Sunday, May 30, 2010

So if anyone wants to hire a writer...

The following overwhelming list, that causes me to want to cry, do tequila shots, and laugh all at the same time. This is the List of Things that Require Repair or Replacement in my House.

1. The carpet
2. The bathroom floor
3. The dishwasher
4. The fridge
5. The driveway and patio concrete
6. The windows
7. The fence
8. The front door
9. The caulking around the tub and sink
10.The toilet
11.The dining room chairs
12.The patio doors
13.The wall between the kitchen and living room
14.The dog

And this, dear readers, is the list of the things we can afford to repair or replace:


Yeah. Anyone want to hire a writer?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Things I Don't Understand About America (part one)

This may need to be a multi-part series of posts, now that I think about it. Just as I was ruminating yesterday on some things I wanted to say here, this craziness with Arizona has been brought (more fully) to my attention, and I will have something to say about it yet. But for now, I need to get something off my chest that has been sitting there since I drove all the way down 185th behind a car with some interesting bumper stickers.

Among these bumper stickers, this one stood out:

"I'll treat YOUR President with the same respect you gave MINE"

Where to start with this one? Ok, well how about with the very basic concept of "your" President and "my" President. Now, correct me if I am wrong, because I am Canadian and there are still a lot of things about American politics I don't get (the electoral college - wait, the people voted him in but he didn't win? Head spinning) but even if you didn't vote for him, he's still your President. He won, and unlike in some situations I can think of, there was no question that he won.

The incredible sense of division in this country along political lines sometimes shocks me. Not that it doesn't exist in Canada, but the pure venom that I see aimed from one side to the other is just something I have never really encountered before.

I am at a loss as to how Americans can proclaim this the best country in the world and yet they can't even treat each other with respect, much less other nations. To stand up to the world as a supposed perfect example of democracy at work, while the country is so divided and can't even come together to support the man who is their democratically elected leader is laughable. Either you believe in democracy or you don't - and if you don't believe the system works and the man who won is therefore rightfully the President of the entire nation, you don't believe in democracy.

Yeah, I get that Bush supporters were probably a little tired of hearing about what a crappy President he was. But in a nation struggling with its worldwide reputation and major financial crisis, more political division is the last thing we need.

I am not even allowed to vote (although I can pay taxes, don't get me started) but I still acknowledge that while I live in this country as a legal resident, Obama is my President. "I didn't vote for him, so he's not my President" is childish, counter-productive, and downright idiotic. And it's sad. And it gets worse than that bumper sticker. I have seen Facebook groups indicating they hope and pray that President Obama dies. DIES. Where does this anger come from? To wish a man dead because you don't like his politics? Is that what this nation stands for? Because I thought killing for political beliefs was part of what America is trying to eradicate in other nations. Or, claims to be trying to eradicate - that's another post.

Now, I get freedom of speech and the right to political dissent. I am not denying anyone that right. I'm not naive and I don't expect everyone to get along. I guess I just wish it didn't have to be so painfully divided. I would like to think better could be expected from such a privileged, wealthy nation that has so much potential.

You really don't like Obama that much? May I suggest you go give North Korea a try? I suspect you'd be kissing Obama's feet in a week or so. I'm just saying is all.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Memories of an imperfect smile.

I took Nolan to OHSU today for his cleft team visit, which happens every 6 months and involves seeing specialist after specialist to check up on his progress. We first visited Doernbecher Children's Hospital at OHSU shortly after we found out about Nolan's cleft, while I was still pregnant. But our first visit there with Nolan was when he was 4 days old. In spite of being utterly exhausted from lack of sleep and recovering from a c-section, I remember that visit suprisingly clearly. Tiny Nolan lying on the table while the plastic surgeon examined the extent of his cleft. The first tape being applied to his cheeks, which would spend the next 6 months in some state of redness or bleeding from the constant presence of that tape. The surreal realization that my baby was really, truly going to have surgery.

In all my visits back there since, I have never been in that same room. Until today. It's funny how memories can be so visceral. Walking into the room hit me like a punch to the gut I didn't see coming. Nolan, walking beside me, chatting about his new Hot Wheels and asking his endless questions, no longer the infant I first carried into that room in my arms. Nolan, lip intact, palate intact, talking as clearly as any other almost-three year old I have met. The baby I feared would never learn to suck, sipping from a juice box as a reward for letting the doctor look into his ears.

That day, that first day in that room, so tired and so unsure of what was to come, I had no idea yet how much I could bear, how much I could endure, how much I could love. I couldn't yet see the struggle with the NAM, the endless crying, the bleeding cheeks. I couldn't see the sleepless night following the lip surgery, looking down at the face of a baby who was mine and yet not mine, struggling to understand what had become of the face I had loved so much, loved in spite - loved because - of the cleft that the world told me made him disfigured. His defect, his smile, the face of my child. I couldn't see the long nights that followed, the second surgery and even worse recovery, the crying and screaming. I couldn't see the unexpected conception and premature birth of my second child, Nolan's brother and all that would follow that day.

I was just tired, and afraid. I just wanted my baby to be mine, to just hold him and keep him safe, and not have to do any of those things that lay ahead in the future unseen and unimaginable.

Now, with the virtues of hindsight, I can look back on that day with the knowledge that it was all worth it, every moment. Now, I can hardly recall what he looked like before, which brings mixed emotions. When I walk through the craniofacial clinic lobby and I see the babies wearing the NAM, I want to hug their moms and say "It's ok, see? Look at my son, look at my little miracle!" The problem is, just like me back in those early days, they wouldn't understand my words; and although they would believe me logically, a mother's heart doesn't absorb logic and reason so easily. Their suffering must be their own, they must come out on the other side as well, to look back on those days and wonder: Holy crap, how did we make it through all that?

But we did. Somehow, it has been nearly 3 years since that first day, and while that seems a long time, in some ways it feels like it could have been even longer. It is worlds away. I was a different person. Time and the struggles we went through have changed me; but more than that, motherhood has changed me. Nolan has changed me. He has taught me that everything we will ever be is already present in us when we are born; that we can overcome anything. That love is stronger than I ever could have imagined.

That a smile can mean more than anything in the entire world even if - especially if - it isn't perfect.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I am a parenting expert

Hold on, hold, I know, that's funny. Come on...stop laughing. Deep breaths...there you go. Ok, so it was a hilarious and utterly ridiculously inaccurate title. I just thought we could all use a good laugh.

What I really wanted to do was to bring up the entire concept of parenting experts. Because, let's face it, it's ludicrous. I don't care if you are the Duggars or have a PhD, I don't think anyone can accurately call themselves an expert in parenting. Maybe there are some people who have some good ideas. And there are some people who definitely have more experience than others. But an expert? Really? I don't see it.

Ok, so I am only slightly under 3 years into this whole parenting thing, and most certainly don't know as much as many other parents, but I can tell you this: these kids, they can't be predicted or figured out. And if you think you've got their number, well, I can tell you that you're in for a surprise. Every kid is different, and every kid is different on every different day. This is what kids do - they keep us guessing. I think much of the parenting "expertise" out there comes from hindsight, which is all well and good, and nice that they want to pass it on, but it doesn't always apply to all kids.

The main problem I have with the parenting "experts" is that those of us who are still struggling to figure it out and do the right thing at any given moment are made to feel like idiots when the expert solutions don't seem to work. Are we doing something wrong? Is there something wrong with our kids?

And then, there's the issue of all the experts who can't seem to agree. On the subject of sleep alone there are literally dozens of experts who claim to have the one and only solution. How can it be? How can they all be experts and all be right when they disagree on the most fundamental aspects of child rearing? How can one expert say "cry it out" and another say "never let a baby cry" and both claim to be experts? And how on earth are we mere mortals in the parenting trenches supposed to know the difference?

So, I am throwing out the experts as of today. I'm sticking with friends, family, and my gut for advice, but mainly going with what seems to make the most sense at any given time. As far as I can tell, the experts are just as confused as the rest of us, so I am not going to let them make me feel like I don't know what I am doing anymore. So it's true, I am pretty clueless. But I think I am in good company, right?