Archive | June, 2012

Check it out! I guest blogged!

29 Jun

Ordinarily, I eschew exclamation points in my writing but, golly gee, someone asked me to write for his blog and I did it! You can check out a bit of my experience parenting my son through one of the darkest times of both of our lives here:  http://blackboxwarnings.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/a-tale-of-two-meds-and-one-teen/

Read the other posts, too. The man who started the blog is also dealing with a son with ADHD and the meds that come along with it. And there are others who posted as well. It’s a valuable, developing resource for those of us taking drugs with black box warnings (means they can lead to all kinds of nasty side effects, like suicidal ideation and other fun things) and parenting kids taking those drugs.

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Now, THIS is crazy!

28 Jun

Image from Zazzle.com

It’s Father’s Day. I’m sitting with my Dad on the patio.

“How are you, Dad?” I ask.

“Not very good,” he says, looking down at his hands. I’ve never seen him this sad.

“Your mother rejected me,” he says and tells me, through tears, that my mother left him.

I start to cry, not knowing which is worse, telling my father that my mother died nearly four years ago or letting him believe she’s still alive and left him.

“Dad,” I say, as gently as I can, “Mom’s dead. She died almost four years ago. She would never leave you.” He looks up, confused. He’s confused nearly all the time now.

“You took such good care of her, do you remember that?” He’s trying. “She had emphysema and you took such good care of her. She was just too sick. We had to let her go, Dad.” I wonder if he remembers making the decision ending life support. He believes me. He believes and he’s sad, but he’s calmer.

I visit my dad every week these days, but I never know where it’ll be. Last week, it was Denver. He was waiting at his hotel, while my mother and grandmother shopped for houses. They’d come to Denver for a convention, something they did a lot. Traveling to conventions, that is, not traveling to Denver. He seemed anxious about buying yet another house, but he’d never really been able to say “No” to my mother. I told him I knew the feeling.

Another visit saw us in Hong Kong, having dinner with a group of executives my dad clearly didn’t like because they’d kidnapped me. Yet another visit saw us in Rochester at a bicycle factory. There was our visit in an undisclosed location in Romania, where my dad told me he was forced to sit on a minaret to escape the men trying to capture him in Saudi Arabia. Recently, my sister married the Shah of Iraq, so we have an Arabian theme going lately.

My dad’s delusions are nothing compared to the other residents. There’s the woman who gathers all of the baby dolls and stuffed animals and arrays them on a table. She dresses them all and sets them down to sleep then complains about how she has so many babies to care for. There’s the 105-year old woman who was once a singer. She still tries to sing but it comes out as screeching wails. There’s the woman who sits quietly and, when she catches your eye doesn’t say “Hello,” but “I’m afraid.” “Afraid of what?” I asked. “Of dying,” she replied.

It’s hard not to make the leap to The Snake Pit or One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest or whatever look-inside-the-loony-bin movie was popular in your particular generation. This, after all, is what crazy people are and do.

But I know better. My father and his housemates aren’t nuts. They have a terrible disease that literally eats at their brains, destroying the web that connects a lifetime of accumulated memory and leaving them with a stew of thought they continually try to make sense of.

No. They are not crazy; I am. At least, that’s what my society says. I have bipolar disorder; I am bipolar. I never know which description to use, so I use both. But no matter how I reveal my condition, I get a universal reaction, spoken or no. “That chick is crazy.” Someone even told me, “Wow. You’d never know to look at you!”

I suppose that’s a compliment; the self-harming, judgmental thoughts, over-spending and insomnia don’t show on my face. Of course, the medication helps. More likely, it’s an indication of how crazy Americans are about mental illness.

I happen to come from a family of crazies. Alcoholism, schizophrenia, drug abuse were things I learned about early. None of the crazies looked crazy. Well, ok, the schizophrenic lived in another state, so I didn’t see him very often and can’t really say he never looked crazy. Still, “you’d never know to look” at any of them that they lived with demons.

So, I don’t usually tell people I’m bipolar, though I’ve been doing it more often lately. Maybe it was the “you don’t look” it comment; maybe it’s my own growing acceptance. I’ve been more active in the blogosphere lately and the anonymity it affords makes it easier for crazies to hang out and connect with each other.

In America, you can pretty much tell who’s a flag-waving conservative by, well, the flags waving on their houses. I decided, some time ago, to take back the flag. This is my country, too, I thought, and hung the flag on our porch.

So, I’m taking back crazy. I’m a mom, a writer and a teacher. I have two great kids and the obligatory pets that go along with living in one of America’s most famous suburbs. I’m happily married.

This is what crazy looks like, people.

How to Drive Yourself Crazy This Summer

25 Jun

Enroll two kids in a few summer activities and let the good times roll. I’m not going to add up the mileage I’m putting on my little red Rav; it’s enough to tote up the cost of driving them. One more reason to look forward to the school year starting!

Here’s the link to this week’s column: http://naperville.patch.com/articles/where-s-the-lazy-in-this-crazy-summer

C? Si! 100 posts and beyond

21 Jun

I’m not ordinarily interested in anniversaries, commemorative dates and other forced significancies. I barely remember how long I’ve been married and don’t really think it matters much. Frankly, staying married is really just a matter of not getting divorced when things get bad. Things have always gotten better for us, so being married for 20 years is more luck than hard work.

I don’t understand why we have to celebrate birthdays, either. I get older every year; so do you. Why do I have to go out to eat somewhere really fancy on April 22? Maybe I’d like to go out to eat somewhere really fancy on June 26 or October 13. I’m considering putting tokens in a jar for all of the events we’re supposed to commemorate. Then, if we feel like doing it up one day, we can just take out a token and celebrate whatever we happen to pull out. So, if I want to, I can celebrate my October wedding anniversary in March.

Publishing 100 posts on Snide Reply, though, is apparently something to crow about. I’ve actually published 101, but I didn’t write one of them. I recently re-blogged a post from sweetmotherlover, a blogger I follow. Because I’m busier than a suburban mom driving her kids all over town to various summer activites, I decided to break my no-commemorations rule. I am celebrating writing 100 posts by re-blogging the first post I wrote, two years ago. Back then, I had about 35 followers. Last time I checked, I had about 144145147. Not the biggest following, but more than I ever thought I’d reach. I happen to think my first is also one of my funniest posts and hope you think so, too. Enjoy.

Thanks friends, family and followers! I’ll keep writing if you’ll keep following.

How Old is Old Enough For Home Alone?

18 Jun

How old were you when you first stayed home alone? My kids think it’s great. I think it’s a terrible idea, imaging every kind of disaster possible. So, of course, I wrote about it. Here’s the link:

http://naperville.patch.com/articles/how-old-is-old-enough-to-stay-home-alone

Do you remember staying home alone? How old were you? I had an old sister and younger brother so was seldom home alone. Maybe that’s why I love being alone now. Hm….yes! Let’s blame it on the siblings!

Tears On My Pillow

14 Jun

One look at him and I knew he wasn’t done. Brow furrowed, mouth turned down, eyes wide, he was half an inch from starting up again and I had no idea how to stop him. Then the tears started.

“Why are you crying?” I asked as gently as possible.

“Because of the lump in my froat,” he said, still too young to get the “th” sound right.

“The lump is in your throat because you’re crying,” I said. “So, why are you crying?”

“Because of the lump,” he said. I sighed. The physiology behind tear production apparently isn’t part of the public school kindergarten curriculum.

“Well, when we are sad, we cry and the lump means that you are thinking about something sad and then you cry because of the sad thing, not because of the lump,” I explained. Then, he cried in earnest.

“Why are you sad?” I asked.

He cried.

“Are you thinking about mommy?” I asked.

He cried harder. Ah, I thought, something to work with.

“Well, stop thinking about mommy,” I said.

The crying paused, as he considered whether it were truly possible to stop thinking about mommy when he was sure that mommy had abandoned him at math enrichment class. He began to cry again.

“Think about math,” I said. Well, I thought, that was the lamest thing you could have said. Sensing the lameness of my advice, he continued crying.

“Wait! Wait!” I said. “I have an idea! Let’s try this!” He paused.

“Take a deep breath and pretend you’re smelling a big bunch of flowers.” He inhaled.

“Now, blow it out and pretend you’re blowing out the candles on a cake.” He exhaled.

We inhaled and exhaled for a while ‘til he calmed enough to think about math. We got through the lesson. He never knew I learned “smell the flowers, blow out the candles” while helping care for my own mother, who died of emphysema.

I didn’t cry for my mother in public other than those dainty little trails so insignificant that they barely need to be wiped away. I remember holding my daughter’s hand as we walked down the aisle behind my mother’s casket. I spied a friend in a pew toward the front. Tears came to my eyes. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes until the tears passed, not in time to keep one from trickling down my cheek but before my mascara suffered any damage. My mother would have approved.

I’d like to tell you that my aversion to public crying is based on aesthetics. Runny, ruddy noses and red-rimmed eyes are unattractive at best. But I know that I really do think crying is for sissies and I am no sissy. No, I don’t think this is a particularly healthy stance, but it’s the one I’ve got. And, yes, I do know that big girls, and big men, do cry.

It’s not that I don’t feel like crying. I feel like crying so often I might be able to cry a river. Between hormone fluctuations and bipolar disorder, my brain chemistry is pretty much primed to turn any amount of pathos into a bawl. Remember that Coke

(ok, so it was Pepsi) commercial with the little boy being pounced on by a pack of puppies? Had me in tears every time I saw it. Now, I’m not talking little sniffles. I’m talking about tears that lasted way past the commercial break. That Procter and Gamble spot with all the moms dragging their sleepy kids out of bed so they (the kids, that is) can become Olympic athletes? Wrings sobs from me. Is it no wonder I’ve trained my tears to stop on command?

My kids, particularly my daughter, have picked up on my propensity for becoming maudlin over recorded fare ranging from the sentimental to the insipid. We’ll be watching a movie, say We Bought A Zoo, and everything will be going along swimmingly until the dad-figure and the son-figure have a touching moment that begins to heal the rift they’ve felt between them since the mom-figure died. Only seconds after my eyes begin to fill up, my daughter says, “You’re crying, aren’t you?” Doesn’t even have to look, she just knows it. My sister suffers the same schmaltz-induced weeping. Her kids are far less kind. “Look!” they say, “Mom’s crying! You’re crying, aren’t you?” I believe I’ve seen my sister stick her tongue out at them.

My daughter may have taken a page from my niece and nephews. Recently, she and a friend were cleaning up the family room. By that I mean they were listening to music, dancing and performing gymnastics amidst a myriad of books, stuffed animals and craft supplies. A particular Selena Gomez song came on; I’ve written about this song before. My daughter knows it makes me cry. So, in consideration of my tender feelings, she said, “Watch this! This song always makes my mom cry. See! There she goes!”

There, indeed, I did go. My daughter’s friend’s mother apparently does not cry at sappy Selena Gomez songs. Friend looked at me as if I were some exotic creature. “Why does this song make you cry?” she asked, cocking her head to one side like a scientist. I resisted the urge to hand her a clipboard and pencil.

“Well,” I said, “lots of women have a nasty voice inside their heads that tells them they are ugly or fat or stupid. It makes me sad that I have that voice in my head and I hope my daughter never does.”

She nodded her head and went back to turning cartwheels. Yes, in fact, I did cry writing that last paragraph—in the peace and privacy of my office.

You want fries with your obesity?

11 Jun

Here’s my Monday column from the Patch. I know Disney has it’s issues and some people have issues with Disney, but this is the right thing to do.

http://naperville.patch.com/articles/banning-junk-food-ads-makes-disney-the-hero

Now if someone would just serve a small soda that’s, you know….small!

 

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