Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Evolving Chef

After reading my old friend Rob's comment on my last blog entry, it occurred to me that my friends who formed their perception of me during the first half of my misspent 20's would be shocked by who I am, now that most of the rebellious crazy particles have been refined from my personality.

Yes, I cook. And I'm a very good cook, if I do say so myself. I also clean (that's the one that ought to really shock people). I have also learned that I am strong. I'm actually capable of having real relationships with people, now. I know how to trust. I can deal with being vulnerable.

Strange as it may seem, cooking is a manifestation of my willingness to set aside defensiveness and bravado so I can devote my energy to developing relationships with people I love. To cook for people you have to be willing to serve. Being willing to serve and nurture is often perceived to be a weakness. Especially for women.

So - years ago - I was so concerned about appearing tough and untouchable (or feeling tough and untouchable) that I refused to associate myself with any of the traits I thought were demeaning - the talents and activities I associated with subservience and femininity.

Then I married the love of my life and had babies. Appearing strong didn't help me in the slightest. Actually being tough enough to raise a family was what mattered. For me, this personal strength requires the base of a strong, secure family... for which my husband is absolutely essential. Happy, thriving kids are a necessity. As it turns out (for us), the talents and skills my mother taught me - which I had rejected as overly domestic - are very handy for giving my husband the respite he needs from his work and giving my kids a stable, healthy place to learn and grow.

None of this requires gourmet food or a perfectly organized and sanitary home. I just find the whole process more enjoyable when I put my whole heart and mind into doing the best I can for my family. They deserve no less. So that's my sappy little explanation for how an angry distrustful girl who hated life found the joie de vivre.

With that, here's the pumpkin bread recipe some of my friends have requested (my friend Daisy confirmed, today, that it really is the best pumpkin bread ever).

Sara's Fabulous Pumpkin Bread

15 oz. (about 2 C.) pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 C. vegetable oil
2/3 C. water
2 tsp. vanilla
3 C. white sugar
3.5 C. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1.5 tsp. salt
1.5 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
0.5 tsp. ground cloves
0.25 tsp. ground ginger
extra cinnamon/sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350'
2. Liberally butter 3 (7"x3") loaf pans and thoroughly coat them with the cinnamon/sugar mixture
3. Cream eggs and sugar until light and fluffy... use your stand mixer and let it really whip up
4. Add remaining wet ingredients (I usually leave this blending in the mixer at about speed 4)
5. In separate bowl, thoroughly combine all dry ingredients (sifting or whisking them together)
6. Stir dry ingredients into wet mixture JUST UNTIL BLENDED
(over-stirring will overdo the gluten structuring and make the bread tough)
7. Pour into prepared pans, sprinkle tops with turbinado sugar, and place on the center rack of preheated oven
8. Bake for 50 minutes, or until the loaves pass the clean toothpick test

When you take the bread out of the oven, DON'T let it cool in the pans. Immediately turn them out onto clean kitchen towels or cooling racks. This preserves the sugary crispness of the crust.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Back on Track

A, today, making pumpkin bread. (Updated after blog posted earlier.)

I seem to be nearing the end of this crazy cold/flu thing. What a relief! I'm finally getting my 2nd trimester energy (and accomplanying OCD ;o) back.

Today I braved the grocery store and bought all the necessities for the week's meals - including J's birthday dinner on Saturday. For his birthday I'm making a spicy sausage & spinach lasagna (the kind where you have to reduce the sauce for hours and your house smells divine), greek salad, pomegranate & kiwi salad, and a lemon layered poundcake with white chocolate cream cheese frosting.

Today A and I are going to make the lemon curd to go between the cake layers. Yum!

Tonight's dinner is four cheese macaroni (the oven kind, not the box kind!), ham, salad and fruit. I'll be making some Pumpkin bread, in a few minutes, to have when G gets home from school.

Can you tell I'm just a little obesessed with food right now? Yesterday J took us out for lunch at Olive Garden. I can't believe how much I ate!!! I'm not losing weight any more! (Until March, anyway.)

I'm also reading two books. Dr. Sears new Vaccine book... and still creeping through On Food and Cooking: the Science and Lore of the Kitchen. I know way more about the chemistry of foods and their flavors than I ever thought possible. And I also feel much more confident about the approach I've taken to vaccinating my children. Good stuff.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Family Weekend

This weekend has been fun.

Can't beat a pumpkin patch, the weekend before Halloween. The kids drank hot chocolate, navigated a corn maze... and then a hay bale maze, launched pumpkins with giant slingshots, tried to convince various farm animals to eat their straw bedding, and went on a hayride to the pumpkin fields to choose their perfect potential jack-o-lanterns.

G spent $4.00 of her own money to get her face painted and glittered.

A wasn't sure about the whole pumpkin idea. She discovered that the drying vines were prickly and was nervous about pumpkin-hunting.

Today we carved the jack-o-lanterns and now our front porch looks quite festive.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Getting Smarter

Today I made the necessary hotel reservations for our holiday vacation to the homeland. Those of you who followed my bloggy adventures on myspace may recall the last time I made such arrangements for a family trip. Quick summary for those who may not remember: I made reservations through Priceline, paid for a three star hotel and ended up in an Extended Stay America. As it turned out, the ESA wasn't quite as bad as I'd feared, but also was not the experience I was hoping for, either.

When The Urban Princess and I did our road trip to Wyoming, last Summer, again I did the hotel bargain hunting (although Hotwire got my business, rather than Priceline). Some of the rooms were good. Some were not. But every step of the way I noticed that the "savings" came at a price... like two adults and four children being stuck in a tiny smoking room with one double bed and not getting any of the perks and freebies (like kids-stay-and-eat-free type goodies that I had assumed just came with the hotel chain experience). Apparently accepting an internet discount rate voids all usual expectations. So using such "deals" didn't end up saving me as much as I thought it would.

(This specific example was a Holiday Inn... The desk clerk begrudgingly moved us into a two-bed room but warned me against booking with the online discount sites again.)

So I'm done with that. I made all reservation directly with my favorite mid-range hotel chain. I've always had great experience with them. Even one particular stay when I was pretty much the worst customer EVER (G had acquired food poisoning at a family function (LONG story... still makes me angry) and projectile vomited all over every surface of this otherwise lovely hotel room - with pretty much the comfiest beds ever... I had to call the front desk for clean towels and bedding and I couldn't apologize enough... I found the maid before we left in the morning to warn her and apologize profusely and she was outrageously kind and generous).

So we'll be paying about $30 more for hotels, this trip, than we would have if I'd done my super-frugal thing. But the increased likelihood of a good family vacation is worth every penny. (In case any of you are wondering, my favorite mid-range chain is The Red Lion. I've always had good rooms and VERY good service with them.)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Some Things are Cute. Some are Not.

First, an overwhelming bit of cuteness: A scavenged G's Polly Pockets from her room and brought them downstairs to join the general toy population. A is thrilled to be playing with big girl toys and is carrying one of the Pollies around everywhere. If you ask her about it, she hugs it close and says, "MY Lollipoppit!"


And on the less-cute side of life - I wasted another 90 minutes of my life, last night.

We rented Evan Almighty.

J and I were shocked at how overwhelmingly lame this "comedy" was. We enjoyed Bruce Almighty, and -until last night- I loved everything Steve Carell ever made. Anchor Man? Oh heck yeah - I love lamp!!! The Office? Gimme more! 40 Year Old Virgin? Only Steve could have made it bearable. Little Miss Sunshine? FABULOUS!!! And then there's Evan Almighty.
Was the editing really bad? I can't believe he'd read the script of the end product and think - yeah, that sounds like a good vehicle for my talents! Was he offered a boatload (hehe) of money and thought -- Oh well, everybody has to make a Gigli sooner or later?
Wait - that comparison is unfair to Gigli which, compared to this movie, is fine cinema!
Anyway, my advice to Blockbuster and Netflix members anywhere is to drop this to the bottom of your queue. No, if I was an unfortunate subscriber to Netflix (BTDT), I'd drop it off the queue. At least, with Blockbuster, you don't have to bother removing it from the envelope. You can just take it to Blockbuster and trade it for something worth watching.
Oh - and in case you were one of the people (like me) who was told that Transformers was surprisingly good - don't fall for it! J watched it (it had robots and explosions and scantily clad damsels, after all). I, thankfully, had a book and only had to pay attention to the screen enough to mercilessly mock its stupidity (after all - that's occassionally enjoyable enough to make a really lame movie worth watching) and tease J for finding it appealing in the slightest.
There's something to be said for the entertainment factor of smug. (Reference to a fabulous episode of South Park for those of you who are shaking your heads.)
Anyhoo... G's parent-teacher conference is today. (This would be the perfect spot to insert a little smiley sighing and rolling its eyes.) Should be fun.

Monday, October 22, 2007

But WHY Does It DO That?

I have a dirty little secret.

I'm obsessed with Alton Brown.

No, I'm not "into" him in any unfortunate way... I'm just ecstatic that there's someone out there like ME!

See, some people mistakenly think I'm some sort of Martha Stewart wannabe. I'm not! I'm not really into domesticity for impressing all my friends (which seems obvious to me - as I err on the antisocial side). I don't want to be a chef. In fact, I can't think of anything much more miserable than being forced to cook, sew, etc. on demand, day in and day out.

Oh wait. I do that.

But I don't like that part of my job.

Some might not guess this, as I do find great joy in creating perfection - primarily in the kitchen. I'm a very picky eater, and I hate to have to go to the effort of cooking something unless it's going to be fabulous.

It may seem unrelated, but in highschool I hated chemistry. Balancing equations and doing mundane labwork bored me to tears.

At home, I persistently protested having to cook or bake anything.

But ask me a question about nutrition, and I can still spit out all sorts of crazy factoids about nutrition content, serving sizes, food pairings to maximize vitamin absorption or the completion of proteins... I kind of like baking - not just because I'm a total carb addict, but also because I love analyzing why a recipe works (or doesn't).

Enter Alton Brown and that love-hate relationship I have with TV.

A few weeks ago, while channel surfing one evening, I came across a geeky little show called Good Eats on The Food Network. As is usual, for me, I was nursing A off to sleep while J read G her bedtime stories. Good Eats totally hooked me. I don't really get into the recipe shows, but this was totally different. In each episode, Alton Brown focuses on a food (or recipe) and explains the science behind it. What makes it work? What ingredients can be freely substituted? Which ingredients must always be precisely combined? WHY? What tools are essential? Which tools are little more than expensive kitchen paperweights?

After getting addicted to Good Eats, I discovered he also does Feasting on Asphalt and hosts Iron Chef.

Yes, I now watch those faithfully.

So today I'm heading down to the library to check out the books I've reserved: All the works of Alton Brown as well as On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee (warning - this is a chemistry book, not a cookbook). Woo Hoo!

Oh, and I had that follow-up ultrasound, this morning. I know what kind of baby I'm having. ;o)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Chivalry and Feminism

I always have to sigh when discussions about feminism devolve to focusing on manners. Should men open doors for women? Who pays on a date? Should men feel obligated to censor their language in front of women in a manner they wouldn't in front of men?

C'mon people. The error I see in all the sexism vs. manners questions is the assumption that the issue is gender expectations. The point of feminism, as I see it, is not even feminism so much as it is humanism. Quit worrying about how you're supposed to treat a gender and start seeing people as people. If you go out of your way to treat everyone around you well, you'll probably feel better about yourself and be a happier person in general.

Doors - whoever gets there first opens it. It's nice and often helpful. I'm always pleasantly surprised when the person ahead of me holds the door for me. Sometimes a man will go to extra effort to reach the door first and then hold it for the people behind him. That's nice. The fact that he's male doesn't make it a chauvenistic gesture.

Dates - don't get me started. To cut a long rant short, I think people would be much better off focusing on activities that don't cost anything. Who decreed a high priced dinner and movie the default date? Wouldn't a hike (free) and picnic (nearly free) be better for getting to know a person? If either party is shelling out big bucks on a date, it sets up an imbalance. One of the habits I want to instill in my daughters is always bringing along money of her own and always at least offering to pay her way... and NOT thinking a guy is cheap if he accepts her offer.

Language - no-brainer... Speaker: If you wouldn't want your mom to hear you say it, then just don't say it at all. Listener: If someone is using coarse language and it's offending you, you can ask them to cool it or you can physically remove yourself. Either way, you aren't guaranteed a happy result, but I think it's unrealistic and unreasonable to expect everyone around you to bend over backwards to avoid offending you. Like every other reaction, offense is a choice. And usually not a very productive one.

I've involved myself in too many debates over the years, usually with resentful men and women... the feminist/manners issue has just been overdone...

But today and event brought it all up for me.

I did my Costco shopping, toddler in tow and increasingly large belly to add to the fun. They piled my stuff in huge boxes, so when I was in the parking lot, trying to wrestle my toddler into her carseat while loading about 120 pounds of bulky stuff into an already half-full Taurus trunk, I was getting very frustrated. My back was killing me. Finally, feeling very sorry for myself, I finished the task. Except that I hadn't gotten out of the house on time, so I missed the Executive Member hours and was shopping with the hoi polloi ( for those of you who don't know me well, yet, please understand I use that term with tongue-in-cheek). The parking lot was completely packed, so I'd parked far away from the cart return (new mommies, heed my advice: a parking space proximal to the store is not the goal - park as close as you can to the cart returns!). So the quandary: do I get the toddler out of the car seat and carry her with me to the cart return, and then have to go through the buckling-in mayhem all over again? Or do I lock the car doors and hurry the cart across the parking lot, leaving her there alone?

Before I could make my decision, the gentleman parked next to me finished unloading his merchandise. Immediately, he offered to take my cart back to the return. What a relief! I think he was a little surprised when I thanked him emphatically. For him, it probably wasn't a big deal, but - obviously - his kindness made my day.

Kindness transcends gender politics.

In my little corner of the world, anyway.


A conversation I had, yesterday, with The Urban Princess, really got under my skin. In the process of solving all the world's problems (theoretically, anyway), we briefly touched on family planning and the politics of family size.

As you all probably know, I'm pregnant with my third child.

Many of my demographic of breeders (environmentalist, quasi-liberal, feminist, politically-active types) found themselves entering their child-bearing years with a quandary: Knowing what we do of the burden a booming human population is weighing on the planet, is there any justification for bringing more people into the world?

When I was younger, I assumed I would not have children. Then I grew up and had to admit that I really wanted a child. When it became clear that getting pregnant might not be as simple as boy-meets-girl, I looked into adopting from third world countries and from foster care environments, domestically. Those seem to be acceptable bleeding-heart sources of baby fixes for my ilk. One uncomfortable truth I had to face, when considering such things, was that no agency would even consider me in a fostering position - let alone adoption. According to the standards of the world, a child would be better off starving in the streets, aborted, or spending their lives in a series of temporary homes than being entrusted to someone like me: a less-than-wealthy white woman with a history of emotional instability. Looking at it that way, I had to wonder if they were right. Do I have any business raising a child?

Fortunately, for that particular argument, I've come to realize that my years of therapy and intentional efforts at building my personal stability have probably left me more capable of controlling myself and my emotions (and often the finances/debt reflect exactly those issues) than 75% of the American population. Yes, I'm a little arrogant about that.

A few things have shaped my current views on the overpopulation issue. The first was probably the event of my older sister having her first child. As I saw her change from a self-absorbed teenager to a selfless mother and watched her son grow into a brilliant (if small, at the time) person, it was clear to me that caring and careful parenting could offer a gift to the world that no other work could. Before this, I had lofty hopes of offering a great intellectual magnum opus to the world. I would write the Great American Novel. Or I would solve some great medical conundrum. Having kids was something any peasant could do. My sister opened my eyes and I realized that, when my life ended, no worldly accomplishment would gratify me like knowing I'd created a strong and loving family.

As years have past and I've refined my political views and ideals, I've had to see a lot of realities I hadn't noticed in my youth. One of which is that people who believe very differently than I do, and would mold the world to fit their moral standards (though often they do that molding without conscious will), are having children. All over the world people are having children - hence the booming population - but huge percentages of these up-and-coming generations have no access to education. Religious fundamentalists (not just Christians) and warring tribal factions who place very different value on human life are outbreeding people like me. A great many of the people I like, admire, agree with, etc. are opting to go childless. A few more have one child. The wild-and-crazy ones might have two, expressing the justification that they are only replacing themselves, not being so indulgent as to actually add to the population.

So when I look at what I can do to save the world ('cause that's what bunny huggers like me are always trying to do, after all), the most obvious answer is to raise the next generation of problem solvers. In order to teach them my values, I still have to do my personal best to demonstrate how I want them to live - things like reduced consumerism, increased recycling, gardening, organics, supporting renewable resource development, placing high value on education and creative thinking, personal responsibility, healthy physical habits, critical thinking, kindness, compassion... All that I do reflects my values and teaches my children while (hopefully) improving my little corner of the world for those who are here...

But what my children learn and create will go on beyond anything else I might envision. My current little corner of the world is only mine for a short time. As my children grow, so does the pocket of the world I vicariously shape. For all I know it will be my kids (or theirs after them) who develop new technologies for feeding the world with less burden to the environment. It might be my kids who cure AIDS. Or discover the gene therapy that eliminates bipolar disorder. Or develop a new technology that permanently frees people from their dependence on fossil fuels. Pretty lofty thinking, I admit - but is stuff like that more likely to come from my kids or from the child soldiers in Africa? Or from the meth-crippled masses here at home? Or from the jihadists? Or trust fund babies with their tiny accessory dogs and senses of entitlement?

So I believe that as long as I am capable of caring for the children I bring into this world and raising them to be the kind of people I think this world needs, I am doing my greatest work. Sure, I'm still a little nervous that there are some people who are looking down their noses at me, or judging me ignorant for adding to the population. But I can't live my life worrying about everyone else's approval. Ultimately, I just have to decide what is right.

And then do it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Perfect Mundane Day

I'm hoping today will be a good day. I chucked the idea of a Costco run, today. J invited a group of coworkers over for dinner on Friday night, so I'm going to wait until tomorrow or Friday to go buy supplies. Today I will reserve for doing things I like to do.

The nurse at the midwifery practice called, last night, to discuss the results of the ultrasound. She thinks that the radiology/imagery people ought to redo the test at no charge because they didn't get the medical measurements they were supposed to. In a few minutes I'll be calling her to see what she found out about that. I'd love to actually know if we're having a boy or a girl, but I won't shell out another $200 for it.

After that, I'm going to toss A in the car and go to the mall. I usually avoid that place like the plague, but the mall has an Old Navy - which has cheap maternity clothes. And my size 10 maternity jeans are falling off... so I guess I need to go try on sixes and eights. If I wasn't pg, I'd be thrilled by this. I haven't been in single digit sizes since junior high. However, since I am pg, the weight loss issue is problematic. Regardless - I need at least one pair of pants that will cover all the necessary parts. And I intend to splurge on two long sleeved T-shirts too. For a non-fashionista like me, two t-shirts and a pair of pants should be enough to see me through about four days out of the week... and I'll still have my big jeans and the hand-me-downs from my fabulous little sister for when other attire is in order.

Assuming I'm not too traumatized from the mall, it will be followed up by a trip to Trader Joe's. For those unfortunate enough not to live near a TJ's, let me just tell you - it's one of my favorite places to shop. They have great artisan breads, cheeses, wines, etc. And carry a lot of organics (especially for such a small place). It's very laid back and one of the few places I can shop without having to retire the rest of the day.

All of this precedes the arrival of my great friend, The Urban Princess. She'll be over in the afternoon, with her son (The Wild Man) and daughter (Punky Monkey). The Wild Man is one of G's oldest and most beloved friends, and Punky Monkey and A enjoy hours of reciprocal toddler antagonism. The Urban Princess and I can chill out and hash out solutions to all the world's problems while the kids entertain each other. A bonus is that Princess is a total food snob and it's really fun to cook for her.

For dinner, tonight, I'm doing chili w/ salad and fresh corn bread. It's a cold, rainy day. Should be perfect.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Somehow it's afternoon, already. Sometimes it's almost shocking to me how fast time speeds past me.

I spent the morning getting everyone out of bed, dressed, and fed. G (my oldest) was extremely co-operative, and made it off to school with minimal fuss. A, the two-year-old... eh... Well, I was surprised, but she was actually dressed by the time my husband was ready to go. In fact, I have to say that the biggest whiner gumming up the works, this morning, was me.

I caught a cold about two weeks ago, as did everyone else in the family. However, everyone else seems to be feeling better. I'm not. It's gotten so bad that I'm using my epi inhaler, coupled with generous amounts of guaifenisen, multiple times per day. Asthma doesn't usually bother me - not since I was a kid. But when I'm pregnant, all bets are off. Allergies are 8,000,000 times worse, and so is asthma.

It's particularly self-pity-inducing because, until this cold hit me, I was riding that 2nd trimester high and getting SO much done. Now I have no energy.

Back to this morning... It's that lovely time of year, again, when we have to do vehicle inspections and licensing. So my husband and I (and A) drove down to the 'Couve and dropped off the minivan for it's tune-up. Traffic was heavy. It took forever. A was furious, screaming "Faster! Faster!" at the top of her speed-freak lungs.

J (husband) dropped off the van and hopped in the car with us and we hurried home. Fast forward to now.

My grand accomplishments for the day:
  • Paid bills
  • Convinced A to don her rain coat and walk with me to the mailbox to deposit said bills
  • Emptied dishwasher
  • Refilled dishwasher
  • Collapsed on sofa and realized it was already time for lunch
  • Ordered Dominos Lunchboxes online, because I can not stomach another PB&J... and I'm a sucker for gimmicks - especially when individual pizzas and hot chocolate chip cookies are involved... and I justify this because I've lost yet more weight, the past few days... and tomorrow I'm halfway through this pregnancy! There's nothing like pizza to promote weight gain!

All this "work" and I'm exhausted. If I get the weeks' meal planning done, grocery list written and downstairs mopped and vacuumed, I will consider myself Supermom.

Pathetic? Maybe.

But that leaves me time to squeeze in a few games of Memory with A and maybe some cuddle/homework time with G without feeling like I ought to be doing more, somehow. And crowning myself Supermom (the admitted irony just makes it that much better) will put me in a good mood while I serve the family leftover chicken/spinach soup and dinner rolls, this evening. Everybody wins.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Loss and Meaning

I've been thinking a lot lately about the purpose of moving my blog to this open, public format. I felt a lot more comfortable posting in a more exclusive arena where I felt I could have more control over who is reading about my life - without having to think too much about it. The problem was that keeping out the one or two people who scare me also means that I can't share my thoughts and life with my family members and others who might actually be interested in what I have to say. And who really is interested in what I have to say, anyway?

Well, one thing that seems to set me apart from many of the people I interact with on a daily basis is that pesky bipolar diagnosis I blogged about before. In normal life I rarely talk about the bipolar thing or depression or mental illness in general. For me the bipolar thing and all the drugs and behavior adaptation has kind of slipped into the background of my life. Like being nearsighted - it gets annoying when my contacts irritate my eyes or when my glasses are smeary, but most of the time it's not something I have to think about.

But many things have happened, recently, that have brought mood disorders and their relatives back to the forefront of my mind. Not the least of which was the issue with my neighbor.

Many people have bipolar disorder. I'm not terribly unique in that particular diagnosis. What is different is that I have lived 10 years of juggling meds, breaking down, messing up, and figuring out what role I have to let it play in my life. I don't know anyone else with this diagnosis, at this point, who has lived longer with it. More importantly, I don't know anyone else with BPD who is as stable as I am, with a husband and kids, a home and a rather boring and undramatic life. I'm not saying this just to pat myself on the back, but also as a musing that I might actually have something to offer the world outside my little nuclear family.

Once a father of a child newly diagnosed with BPD asked me what made the difference for me. Basically - why am I here, living a "normal" life and not wearing an aluminum foil helmet to keep the voices out while I push my shopping cart down the street to the cardboard box I call home?

It's a tough question and one I'm not sure I'll ever be able to completely answer.

See, there was a point where I really thought that my only options were going to be the streets or suicide. Melodramatic? Yes. But accurate. My life was totally out of control. I was totally out of control. I was living a wild life that probably should have killed me, even if the suicide attempts didn't.

There are a few things that I can point to in my life that made it possible for me to climb back out of the abyss. Without them - who knows?

First and foremost was (is) my mother. I can only imagine how watching me self-destruct must have hurt her. Thinking of how she must have felt, throughout my darkest days, when she would go months without hearing from me or having any way to contact me - only knowing that I was hurting and out of control - breaks my heart. I feel so bad for what I put her through. But, through it all, she was there for me. She made sure, when I lost my job, and would have lost the health insurance that went with it, that my COBRA premiums were paid. Every month. She made it clear that I was loved. That, no matter how I was living or what I was doing, she was there for me. She's given me that kind of support my whole life - even when I didn't realize it.

Secondly, I've been incredibly fortunate to have very good friends. Not just nice friends, or pleasant acquaintances, but true friends who went through hell for me - and often because of me. In fact, the event that inspired me to start moving my blog in this direction was the death of one of these close friends, this past August. He, too, was bipolar, and the only one who had been consciously dealing with it as long as me. He, too, was completely dedicated to wrestling his demons in such a way that he could effectively live and grow and parent. So he was particularly helpful when it came to dealing with this stuff. He knew. And now I don't have that. It's a tough loss.

I needed this broad platform of support to be capable of doing what I needed to do to be healthy. I don't think I could have survived the long search for the right meds, or the longer process of accustomizing myself to how I need to think and behave, without the great people in my life.

But, even with all that - knowing it's more than many people ever have - I wouldn't have made it this far if I hadn't had a very important reason to make the huge behavioral and environmental changes that make personal stability accessible. For me, that was getting pregnant with my first child.

And this is a tricky point. I would never suggest that an unstable person ought to get married and start a family. Things could have been very, very bad.

In fact, they almost were.

Like alcoholics and drug addicts, I think many out-of-control people go through a "rock bottom" moment before they can commit to changing their lives. For me, this moment came when I was five months pregnant with my first daughter.

One of my self-destructive coping mechanisms had been cutting and/or burning myself. In fact, that had become my preferred way for dealing with stressful situations. Even though I wanted to be healthy for my baby, there came a moment, one day, when my husband and I had a very bad argument and he left. The truth of the matter was that he went for a run to cool off, but at the time, I was sure that I'd driven him away and that I'd lost my best friend. I'd thrown away all my favorite cutting tools months before, so I broke apart his safety razor and began hurriedly slashing at the veins running through my inner elbow. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I didn't have the practiced control with this razor as I'd had with my preferred tools, and one cut went too deep. Seeing my arm laid open woke me out of the "zone" I'd go to when doing things like that and I nearly panicked, realizing that if I bled out my baby would die, too. Not being able to reach my husband, I called a very good friend who rushed me to the ER. Lying on the bed, getting my arm all stitched up while the nurses monitored and worried about my unborn child, I was horrified by what I'd done. I was scared that I might have hurt the baby. And even if I hadn't, I imagined how devastating it would be to a child to see her mother cutting or burning herself.

That was it.

A deeply entrenched approach to life that I hadn't been able to conquer with medications or counseling was done. I knew I would NEVER, intentionally harm myself again.

As time has gone by, I've been fortunate enough to be able to transition from all the bad stuff I have to avoid to focus on habits to embrace in my life to make it the best it can be.

(Incidentally, back to the mother thing, I think one of the main forces that carried me into responsible parenting was the fact that I had been raised to be a good parent. I was raised to put the welfare of the kids first. I grew up thinking that the only way to parent was to be very involved and loving. I internalized my mother's habits of playing, cuddling, and singing to my kids. She taught me, by example, how to cook and sew and make a warm and loving home... I rebelled against these things for years, but when I needed it, I had the knowledge. I owe her so much, it's overwhelming.)

Events and life were just right for me that I could make the choice to live better. Some people never have the support or the timing right to be in a position to choose life and health. Some people have all they need, but when the time comes, they choose comfort and habit over change (which is almost always difficult and uncomfortable).

One thing I never had, early on, was an example of someone who was dealing with the mental/emotional issues of BPD who was living the life I wanted. So, in loving memory of Brett, who would be so proud to see me reach out like this, I'll be blogging about this (and lots of other really mundane stuff) and hoping that maybe my thoughts will be useful to someone.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Little Things

I feel awful, today. Somehow the cold that's been a simple nuisance for the past week or two has knocked the wind out of me. The right side of my chest HURTS whenever I inhale... forget about when I have to cough. Ouch! I've spent the morning lying on the sofa while my two-year-old watched Nick Jr. This is when my normal love-hate relationship with TV falls completely into the LOVE category. I don't want to get my daughter into any couch potato habits, but I'm glad that the TV is there to entertain her on the few occassions when I really can't.

Saturday, October 6, 2007


This is a c/p from my last MySpace blog. I decided to move it over directly as a jumping-off point for changing to blogspot. At MySpace, access to this post was limited to a very select list of people who know me well. Here... well... equal opportunity offense, I guess. As an aside, update, whatever: yesterday I spent the day chilling out with a close friend (who is Christian and reads my blog) and was able to let go of most of the hurt and negativity, so I'm feeling much better today. Thank goodness.

October 4, 2007 - Thursday
Rant Category: Friends

I'm so frustrated and angry, right now. I'm actually shaking. So this probably isn't the best time to be posting a blog for all to see, but I need to let off some steam - and cursing out loud on the phone to a friend or to my husband would be overheard by the kids and they've already heard enough.

This is what happened: about two hours ago I went out to the minivan to haul in some groceries. I'd taken some Benadryl while at a friend's house, today, so I'm feeling really tired and a little out of it (so please forgive any typos). Anyway, the neighbors were outside. They said Hi. I responded in kind, and went back inside without furthering a conversation.
So my neighbor, a woman with whom I've been developing a tentative friendship, dropped by a while later to check on me because she said I was looking tired and pale and she wanted to make sure everything was OK. How sweet and wonderfully neighborly, right?

Despite being dead tired, I invited her in. Right away she started in on the Jesus talk. OK. Whatever. She asked what I thought of her and I told her I thought she was a good person. No, she clarified, knowing that she's Christian, how does that change my opinion of her? I laughed a little and said hey, one of the joys of being atheist is that I just don't care. I consider religious beliefs just one facet of who a person is. What matters to me is the whole person. Are you a good person? Yes? Then I like you well enough, whether or not we agree on everything.

Then she asked me if I was still on medication for depression. I tried to change the subject, knowing that she's a faith-heals-all person. She pushed it. I got sucked in. She kept telling me how if I'd just try to have a little faith, I wouldn't need to take these evil drugs.

I pulled out all the tried-and-true tricks to just deflect and move on. It's been 10 years since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and I've been dealing with it since childhood. Coping with people who don't believe in biologically-based mood disorders and those who are just ignorant in general is old hat at this point. But she kept pushing - actually having the gall to tell me (in front of my kids, no less) that I only need the meds because I think I do and that I should quit taking them.

I didn't blow up at her. I don't know as I visibly reacted at all, but I wanted to pick her up and physically remove her from my home.

Instead I told her more than I should have. I tried to explain where I've been and what I've been through. I told her that she had not lived my life. That, if it weren't for psychotropic regulation, I would be dead.

Because that's the bottom line. I don't like taking the pills every morning. I don't like that I spend nearly as much on the stupid pills every month as I do for food for the kids. Before I had kids who depended on me, I regularly quit taking meds because I hate them so much. But I can't do that now. My kids need me and it's unlikely I'd make it more than a few months before taking off for "exotic new life adventures," leaving behind everything I love. And I probably wouldn't last a year before jumping off a bridge or blowing my head off. This isn't drug dependence. It's a simple (if ugly) truth. And people who don't have experience with mental illness usually can't grasp that.

Basically I concluded by telling her that if I took her advice it would destroy my family so I didn't think this was a subject we should discuss again. Visibly upset, she reassured me that she was only seeking the best for me and that she'd pray for me. I told her it wasn't necessary. Apparently this offended her because she got up to leave, saying that she'd never bring up religion again. I told her that would probably be a good idea.

I don't think that was the response she was looking for.

I hate being cornered like that. Why couldn't she just lay off? I know she had good intentions (and I told her that I knew it), but somehow that just makes it worse.

I get so tired of the same old assumptions. I think I'm going to start a list to print out and keep on me (I probably won't actually print it, but I'm in need of some serious catharsis, so I'm going to keep ranting until I feel better.

Assumptions I Regularly Have to Address Every Time I Have Any Sort of Relationship with a "True Believer"

1. I don't know anything about your religious tomes.
Untrue. With few exceptions, I have found that I'm more familiar with your holy writ than you are. When happening upon the few exceptions, I often end up forming a real friendship. After all - I don't hate religion or religious people. I hate ignorance. I hate liars. And I despise hypocrites. If you haven't read your Bible when you start thumping me with it, I will probably not bother to correct you. I've learned that those who preach what they have been too lazy to research are not worth the time it would take to offer corrections.

2. I was not raised in the right religion.
This may be partly true, as I have rejected the religion in which I was raised. However, the monkey on the back of this particular assumption is that you have the right religion and if I just opened my heart to doing things your way, I'd be converted. The reality is that I am probably as attracted to magical thinking as any other human, but the line of reasoning that brought me to where I am absolutely rejects the idea of preferring belief or faith over logic and skepticism. If you are true to yourself, I will probably develop respect for who you are (part and parcel with your spiritual beliefs). If you can't reciprocate, back off. We will never actually be friends because I will know that you have no respect for who I am. And by the by - mocking the religion or beliefs of those who raised me loses major respect points. If that doesn't bother you, make fun of the LDS all you want. But know that I'm sardonically appraising the irony. After all, to me the Judeo-Christian pantheon is no different than that of the Ancient Greeks, Phoenecians, Assyrians, etc. Listening to you bash Mormons is like listening to two Asatru get brutal over whether Thor or Odin is mightier. Except, in this case, you are denigrating people I love. Not cool.

3. I don't believe in God because I never wanted to badly enough.
It's not easy to slough off the sacred beliefs of the society in which you were raised. I wanted to believe. Heck, I still feel a little sad about the acceptance I'll never have. It hurts that I'll never quite fit in with my own family. Who would want that? I would so love to believe that there is a benevolent being out there, just waiting to love and bless me. That's such a comforting concept. If there was any way I could possibly believe, I would. However, I have come to the far-less-comfortable conclusion that I can not believe in a god or gods, no matter how much I'd like to. Assuming otherwise is so off-the-mark and personally hurtful that you'd probably do a service to your evangelistic hopes by simply not discussing religion with me at all.

4. If only I would pray, I would find Jesus.
This is really the same as 3. I've prayed my little heart out. I've prayed while reading the Bible. I've prayed while reading other religious works. I've prayed prayed prayed prayed prayed... That ended about 15 years ago. At this point, telling me to pray is pretty much the same as insisting that I try to have a conversation with your imaginary friend. I could go through the motions, but it would be no different, for me, than when my then-three-year-old insisted that I set a place for Harry Potter at the dinner table and tuck him into bed at night. Except that I love my daughter unconditionally and I knew she'd grow out of it.

5. This is the first time I've been exposed to what you're preaching.
I've gone through all the same crap so many times. Your spin is not unique. You will not be the person to finally get through to me. If, deep down, you ultimately hope that offering me friendship will convert me and save my soul, I will know. If you can rise above that and actually love me for who I am (you know who you are), I will probably find your hopes for my spiritual well-being endearing. If our friendship is fundamentally balanced on me eventally coming around, please move on. You're wasting your time. And, even worse, you're wasting mine.

I'm sure I'll come up with more, but right now my husband is home and my family is eating dinner while I sit here and seethe. Time to go chill out.