Friday, February 27, 2009

The First Decade’s The Hardest

See, here’s the thing.

I had a five page long (and counting) post to commemorate the first decade after Dad’s passing. I worked long and hard to catalog the events surrounding his death, the years afterward, and the grieving process which continues to this day.

However, as I was reading through my post, I found myself thinking back to a conversation I had with my Cousin Aaron. Aaron is a pastor (I like and respect him, nonetheless). I had asked him to review a post I thought was maybe a little inflammatory before I actually put it on my blog.

He wrote back with his comments, suggesting perhaps it was too inflammatory. I, in typical fashion, responded defensively.

“It’s my blog, and I can say whatever I want,” I told him.

“Actually you can’t say whatever you want. I mean, you’re a Christian right?”

Dang it. He had me there.

“Aaron, you know me. I’m not into self-censorship,” I protested.

“Well, maybe you’re not. But I’m pretty sure the Holy Sprit is.”

Dang it! Why did I ask him again?

Either way, the conversation stuck with me, and I decided not to post the article in question.

As I was reading through Dad’s Death Post (as I was generically calling it in my head), I realized I was writing about a very dark time in my life. I was describing the people and churches who had failed Mom and me when we needed them most.

Every word I wrote was true, but re-hashing this particular part of my past wasn’t going to do any good. Many of these people still have no idea how their callousness, their thoughtlessness affected my grieving widow of a mother and this confused and helpless college student of a daughter.

Re-visiting their mistakes would no doubt bring back bitterness.

Don’t get me wrong. I am human, after all. The writer in me wants to post this article. The still-hurting 20 year old wants you to know how abandoned and rejected I felt by people who were supposed to love and help me.

However, this 30 year old, world-weary Christian, has hard-learned one of the greatest joys in life comes from forgiveness. And I have forgiven these people, these churches.

It took many years and many more trials, but God abundantly shed His grace on me. I had no choice but to gladly forgive and be set free.

Spiritual freedom trumps holding on to bitterness any day. Let me tell you.

I’ve memorialized Dad in past posts. See here and here.

To tell the truth, I think I could write something different about Dad every day and never run out of things to say. The man was the epitome of what “father” should be. I was blessed beyond measure to spend 20 years of my life in the care of such a godly and loving servant.

I do not want to forget I had 20 amazing years with this exceptional man. Oh, I could wish for more. Sometimes, in my human weakness, I do. But what God gave me was enough. It has to be, for God’s plan is always better than mine.

So, on this the official first decade since Dad’s passing, I thought I would share one of my favorite “Dad” memories.

As I mentioned before, I was on my high school volleyball team. In spite of my lack of competitive spirit, I certainly enjoyed playing volleyball. I was pretty good at it, too, which definitely didn’t hurt my self-esteem.

One wintry day, our team was getting ready to head out for an “away” game at some other Christian high school in Wisconsin. The weather was getting increasingly worse as thick snow fell from the sky.

We didn’t care, of course. When you’re a teenager, you’re invincible. Immortal. Bulletproof. I had no doubt our coach and athletic director would guide the team van over the icy roads and safely to our destination.

So, it was a big surprise to see Dad’s van pull up outside the school doors where my team was waiting.

Dad parked the car, bundled out in the snow (in that ridiculous Russian fur hat he insisted on wearing), and mucked through the slush to get inside.

“Hey Dad,” I said, clearly surprised.

“Hey, hon. I came to pick you up. I don’t really want you traveling with the roads in this condition.” Dad said, shaking snow off his hat like a wet dog.

“It’s fine, Dad,” I said, with an annoyed teenage eye roll. “Coach says we’re still going, and I’m sure he wouldn’t say that unless it was safe. I mean, no one else’s parents are here.”

Dad looked out the double glass doors at the blizzard-like condition and raised his eyebrows. I knew my Dad well enough to know what THAT meant.

“Come on, Dad. It’s fine,” I changed my tone conspiratorially, using the sweet little girl voice that worked on Dad 99% of the time.

This was the 1% time it didn’t.

My dad was not a hard man. He wasn’t perfect by any means, but he was almost always sensitive towards me. He put both hands on my shoulders and looked me in the eye.

“You’re the only child I have. It’s not safe to travel long distances, so you’re not going.” His tone was firm and decisive with an edge of love I found smothering and over-protective.

Dad went to inform my coaches I would not be traveling with them. I stomped up and down the hallway corridor, collecting my things, and telling my teammates my dad was a complete fuddy-duddy.

I met Dad out by the car but refused to sit by him in the front seat. I didn’t speak a word to him the entire way home.

(You can ask anyone who really knows me - when I stop talking, that’s the big sign I’m really, really mad.)

I slammed in the front door, informed Mom that Dad had officially ruined my life, and huffed off to my room to sulk in private. I envisioned my friends laughing, playing volleyball, and having just the best times of their lives EVER. While I was stuck in solitary confinement.

I heard a snippet of my parent’s conversation where Dad said, “She didn’t say a word the whole way home,” before I tuned out to my favorite Calvin and Hobbes book.

Ten minutes later, there was a soft knock at my bedroom door. It was Mom.

She had a pained expression on her face. She sat down on the bed next to me.

“Honey, you know your Dad loves you. Do you know things have been very bad at work for him, lately? He’s been under a lot of stress, and yet he still keeps going, to take care of you and me. We are a family. This home needs to be a peaceful place where we love an accept one another.”

Mom’s heart-felt speech started to melt the ice in my heart.

“Do you know what I think would make your Dad feel better? Maybe if you went down and sat with him and told him how much you appreciate him.”

I was not a teenage superhero, but if I had been, my kryptonite would have been my tender heart. Frankly, I doubt anyone could have resisted my mother’s plea at that moment or the hopeful look in her eye.

I put my book down, sighed, and walked downstairs.

Dad was sprawled across the downstairs couch, the paper propped up on his chest. The TV was on, but he wasn’t watching it. He was reading.

I shuffled my feet and cleared my throat. “I’m sorry I was so mad in the car. I know you just want me to be safe,” I sighed, exhausted with the effort of a selfless moment in a teenager’s life.

Dad turned his head, and I got the feeling he hadn’t really been reading, just waiting patiently for me. He motioned for me to come and sit next to him on the couch.

“Being a parent is hard work, but you know what kid? You’re worth it.” He gave me a hug, and I started feeling a whole lot better. The spark of happy home harmony had returned to both our eyes. I slid off the couch and sat on the floor at Dad’s feet as he turned the channel to Star Trek, one of our shared favorites.

We were about halfway through the show when Mom came down the stairs with the phone in her hand. “I just got a call from Kathy. The volleyball van just slid off the road. They’re waiting to see if anyone was hurt.”

Now, I know Dad wouldn’t wish harm on anyone, but I think he would have had to be a little too angelic not to feel the tiniest bit of affirmation at that moment. If he did, he never showed it. The three of us immediately prayed for the safety of my teammates, my coach, and our Athletic Director.

Thankfully, no one was hurt.

After Mom went back upstairs, I felt profound relief I had apologized to Dad before the phone call. I thought of the fool I would have felt like if I’d waited.

Instead, there we were, settled safe and sound in our little home, enjoying time together.

Dad put his hand on my shoulder, resting it there just briefly, and said our trademark catch phrase, “Don’t forget your daddy loves you.”

“Dad!” I said in exasperation, “I’m watching TV here!”

He just smiled tolerantly back at me.

Of course, it’s been ten years now since Dad put his hand on my shoulder or spoke those precious words.

But those words, that tender phrase is always with me. And sometimes, during the hardest of days, I still feel his hand on my shoulder.

After all, I promised I wouldn’t forget.

And I never will.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Pregnant Witness…

…isn’t so good.

I didn’t realize it was that bad until recently.

A couple of weeks ago, Angie and I made plans to go see He’s Just Not That Into You. We had seen the previews, and even though we are vehemently NOT chick flick fans, we liked the cast list enough to consider attending.

Personally, I love Ginnifer Goodwin. She is an excellent actress. I adore her in HBO’s Big Love where she plays Margene, the third wife in a complicated polygamous relationship. She shines in her role and as a result, I’ve become a big fan.

Her part in HJNTIY is central to the story, not to mention part of a cast that includes the caustic Justin Long (another personal favorite – loved him in Live Free: Die Hard), the versatile (and wickedly handsome) Bradley Cooper, and always-pitch-perfect Drew Barrymore.

(There was also Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Connelly, Scarlet Johansson, and Kevin Connolly (even more annoying here than in Entourage). But, blah, they weren’t the ones we were revved to see.)

Anyway, we also wanted to see Push, the new “superhero” movie with Chris Evans (“Pinocchio” – in that he’s wooden. See how I did that? Burn!) and the fantastic despite-an-awful-script Dakota Fanning. She is…wow…she is a talented actress, especially for being only 15!

Our friend Susan was also going to be able to join us for dinner and HJNTIY.

Angie had called me at noon and asked where I felt I could go for dinner. With my stomach being so touchy, I figured “bland” would be best. I thought soup and salad at Panera sounded good.

Of course, by the time the work day was over, soup and salad no longer sounded good. My “cravings” are like that. They last about 20 minutes, and then I can’t stand whatever food I was just salivating over.

But, I figured, at the very least I could get a plain bagel with plain cream cheese at Panera.

In my four and a half months of non-stop sickness, there have only been a few foods that always stay down. My safe foods include cheeseburgers (seriously!), milkshakes, root beer, frozen fruit bars, applesauce, pudding, and plain bagels with plain cream cheese.

I was already feeling nauseous when I got to Panera, but I was warming to the idea of having a bagel and cream cheese. Inside, I met up with Angie and Susan.

Now, before I go any further, I should explain one thing.

They know us at Panera. It is Brett’s favorite, favorite restaurant. So, we are there a LOT. As for me, I grab a bagel and cream cheese there on a habitual basis. The servers recognize our faces and greet us like the “regulars” that we are.

We know almost all of the servers and are comfortable enough to smile easily and make small talk.

Back to the movie night, Angie and Susan placed their orders. I stepped up to the counter where I ordered a plain bagel with plain cream cheese. My server was this little waif of a girl I’ve ordered from many times before. She’s very tiny and very sweet.

Upon hearing my order, she gave a sad frown and said, “I’m so sorry. We’re out of plain bagels.”

“You’re out of plain bagels? How can you be out of them? I mean, isn’t this a BAGEL restaurant? Listen, I’m pregnant, and there are only so many things I can eat! I was counting on this.”

She twisted her hands nervously. “We can toast you a plain piece of bread. We have lots of gourmet bread. Maybe you could have a slice of plain bread with cream cheese?”

I shook my head. “No, thank you. If I can’t have a plain bagel, then I don’t want anything.” I pouted and stomped back to the table where Angie and Susan were waiting.

“You’re not eating?” Susan wanted to know.

“They didn’t have anything I could have.” I said simply.

“Don’t you think you were a little hard on that girl?” Angie asked me while sipping her drink.

“I wasn’t hard on her. This is a freakin’ BAGEL restaurant, and they have the NERVE not to have the most basic of bagels on hand. Frankly, I don’t think they deserve my money.” I said, decisively.

Angie recognized my rare stubborn streak rearing its ugly head and backed off with nary an eye roll.

I dismissed the whole thing until this morning.

I stopped in to Panera for a “treat” (a breakfast that stays down) of a plain bagel and plain cream cheese.

As I stepped up to give my order, I saw I had the same server as on movie night. She was smiling broadly as I gave my order. She turned her head to check out the bagel rack and then turned back to me with a horrified expression on her face.

“Oh, no! We’re out of plain bagels! A customer bought us out at 8 o’clock.” She took a deep breath. “I remember you. We didn’t have plain bagels for you last time, and you got really mad.”

I smiled at her dramatic license. “I didn’t really get that mad,” I said, sweetly.

Her single raised eyebrow spoke volumes.

“Did I?” I asked, as I felt a faint pink flush sweeping up into my face.

She didn’t say anything, and her silence sounded deafening in my ears.

“Well, if I did, I’m sorry.” I apologized. “You almost always have the plain bagels. It’s just once in a while that you don’t. It’s okay, really,” I assured her.

“See, I’m pregnant, and there are only a few safe things I can eat,” I said, hearing the flimsiness of the excuse even as I said the words.

“It’s okay,” she said kindly. “I just happen to always be the one who has to tell you.”

Wanting to repair the damage, I bravely ordered a different bagel and even an orange juice (double treat!). I handed over my debit card and wished my tiny, pony-tailed server a good day.

“It’s probably going to be a good day now that I’m leaving,” I muttered, feeling pretty lousy about losing my temper. (And a little peeved at Angie for pointing it out right away. Don’t you just hate it when friends call you on stuff, and they’re RIGHT?)

I headed out to my car and settled in my seat for a minute. I prayed silently that God would help me be a good witness, in spite of all the rage-inducing hormones flooding my nervous system.

I want my pregnancy to be a witness to His glory, not inducing of a rotten attitude that has my head on a Wanted poster at Panera:


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Why I Don’t Watch the Oscars

I love movies. I really, really do.

I’m not sure exactly why - probably because my conservative Christian school punished kids who saw movies with suspension or (depending on the movie) expulsion from school.

That trend continued on into my college years at Moody where movie going was only allowed off-campus, on school breaks, and with parents’ permission (for those of us under 21).

There is just something inherently rebellious that swells up inside me every time I step into a movie theater. I feel like I’m being just a little bit bad, and I kind of like it.

It’s quite scintillating, really.

Growing up, there were a few times I skirted the movie rules, but always with my parents’ permission.

When I was in grade school, my (at the time) Aunt Bev took me to see my first “real” movie, My Little Pony, at a Chicago theater. I still remember the smell of the popcorn and my initial awe of the big screen.

When I was in elementary school, the Home Alone craze was sweeping the nation. I wanted to see that movie SO BAD, but I knew I would have to wait the year (back then) until the movie transitioned to VHS.

Then my dad surprised me with a trip to the mall and a clandestine foray into the Machesney Park Mall theater to see Home Alone. I was shocked speechless and delighted. I mean, parents are supposed to follow the rules, but here my dad was breaking them for me!

We had such a good time, and I found myself enjoying the taste of forbidden movie fruit.

When I was in high school, the three of us were on a family vacation to some low-budget po-dunk town (our typical venue). It rained the whole time we were there, and out of boredom and desperation, Mom, Dad, and I took to the local mall where we saw a showing of A League of Their Own.

I felt deliciously naughty under the glow of the projector as my parents and I munched on popcorn and guffawed at Tom Hanks’ antics.

In college, I was either at my house or Brett’s house every weekend, which meant the movie picking was ripe. Except for the fact that my 6’4” boyfriend couldn’t stand going to the movies. The seats were too uncomfortable for a man of his stature, and he lacked the driving sense of movie danger I craved.

I did go to quite a few movies with my future mother-in-law. I so badly needed to see movies that I was willing to stomach the tripe of romantic comedies and maudlin English countryside dramas that suited my sweet-as-could-be saint of a mother-in-law.

Our movie dates continued unabated until I suggested we take in a different kind of movie. I had heard of a good “mystery” movie coming out and hoped my mother-in-law would enjoy it - as much as I would the break from all the lovey-dovey-laugh-laugh-drama.

So, completely unaware, we went to see The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Within the first ten minutes, I had determined Tim Burton’s TLOSH was NOT a mystery as the posters proclaimed, but a horror film trying its darndest to earn its rating.

As I squirmed in the seat next to her, my mother-in-law covered her eyes and would occasionally drop a soft “Oh, dear!” or “Oh, my!” as heads were loped off, bloody appendages swung around, and Christopher Walken snacked on people with his filed-to-a-vicious-point, five-inch-long razor teeth.

I was too embarrassed to speak for the first five minutes after the movie. My mother-in-law filled the silence with a kind, “Well, that was interesting.” After that, she seemed to prefer shopping with me to movie watching with me. Not that I could blame her.

I’m not sure exactly when, but at some point I was complaining to a group of friends about my frustrated movie addiction.

My husband hadn’t changed his movie stance since college (nor had he shrunk, I might add). Only the greatest war movie – think Saving Private Ryan – could pry him from our comfy couch.

My mother would only go to chick-flicks with me (which I still vehemently detested), and she needed at least a week’s notice. Most of my other friends from church didn’t go to movies at all, still holding to the antiquated standards of our childhood legalism.

I just couldn’t stomach sitting in a movie theater by myself. Going to a theater with a friend is a treat. Going by myself is pathetic.

After my rambling discourse, Angie – a friend-of-a-friend I barely knew at the time – told me she loved movies, too. Like me, she had faced the prospect of too few friends and too many must-see movies. She told me to call her the next time I had a yen for a movie.

It felt weird calling up a woman I barely knew, but the movies’ siren song called to me like the Pied Piper’s insidious instrument. I had my doubts about Angie. I assumed, like others, she would brush me off and/or demand more notice.

Instead, her enthusiasm was a welcome response. Before the week was out, we’d watched multiple movies, eaten buckets of popcorn, and planted the seeds of friendship.

In the years since, Angie and I have been each other’s die hard (and Die Hard) movie buddies. We go to the movies to escape our ho-hum lives and immerse ourselves in Hollywood action. We chat before and after and often carpool to spend more time together.

I’ve been so very grateful for her friendship and her thrill for seeing movies which ranks right up against my own fanatical fandom.

My somewhat insane love of the movies would make you think I live and die for the Oscars.

When the truth is that I rarely watch them. I catch the highlights on Entertainment Tonight or Television Without Pity. But I just can’t bring myself to watch the actual telecast.

The reason I’m so hesitant to tune in lies in a flaw I’ve had since I was a small child.

I hate to see people lose.

I’m not, as I’ve stated before, a competitive person. When I was coerced into playing volleyball in 5th grade, I did it merely for the friendship and acceptance of the other girls.

That’s not to say I wasn’t good at it. I was darn good at it.

When most people see a 300 pound girl lunging at a volleyball net inches from their face, they naturally back off.

(Whereas, I usually think, “I could take her.”)

My intimidating size and my ability to put a serve wherever I wanted on my opponent’s side of the court made me a valuable asset to my team. And, while I enjoyed playing the game, I never cared if we won. It was never even a thought. Win or lose, I had a good time.

Over the years, I’ve found I have an inordinately hard time watching people fail, watching them lose. It’s the reason I can’t watch figure skating. I’m hyperventilating over what happens if they miss that triple axle. When all I want to do is scream, “Good for you! I could never do that!”

I can’t watch gymnastics during the Olympics or most of the eliminate-the-weakest-link TV shows like Survivor, The Amazing Race, or American Idol.

For some reason, I can watch Big Brother and America’s Next Top Model, simply because those people deserve to go home. Now, I can stand to see THEM lose, no problem.

Perhaps, what I should say, is that it’s hard to see deserving people lose out.

I remember tuning into the Oscars the year Joaquin Phoenix was nominated for his portrayal of Johnny Cash in Walk the Line.

Have you SEEN Walk the Line? It’s a great movie from top to bottom, and Joaquin IS Johnny Cash. He is so exquisitely Johnny Cash that most people agreed he was a shoo-in for the Oscar.

I watched excitedly as the winner’s name was read. The Oscar was given to another great actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, who I also like, but for the craptacular movie, Capote.

Capote wasn’t even in the same stratospheric level of awesomeness which was Walk the Line. It was stupid little movie about a deranged little man (albeit, played by a good actor).

The look on Joaquin’s face was heartbreaking. You could tell he thought the Oscar would go to his performance. He clapped but didn’t smile which is actually considered a little rude in Hollywood. But the truth was, he obviously wasn’t happy to lose.

I felt the familiar pangs of sympathy, and I clicked to another station for the rest of the show.
I’m an encourager. I want to think everyone can win.

But the sad truth is that everyone can’t win. So, I just try to avoid confronting that truth whenever I can.

In my book, Joaquin won that Oscar, my volleyball serve record still stands intact, and everybody who tried out made the Olympic team.

So, I’m guessing they’re never going to make me to be an Olympic judge.

“10’s for everybody!”

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Flying Colors for Ginger O’s

Well, what is it they say? One out of three ain’t bad?

Of my three “natural” nausea remedy cures, only one passed the test. Newman’s Own Organic Ginger O’s have been very rich, delicious, and help curb my nausea, especially at night.

I haven’t been able to even go near the crystallized ginger since my last bad experience. Even thinking about it being in my cupboard makes me a little sick.

I had high hopes for the organic ginger ale, but it was a bust. I mean, it was definitely ginger ale, really, really “gingery” and all, but nasty.

I almost had a repeat of what happened with the crystallized ginger. So, not good.

So what’s another $20 down the drain? With the ginger ale, that was literally the case. My bottle went down the drain. I passed off another bottle to a co-worker whose son loves ginger ale, and Brett drank (and even liked) the other two bottles.

Still, it wasn’t a complete waste, as at least I found my Ginger O’s. My emergency pack of Ginger O’s now goes wherever I go.

My complete emergency pack consists of the aforementioned Ginger O’s, fruity-flavored TUMS, a sleeve of saltine crackers, a bottle of water, and a plastic covered bowl for any time there is not a parking lot handy.

I hope (dearly) that I am not boring you all with the mundane details of my pregnancy. I can’t help it, as I seem to only be able to write of whatever situation in which I am currently embroiled.

The problem with being transparent, is that when you’re boring in real life, you’re really, really boring to other people.

These days, the breakdown of my brain power seems to be 50% worrying about getting sick, 40% actually getting sick, and 10% the rest of my life.

I have actually been encouraged by three friends who were also sick during their entire pregnancy (although I am still holding out hope it might stop for me sometime before the nine month mark). They’ve all been quite positive that I can make it through, just as they did. I sure hope so!

So, dearest (and hopefully not bored) friends, if you hear of any other “natural” nausea remedies, please let me know. As you can see, I’m not above trying anything!

P.S. – I’ve decided to completely stop taking the nausea meds. The side effects were just not worth the relief. So, you can see why I’m now on the hunt for more natural remedies.

Friday, February 20, 2009

La Estupida

Caveat: If you are in the least bit squeamish, do not read further.

I used to be a smart person.

I mean, I think I was. Can anyone confirm this?

I distantly remember getting a 4.0 GPA in high school and a 3.9 in college. As far as I know, I somehow managed to at least appear intelligent.

I don’t know what has happened to that girl.

Lately, I feel so…so…stupefied.

For example, Brett and I went over to Mom and Gary’s for dinner last night. We enjoyed a delicious baked spaghetti dish (recipe ala Alice) with Mom, Gary, and my cousins, Candice and BJ. Beautiful Brielle was on hand for the first part of the evening entertaining us with her new drum set.

Side note – as Brielle’s not-aunt and former high school drummer myself, I am proud to see my not-niece carrying on my family tradition of making loud percussion noises in no particular rhythm.

As we sat around talking pre-dinner, waiting for BJ to arrive, I was telling Candice about my latest nausea medication debacle. I told her my “brilliant” idea of taking only one pill in the morning and having to suffer only 4 hours of drowsiness, as compared to all day.

My sweet cousin then proceeded to astound me when she said, “Why don’t you cut the pill in half and just take a half? Then, the drowsiness would be gone by the time you got to work.”

Now, that’s brilliant.

I just stared at her, thinking, “She’s a genius!” Before realizing that for most normal people (of which I used to be one), that would the next logical step. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t even thought…nay, even considered it. Ever.

In the course of four months of non-stop vomiting, I never thought about splitting a pill. Not once.

See what I mean when I say my brain cells are deserting me en masse?

My second point of evidence came later in the evening. After the amazing dinner, dessert, and a rousing game of three-team Sequence, Brett and I decided to stop by Hilander on our way home.

I had a list from my OB’s office of some foods and items that are supposed to naturally help curb nausea. The first was ginger snaps. We couldn’t find any ginger snaps, but we did find Newman’s Own Ginger O’s cookies in the organic aisle.

Next, we picked up organic ginger ale with natural brewed ginger in the ingredients (this is how specific my list was). From there, we headed to the spice aisle to purchase crystallized ginger.

We couldn’t find the last item on the list, ginger tablets. We were informed we may have to go to a health food store for those.

The price tag for our three items that MIGHT stop nausea? A whopping $30! I’ll tell you what. They darn well better work.

On our way out of the store, I started feeling nauseous and actually had to throw up a little in the parking lot. With my pregnancy being the way it is, I find myself throwing up in a lot of parking lots.

I’m getting a really good handle on what it feels like to be a homeless drunk.

So, understandably, once we got home, I was anxious to try one of the “natural” remedies. My first thought was the crystallized ginger.

Earlier in the day, I’d had a discussion with my OB’s nurse on what items could be natural remedies for my nausea, to balance out the side-effect-heavy meds. She’d given me a full list, heavy on the ginger, with an emphasis on the crystallized ginger.

“It’s usually quite sweet, due to the sugar, and it’s concentrated, so it should be a big help,” she told me.

So, standing in my kitchen, I unscrewed the top of the bottle and shook out a pea sized granule of crystallized ginger into my hand. Brett and I examined it curiously.

The next sequence of events happened simultaneously.

I asked Brett, “How do you think I’m supposed to take it?”

Just as Brett was responding with, “You should probably dissolve it in some tea,” I impulsively popped the granule in my mouth and started to CHEW IT.

I’m not sure what I thought would happened. Perhaps, I’d been misled by the OB nurse who said it would be “sweet.”

Instead, I got a mouthful of concentrated ginger that was so strong; it literally gave me a full body shudder. The taste was so foul I started hopping on one foot and making a face that Brett generously described later as a “grimace.”

I had a two second warning, giving me plenty of time to race to the sink and watch the rest of Mom’s dinner go down the drain.

As I stood there, hunched over and panting in the afterglow, Brett rubbed my back and said, not-so-helpfully, “Maybe you should have dissolved it in some tea.”

“You think?” I spit back sarcastically before re-retching in the sink.

This morning, as I relayed both incidents to a co-worker, she looked right at me and said, “Why didn’t you just swallow it? I mean, it is the size of a pill, right? That way, you wouldn’t have to taste it, and it could dissolve harmlessly in your stomach.”

I unloaded another you-are-a-genius 1000 watt stare, before (yet again) realizing it was thought that should have flashed OBVIOUS, OBVIOUS in my head.

“Of course, swallow it whole! What was I thinking?” I said in consternation.

“Sweetheart,” said my not-raised-in-the-South but still Southern accented co-worker. “Y’all don’t have to think. You’re pregnant. Those brain cells are going to the baby.”

Well, at least someone’s benefitting from them.

Now what’s my blog address again?

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Well, I’m drugged up again.

I’m on so many meds for pregnancy that I’m starting to feel like my kid’s going to come out looking like Andy Warhol.

Since my nausea and morning sickness have continued unabated, I was finally prescribed “something” for the nausea. Only the $1.50-a-pill prescription didn’t work. So, now, I’m on a different medication, and the good news is that it works.


Only not yea, because it comes with a doozy of side effects.

The main side effect is drowsiness. I mean, extreme drowsiness. Like about an hour after I pop the pill, I’m ready for naptime. The sad thing is that I can hardly climb back into bed at 9:30 a.m.

Yesterday was the first full day on the new med. I was thrilled not to be nauseous, but fighting fatigue just as I’m starting my workday is exhausting. I found myself distracted, ditzy, and dizzy at work.

Later that night, I found myself extremely restless, practically bouncing from one couch to the other while watching TV, unable to keep a single coherent thought in my head.

I read the side effects on the bottle, and they’re all there!

So, today, I’m trying a different tack. I’m going to try to only take the med in the morning. If I can get through until 11:30 a.m. the drowsiness may start to wear off. Then, I’m going to try to control my during-the-day-and-night nausea with good old fashioned TUMS.

I do not want a repeat of that horrible restless feeling I had last night. And really, morning is when the morning sickness and nausea is the worst. So, if I can get off to a solid start but just tired, maybe I’ll be okay.

But, man, am I tired! I just want to not have to be at work when I’m this sleepy. I feel like I’m so unproductive. I hope I snap to in the afternoon as soon as the med wears off.

Pray for me.

And my drugs!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Now I Really Need a Vacation

I deserve a medal.

I really do.

I didn’t kill my husband.

He said something the other day which mandated such an action, but I refrained.

Brett has been super sweet lately, helping around the house, doing the heavy lifting, running out nightly at 11:30 p.m. to satisfy pregnancy cravings for McDonald’s cheeseburgers and chocolate milk.

I say this to convince my male readers that brownie points DO matter. If Brett hadn’t been working his hiney off to be on my good side, he might be dead right now.

Instead, he is living, breathing, and only slightly scorched.

“What could he have said?” One might wonder.

I was reflecting on how tired I have been lately. Brett and I were tucked into our marital couches for the night, and I tried to explain my level of exhaustion.

“I’m just SO tired. If I could only have a little vacation, maybe just take a couple of days off,” I said with a yawn.

“I don’t know what you’re complaining about,” says the currently unemployed man who impregnated me. “In just a little while, you’re going to have three months off.”

Now do you see why he should have died?

Ah, the lights are going on.

I tried to control the disbelief and hysterical laughter that bubbled in my throat. “Having a baby is not the same thing as taking a vacation, you big ox!” I shouted.

“In a little while? IN A LITTE WHILE?! Five months is NOT a little while,” I further expounded, red-faced. “Spending time with a newborn is not the same thing as vacation in the Bahamas! How could you even compare the two?” I was nearly crazed with the notion.

The man is in store for a rude awakening, if you ask me.

I sputtered on for a while until I finally ran out of steam. Brett backed down eventually, and finally did what I’d wanted him to do from the beginning of the conversation, and just agreed with me.

Yes dear, he also thought I needed a vacation.

All I’d needed to hear.

I was still pretty hot under the collar, but Brett knows his wife. He plied his way back into my good graces with a midnight run to McD’s and a half gallon of chocolate milk.

I wonder what he’s going to do when I don’t have pregnancy cravings that have to be satisfied?

Either way, he better start building those brownie points back up. The bank just cashed most of them in!

Scare & Sympathy

I had an early morning scare today.

Brett and I went out to grab a quick bagel breakfast at Panera before I had to go to work. We took separate cars, since I needed my car today.

After I had parked the car, I got out and stepped in what I thought was a puddle. A split second later, I discovered I had been mistaken and what HAD been a puddle was actually a sheet of ice.

I went down hard on the ice in the asphalt parking lot. Thankfully, I caught myself, and my hands, knees, and hip took the brunt of the impact.

Still, I was immediately scared to death. Falling is one of those big no-no’s in pregnancy everyone warns you about.

I called my OB’s office, hoping I wasn’t about to come off as a complete hypochondriac. My OB’s nurse reassured me and said I should always call if there was any sort of accident.

After taking a few notes, she talked to my OB who said I would most likely be okay, since I had caught myself. He said I should call back if I experienced any cramping, bleeding, or severe lower back pain.

So far, everything is okay.

I think Brett was even more scared than I was. He immediately came to my aid and helped me into the restaurant. He also talked to the manager, and we filled out an incident report, just in case. The manager was very kind and felt horrible about the whole thing.

Still, it was one of those moments your heart just stops beating, because you are so scared. Phew! I’m still coming down off the adrenaline rush.

I also wanted to mention the homegoing of a dear Christian friend.

Oscar “Van” Vandervort was the "adopted grandfather" to legions of kids at Windsor Baptist Church, including yours truly. Van had an exceptionally sweet spirit and embodied Christ’s love in all his interactions.

I still remember how he used to give me a hug and encourage me every Sunday. He will be sorely missed by all of us who loved him!

I take comfort in knowing he stands now before his heavenly Father basking in God’s encompassing love, finally free from his long-suffered earthly pains.

He will no doubt join the “Saints of Windsor” already in residence, including my dad, Pastor Larsen, and John Haynie. What a time they will have!

Please pray for his wife, Luella, and the rest of the family as they mourn the passing of this beloved man.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bunny Meadow

In case anyone is interested, Brett and I fell in love with this baby bedding set at Babies "R" Us.

It is categorized as a "girl's" set, but we thought it was completely gender-neutral and absolutely adorable!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Weighing In at 16 Weeks

Today was supposed to be an ordinary OB appointment.

It ended up being a little out of the ordinary by the fact that I now have my very own personal chauffer! With Brett being unemployed, he is free to ferry me to my OB appointments. He actually likes driving me places, and I like being driven, so it’s win-win.

Plus, it was wonderful that he got to sit in on the appointment. We heard the whop-whop of the baby’s heartbeat. 150 beats per minute - smack dab where it should be at 16 weeks. It sounded so much like a helicopter, we joked that Baby Sod might be headed to flight school!

The best news of the appointment, besides hearing the baby’s heartbeat (and really, nothing could be better than THAT!), was that my OB is prescribing meds for nausea and the horrible acid reflux I’ve been experiencing lately.

I asked the nurse practitioner if it was normal to be this fatigued at 16 weeks. She said it was normal, considering the fact I have been so sick. She told me I was dehydrated. I told her how much water I have been drinking (A LOT!), and she said it doesn’t matter if I’m just getting rid of during morning sickness, anyway.

She was also concerned because I lost another two pounds. So far, I’ve lost seven pounds in pregnancy. I was happy about that, since it seems to be evidence that I’m eating healthier now. However, my nurse practitioner, OB, and the MFM team are NOT happy about it.

Funny aside – When the nurse practitioner told us I had lost two more pounds, Brett actually said, “How? She’s been having two McDonald’s cheeseburgers a day!” (And he should know, since I send him out for them at least once a day!)

Swear to the heavens, I could have killed him right there.

Either way, all the doctors and nurses are on me to start gaining weight. It’s the first (and probably only) time in my life anyone has ever said I need to gain weight. So, I’m kind of enjoying this short, brief time in my life of being considered underweight.

They are hoping the anti-nausea prescription will help me keep more food down and hopefully bring the weight back up. I would just like to go two solid days without morning sickness. It complicates everything.

Speaking of reasons why people don’t always bring their husbands to OB appointments, Brett cracked me up today.

At the end of the appointment, the nurse practitioner asked me if I had any other questions. I looked at Brett and said, “Well, I think I just wanted to ask about the morning sickness, acid reflux, and fatigue. Can you think of anything else?”

He said, “What about your waning libido?”

I’m totally serious. He actually said that IN FRONT OF THE NURSE. I could have died.

I mean, I don’t know how many times I have explained to him that it is perfectly normal not to feel amorous when one is consistently nauseous, vomiting, and exhausted. I don’t know what he thought the nurse practitioner was going to do – maybe prescribe me a little blue pill?

He must have been disappointed then, when the nurse practitioner said, “Well, that’s perfectly normal. You wife has been very ill and having problems with hormones. It’s completely understandable. A lot of women have little or no desire for sex during part of their pregnancy.”

I was cheering in my head, and hoping hearing it from someone else – a health professional, even - would get it through his JUNIOR HIGH head!

He did seem a little disappointed, but I have to say I wasn’t exactly sorry for him.

Me, now that’s who I am sorry for!

Hopefully, with the anti-nausea and acid reflux meds, I’ll be able to stop getting sick, stay hydrated, and actually have some energy.

Then, of course, I can attack my husband like the wild, pregnant woman of his dreams!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Aggressive Ann-Marie

Well, Monday will find me baking YJBLOCCC. That’s right, Brett will be able to console himself with a platter of You’ve Just Been Laid Off Chocolate Chip Cookies.

We received the news on Wednesday. This Friday will be Brett’s last day of working for Cadbury-Adams (through Furst Temporary Agency) for at least 30 to 90 days.

Strangely, there are several upsides to this situation.

For one thing, as of Friday, we won’t have a second vehicle. So, now we don’t have to scramble to try to find Brett a car. We can share mine while he’s off.

Secondly, Furst has promised to try to place him with a job as soon as possible. So, hopefully the 90 day scenario won’t become a reality.

To be honest, I think Brett’s a little relieved some of the pressure is off about the car. It has really been stressing him out. Last night he referred to his job loss as “God’s Little Breather.”

I am trying to be as compassionate as possible. I’m finding it more difficult than usual, since pregnancy has stolen my niceness gene.

Pre-pregnancy, I was about as nice as an Italian Ice on a hot day. I hate to face it sometimes, because it can be a hassle, but I‘m just not very aggressive (in person that is, in writing I can be wicked aggressive).

I’m the kind of person who won’t yell or scream or even politely tap you on the shoulder if you cut in front of me in the check-out lane. I don’t get red-faced and angry at every teenager who cuts me off in traffic. If I don’t know you, I’m willing to cut you a lot of slack, even if you’re a little standoffish to me.

As with all of us, I’m a little more demanding of my expectations of family and friends. Although, I hope some of you feel I am a caring and thoughtful friend. I tend to let the little things slide and try to focus on the big picture.

Now that I’m pregnant and hopped up on hormones, I seem to have misplaced my niceness gene.

I think part of this is because seeing a pregnant woman tends to bring out what’s-the-rudest-thing-I-can-say in some people.

For instance, the other day someone told me when she was pregnant “…from behind you couldn’t even tell. I still looked like a size six.”

Now, would you say that to a woman who is buying 2X maternity clothes at 15 weeks? And expect not to get slugged?

The thing is…I don’t mind people “relating” about pregnancy. It’s just that there is a right and wrong way to do it.

Take morning sickness, for example.

I have excessive, nasty, consistent morning sickness. Several people have said the right thing. If they had morning sickness while they were pregnant they say, “Oh, I had morning sickness when I was pregnant. It’s horrible, isn’t it?”

Even if they didn’t have it, they can say, “Oh, I was fortunate not to have it! I hear it’s pretty awful.”

An example of what NOT to say (taken from personal experience) is, “Oh, yes, but after you’re sick you feel so much better!”

I point-blank said, “Well, maybe you did. My stomach’s still riding Space Mountain.”

Another person told me how she completed a marathon while she was pregnant. “Really?” I commented sarcastically. “If I get up too fast to pick up the laundry basket, I vomit. So it’s sort of the same thing.”

Short of it is…don’t brag about all the mighty things you did when you were pregnant. It just makes other pregnant people despise you.

Commiserate? Sure!

Back to my transformation to queen of mean, several of my co-workers have been, shall we say, less than understanding of the limitations pregnancy puts on my productivity.

I’ve struggled to juggle newsletter deadlines while missing work due to morning sickness and ferrying myself to dozens of doctor appointments. I was pretty proud of how I was keeping up.

That is, until I overheard a few cantankerous co-workers joking in the hallway. “Let’s just stop putting a date on the newsletter. Let’s just put ‘Whenever Ann-Marie feels like it!’” Then they cackled like a pack of crows picking over a corpse.

Normally, I would have felt bad and shrugged it off.

Instead, I found myself surging to my feet, anger coursing through my veins like methamphetamines. Foul words filled my mouth as I took steady steps toward my detractors. It was only as I reached the door of my office, my self-control seemed to return. I blundered, still heady with rage, back to my chair.

I actually had to take several deep breaths and pray before I felt like myself again.

The other day, Brett and I were in a sold-out movie. We ended up seated next to a man who apparently marinates himself in cigarette smoke in his spare time. I’m not kidding. You could practically see the nicotine teaming through his pores.

Now, normally, I try (I really do) to be understanding toward smokers. I understand it is an addiction. And addictions aren’t easy to kick. If they were, I’d be a size 6 myself.

There are several smokers in my circle of friends and family, along with some in Brett’s family. We try to be supportive of those trying to quit, and thoughtful of those who make the personal choice not to quit.

Personally, I don’t believe constant harassment has ever induced anyone to quit. If anything, it seems to make people more resolved to keep smoking. It’s the old, “Tell me what to do, and I’ll do the opposite.” thing.

Thankfully, all of our smoking relatives are considerate people. They smoke outside and are careful not to let their habit become anyone else’s problem.

So, essentially, I don’t have a problem with smokers who confine their smoke to their homes or cars, or even outside places, provided they are far from other people.

But elbow-to-elbow with someone in a crowded, not well-ventilated movie theater is not “far away.”

I tried to reason the situation in my head. Technically, if we were unhappy with where we were sitting, we should be the ones to move. After all, Cancer Man was not smoking IN the theater (though he might as well have been, with the amount of second-hand smoke rising boldly from his body).

However, the movie was sold out, so there weren't any available seats.

I have to add that this man was also a pig. He was distributing popcorn like a spastic flower girl all over Brett’s shoes, and apparently trying to get the concrete to start growing grass with the copious amount of Coke sloshing over his jumbo cup.

This did not endear him to me any further.

I am not proud of what I did next. But I did warn you my niceness gene is trapped helpless behind a locked door somewhere while a wicked she-beast patrols the inner corridors of my mind.


Pointed stare at Cancer Pig Man.

Cancer Pig Man was no slouch. He turned to his wife, Cancer Pig Woman, and said, “I think that girl’s talking about me.”

Cancer Pig Man is a master of the obvious.

Short story long, Brett gallantly took the dreaded seat next to the Cancer Pig Couple and spent the movie leaning as far in the other direction as possible.

I ended up sitting next to a body-builder on a date who - while as large as a house - was a sweet as could be, and generously let me use his drink holder.

There are moments I am grateful to my new-found aggressiveness. I’m saying things I’ve always wanted to say. I’m letting my “No!” be no. I’m grateful the veneer of accepting bad behavior has been peeled back, and I can respond like those wonderfully assertive people I’ve always admired.

Eventually, I’m sure my normal personality will return, but until it does, I’m going to try to be as balanced as I possibly can between aggressive and assertive.

You got a problem with that?