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You can help a crazy mother out

11 Oct

I’ve got a confession to make. I’ve been cheating on you. Well, not you, exactly; I’ve been cheating on Snide Reply.

See, instead of writing about my life, it’s ups and downs, the funny things my kids are doing, the obscene things my iPad is saying, the people who are driving me crazy, I’ve been writing about being crazy. And I’ve been doing it somewhere else.

But I’m ready for you to join me there.

Yesterday, I launched a new blog that I hope will grow into a thriving digital community where parents who have mental illnesses can go to find help, information, entertainment and camaraderie.

It’s called Crazy Good Parent and it was born out of my own frustration at not being able to find the kind of information I need as someone with bipolar disorder who is trying to be the best parent she can. There is plenty of Internet help for parents, for people with mental illness, and for people parenting people with mental illness. But we parents managing kids, work, family, marriage, etc., while also managing our minds? Well, we’re not really feeling the love on the Web.

So, I started my own hangout for people like me—crazygoodparent.com. Come on over and bring your crazy mother (and father) friends, too.

Janice

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Sometimes my kids aren’t very funny at all

5 Feb

pACEBW-1126408dtSeems like lately, we’ve been going through a not-so-funny period at what is usually The Fun House. Between arguing about whether driving is a right or a privilege with our son and arguing about how much duct tape is too much with our daughter, I’d say things are decidedly downbeat. Today, I find myself trying to find the humor in a hole the size of a ten-year-old’s heel in the staircase wall. It’s not coming. Note to new parents, you think you will escape the horrors of preteen and teen parenting. I laugh at you. All I can say is have plenty of wine on hand, and a tub of spackle.

How’s your day going?

Where do babies come from?

12 Nov

Photo: Zimbio.com

Nicole Kidman, Edie Falco and Sharon Stone did it. Sandra Bullock, Charlize Theron and Katherine Heigl did it. Barbara Walters and Diane Keaton did it. I know someone who was with Meg Ryan when she did it.

It isn’t only women who do it. Tony Shaloub and even Ozzy Osbourne did it.

And I did it, too.

Nine years ago, on September 15, I, with my husband, adopted a baby girl from China. I’ve written about adoption before; it was an angry—some might say “snide”—response to the idiocy many people express about adoption and to those on all sides of the adoption triangle.

But adoption hasn’t only exposed me to idiocy. It has brought me an overabundance of joy. My daughter is beautiful, smart, funny, loving, generous, and kind. We adoptive parents like to joke that it’s ok for us to brag about our children ‘cause it’s not like we’re patting our own genetic code on the back. But I will gladly tell you that my son, who came from my womb, is handsome, smart, funny, loving (in a teenage boy kind of way), generous and kind.

Adoption has changed my vocabulary. My daughter isn’t adopted, she was adopted. As soon as the papers were signed, she became my daughter. I don’t usually say my son come from my womb, as I did above, though I prefer that description. I refer to him as my “biological son” if anyone asks and people frequently ask when they see him and his sister together. He has some smart-ass comments he keeps for people who ask if she was adopted, but he has a smart-ass comment for just about everything. Calling my son “biological” seems to imply, to me at least, that my daughter is somehow not made of the same stuff. Calling him my “natural” child is equally strange for me. Is my daughter then “unnatural?”

Adoption has changed the way many people see me. Because I’ve adopted, many people think I’m brave. They consider the things I’ve done—traveling to China, adopting “someone else’s child”—to be scary things.

Becoming a parent was scary. Deciding to try to get pregnant was scary, in a jumping off a cliff and hoping for a soft landing sort of way.

With adoption, there was no fear. We took one red-tape filled step at a time, confident that there was a child for us at the end of the journey. Traveling to China? With an eight-year old boy? Immediately following lifting of the SARS travel ban? Didn’t faze me. Trying to get pregnant is a tentative sort of venture. Who knows how it will end? Adoption is a deliberate process. Every form filled out, every interview, every trip to a consulate, state or county official says, “We will have a child.”

Adoption has brought me close to people I might never have bothered to know. I don’t usually go out of my way to befriend people whose politics and principles are so different from my own. My adoption community includes people with dramatically different politics and principles.

When I was pregnant with my son, a good friend was as well. We had a bump bonding moment in the ladies’ room at a restaurant in Bloomington, Indiana. She showed me her distended belly button and I showed her mine. I can’t imagine showing my belly button to my adoption community friends. Most of them have never met me in person.

But though our world is mainly virtual, our friendship is very real. We’ve been through the typical things long time friends weather like divorces, illnesses, teenagers. But only my adoption friends can provide comfort when I’ve just held my daughter while she sobs for her real mother.  Only they can assure me that I’ve handled it well, that I’ve done what a real mother does.

People tell me they couldn’t do what I’ve done; that they could never love a child that wasn’t their own. There’s a witty reply: I love her as my own because she is my own, just as her brother is my own.

When my son was born, he was placed in my arms and I had no idea what to do with him. I fell in love with him but it wasn’t an overnight thing.

On September 14, a Chinese woman placed Lin Chun Mei in my arms. On September 15, she became my daughter, Abigail Mei. The next day, pushing her stroller toward the elevator at the White Swan Hotel in Guangdong Province, I knew she was my own, that my love for her was no different than my love for my son.

Before I went to China, I learned a single phrase in Mandarin. When I met my daughter, I told her, “Wo shi ni de mama. Wo shi yung yuan ni de mama.”

I am your mama. I will always be your mama.

The Princess of Snide

What I don’t get is this . . .

29 Oct

There are so many things I don’t get these days. Like people who comment on comics they view online. Go check out Arcamax comments. People actually comment on strips like Baby Blues and Zits as if the characters are real.

And, if you’ve been reading me for a while, I don’t get chubby guys doing outdoor activities topless.

But the thing that I don’t get more than any other, is how any one who wants to see fewer abortions, fewer teen pregnancies, fewer women sink into poverty because of an unplanned pregnancy can possibly support de-funding Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood is the biggest preventer of unplanned pregnancy in the United States. They provide contraception, cervical cancer exams, referrals to mammography and a wealth of other services to women who couldn’t otherwise afford them.

That Planned Parenthood has become a political football is ludicrous. In fact, funding of Planned Parenthood was initially proposed by Richard Nixon, a Republican, and received strong bi-partisan support by Congress. Planned Parenthood receives federal funding primarily through two government programs: the Title X Family Planning Program and Medicaid and is prohibited from using any of that money to fund abortion services.

Anti-abortion activists claim that any federal funding of Planned Parenthood enables the group to keep from using resources for abortion services. Good! The services Planned Parenthood provides that are federally funded are highly effective at preventing unplanned pregnancies and abortion.

In 2009, Planned Parenthood received $360 million in federal grants and contracts. None of that money funded abortion. In fact, it’s estimated that Planned Parenthood prevents more than 600,000 unintended pregnancies every year. And no other provider, federally funded or not, is able to provide healthcare services to clients as inexpensively.

Richard Nixon recognized the costs to the country of unintended pregnancies and said “no American woman should be denied access to family planning assistance because of her economic condition.” It was true in 1970 and it’s true now.

So, I just don’t get why anyone, pro-choice or anti-abortion, would want to cut $360 million dollars to shrink a 17 trillion dollar deficit when that cut is guaranteed to increase costs in other areas.

Happy Birthday, Dear Mom

11 Oct

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. No, not a day when everyone on earth spends the day trying to act calm, stable and happy, but a day devoted to encouraging people to discuss mental health issues. This year’s topic was depression. Not to belittle the global crisis of depression, but I guess all the other mental disorders got to take a break.

Most of you know that I am bipolar and may wonder why I didn’t write about what it’s like to be bipolar on World Mental Health Day. According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, I’ve got all week. Mental Health Awareness Week in the United States runs from October 7th through the 13th. I am American and I’m writing this on the 11th, so I figure I’m covered. Even if I’m not, National Mental Health Month is in May. Of course, a mental health month puts a lot of pressure on us; I’m not sure I can keep my mania and depression from popping up for an entire month even with meds.

I didn’t write about mental health—mine or anyone else’s—because yesterday was my mother’s birthday. When she was alive, I hosted a beef-centered dinner at my house. I did this because I loved my mother, but also because I spent years listening to her complain that no one ever did anything for her birthday and she was not going to plan her own party. And she loved beef.

Yesterday, we had fried chicken for dinner. That is not as contrary as it sounds. My mother was from the South and, while she made really good fried chicken herself, she also loved Popeye’s. My kids don’t really like beef—I think my daughter may become a vegetarian soon—but they like Popeye’s.  So, fried chicken for dinner.

I think my mother would have approved, but there were many things in my life that she didn’t really like a whole lot.

My hair? Not curly enough. Never mind that it is stick straight, fine as frog fur and most likely inherited from her. When my hair was permed, my mother loved it.

My housekeeping? Notice “housekeeping” and “Ha!” both start with an H. But when Mom was scheduled to visit, I became a dervish, scrubbing counters with hot water, vacuuming lampshades, polishing bathroom fixtures, arranging flowers. A friend once pointed out that it wasn’t like Queen Elizabeth was going to pop in to use my powder room. If only, I thought, if only!

My mouth? Far too many F-bombs came out of it to please my Mom. Actually, any F-bomb was unacceptable. According to her, I swear like a longshoreman. I doubt she ever met one; I’m not convinced she even knew what they did but she was convinced that I talked like one.

My mother didn’t swear . . .much. I think I heard her use the S-word twice. The most memorable instance was during a sewing session when she repeatedly tried to do a tricky seam. Finally, she got it right only to realize she’d sewed the thing to the shirt she was wearing.

There were things my mother approved of, though.

My intelligence, for one. When Geraldine Ferraro ran with Walter Mondale, my grandmother was appalled. How, in her mind, could a woman be tolerated one heartbeat away from the presidency? My mother was incensed. “I think a woman would be a wonderful president. Janice would be a wonderful president!” I might be, but there are far too many skeletons in my closet. Hell, my skeletons are out on the front lawn doing the Macarena.

My cooking. My mother loved the beef-centered dishes I made, but she loved the Williamsburg Orange cake I made every year even more. She liked my snacks, too. When my sister and I still lived at home, we’d watch late night movies with Mom, everything from Frankenstein to It Happened One Night. During some commercial break, I’d want a snack. I’d offer one to my mother on my way to the kitchen. “No, thank you” was invariably her response. On my return, she’d take a look at my snack and say, “Oh, that looks good!” an unspoken yet undeniable request for said snack.

My spirit. I’m honest—blunt, some would say—and pretty funny. If something strikes me as humorous, I’ll say it even if it’s highly inappropriate. My mother loved this about me. She loved it so much that she worried the meds I needed to stay alive would dampen it. They never did.

My mother died a slow, painful, ugly death of COPD. But while her disease chipped away at her freedom and health, she adapted and kept going. When breathing became difficult at night, she used an oxygen concentrator while she slept. When climbing the stairs at her home became difficult, she got a stair lift. When she couldn’t walk around the mall, she got oxygen in a bottle and a wheeled cart to drag it around behind her. When even that became difficult, she learned how to surf the ‘Net to visit her favorite stores.

My mother even found a reason to like Depends. Getting to the bathroom from the couch before you’ve got to go is something you likely take for granted. But when you can’t breathe, there’s no guarantee you’ll get there in time. “These Depends are great!” my mother told me. “I never have to worry if I’ll get to the potty in time.”

We joked that Mom was the Energizer Bunny; she kept going and going. Even in the end, she didn’t give up. It was left to us to turn off the machines keeping her alive.

I don’t need a particular day to make me aware of mental health issues; I live with them everyday. So, while yesterday may have been a mental health day for the rest of the world, I spent it with memories of my mom.

My (sister’s) kids say funny stuff, too 6

2 Oct

My nephew is a design student at Columbia College Chicago. Recently, he lost his wallet. In it was the normal wallet stuff, in addition to a special transit pass, U-Pass, only available to college students. The replacement fee for a lost or stolen pass is $50. Also, for clarification, a Blick card is a discount card for Dick Blick Art Materials. After discovering his loss, my nephew posted the following on his Facebook wall.

Hey, every human in the universe, I lost my wallet, so if you find it make sure you take all of the money out and my IDs, etc. and buy a bunch of crack and ride around Chicago with my U-Pass until you get arrested for using a stolen train card and then just be a crackhead in jail with a bunch of my forms of identification and an atm and Blick card.

The world in a grain of sand? How about your soul in an atom of hydrogen?

14 Sep

My son has a new girlfriend.

The young lady is lovely, though my son initially described her as a Smurf. She’s tiny, except in certain places where tiny is less than desirable, and she has blue hair. Well, not completely blue, but the Farrah Faucet-y bits around her face are definitely blue.

But before he described his lady love’s appearance, our son told us, “She’s an atheist.” I didn’t realize how important his religious stance was to him, though, until he started preparing us to meet Girl Friend for the first time. He repeated the “she’s an atheist” bit and then said, “I told her you guys are atheists, too, and she thinks that awesome.”

“You told her what?” I asked.

“That you guys are atheists.”

“But we’re not,” I said.

“Dad’s an atheist and you’re a Buddhist. That’s the same as being an atheist. You told me yourself, ‘Buddha’s not a god’.”

Now, I can tell the kid to start the oven for the pizza, or move the wet clothes from the washer to the dryer, or bring our entire collection of drinking glasses down from his room and he forgets within minutes. I have no idea how he hung onto “Buddha isn’t a god” but I was definitely wishing he hadn’t. Some days you want to help your kids with the big ideas and some days you don’t.

I took a deep breath.

“Ok, you’re right. Buddha isn’t a god, but that doesn’t mean that I’m an atheist.”

“Do you believe in God?”

“You mean white guy on a cloud god? No.”

“Then you’re an atheist.”

I sighed.

“Yes,” I said, “I suppose you’re right.” He smiled the smile of those who believe they’ve won the argument and the subject is closed, so he didn’t really hear, “but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in a spiritual life, that I don’t have a soul.”

But the subject isn’t closed. Not by a long shot. Since that conversation, I’ve mulled the idea of soul and spirituality on a daily basis. I now have a headache.

I’ve thought about soul on my runs, which has led me—consistently—to finish them singing, “R, E, S, P, E, C, T!” Not a bad way to end a run, but not the resolution I’d hoped for.

So, I asked other bloggers what they thought about soul. The G’nat at G’nat’s Eye View is an existentialist. His response made me realize that there are some seriously deep people in my virtual world. G’nat said:

I don’t think there is a difference between the soul and the self. Purpose? Purpose is our creation. Life is a blank canvas, and the self (or soul) holds both the paint and the brushes. The self (soul) not only has the freedom, but also has the responsibility to paint its own purpose.

I took philosophy in college. I really liked it, back when I had a lot of time and a young brain. I’m not saying I’ve gotten slow, but I had to read G’nat’s very thoughtful response a few times before I really understood his view. I think there’s a reason I read mainly trashy fantasy novels these days.

But the G’nat doesn’t get at the spiritual component of soul that nags at me. I’m not the only mom prodded to address religious issues because of her kids. Dinnerversions, who happens to publish a pretty wonderful food blog, said:

My own feeling is that our ‘soul’ is the energy within us. Neurons firing, chemical messengers moving across a gradient, the electrical potential between the cells of a heartbeat, the positive or negative charge of an amino acid….All of that is energy and when we die, that energy leaves us. That’s about as deep as I get.

I think that’s pretty deep. And she seems to be on to something. Hello Sailor has a similar view:

I believe everything has a soul and a soul is a type of energy, or a life force. Logically my brain wants it to know that it is just neurons and chemical messages, but in my heart there is something mystical about it, because where did that energy come from in the first place and where does it go when we are finished?

Maybe the energy gets recycled? Nevercontrary believes in reincarnation. I’ve tried; I’m not sure I don’t. It certainly explains having an immediate and intense reaction to someone, as I’ve had on meeting several people in my life. Mad Queen Linda at The Magic Bus Stop, equates the soul with consciousness and I like that, seeing as how it leaves room for lower and higher levels of consciousness. My cat, for instance, is on the same level as, say, Adolf Hitler and is likely just as irredeemable.

A few bloggers thought I was over thinking, which is really nothing new. Racing thoughts of all sorts kind of go with the bipolar territory. (Am I doubly bipolar if my thoughts are racing while I run? Does that make me quadripolar? Are my thoughts racing right now?)

Courtney Hosny of oneweektocrazy considered her immortal soul and decided whatever is at the end is at the end and figured the point of soul-searching was moot. Societyred once had a discussion about whether or not a rock has a soul. My kind of guy! He gave me a lightbulb moment with his retort to someone asking if he cared where we spend eternity: “I told him I had too much to think about in the here and now. Isn’t this time part of eternity?”

This time is, indeed, part of eternity. Certainly, some things feel like they take an eternity, like pre-school Christmas holiday pageants.

In the end, I believe that there is something beyond our physical bodies that makes us wonder about things like, is there something beyond our physical bodies. Areyoufinishedyet offered an explanation for the “something beyond” that she promised would blow my mind. It did.

Our bodies are made up of about 50% hydrogen atoms. When the universe was born, ALL of the hydrogen and helium atoms were formed. And since matter can neither be created nor destroyed, that means the hydrogen half of you is 13.7 billion years old. I think that definitely speaks to the idea of soul, and the continuity of the soul. Maybe the soul is the collective experience of those hydrogen atoms. We are imprinting our own story on the atoms inside our body as we live and breathe, and that story will be taken with those atoms once our bodies are gone, transformed into something else.

I would like to thank everyone who so thoughtfully responded to my call for input on the idea of “soul.” They all certainly have it.

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