Monthly Archives: May 2013

Blog Every Day in May: Memory

Day 31: A vivid memory

It is 1998. I am in my senior year of high school, driving home after a long day that included school, crew practice, and community chorus rehearsal. It was probably 10:00 at night.

I am driving my Honda Accord across the Buckman Bridge, a 3-mile-long bridge that crosses the St. Johns River on the south side of Jacksonville. The sunroof is open.

As I come to the top of the span, my favorite song comes on the CD player. I turn the volume to 11 and sing at the top of my lungs.

I am 18 years old and I am invincible, untouchable, on fire.

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Blog Every Day in May: Letting Go

Day 30: React to this term: Letting Go

Intensely difficult.

I tend to wallow in past offenses, to gleefully go over What So-and-So Did To Me, and it’s stupid and it sucks and I need to stop.

I’m getting better.

We all know someone who Just Can’t Let It Go – whatever “it” is. It’s really unattractive, isn’t it? I don’t want people to look at me and only see my hang-ups. And I am not nearly so important that I imagine anyone else cares what So-and-So Did To Me That One Time.

I have found a visualization that works pretty well. I imagine I am standing waist-deep in a river. I take out the thing that’s bothering me, make it tangible. If I’m anxious because my decorating budget is not unlimited, I’ll pull out that perfectly-coordinated throw pillow I saw on Etsy. If I’m upset about my weight, I’ll pull out size-0 pants. I put the item on the surface of the river and let the current carry it away. This usually works pretty well.



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Blog Every Day in May: Muzak

Day 29: Five songs or pieces of music that speak to you or bring back memories. Use Grooveshark or YouTube to include them in the post

1. “Wanting Memories,” by Sweet Honey in the Rock

I first heard this song as a high schooler at a Presbyterian camp called Montreat. I sang it to Tyler every night when he was a baby. I love, love, love, love it.

2. Carmina Burana, by Carl Orff

Not only is this an amazing piece of music, but I performed it in college, and it always brings back happy chorus memories.

3. Pretty much anything by Jim Steinman, including but not limited to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler and “Making Love Out of Nothing At All” by Air Supply

Because sometimes you need to roll up the windows, turn the volume to 11, and release your inner freak. You know you do it too.

4. “Romeo + Juliet,” originally by the Dire Straits, performed by the Indigo Girls

The first time I heard the Indigo Girls’ version of this song, it literally took my breath away. It remains one of my favorite songs, by one of my favorite bands.

5. “Famous Blue Raincoat,” written by Leonard Cohen, performed by Tori Amos

Again, this gives me shivers.

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Blog Every Day in May: Photos

Day 28: Only pictures.














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Blog Every Day in May: Reading

Day 26: Something you read online. Leave a link and discuss, if you’d like.

Last week, a friend sent me a link to this article, which I’ve now re-read several times just to re-capture the YES YES YES I felt when I first perused it.

“Being in your early thirties is really hard as a woman.  It’s the decade of SO much change in our lives- where in one set of friends you can have one person with three kids, some pregnant, a handful childless, others not even engaged yet and some even ending their marriages.  This diversity in lifestyles and milestones causes a tough dynamic between women that seems to get swept under the table because it’s simply too uncomfortable.”

It’s hard to make, and keep, friends while navigating the slippery sands of one’s thirties. Every milestone becomes a hurdle, and you either leap over it or faceplant right in front of it. If your friendships are to survive, you must be rubber-band flexible.

I think part of the difficulty stems from guilt. If you have single friends who want to be married, it’s hard telling them your boyfriend proposed. If you’ve discovered your attempts at conception have been successful, it’s a little gut-wrenching to tell a friend who has struggled with fertility. Conversely, if you’re the friend with the boyfriend who can’t commit, or the friend who has cried because she got her period AGAIN, it’s legitimately hard to be happy for others.

“It’s hard feeling like the odd girl out.  The only one without a baby saddled on her hip. A great job, husband and house- yes- but not that one thing that seems to bind women together.  It’s only natural for mothers, especially new moms, to spend more time with others going through what they are, but I can’t help but notice how motherhood sometimes draws a line in the sand between those with kids and those without. “

I was the first of my friends to have a baby, and rather than feeling like I had finally joined the Mommy Club, I felt like I’d been kicked out of the Childless Club. My friends were off having adventures, going to bars and staying out late and dating. And I was….not. I enjoyed hearing their stories, but I couldn’t join them very often, if at all. It was lonely. I was envious of their last-minute trips, of their freedom.

I have a group of five college friends, and we have remained close despite an intervening decade and many personal triumphs and tragedies. I don’t think any of our lives turned out the way we imagined when we were in college. We have pursued diverse paths, from the psychology professor to the addiction researcher to the theater manager. Three of us have buried our fathers. I think part of the reason we have remained friends is that, by and large, we are each happy with our own life, and keep the coveting to a minimum.

“It may not be a baby for you.  It may be a ring, or a house, or a job.  There is always something that makes you feel your life in not the one you had hoped or planned for.  That there is something missing, incomplete or off.  And the thing to remember is that it will ALWAYS be this way no matter what age you are. Instead of looking and the boxed left unchecked on our life “to do” list we should be looking at the ones we HAVE checked off.”

I’m making a concerted effort this year to be happier. Part of that is paying attention what is HERE NOW, rather than worrying about tomorrow or taking note of what you feel is missing.

“I am where I need to be.  And I’ll be somewhere else soon enough.”

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Blog Every Day in May: Compliments

Day 25:  Something someone told you about yourself that you’ll never forget (good or bad).

“You are Windy G*ddamn Booher, and you are Not to be F*cked With.”

Perhaps not the most eloquent compliment ever, but it certainly got the job done. And I’ve never forgotten it.

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Blog Every Day in May: The Dark Side

Day 24: Your top 3 worst traits.

I should have asked Jason to guest-post for this one. He gets to see all my worst traits (but still likes to hang out with me, bless his heart).

1. I have an explosive temper, and when I’m angry I tend to say things (OK, scream things) that come back to haunt me. Yes, I have spent the last decade working on this. Yes, it’s better than it used to be. No, I haven’t fixed it. I am generally successful at keeping my anger off Facebook and my blog. If you wouldn’t want it read at your funeral, don’t write it down.

2. I am sometimes paralyzed by a lack of self-esteem. When someone is nice to me, I second-guess it to death. She can’t possibly like me, she’s way too pretty/smart/thin/cool. I get sweaty-palms nervous at the idea of asking someone new to do friend-things, like go to lunch. It’s insane.

3. I worry. I worry about things I can’t control; I worry about things I can control. I over-analyze issues, talk things out with my steering wheel, and generally spend WAY too much time dissecting problems that may or may not be real. Good times.


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Blog Every Day in May: Schooled

Day 23: Things you’ve learned that school won’t teach you.

I graduated magna cum laude from Amherst College, and sometimes I still ask myself, “What DID school teach me, anyway?”

My favorite quote on this topic comes from G. K. Chesterton:

Sincerely speaking, there are no uneducated men. They may escape the trivial examinations, but not the tremendous examination of existence. The dependency of infancy, the enjoyment of animals, the love of woman, and the fear of death–these are more frightful and more fixed than all conceivable forms of the cultivation of the mind. It is idle to complain of schools and colleges being trivial. Schools and colleges must always be trivial. In no case will a college ever teach the important things. For before a man is twenty, he has always learned the important things. He has learned them right or wrong, and he has learned them all alone.

What have I learned that school didn’t teach me? My limits, for one. Pulling an all-nighter during finals week can’t hold a candle to staying up all night with a newborn. Getting a bad grade on a final hurts less than realizing you’re going to run out of money before you run out of month.

I guess we need these school experiences as a warm-up for the “tremendous examination of existence.” But most of adult life has to be learned hands-on, through trial and error (and error and error and error).

I am STILL learning how to make friends outside of an artificial school environment. I am still learning how to run a household. I am still learning to care for other creatures, both two- and four-legged.

So I guess you could say I learned that my real education never ends.


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Blog Every Day in May: Soapbox

Day 22: Rant about something. Get up on your soapbox and tell us how you really feel. (a pet peeve, a current event, a controversial topic, something your husband or roommate or neighbor or boss does that really ticks you off)

(Rubs hands together in quasi-gleeful manner)

I get incredibly irritated at a subset of pregnant women who choose to turn gestation into the Martyrdom Olympics. They remind us constantly of what they CAN’T eat and what they CAN’T drink and what they CAN’T do. They flaunt their (largely self-imposed) restrictions like merit badges.

Most of these women rely on the internet, instead of their obstetrician, for the long (and ever-growing!) list of prohibitions, and then insist on demonstrating to their peers that they are the Valedictorians of Sacrifice. These are women who, before getting knocked up, lead reasonably healthy lives – they exercised, ate well, and didn’t take stupid health risks. But introduce a zygote, and they decide to totally overhaul their lives. Add baby, remove reason. They end up confused and stressed and filled with contradicting “facts.” (See, “How to have the Best Pregnancy Ever,” by Tracy Morrissey)

Give. Me. A. Break. Women have been reproducing for thousands of years without worrying about their lunch meat, their alcohol consumption, or the lead content of their crystal glasses.

Causes of The Panic

This near-hysteria over Every Little Thing has several root causes. In part, it is the result of the staggering liability exposure for obstetricians. They pay the highest premiums for malpractice insurance of any field of medicine – juries are very sympathetic to dead or injured babies, and many parents are more than willing to blame the doctor when they have one. OBs must cover their own tails more than any other doctor – hence the long lists of things to avoid.  Another part is a media machine that targets women at their most vulnerable. Parenting magazines must sell copies, web sites must get hits, and publishers must move books – and what sells better than scare tactics? Not much! When’s the last time a headline like, “Relax, Everything’s Going to be Fine!” caught your eye? A third culprit is the rise of internet forums and mommy listservs, which are supposed to be safe communities but can become playgrounds for adult bullies who are more than happy to tell you You’re Doing Everything Wrong.

The Risks are Small

Most biological processes involve risk. Hell, getting out of bed every morning involves risk. Most of the time, we look objectively at a situation and decide for ourselves if the risk is worth taking. The risks to pregnant women seem to fall into two broad categories – birth defects in the baby and agents that will cause illness/death to either the baby or the mother.

According to the CDC, 3% of babies born in the US will have some form of birth defect. The most common birth defect is Down Syndrome, which is genetic and therefore not affected by the mother’s behavior while pregnant. In fact, some reports indicate that only 10% of birth defects can be traced to a specific environmental agent, while 20% are genetic, and fully 70% are of unknown origin. So all this fretting is to prevent something that occurs in less than one percent of live births.

Think of it another way – when you had your wisdom teeth removed, your oral surgeon told you that there was a small chance that the removal could end in your death, because that is true. Did you still have the surgery? Of course you did. You accepted the risk.

Yet when your OB says that if you eat deli meat while pregnant, there is a small chance you could get sick, what do you do? AVOID LUNCH MEAT LIKE THE PLAGUE BECAUSE IT WILL KILL YOUR BABY, OMG. Suddenly any risk, no matter how small, is unacceptable.

About that Deli Meat

The lunch meat prohibition is probably my favorite example of the pregnancy panic that has stolen the logic from many of my peers. Pregnant women are advised to avoid deli meats, unpasteurized cheeses, and some cold-smoked fish because they might contain listeria, a bacteria that can make you sick. When I was pregnant in 2003, the deli meat prohibition was brand new – in fact, I didn’t read anything about it until my pregnancy was almost over.

This article, published by the National Institutes of Health in 2008, gives a good overview. Bottom line – yes, listeria is a very dangerous bacteria, but your chance of getting it, even while pregnant, is very small. Like 0.00012%. There were 800 lab-confirmed cases of listeria in 2007 (the CDC’s current count is 1,600 cases per year), out of US population of 314 million. The study says, “In the 222 cases of maternal infection reported in the literature and reviewed by Mylonakis and colleagues, 94 infants were infected. Of these, 59 (62.8%) recovered completely, 23 (24.5%) died, and 12 (12.7%) had neurologic sequelae or other long-term complications.”

Now put that in perspective. As a pregnant woman, you have a 0.00012% chance of getting listeria. If you do, your baby has a less-than-50% chance of getting it as well, or 0.00006%. And if your baby gets it, he or she has a 63% chance of totally recovering. That means that the chance of your unborn child dying because you had a hot dog is 0.00002% or less.

Also? The last major listeria outbreak in the US was in 2011, and the culprit was cantaloupes. In fact, the NIH article referenced above says plainly, “Epidemiologic investigations have demonstrated that nearly all types of food can transmit Listeria….creating guidelines that will prevent exposure to Listeria is nearly impossible.”

This is just one example. There are countless others. 

In My Humble Opinion

I think that the long lists of prohibited items give pregnant women the illusion of control. Pregnancy is a very weird time, when your body is doing things all by itself and has possibly been invaded by alien beings. It may be comforting to imagine that if you just follow these rules, your baby will be born healthy and safe. And if a few rules are good, more rules are better. Look, I’m not advocating that we all start shooting heroin into our eyeballs when the stick turns blue (or whatever it does these days), but I’d appreciate a little common sense. The internet is not a substitute for your obstetrician, and it will always tell you exactly what you want to hear if you look hard enough.

Pregnancy is not some sort of aberration; it’s a perfectly normal condition. I think if we all treat it as part of regular life, instead of a nine-month vacation from reasonableness, we’d all be a lot happier.


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Blog Every Day in May: Retrospective

Day 21:  A list of links to your favorite posts in your archives

This is hard.

I used to write more frequently about divorce and blended family issues (that’s why I started this blog in the first place) and I should probably do more of that. I have several posts in my archives that sound reasonably un-preachy: Like this one on e-mail communication, or this one on dividing one’s friends, or this one on motives.

My post on the house fire is one of my favorites, but only in hindsight. It’s nice, a few years later, to be able to trace the progress of the rebuild through posts like this one, and this one, and this one, and this one.

(Note to self: Organize your archives!)

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