Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Making Mental Illness Old News

Two and a half years ago I wrote a post in honor of my brother, who lives every day with schizophrenia. I am so proud, so thankful, to tell you that he is still doing well and living a full and productive life. His symptoms are not gone, but he manages them with incredible maturity and gentleness, even in moments when they nearly knock him flat.

This Saturday, I will join my friends from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), to walk along the shores of Lake Washington in celebration of stories like my brother's. In celebration of recovery, of small victories that come in a finally-perfectly-dosed medication, a therapist who answered the phone at just the right moment, of a community that believes that people can not just survive mental illness, but miraculously, thrive in its midst, and in celebration of progress toward the day when mental illness will be old news. And we will walk in face of the suffering, too. The relentless paranoia, the bone-crushing depression, the whirling, swirling thoughts that threaten to steal all the good days away.

About a year ago, we had a big ultrasound visit during my sixth month of pregnancy, and I burst into tears when our baby's tiny brain flickered across the grainy screen, all the little blotches adding up to a new life. I remember praying fierce prayers, "God, keep this baby's brain healthy!" It was the first moment I felt like a mom--longing so much to be able to protect my kid from sucker punches like mental illness. That ultrasound reminded me that mental illness is a part of my family's story, which means it will be part of my son's story too. It made me want to stand up and fight.

I know I'm bit of a fundraising machine these days--and I know there are a lot of great causes to pick from, which is a good problem to have. Mental illness is not a sexy cause. It can ravage relationships and threaten to destroy a young person's best years...or an old person's final years. It can be very, very ugly. But if you can reach into your pockets, I will reach into mine, and together we can support the work of an organization dedicated to caring for people in their most vulnerable moments. NAMI offered practical tools and emotional support for my family in an overwhelming season of life, and I know NAMI will be at the ready for families like mine for years to come.

Please visit my fundraising page if you'd like to contribute, and thanks for believing in the hope that one day mental illness will be old news!

Saturday, September 29, 2012


Our tiny tot is growing up, and he's getting sassy. Sigh...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Rock Chalk

Labor Day weekend meant a chance to hop on a plane to the land of sunflowers, college basketball, and wide, wide open spaces: Kansas! Baby and I traveled to visit my sweet cousin and her brood of small, deliciously dumpling-esque children (three plus one dumpling on the way) and to see my mom, who trekked over from her own wide open space in Nebraska.

Let me pause to tell you a fact. There is no more hopping on planes when you have a 22 pound baby in tow. There are legion blogs on "traveling with kids made easy," and "how to travel and ensure the whole world appreciates your parenting style," and my favorite, "traveling with kids on a budget." This is all bogus. It's not easy, it will always be harder than traveling without kids. Period. And the world isn't going to like it when your kids freak out in public, no matter what your parenting style is. And when you have kids, you already spend gobs on money on them at home, so you may as well buy them that bag of goldfish for $6.00 in the airport bookstore.

But on this "hop" on a plane, redemption came in the form of a very liquored-up businessman across the aisle. The baby had been screaming for a while, a whiiiiile, if you know what I mean, and when he paused to gather himself for the next round of screaming, said liquor-lover looked at him and slurred, "Heyyyy." And from my lips to God's ears, Duncan slurred back, "Heyyyy." And the whole plane erupted, partly in celebration that the screaming had ceased, partly because my baby's first words were clearer than the drunk man's.

Anyway, we made it to Kansas. We ate and played and played and ate. I picked up a turtle on the side of the country road, using a Target bag as a very clever glove, but then the turtle uncurled his claw-toes around my finger and the turtle went flying. Baby D met his first llama. And his first sheep. And his first pony named Arctic.

Baby D charmed his Uncle Tim, who will teach him to Eat Beef.

Cousins practiced taking good care of each other.

The most precious little girl on the prairie...

And her feisty, magnetic little sister with Owen Wilson hair. 

The lovefest between Iny and Baby continues.

Sleep is not for the weak. Sleep is for the giant babies who wear their mothers out.

Grandma Pam-ma and her little darlings nearly collapsed the porch swing.

And the grand finale was a hearty lunch at Abuelo's before the long trek home.

We talked about the hard parts of motherhood, childhood, nitty gritty friendships, how much we miss our Grandpa John, and how we wished we all lived closer. And we laughed at our kids' shenanigans and talked about the next time we could all be together. Because it's never enough!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Late Summer Currents

Current music: I am listening to books on tape these days as a means to suffer through my commute. (Oh, I got a new job. And it's kind of far away.) It's actually become one of the best parts of my day, and my only quandary is whether or not I'll be allowed to say, "I read that!" when I really only listened to it. Does it count?

Current wishlist: More time in my day with Darling Donut. Maggie Mason posted an article about how we are asking the wrong question when we ask, "Can I have it all?" We should be asking, "Do I have enough?" And I 100% have enough of everything...except time with my kid. I lovelovelove working, quenching bits of my mind and spirit that aren't quenched by motherhood, but working 40 hours is a real drag when it means missing the tot so much. There's nothing to do but to savor my moments with him with more intention.

Current food: Well, if we had had more of a summer, I would be saying GAZPACHO. Except nobody has tomatoes yet! The injustice!!! We are eating lots of hummus, because when I'm gone all day, I'm less excited about cooking for two hours at night than letting the baby blow raspberries on my cheeks. I will say that we did an experiment last week where we refrained from all refined sugar--and we were pretty strict about it, ketchup and everything--and I felt so empowered, disciplined, and energized. And hey, I lost four pounds. I also made a strata because my friend Britt swears by it, and now I will too. Yum.

Current TV show
: We watched the teaser pilot for The Newsroom on YouTube, and now it's all I can think about (when it comes to tv shows, at least). I am tempted to sign up for HBO, except then we'd have to huddle together to keep warm at night and haul water from the drinking fountain at the park. 

Current location: My new desk. I am spending a lot of time here--full time, they call it. It's a great fit for my skills and will mean tons of learning about nonprofit development work, volunteer management, communication and marketing, AND I get to plan interesting events. As hard as it is to leave my old gig, this is my new frontier and I am embracing it.

Current book: The Marriage Plot. Except, I am having the dilemma already! Can I say I read it? I just listened to it. And mercy, it was good. I've never listened to a book before, and there were parts of this one that leaned toward what-is-he-even-talking-about, but since I was a captive audience, so to speak, I just kept going. I wonder if I should try listening to some of the other classics I've never made it through. Would that make it easier for me to digest Henry James? Gulp.

Current indulgence: Gloating over my child. One friend recently claimed how he hated babies on Facebook long before it was cool to hate babies on Facebook, and it made me realize just how much I don't care if people are sick of my baby on Facebook. Or anywhere. I will never get sick of him, and if somebody wants to unsubscribe? Your loss, buddy. (I would clarify that I do get sick of crying, fatigue, the diaper thing--but I guess I mean I couldn't ever get sick of knowing him.)

Current worry: What if we mess up our kid? What if it's actually all nurture, no nature?

Current project: Researching stamped concrete and all the places it belongs in our yard. I am obsessed. I guess the other half of the stamped concrete obsession is my renewed interested in Pinterest. Part of me is like, "Hey! Let's all compare our houses and our cooking and our children and our bodies and our money and just pretend it's about INSPIRATION!" And part of me loves it so much. And is willing to battle the Jealous Demons that lurk in every Pin.

Current movie: We watched The Hunger Games last night, and even though I am way late to that party, both when I read the books and now reviewing the film (using that term loosely), I was disappointed. Part of the reason readers devoured the book without really being too bothered by the violence and gross twistedness is because the characters were straight up heroes. And the movie just missed the essence of the characters, for me. Wah wah.

Current obsession: Bringing the baby into bed with us when he wakes around 5 a.m. and then sniffing his hair until I have to face the day an hour later. It's like the best dream ever. Also, Chihuly. Out of control.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

This new Blogger layout is a metaphor for my life.

Anyone else in a funk? I am in a funk. The crummy gray Seattle weather that prompts me to search for apartments in San Diego EVERY YEAR has me inside out this time. Between four months of sleep deprivation and just, all of it, I am also searching for vacation rentals in Maui every chance I get. I have no vacation time left, no money, no desire to bring a restless babe on an airplane, but I could sure use a nap in a hammock while intravenously enjoying a Mojito (Get it? I could sleep and also enjoy the mint).

I know I should buck up and be grateful the tot is sleeping so much (he lasts from 8pm-4am, most nights), but the problem is that all this transition is keeping me awake. So I am going to bed at the junior high hour of 9:45, and once we're awake again at 4am, I stay awake. The men of the house snore for three more hours. It's brutal.

Lately my favorite bloggers have been the ones who don't seem to worry about whether or not they're writing to impress their audience with much narrative rhythm. Or grammar. Or content beyond the mundane stuff of life. Their lives have rhythm enough, so I'm putting it out there right now: I have not yet found my rhythm, I am writing about it without any standard of editing or high content value, and I'm giving myself credit anyway.

Keep on trucking, right?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Smart Lady

Twenty minutes feels like an eternity when I'm flitting around the internet, but hey, depth over breadth.

You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle. And you are worthy of love and belonging.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Is it fair to post Currents when there is no real consistent content in between? Also, remember the catalog called Current? Also, I wish people still spelled it catalogue.

Current TV show: Finally getting around to watching Parenthood. Why did it end in February? Anybody?

Current Food: Still getting meals from people who want to cook for us. Now that I am officially weaned from the pump (no real sense of loss there, let me tell ya), I need to get a grip on the rampage-style eating that has gone on in the last three months. I was trying to describe the hunger that hits when you're nursing/faux-nursing at a machine. It's kind of like the feeling of being at a party that you didn't want
to go to but you did anyway, but then you walk in the door and you want to leave IMMEDIATELY. It's urgent that way. Only it's way more fun than that, because you get to eat and you lose tons of weight at the same time, and you get a glimpse into life with a great metabolism. So. It's nothing like my party metaphor, it's just an awesome hall pass. It's more like growing up in a super conservative Christian environment and suddenly your youth pastor tells you that premarital sex is like, TOTALLY ALLOWED.

Current Movie: The Help. Don't watch it the day before you become a working mom. It will bring up all kinds of uncomfortable feelings and questions and you will just bawl your bloody eyes out.

Current Wishlist: Rest. Baby sleeps like one, but I can't seem to go all night without tossing, turning, fretting. It's ridiculous, and I know I'm just stressed out with all the transition in life, but how cruel to have a baby sleep 11 hours and only sleep six myself. I need REST.

Current Music: The Muppets on Pandora. I am not ashamed.

Current Book: Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman. Basically, it's the book version of that fabulous movie BABIES. The point? It all pretty much comes out in the cultural, societal wash. Do your best. Give hugs.

Current Worry: Oh, you know. Just hoping we fumble through the rest of our lives as parents.

Current Indulgence: Hopping back into Pinterest. It was sort of uninteresting when I first started because it was so lean, but now you could spend hours and hours and hours looking at all sorts of beauty. Yum.

Current Obsession: Same ol', same ol'...

Laughed out loud...

Friday, March 30, 2012

Dear Donut

Dear Donut,

First of all, let's clear one thing up. We didn't mean to name you after a sugary confection associated with negligent law enforcement officials. But when the insurance company spelled your name as Dunkin, well, some things can't be undone. It seems pretty harmless for now, this nickname, especially since my own actual name is enough to make even the people at TSA chuckle on the job. Please don't struggle with childhood obesity. I'll blame myself.

Last night I left you at home to have a visit with Anne Lamott. I can't figure out the chemistry behind it (mostly because chemistry...blech), but after a few hours away my body is physically achy, like I forgot to take some medicine or something. But it's just missing you. I really do put the mother in smother, don't I? Luckily you still don't know the difference. Anyway, Annie and I had a lovely visit, along with five hundred other fans, and she reminded all of us a few things I'd like to think are gospel truth. Listening to her was worth being achy, and that's saying a lot, Donut.

If it's not your problem, you probably don't have the solution, she told us. And how do we ever know what's really our problem? Pay attention to what's inside your own hula hoop, she said. I know I'm going to want to keep you in my hula hoop for as long as possible, and if I joined the Y again, we could probably fit inside it even longer. But maybe the most terrifying and important thing I heard last night was that my whole job is to help you want to leave me. ACHE. ACHE. ACHE. That's my job! ACHE! To push you out of my hula hoop and help you see when your own begins and ends.

Right now you are chewing on at least eight fingers at once, and it must be pretty delectable because you aren't messing around with it. Your onesie is unsnapped and halfway up your chubby, bottle-fed belly, and you have Don Draper hair. Tonight I'm going to sing you the song about all the donuts in the world (to the tune of Jesus Loves the Little Children), and since we have already established you are a jelly-filled donut, I'll tell you that's my favorite kind of donut.

I sure do love you, kid. Have I mentioned I love you?


PS- Forgot to tell you that we learned you are genius on Wednesday. Took you in for a hearing study at the U, the first of three hour-long appointments. They kicked us out of the fancy sound booth in fifteen minutes and told me you set a WORLD RECORD (for infant hearing studies at this particular sound booth). You aced that hearing test and they canceled all the other visits, because you literally did a three hour test in fifteen minutes. Keep it up, that's how we'll pay for college.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Eat this! Immediately!

In an effort to shake up our rut of a dinner menu (with the fabulous exception of all the delivered meals people are still sharing), I whipped up these spicy noodles last night...and with great success! Success is defined, in this case, by whether or not you eat the finished product straight out of the bowl. You should try them. Especially if you are desperate for springy food, or spring, in general. They taste sunny.

Sunny Noodle Bang Bang


1 box whole wheat angel hair pasta
1 handful cilantro, chopped a lot or a little
10 mini sweet peppers, sliced extra thin (these usually come in a bag, Costco carries them)
1 large lime
1 English cucumber, chopped or julienned
2 squirts Sriracha sauce, give or take
soy sauce
fish sauce
fresh ginger
fresh garlic

Boil your water, boil your noodles. Chop the peppers, cucumber, cilantro, ginger, and garlic, and sauté them in a bit of oil to get to know each other. Save the garlic for a few minutes so you don't burn him up. This would be even better if you work in some green onion and carrot. I was out! (By the way, I am really liking my autocorrect action today. Saute is now sauté!)

Whisk the lime's juice, four big glugs of soy sauce, one glug of fish sauce, a tablespoon of honey, and a squirt of Sriracha. Superb addition? Sesame oil or black sesame seeds. Mmm. Taste it and make sure you like what's happening. A much better place to learn about vinaigrette is at Chow.com.

Now dump your noodles into the sauce, and dump your happy vegetables on top. Toss it all together and add more Sriracha or soy sauce if it seems unfinished.

Eat ravenously while your husband/roommate/small child observes your appetite in wonder.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Major Bummer

So. I've got some bad news. And it's not bad news that really affects anybody else in the world, but it's a big deal around here. It's something that feels like a secret, like I should be ashamed to tell the world...even though it doesn't affect anybody else. But it's not shameful, it shouldn't be, and I am writing about it so that I can get in the habit of being comfortable with the reality that I'm facing.

I am not breastfeeding my baby anymore.

I could tell you about all the lactation consultants who tried to help (there were FOUR), the ENT visits, the email chains with our pediatrician, phone calls to my mom and all my surrogate mothers here in Seattle, and I could tell you about how many tears I've cried over the last seven weeks of trying.trying.trying.

But what I need to practice, more than giving my laundry list of defenses, is getting settled into the fact that I am the mom. I am the mom who gets to decide what's best for my baby. I am the mom who gets to set an example for her kid by zooming out to see the big picture, the long-term outlook. In the grand scheme, this baby can't get what he needs to thrive, and my body can't give it to him. In the grand scheme, I'm going to face a lot of scrutiny from other people who question my decisions as a mom. I expect I'll hear from a few axe-grinding breastfeeding advocates in the next year, and that's going to be hard.

Here's how I'm gonna respond.

I love my kiddo, and I'm doing everything I can to show him just how much. And God bless Enfamil.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Currents (AKA Maryann inspires me every month)

Current TV Show: The West Wing. We are halfwaythrough season 3, and let me tellyou, I have never felt so friggin' patriotic. I LOVE PRESIDENT BARTLET. Also, did anyone watch that NBC special a few years ago on the inner workings of the White House? It was a little like The West Wing,and I wish they would do another special because I just remember the part where Obama shows up at Five Guys and everyone just set aside politics and agreed that those burgers are phenomenal. I also loved how much that Axelrod guy was really hardcore, and now I see that he is just like the fictional character Leo McGarry, whom I adore.

Current Food: Let me tell you now: there are a lot of reasons that becoming a parent is miraculous and wonderful, but in the top tier is the FOOD. Nothing makes a girl feel more cared for and supported than a fridge full of coq au vin and Ben and Jerry's Schweddy Balls. And the fridge is full up of Schweddy Balls.

Current Movie: Last to the Crazy, Stupid, Love. party and I don't even care. It was darling and cemented (recemented?) my love for Steve Carell.

Current Wishlist: A lactation consultant who appears during midnight nursing crises.

Current Music: Over the Rhine, over and over and over (see: midnight nursing crises).

Current Book: I can't really read since I need both hands while I'm nursing, and literally the nursing happens 10 hours a day. But have I mentioned The West Wing? I'm also thinking lots about Operating Instructions, which is Anne Lamott's phenomenal story of motherhood and winging the first year of her son's life. I can relate...ohsomuch. Minus the single parent/addiction/cancer parts.

And thanks to Maryann, I'm going to let you take a detour down the road of Anne Lamott-love, from Traveling Mercies:

"... I remembered another woman at our church, very old, from the South, tiny and black, who dressed in these ersatz Coco Chanel outfits, polyester sweater sets, dacron pill-box hats...She was always cheerful until she turned 80 and started going blind. She had a great deal of religious faith and everyone assumed that she would adjust and find meaning in her loss, meaning and acceptance and then joy; and we all wanted this because, let's face it, it's so inspiring and such a relief when people bear up to the unbearable. When you can box things up nicely and see that a tiny miracle took place and that love once again turned out to be bigger than fear and death and blindness. But this woman would have none of it. She went into a deep depression, and eventually left the church. People kept taking communion to her, but she wouldn't be in our community anymore. It must have been too annoying for everyone to be secretly trying to manipulate her into being a better sport about being blind than she was capable of being. I always thought that was heroic of her, that it spoke of such integrity to refuse to pretend that you're doing well just to help other people deal with the reality of impossible loss."

Current Worry: That my sweet little baby will inherit my family's big fat history of mental illness, and that I'll be holding my breath for the rest of his life. Working on shelving this, because let's be real, stressing about going crazy will make a mama crazy.

Current Indulgence: Eating like a horse. Like my friend Lindsey says, "Eat a cupcake, LOSE A POUND! Eat another cupcake, LOSE TWO POUNDS!" Breastfeeding's upside (besides the mystical bond thing) is calorie burning.

Current Obsession:

Thursday, January 12, 2012


It felt like he would never get here. Come on already, we told him. For days and days and days we tried to talk him into making his debut, and he waited and waited and waited. Christmas came and went. Then New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. And we heard every joke about missing the tax refund and the prize for being born at 12:01am. And then we waited some more.

But he was ready right on time, it turns out. We came to the hospital at midnight, thinking it was the Real Thing. They sent us home again. Three hours later we were back, and I was 8cm dilated and out he came, three hours after that. I tried some morphine but it didn't matter, and then we were whooshing along so fast the epidural didn't happen either. He came in a blaze of glory at 6:18am on his due date. So punctual, he's already teaching me something.

Our days have been full of gurgles and burps, squirting (just...squirting), tears and belly laughs, a few meltdowns, and so much good food. Grandma came for the first five days and gave us the gift of experience and cheerleading. Friends have visited almost every day with so much enthusiasm we're inspired to face another sleepless night with bright eyes. Nurses and doctors reassure us that this kid is healthy and on his way to being a very fabulous human.

We think they are right.