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.