Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It goes by so fast.

My baby is five months old today. When he was born, the city was just flirting with spring. Now the leaves are turning colors and falling from the trees outside. Another season, another time of firsts for Jack--first autumn, first Halloween, first Thanksgiving. It's like getting to relive my own firsts, only better.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Days of Awe

Yesterday was Yom Kippur. I only attended the final service, as I still have an aversion to long religious services, but it was lovely. I've been going to a conservative shul here, something different for me, and it's like having to relearn everything. I am accustomed to the orthodox service, the orthodox chazan, the orthodox prayer book. I was completely lost for most of the service, until a nice woman handed me her machzor (prayer book) and told me where we were.

I broke the fast at one of the member's homes, a place where I've been a few times for Shabbat and the Holidays. It was very nice, good food and good people, but I still feel like I haven't found my place in the Jewish life here in Cleveland. Where are the misfits? The weirdos? The ultra-creative? The ones with the dark sense of humor? David would say that these people wouldn't be in a synagogue, and he's probably right.

I suppose I'm alone among the people I most identify with in my love of religion. And I use "religion" for lack of a better word. I hate "religion" actually. I don't trust an iconoclast, I fear the mob mentality, and most organized anything tends to struggle with corruption. But I also love "religion"--the rites, the rituals, the community, the yearning to be a part of something larger than yourself, the fumbling search for truth, the chasing after meaning, a semblance of order in the chaos. When I read Life of Pi, I loved and identified with the main character, who was secretly a part of three different religions because he found them all so beautiful. I secretly harbor a love for many religions myself.

It's the fact that each one claims to KNOW the truth that I can't stand. For me the meaning is in the search, and anyone who claims knowledge smells of hubris to me. Here I am, an ex-evangelical missionary, a converted orthodox jew, the last one you'd expect to be critical, but that's where I stand.

Anyway, this is a much longer post for a much more thoughtful time. The High Holidays are a time for reflection, but that's one thing that is lacking greatly from my life at the moment. All I'm worried about now is just getting through it. And finding a place here, somewhere.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Things I have learned this week:

1. If I don't blog in the morning, it's not going to happen.

2. Even though I remind myself constantly to pick up my groceries at the parcel pickup when I leave the store, if a single thing distracts me (the cell phone, a cute puppy) I will drive home without them. And have to go all the way back.

3. The song "Tutti Frutti" is vigorously copyrighted and cannot serve as the background to my home video on youtube or facebook.

4. Jack + Solids = Sleeping through the night. Seriously, four out of five nights this week he's slept from 7 (ish) to 7 (ish). A miracle!

5. Having a car, even for a week, is like becoming a god. I feel that powerful. You know, when I can go, like, wherever I want.

6. Jack is developing a flat head. Attempts to get him to sleep on his side and/or stomach have failed. Have resorted to massive amounts of tummy time, and the child barely leaves his bumbo. Pictures of child trying to release himself from Bumbo Death Grip to follow. As soon as I catch one.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

The sweet sound of silence.

My baby is asleep. He has been asleep for nearly two hours, and this morning he slept for an hour and a half. This has been going on for a few days now. After weeks and weeks of trying desperately to get him to fall asleep for naps--and stay asleep for longer than 40 minutes--I think we may have done it. I don't want to hold my breath, but it looks like we may have a real Nap Time going on here.

I never wanted to be the type who ran home when it was Nap Time. I never wanted to be the crazy woman who adhered vigorously to a regimented schedule and ran her home like a military base. I scoffed at this woman. I was better than this woman.

Oh, the hubris!

For if this is indeed true--if we have finally achieved this glorious thing--then I shall become That Mother. I shall be rigid--nay, religious!--about Nap Time. It shall be a sacred space, guarded with a passion bordering on fundamentalist zeal. It shall be a place of peace for Mommy, and cursed be he who endeavors to disturb it. Cursed, I say! For to my son, it is merely Nap Time, but to me, it is Nirvana.

And ye who have no children can button thine lips.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Love Woes

We fought last night. Not a big one, barely a blip on the blowup radar actually, but a fight nonetheless.

Here's the thing with David and me. We never fight about ACTUAL problems. Practically, we get along perfectly. We don't fight about who does what, we don't fight about the baby, we don't fight about all the myriad everyday things normal couples fight about. Instead, we will have long, drawn out screamfests over THEORETICAL subjects. Such as the time we watched the movie 300 and David said he thought it was stupid to die for a country or a cause, that survival was more important than a shared belief, and I accused him of being a coward (I was pregnant, remember) and of not caring about anything enough to lay it all on the line or some such nonsense. This fight lasted for hours, people.

The crux of the problem? I am an idealist. I cannot express this enough. I see life entirely through these idealistic lenses, and it colors every choice I make. So when this idealism comes up against David's equally strong sense of realism, there is trouble. Big T trouble. Because to him, my idealism should more correctly be called naivete, and to me, his realism should more correctly be called cynicism. And I hate cynicism more than anything in the world; I see it as an enemy to happiness. But whatever, that's a rant for later.

The point is we go head to head over entirely unimportant hypothetical situations. Mainly because we feel threatened by the other's position, threatened by the idea that we could have possibly chosen a life partner who goes against everything we stand for. An understandable reaction, but for one small issue: We actually agree on most things.

How to explain this... The fact is, I am an idealist, but most, if not all, of the people I like and care for most are of the sarcastic/cynical/realist persuasion. That's because I'm an idealist, but not a simple idealist. Because when I meet simple idealists, those starry-eyed, head-in-the-clouds, self-important dreamers who insist the world shape to their standards, I get extremely irritated. I find them exceedingly pedantic, and yes, naive. I prefer the idealism that has to feel its way through the dark, that is prepared to compromise when necessary--not for selfish gain, but because the world we live in is unpredictable and doesn't follow any set of perfect laws. Idealism cannot be championed at the expense of reason.

And as for David, he may be a realist theoretically, but he is a closet idealist (as many cynics are). He is passionate about justice, about fairness and kindness, about making the world a better place. But, like me, he gets annoyed by people who can't seem to see the world as it is.

So we put each other into these categories, and hear the argument of the category instead of what's actually coming out of each other's mouths. With that stupid fight over 300, it took us hours to realize we were saying the same thing: We both of us would have died to save Jews in World War II, a cause worth dying for, but we neither of us would die for the abstract notion that is "America"--whatever that means.

I think in some way we don't trust each other. We look on everything the other says with suspicion, as it comes from someone who professes a different world view than ours. It's fascinating, really. Because even knowing this, we can't seem to get out of the pattern. So while our practical lives roll on in harmony, our mental lives are always in conflict.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Even this post is dull.

I once read that depression is a crisis of energy. Truer words were never spoken. Because no matter how much I blame my messy surroundings, my lack of sleep, my up-and-down relationship--or any of the other things that weigh heavily on me--for the fact that I just can't bring myself to do anything, the fact is there is no real reason. It just is. And like the chicken and the egg, my boredom leads to depression which leads to boredom and on and on ad infinitum. In the past, this is when I would leave (and as you can see by previous posts, I'm already planning my escape). But now it's not just me and a backpack. There are two whole other people to consider. So it's to be Cleveland for a while.

Which is not to say that I'm unhappy. That's the strangest thing. Every individual battle I've had with depression or anxiety has been a different shape. And this one, the postpartum blues, is different than any other. Because I don't feel sad or anxious. Just a shade duller. A few shades maybe. And so bored that nothing sounds like fun. My baby makes me happy. Little pockets of every day are filled with joy. But overall postpartum depression is a treadmill, a hamster wheel, a long patch of treading water. But I'm still afloat, and I can see the shore from here, and there's my little family there, waiting for me.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Recently Discovered Poetry

Picked this up, again, from Authentic Threads, she of the Healthcare post. It reminds me of things, vague, forgotten things.

Look: no one ever promised for sure
that we would sing. We have decided
to moan. In a strange dance that
we don’t understand till we do it, we
have to carry on.Just as in sleep you have to dream
the exact dream to round out your life,
so we have to live that dream into stories
and hold them close at you, close at the
edge we share, to be right.

We find it an awful thing to meet people,
serious or not, who have turned into vacant
effective people, so far lost that they
won’t believe their own feelings
enough to follow them out.

The authentic is a line from one thing
along to the next; it interests us.
Strangely, it relates to what works,
but is not quite the same. It never
swerves for revenge,

Or profit, or fame: it holds
together something more than the world,
this line. And we are your wavery
efforts at following it. Are you coming?
Good: now it is time.

-William Stafford

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

House Woes

I love our house. I love that we have a place that's our own, where no one can tell us what to do, where we have space to spread out and freedom to be creative. I love it.

That being said, so far I haven't been able to get out of my short-term mentality. Normally, I descend on a place, work furiously until it's exactly how I want it, and then, thus settled, feel like I can begin my Real Life. But with a house it is different. A house is an investment, a labor of love--a journey, not a destination, if you will. But I still see this place as a short-term stop, and I want it to be DONE. Now. The fact that it is not done has stopped me from "living my life," whatever that means, feeling at home or being productive or what have you. Were we here long term, it wouldn't feel that way. It would be a journey, with twists and turns and unforeseen curves along the way, and I would delight in that and take my time. But we're here for a few more months at the most, and the work to be done weighs on me like a mini-albatross.

So why did we buy a house, you say? If we weren't planning on settling down? Number one, it's an investment in the financial sense. Our mortgage is cheaper than rent. And with an FHA, we put less down on the house then we did on our car. So it just made more sense, especially in a city where houses are going for practically nothing. Plus I was pregnant and needed to feel the ground beneath my feet in a way I never needed before, someplace with a foundation that felt like home. Trouble is it's taken months longer for it to feel like home than usual, if only because it consists of about 800 more square feet than I'm used to. Not including the yard. Did I mention the yard? Oh my heavens the work that is a yard. We've basically just let ours go. Our "flower bed," if you can call it that, is home to weeds the likes and size of which I have never seen, weeds I am afraid to approach, weeds with long complicated names and a particularly aggressive nature. I leave them alone.

But I digress. The point of this is that I've been sticking my little toe in this blog for months, testing the water, but never taking it seriously--or anything having to do with my creative, inner life--for months, waiting until I felt At Home and Real Life could finally begin. But yesterday I finally threw up my hands. This house may never be done the way I want it to be before we leave it. But I am not going to let that stop me from writing every day, and from doing what it takes to feel like myself again. I need it. Daily maintenance, piles of laundry, wild dustbunnies--unfurnished rooms and unpainted walls and unhung pieces of art--all of it be damned.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

On Health Care

I've been thinking a lot about healthcare. Just remembering how easy it was for me in Scotland when I found out I was pregnant. I was scared - I was a foreigner with no insurance. Only, in Scotland, there is no such thing as no insurance. People can say anything they want about the NHS: All I know is that I walked into a hospital, filled out a form, and was given an appointment with a doctor. I had my first ultrasound in Scotland, courtesy of the NHS. Had I stayed, I would have had the same number of prenatal visits, personal appointments with midwives, free babycare classes and birthing classes, and whatever delivery style I might have chosen at no cost: midwife, OB, water birth, natural, epidural, whatever plan I wanted.

When we came back here, no private insurance would take me as I was already pregnant. Nobody would hire me for the same reason. Luckily, after jumping through a thousand hoops and BECAUSE I HAD NO MONEY, and parents willing to give me a place to stay, I got Medicaid, which thankfully covered everything. But had David and I married? No Medicaid. Had we even lived together? No Medicaid. Had I worked anywhere other than Starbucks or Wal-Mart? No Medicaid. And thousands of dollars in debt.

We need Universal Healthcare. We NEED it. It's embarrassing that we DON'T have it. As the daughter of two doctors, I have grown up against it, filled to the brim with the myths of why it's such a bad idea. But my parents, unfortunately, will never have my perspective. Their healthcare is a given, for the rest of their lives. But I think they fail to remember that they have four daughters, none of whom are doctors, two of whom are currently uninsured. How can they be against this?

Anyway, pulled this from a blog, Authentic Threads, and thought it worth a read.

8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage

1. Ends Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions: Insurance companies will be prohibited from refusing you coverage because of your medical history.

2. Ends Exorbitant Out-of-Pocket Expenses, Deductibles or Co-Pays: Insurance companies will have to abide by yearly caps on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses.

3. Ends Cost-Sharing for Preventive Care: Insurance companies must fully cover, without charge, regular checkups and tests that help you prevent illness, such as mammograms or eye and foot exams for diabetics.

4. Ends Dropping of Coverage for Seriously Ill: Insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping or watering down insurance coverage for those who become seriously ill.

5. Ends Gender Discrimination: Insurance companies will be prohibited from charging you more because of your gender.

6. Ends Annual or Lifetime Caps on Coverage: Insurance companies will be prevented from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you receive.

7. Extends Coverage for Young Adults: Children would continue to be eligible for family coverage through the age of 26.

8. Guarantees Insurance Renewal: Insurance companies will be required to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full. Insurance companies won’t be allowed to refuse renewal because someone became sick.

Learn more and get details:

8 common myths about health insurance reform

1. Reform will stop “rationing” - not increase it: It’s a myth that reform will mean a “government takeover” of health care or lead to “rationing.” To the contrary, reform will forbid many forms of rationing that are currently being used by insurance companies.

2. We can’t afford reform: It’s the status quo we can’t afford. It’s a myth that reform will bust the budget. To the contrary, the President has identified ways to pay for the vast majority of the up-front costs by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse within existing government health programs; ending big subsidies to insurance companies; and increasing efficiency with such steps as coordinating care and streamlining paperwork. In the long term, reform can help bring down costs that will otherwise lead to a fiscal crisis.

3. Reform would encourage “euthanasia”: It does not. It’s a malicious myth that reform would encourage or even require euthanasia for seniors. For seniors who want to consult with their family and physicians about end-of life decisions, reform will help to cover these voluntary, private consultations for those who want help with these personal and difficult family decisions.

4. Vets’ health care is safe and sound: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will affect veterans’ access to the care they get now. To the contrary, the President’s budget significantly expands coverage under the VA, extending care to 500,000 more veterans who were previously excluded. The VA Healthcare system will continue to be available for all eligible veterans.

5. Reform will burden small business: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will hurt small businesses. To the contrary, reform will ease the burdens on small businesses, provide tax credits to help them pay for employee coverage and help level the playing field with big firms who pay much less to cover their employees on average.

6. Your Medicare will be cut: It’s myth that Health Insurance Reform would be financed by cutting Medicare benefits. To the contrary, reform will improve the long-term financial health of Medicare, ensure better coordination, eliminate waste and unnecessary subsidies to insurance companies, and help to close the Medicare “doughnut” hole to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors.

7. You can't keep your own insurance: It’s myth that reform will force you out of your current insurance plan or force you to change doctors. To the contrary, reform will expand your choices, not eliminate them.

8. The government will take control of your bank account: It is an absurd myth that government will be in charge of your bank accounts. Health insurance reform will simplify administration, making it easier and more convenient for you to pay bills in a method that you choose. Just like paying a phone bill or a utility bill, you can pay by traditional check, or by a direct electronic payment. And forms will be standardized so they will be easier to understand. The choice is up to you – and the same rules of privacy will apply as they do for all other electronic payments that people make.

Learn more and get details:

8 Reasons We Need Health Insurance Reform Now

1. Coverage Denied to Millions: A recent national survey estimated that 12.6 million non-elderly adults – 36 percent of those who tried to purchase health insurance directly from an insurance company in the individual insurance market – were in fact discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition in the previous three years or dropped from coverage when they became seriously ill. Learn more:

2. Less Care for More Costs: With each passing year, Americans are paying more for health care coverage. Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have nearly doubled since 2000, a rate three times faster than wages. In 2008, the average premium for a family plan purchased through an employer was $12,680, nearly the annual earnings of a full-time minimum wage job. Americans pay more than ever for health insurance, but get less coverage. Learn more:

3. Roadblocks to Care for Women: Women’s reproductive health requires more regular contact with health care providers, including yearly pap smears, mammograms, and obstetric care. Women are also more likely to report fair or poor health than men (9.5% versus 9.0%). While rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure are similar to men, women are twice as likely to suffer from headaches and are more likely to experience joint, back or neck pain. These chronic conditions often require regular and frequent treatment and follow-up care. Learn more:

4. Hard Times in the Heartland: Throughout rural America, there are nearly 50 million people who face challenges in accessing health care. The past several decades have consistently shown higher rates of poverty, mortality, uninsurance, and limited access to a primary health care provider in rural areas. With the recent economic downturn, there is potential for an increase in many of the health disparities and access concerns that are already elevated in rural communities. Learn more:

5. Small Businesses Struggle to Provide Health Coverage: Nearly one-third of the uninsured – 13 million people – are employees of firms with less than 100 workers. From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. Much of this decline stems from small business. The percentage of small businesses offering coverage dropped from 68% to 59%, while large firms held stable at 99%. About a third of such workers in firms with fewer than 50 employees obtain insurance through a spouse. Learn more:

6. The Tragedies are Personal: Half of all personal bankruptcies are at least partly the result of medical expenses. The typical elderly couple may have to save nearly $300,000 to pay for health costs not covered by Medicare alone. Learn more:

7. Diminishing Access to Care: From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. An estimated 87 million people - one in every three Americans under the age of 65 - were uninsured at some point in 2007 and 2008. More than 80% of the uninsured are in working families. Learn more:

8. The Trends are Troubling: Without reform, health care costs will continue to skyrocket unabated, putting unbearable strain on families, businesses, and state and federal government budgets. Perhaps the most visible sign of the need for health care reform is the 46 million Americans currently without health insurance - projections suggest that this number will rise to about 72 million in 2040 in the absence of reform. Learn more: