Monday, January 30, 2012

Ready or Not ...

There is no way possible to prepare a toddler for the birth of their younger sibling. We all try. We buy books and videos (I suppose they are DVDs now) all about new babies and big brothers and sisters. We talk about the baby. We train the older child to point out where the baby is in mommy's tummy, to even kiss the tummy, and to talk about how excited they are for the new baby to come.

But let's face it. Toddlers have absolutely NO idea, really, what is coming. No matter how well they answer all the questions. No matter how often they kiss that belly. A baby comes, and it takes mommy's time, and toddler's old car seat and crib. It cries, and needs attention 24 hours a day. The big sister or brother's routine is turned on it's head ... just like the entire household. My #1 reacted by loving #2 to death, but acting out towards Larry and I. #2 tried very hard to pretend that #3 simply was not there. #3? Poor #3's life fell apart. She cried and was sad constantly. I thought we'd ruined her previously insanely cheerful disposition. (I've long since figured out that #3 will react strongly no matter which way her feelings lean. She'd just never before had reason to be so distraught.) #4, being the caboose, just chugged along, asserting his preferred position as the big black engine.

I find myself similarly blind-sided. I thought I'd had a handle on grief, that I understood what it would be like. With my husband's poor health for nearly our entire marriage, I've imagined more often than I care to admit what it would be like to lose him. I thank God that I haven't, and that he seems to be getting a handle on his immune system. Losing a parent can't be more traumatic than losing a spouse, right? And in the past two years, I of course had contemplated losing my mother. In some ways, I'd lost parts of having a mother when I became the caregiver. So when she passed, I had it all mapped out: get through the funeral, get through my grandmother's funeral, get through Christmas and the school holiday, and then I could mourn properly. I think I imagined needing a good week or two to earnestly fall apart, and then I could slowly rebuild back into normal life.

I didn't anticipate that holding in pain for several weeks would make me scared to finally let go. And I'm scared of mourning too much. It feels like it might drown me. I didn't anticipate that I'd feel such let down from all of my care giving duties. Or that, being a home-body sort of girl, I'd hate to be home. Or that when I'd then try to fill up my time with being out of the house, I'd become exhausted. That church would be one of the most difficult places to be. That trying to get back into a diet that I gave up on during the hospice phase would induce major emotional stress. I didn't think that I would just not be able to bring myself to start working on all of the projects I've not had time for over the past years.

When I do start to let go, to cry, to feel sad, there emerges the presence of this obstacle that I can't even name. It's something that I need to get over, get through ... I'm not sure. I can't decide what it is. It must be loss. But it feels like something more sinister than that. Something nebulous and concrete all at the same time. I have no idea how to defeat it. I had truly thought that when my mom died, the hard part was over. I'm starting to wonder if I was wrong about that.

In an effort to gain some control, I imagine that it would be helpful to go on a trip somewhere entirely unremarkable. All by myself. For several days, maybe even a week. I would cry and read and watch harmless movies and just lay there. I almost feel that if I could do that, then maybe I could be done and move on. But not only do I not have the opportunity for such an indulgence, I fear it would probably work out as well as my original grief schedule did. It's frustrating to be a rather self-aware person who finds herself unsure of how to proceed, of how to help myself through this. Nothing seems right. No course seems like the one I want to take.

To be honest, much of the time, I'm doing alright. In those moments, when I start to worry about all of this grief work, I wonder if I'm making a bigger deal out of it than I need or ought. I have always had a tendency to over-think things. But then a bad day will hit, and I'm pretty sure that I'm not just being dramatic.

I tried to enlist the aid of Elmo and Mr. Snuffleupagus in my kids' transitions from baby to big sister. They were entertaining, but ultimately ineffective. There's surely a plethora of resources out there to help in this transition of mine as well. I imagine they'll be more helpful than Sesame Street was with my two-year-olds. Eventually I may have to put on some big-girl pants and seek them out.

Monday, January 23, 2012

My New Best Friend

Did you ever read a book, and were just certain that if only the hero could meet YOU instead of the heroine, that filmmakers would have a much more interesting main character to work with than Bella Swan? Or watch TV, knowing that the only reason Jack Bauer wasn't knocking down YOUR door is because he was simply too darn busy saving America from terrorist-driven nuclear disaster to notice how hot you are?

Yeah, me neither. So the following is a totally new and different experience for me ...

I just finished reading "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?" by Mindy Kaling of The Office fame, and I am pretty sure that if she ever met me, or even just happened once to be one of the 9 folks who stumble across my blog on a daily basis, that we would be best friends. Instantly. In fact, I'm so sure of it, that if I were technologically savvy enough, I'd find a pic of her and one of her college roommates and totally photoshop my face onto the face of her roommate, just to prove my point. (I'd enlist the aid of my virtual friend Kristina, but she's too busy preparing her Sunbeam handouts for Sunday. And asking my 15 year old for help seems too um, what's the word?, loser-y.)

I know, I know, you think we come from totally separate worlds. You're correct. Mindy's in Hollywood, I'm in Boise. She's 5 years younger than me. I'm a stay-at-home Mormon mom of four, she's a single working woman, who doesn't sound like she's ever been religious. She loves to shop, I hate to shop. She's a comedy writer, and I'm more of an introspective, commentary-on-daily-life-experiences writer. Plus, she gets paid to write, and I'd probably have to shell out good money to get broader readership. (Which currently consists almost entirely of my dad. And Kristina.) And, as I probably should have mentioned first, Mindy grew up in Eastern Mass, I grew up in Western Mass. That's right. Night and Day.

So what am I thinking? Well, it's really pretty straightforward. Mindy is really funny. I am a comedy connoisseur. I love intellectual, subtle humor. So she'd tell jokes, and I'd laugh hysterically. That right there is a basis of a great relationship. She'd never feel threatened by my success, which I think is another big plus in my favor.

Reading Mindy's memoir felt like staying up all night at a sleep-over or at Girls' Camp and hearing all about her life. We really connected. I get all of her ironies and sarcastic asides. I identify with her thinly veiled insecurities. She has a brother, I have a brother. She had 2 girlfriends in college, I had 2 in high school ... one of whom is named Kelly (just like Mindy's character on The Office). She thinks married people should be pals ... my husband and I are totally pals. She loves romantic comedies, I love romantic comedies. And we both note the disturbing trend of female romantic leads with BMIs of 4 who eat like linebackers. Crazy, huh?! We're practically twins.

Of course, the problem is social circles. We don't run in the same ones. So meeting is going to be hard. My idea is this: Mindy seems to be the sort of girl who'd make a habit out of googling herself now and then. If she does it soon, this post might pop up. After reading it, then browsing around my blog, reading all of my deep and thoughtful posts, intermixed with touches of humor, she will leave me a comment with her cell number, we start texting, and the rest, as they say, is history. I'm so excited, I can hardly breathe.

I better get back on that diet. I want to look great when I'm her guest at the next Emmys.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Product Review, Eastwood-style

Ritter Sport
Dark Chocolate with Whole Hazelnuts

THE GOOD: Super tasty dark chocolate & hazelnuts ... plenty of antioxidants, flavonoids, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, plant sterols and a lower glycemic index. Perfectly acceptable treat for someone watching her health.

THE BAD: The 3.5 oz bar qualifies as "about" 3 servings. (I'm not sure I even want to know what that implies.)

THE UGLY: Unless I happen to have two other people who enjoy dark chocolate and nuts with me at the moment, I am going to eat 3 servings. And it won't even take me super long to do. That's about 1/3 of my allotted calories for the day in a 20 minute sitting with an incredibly low food volume. Not my smartest move of the day.