up with the mailman before he left for his winter in Florida.

Until this happened, I used to have a decent relationship with the mailman- as good a relationship as I've ever had with a mailman. He's the friendly sort- always speaks, smiles, and hands me the mail. Like me, he's very jumpy. He and I scared each other many times, accidentally. I'd be sitting on my front patio, reading the newspaper, and suddenly he'd appear out of nowhere, without warning. I'd jump a foot out of my chair, sometimes spilling coffee on myself. Or I'd have heard his truck pull up, and I'd be prepared, posed to look my best. That's when he'd become startled by my unexpected presence. "OH-H-H, you scared me!" he'd laugh.

Then the neighbor took it upon himself to play matchmaker. "You and Joe would make a GREAT couple," he insisted. I was horrified at the thought. The mailman reminds me of my father- short, fit, quick on his feet, Mr. Personality.

I do have one striking memory involving the mailman. It was one of the only times in my life when someone actually stood up for me. I live on a large public park, and many people let their dogs run around off leash. This has caused numerous problems, ranging from the dogs eating my birdseed to the dogs actually entering my house. One frigid Saturday morning I was involved in a shouting match with two dog owners. Their dog had been on my property numerous times, sometimes for hours at a time. Joe arrived on the scene and immediately took my side, even though the two dog owners were also on his mail route. He told them, with just as much rage in his voice as I'd been using, that their dog had prevented my mail from being delivered twice. (I hadn't even known that!) Joe and I won, and the dog owners slithered away with their tails between their legs.

The part of that story which I don't usually tell is that much later I realized that the dog who had been guilty was not their dog at all, but his look-alike. Those two people were actually very nice, meek, law-abiding citizens who wouldn't hurt a flea. To make matters even worse, their dog died shortly after the altercation and I now see them sometimes walking sadly through the park with only the ghost of their innocent dog.

The point is, the mailman defended me. That impresses the hell out of me. People usually steer clear of me when I go off.

Ever since the neighbor started talking about me hooking up with Joe, I've been avoiding Joe. I'm embarrassed. If I'm home when it's time for the mail to arrive, I hide in the basement.

That brings us to tonight, the night my neighbor set up for Joe to meet me. It was Joe's turn to hide, I guess. He never showed up.

Let's hope he brings my mail on Monday.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Chihuahua Chase

The Chihuahua is scheduled to be neutered a week from today. I am counting the moments, hoping that the frighteningly oversexed animal will be more manageable after his procedure.

As it stands now, I can hardly keep him contained. More than once during the past few weeks he has escaped from the house unbeknownst to me. Once when I opened the door to leave for work, there sat the Chihuahua, outdoors, looking up at me expectantly, as if to say,"Where've ya been , bitch? How long didja expect me to sit here waiting?" (I never knew that he was outdoors, not will I ever know how he got there.)

The little devil was waiting for me when I returned from work today. As I opened the door, arms full, he shot out the door like a speeding bullet. I dumped my armload and took off after him, shrieking at the top of my lungs. I attracted the attention of the construction workers building a brick path in the park outside of my house, for sure, but the Chihuahua heeded not my desperate pleas. In fact, the dog was nowhere in sight. I'm sure the workers thought I was pursuing an imaginary escapee.

Deciding that the dog was definitely NOT in the park, I ran around my house to the street on the other side, the only other possible Chihuahua source. First I glanced about wildly to see if his remains were visible in the street. That's when I slipped on some damp leaves and fell backwards into my neighbor's compost heap. By this time I had drawn a crowd, none of whom admitted to having seen a loose Chihuahua.

I've been told that it's not possible to actually feel high blood pressure. Well, I know better. I am certain that mine was pretty much off the map by this time. My screaming was becoming higher pitched, my heart pounding beyond capacity, and I was losing clarity. All the Holy Basil in the world couldn't have saved me.

But I was lucid enough to see that there was no Chihuahua. Breathless, I stumbled back around my house and stood in the entrance to the park. Lo and behold, there was the Chihuahua, basking in the sunlight, pretty as you please, looking at me calmly as if to say," Why, whatever is the matter? Is something wrong?"

I left a message with the veterinarian asking to be contacted if he has any cancellations during the next 6 days.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

examining the unexamined

I read a compelling autobiographical novel recently, in which the main character had to painstakingly examine his past in order to move on spiritually. In his case, the effort was worthwhile- he ended up with a life of abundance, joy and freedom.

The frustrating thing about the book was that the reader was not offered even a glimpse of what was uncovered during the man's self-examination. I have to assume that he had made poor choices, such as greed over fullfilment of destiny, for example.

Regarding my own life, I have many times tried to completely identify any and all problems, issues, and/or shortcomings, covert or overt. I specifically recall once listing over 500 people whom I had "hurt"- sometimes by an offense as trivial as thinking envious thoughts about my "victim". It was actually a list of every person I had ever met- nobody was safe around me.

I was young back then. Now I'm hopefully better equipped to uncover the highlights of my past which led me to where I am now.

I spoke of Miss Bitchard, my Kindergarten teacher in a previous post. Surely starting school before I was ready contributed to my lifetime of shyness, and shaming teachers like Miss B loved to prey upon quiet little children. There were teachers who did the opposite, who built me up like a human skyscraper, unlimited. James Cardin (2 posts ago) was one of those. He ordered me to enter an essay contest which I won. The prize was that I was featured for 30 minutes on TV with a bunch of NY politicians in Washington, D.C. Boosted by the confidence of my admired teacher, I held my own in that terrifying situation, flying back home a foot taller.

The upshot of all that is that I became reliant on others, on outside validation (or disapproval) and direction. I didn't even receive much, if any, direction from my own family. My mother heaved one huge sigh of relief when I first walked through the doors of Lincoln Elementary, considering her work finished forever. I looked to Miss Bitchard for my self-definition.

This is definitely a feature of my current life. Just today I was asking TA if I should sell my house and move closer to downtown. This is a question that most functional adults can answer for themselves, I presume. Not I.

If called upon to identify my main shortcoming today, that would be it, I think- the tendency to look outside myself for direction and even validation. (Fellow bloggers- that means I rely on your comments! Keep 'em coming!)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Like No Other

This is a day like no other. The air is demure- regarding it through a window, it is guessed to be typical November. Those who investigated anyway were in for a surprise of mild sweetness.

Fall has offered its display late this year in the rose garden. I had feared that it would be visually disappointing. Not so.

The trees vary- some are barren, some bountiful with flaming crimson, gold, salmon, maroon, red, yellow, auburn, rust. The occasional bare branches provide lacy framework for the stunning pointillism.

The sunlight truly sparkles on this day like no other. How can such rare, invigorating clarity exist during the season of rot?

A gentle breeze, stirring even greater awareness of the satisfying air, caresses those who enjoy this day like no other. The sky is pregnant with an unmistakeable anticipation- of what? Is that thunder rumbling in the distance?

People are friendlier today, mutual beneficiaries of this day like no other, bonded by awe.

Unbelievably, many of the rose bushes host fresh, perfect flowers, with aromas from June. The bees buzz ecstatically from rose to rose, willing to share with the human nose.

There is gray on the horizon as the breeze begins to inspire a shiver. We accept the necessary brevity of this day like no other.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Effect of James Cardin

I wasn't going to vote tomorrow. Why? The main reason was to avoid jury duty. I was summoned for jury duty a few months ago, much to my extreme displeasure. I wrote a dramatic letter to the jury commission explaining why my participation was out of the question. It actually worked- I think they became suspicious of my mental state.

Then there was my dear friend Wini, who succumbed to breast cancer last year. Wini was a Jehovah's Witness, although she never imposed any of that stuff on me. When I made the decision to become an unwed single mother, Wini was the least judgmental of anyone I knew. It took me a long time to realize that nonjudgment was a key aspect of her religion. Because of her refusal to judge, Wini did not vote.

Wini's nonjudgment, coupled with disdain for jury duty (it's registered voters who make up the jury pool) inspired me to rant and rave for months about how I'd never vote again. Heaven knows the last presidential election didn't go my way, after all. And as Wini's widow says, the last person on earth we'd really want to elect would be a politician!

But guess what? I'm voting tomorrow. Why? Because of James Cardin.

James Cardin was my 10th grade history teacher. He was a rotund, red-faced, white haired Irish-looking kind of guy. He was one of those people who did amazing things prior to teaching later in life. He'd been an ace fighter pilot and a Jesuit priest. He was a zealot. He spoke with emphasis, with enthusiasm, often pounding his fists on his desk in the style of a football coach. To protect his ailing heart, he popped glycerin pills during heated descriptions of bygone battles.

During this very week of my 10th grade year, James Cardin had us debating the election issues. The man knew how to teach. He knew that those 10th grade debates would leave an indelible impression for later, when our childcare schedules seemed somehow more important than jury duty resulting from voter registration. He bellowed at us, fists flying, that voting was A PRIVILEGE, DAMMIT!

Even with all my ranting, I had not been at ease with my defiance. I was lucky enough to have been a student of James Cardin. The uncommon sincerity of his lessons rendered them permanent, and his long ago proclamation rang in my ears today.

See you at the polls.

Friday, November 04, 2005

November rose garden

Even though it's well into November, the roses are still legion. Many have browned, some just around the edges, and wilting is evident. Some have miraculously weathered the frost- the survivors. One hardy crimson variety boasted many.

From a distance, the roses looked like the buds of spring. The foliage on surrounding trees belied such a notion, yet the roses' colors still impressed.

Some of us feel the onset of doldrums. I hope to roll with the flow of nature, like the roses. As we light our fires and unearth woolen blankets, the park workers will arrive to put the roses to bed. Our metabolism slows.

We don't have to fight it. We can rest with the roses and believe in spring.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

under the knife

I thought it would be like getting a tooth filled- no big deal, but now, looking back, I guess that the existence of a pre-operative visit should have tipped me off. And perhaps the 3 prescriptions, for antibiotic, painkiller, and toxic rinse were clues also, not to mention the necessity for 3 follow-up visits.

But I charged fearlessly into the oral surgeon's office yesterday morning, having no idea what I was headed for. The doctor had assertained during my pre-op visit that I had created a "situation" by zealously grinding my teeth. I had slightly dislodged a tooth to the point where I was able to unconsciously use it to dig a pocket in my gums. This is not good- such a pocket can collect bacteria, become infected, and result in all sorts of health problems from tooth loss to heart attacks. So I thought going ahead with the surgery was a no-brainer.

Now I've had novocaine before, but this was ridiculous. The doctor warned me, then inserted the needle, then LEFT IT IN interminably, then STUCK IT IN AGAIN! And AGAIN! And AGAIN! But the real coup de grace was when he stuck it deeply into the ROOF of my mouth! When I was sure the worst was over, he inserted it into my CHEEK!

Right away I realized I couldn't talk, and felt desperate to communicte that fact. All I could do was grunt, moan, flail and point, after figuring how to bring my hand out of the plastic tent I was enclosed in. The oral surgeon glanced at me, eyebrows raised, and said, "Yes, all that novocaine is very disorienting to some people. I think we're going to have to give you a few minutes to get used to it." With that he raised my chair, set me upright, and he and the assistant left.

Perhaps I should have researched this doctor, and the particular procedure he planned to perform on me. This was not the right time to be thinking these thoughts. I became nervous.

They returned, hopefully better able to deal with the likes of me. His goal was to somehow remove part of my gums. I couldn't imagine how he would do that, and now that it's over, I still don't know how he did it. I heard incredible noises- very loud drilling (I needed earplugs), and worse, a very disturbing scraping sound. It sounded as if he was breaking something in my mouth, like a tooth or bone. He worked fast, which I found alarming. Early on I became aware that my heart was racing. The painkiller I had taken before surgury came with a list of dire side effects- fatal heart attack or stroke, bleeding stomach ulcers, heart arrhythmia, convulsions, projectile vomiting, seizures, fainting, and on and on. I worried that if the surgery didn't finish me off, the painkiller would.

He performed surgery for a full half hour (and he was working fast, mind you). Then it took forever for him to apply the sutures. When I finally eased my tortured body out of the surgical chair I glanced around, taking in the sight of splattered blood everywhere. It looked like a murder scene.

Daunted by the list of side effects, I refuse to take the painkiller. The only problem is that I can't smile. Perhaps the novocaine needle permanently damaged one or more of the many tiny facial muscles necessary for expression. Time will tell. Meanwhile, I have an excuse to be grouchy.