Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The H.M.S. Me

As I enter into my third trimester of pregnancy, I have become aware that I and the baby are simply passengers aboard the ship that is my body. The vessel that carries us both is a lurching, sloshing thing, inducing seasickness in the both of us. The ship leaks in mysterious places. We are prone to days of little movement, and then tossed about on days of great activity. The ship isn't really big enough for two people. As the baby gets bigger, the quarters are more cramped and less comfortable. Sometimes it's hard to breathe.

I can hold my baby and protect it inside this ship for three more months, and then I've got no choice but to let it out.

My dreams are brilliant and vivid every night. Sometimes they are nightmares, and I wake up the husband to be comforted. The good dreams are random, or about breastfeeding, or sleeping close with the baby and my husband. My nightmares involve miscarriages, filthy houses, and (once or twice) being forced to move back to Murfreesboro.

This week my youngest sister, Abby, is in town with me. We've both got the week off and plan to visit family and start setting up the nursery for the baby's arrival. While the baby will sleep upstairs with me for the first six months or so, we've still got to put together its room so there will be a place for all the stuff people are giving us. Little hats and booties and toys are already floating our way. It's nice.

Because I have waited to have my baby, I can afford a nice crib that will convert to a toddler bed. Because I have waited to have a baby, carrying it is more difficult. There are plusses and minuses to everything. I know the financial ease with which I am giving birth arouses envy in some of my family and friends. And to them I should say: we are two people aboard this ship. I've been to the emergency room once. I have vomited until all the blood vessles in my face burst to the surface. Hyperemesis Gravidarum. When I talk to you and say I'm feeling better, a lot of the time I'm lying. Although; it's not a big lie. I feel better now than I did three months ago. But I am still sick. I am less sick than I was and I am used to the constant queasiness now and I have learned to manage the illness better. You can have your children young with ease on your body, or older with ease on your wallet. At 29, I have tried to find that balance point between age and money. So it is only a little difficult both ways.

The week I will call about making a will. This week I will call about getting the fireplace cleaned. This week the house will get cleaned in a way that will chase away the nightmares. This week, inside my storm-tossed ship, I will not be ill, but well. I will be careful. You should come and see all the progress.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The king-size bed

The king-size bed

I woke up this morning profoundly wishing that when I go into labor, I could give birth at home in my own bed.

The bed that the husband and I share is a big king-size four-poster darkly finished beast of a thing. I didn't want a king-size bed at first, but he talked me into it; I have always slept on very small beds myself, and only went up to queen-size a few years ago when someone tipped me off that queens have an extra few inches at the bottom. When you're six feet tall, those extra inches matter, and I was having trouble getting sheets for my extra-long twin. But sleeping in the queen-size bed alone was a total chore. I always felt very vulnerable there unless someone else was with me. The queen-size bed, when slept by a person alone, seemed to represent a vast stretch of matress that haunted me at night with its vacancy. The extra room only emphasized my aloneness.

When the husband moved in for good, I was thrilled to be in the queen bed with him, but at times he found it too small. I warned him about how it would feel when I left, and as soon as I went on my first business trip, he called the next day and told me: "You were right. This bed is huge without another person."

Still, the husband pressed for the king-size when we moved and it was time for a new bed. I gave in with the stipulation that I expected a baby to be in that bed with us. He agreed, and now the baby will be here about the time of the new bed's first anniversary. I hate to admit how much I love the new bed. It's the nicest piece of furniture I've ever slept on. The husband also talked me into a pillow-topped mattress, and I like our bed so much that on occassion I have cut adventures a little short just so I can get back to my own bed for the night.

The bed upstairs in our converted warehouse isn't just comfortable on a physical level. The new bed is the place where I have felt the most loved in my whole life. It's not just the sex, or the cuddling, or the security that the bed represents. It's so many other things that have happened in the past few months. Since I was diagnosed with Hyperemesis, the husband has brought me a little breakfast in bed every morning to help settle my stomach. He does this without asking. He's not a cook, but he can manage the microwave and a little oatmeal, or toaster waffles, or a piece of last night's pie warmed over. And so every morning now when I wake in a wave of nausea, there's something there to help me, and often my husband as well, eating breakfast beside me.

Before I was pregnant I was always first to rise and woke easily and quickly. I would wash up before getting my breakfast and eat in front of the computer. Now it takes me longer to fight my way out of sleep, and I'm always a little afraid of vomiting again. The breakfasts in bed were prompted by a series of mornings where I heaved stomach acid into the shower. The husband left me alone, but I know the sounds had to be a bit terrifying. Afterwards, I would crawl back into bed shivvering and exhausted again. I'm past that now, luckily. I'm six months pregnant now and the Hyperemesis has gradually faded into just a little morning queasyness. But it'll be a while before I'm a morning person again; for now, the husband wakes me with food, and I roll the blankets around him as I wake, often seeking his foot or hand for a little skin to skin contact before he leaves for work each morning. His attention every morning means more to me than anything anyone's ever given to me or expressed. I have never felt more loved than I do every morning now when I wake up in the king-size bed.

So I wish I could have our baby in this bed too. It's against the law here in Georgia to have a baby at home, but of course, the law in this case means nothing; only that I would have a difficult, but not impossible, time finding a good midwife. I like and trust the midwives at Emory who will deliver me at Crawford-Long, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that the hospital experience causes me some anxiety. The bed where I wake every morning seems safe and reassuring, and the hospital foriegn and strange. The husband finds the idea of the hospital comforting, because he trusts the machines and the degrees and the antiseptic smells. I trust our bed more than all those things.

Even when I am alone in the new bed, it never feels too large; the empty spaces on the mattress seem like promises instead of vacancies. The empty stretches of bed are merely waiting places for the new pink bodies my husband and I can create.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Thankful to live in Atlanta

"We have no other choice but to … cut the level of health care we provide," said Bill Merry Jr., president of Herndon & Merry Inc., a Nashville ornamental ironworks with 21 employees.

The sixth set of Nashville stories

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15


"I miss Halloween and trick-or-treaters," my mother-in-law said thoughtfully over the phone, "you, know, every year the neighborhood used to get together and we'd have such a good time."

I made an agreeable sound. Halloween has been dying a slow death in Nashville for over a decade now, as the Conservative Christians have gained more and more power. Indeed, when the husband and I were small in the 1980's, you could see neighborhoods filled with kids on Halloween night. Now, people are much more likely to go to organized events - because half of your neighbors won't celebrate a "satanic holiday". Here around Atlanta, I had been telling my mother-in-law, we still have Halloween neighborhoods. There are still plenty of trick-or-treaters where there are houses, full of running and shouting little kids on sugar highs, and in more grown-up neighborhoods like mine we've got the bars and businesses open late, twenty-somethings spilling out into the street. Halloween is still fun here.

She started to reminisce. "Every year we'd burn a witch. Except that year we accidentally burned a cross."


Turns out in the upscale subdivision my husband grew up in, a couple from some other region had introduced the custom of burning a fake witch in effigy before letting children go trick-or-treating. The idea was that you had a big bonfire, and burned the with, and then it was safe for the kids to go out. I have never heard of this custom and I don't know where it comes from, but I told my mother-in-law it was one of the most horrible things I'd ever heard of. "Good God, and how did you end up accidentally burning a cross?"

Well, one year the folks who normally made the witch to burn were going to be out of town. So neighbors asked mother-in-law to make a witch. She didn't know how, but guessed, starting with two sticks wrapped as a crossbar like a scarecrow. Then she made a witch out of batting and cloth. When they lit the fire, all the fabric burned off right away, leaving the kids to watch...a cross burn. None of the adults knew what to do, as they stood a little aghast at their holiday bonfire.

"And that was the last Halloween we burned a witch." she said.


Back in September, an acquaintance of my sister's was tasered to death by Nashville Metro Police outside a show at the Mercy Lounge. The kid was 22, drunk, and a little bit high. The cops had him outside the bar and were trying to reason with a drunk 22-year-old. He wouldn't listen. They sprayed him with pepper spray, which fucking hurts, if you've never had the experience and he went beserk, running around the parking lot, taking off his shirt, drunkenly trying to stop the pain. When he wouldn't obey their commands to lay down, the police discharged their tasers over 18 times. Onto a drunk, skinny, kid acting like an idiot at a bar. He died.

Atlanta police are underpaid, but seem to be better trained than Nashville police. One day I'll write the story of my sister's experience with the Nashville force in May of 2003. Not enough time has passed yet for me to write that story, but let me tell you; they don't train their police enough in Nashville. The police there make mistakes that could be easily avoided by better training. A twenty-two year old guy is dead, because he got too drunk in a bar and the police didn't know how to handle that simple, everyday occurrence properly. It was an accident that could have been prevented.

My middle sister did not return to Nashville this year for Thanksgiving; she had to work. What she is thankful for most this year is living in Atlanta. The Metro Nashville police force had a little bit to do with that.


I had a good Thanksgiving up in Nashville this year. My mother was there, and so was my youngest sister, and the in-laws. Mom and father-in-law aren't in the best health. Youngest sister has progressed to angry adolescent - and become quite beautiful. It's as if at night her anger and body grow a little bit each day; being a teenager is so, so difficult. In a few years though, I know we'll get to be good friends again.

I let go of a lot of my own teenage anger Thanksgiving weekend. I had a little help. When I was small, my Grandfather made me a cedar chest that I used for my toys. It's one of the things that survived my parent's divorce, but barely; my father, one night in a drunken rage, used a black permanent marker to graffiti all over the inside lid. He no doubt tried to smash the thing too, but failed. He was more successful in smashing the cedar chest my Grandfather had given my mother, which had more detail work that was easier to break.

I had avoided getting the chest of toys from my mom because I didn't know how to deal with dad's graffiti. It had become this physical symbol in my mind of how he was hellbent on destroying everything with his drinking, and every time I thought about the chest I felt like I wanted to vomit. But it was time; my mother is moving on with her life, and that means moving on with her furniture and decorating. She needed my cedar chest to leave her house.

The in-laws know a very good carpenter, an immigrant from Mexico who does some of the most beautiful detail work you've ever seen. He picked up the chest from my mother's house, and sanded down the graffiti. He looked it over; someone had tried to take a hammer to the legs, but found them unable to break. The carpenter admired my Grandfather's craftsmanship, and said this was a perfect example of a chest to give a child - nearly impossible to break but nice enough that they would still want it as an adult.

I sorted through the toys, painfully throwing out those that were now just rags, saving a couple of things, keeping the nicest ones for charity (and, OK, one or two for me). This weekend I'll move the chest into the new baby's room and start storing quilts in there. Maybe. The husband likes the chest so much he's arguing for it to go in our room. I don't know; the graffiti is sanded off, but the chest holds too much weight still.

I can't imagine how my mother feels when she looks at her piece; the divorce has been so expensive that she hasn't got the money to fix it yet. The back is smashed in, the feet broken off, the inside lid also defaced. It can probably be put back together, after some time and expense. I'm thankful for that. If it's one thing I quietly told myself this year in Nashville, it's that I'm thankful for the idea that some things can be fixed; you just have to find the right tools and know-how. Time helps, too.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Personal Choice

Last Sunday my sister and I had planned to go to see a documentary showing at The Earl in East Atlanta. We e-mailed the documentary people an RSVP in advance; we arrived at The Earl on time, and waited in line at the smoky front bar for 15 minutes. Then we were turned away at The Earl's stage entrance, because my sister is under 21.

The justification for turning away people under 21 from the back portion of The Earl is that the bar alllows smoking, and under Atlanta's restrictive laws, smoking is only allowed in restaurants (bars, really), that serve people 21 and up. The idea is that they are protecting young people's lungs and discoraging young people from picking up smoking. This is ridiculous. The unintended side effect of the under-21 ban is to bar adults (because, legally, people over 18 are adults) aged 18-20 from many concerts, cultural events, and restaurants. In short, if you're 18 you're old enough to die in Iraq, but not old enough to see a documentary at The Earl. Many would then say, "Well, that's The Earl's choice. If they disallowed smoking, then everyone could see their shows."

But how would The Earl then remain viable as a business? Some adults enjoy smoking while they drink, and The Earl's main business is selling alcohol. Honestly, I see the smoking ban as a feable attempt at controlling bars in Atlanta - and one more sign that the Southern Baptists in the state have used their influence to write a nonsensical law. After all, the outer restaurant portion of The Earl was just as smoky as any place I've ever been in - and my sister's tender underage lungs did not fall out of her chest and explode while we waited in line.

So we went home and bought DVD's of The City of God (which features corrupt cops), and Angels in America (which does a pretty good job of villianizing Reagan). And I felt like purchasing and watching those two films was at least in some way exercising my personal freedoms, after having them stomped on by the goddamn smoking law. I'm also annoyed that the documentary website said nothing to us about the show being 21 and up.

I've been cranky about my civil liberties lately. Maybe it's because my pregnant state causes people to constantly feel the need to advise me (put your feet up! you need rest! don't lift that! don't eat tuna fish! etc.). I feel entrenched in a battle against those who would limit my personal freedoms, even in giving birth. Did you know that it's illegal to give birth anywhere but a hospital in the State of Georgia? No home births are legal here, and there are no birthing clinics like in other states. My personal research did reveal to me a highly networked underground of feminist women secretly arranging for midwives to attend them outside of hospitals. Were I more adventerous, and my pregnancy less complicated, I would join the secret underground of home births. As it is, I have had to be content in firing my Obstetrician who ignored me and treated me impersonally, and replacing the traditional OB with two midwives at Emory. The OB just wasn't working for me - I would make an appointment, and go to an office too busy to remember who I was, and then they would stick me in an examination room, where I would wait...and wait...and wait...

So I left the OB, went downstaris a few floors in the same medical office building, and met up with two young midwives, nurse-practicioners with a different view. And now I get to go to group examinations with other couples who are due about the same time I am. And we meet the same time, on the same day of the month, once a month. As a group, we get to laugh and talk and express our worries and measure each other's tummies. I feel so much better about my monthly checkups on the baby now, and so much more in control of the process. I feel like my caregivers know who I am, and all about my pregnancy. And even though I know I'll have to give birth in the hospital, at least I won't feel like I'm just part of someone's damn rounds, another faceless person impinging on their time.

Thank god I still have some choice over how my body is cared for and operates. I wonder how long it will be before someone tries to take that away from me, too.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Being Cliche

About twice a year I call my Aunt Karen. Karen was married to my father's brother, my Uncle Mike, who was an alcoholic and killed himself just over a dozen years ago. I call Karen and talk about twice a year to catch up on how my cousins are and generally just to talk about life. Karen's got a very dry, bitter sense of humor that not everyone gets, the kind of humor that annoys my mother but that I understand completely. Now that both my younger sisters are teenagers, I value her conversations immensely. My Uncle's alcoholism and death left her raising three boys alone in a rural factory town on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River.

There's a Great Southern Novel in Karen's story somewhere, but I won't write it. Drunk and dead daddies are cliche, every southern poverty tale seems to have them. I think that's why it's so difficult to write or talk about my father's alcoholism, even though it's been a big influence on my life the past couple of years. It is not that I am embarrassed by my father's addiction; it is simply that I am embarrassed to be affected by so common a problem.

I am embarrassed by my family's cliche reactions to alcoholism. We have all too neatly fallen into stereotypes: the oppressed and put-upon working mother, the oldest child who tries to fix everything, the problem teen, the angry little girl. We are everybody's working-class family of Irish descent. Worse, my father was in the music business, the Entertainment Industry, and every biography of an Entertainment Industry figure or family details their struggles with addiction of some kind in the family. We're not even afflicted to levels of horror that are noteworthy. We're just your average family, living in the southeast, that has crumbled against a problem so common that it's not even noteworthy. Every neighborhood in every town has a family like mine. That's part of what makes the pain so damn sharp sometimes; I don't even feel justified in complaining about so common a situation.

Talking to Karen every now and again helps. She understands teenagers, having raised three now, and I rely on her for insights into my own teenage sisters. Karen also understands living with an alcoholic on the edge of your life, a person who can come in at any point in the day and just introduce a problem so big and so unexpected and tiresome that you can barely deal with it. Even though her ex-husband has been gone for over a decade, she has been living with the results of alcoholism in her life every day for years. Like my family, she and her sons have been marked for life by the simple, common, and cliche destructive actions of someone else.

I haven't spoken to my father in over a year now, and I recently made the decision not to include him at all in the new baby's life. Karen understands my decision, and unlike other family members does not reproach me about attempting to excise my father from my life. She understands that my father is on a downward spiral, and that I have simply decided not to watch him as he continues down his path. The truth about alcoholics is far worse than you'd expect; my father may live another decade or two, or even three. He is killing himself in the smallest doses possible, in order to stretch out the pain. He wants witnesses to his grief and agony; he wants us to feel his slow suicide with him. I have simply refused to be in the audience for his last big show. I will not let his grandchildren watch this last performance, the twisted last years of an addict. The sad thing is, alcoholism is so common, I can't help but wonder if someone else will act out the play for my children - or if they'll end up as stock characters in the same story with someone else.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The first cold day of Autumn

It was colder than I thought it would be this morning, and as a result I'm doomed to be a little chilly all day. Autumn creeps up so slowly on us here in Atlanta that I am always a little surprized when, one day, I wake up and it's not quite as warm as I thought it might be. The climate here spoils me with so much sunshine.

The past few weekends have been crammed. Both my mother and the husband's parents have been visiting. My mother has a steady boyfriend now, and he seems nice enough. I have realized that I am too old to get a step-dad. My sisters, should my mom re-marry, will have a step-dad, but I am simply too old for one; while I hope my mom finds a new partner that makes her happy, I am past the sort of serious influence a dad might have. Things in that arena remain complicated.

The husband's parents came down for a stay and we went out to eat a number of times. And I realized that I have an inner teenager that mightily resists being told what to do. I *like* my husband's parents, but if I had grown up in their houshold I promise you I'd have a faceful of piercings and a mohawk. A green mohawk. Seriously.

Probably I am feeling resistant to authority because everyone keeps telling me to take naps and put my feet up, and every time this happens, I can feel a devil pop up over my left shoulder. That little devil says things like: "Name the baby Damien and embroider pentacles on the nursery gear." Because I am forced to be so conventional lately, because I am pushed into this weakened pregnant-lady state, I crave shock value suddenly. I even understand pregnant teens who smoke now. They probably didn't want to be pregnant, but finding themselves in that role, show their definance the only way they know how, by smoking, the most shocking act a pregnant lady in the U.S. can committ. It's horrible. But they'll do it anyway to show that they are in control of their bodies.

I am not in control of my body. I'm still throwing up, thanks to Hyperemesis. I had a few tubes of blood taken from me again this week, both for the AFP test, and to try and figure out why I'm still heaving all the goddamn time. The next visit to the doctor will be the high-resolution scan, where we can see the baby's face; hopefully, the kid won't flash us, and I can continue not to know the gender. Not knowing, so far, has been the best part.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Vomiting in Public

Well, it finally happened: I threw up in public. My Hyperemesis had been so extreme last month that I rarely left the house except for work. After a month of this, I was desperate to go out and have fun. I had been feeling a little bit better every day. The husband had planned to take me up to Salem for my birthday to see friends, and I was just itching to go. I hadn't thrown up in two weeks at that point, and was starting to get a little energy back; I thought I would be fine.

I wasn't. I vomited at the Atlanta airport into a trash can in the rotunda. I vomited again into a plastic bag from the gift shop at Boston Logan a few days later. I'm still sick. I had been weaning myself off of the nausea medication, which makes me sleepy and fogs my thoughts. I thought I would be all right without the meds. I'm not all right. I'm still sick.

There's something about collaspsing on the pavement outside of an airport and heaving your guts out that is worse than anything in the world. It's not just that the pavement is cold, but that no matter who is whith you, you are alone in that no-place place, the airport which isn't ever exactly part of any town or city, just a waystation to somewhere else. And then, no matter how ill you've been, you have to get up and get through security to get to your plane. That was a rough day.

I had a really great time in New England, though. It was so nice to see the parade in Salem on Friday night, where all the little kids were dressed up for Halloween. The holiday has been dying a slow death at the hands of Southern Baptists down here, and it was just a breath of fresh air to go some place and see the thing celebrated with all the innocence I attached to Halloween when I was a kid. I miss real Halloween, the holiday without wierd associations and guilt.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Progress of the lump

I can feel the baby move now. Not kicks or things like that, but the lump in my lower belly sometimes rolls over or pushes from one bit of area from another. The baby is quick, and alive, and at night The Husband sings to my tummy. I have tried to let him feel the baby move, but the lump is too small yet. No one can feel it move but me. I am thuroughly enjoying not finding out the gender, as I can tell how much this really, really bothers people who are into gender stereotyping. A baby really doesn't care about weather its a boy or girl for the first couple of years. Only people determined to hang pink bows or blue trains on things care.

My refusal to gender-type the lump isn't well recieved by most of society. So many people now know what they are having that nursury furniture and baby clothes tend to be far more pointed about gender than they used to be. A sea of blue and pink awaits you in all baby catalogs, with green, yellow, and purple more difficult to find.

I was relieved when I finally decided that decorating the baby's room in primary red, yellow, and orange wouldn't be too difficult if I told everyone my nursury theme was baby quilts. Quilts to me represent comfort, and baby quilts are sort of traditional, and people would think I was being clever and tasteful. The online catalogs filled with hearts and bears and trains had depressed and stressed me out. I remebered when my mom was pregnant, how she spent hours in wallpaper stores poring over catalogs of border paper for each child, and how she used to make all the sheets and comforters and wall hangings and bumper pads and all not just for her children, but for some of my cousins as well. I could never do that. I failed to inherit the decorating gene, and even if I had I don't have the time to sew. My over-exposure to wall paper stores, and the fact that my mom made me help her strip wall paper ensures that I hate wall paper. I chose red and yellow and orange because that room is already red, and therefore I won't have to repaint the whole damn thing.

I was happy to reveal the decorating epiphany to The Husband one night, thinking he would be impressed. "I found I theme for the baby's room!" I exclaimed as he climbed into bed.

"A what?"

"A theme. For the baby's room. I decided on quilts."

"Why does the baby's room have to have a theme?" He was puzzled; after all, the husband has never really been around babies. He's an only child of much older parents, and his cousins are all a generation older than he. His family is small, and so he didn't grow up with the steady progression of new babies in his life like I did. He has no idea of the tyranny of social pressure that is about to descend on us once the baby is here. Everyone has an opinion about the best way to treat babies. I thought on his question.

"Because if we don't theme the baby's room, old ladies will yell at us."


I yelled downstairs to my sister. "Sara! Tell Winn that old ladies will yell at us if we don't theme the baby's room!"

Sara hollered back "It's true! My room had clowns! They were creepy! You have to find a theme!"

The husband looked appalled and confused. Clowns? Baby room themes? His desire to sing his favorite bits of "Pirates of Penzance" to my abdomen was out for the night. The husband is totally with me on the whole not gender typing the baby idea, because he knows this will decrease the liklihood of us getting frilly dresses or little baseball uniforms when what we really need are bottles and diapers and bibs and things. He loves me for my practicality, and the whole idea of themeing a baby's room doesn't sound practical to him.

I await the day our mothers descend on us from four hours away to tell us what to do with the baby with increasing dread and sick glee. They have radically different philosophies; my mother was a huge hippie when I was younger, insisting on everything natural (this relaxed considerably as she had more kids). The husband's mom wouldn't leave the hospital until she was sure the nanny was at their house, and she certainly didn't breastfeed. She raised her son according to some scientific method that was supposed to make him smarter. My mom was pretty much into the very passive form of parenting. The grandmothers are going to have a train wreck of conflicting advice, and will probably ignore that we don't agree with either of them. I suppose this is the way it is with many families. I'll be more interesting next week, I promise.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

With a properly placed lever...

My 18-year-old sister has a full time job now, and we're all pretty relieved. For those who might have lost track, Sara moved in with The Husband and I two months ago. We're trying to help her get her start in life; she's taking a year off between High School and college to figure out what she wants to do with herself in the long run. I'm excited about her job at a local grocery store because this job will pay her decent wages for her age (three dollars over minimum per hour), and even better, this place will actually extend a health care plan to her after 90 days - I was so, so worried about her having no health care.

Having my sister live with us has been great, if sometimes nervous-making. I've been sick for a month now, and she was there to help keep the mess in the house down to a tolerable level and to cook sometimes when the thought of cooking made me ill. Sara made friends right away with others her age in the neighborhood, and likes to stay out late. I worried a lot at first about that - we do live in a huge city - but The Husband reminded me again and again that Sara is an adult now, and in charge of her own life. I reminded him again and again that Sara's not been properly looked after for ages, and lacks good judgement. "How good was your judgement at 18?" I asked. The Husband refuses to admit that he was ever immature.

It's hard not to baby my sister sometimes. She's very into the grafitti scene, and because she is smart and quick and talented has already met a few big name artists. She hasn't told me about any of her art, because she knows I don't want to know. A huge part of street art's appeal is that it will always be illegal, and a thrill to create. One of her favorite artists signed her shoe one night, and she proudly scanned that shoe to show all of her friends back in Nashville.

She comes home at night and tells me about warehouses where a dozen or more young artists live, splittling the rent in a concrete-floored space where there's only a stage and sleeping bags around. She tells me about meeting a band of gay boys who perform electric-pop versions of video game music. She tells me about dancing with drag queens and the store in Cabbage Town with spray tips and crashing art parties way out in Buckhead. Sara is having the time of her life. I try to keep an open mind and not flinch when she tells me that she wants to live in the warehouse, or the funny story about her buying a bike for $40 off of a crackhead and painting it right away in case it was stolen.

Sara's old enough to take care of herself, I have to keep reminding myself. I know I'm doing the right thing by staying out of her way, but giving her the tools she needs right now to succeed - she has a stable place to come home to every night and plenty of food. I'm taking her to the dentist to fix her neglected teeth, and showing her why keeping a ledger is a good idea. I need to be respectful that Sara's finding her own side of Atlanta. Her territory overlaps with mine - we both can't think of living anywhere but our side of town - but her side of Atlanta is more daring and younger and full of risk and art and a good deal dirtier. I have loaned her my very nice digital camera and she can use my internet connection as much as she would like. When you are 18 you can make your own destiny shiny and new every single day. When you are 18, all you need is a big enough lever, and you can move your whole world.

Sara's going to be OK, now that she has a good job within walking distance to our house. She's a hard worker, and no matter what happens, I know that being a good worker will carry her through this part of her life well. She plans on moving out before the baby is due. I hope she doesn't feel too much pressure about that.

My stomach now pokes out in a round. The texture of my belly has changed, from soft and squishy to harder and dense - I've built up strange new connective tissues in my abdomen. The baby makes me tired all the time now too, but that's most likely part of the anti-nausea medicine I've been given. I fall asleep before 9 most nights lately, but I have been feeling a little bit better. I managed to cook last night for the first time in quite a while. I'm worn out from being so sick, and from the new job, but I'll be OK. Come visit next month, we miss you.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Some of the most beautiful weather of the year is here, but I haven't been able to enjoy it. I've been too sick for anything but sleep. This landed me in the emergency room Thursday with dehydration - I have Hyperemesis Gravidarum, (HG), a rare and severe form of morning sickness. I'm at my new job today, but I'm weaker than I've ever felt. Luckily most of my job is the sit-down sort-and-file type of things right now. The sickness - and the medicine used to treat the sickness - has left me exhausted.

In some ways the diagnosis of HG has made me feel a little better. I've been so sick, and was worried that everyone must be this sick, but I was just some sort of terrific whiner about it.

The huge Labor Day party I usually enjoy at DragonCon was very subdued this year. Attendance was way down becuase of the hurricane and gas prices. I couldn't stay up late because I kept falling alseep after violent vomiting. I attended maybe 6 panels in the 3 days I was there. I saw lots of my friends, but only briefly, and about half the people I usually enjoy seeing weren't there at all.

Did I mention that I'm exhausted?

This will get better soon. I know it will.

Friday, September 02, 2005

All the new Beginnings

September has come at last, and with it comes the good news of my healthy pregnancy, my new job, breezes to cool the city, and the fun of our annual labor day party at DragonCon.

I haven't been in contact with many people over the last three weeks. Pregnancy made August quite difficult. I went to New Orleans two weeks before Hurricane Katina hit, for my big professional conference there. Usually I love New Orleans, and usually my conference is something I look forward too every year. On this last trip it was all I could do to attend one or two professional events a day, and crawl back out of the elevator to my hotel room where I could be sick in private. I never thought I would be so sick from pregnancy. Oh, I had heard stories from people about how ill you could be, but I just didn't think that would happen to me. I thought I'd be able to travel around laugh and just be happy to have a baby inside of me. But no. I've been damn near green for a month. And the moniker "morning sickness" is a total lie. I've had days where all I could do was sleep and sit up. Last weekend I vomited dry toast and water. Dry toast and water.

Now the city of New Orleans is gone. I watch the news with horror at the working poor - those who could not afford a hotel room to flee too - bake in the steamy heat. I know how lucky I am. I feel guilty about buying a new dress last week for the party. I can't even give blood - mine is full of baby hormones right now.

I ended the old job last week. It was alright (except for the part where I nearly lost my temper on Tuesday, and the part where Cafe Intermezzo took an hour and a half to serve my going away party food). I had one last business trip up to Nashville, and was thankful it was my last. I was only 10 weeks pregnant, but I had to stop once an hour on the way home that night to pee. I'm so glad I don't have to travel any more.

The new job is better than I had even hoped it would be. I'm back in academia again, at a place I'll call Comfortable U. Comfortable U. has never had a full time archivist before. It's a suburban campus with a small town feel - the student population here is under 5,000, and so the staff all seems to know each other. I was given a tour yesterday by the library director and introduced to a lot of people and everyone seemed concerned about making me feel comfortable. I do feel comfortable. This is fabulous. I have a decent starting budget and room to really shine here. I will, for the first time in a couple of years, get to feel like I'm doing my job *right*, like I'm really getting to work *well*. The people here are low-key and quiet, and happy to have me on staff.

I'm the only full time person here who is not a baby boomer, but after my big professional conference I feel better about that. A survey was recently taken of our profession, and baby boomers outnumber all other age groups in my field by 2 to 1.

Georgia is overdue for a graduate program in Archival Science. Public History programs are not turning out people with practical experience to work in archives. I heard Clayton State was going to start a program for archivists, but it won't be open until 2007 at the earliest. That's not early enough.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Where's the sun?

Here in Atlanta it has been either boiling hot or raining. On the MARTA trains people step out of the wet and shivver if the train car has air conditioning or let off light wafts of steam from their drying clothes if the car is hot. The train platforms are miserable because none of them have air, but at least they are mostly dry.

The train service on all lines has been cut back a bit, so the officers have given up on trying to stop people from loitering. There's no telling if someone is loitering, or just waiting for a train that is running later than it used too. The trains used to run ever 5 to 10 minutes during rush hour. They now run about every 15 minutes, and this has led to general ill-will, as the normal delays mean that trains *really* run every 20 to 30 minutes, depending on what the hold-up is on any particular day.

I wish someone would fix our transit system. Things really are getting quite difficult here in the city, and there's no relief in sight. The beltline project is at least 10 years into the future (supposing it goes forward, which I hope it will), and in the meantime we lose our train service and bus services by inches...

The only unpleasent thing about starting my new job in September is that I will have to drive 20 minutes each way. I resent this. I have lived in Atlanta now for two and a half years relying on public transit, and I've been pretty proud of that. Now I will have to drive. There is no public transit from my home (near a major retail center) to my new place of work (a small-ish academic place just off of I-75).

Ok, I admit that my resentment stems from the fact that I will be working in Cobb County, and I know Cobb had a chance to get train lines approved a decade ago and they chose not to have them. And now I have to drive. I hope every morning and afternoon my car sits right in front of someone who voted against the trains. I want a bumper sticker that says "I would be riding the train if you had one".

Friday, August 05, 2005

Calling in Sick

As some of my long-time friends will tell you, I did not know how to call in sick to work until I was nearly 26. I come from a family where you never, ever skipped work. You must be deathly ill to call in sick to your place of employment or school. It doesn't matter if you have a cold, or a headache, or a queasy stomach or a sore throat. You get up in the morning, and you go to work. I'm pretty sure this ethos helped me spread strep throat to everyone in my fifth-grade class when I was a kid.

I didn't grow up in a family that went to the doctor a lot. Doctors are expensive, and taking a child to the doctor means that you have to miss a day of work. You have to be nearly dead yo get a doctor's appointment out of my mom. Likewize, a broken bone was nearly unprovable to my father. He once almost lost a finger once because he refused to admit it was broken. Luckily, my mom always drove us to get needed x-rays for that sort of thing. For anything else, I was SOL. I used to throw up just before the first day of school every year, and every year my mom would have a variation on the same reply:

"Do you really think that will get you out of going to school?"

So I was in my mid-twenties before I realized that calling into work was normal and sometimes necessary. It was Dust that taught me how, back when we were both working for Waldenbooks. Before I met Dust, I once went and worked a 10 hour shift at the mall directly after having a root canal done. Dust, on the other hand, counted "sick" as meaning "I'm sick of waking up on time every morning, and therefore too sick to work today."

I was astonished at his (then) lack of work ethic. How would his bills get paid?

"Elizabeth, we have a number of paid sick days."

"But then other people at work will have to cover your shift! It's not fair to them!"

"You have to think about yourself first, sometimes. Don't worry about the other people."

I was mortified. But gradually I realized he was right. You do have to think about yourself sometimes. And the germ phobias of others. I have worked with people who will cover their mouths and noses with their hands when in the presence of someone with a cold.

Yesterday and today I am home sick. I have a little stomach bug or something that's just making me queasy and my sinuses are draining down the back of my throat. The idea of riding the train in the Atlanta August heat makes me certain I'd vomit. But still, I feel bad about calling in sick. I only have three weeks left at my job, and I *know* how this has to look to my supervisors. It's got to look like I'm faking sick, using up all my days before I leave. I have a huge number of sick days stored up, because I almost never use them. When my husband found out how many paid days I had, he was just amazed.

"You need to use every one of those days before you leave." he said, folding his arms, angry.

I made a face. "I can't. I have too much to do."

"You certainly can use all those days! When I think about all the times I've seen you go into work when you were sick - you went in last month just two days after surgery!"

"It was only a half-day. I came home early..."

He threw his hands into the air. Every once in a while, the husband will use a sick day to stay home and play new video games. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but my job is usually just too fast paced to take a day off for no damn reason. If I call in sick and I'm not really sick, it usually means I have something critical to do that I don't want to tell people about - like going to traffic court or something. And I haven't done that but a very few times. I have so many sick days built up that I could, if I wanted too, just go into the office for one or two days before leaving altogether. Of course I won't do that. The husband is off on the idea of me using all my sick days.

I'm home ill - legitimately ill - and I have guilt over that. Sick, eh?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Numbered Events

Controlled chaos by the numbers

1) My 17-year-old sister came to live with me. For pants, she owned two ragged pairs of jeans, the kahkis I bought her last fall, and the suit pants she wore to prom. She was afraid to wear the kahkis because what if she messed them up and then had nothing for job interviews? Since she moved in, we have slowly begun to build her an adult life. She will be 18 in three weeks.

2) Andrew and Tony, two of my best friends, came to visit just over a week ago. I call them best friends not in that immature elementary school way, but in the grown-up sense. We don't hang out that often, but when we do, it's nice. We try to be there for each other when the chips are down. We're all hard workers. Andrew helped me organize my kitchen a bit. He pointed out that when most people get new kitchen things, they get them one at a time and make space for the new stuff as they go along. I went from having practicly nothing in my kitchen to having a $10,000 kitchen from Williams-Sonoma (thanks to the wedding gifts). It's more confusing than you'd think. When he realized I hadn't even had a chance to use the mandoline yet, I thought he might cry. Then I resalized I might cry, because I've always *wanted* this stuff, and damn if I haven't had time to use it.

3) I'm really regretting not just giving the current employers two weeks' notice and leaving. Instead I got caught up in my weird sense of obligation, guilt, and duty. I could have spent this last month at home learning to make waffle fries with my mandoline. Instead, I'm waking up with stomach cramps because I have a huge federal report due before I go. Sure, the money's nice - we need the money - but I could be at home making waffle fries. Or learning to cut fancy salad bits. Instead, my mandoline sits in a cupboard with the directions still attached. Sometimes I realize I have badly misplaced priorities about life. I have 3 weeks left to work at this job. My blood pressure is 5 points higher than it should be, and I have gained 15 pounds in the past year, chiefly because I bribe myself with sweets to go to this job.

4) The husabnd and I spent 24 hours (nearly exactly) at my Grandfather's this weekend. That was just about the right amount of time.

5) I had dinner with my grandmother twice while I was in Savannah to work this week. That was not nearly enough time at all. I miss my Grandmother.

6) I know that when I resort to lists, I'm doing too much. I need to spend one night doing bills, two nights cleaning the house, and one day this weekend trying to do as little as possible so I can relax. Oh, wait - my mother is coming into town on Saturday...

7) I'll have three weekdays off between my new job and my old job.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Jessica came to visit me last weekend. We were acquainted way back when I lived in Murfreesboro – she was a friend of friends – but in the past five years we've become decent online buddies.

On Sunday we sat in traffic on the way to Buckhead and talking about online interaction . Well, really, we were talking about men, but interactivity was all tangled up in that.

I loved him, I think, but what he loved – what he fell in love with –
was not me, but online me. We used to Instant Message all day. What
he was really in love with was the feetnik, not Jessica. And when he
asked me to marry him, I just sat down and cried after I said yes,
which should have been a clue that things weren't right.

I get that. I totally get that. Jessica started to blog just a little bit before I did. She used to have a full-on web page, but now that she's out of school she's cut her online presence back to a livejournal. I've had interactivity on the brain
lately, thinking about how my digital self can be at times so much more comfortable and at rest than my, my…RL self? My corporeal self?, no, none of that is right. I am one whole person, not an online person and an offline person. Honestly, when you meet me and hang out with me, I'm just like this. But I can understand how it is easier to relate to someone without having to see them. Words and noises and
feeling move differently here, inside the internet. This is easier than hanging out in real life, because a person can modulate exactly what they would like to say and how they would like to appear. In face to face interaction, there are so many other cues to a person's presence, so many visual prejudices and habits to overcome.

Take, for instance, my experience at Tiffany's this weekend.

I hate Tiffany's. If I've offended you, I'm sorry. Tiffany's is the sort of place where they have solid silver monogrammed ice buckets for sale, along with a lot of overpriced jewelry. I admire the craftsmanship of the old Tiffany stained glass and art nouveau jewelry. But if you think that a $2,500 silver monogrammed ice bucket is a good idea, and you don't understand how having a $2,500 silver monogrammed ice bucket makes you sort of a worthless human being, then
you shouldn't be reading this anyway. Please go hock your goddamned ice bucket on ebay, give a grand to charity, and spend the other grand on something more useful, like, maybe, therapy. If you own this sort of object, I believe that you fail to separate the worth of a human being from the physical possessions.

Jessica and I ended up at Tiffany's because some goddamned worthless human being gave the husband and I gifts from Tiffany's for our wedding. I would have returned them before now, but Tiffany's is in Buckhead, which I dislike driving to, and the one time when he and I did try to return the stuff the doors closed on us. Seriously. It was 6:55 and they close at 7:00 pm, and as we rushed down the hall
with useless crap to return, we watched those big silver doors close…

Well, when Jessica visited she wanted to go out Buckhead way to look at fancy closes and cosmetics, and since I was going with her I thought I would return the useless Tiffany's stuff – champagne glasses and a crystal candy dish. These are the two cheapest items you can get from Tiffany's, by the way. They added up to just over a hundred dollars, and even a keychain at Tiffany's is at least $175. Several people have asked me why I didn't just re-gift the crap to people who would be more impressed with the Tiffy's blue boxes than I was. And let me tell you why I won't do that: I don't want to be the kind of person who gives useless Tiffany crap. Regifting something useful, like a frying pan or a coffee maker is OK, because those things are needed and useful things. Regifting an ugly candy dish is cheap and not really a gift at all. It's foisting societal garbage onto someone else.

So we went to Tiffany's. And they did not appreciate that I wanted to return their stuff. And they asked me all kinds of difficult questions, to which I lied like a rug. You are supposed to return things to Tiffany's within 30 days of their purchase. I said we had been on a honeymoon for months and months. The salesgirl had to go get the manager. I stood at the counter, and quiet anger filled the spaces all around me so throuroughly that Jessica excused herself to the mall hallway to get out of the tense situation. I didn't blame her at all. I have enough anger in situations like this that it can surround me like a fog. I didn't say or do anything aggressive; it was just my presence. That's something you only get to experience in face to face interations with me. It took jessica by surprise, because she knows me from online.

I wasn't loud. I didn't yell. I stood quietly at the counter and smiled. I was wearing a faded black and blue baseball shirt with jeans and the black leather thick soled shoes I bought when I was told that army boots are no longer acceptable. I stood and waited for the manager. And I murmmered quietly to Jessica just before she skipped out into the hall that if Tiffany's didn't take this crap back, I was
leaving it on the counter and walking straight out of the store. I discretely eyed the other customers, who were busy buying expensive, useless crap.

Eventually they decided to let me out of the store. I was given a store credit, for which I wanted to trade for cuff links. This meant I had to give Tiffany's all the money in my wallet. Because cuff links at Tiffany's are $150.00. I will use them my whole life. They cost me $27. I think that's about how much cuff links should really cost. The sales ladies assumed the cuff links were for my husband. I let them know that they were for me (men's shirts come with longer sleeves, so I often wear them). They then assumed I wanted them gift wrapped. No, I really didn't, but by then it was too late. Ribbons were being tied, and I was forced to stand at the counter, looking at a $1,200 pool ball rack, and jewelry that was themed to match.

When she handed them over, the girl at the counter kept asking – Don't you want them engraved?,

No. No, I don't want them engraved at Tiffany's. If I get these links engraved, it will be at an honest jeweler's or gift store somewhere else where people have got good sense. And I will have them put something a lot better than my initials on. Maybe dragons or a sun or a simple drawing of an upraised middle finger. But I didn't say this to the salesperson. I gave her a tight smile and left the store.

None of that would have happened in an online store. More to the point, if the person who bought that unwanted stuff for me had simply checked my registry online, she would have seen the type of things I like, the type of person I am - deadly practical. Except, of course, for that $200 toaster I asked for as a joke. Of course someone bought that, too...

One day I'll feel comfortable around money. That day is not today.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Hooray! Ouch. Hooray!

I apologize for posting the same thing here that I've posted to my LJ. I usually try to write here and just post little things to LJ. But right now I'm on a lot of pain meds. Here's the good and the bad from the past few days. I'm sure there was blackberry cobbler and fireworks in there, but right now all I can think about is healing up.


Yesterday, I accepted a position in an academic library to start after I leave the current job.


Yesterday, I went to the desntist/oral surgeon at 7am for a brief wellness visit, and ended up in 6 hours of oral surgery.


The husband bought me a blue iPod mini as a congrats gift for the new job.


iPod batteries only last about 3 hours, so the battery wore down during the surgery and I didn't have any other music to listen too.


Affordable childcare at my new job.


Not being able to take sleeping gas during surgery, 'cause I'm trying to get pregnant and laughing gas can damage fetuses.


Chocolate soy milk, mashed potatoes made with chicken broth, ginger ale, cold bottled water, pain medicine, sleep.


Lots and lots of stiches in your mouth.


My oral surgeon, Dr. Kaufmann, without whom I'd have two less teeth right now.


Hearing your oral surgeon say: "I've seen infections like this 3 times in 30 years, and once a decade is quite enough."

Friday, June 24, 2005

The end of June

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

I have no idea what "I broke the power law means, mind you, but it was one of the available graphics offered as a "prize" at the end of the MIT blogging survey, so I took it. I hope some of my blogging friends take this too.

Last weekend I happened to be in the car with my old friend Virgil drving across east Tennessee to Ford's wedding shower. He asked me about my blog, of which I know him to be a semi-occasional reader. "So how many people read that thing?"

I told him - it's easy to see, really, with the sitemeter at the bottom of the page. I love blogging, and I don't know that I'll ever be able to stop. We talked about the internet in general, and about my publishing. I haven't had any creative writing published since I've moved to Atlanta. There hasn't been time, what with getting the life in order and managing the job that eats all my energy. I miss publishing creative writing. I look forward to getting back to that, now that things are getting a bit more settled at home and I plan on switching jobs.

But blogging will always be here for me as instant self publishing. It's a bit masturabatory, I know, but people do enjoy reading blogs and I do enjoy writing this one. So I'm not going to stop any time soon, although I contemplated it last fall. This is part of my routine now, this is how I keep the constant flow of words in my head somehow still flowing, somehow still a little bit useful. If I don't keep up my creative outlets, I get all backed up in my mind and grouchy. When people ask me "How can you write all the time?" I have always replied "How can you not? In September, I will have been blogging for six years. This is part of who I am now.

At work we had a meeting not too long ago where the HR officer, looking rather uncomfortable, let us know that the company did read our blogs from time to time. I didn't feel bad about this. I've never named who I work for, and I doubt anyone who reads this cares very much, as few of my posts mention work and when they do it's never anything terribly important. Most of my readers are friends, or friends of friends, or people who stumble in, read around for a few days, and then dissapear into the internet ether rarely to be seen again. And that's fine with me. I won't be made to feel like I should be guilty or worried about Blogging because big brother or work might be watching. Of course they're watching. I invited them too. That's the point - I am here, I am writing, I am expressing myself and I can get feedback on style. I can tell what tone and events interest other people. I am expressing myself and learning from that expression what is best recieved, what my friends are interested in.

The survey from MIT is mostly about the social dynamics of blogging. I'll be interested to hear what the survey has to say. I won't take it too seriously though. The internet - we don't really know what it is yet, we don't even have the words to explain how it is altering our social connections.

When I occasionally hear the topic of blogs come up with people who don't understand them ("Blogs? Those internet diary thingies? Hah!")*, I always marvel at their incomprehension. You write things, and people read them. But it's not really a form of publishing as they understand it. This is nothing that they've ever delt with before. And the idea that I would write about my life - my adventures, my alcholic dad, my daily pitfalls and successes as I struggle to find a stable, secure life - the idea that I would write about these things confuses them. Why would I share? Who would read it, and who would care?

I consider myself late to the blogging game, as several of my friends had blogs a year or two before I did. I find it strange that blogs have been around for so long and only this year the president of the American Library Association felt compelled to notice them. When he did notice "the blog people", he called them shallow and inconsequential in so many words. He had just noticed blogs, you see, and some had said unflattering things about him. He struck out in blind anger, like a child. He came out looking rather foolish in the eyes of many people my age. I don't go to ALA. I'm a member of SAA. I don't know that I'll be joining ALA any time soon. It might be a few year before there are people in power who understand how much the internet has changed the social dynamics of communication, self expression, and publishing.

I share my life here on this blog because I am compelled to write. People read because they are interested. I make no claim to be extra interesting or even a better than average writer. But this page exists. I enjoy keeping it up, and other people enjoy reading it, so why not keep on? This is a different kind of communication.

*Direct quote from authority figure, upon hearing that I had won an award for blogging.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The MLK Memorial

Last Saturday I took my youngest sister Abby down to see the MLK end of Freedom Park. Abby had requested a chance to see the MLK memorial because she just completed sixth grade, and in sixth grade at her school they study the civil rights movement and so this year she is Very Up On That. Since I live within walking distance of where MLK was born and buried, Abby was excited to see the historic site.

I wanted to see the MLK grounds too. Not just because I love history, and Georgia history in particular, but out of professional curiosity I was interested in the MLK site. No such elaborate memorial existed when I was growing up; the memories and wounds of desegregation were too fresh then, matters still left too unsettled. We still have segregated proms here in some rural parts of the state. The MLK National Park site went up in the early 1990's as the city ramped up for the 1996 Olympics. Visitors from overseas would expect a memorial, and the Kennedy Library on the Massachusetts shore had just opened and - if JFK got such a place, shouldn't Martin? Of course he should.

But MLK's family has long been known to be disagreeable. The National Park Service took charge of a visitor center and refurbished the King birthplace, but MLK's family refused to donate important papers or the gravesite to National care. The King family said that they could not bare to have the gravesite be taken care of by the government that killed their patriarch. In truth, the family was used to using the gravesite as well as rights to King's papers as their personal piggy banks. The extent of their theft is unknown, but it was disclosed earlier this year in the Atlanta Journal-constitution that King's family pays themselves exorbitant six figure salaries while the gravesite and the buildings around it go unrepaired. Had the gravesite been annexed into federal park grounds, no such thing would have happened. I've never heard of a park ranger, no matter how long they have been with the service, being paid six figures. It's unheard of.

Before we went to see the park and birth home, Abby got a taste of Traditonal Southern opinion at my breakfast table. The husband would not go with us to the park. He believes MLK's role in history to be exaggerated, and MLK himself to be a shady character who has ended up a saint only via his martyrdom. Sometimes it's easy to forget that my husband was raised by parents the age of my grandparents, but then words like that fall out of his mouth and I remember that his parents would have been vehemently against desegregation, while I was raised by parents 15 years younger who of course think that MLK was a Really Neat Guy. The husband isn't racist - at least not in the way that his parents were - in fact, one of his college roomies was black. But scratch the surface and all those beliefs he grew up with are still there.

Abby was horrified to hear these opinions of her new brother-in-law. Not like MLK? How could you not like MLK? she asked on our way there. I explained as best I could that the civil rights movement was made up of hundreds of different people, and some of them - Thurgood Marshall, for instance - probably did more than MLK to advance the cause of a more egalitarian society. But, I pointed out, MLK's death had been such a horrifying act that he became a symbol for the whole movement. His death changed opinions, his death pushed a divided society the half that believed in segregation and the half that didn't - together for a few moments. And we all changed.

Of course MLK cheated on his wife. He attracted media attention because of his incredible good looks and his amazing ability as a speaker. MLK was made for television, and the National Park site plays on that. When you go there - and you should - you'll see a dozen or so multimedia exhibits that try to explain the civil rights movement and MLK's place within that phase of American politics. All I could think of when I saw all the exhibits about protest politics was : Once upon a time that worked. Once upon a time 40 or 50 thousand people could march and effect change.... How much we have changed. The police know how to deal with protesters these days. If MLK had encountered modern police protest tactics, would he have prevailed?

What Abby and I liked most about the National Park site was the section of Auburn Avenue that the park service has restored, including the King birth home. Dr. King was a son of privaledge, and his house reflects that. But walking through his house and hearing stories of his family made him seem more like a rounded person to me. here is where a little boy hid to get out of doing the dishes. Later he grew up to be an amazing orator, and made the world a better place.

There were hundreds of people who helped bring down segregation. Is it fair to give MLK the defacto sainthood for this cause? Of course it's fair. It is always the orators with fabulous charisma who history remembers best. MLK is sainted worldwide by now, no matter what the generation who disagreed with him says. Thomas Jefferson had his children as slaves, and no one now blinks an eye; so too will go MLK's business dealings and affairs, along with the incompetency of his heirs. My husband will be the last of his line to be infected with sympathy for segregation, for our children will grow up to ask as my sister did, "So what, exactly, was segregation?"

Monday, June 06, 2005

Pain, Dark, and Light (eventually)

I woke up last night around 2 in the morning with a full-on panic attack. Have you ever had one? For me, panic attacks are a searing pressure and pain in my upper left chest, right over my heart. I woke up, gasped, and tried to concentrate on the comforting feeling of my husband's skin next to me in our bed. I took deep breaths. I concentrated on not going to the bathroom and emptying the contents of my stomach, which is what I usually do when I get this stressed out. I haven't thrown up from stress since January. The husband is so good for me - if I think about how comforting he is, I can calm down. If I just take a lot of deep breaths and think about how wonderful my life actually is, I can calm down. When I remember that I have people who love me, and a house now, and dental care, and a refridgerator full of groceries, and solid transportation, and comics all organized - I can calm down. I petted my husband, and he rolled over and kissed me and fell all unconcious again.

Eventually the dawn started to peek around the curtains, and I fell asleep again.

I know why I had the panic attack. The surface (micro) reason would be that I'm taking half a day off of work today even thoiugh I was out for two days last week, and I have loads of work to do, and I *need* to be at work this week. The deeper reason (macro) would be that I spent Sunday in Augusta, and had some dealings with my father's family, and, at a distance, my father. I haven't written publicly about any of that for a long time because people who know me know how bad everything has been and I haven't felt the need to broadcast details. I have been told that whenever you blog, you should pretend that you're yelling whatever you say from the top of a high mountain, and that everyone - everyone can hear you.

So let me yell this from the top of my small mountain: last night before bedtime I got a call from Nashville. Neighbors at my parent's old house had called my mom to tell her that my father's dog was at their door, smelly and hungry and confused. When my parents split last year, they split the house too, and that was sold two months ago. When the house was sold, my father simply turned his dog loose in the neighborhood. God knows what he did to her to get her to run from him, because that dog never ran, but only loved to be petted and to sleep in his garage when the weather was bad. The dog must have been confused and sad - the children had left, and now so had dad, and the garage that she lived in and next to for so long was closed up or had all of her favorite things missing. Cold, and hungry, I imagine she ate garbage for a while before just sitting on the neighbor's porch, afraid and howling. There would have been no clean water, nor the dog house that my sisters decorated with old doll blankets. Her chew toys had probably been thrown away when the new owner cleaned the yard.

She was abandoned. My mother cried when the neighbors called her, and then had to try and find my teenage sister, who was out with friends and had the car. I suppose Sara today will try to help dad's dog. We have a friend of the family who works at a no-kill shelter who could have taken the dog months ago - but no, no, dad did this, dad abused the dog.

My father is an alcoholic. He has been one all my life, but only in the past few years has his slow slide down been accelerated, bringing him faster and closer to permanent brain damage and losing everyone, everything. It's all gone - he threw everything away. His marriage, his kids, and even his dog. Even his car was taken away a few weeks ago. His health, his teeth are slipping. I don't know how much longer it will be until he dies. People can live for years like that, rolling, tumbling down a mountainside of addiction and pain that they thow out to everyone around them.

I went to Augusta Sunday and saw my father's mother, and a cousin who happened to be seeing her at the same time. We did not talk of my father. I did not see any other members of my father's family. No one wants to talk about anything, no one wants to face the truth. There is nothing I can do, or say.

Eventually things will get better - for myself, for my sisters, for my mother. There is pain in the darkness, but eventually, if you wait in the dark long enough and remember that everything will be fine, that life is beautiful - the sun will rise. And when the sun comes up you can use half a personal day to take your youngest sister to breakfast and then give custody of her over to your aunt and uncle for the summer. There will be cousins playing, and blackberries for picking, and a funny story about the fourth of July. Then you can go to work and fel accomplished. You can come home at night to your husband, and if you happen to wake up at 2 a.m. with a terrible pressure in your chest you can remember that things will get better. Dawn will come, and the sun will rise.

Monday, May 30, 2005

The lot unbuilt upon

My new condo borders one of the many urban brownlots along the old train lines here in Atlanta. When factories had to back up to the train lines to get their goods to market, my section of town was a bustling production corridor. But times changed and trucks took over as the main mode of transport; while the train yard near my new house is always bustling with work and movement, it is the movement of train containers onto and off of trucks. Factories can be way out on Peachtree Industrial where there's lots more space and the property taxes are cheap. Then they can load all their goods onto a truck and have the truck drive to the train yard - and hey, while it's there - the truck can pick up raw materials that have shipped up from the port in Savannah.

All of this is a way of explaining why my area of town has slowly turned from factories to abandoned factories that crumbled into urban brownlots into slow creeping gentrification. My condo is in a converted warehouse, and next door to my condo is an eight foot wooden fence. Inside that fence is a mess of voracious kudzu that covers loads of scrap lumber, old tires, and the back of a rusting semi. When we bought the condo a couple of months ago, the kudzu was asleep for the winter still, a brown gray creeping skeleton that allowed us to see all the trash underneath. Now the kudzu is a lush green carpet that keeps trying to climb over the fence and eat my patio.

Developers want to take the zudzu covered lot and turn it into a neat development of "affordable" townhomes. I put affordable in quotes because I don't trust developers. What they think are affordable starter homes often aren't. Many of the new condo developments around my area are quite posh - marble countertops luxury bathrooms and other add-ins make the price of some places quite out of reach. There are some affordable townhomes near me, but they have a hard time selling because the property taxes in this area are very high, and the market has gone soft with over- saturation. There are simply too many condos on the market in Atlanta right now, and that's how the husband and I managed to get one at all.

Anyhow, I feel a little guilty. I chucked some scrap wood into the brownlot today, confident in the knowledge that kudzu would soon cover my crime. I, the husband, and our friend Daniel have been trying and so far failing in some home improvements today. We royally screwed up at least one entire 4 by 4, trying to cut it into equal lengths at 45 degrees. If you've ever tried to spilt a long piece of wood at a 45 degree angle, you'll understand our problems. It was a first attempt that went horribly awry, and took us at least an hour and a half and a change of saw blades to accomplish. In the end we were just covered in saw dust and feeling bad.

We all looked at each other, and the mangled 4 by 4, after our mistake was realized. "Look", I said, "Let's just chuck the bastard over the fence, and never speak of this again." Daniel felt bad about this. We all did. As the 4 by 4 was heaved over the fence, I realized I'd feel guilty for some time. Not just for public littering, but also for wasting wood. But after heaving that 4 by 4 away I let it all go. Sometimes you just have to put your mistakes behind you. What I want to tell you is that when I heaved that 4 by 4 into the brownlot, I attached a lot of of failures to it mentally. There's been quite a few things lately hanging out in my head that my concience wouldn't let me get rid of. When I fail, I tend to sit around trying to fix my failures for far too long. Sometimes, you just have to chuck a project or section of your life over the fence and let it go.

After the old heave-ho, Daniel expressed his remorse. "But what about when people find the 4 by 4? What the hell will they think happened to it?"

"I know nothing about this piece of wood you've mentioned." I said. Then I went into the house and made a cake.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

I have yet to hang pictures

Here in Atlanta, the pollen count is so high that everyone is a little bit sick, it seems. Thick blooms in my neighbor's careful landscaping make me want to strangle him. Why are flowers os important? I have a neat row of marigolds and that's enough for me.

My aunt and uncle both got some sort of nose infection from the over-exuberant flowers this year, and when I went to visit them my cousin Ruel was asleep on the couch despite the 6 o'clock hour. I passed them illegal fireworks I bought from a market on the Tennessee border for our fourth of July party. So much has happened to my family in the past year. I'm almost ready to write about it. Maybe I will this weekend. I am looking forward to the fourth of July this year for the first time in several years.

Audrey and Jamie have had a little girl, Laura Kate. I went to see them and the new cousin a week or so ago. It was nice to meet a new family member, to see her pink and small and wonder what she'll be like. I saw Colin as well, and he surprised me; he's really a little boy now, skinned knees and gruffer voice. All of my cousins age a bit when I'm not looking. Audrey talked to me about pregnancy and childbirth and we both wondered when it would be my turn. I am not pregnant. If I am not pregnant by Christmas, it will be time to make an appointment with someone who can use science to tell me why I can't seem to make this magic happen. Maybe I am too much of a skeptic to create new life.

I have been so buried by work that I forgot this weekend would be Memorial Day weekend. I was so happy to discover I had Monday off I nearly cried. I still haven't hung pictures in the new house. I still haven't bought blinds or curtains. Because I went to Nashville to visit family this weekend, I didn't get a day home to clean the house, and it's a wreck. When I come home from work during the week I either have to keep working at home to keep up with my workload and/or I'm so drained I don't want to do anything but read to try and relax. I am increasingly glad I put in my resignation at work. I only have about 3 more months to go before I'm finished with The Job That Ate My Life. I'm so burned out, I find myself wishing I didn't have to work at all. Economic reality demands that I can't stay home, and right now that just kills me.

Two of my oldest friends are getting maried this summer. Both are people I didn't think would ever get married. I can only hope that their marriages make them as happy as mine has made me. Even though work is a huge drain, I recognise that before I was married, I managed the work load by simply working all the time. I neglected my personal life for my career. And now that I have this rich beautiful life away from my career, the career pales by comparison. I hope that a new job will make me happier, that a new job will kill the greedy want of staying home all day. Truthfully, if one of us stays home, it should proably not be me.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

I can probably keep swimming

Tonight the husband is out gaming, and I am home organizing my comic book collection into big old wooden filing cabinets we found at a used furniture store over in Poncey Highlands. I am filing my comics in hanging folders, alpha by title - except for all the Tim Hunter books, because, dear god, alpha by title would just be a disaster there - they are filed like this:

Hunter, Tim - Life during Wartime
Hunter, Tim - Age of Magic
Hunter, Tim - Names of Magic
Hunter, Tim - Books of Magic

The filing and sorting is soothing, and calms my archival nerves, the ones that get rumpled every day by disorganization. Have you any idea what it is like to grow up in a house where your parents can't remember where they put anything? We are all products of our environments. I miss my sisters so much this weekend - Sara in particular lately, because she is good moving help and good company when you are cleaning something. I miss Abby because I see things she would like to do or try all the time. There is a new shop down in Little 5 she would love. Sara will have her GED and driver's liscense soon, and Abby should be on Summer break now. I want them to visit.

The husband and I have been in the new house now for six weeks, and while we achieved a decent level of near tidy-ness last week I still don't consider the house to have been clean yet once. Maybe tomorrow this will happen, when I hang pictures. But then, I have to work at home on a Sunday again tomorrow in order to catch up from all the out-of-office work I did *again* this week. Oh, and I need to look for a new job, and I need to call my mom, and I need to find some curtains, or blinds or something, because we don't have any. And I need, I need, I need...more time. There is too much to do still. Oh, I'm calmer about it lately, but the tide of life is still high, the current is still pulling at my ankles. I have to get a new job, one that requires little to no travel.

I'm trying to get pregnant. Wish me luck.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

The Normality Drive

I feel much calmer this weekend. Life seems to be moving forward, and steady cleaning and cooking in the new house is helping me feel less frustrated with the state of things. We had our planning meeting at work where my department gets together once a quarter and syncs up calendars for the next five or six months, and when I wrote down that my last day was September 30th, and had that confirmed, I felt a great sense of peace come over me. I have had it out of my system now; my work does not define me, my career is not the most important thing in my life.

Audrey gave birth to a new cousin last night, Laura Kate, and I expect the husband and I will get to go see everyone soon to celebrate the new family member. Mother's Day is coming up, and I plan on inviting my mother and Grandma Alice to come visit my new house. I miss them, and my sisters. Everyone will have to visit to see the new baby, and I will be happy to see them all as well. I do not visit with my family as much as I would like under happy circumstances. I would like to play with Ellie, Colin, and Ruel. I can't remember the last time I really had a chance. And besides, it is almost time for the blackberries to be out in the wooded lot behind my uncle's house, thick and dark and ripe as big as your thumb, it is time for cobbler and ice cream and the sun hot on the back of my neck.

All of this is a way of saying, I suppose, that summer is here at last. I know that the calendar says that summer is not here yet, but it is May Day, and the festivals have begun here in Atlanta. The Inman Park had its tour of homes last weekend, and there's an outdoor public art festival in Freedom Park this weekend, and I am cleaning and baking in the house that my husband has bought us, and I am happy. The sun is out. I'm going to find a new job, and then I can make a baby of my own. I am nesting. We are having friends over for dinner for the first time tomorrow night. I have cabinets full of food and kisses whenever I ask for them and soon I will have the time to write for myself. Things get better, a little bit at a time, all the time.

I miss you; come visit. We have the guest bed set up now with clean sheets. I have ordered a new tea cup to replace that one that got broken so long ago. Come and visit, and I will make you breakfast, and we can sit and talk about the books that we have read and make collages on the kitchen table if we want or try that complicated recipe or draw comics and print up a 'zine. We can laugh about the bad things that have happened in the last year, too. The long dark windy rainy times are almost past. It's summer, I don't care what the calendar says.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Almost Connected Again

For the first time since we moved into the new house, I am online on my own computer again. Yes, it took me over three weeks to hook up my computer. The past three weeks have been overflowing with accomplishments; they've also been filled with a very special kind of torture. It's as if I've been working right between heaven and hell. I have nearly everything I've ever wanted. I just have almost no goddamn time to enjoy any of it at all.

In addition to moving I have been to rural Mississippi and Memphis for work, and will be in rural Lousiana next week. I did manage at last to get to Chicago for some fun with Kati and Michael. For a weekend in the middle of all this madness, the husband and I took a deep breath and did nothing but tour exhibits, eat good food with friends, and play games and talk and enjoy ourselves. Chicago was needed and neccessary. I do miss Kati so. I want to go back and visit her again before too long...

But I came right back into town and left again; and then my mother-in-law was here and we I was shown, how much, how much I really needed. Tommorrow the husband is home from work and the delivery men will bring a new bookcase for him, two filing cabinets for me, nice old wooden ones, and a dining room table from the 1920's refinished and so overdone in the turning of the legs that my sister Abby could tap dance on the top and it would never wobble. And then there's a kind of china cabinet with no glass, a blind cabinet it's called, that I like very much.

The husband and I have hung a pot rack from the exposed iron girders in the cieling. The whole house, little by little, is coming together quite well. You should come to visit and see it. But do that later - there are still piles and piles of books and clothes in the floor. And I can't figure out when I'll have time to unpack everything because even today I have a report to work on for my job, and then I'm off to Lousiana.

I put in my notice at work. I'm terrified I'll get pregnant and I can't keep up this constant rush of work and travel. I can barely hold everything together now, never mind if I have to do all that thinking about a baby as well. I said in the notice I'd wait until September. Cross your fingers for me that I can make it that long, and think thought in my direction about the National Archives and Records Adminstration. Whenever you think of me, think "8 to 4 desk job". Whenever I think of you, I'll think of warm summer vacations.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Our friend Raven came down from Nashville to help us move last weekend. Raven is the most fabulous moving help ever.

We closed on the house Thursday night, and the husband surprised me by taking me out to one of the nicest restaurants in town, The Oceanaire. We split a lobster and had the most fabulous deserts. I ordered baked Alaska because whenever you have the chance to watch a really good waiter set food on fire, you should. The husband ordered the white chocolate banana crème pie, which did not get set on fire but tasted like the best banana crème pie you’ve ever had, only better.

When we got home we met up with Raven, and the moving began. Raven, for those who haven’t met him, is about 6’ 3” and was raised by interior decorators. He has a habit of wearing a black wool coat and a fedora. His long brown hair goes down to his waist, and his blue eyes are always seeing something that you haven’t. Raven is pure Nashville, walking around in bondage pants and shoes that need mending. He will not move to Atlanta, although the husband and Daniel and I have tried to persuade him. Raven talks about New York sometimes, and I hope he goes there. He talks also some times about Memphis, which has a big goth scene. I hope he doesn’t move to Memphis. Memphis scares me a bit in a way I can’t describe.

We took Raven to Cafe Intermezzo before he left. This made him pretty damn happy, if only because he was able to get a good shot of expresso. Raven says he can't get a good expresso in Nashville anymore, not since Bongo Java changed a few years ago.

We have moved, and moved, and moved for a week nearly now, and we will not be done moving for a couple more weeks. This is the way of moving. Somehow, when you are moving into a house that you own and not an apartment the moving seems more intense and arduous. We have only moved about 5 blocks in the physical, three dimensional world; yet we have moved into another phase and plane somehow, we have crossed rivers and dragged boxes through deserts somehow else.

I can’t explain this to you. I don’t have the words to explain moving into the first home that you own. Nothing seems real to me still. Owning our condo seemed a little more real when I bought a curb key and showed off my ability to turn on the water without the water department’s help. Perhaps owning our condo will seem even more real once we’ve painted and have a chance to sleep in a bed again instead of mattresses on the living room floor.

Does anyone, by chance, know how you get rid of a mattress?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Like how Darth vader Sounds

The new Target is open now over on Moreland Avenue. I have already managed to convince the store clerks that I’m a little crazy. This wasn’t intentional.

I went into the new Target last night looking for a white noise machine. Before my trip to Target, I thought everyone would know what a white noise machine was. It’s one of those little devices that puts out a sound much like low radio static, and the purpose of this white noise is the blocking out of lots of other noises. It seems now that white noise machines also like to have options where you can listen instead to noises of the ocean, or crickets in the forest, or water bubbling in a creek. In my mother’s family, it is common to put white noise machines in the rooms of very small children, so that they can’t hear you making noise while they are taking a nap.

Anyway, the husband and I walked into the new Target, and up to the Guest Services desk, and asked where we could find a white noise machine.

“A what?” asked the clerk.

“You know, a machine that puts out a low noise…like they have at hotels.”

“Uh, I never heard of that. Hold on.” She motioned to her supervisor. “Have you ever heard of a white noise machine?”

“Do you want the movie White Noise?” asked the manager helpfully.

“No, no, I’m looking for a machine that goes in your bedroom. Sometimes it’s a travel accessory and sometimes it’s in house wares. It’s a machine that makes a noise like this…” and then I cupped my hands in front of my mouth and made a noise much like how one imagines Darth Vader sounds in a deep sleep.

The Target workers stared at me.

I added helpfully: “It cancels out other noises. You probably have one on in this store and don’t realize it.”

They stared at me again. “Um, we’ve never heard of what you’re talking about.” The clerks were trying very hard to be polite, but I could tell that they were convinced I was making it all up. A machine that sounded like radio static? Who would want one of those?

My husband was trying not to giggle. I sighed. “Ok, look, I’ll find one and show you after I’ve bought it.” I knew Target sold white noise machines. I’d seen them there before.

We wandered off down red-striped lanes. “I hate Target” said the husband. He hates all department stores. It’s a thing with him. He hasn’t got the patience for bad service and a store the length of a football field. We shop at Target because I like Target, and despise most of their competitors. Besides, they have loads of things we usually need.

We needed a white noise machine not only for the new house, which is loft style and therefore needs noise dampening, but for the tiny apartment where we live now until the big move this weekend. We need the machine for this week in the current apartment because out friend Daniel has had yet again horrible room mate luck. His last roomie moved out of town in the middle of the night with no warning, taking some of Daniel’s bill money with her. He’s got a new place to move into at the first of the month, but is spending this last week with us. The apartment is small enough that I would feel guilty about the husband and I enjoying married life at night without some sort of noise interference. The husband and I were on a quest.

We eventually found the white noise machines not in travel accessories nor house wares, but in the back of the pharmacy section. We wouldn’t have found the machines (Target has a small selection) at all, except that when on the edge of giving up over by the air purifiers, we ran into one of those huge stock men who know a store like the back of one of their calloused hands. They know their store because they stock it, just as I once did during Christmas a year and a half ago.

“Oh, yeah.” Said the stockman. “Those things. They used to be over here, but they moved ‘em for some reason.” The stockman took us back to where the foot spas were, and there were the white noise machines, now called “Noise Spas”.

We bought two. One for me that has a timer on it – it shuts off after 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour – and one for the husband that he had to have because it was a white noise machine/alarm clock/ radio and it projects the time overhead or onto a wall in glowing blue light. Both machines were les than $15. After we bought them, I stood in line at guest services again to show them to the clerk and manager. They had never seen them before, but both agreed they looked nice. I felt like I was proven to be sane.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Abby's Spring Break and My First Home

It's my youngest sister's spring break this week, and she is 12. Today I took her horseback riding way out in the country side. Then we went out to lunch in the city. I took her to Cafe Intermezzo, where the desert case is very large and sure to make a twelve-year-old happy. Of course, now I have stomach cramps, because I always eat too much dairy at Cafe Intermezzo and I should only eat dairy in moderation. I can't help it. Their food is so very fine. The fact that I love their coffee doesn't help matters much either.

I wish I could spend more time with my sister this week. I wish I could start packing for the big move I'm going to make soon. I can't do those things because I'll be back in Roanoke, Virginia for work again this week. Even if I was in town, it would be difficult to spend much time with Abby working a regular job just because it's sort of difficult to do family things at all lately. I want to hang out with Audrey and Laura more; there's just not enough time.

The big move I'm about to make is into my very first owned home. The husband and I bought a condo over on Dekalb Avenue near the Inman Park station. I feel comfortable revealing that much of the location because Dekalb avenue is lined with condos over there. As well it should be; we get to stay in the neighborhood I love (just barely) and I will still be able to walk to Little 5 and the new Target that has just opened up on Moreland Avenue. I can continue to live without a car, and that is well worth the price we paid to live in town. We will pay as much for our small condo as my aunt and uncle paid for a spacious home with an acre or so out in Powder Springs. I will pay more a month in property tax than many people pay for car insurance. It's worth the money not to have to fight traffic, but just barely.

Wish me luck this week in Virginia. I really don't want to be away from home and family for most of this week. I will need cheering up via e-mail and through phone calls. I still miss you. When I move, I'll have the best place for you to visit comfortably, and we can drink hot tea and eat cookies.