December 2012 archive

Five Years

This morning my dearest friend sent me the audio of her and another amazing member of my wedding party rehearsing the music for our wedding ceremony. I hadn’t heard it in 5 years.

It’s been exactly 5 years since I married my best friend.

He has watched me go from the very top to the very bottom and back again. He has given me the gift of an uncommon honesty, awkward laughter, and the strength to forge a path that seems, at times, so against the grain that we’re the only two who have ever seen it, let alone traveled it.
There are mornings we wake up and wonder why we’re still together, and nights we wonder how we ever lived without each other. Our ability to raise our child with grace and ease amazes me everyday, despite the challenges every parent knows come with children. I’m lucky he still makes me laugh and he still thinks I’m pretty.

Thank you for 5 years, husband.

Click here for a little reminder of our journey. It has terrible resolution, which I know will bother you, but it was the best I could do. The music is what you should really be seeing, anyway. Our friends rock.

Annie-Anxiety

Sorry it’s been a while. Blog and I needed a break.

Traveling with Abraham is the single most anxiety-producing event of my life. I am unsure as to why I can’t just go with the flow when we get on a plane, in a car, or sleep in a new environment. I panic that he will bother people, get sick, or refuse to sleep.
Now, in fairness, all three of these things usually do happen when we travel. But none of them is the end of the world. He bothered people, got sick, and refused to sleep for the entirety of the first year of his life and I survived that. I can certainly survive five days of vacation here or there.
But, as Thanksgiving and Christmas approached, I could feel Annie-Anxiety approaching. She tapped on my bedroom door at night, giggling about the impending holidays and how much fun she was going to have infiltrating my brain and spreading around my body like so much soft butter. Jerk. Annie-Anxiety’s a jerk.

My husband suggested I try to get a prescription for Xanax so that I could spot treat these anxious moments instead of trying to go on full-time anti-depressants again. So I called the gynecologist (the only doctor I care to see) and left a very blunt message on the nurse line about my intentions.
“Hi. This is Erin Cohen, 9/1/81. I would like 10-20 pills of Xanax to get through holiday travel. Dr. Z has prescribed anti-depressants for me before so I imagine she’ll be comfortable prescribing me Xanax, but I’ll be glad to come in for an appointment if she prefers because I like talking to her.”

Now, my gynecologist is cool as hell. She came in and chatted with me about life for 15 minutes before asking about my Xanax request. And once I explained that I really only needed it for travel/vacation with Abe, she agreed it would be fine to try it. The appointment cost $125. The Xanax cost about $2. Yay healthcare.

The morning of our first trip for the holidays, I took my Xanax like a good little girl and Annie-Anxiety got all sad and despondent.  She said she didn’t really know what she was going to do during retirement. Maybe wood-whittling. I told her to follow her dreams and try new things. She just sort of plodded away.

very quickly learned that Xanax puts me to sleep. No, it doesn’t make me drowsy. It puts me to SLEEP. So instead of being calm and collected on an airplane with Abe and my husabnd, I was dead. If I was physically alive, I was consciously asleep. Zero emotion. Zero response time. Catatonic. Needless to say, I did not experience anxiety. Mission accomplished.
My husband, however, wasn’t thrilled with this outcome, as one might imagine.
“Do you want some peanuts?”
“What?” I turned my head slowly in his direction.
“Peanuts. Do you want some?”
“No. What? No, thank you. I am hungry, though.”
This exact conversation probably didn’t happen. I couldn’t tell you what conversations happened because that day is not an actual day in my memory.

I’ve since wised up. I take my Xanax the night before I travel, sleep soundly, and it still seems to affect me the following day. I have plenty left, so if anyone wants to sell them on the black market and give me a cut, that’d be great. (I’m totally kidding…unless you think it would help pay for Charlie’s new car/ACL surgery…)

This entire story is imperative to tomorrow blog…

Math

Did you know it takes one Mumford and Sons song to shower when I’m late?

Did you know it’s 85 degrees in the waiting room when the power goes out?

Did you know fixing a dog’s torn ACL is $3,000?

Did you know it takes 23 minutes to mail 20 individual packages at the post office after you stand in line for 10 minutes?

Did you know it takes 1 child to eat an entire bag of gluten-free pretzels?

Did you know it takes 2 episodes of Dr. Phil to address all my holiday cards?

Did you know it takes 2 suitcases and 1 box to pack for Christmas vacation?

Did you know it takes 45 minutes to make 30 cabbage rolls for dinner?

Did you know it takes 2 glasses of scotch to recover from Wednesday?

One Fell Swoop

Last week Charlie started limping on his back leg. Obviously this made me nervous but I didn’t panic right off the bat. (Impressed?) I waited a few days and it appeared to get better on its own. Jammed toe? Sprained ankle? (Do dogs have ankles?) It didn’t really matter because it was one less vet bill we had to worry about.
My husband then got us cable for the first time in over a year so I stopped paying attention to everything around me and my eyes glazed over and my brain left the building. Side note: We have finally gotten ahead of ourselves when it comes to bills, our credit card debt is gone, and the only major outstanding bills are my student loans (which will be there until I die so why should I worry about paying them!?).
The day after we got cable, I noticed Charlie limping again. I can’t say whether or not it happened on the day we got cable or the day after because I was watching an Oprah marathon for 24 hours. I felt his toes, his hips, his leg…he didn’t flinch. I was beginning to wonder if this was all for show, like maybe he just wanted to be one of those cool three-legged dogs he sees on Youtube. But don’t worry, the next morning he wasn’t limping.
At this point I told Charlie if he limped one more day I would take him to the vet. He didn’t limp the rest of the day so I assumed he’d finally taken me seriously.
And then he started limping again.
“FINE. I will take you to the vet but if you’re going to need some $700 surgery after your dad and I just got ahead of the bills in time for the new year I am NOT going to be pleased.” Isn’t this a nice thing to say to your dog? I try to keep things really sweet around here.
So, I got an appointment for him this morning. I barely trudged out of bed and through a cup of coffee before I loaded both Abe and the dog into my Mini. We were a few minutes late, which I hate so I called on the way to tell them, specifically, we would be, “Three to four minutes late.”
It was four. They didn’t care.
The doctor took a look at him and asked, “What happened?”
“I don’t know, Doc. He just started limping one day. I think it’s all for show.”
“Well, let me take a look.” The doctor put his hands on him and slowly, gently, methodically felt every square centimeter of Charlie’s leg while he just stood there. He never even breathed heavy. Just waited. After about a minute of silence and medical magic hands, the doctor sat back and sighed.
“Can’t figure it out either? I am telling you, I’ve felt every part of his…”
“It’s a torn ACL.”
Heart palpitation.
“A what?”
“Yeah. Torn ACL.”
“How did he do that?!”
“I don’t know but it’s fairly common.”
“Well, what the hell do I do now?!”
By this time Abe was completely bored with the appointment and was playing “tag” with one of the nurses, which consisted of running up to her and slapping her knees, and she was being nice but didn’t really care for other people’s children (who does?). I called him back into our room about 7 times while the doctor explained to me that Charlie was going to have to have surgery.
Surgery.
Heart palpitation.
And the surgery is going to cost anywhere for $1700-$2500.
HEART PALPITATION.
Abe ate a dog treat off the floor while I stared at the wall and wondered how long it would be before I passed out or started speaking in tongues. We don’t have that kind of money lying around. We don’t even have that kind of money running around yelling, “Catch me, catch me!”
The doctor was brief and handed me a card for the orthopedic surgeon. It was at that moment I remembered our pet insurance had expired back when we were trying to cut our  expenses. Maybe we could reinstate it before the surgery and get it covered?!
“Doc, can do you me a favor and not enter this into the computer until I call insurance?”
“Too late. I already did. And it’s dated.” In my head, that translated to: I already did. On purpose. To ruin your life.
I cursed and air-punched all the way home. I immediately called the surgery center and told them I’d need to set up an appointment for his surgery. A nice woman named Mary answered the phone and took my information. She then told me, “Well, we do require a consultation first.”
“Oh, ok. When can we do that?”
“We can schedule it for tomorrow. It’s $195.”
HEART PALPITATION HEART PALPITATION HEART PALPITATION
“FOR A CONSULTATION? $195? TO READ HIS FILE AND FEEL HIS KNEE?”
“And do x-rays if the doctor determines that’s necessary.”
“X-rays…”
“Those are $55.”
“So I’ll be paying $250 tomorrow on top of the $2500 I pay for his surgery?”
“The surgery is usually closer to $3,000.”
SHUT UP MARY, SHUT UP. 

Mary really should reconsider her delivery. There are classes for learning how to give bad news gracefully.

After paying down our bills in 2012, having enough money to buy Christmas presents (real ones, not the $10 ones you get at Walmart so you have SOMETHING to give your friends or the ones I make which everyone, “just really appreciates”), and getting ahead of our monthly expenses for the first time ever, we will now watch it all fall away in one fell swoop while simultaneously requiring a convalescent home for our sweet Charlie while he recovers from the surgery.

My Facebook status yesterday was, “Either pray or worry. Don’t do both,” and today it was, “I made it to 12:30pm. Can I start drinking now?” One might think these statuses had to come from two different people, but nay. They came from one woman on two, very different days.

Sigh.

 

 

Joy Hunter

If you ever get the chance to write a book with a professional book editor, I highly recommend it.

I spent much of the weekend clearing out cabinets and cupboards of things that we really don’t use. It takes a discerning eye to really see the things that are such a staple of your environment that you don’t even notice the fact that you’ve never used the fondu pot you got as a wedding present five years ago. (Seriously, WHO USES THEM?) I filled bags with toys and token wine glasses and why do we have so many cutting boards? until the trunk of my car was full and ready for the next trip to Goodwill.

I’ve been doing this a lot lately, partially because my son is still too young to notice toys are missing, and also because the process of writing a book proverbially clears out my closet once a week. If I want my book to make a difference, it’ll have to have a theme deeper than, “These are blogs I wrote once.” Each pass at the outline or a chapter reveals another theme, another through-line that threads all these blogs and memories together. Acknowledging the issues that reappear in my life over and over again never bothers me (I like to do the work). But being surprised by some of the themes does not sit well. Just like I don’t enjoy realizing I’ve had a designer sweater in my closet  just after the weather gets warm again, I don’t love realizing there are themes in my own life that surprise me.

Most of the time when my editor suggests I pull out an old bag or an old coat to really examine how it got into my house in the first place, I respond initially with, “Yo mama.”
Isn’t it neat that, “Yo mama,” was ever a real, solid comeback?! Like, a comeback people would high-five you for because it was such a deep burn?
Obviously, it doesn’t burn my editor and she just moves forward with the pushing, usually harder. She asked me today to brainstorm three of my strongest childhood memories, the ones that elicit the strongest emotions. I agreed to do just that (after I mentioned her mama) until I realized that all of the memories that popped up first were incredibly sad. My childhood was so marred with circumstantial sadness, no one’s fault, that I don’t even remember an incredibly joyful event. My mom and I (and it was just my mom and I) had to continually choose happiness in order to have any. Maybe that’s why happiness is such a central theme of my life now. I seek joy, I hunt it. If I can’t find a joyful moment in a day I will walk out into the world and rip some shit apart until I find joy or create joy so I can sleep soundly.

I told my editor that we can include this juicy depth, but I might need a one-page at the front of the book that says, “This book is funny. I promise.” Because I want people to set it down with a smile, with light, with purpose. But the truth is, the baggage I get rid of today (both literally and figuratively) was here for a reason. And if I’m going to get the joys of my life across in the book, I’ll have to be honest about the baggage, even if it’s stuff I already took to Goodwill.

 

 

Pre-Requisites to Worthiness

I’m not ready to process my feelings about the shooting in Connecticut today. We’re all having emotional responses, mostly based in fear. Fear isn’t a place to work from so I’m going to get through another day or two before I comment. In the mean time I’m going to go on with business as usual…

I’ve gotten some amazing responses to my search for the “pre-requisites to worthiness” conversation I started last Friday, thanks to my new bestie Brene Brown.

Here are two more answers to, “What are your pre-requisites to worthiness?” This mom has young children and her answers made me laugh (because it’s me, too):

1. Clean, orderly house.

2. Smart, outgoing, loving, kind child (all thanks to my tremendous parenting).

3. Healthy, work out five times a week, no overeating, no drinking too much and not a thought to cigarettes (because it’s been awhile, but I still think about them — a lot).

4. Loving, happy marriage where everything is equal, we hold hands in public, and have sex three times a week.

5. Wonderful, fulfilling career that takes up at least 40 hours a week because I’m so necessary.

I am most definitely guilty of applying every single one of these pre-reqs to myself. I literally laughed out loud after I finished reading them, not because I didn’t agree, because they rang so true that I was completely embarrassed for myself.

And this mom gave me pause because her children are now grown, so she offers perspective:

I had to think about this in two frames of mind: what it was like when I was younger and had two little boys to contend with and then as an adult with grown children and the life I live now.
As it turned out, there wasn’t a lot of difference in the answers. I have to be wanted. Needed. Affirmed of my intelligence and insight and, last but certainly not least, LOVED. How do I do that? I put my make-up on even when sweats or PJ’s sound so much better. The need to be Super Mom and to “clean up” whatever messes my children made/make in order to make them feel as though I am always there for them, even when being “there” for them was probably detrimental to their upbringing and current situations. AKA taking homework or lunch money to school when they had forgotten so that they didn’t go without to now paying their rent so they’re not living on the streets. What once was important, making homemade baby food, crafting amazing homemade Christmas stockings, coaching my sons’ baseball teams, being the Sr. BA on projects after coming from a less than academic background to prove that I was “worthy.” It made me realize that the only “worthy” I can feel is when I feel good about myself. No one else can make me feel worthy, that has to come from me. Being proud of me, of my achievements, of my accomplishments and the fact that I stand here today with all of the baggage that has come dragged behind me and I still feel pretty good about the person that I am…regardless of what someone else may stamp me with their approval of worthiness.

If you want to share your pre-requisites to worthiness list, let me know. Let’s keep telling on the secrets we keep!

Sticky

Early in my 20s I was a third grade teacher, and then later a first grade teacher. I often had to, what I call, “babysit the kindergartners” while the teachers had a break or a conference. Because what could you really do with kindergartners but babysit them? I hated this job. Children under the age of 8 are all sticky, they all smell like breakfast, and none of them care that they’re spreading jelly on your coat. I swore to myself that if I ever had a kid, he or she would be clean and would smell like baby powder or soap or another completely appropriate smell.

Enter Abe.

Here’s what I don’t understand. He doesn’t have a cold. He isn’t sick or coughing or having trouble sleeping. He’s on probiotics and eats an incredibly sensible diet for a two-year-old. So why does his nose run all day every day? Why does he wake up with giant, green boogers that he won’t let me fish out of there? Where is all the clear, runny snot coming from all day long?! And then, when it dries into this little crusty trail on his upper lip, WHY IS HE NOT MENTIONING IT ANYONE HE TALKS TO? I mean, HELLO? Sorry about the CRUST on my face, I couldn’t find a WIPE. Do you not FEEL that?!

Of course, like everyone told me, it’s not as gross if he kisses me with snot all over his mouth as it would be if some other kid tried to. I’m pretty sure I’d strong arm any other kid that came near me with a snotty nose. But just because it’s not as disgusting as it was when I was babysitting kindergartners, it’s still really, really gross. REALLY gross. I wipe his nose, cheeks, and mouth all day. I’ve even taught him to go to the kitchen and open the towel drawer and wipe his mouth and hands when he’s finished eating because no one wants to see lunch on your chin. I don’t care how cute you are.

I’ve given up trying to keep his shirts clean all day. I just accept the fact that I’ll be staring at breakfast during lunch, lunch during dinner, and dinner when I finally toss the shirt into the laundry basket. Sometimes I even wipe his nose with his shirt if we’re about to enter a public place so people don’t have to stare at that mess on his face.

Look, I want to be completely cool with the fact that my kid smells and is sticky and crusty and messy. I want to be like, “He’s 2! That’s what they do! It’s no big deal!” But it grosses me out and I am going to have to work overtime to keep him from acquiring OCD at this rate. Or at least start saving now for a therapist who will convince him that his life isn’t a perpetual mess.

Chanukah (or however you spell it)

Today was Abe’s Chanukah party at school. Let’s get one thing clear. I’m not Jewish. I’m Jew-ish (said while waving my hand horizontally back and forth and making the “ehhhhh” face). I started the conversion process after our Jewish wedding, but I got pregnant before I finished. So I understand and practice judaism, but I’m not Jewish.
I walked in to Abe’s classroom party before the kids arrived because it was my job to bring the vegetable tray. I’m a poor excuse for a room parent, let alone a member of the committee, so the fact that I arrived 10 minutes early to the party was a blessing from the lord. Luckily, our local grocery store had veggie platters all ready to go. I didn’t even hide the fact that I bought it by trying to arrange it on a pretty tray from home. I just brought it in the plastic and smiled. Immediately judged? I’m not sure, but that was my offering.

I helped lay out the “marshmallow dreidels” and all the other snacks for the party. And when the kids arrived, Abe was so happy to see us. He was shocked we would be in his classroom in the middle of the day, without warning. He ate his cookies and his applesauce while repeating, “Cue-keys an appew-sawce,” before one mom came in with latkes (potato pancakes). Granted, I’ve had latkes before but I couldn’t remember what they were called. I also didn’t realize you were supposed to eat them with applesauce. I’ve done all this before but I wasn’t thinking Chanukah party; I was thinking holiday party. This is all new to me. David immediately paired the latke with the applesauce to further cement Abe’s status as the descendent of a Jew while I made comments about how much sugar he was eating.

As soon as he was finished with his party snacks, he began running around the room (a result of the sugar) and stopping periodically to shout at inanimate objects. We took this as our cue to leave, but not before his teachers handed us our Chanukah present from Abe. This is the first time Abe has ever “given us a present.” Obviously he has no idea it was a present or that it was for Chanukah when he was making it for us, but nonetheless it was the first time we’ve ever received a gift from our son. We opened it and found a beautiful star of David made out of popsicle sticks. In the middle was a picture of our son with a menora. And honestly, I’ve never been satisfied knowing that my son is directly related to me via DNA. His face is so incredibly authentic, his little eyes vacant as if to say, “The lady told me to stand here and touch the menora. I’m not sure why.” I peeked at some pictures. They all appeared happy, pleasing in a way, hoping their parents would be gratified with the false attempt at “joy for mom’s sake” face. But I tell you, there is nothing more gratifying than a child who doesn’t get the point and is clear with the camera when he says with his face, “I don’t get the point. This is ridiculous, and you and I both know it.”

 

 

He marches to the beat of his own drum. Nay, I’m not even sure he hears the drums. And that is precisely why I love my kid so much.

 

End of an Era

I got home from my girls trip to Pittsburgh late last night. My husband was kind enough to stay awake to greet me. As I walked into the house, I noticed the changing table pad was sitting on top of the Donate Box near the laundry room. Oh boy, I thought. Someone had a blow out all over the table.

I walked into our bedroom and my sleepy husband smiled at me and said hello. I immediately asked, “What happened to the changing table pad?!”
“Oh. I took it off the dresser.”
“What?! Why? Blow out?”
“No. He’s two-years-old. End of an era.”
“Wait. End of an era? What’s that supposed to mean?”
“He doesn’t fit on it anymore. He’s too big. We can give it away.”
GIVE IT AWAY?!?! HE’S A BABY! WHERE ARE WE GOING TO CHANGE HIM?!
“Oh, I’m not ready to give it away. I still use it.”
My husband just gave me a sort of sad smile. “It’s the end of an era.”

I’m not kidding you, I almost cried when I walked into our room today and saw the emptiness on top of the dresser where the changing pad once sat. Abe used to be such a little peanut that he’d get lost on that thing and now, his legs hang off one end while he strains his neck trying to keep his head from falling off the other end. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t miss the screaming blob phase. But, he’s right. It is the end of an era. And it made me cry over a changing pad.

Parenthood is so weird.

D!

Sitting in Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania was a dream come
true for me. A Christmas present from my best friend, I got to watch
the Steelers get their asses handed to them by, of all teams, the San
Diego Chargers. Yes, the loss was kind of sad but as I understand it,
San Diego had never before won in Pittsburgh during regular season, so
at least I got to witness history.

Sitting behind us was a bonified Pittsburgh native with her kids. Lets
call her Barbara. She lined up here three boys with a lap full of
Primanti Bros. french fries and chicken nuggets, later followed up my iPads
(each had his own) with monster truck racing games. Her friend, I
assume her name was Bev, sat next to her with her own three children,
iPhones, and candy. Going to a game on Sunday was obviously as normal
to them as church is in the south.
We sat down right at kick-off and as soon as the Steelers defense took
the field, we learned that Barbara is more than meets the eye. In the
single most shrill, eye-squinting, stabbing headache pain-producing
voice I’ve ever heard, she began to root for the defense. No, not
root. Scream. The kind of scream that, when I tried to recreate it
later, is unmatched by any sound a human has ever made before. The
octave. The vibrato. The glass-shattering pitch. It made every
defensive play that much more high-stakes because if we didn’t get the
Chargers off the field, any function of our inner ears at a later date
was literally in jeopardy. It got to the point where my friend and I
quietly begged and prayed that the defense would do ANYTHING Barbara
was asking for just to make the screaming stop.
“Come on D!!!! Let’s gooooo!!!!”
Please, defense. Go.
“Hold ’em back, D!!! HOLD ‘EMI!!!!!!”
For the love of God, hold them back, defense.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! Push them, D! PUSH!!”
Dearest lord in heaven above, answer Barb’s prayer at any cost and
push them. Hold them. Just make it stop.
At one point, Barb screamed so loudly that one of her kids, assuredly
growing up with this sound,  elbowed her and snarked, “That’s it, mom.
I think you’re really a getting into their heads, now. Tone it down,
will ya?”
And all the while, Barb was having lovely conversation with Bev.
Screaming, “Get your asses in front of the ball, D!!!!” and then
turning to Bev to ask (no joke), “Did you end up seeing that
podiatrist I recommended to you?”
“Yeah! He was really nice. I don’t know if he’ll end up doing surgery
or not, but my bunions hurt so bad it’ll be worth it if he does.”
“I’m glad you liked him. He’s got a great bedside manner. GO
DEFENSE!!! Push ’em waaaaaay back, D!!”
I am still experiencing a sharp pain in my right temple everytime
someone around me begins to say a word starting with the letter “d”.
But Barb gave me the true Heinz Field experience, and I appreciate her
for that. I just hope and pray her children get their ears checked
regularly, or are in the process of learning sign language to prepare
for the inevitable.
Go Steelers.

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