Friday, August 20, 2010

To sleep, perchance to dream...

So...I've been having nightmares lately. Not the kind of nightmare where someone is chasing you with a knife or a monster is trying to eat you, but nightmares nonetheless. I'm no psychiatrist, but I would suspect they have something to do with the stress I've been under lately, as well as some other things.

Last year the doctors found a lump in my mom's breast. She had surgery to remove the lump, followed by six weeks of radiation. Recently a friend of her's also had a relapse of her cancer that she thought she had managed to beat. Another friend of mine's girlfriend has ovarian cancer, and is currently undergoing intense chemo. And then I found out last night that a friend of mine from art school passed away on Tuesday. The doctor's discovered a melanoma, but by the time they found it she had developed tumors throughout her body, organs and brain. She tried to fight it. Went through chemotherapy. But then on Monday she slipped into a coma, and on Tuesday she passed away.

I had a pap smear while I was a pregnant, and another at my 6 week postpartum checkup. Both came back abnormal. The doctor now wants to perform a colposcopy to check out why these pre-cancer cells are showing up on my pap smears. And recently I have been having fainting spells. They did a CBC and my hemoglobin level, which is supposed to be between 12 and 18, was 10.2. I started taking prenatal multivitamins, an extra iron supplement, and B12. The following week they repeated my CBC and my hemoglobin had dropped even lower to 9.6. The doctor is concerned about this rapidly worsening anemia.

Which brings me to my nightmares. Almost nightly now I dream that I find out that I have cancer, which rapidly progresses to my death. I panic. I fight. I do everything I can to beat the cancer. And it's not because I fear death. I don't fear death and I never have. In fact in my melodramatic youth, there were moments that I would have welcomed it. So these nightmares aren't nightmares because I'm afraid of dying. They're nightmares because I am terrified of leaving my son without a mother. That if I were to get sick and die, he wouldn't understand why mommy was gone. That he would think mommy didn't love him so she left. And it fills me with the most overwhelming panic. Because I would sooner die than ever have him believe that I didn't love him. And I would fight to my last breath to stay with him because I cannot imagine never seeing his sweet beautiful face again, or feel his hand rub my arm, or hear him say "momma".

But quite frankly, considering all the things that have been showing up in my lab tests, I'm past the point of being concerned and am downright terrified. And I know that there are lots of explanations for the abnormal paps and the anemia. But considering all the friends and loved ones that have been battling cancer these days, some successfully and some not, I think I'm starting to project.

So, to all of you out there who are blessed with good health, be thankful. Wake up every morning grateful that you've been given another day to kiss your babies or your husband or your pet rock. Never shrug off anything that seems...odd. Never blow off an abnormal test result. Never take your life for granted. Because your life is a gift, it is precious, and even if it doesn't mean anything to you, to someone else you are the world.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bless the broken road...

I'm a firm believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason. Which is why, when I look back over the course of my life and the choices that I have made, I regret none of them. I might not be proud of everything I've done in my life. Some of my choices were even downright dangerous. But every choice I've ever made, every mistake that I've had to survive, every questionable action that has had it's equally questionable reaction, has led me to this...exact...moment.

It's tempting sometimes to look back on your life and say "if I could go back to that moment, knowing what I know now, I'd do things differently." And maybe you would. And maybe it would have changed your life for the better, and maybe you would now be missing out on a part of your life that you simply can't imagine living without. Sometimes I say "if I could go back to my days in college, I wouldn't have changed my major from pre-med to art." And if I could go back and change that decision, maybe in some ways my life would be better. I would be a doctor, no doubt making more money than I make now. But my life would also be altered in ways that would not necessarily make me happier. Work would be more stressful, require longer hours, and I would have missed out on knowing all of the people I met because I made that decision 16 years ago to be an art major.

Sometimes I look back and say "if I could go back to the moment when I abandoned my plans to be an art history professor and go to nursing school, I would." But then where would I be? Another $100,000 in debt from getting my Ph.D and working who knows where making barely enough money to get by. And I would have missed out on meeting all the wonderful people I knew in nursing school and all the people I met working as a nurse. And I also would have missed out on the opportunity to meet a surgeon who would ultimately change my life forever.

Sometimes I've had moments where I've said "if I could go back to the moment when I decided to have gastric bypass surgery, I would." The changes that take place when you permanently alter your physiological make-up are sometimes unbearable. I will never again be able to eat the way I did before. Some of my favorite foods I will never be able to eat again without almost immediately throwing up. It takes me roughly five hours to eat a regular barbecue sandwich. I have to chew it until it has lost all flavor, and even then I can eat no more than a bite every fifteen to thirty minutes. It's maddening. But if I hadn't had that surgery, I would not have lost 145 pounds, I would probably have diabetes, I would still have unbearable joint pain, and I probably would never have gotten pregnant.

Sometimes I look back to some of the truly reckless decisions I made after I'd lost my weight and was feeling the effects of my new found...popularity...with men. I was a virgin until the age of 33. And for a very brief time, well, let's just say I was trying to make up for lost time. I made some very bad, unhealthy, and dangerous choices. And while sometimes I say to myself "if I could go back to that moment, I would not have done what I did", the reality is, if I hadn't made those mistakes, if I hadn't experienced a couple of truly despicable specimens among the male population, then I wouldn't have ended up meeting one who turned out to be one of my best friends, and I wouldn't have ultimately met my husband. And even though Shaun knew all my dirty little secrets, he still loved me, never judged me, and chose me to be his wife, a choice he claims is the best one he ever made.

Sometimes I look back to the moment when Shaun proposed and I say to myself "if I could go back to that moment, I wouldn't have said yes." Sometimes I wonder if we rushed into things. Sometimes I wonder if maybe he would be better off with someone else...someone better. And then I think about how everything on our wedding day just fell into place. He proposed on a Sunday night. On Monday morning we called the one and only judge in the city of Memphis who still performs weddings and he agreed to marry us at 3:30 that afternoon. We had seven hours to go get a marriage license, find him a ring, find me a dress, get dressed, and get downtown to the courthouse. And we did it all with time to spare. He says it was meant to be. Sometimes I still find myself wondering. And then I look at my son.

According to all the dates and ultrasounds, our son was conceived on our wedding day. People frequently laugh and ask "was he really conceived on your wedding day? Or is that just your husband's Catholic guilt talking?" But like I said, every piece of scientific data compiled during my pregnancy (and when you have your first baby at 35, I assure you the data is plentiful) points to our wedding day as Jameson's date of conception. He is, without a doubt, the best thing I have ever done in my life. Every bad decision, every questionable action, every seriously self-destructive choice, ultimately led to him. He is the culmination of every curve in the road of my life. He is the air I breathe and, in my opinion, the reason I was put here on this Earth. So yes, I have made my fair share of mistakes. And no, I'm not proud of all the things that I have done in my life. But if I could go back and change any of them, even with the wisdom of my years and knowing all that I know now, I wouldn't change a single one.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

And then there were three...

So, it was brought to my attention this morning that I haven't posted anything in 17 days. However, in my defense, it has been a very busy 17 days. But my apologies to all my readers for leaving everyone in suspense. :)

So, my husband is home. The night before he came home I put Jameson to bed and once I was sure he was sound asleep, I was finally able to take a nice long shower and (*shudder gasp*) shave my legs. It sounds like an easy task, but it proved even more difficult than usual. One of the last times I was at Target before my husband came home, I found myself on the shaving aisle. I saw a product made by Nair that claimed to work in three minutes while in the shower. I thought to myself "hey, maybe this is the solution to my not having enough time to shave my legs." See, I'm slightly OCD when it comes to shaving my legs. I'm not one of these women who shaves their legs while standing up in the shower in a matter of minutes. I take my shower, then I sit on the side of the tub, put on my glasses, and shave my legs basically four times...once in all four directions. And even then I'm usually not satisfied. They may feel smooth, because lets face it, I'm pretty sure after shaving my legs four times I've probably also removed the top layer of my skin. The problem is, I'm very very white. My skin is basically translucent. Which means no matter how close a shave I get, I can still see the hair that is under my skin. It's maddening. If I could afford to spend money frivolously on anything I wanted, I would have laser hair removal done to the entirety of my body. And it would be worth every penny. But back to my Nair disaster...

I read the very lengthy instructions, because I'm a woman and we read instructions. I followed them exactly as I was supposed to. The directions stated that the product worked in three minutes, but for stubborn hair you could leave the product on for no longer than ten minutes. I figured if my hair was as stubborn as the rest of me, I was probably safe in assuming that three minutes wouldn't get the job done. So I left it on for ten minutes. After ten minutes I began rinsing my legs off in the shower. My legs felt smooth enough, and initially I was quite pleased. And then I got out of the shower, dried off, and put on my glasses. While the Nair had in fact removed the majority of the hair, there were patches here and there that apparently were more stubborn than even Nair was prepared to handle. So I thought, "well, this isn't too bad. I'll just shave the spots that it missed and be on my merry way." Yeah, if only it could have been that simple.

I sat down on the edge of the bathtub and grabbed the brand new razor from the shower caddy. I ran the razor over the remaining hairs only to find that the Nair had in some way altered the consistency of the hair. It was now so limp that the razor couldn't even catch it. I shaved up, I shaved down, I shaved across, I shaved back and forth...nothing. It was like I had rubbed kryptonite on my legs and the hairs had mutated and taken on a life of their own. Finally I just sat on the side of the tub and stared at them, muttering to myself in utter disbelief. At this point, I had wasted nearly an hour with my new "time-saving" hair removal experiment. I was beyond frustrated. I decided at this point that there was no sense continuing my attempts to shave the mutant hairs. I rinsed my legs, again, dried off, again, and retired to my bedroom where, for the next half hour, I plucked all of the remaining mutant hairs out with tweezers, swearing under my breath the entire time that I would never again use Nair. When I was finally satisfied with the state of my legs, I gave myself a pedicure, and went to bed.

On the morning of Monday June 21st, I woke up from what can only be described as a restless night, put on my new welcome home sundress and matching flip flops, surveyed my legs one last time to make sure I hadn't missed any rogue mutant hairs, and then put on makeup for the first time in weeks. I woke up my handsome little boy and dressed him in his "I ♥ Dad" onesie and his new navy blue shorts with red, white and blue sandals. I was pleased with how we were dressed. I felt like I looked respectable enough in my sundress, with a little bit of cleavage for my husband, yet I was still comfortable enough for sitting around waiting for who knows how long until my husband arrived. And since I wasn't sure how much standing or walking would take place, I didn't even consider wearing shoes that were remotely uncomfortable. After arriving at the building where the welcome home ceremony was taking place, I quickly realized that not everyone had taken my same approach to choosing their wardrobe for the occasion.

I walked into the building pushing Jameson in his stroller and found two like-minded women, also dressed nicely yet comfortably and with a baby in tow. I sat next to them on the front row of a side section of bleachers and, as I am prone to do when thrown in the midst of a large crowd of people, I began to people watch. I was in complete and utter awe of some of the women who were there to retrieve their husband/boyfriend. Women who were wearing skin tight lycra "dresses", and I use that term loosely, with six inch heel stilettos, some of whom were having to teeter around this giant gym-like structure chasing toddlers. Now, I realize that after ten months away, these guys are coming home with a relatively short list of things on their mind. Beer. Home-cooked food. Showers without other men present. And sex. And not necessarily in that order. But these "ladies", I also use that term loosely, could have saved some of these outfits to use later on when they got home to their bedrooms fully equipped with stripper poles. One woman in fact was wearing something that I'm pretty sure was actually a shirt that barely covered her ass, her legs were covered in bruises, and she could barely walk straight in the heels she was wearing. She was also chasing a toddler and parading back and forth in the building, occasionally stopping to harass a uniformed soldier about when the buses would finally get there. I was...amused.

Jameson did his fair share of people watching as well. He even managed to get so tuckered out that he fell asleep in his stroller despite the noise in the building. And then the buses showed up. You could feel the excitement in the air. My heart started pounding and the nerves that had been so raw for the last several days were all on end. Then some uniformed soldier walked up to the podium and announced the 1-28th infantry. The music came blaring out of the giant speaker that was only a few feet from us, everyone lept to their feet, and the entire building full of people began to scream and clap. And Jameson went completely and totally...apeshit. He was screaming and crying, his face beet red, his eyes pouring tears and his nose got all snotty. He was terrified. He had never since birth experienced noise on this level, and it was not a happy moment in his life at all. I tried my best to comfort him, held him close and covered his ears with my hands. I kissed him on the face. And when all of the soldiers had finished marching into the building, they turned off the music and he calmed down marginally. Then the General released them, they all fell out, the noise geared back up, and Jameson started crying again. Shaun finally saw us and came running to his wife and our poor terrified, crying, red, tearful, snotty son. Not the best place or way for us to begin our bonding as a family, so we very quickly departed and headed home.

The time since then has gone much better than I expected. Shaun and Jameson have actually bonded very quickly and are doing very well. Shaun is able to hold him, even without me in the room, and Jameson seems to feel at ease and safe with him. It is a huge relief. I expected the adjustment period to be lengthy and traumatic. Thankfully it has been neither. I think it helped immensely that Shaun was able to be home all day for his first week back. We spent every minute together, and over the course of the week I think Jameson came to the conclusion that this new person in the house wasn't so bad. And Shaun has been great with him. He talks to him and plays with him, holds him and feeds him, and occasionally just reaches out to stroke his skin or rub his head or pinch his toes. It warms my heart and removes a huge weight from my shoulders to see them interacting so well with one another.

As for Shaun and myself, it would seem that my concerns over how the two of us would reconnect after such a long separation were, well, silly. Things seemed to just fall right into place. He always has had this way of making me feel beautiful and loved. And even after being deprived of the affections of his wife for ten months, he still had the patience to woo me. He's a pretty good guy. I think I'll keep him. :)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Where oh where are you tonight?

Oh my goodness. I'm such a hateful awful person. Inviting people to read my blog and then vanishing into thin air. But life has say the least. My husband will be home in about a week, and I've been trying to not only prepare our house, but also my head, for his return.

When my husband and I moved into this house, or I suppose technically you would call it a townhouse, I was ooooh so nauseated. Suffering from morning sickness the likes of which I had only heard horror stories about, I was miserable. And the last thing I felt like doing was standing up all day, unpacking boxes and decorating. I was, however, doing it all in my head. When the nausea finally subsided the last week in June, and with my mother's impending visit over 4th of July weekend as motivation, I was catapulted into full decorating mode. I had already decided where I wanted all the furniture to go, and for the most part my husband had already taken care of all of that. I had also figured out in my head where I wanted all of the artwork that I have collected over the last 15 years to hang. Once that was done I dragged my husband out for some of the last minute finishing touches, like curtains, the one thing that I had not stripped out of my house in Memphis to bring with me to Kansas.

Now keep in mind, my husband has been in the army for a little over six years. When his belongings were shipped to our house, they consisted of plastic foot lockers full of clothes, a microwave, some pots and pans, and a futon. I, on the other hand, have lived on my own since 1996 and had bought a house in 2004 that was completely decorated by the second week I was there. So our townhouse is, for the most part, my house in Memphis re-situated into a two-story townhouse. There were still a few things I wanted to do to complete our home, but before I knew it it was time for him to leave, and the day after I left as well. And for eight months our house was empty, yet full of all the things I'd come to love and identify as home for over a decade.

So since I've been home here in lovely Kansas, I've been trying to finish those last things I'd wanted to do before we left. I got faux-leather upholstered ottomans to use as storage in the living room (cause I'm not splurging for real leather on an army salary or until we get our own house), and I got three short black bookshelves to put in the dining room for all the books we still have in boxes in the basement. And it just so happened that in between the three bookcases was just enough space for two hammered copper vases and some funky black bamboo. And finally, something I've been unable to do in the 15 months I've been married, I had prints made of some of the digital pictures I've been taking since my wedding day, along with the requisite boatload of pictures of my adorable son.

So now that the house is complete, I think I also mentioned trying to get my head ready for my husband's return as well. During the last nine months, I have lived in three states, had a baby, miraculously survived a devastating car accident, been ostracized by some members of my own family, and done my best to raise an infant on my own. It's been stressful. That's an understatement really. But honestly I can't think of a word to describe exactly what it's been.

As I mentioned, my husband will be returning in about a week. My husband that I barely knew when I married him. My husband who I barely had a chance to get to know before he was gone. And when he gets home, not only do I have to deal with the stress of re-acclimating myself to being married to this man that I haven't seen for nine months, save for the two weeks at Christmas that he came home to meet his two-week old son, I also have to help my son bond with him. Because as nice as it would be for him to just look at his father and somehow know that this stranger is his dad and he has nothing to fear, in actuality he will look at my husband with the same mistrust and suspicion that he looks at any unknown person. The way he looks at every person except me.

I'm stressed. Really stressed. I'd like to think that this will be a seamless transition that will be positive for everyone involved. But I know that, realistically, this will probably be a very bumpy road. And I know that I'm not the only one that it will be difficult for. I know that my husband will be disappointed and frustrated that his son does not know him and doesn't want to play or smile or snuggle with him. I know that my son will be confused because suddenly there will be someone else in the picture besides just him and his mother. And as for me, well, I'm just exhausted. I have all the respect in the world for single mothers, because for the last 6 months, I've been one. And it's hard. Physically, mentally, in every respect it's just damn hard. Everything is your responsibility. Cooking, cleaning, paying bills, feeding the baby, changing the baby, engaging the baby, rocking the baby, and staying awake when all you want to do is crawl onto the floor and sleep and hope that the baby doesn't crawl off and eat a dustbunny.

And when you're this tired...your own needs are usually the first to suffer. I haven't shaved my legs in nearly a month. I am officially a fur bearing mammal. But when you have literally minutes to get in and out of the shower and your husband is gone, whether or not you have smooth legs suddenly becomes very looooow on your list of priorities. I'm lucky if I get one hot meal a day. The bulk of my diet consists of goldfish crackers and cokes. And they're all sacrifices that I willingly make to assure the health, safety and happiness of my child. But I must admit, I fantasize about my husband getting home. I dream of sleeping in, taking showers that are longer than three minutes, and eating three squares a day. Which, I suspect, is not what my husband is currently fantasizing about. Which leads me to my last and final predicament.

When I finally go to bed at night, once my son is asleep, the bottles are ready for the next day, the dishes are rinsed and in the dishwasher, all the garbage is thrown away, and I have carved a path in the baby toys to get to the stairs, it's like one of those scenes in a movie when some poor drunk bastard falls headfirst into his bed and passes out, waking the next morning with "dickhead" written on his forehead in permanent marker and laying in a pool of drool. I don't exactly But it's hard to feel sexy when you hear crickets chirping if you rub your legs together and you barely get out of your clothes before crawling under the covers. But nevertheless, my husband will be home in a week, and like myself, has not had sex in a considerable amount of time. So what do I do? Do I say "go ahead and do whatever honey...if I fall asleep don't take it personally"? Or do I tell my husband, honestly and frankly, that while I completely understand his desire to get back in the saddle so to speak, I need a little time to adjust? To not being alone, to not being solely responsible for the house and everything that goes along with it, and to having enough time away from my son to be able to take a 15 minute shower, condition my hair, and God help me...shave my legs? I think I choose option B. And when I do finally feel sexy again, I have a 36 pack of condoms, just in case nature tries to play the same trick she did the day I got married.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Woe is me...

I'm going to say this in as genteel a manner as I possibly can...I feel like shit. And to make matters even worse, my son feels even more like shit than I do. We both have a cold. Not surprising considering we left the already hot and humid weather of the south and arrived home in Kansas to rain and temps in the fifties. Neither of us had clothes appropriate for the weather since, in my infinite wisdom, I left all of our fall/winter clothes at my grandparents when I was attempting to fit everything we couldn't live without in the car. So now, here we are, both sick as dogs and feeling like...well...shit.

It's the worst thing in the world really. Knowing that your baby feels bad, and feeling so bad yourself that you barely feel like taking care of yourself, much less anyone else. But I'm doing my best to put my own illness aside and care for his. And ordinarily I would be flooding my system with every cold medicine on the market in an attempt to get rid of my own symptoms so I feel well enough to care for him. But of course we didn't have any cold medicine on hand at home. And even worse, they don't make cold medicine for babies. So all I can do is snuggle him close, suction out his snotty little nose, and tell him that Mommy's sorry he feels poopy.

Never take your good health for granted friends, for it is truly a blessing.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hush hush...

I was a fat kid. I was also a fat teenager, a fat college student and a fat adult. And by all definitions, I am still fat. However, after having a gastric bypass in 2008 and losing 145 pounds, I'm just not as fat. And like many fat kids, or kids who are persecuted for any reason really, I developed a skill that I like to refer to as self-deprecating wit. Anyone who knows the story of Cyrano de Bergerac knows what I'm talking about here. You learn, in an attempt to stave off the scorn of other children, to make fun of yourself better than anyone else possibly could. Their petty insults pale in comparison to the venomous jibes that drip off your lips like honey directed at none other than yourself. Because, in all honesty, it hurts less coming from yourself than from the classmates that you want so desperately to fit in with.

Now in later years, my self-deprecating wit matured into wit of a more generalized nature. I felt compelled, in most social situations, to be the comedian. I always had a joke or a funny story. I wasn't the beautiful girl who served as party decoration, or the slutty girl who served as party favors. I was the entertainer. The one who filled the uncomfortable moments of silence that happen on occasion at parties. When no one else had anything clever to say, that's when I stepped in with one of a million things I had on reserve to talk about at parties.

Now today, as a 36 year old woman with what I would say is a modicum of self-confidence, I am...a talker. I like to talk. I enjoy it anytime I feel comfortable in my surroundings. Which is a clue, by the way. If I'm around and I'm not talking, I'm uncomfortable, usually either because I'm surrounded by mostly strangers, or by people far more beautiful than I. But if I am comfortable with the surroundings and the company, I can talk your ear off. I come by it earnestly. My grandfather and my mother are exactly the same way.

But here is my most recent quagmire. I spend the majority of my day with a five month old. I love him very much and wouldn't sell him to the gypsies for any amount of money. However it makes for very one-sided conversation. While I am free to talk to him about any subject I choose without worry that he will be bored, I don't get much feedback. So on the occasion that I have time to make or receive a phone call, or I have a few minutes at night to play my online game with my friends, I suppose I'm a bit too chatty. Especially given the rather mundane nature of my life, which is the basic subject matter for most conversations I have these days. Because no one really cares that I bought my son a new stroller because the $12 umbrella stroller that I bought for him at Walmart had front wheels that wouldn't pivot, making the stroller almost impossible to navigate. Or that I don't understand why the size charts for babies are so inaccurate, as my five month old who is in the 50th percentile for his height and weight now wears a size 9 month outfit. No one, of course, except me.

So I decided that maybe I should just take a social sabbatical for the next couple of days and refrain from imposing my loquaciousness on my poor friends. Except of course for anyone who is choosing of their own free will to read this post. Because obviously you all are just gluttons for punishment. :)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Don't call it a comeback...

I am what is referred to as a "ginger". I have red hair, fair skin, and much to my chagrin, a multitude of freckles. I get it from my grandfather, and despite spending a great amount of time during my pregnancy hoping that my son would not inherit the carrot-top gene from me, he went and did it anyway. I used to hate being a redhead, but not because I hate having red hair. In fact if my hair were a different color, I'd probably dye it red. The reason I hate being a redhead is my vampiric susceptibility to sunlight. I got a sunburn once sitting in the window of a Taco Bell. I don't just burn easily, I burn instantly. And every time I spend an even minimal amount of time in the sun, I acquire dozens of new freckles. It's exasperating.

Now, my reason for bringing this up is directly related to my latest project. I, like most women my age, hell any age for that matter, fell victim years ago to the trend of white gold, silver, platinum, what have you. Yellow gold became passé for everyone but pimps and hoochies. No respectable girl got a diamond solitaire set in yellow gold when she got engaged. Hell, there was even mention of said horror in an episode of Sex and the City. And this trend was fine with me because as a young woman without means it was much easier, and cheaper, to go to the local import store and buy a twenty dollar silver ring than to go to the local jeweler and shell out 200 bucks for a gold one. However, as a ginger, white gold does nothing for my complexion. It doesn't pop against my fair skin or complement my red hair. It's just sort of...there.

Fast forward to my wedding day. My grandmother had promised me several years ago that when she passed away she would leave me her wedding ring. Five modest-sized diamonds set in, you guessed it, yellow gold. When I called her the night before my wedding to tell her I was getting married the next day, I jokingly said "I don't suppose I could have my ring a little early?" I wasn't really expecting her to say yes since she was still alive, married, and wearing the ring. But, as is typical of her, she agreed to part with her sixty year old wedding ring a little earlier than planned. Personally I think she was in such shock from the news that I was actually getting married that it affected her ability to think clearly. But nevertheless, she arrived at my home the next day wearing a plain gold band on her left ring finger, and handed me the wedding ring I'd been coveting since I was a first piece of yellow gold jewelry in over a decade.

A few months later I found myself at the post exchange (this is similar to a T.J. Maxx for those of you who aren't military). Now, the thing about the px is has name brand things...clothes, jewelry, purses...that are discounted and tax free. And when I say name brand, I mean labels. Such as my greatest weakness in life...Coach. For the most part I am not a label whore. I buy clothes at American Eagle, Old Navy, and Target. I'm not slung up in Macy's buying $200 jeans. However, I will lay down a ridiculous amount of money for a Coach purse. I'm not proud of it, but I will do it in a heartbeat if the money is there. So there I was, wandering through the purse department at the px when I spotted it. It called out to me. I was as entranced as Sleeping Beauty was with the spindle. A large, roomy, Coach hobo bag in the signature fabric with leather trim. And it was gold. The fabric was gold, the leather was metallic gold, and the hardware was gold. It was gaudy, it was glitzy, and it was top to bottom yellow gold. It required little persuasion on my part to convince my husband to buy it for me, as it was obvious I was in love. I walked out of the px with my new gold Coach purse that looked absolutely smashing with my yellow gold wedding ring.

A few months ago, my son and I were in a catastrophic car accident which completely totaled my husband's Nissan Xterra, which incidently I have hated since day one. While it wasn't exactly the way I had envisioned ridding myself of the boymobile, I nevertheless found myself in the market for a new car. Now while I typically go for cars like Mustangs and Chargers and Camaros, I was a mom now. I wanted something safe, something practical, something with good gas mileage and a good maintenance record. I decided on a Honda. Every Honda owner I've ever known was a die-hard fan and swore allegiance to Honda forever. So I went shopping for an Accord. I walked down the line of four door sedans mourning the loss of my coolness factor when all of the sudden I saw it. The perfectly practical and sensible Honda Accord in...pimp daddy gold. I informed the salesman that I had made my choice, the paperwork was drawn up, and I drove away in my oh so glamorous yellow gold mommy car.

Today, I once again found myself in the px here at lovely Fort Riley. I browsed the Coach purses, not nearly as impressed with the selection as I was the day I found my precious gold hobo. But then I meandered my way to the jewelry counter. And inside the case, calling to me, was a two-tone Fossil watch with a mother-of-pearl face and a diamond bezel, the exact one I had seen online just a few days before. This is a watch I would not have even considered buying over the course of the last fifteen years. But today, after having driven to the px in my lovely gold car while wearing my simple diamond and yellow gold wedding ring and sporting my gold Coach purse as a diaper bag, I was it's biggest fan. I whipped out my debit card and purchased the ever so ghetto chic watch and put it on immediately upon getting into my car.

So, my latest project, in case it hasn't become obvious over the course of this post, is to single-handedly bring the glitz and glamour of yellow gold back into the spotlight. To not only wear the outdated and abandoned metal with pride, but also inspire a renewed popularity amongst the fashion starved ladies of Kansas, in particular the gingers who really know how to make yellow gold shine.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hello, hello, hello, is there anybody in there?

I love my son. Truly, I do. But at the ripe old age of five months, he's a bit...clingy. Taking into consideration that I am not only his mother, but also the only other person he comes into contact with, this is not surprising. And there are times when it warms my heart that he wants to be near me every waking moment of his day. And then there are times when I wish, just for an hour, he could be near...someone else. It's those times that I feel like a wretched excuse for a mother, until I remind myself that it isn't wrong of me to wish for some private time of my own or that he was already a teenager and wanted nothing to do with me. Of course I know when that time actually comes I will wish for him to be the wonderfully sweet cuddly clingy five month old that he is now. But you see where I'm going with this...

Today has been a particularly bad day. Nothing has kept his attention for more than five minutes. He doesn't want to play in his bouncer. He doesn't want to play on his pillow. He doesn't want to eat. He doesn't want to nap. He just wants to be attached to me. Even now I'm "wearing" him in his sling while he takes his bottle and I sit at the computer typing. He's adorable, innocent, the love of my life, and clingy.

And herein lies my predicament. Just as I am the only person in his life, he is also the only person in mine. My husband is still far away, and our contact is sporadic at best. All of my friends are far away, either back home in Memphis or scattered over the country like little dots on a map. My only social outlet to speak of is playing World of Warcraft (no comments from the peanut gallery) with a group of men that I love dearly. This, I add sheepishly, is also how I met my husband. Somehow I managed to find myself playing an online game with a bunch of guys in the army, one of which was my future husband, and for two years now they have been my dearest and closest friends. Unfortunately, none of them are stationed here in lovely Kansas. So for a couple of hours at night after my son has finally released his death grip on me, I get to play my game and chat with my friends who are far away.

Now this is where the obvious question comes in. Why don't I make friends here in Kansas? And here is my answer. For the most part, I absolutely despise women. They are catty, manipulative, two-faced, lying, gossiping...bitches. There are exceptions. Rare exceptions. And of the women I've come in contact with so far who share my army-wife status, some are exceptions, and some are not. But the ones who aren't the bitchy sort are, however, the perky Pollyanna "oh I love being an army wife" sort. And I am not at all that kind of army wife. My husband is in the army, yes. And my close friends are in the army as well. And I love them and support them and am very proud of everything they do for this country. However, comma, I do not love the army or being married to it. I do not like that my husband and my friends get sent away from their loved ones for a year at a time to sweat their balls off in the desert. I do not like that they never know when they are going to get off work. I do not like that they are ridiculously underpaid for the work that they do and the sacrifices they make. I am not an army cheerleader, nor was I ever a tag-chaser whose goal was to snag myself a man in uniform. In fact, I await with great anticipation the day that my husband and my friends are no longer indentured servants to the U.S. Army.

Ok, ok, I'll get off my soapbox and back to the predicament at hand. How do I make friends amongst people who I have nothing in common with, except for the fact that we're all married to soldiers? I mean I look at these women, all standing around like clucking hens, and I think to myself, "I wouldn't last five minutes in a room with these women before I ran screaming for home." The FRG leader calls me on the phone and she sounds like the president of a college sorority. I miss the fiercely independent and open-minded women friends I had back home. The rare exceptions that I so dearly love. And I miss my man gaming buddies who make me laugh with the "guy stuff" they say.

But for now, I have my son. My dear, sweet, loving, tantrum-throwing, clingy son who stares at me with wide-eyed wonder regardless of whether I'm talking about the crappy weather we're having or all the things I need to do that I'm not doing or the fabulous new gold fossil watch with the diamond bezel that I found online. For better or worse he is my constant companion, my little Toto, who happily treads the yellow brick road by my side.

Whose life is it anyway?

Let me start by saying this. This first post will be unlike any of those to follow. But in order for you to really understand the path of self-discovery that this blog will document, you must first understand how it all began. And that, unfortunately, requires what we call a back story. So when you're reading this first post, don't think that they will all be this lengthy and biographical. They won't. But at least by the end of this post, we'll be starting on the same page.

Some days lately I wake up and ask myself..."Who am I?" I blame this identity crisis on the sheer incomprehensible speed with which my life changed and I became an almost unrecognizable version of my prior self. After all, a little over a year ago I was a 35 year old single woman, a registered nurse who owned my own home and all of my time and money were my own. I was very happily swept up in a tempestuous affair with an inappropriate man, much to the displeasure of my *cough* perfect family. And I had finally decided that marriage and children just weren't in the cards for me. And then one day, out of the clear blue nowhere, a visiting friend took me completely off guard by proposing. Now, you may be asking yourself, if I was so happy with my life, why change it? And the answer is, I have no idea. But I will admit that, on more than one occasion, the thought had occurred to me that maybe it might be nice to have someone to grow old with. But why get married? Well, if for no other reason, I've seen the women in my family age. It's not pretty. Legal obligation is the only hope we have of not dying shriveled up bitter old crones.

What I didn't realize, however, was just how drastically my life was going to change. I thought I would get married, but the rest of my life would stay the same. I would still work, make my own money, and therefore still have control over whatever ridiculous purchases I wanted to make. My husband was PCSing (otherwise known to us civilians as moving) to Fort Riley, KS. Now, Fort Riley is lovingly referred to amongst the military community as "the place where dreams go to die". This was not reassuring. The fact that the nearest town with a Target (which is an indication of civilization in my book) was Manhattan, KS was somewhat endearing to me since the Manhattan is quite possibly my favorite place on Earth. I was born in Memphis, TN. I lived there my whole life save for the four years I went off to college. And I bitched and moaned and complained every minute of it. I, like everyone else that hails from Memphis, wanted nothing more than to get out. However when I imagined my grand exodus, it was not to Kansas. But I also figured that I would be free to pick up and go anytime I wanted to travel. My new husband, a combat medic in the U.S. Army, was five months away from a year long deployment to Iraq. So I figured when Kansas got boring...*insert sarcasm here*...I would just pack up and hit the road. Little did I know that before the ink was even dry on my marriage license, the real life-changing event was...conceived.

Two days before my job interview at the local civilian hospital in Manhattan, I was overcome with nausea. And I do mean overcome. I couldn't move. I couldn't eat. I couldn't...smoke. I texted my husband informing him of this new condition. He texted back and asked if he needed to come home and take me to the hospital. I responded by saying I didn't think it was necessarily a medical emergency, but that I was at the very least concerned. Pregnancy was not something I even considered, since I had had an endometrial ablation a month and a half before. Apparently I misunderstood when my doctor told me I couldn't get pregnant following the procedure. Perhaps she should have said I shouldn't get pregnant after the procedure. When my husband left work at the clinic that evening, he took with him one of the free pregnancy tests that they give out to soldiers on post. When he came home and nonchalantly tossed it on the bed saying "let's just rule this out", I literally scoffed at him. Until I humored him and took the test. When the two pink lines appeared almost instantly, I walked out of the bathroom and stood, gazing in horror, at the positive pregnancy test on the bathroom vanity. He looked up and said "Huh?". I soon found out this is his response anytime he suddenly realizes he's being addressed. He jumped up and walked into the bathroom and, looking down at the two pink lines, said "oh look, you're pregnant."

The conversation that followed went something like this...

"I want another test."
"What, you don't trust my free test?"
"I want another test."
"Yes dear."
"Yes dear."

We drove to Walmart where I purchased the pregnancy test for dummies that actually displays the words "pregnant" or "not pregnant". We came straight home and once again, almost instantly, the result was positive.

"See, my free test was right. You're pregnant."
"I want a blood test."
"Yes dear."

The next day we went to the women's health clinic who sent me to the lab to have a blood test. By the time we got back to the third floor desk at the clinic the positive blood test was already in the computer system.

"Ok, now are you going to believe you're pregnant?"
"I want an ultrasound."
"Yes dear."

Now, considering my age, and the fact that I'd recently had the lining of my uterus supposedly burned beyond recognition and scraped out, the doctors at the women's health clinic were all too willing to do an ultrasound to confirm that I was, in fact, pregnant. And when I saw the little blinking dot on the screen that was my son's heart...beating, I wept. And not because I wasn't happy that I was pregnant. But because I had long ago given up hope of ever having a baby. I had always wanted to be a mother, and for years contemplated having a baby on my own. But it never came to pass. And when I had that ablation performed, I grieved for the loss of something I thought I would never have, and then did my best to put it behind me. And then suddenly, miraculously, I was staring at my son's beating heart. And it was a raging flood of every emotion I could have imagined. Joy, fear, disbelief, doubt...

The fact that I was deemed "high risk" changed everything. My husband and my doctors feared given the instability of my uterine lining that I might miscarry, and that for the entirety of my nine months of pregnancy I should just "take it easy". I called and canceled my job interview, and in that moment, my life changed completely. I was no longer a self-sufficient woman who could take care of herself and was only married because I wanted to be. Suddenly I was unemployed, too nauseated to even stand up and cook a meal much less work 8-12 hours a day. I was dependent. And to add insult to injury, I soon grew familiar with the army's view of spouses as mere appendages of the soldier. For all intents and purposes, I no longer existed. And what made things even worse was that I found myself in a strange new place, with no friends and no family, too sick to care for myself, and in five months my husband was going to be leaving for a year. I would still have four months left of my pregnancy, not to mention actually delivering the baby, and then would have 8 months of raising my son all by myself.

The months following my husband's departure were difficult. I left Kansas to stay with friends in Texas for the remainder of my pregnancy and the first two months of my son's life, then went to stay with my grandparents for the three months after that. Neither situation was...ideal, and I spent much of it feeling like an unwelcome burden. But somehow I managed to retain some shred of my sanity, and tried my best to come to terms with my new life, despite the fact that I was battling confusion, self-doubt, feelings of abandonment, depression and physical exhaustion. By the time I left my grandparents house I was desperate to get "home" to Kansas. Back to the place where everything still connected to the old me was waiting.

And so this is where my journey begins. It is from this place that I must figure out whose life this is that I am living. I was talking to a friend today and I said to him "I have to find a way to integrate the old me into my new life." His response was "Why not start living your new life as a new you?" He has these moments of Yoda-like clarity that more often than not take me by surprise. But he's right. Rather than dwelling on who I used to be and all the ways that I will never be that woman again, I need to figure out who it is that I want to be now. What kind of wife I want to be. What kind of mother I want to be. What kind of person I want to be. Hopefully the new me will find this new life as satisfying as the one that the old me left behind.

I hope that my journey down the yellow brick road will at the very least entertain you, and at best inspire you to look at life as an ever-evolving choose-your-own-adventure that you should live with great gusto rather than merely experience.