Monday, February 23, 2009

President's Day Week and Rain Are a Bad Combination

For some odd, unknown reason, schools in our district close for a week to celebrate President's Day. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln get the entire week rather than a Monday. They are very important people in America's history, but do we really need a week off from school to think about them?

Queen Teen's district feels that we do, so she and I got to spend an entire week together stuck at home fending off boredom. To make it more fun, it rained almost the entire time.

Queen Teen hates the rain. She is a sun worshiper. You can see her entire body glow on sunny days as she soaks up every ray of blue sky. She smiles and laughs, is attentive and even seems to hear better. On cloudy, rainy days, she is withdrawn and sullen. The longer it rains, the more miserable she becomes. I am the exact opposite: I LOVE the rain. When it hasn't rained in several weeks I start to get itchy, feeling as thirsty as the gold tinged hills of California. When the sun is out I hide under a wide brimmed hat and long sleeves, avoiding as much contact with those sunbeams as possible.

I should live in Ireland.

So, there we were, Queen Teen scowling at the rain with nothing to do, and me scowling at her scowling at the rain, longing to go for a walk in it. On Saturday, the first day of vacation, we had Dennis to distract us. By Sunday afternoon, Queen Teen was miserable, lying on her bedroom floor, sighing dramatically and proclaiming, "There's nothing to do." Sunday turned into an even rainier Monday, and she glared at me like I was a terrible mother because I couldn't make it stop raining. Gee, sorry kid. I appreciate your faith in me, but even a Super Mom can't control the weather. No matter what I found for us to do, from coloring to playing with her Groovy Girls to watching Sponge Bob, she remained morose.

On Tuesday, we were saved by the arrival of the greatest child-care worker in the world, A! I got to run away to school (they didn't give me the week off!) and Queen Teen got to whine at someone new. Actually the distraction of a new person broke the boredom and on Wednesday when A returned everything improved because the rain finally stopped and Queen Teen got to go for a walk in the sun. A bleak sun, but sunshine non-the-less. When I returned from school that afternoon my daughter was smiling and seemed glad to see me.

We had one more day to get through, Thursday, which thankfully remained dry, although not so sunny. I spent most of the day pushing Queen Teen in her chair walking around town, just happy to be out of the house with a happy girl. We ate the cookies we bought at the bakery in the town square and talked about clouds and the other people in the park, wondering where they worked and what their names were.

Friday I drove her to visit her dad for the weekend, and when I drove home, all alone in my car with bad 80's music blaring on the radio, I felt my shoulders relax for the first time all week. Why do I get so worked up when Queen Teen is unhappy? I simply can't stand it when she's sad. Every alarm in my head goes off like air-raid warnings. "Mayday. Mayday. Queen Teen is bored! Emergency! Prepare Plan A for depression aversion. Repeat, Prepare Plan A for depression aversion!"

Depression is the real enemy, not boredom. Boredom is only the precursor to depression, so if I can head off boredom the moment it starts, we can avoid the depression that causes Queen Teen to cry and lash out angrily, hitting people and throwing toys. She gets frustrated that she can't do what she wants because of her hand tremors, like color inside the lines or play with her doll house without knocking something over. All of her friends from elementary school have moved on, leaving her behind as they chase boys and talk on cell phones. Queen Teen understands profoundly how different she is from everyone else, including the other children with disabilities. She doesn't fit in with the blind kids because she's also deaf, but doesn't fit in with the deaf kids because she's also blind. She is very, very alone, and when she doesn't have the distraction of school or walks or sunny days, that feeling is so overwhelming she lashes out at everyone around her.

That's why I frantically try to keep her busy, while at the same time trying to work and keep up with my homework from graduate school. It is exhausting keeping up this constant song and dance for my daughter's entertainment, but the depression is far worse.

I had Saturday all to myself to do nothing but rest and play on the Internet. I managed to get a little work done, but mostly I wasted a lot of time, doing unproductive things like wandering around MySpace. My hubby and I saw Slum dog Millionaire and The Pink Panther 2 (I'll see anything with Steve Martin). We had a romantic dinner and drank too much wine and got to reconnect as people, not only as parents.

By Sunday, the rain had returned and I drove to Santa Rosa to meet Queen Teen and her dad. When I found them in the restaurant, she was crying. Her dad didn't know what to do. I picked up a napkin, wiped her tears, fixed her hair, sat beside her and held her hand. The tears slowly vanished and she agreed to eat her lunch. Her dad looked at me perplexed.

"What was that about?" he asked.

I shrugged. "Who knows. She's thirteen."

Queen Teen finished her lunch and grinned at me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Day With Cousin Dennis

Dennis from New Orleans came to California for a work related conference and then spent his free day with us in Healdsburg, a small town just south of us that has been completely transformed by the Sonoma County wine industry. When I was a child it was a farm town, complete with pick-up trucks and livestock. Now the town is filled with wine bars, bistros and BMW's. Too pricey for my lifestyle, but very pretty to look at.

Rick's brother Thor picked Dennis up in San Fran and the two drove to Healdsburg, meeting us at The Bear Republic, a brew pub with decent burgers. Queen Teen was excited to get out of the house, despite the rain. She adores her Uncle Thor, but couldn't remember Dennis who she last saw two years ago. At first she was shy, hiding under the brim of her baseball cap or peeking around my shoulder to stare at him. After a lunch of chicken strips and fries, she relaxed enough to smile at him and respond to his questions.

Dennis filled us in on the news from New Orleans; what's been rebuilt, what is gone, and how our family is doing. Overall it sounded like people were adapting to the new New Orleans, while still mourning the old. So many people were forced out of the city, either through economics or grief, but my family seems determined to stay, rebuilding once again, just as they've done for numerous generations. Hearing about the family made me homesick for a place that has never been my home. I'm not from Louisiana: I married a man who is. His family is very dear to me, especially because they have claimed my daughter as theirs.

Since I'm off the vino right now, I volunteered to be the driver so Rick could enjoy wine tasting with his brother and cousin. We stopped in a couple of tasting rooms, explored the town square and stopped in a toy shop where Queen Teen bought a soft soccer ball. Then we had coffee and hot chocolate at The Flying Goat cafe. This time Queen Teen sat beside Dennis and grinned at him while guzzling her chocolate.

When the rain started to come down harder and the wind turned icy, we decided to go. We took one more picture of Queen Teen and Dennis sitting on a stone bench carved to look like a pig (which I hope he'll give me a copy of soon), and then said our goodbyes. I hope it won't be another two years before we see Dennis again.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mourning for Chocolate

(image from: Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images)

I don't mind being 42. In fact, in many ways it's really great. I feel emotionally and mentally stronger. I know what I want, what I need, and what I dislike. My boundaries are clearer and I'm not afraid to say no. In so many ways, being 40-something is magic.

Unfortunately, my body isn't keeping up with my spiritual growth.

On Monday, I visited my Chinese Medical doctor for another acupuncture treatment and we talked about the chronic pain and stomach trouble that has slowly gotten worse over the years. I've been to doctors and specialists and no one can find anything wrong, therefore the consensus is that my symptoms are stress induced. Really? Gee, I'm shocked.

Anyway, after being told to avoid stress and try to relax more (yeah, I'll get right on that), I started getting acupuncture treatments by a really good Chinese Medical doctor. Slowly some of my symptoms have improved, but not enough to make either of us happy. Time for drastic measures.

"You have to stop eating chocolate," he said.

I just stared at him.

"And you should avoid red wine, cheese and coffee."

I think I fainted.

He leaned across the table and folded his hands. "If you don't give up these things, I don't think I can help you."

"I don't drink coffee. Only decaf." My voice sounded breathless.

"It's not the caffeine. It's the tannins. Too drying. They create too much heat in your system which is causing the pain and acid reflux."

Then he reemphasized the point, as if telling me I had lost all my money and was bankrupt. "If you don't stop eating chocolate and drinking coffee, I can't help you."

I nodded and said, "Of course." But as I walked home from his office I knew I was in big trouble.

Chocolate is more than a treat to me: chocolate is way of life. I am a connoisseur of that delectable nectar. I can taste the difference between Ecuadorian chocolate and Peruvian chocolate. A Hershey bar is NOT chocolate, it contains chocolate. Same goes for Nestle. I love the smell, smoothness, bitterness, and flavor of good, strong, dark chocolate with just a touch of cream to even out the waxiness. It makes me shiver with delight and helps me smile when I doubt I will ever smile again.

And now, to save my health, I have to give it up.

To say I'm suffering from withdrawals is an understatement. But I have to ask myself, how badly do I want to be healthy? Is chocolate worth being sick all the time.


I mean, of course not.

Last night, I ate the last bit of chocolate in my stockpile of chocolate I keep in my bedroom for emergencies. There is no more chocolate in the house. None. At all. Not even chocolate chips. I am 100% chocolate free. Lord help me.

Once the withdrawals end, I'll eliminate coffee. One thing at a time please, or I might go into shock!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom

My birthday was on Feb. 4th and this year my daughter went out with the babysitter and picked out a gift for me. The sitter told me Queen Teen went from store to store in our downtown, examining trinkets and books, scarves and hair pins, until she found what she wanted at a crystal, New-Age type store.

"That's it," she declared, pointing at the sparkling present. The sitter helped Queen Teen count out her money and the sales clerk wrapped it up in a ribboned box. Queen Teen was very proud of her gift and held it tightly in her hands all the way back home.

When I walked into the house that afternoon after driving back from school in San Fran, the sitter told me how hard Queen Teen hunted for the perfect gift, and that she mostly did it on her own.

"She knew what she wanted to give you, and she used her own money to do it," she said.

Later that day, Queen Teen, Rick and I sat at the table, eating the Gluten-Free birthday cake they had made for me, and then opened my presents. Rick bought me an expansion pack to The Sims that I wanted (I am Sims addict!). Then I opened the box from Queen Teen and pulled out a lavender, heart-shaped crystal dangling from a glass-beaded wire. It was so beautiful! Queen Teen giggled as I stared at it and Rick said, "Wow. She sure put my present to shame."

This is the first time my daughter has hunted so diligently for a gift for me and then used her own money to pay for it. And as I looked at the beautiful rainbow catcher, I realized she'd probably used every dime in her piggy-bank to buy it for me.

Of course she's bought me gifts before. Rick usually takes her to Big Lots and gives her ten dollars to pick something out for me. When she was four she gave me a Cosmopolitan magazine because the lady on the cover was "pretty." I still have it. And I treasure every single paper flower, flashlight and stationary kit that child has given me over the years. But this gift is so... grown up.

I hugged her tightly, and then she helped me decide where to hang it. It's now hanging in my kitchen window where it will capture the late afternoon sunshine, sending a cascade of rainbows across the counter tops.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Stealing from the Blind

Ashlee's Mom, at the blog Pipecleaner Dreams, posted a link to this article by ABC News about how people react when they see a clerk at a store rip off blind customers. Overall very interesting, especially the fact that people react differently when it is a woman who is blind being stolen from rather than a man who is blind.

What Would You Do? Customers Speak Up When Clerk Shortchanges Blind Person

There's also a video.

Thanks Ashlee's Mom for letting us know about this article.