Saturday, May 27, 2006

the sun'll come out tomorrow...

The song "Tomorrow" from Annie got me through big chunks of my childhood. I am feeling better today, in part because I finally really opened up about all this stuff I've been bottling up for years. I can admit that my faith is struggling under the weight of my past, and is hardly able to sustain me. But I know my faith is still there, like a pilot light just waiting to be put to use. This week just really SUCKED and it didn't help matters that I was exhausted physically and emotionally. Mo's car even got towed on Thursday afternoon, you know, just in case we were starting to feel better... and I've developed a strange rash that is NOT stress-induced hives. Heh. I keep telling myself that at least we're all healthy, our marriage is healthy, and we have a roof over our heads. We're not living in Darfur.

I also allowed myself to indulge in a lot of snark over the past couple of days. A LOT. Television Without Pity and Mr. Nice Guy, I salute thee for helping me get through this. Also, Dutch's posts about the Bay-to-Breakers race, along with all the associated pictures (not for the faint of heart, just letting you know).

So, I think I'm gonna go try to take a nap. Hopefully, El Niño will join me. Mo's gonna make pizza for dinner, which is my kind of comfort food and his specialty. And the long weekend will give me the opportunity to spend a lot of time in my lover's arms. Maybe I'll cheer up enough to post a picture of my incredibly soft and beautiful new Kozy carrier before the weekend's over.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

on the verge...

it's really a shame that one of my favorite movies ever, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, doesn't translate well to audiences that don't speak Spanish. The movie's fucking brilliant. It's a very campy, very 80's portrayal of 24 hours in the life of a woman on the brink of suicide by first finding out that her lover has unexplainably left her, and then that she's pregnant by him. What follows is so absurd, it almost circles back to being perfectly rational. And that's why I think it's brilliant.

My life has, on so many occasions, taken such ludicrous turns as to seem irrationally logical. My Godmother used to joke that the things that happened to me in real life always reminded her of the old Perils of Pauline serial. Living a cliffhanger-like existence isn't good for one's sanity, tho. I have found myself many times on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and have quite possibly experienced one or two "mild" ones. It's quite possible, for example, that I was in the middle of one when I became unmarried & pregnant at 21... didn't quite manage to dodge THAT bullet, did I?

The raison d' etre for this post is that I'm feeling "that way" again, feeling my neck muscles so tight that I'm afraid they're going to crack, feeling the pressure all over my head and that void in the pit of my stomach and the temptation to just. allow. myself. to step outside. for a bit. Into the twilight zone. Because the life my body is occupying right now just doesn't seem right. It's a bit too... OFF. And I don't know how to convey this to Mo in a way he can understand it. I'm the one prone to angst, not him. He really doesn't get why I care about half the shit I do, and when I care SO much that I can't stop crying... well, what can he do other than hold me?

The by-product of finding out the other day that my friend Joan died in Puerto Rico, was that my uncle left a message asking me to call him back. What's that line from The Godfather, the one where Don Corleone says something to the effect that no matter how he tries to get away [from the mob life], he always gets dragged back in? This uncle is my mother's brother, a man I used to love and respect, until he came to visit me four years ago -- on the pretext of going camping with Hyde and I -- and dropped the bomb after he arrived that he has a whole other family on the side that no one else in my family knew about. It was supposed to be our fucking little secret, he just needed someone to talk to about it because it was stressful for him. Ah, thanks for sharing! Then, a year later he came up with some lame excuse for not coming to my wedding (like I get married every day, right?), although he did finally show thanks to my other non-insane family members who talked him into it. But I digress from the point of this post, this particular phone call. The deal is that, since El Niño was born we've spoken four times, and the last two times I've cried for a looooooong time after hanging up. My uncle deals with his emotional baggage by being The Rescuer. He is currently taking care of my mother and this is what he wanted to update me on. If you've read any of my other posts, you know that I have serious issues with my parents, most especially my mother. She is mentally ill, has been forever and most likely undiagnosed for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. But he doesn't get it, doesn't get that she needs to be institutionalized because she is a danger to herself and others, and so he insists instead on recounting for me in detail the "strange" things that she does and the way that she acts and lives. How much more weight she's gained, how she doesn't take care of her diabetes, how she appears to be developing symptoms that could signal the onset of Parkinson's. His parting comment to me on Monday night is that if she were to die in the apartment she lives in (an apartment he owns and provides free of charge to her, even tho she is verbally abusive to him every chance she gets), she wouldn't even be found because of the smell... there would be no smell. The apartment has excellent cross-ventilation and the smell would be dissipated away from the neigbors. None of her friends have a key to the place, and he's usually away on business. He wanted me to know this. And I have to ask myself, WHY? Why did he make a point to tell me this? And why does that thought, the thought of her slowly decomposing while no one knows, terrify me so much? Why does the image of her nearly choking to death in the bathroom of a Ponderosa Steakhouse two weeks ago freak me out?

All my life, I've been terrified not just of my mother but of becoming my mother. Every time someone said I looked just like her or I talked just like her, I wanted to scream. Did they not see the differences? how could they miss them? I have my father's coloring, his nose and his lips. As I've become a mother and an adult woman (in my case, they pretty much happened at the same time), I've strived to avoid any similarities between the two of us. But the fear, the irrational, blind panic that it's inevitable for me to become just like her has rarely left me. Now that I'm older, sometimes I see her looking back at me in the bathroom mirror. I do NOT want to be that woman, I do not want to be that mother.

So, this is where I'm at, today. I feel like I'm on the verge... I have a wonderful husband who struggles to support me through this. I have a teenage son who -- unfairly -- thinks I'm an awful mother. And I have a tantrummy toddler who's teething. Somehow, I'll get through the day, and tomorrow will be better than today, just like today was better than yesterday. I'm in a quiet panic. I'm fighting the urge to crawl into a corner of my bathroom in a fetal position and keep the world at bay for as long as possible. I never set out to make this an angst-filled record of my days, I wanted to be funny and clever like so many of the other bloggers I read. But this is my life, right now. My throat is constricted and I'm blinking back the tears, focusing on taking the next breath and hoping Mo will get home soon so I can bury myself in his arms.

And finally, a big thank you to all of you who have visited and left comments in the last week about my friend Joan. She really was an amazing woman and I'm sure she would've loved to read all your blogs. She would've adopted you all too.

Friday, May 19, 2006

In Memoriam

I've finally had the opportunity to understand why I've been in such a funk for a while. It wasn't the budget situation in Puerto Rico, although that was very discouraging. It wasn't the myriad problems we've been having with Hyde for the last few months, although those have been maddening. And it isn't because I've been fried by the past couple of months' worth of El Niño's potty training and erratic sleep cycles.

My spirit knew before my mind did... that one of the most influential people in my life died in Puerto Rico on March 12th. But none of the people who knew felt compelled to let me know before today. So, I've just found out, and I'm hurt, bewildered and *pissed*.

Joan Miller was an incredible woman. She had a PhD in Special Education, and dedicated her career to training her college students to be the best, kindest and most creative teachers. She met me when I was 11 years old, and I immediately adopted her as part of my family. I needed someone as funny and loving as her in my life. She was nothing like any other woman I knew, and I loved her for it. At that time, most of the women I knew -- my mother and her friends -- were militant feminists who blamed men for everything that was wrong in their lives (that kind of militant feminists). I had a real problem with that. Joan never married but she also never had that disdain or contempt for men that I saw in the others, and that I certainly heard every day from my mother's lips.

Through the years, Joan took me under her wing much the way a loving aunt would. I could go to her home and hang out, relax. We could talk about anything because she would actually listen and treat my thoughts and feelings with respect. When I was 15, my boyfriend died and she sat with me for hours, talking until I was finally talked and cried out. She would travel the world every year, and once I got old enough she'd leave me to dog- and apartment-sit, which was like a paid vacation because she lived two blocks from the beach. Her dogs were strays: Rosa was a spaniel mutt she found as an abandoned sick puppy in a parking lot, and King was a mutt she found on the beach. She was good at loving strays, like me. I got her hooked on reading Agatha Christie mysteries when I was 14, she returned the favor by getting me hooked on Sara Paretsky and then Patricia Cornwell. She proudly hung on her dining room walls two watercolors I'd painted when I was five years old. That act in itself made me feel loved. See, my art had never been good enough to hang on my parents' walls...

When I got pregnant at 21 and had to drop out of school, she didn't hold it against me, because she knew how screwed up my life was then. She got Hyde a gorgeous wooden rocking horse that he loved, hugged & kissed like a puppy. Every year, she got him a present for Christmas, something my mother didn't do. She would send him postcards from every place she went to, and I think I've saved them all for him. She loved on him like a proud grandmother, never saying anything negative to him or to me. When he was diagnosed with ADHD, she sent me information on how to deal with it and also get the school system to help.

Joan didn't get to meet Mo, she wasn't able to attend our wedding almost three years ago because she hadn't been feeling well and she had too much going on at work. Of course, she got us an awesome present. A couple of months later, she had a massive, paralyzing stroke. I never got a chance to tell her about the new baby on the way, to tell her how happy I was/am and how Mo was worth waiting for all those years. I wish that I'd had the chance to share my new happiness with her. When I think of her, I see her smiling, her blue eyes bright and twinkling. I see her eating ice cream, and chuckling at the dogs' sillyness. I've been letting her go for the last two+ years, since the stroke left her in a hospital bed unable to even communicate, and yet it still hurts to think that she's really, truly gone and I won't see her again. During one of the last conversations we had, she promised that she'd be sitting there the day I graduated from college. That promise lives in my heart.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


for at least a week now, I've been in a weird funk. I can't figure out what's up but it's like a low-grade fever that's sapping me of what little positive energy I've usually got. And the dreams... ugh, the dreams I've been having SUCK. Mo acting all weird until I figure out that he's cheating on me. Or, my dad's still alive and I'm trying to run away from home, no matter what he does, how loving and patient he is. (Oh, I guess even *I* can figure this one out, now that I see it in writing. I'm so dense sometimes)

The situation back home gets uglier by the day. Maybe that's poisoning my soul a bit. People always ask me how I could leave such an island "paradise". Well, you can leave when your heart is broken, when you realize that those who are obvious candidates for a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder are the only ones who ever get elected to higher office. It's not paradise when crazy people are running the show.

Anyway, this is where I'm at today. Maybe I'll get a good night's sleep now that I've vented.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


multilingualism and other challenges

First off, I have to say I think these shoes ROCK and I've been eyeing them for El Niño for a while now. The next time they go on sale I'll probably have to break down and get them for him. Dutch wrote a post about how much he and Wood hate flames on pretty much anything, and it reminded me that I sometimes like the most unexpected (for me) things. Like these shoes... I wouldn't get them for myself or for Mo. But for a little one who's getting faster and faster on his feet every day, I think they'd be just yummy.

So anyway, Mo's hard work over the past month has paid off and El Niño is now saying the names of six colors. He still sometimes gets the colors mixed up but at least he can say the words bhue, ellow, red, oranj, geen, and puhpl. No, I'm not teaching him the Spanish equivalents. I'll let him get it totally straight in English first, then I'll teach them to him in my language. In the meantime, I'm trying to teach him to count from 1 - 5 in Spanish. I think that's a reasonable compromise. He's also obsessed with letters (especially W and its fraternal twin M; I tell him W is for wow, M is for Mami), so we're working on those as well, what the heck.

I knew going into this "experiment" that it'd be difficult, and that multilingual children have so much more to process that their speech usually lags behind that of their peers. The keys are consistency, persistence, and patience. That doesn't mean I don't get supremely bummed that other people's kids the same age are saying tons of things while mine seems to speak mostly in what sounds to me like a Scandinavian tongue. Sometimes, he doesn't even *try* and just makes earnest facial expressions while blurting out "BLAHLAHLAHLAHLAHLAHLAHLALA!" Thank God for ASL, although even then, we have some issues. The sign for cracker and tree are the same, as far as he's concerned. And since he can't bring himself to say please or thank you in Spanish or English, would it kill him to use the signs???

It's also interesting to see what he picks and chooses in order to communicate, and how he associates. It wasn't until he was 18mo that he *finally* consistently said "mami"; until then both parents were called "daddy". He still won't say his name, even though he's acknowledged it since before he was six months old. He has also never tried to say milk in either language, only ever makes the sign for it. He makes the sign for all sorts of animals we've taught him, and the sounds they make, but he hasn't once tried to say their names. Except for giraffe... because giraffes don't make a sound (at least not any that I could come up with). Same thing with car, he'll make the sign for it and the sound but he doesn't ever try to say the word. See how I'm running my very own linguistics experiment here? I could go on about this but I'm exhausted and need to go to sleep soon.

so my left eye won't stop twitching... anyone got any good suggestions on how to fix that? Other than sleep, because apparently my children are determined to never allow me to have another good night's sleep. Ever.

Our very own Prefontaine (that'd be Hyde) has two meets left in his Track season. He's been steadily improving his times but missed last week's meet because he was sick (we ALL got sick, again. THANKS Kid!). So now we're not sure if that'll set him back for the rest of the season. Hyde is the kind of person who does well in pretty much any sport he participates in, he's a natural talent; he doesn't get that from me. We were hoping that he'd do well because that'd motivate him to also do well in his academics, participate in Cross Country next season (thereby sparing us the discussion about WHY he can't do football that we seem to have every year), and maybe even improve his attitude at home. Really people, the male teenage brain is so inscrutable to me, I can't even begin to explain how I feel on a daily basis. The only thing that comes to mind is living in a war zone, somewhere car bombs and other random explosions happen. You have to keep on living and always in the back of your head there's the knowledge that something awful may happen, any minute. I love my son but sometimes I don't really know WHY I do... am I a masochist? mentally ill? Anyone who thinks the toddler years are difficult, hasn't parented a teenager yet... that's all I'm sayin'.

And it's because of the track meet schedule that I'm probably going to miss a fun night out with other PDX blogging mammas, which is a HUGE bummer. Just slap that big "L" on my forehead now.

speaking of which, I had a glorious Lucy moment yesterday. I was trying to load the dishwasher while paying close attention to El Niño, who was due for a potty run any minute but kept saying no every time I asked. Once I realized it was time, I dashed towards him but the hardware mounted gate between us didn't swing open like I expected it to... I wound up eating it on the floor, tangled up in the gate, watching in horror as my bottom-half-naked toddler peed a gallon and a half onto the carpet. I have a lovely gash across my abdomen to show for it too.

Other than that, potty training is going really well! He even napped on my bed naked the other day, and managed to stay dry for the duration (two hours).

Monday, May 01, 2006

reason #16545 why I love Oregon

These are pictures I took at Crater Lake when Mo and I went, a month before our wedding. I had described it to him as a superb place for smooching. It is definitely a place worth visiting with someone you love, and I highly recommend watching the sunset there (the late August sun provides the most spectacular light & color display against the rock walls). Happy Monday!

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