Saturday, February 22, 2014

the usual "it's not that bad" addendum to a whiny post

So I wish I could promise that this blog would stop being Insecurities on Parade, but that will almost certainly keep cropping up from time to time. I will try to be funnier about it; most of the time in real life it does make me laugh. When the woman I know who has the amazing high-powered job and the two small children sends me a hand-dyed hand-knitted scarf the pattern of which would baffle NASA in its complexity, I tend to say, laughing, "OH, COME ON," and then not worry too much about the fact that my present to her was, for the sixteenth year in a row, a book lovingly hand-wrapped by the Amazon wrapping robot. And then I wear the hell out of that scarf and, whenever I'm complimented on it, boast about my awesome friend.

My anti-nursery freakout is also ironic because, before I got pregnant, I thought that having your infant sleep in the same room with you (like, ever) was just the clingiest, crunchiest thing imaginable, reserved for people who think making your child wear pants in public is for fascists and who are probably going to co-sleep until the kid's nine. But then I actually got pregnant, and started thinking about how many times I will have to get up per night; and the tiny office started filling up with even more stuff because Berowne and I are trying to fit two separate adult households into 870 square feet; and friends offered us their co-sleeper... in the end it was a solution I was absolutely comfortable with. (I also didn't know about co-sleepers as objects before; I thought the sleeping choices were either in a crib or literally in the parents' bed, and I'm a thrasher.) And so part of why I get so irked by the Must Have a Beautifully Decorated Nursery pressure is that I put that pressure on myself for so long ("I'll never be able to have kids because I can't afford a big enough house", etc), and feel like I had just gotten over it when it started again. (I suppose I could seek reassurance from the co-worker who did co-sleep until her child was nine, but for obvious reasons I will not be doing so.)

I prefer my insecurities, whiny though they are, to overmuch self-congratulation. I had to stop reading a certain blog when the author got pregnant, because she a) claimed that being pregnant cured her of all her body image issues and b) decided after having coffee with a friend to just go home and "be a goddess" and give birth two weeks before her due date, and apparently if you're a goddess you get to decide when you go into labor and the baby goes along with it. Not being a goddess, I decided I was not this woman's target audience any longer, and I don't ever want to drive anyone away from my blog for a similar reason (ha! unlikely to happen). We are much more about the Chekhovian day-to-day around here.

Speaking of body image, we have returned to the "my GOD you're HUGE" series of comments on my pregnancy. I got a pass for a month or so, when I was apparently an acceptable size, but now I am vaster than empires (and more slow, especially when all the sidewalks are February-ice). Last month when I went to get my hair cut all the girls at the salon told me I was having "the cutest pregnancy ever". This month it was, "Are you SURE it's not till April? You look ready to go!" And in the work elevator, and buying my coffee, I constantly get, "Oh wow, you're due any day now!" Fortunately it has ceased to irritate me. I don't even bother with the "this is what carrying forward on a small frame LOOKS LIKE" explanation any more; I just say, "I hope not, because she needs eight more weeks!" and laugh it off. It's more embarrassing for the other person anyway.

Darcy is also doing pretty well; the paw clearly is uncomfortable to a degree, but he's eating and wagging and happy most of the time, and that's what matters. We're taking it day by day. I'm allowing myself some slow, luxurious reading of good books, and some trashy Netflix (I have returned to "The Tudors", much to my own amusement). Just trying to take things as gently as I can. (Is it the time of year when I re-read books about the Donner Party? You know, it might be. Why I find that as comforting as I do, we are probably better off not knowing.)

Since last posting, I did finish The Unbelievers, by Alastair Sim, a mystery set in nineteenth-century Scotland. It was pretty flawed, in a first-book way - underdeveloped characters and the murderer was SO obvious - but I didn't dislike reading it. It was just largely forgettable (needed more cannibalism, probably). 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

obsessive rambling and excessive capitalization

I feel as if I've been reading the same four books for weeks. Possibly I have. It's hard to tell, because my dog is dying.

Okay, he's not visibly dying. He in fact seems much happier and more comfortable since the biopsy surgery, but that surgery resulted in a terminal diagnosis. He's still smiling and eating, bright-eyed and very bushy-tailed, and wagging that tail; but virtually his entire paw is an aggressive sarcoma, and because he's too old and big for an amputation, we're in the pain-management stage. We'll keep him happy and normal as long as we can, and I believe we'll know when it's time. And this is our life right now, with occasional pauses when we manage to be happy about the pregnancy (which is going well, and I don't have gestational diabetes, although I spent the weekend after Darcy's diagnosis pretty determinedly trying to acquire it with comfort eating). However, as you can imagine I have no patience for the well-meaning questions about baby-related decorating and the implication that I should be spending my time doing that. When people ask, "Is the baby's room ready?" and "Aren't you having the best time washing all the baby clothes?" I want to scream at them, "I spend all my time forcing my dog into a bag over his foot and a cone over his head, and trying to monitor how much pain he's in, and wondering how much time we have, and locking the other dog in a crate, and I am SORRY that I am FAILING the adorable rituals of pretending that an infant's clothes need to be ironed and giving a shit about a 'theme' for the spare room that of course I have been leaving bare in my spacious house all these years because it was always meant for the The Nursery!"

...Excuse me. I don't blame anyone for asking such questions, particularly since the questioners don't know what else is going on with me right now. But even before Darcy's illness I got, ahem, excessively worked up over the Nursery and the Decorating assumptions, not only because I find the concept that of course no impending parent lives in a one-bedroom apartment or house, or is actually using their spare bedroom for anything that can't be easily moved into the free square footage elsewhere, really elitist (our nursery's theme is "ten-foot-square 'office' already full of bookshelves but I think we can squeeze a small crib in"), but because they also feed the belief that to be a Proper Woman you have to have artistic / crafty skills. I have long been defensive about my lack of such skills; I convinced myself right after the wedding, when I was eighteen weeks pregnant and exhausted and Berowne had just moved in and I was recovering from the most intense social experience of my life, that the expectation was that I send out fifty handcrafted wedding announcements, because that's what women do, and that by not doing so I was disappointing everyone in the world. There was Emotional Fallout. Multiply that by several hundred (for the several hundred baby-related crafty things I am failing to do) and you have my emotions right now.

I'm well aware that there's nothing to blame here except my own obsession with comparisons (okay, I also blame Pinterest a little). Yes, everywhere you turn on the interwebs there are articles like, "The Kitchen Windowsill Gardens You Have to Have", and "Forty-Five Amazing Handmade Wedding Favors (Now With More Mason Jars)!", but a person who wasn't already determined to believe herself more or less constantly failing at arbitrary standards wouldn't be affected by such nonsense. And believe me, I do NOT wish that the women around me weren't all as amazingly crafty as they are, because it means I get the best gifts ever. I just wish I could stop giving a crap. 

The older I get, the more strongly I identify with Meg March, except that I think she eventually got her shit together around homemaking. (Not that nineteenth-century women had much of a choice as far as that went.) It used to be Jo, of course, because I am like every other bookworm girl in the Western world, but I don't recall Jo feeling guilt about not being good at canning or cooking. Let's face it, I'm not the spirited heroine. After decades of wishful-thinking that I was Just Like Lizzie Bennett, I accepted about three years ago that I'm actually Anne Elliot. (It's possible that my marrying a nautical gentleman later in life was a direct result of this acceptance, in which case I can totally recommend it.)

But seriously, ironing baby clothes? I don't iron my own work clothes, and I am slightly less likely to spit up on them. We attempted the paint section in Home Depot the other day and lasted five minutes (Berowne is colorblind and I become paralyzed by choice after looking at more than one paint sample). In our evenings we are busy adoring the dog who doesn't have much time left, and the other one who gets jealous. This baby will be born into a house that centers on dogs and books, so let's not pretend her room needs any decoration but Fiction M-Z; Science / Nature; Biography / Memoir; a comfy armchair; and dog hair everywhere. At least I will try to keep telling myself that. 

Ramble ramble rant. The books, in brief:

Finished Timeless, by Gail Carriger, the latest in her steampunk werewolf / vampire series. It was fun enough, but didn't distract me from my worries. 

Also finished The Deerslayer, by James Fenimore Cooper. It was pretty dull and silly. Somebody finally shoots the "feeble-minded", preachy Beth-March-type character, but it takes about three hundred pages to get there. 

I gave up on Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor, by Brad Gooch. It was just a dry-as-dust litany of names and dates, and I couldn't get past her college years. 

So, that's all the news from the little beach cottage. Snuggle your pets for us. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Darcy is not well.

That's my life, right there, at the moment. We have moved all our sleeping arrangements downstairs because, post-paw-surgery, he's forbidden to use stairs for two weeks. (I refer to sleeping on the futon as "camping" because it is the closest I ever care to come to that activity.) He has to wear the cone (about which he's unhappy but resigned) and, when he goes outside, a plastic bag over the paw bandage (about which he's not happy AT ALL). Bingley is crated during the day to minimize roughhousing. For the first time since surgery, Darcy ate his breakfast this morning - we'd been having to coax with treats and eggs broken into his dish to get him to eat even a third of his meals. Everything dog-related takes longer and is more stressful now, and though the lab results aren't back yet, the vet really didn't like what she saw when they opened up the paw. How tough recovering from a minor exploratory surgery has been for him is profoundly driving home that he's an old dog, which is both heartbreaking and will be a major factor in decisions about future treatment options.

Being me, I have found sufficient headspace to be consumed with guilt and social awkwardness over the vet situation. You see, due to a combination of him being rushed in for an emergency consult on a day his normal vet wasn't there, and things snowballing rapidly from there, with the surgery being scheduled as soon as the covering vet looked at the x-rays, and me being too overwhelmed and stressed to do anything but go with events (did I mention I'm seven months pregnant and my job is completely insane right now?), the vet he's been seeing for the last two weeks is not his regular one. I then convinced myself that a) his regular vet would have been able to magically make it an abscess, not a tumor and b) she must be thinking that I switched Darcy's care out of a lack of confidence in her, and be feeling completely betrayed. So I sucked it up and called her today to explain and to confirm that going forward any care / planning will be with her. The part of the conversation where she said she saw him brought in for surgery and was like, "MY DARCY! WHAT'S GOING ON??" made me feel pretty cruddy, but other than that it was fine and I feel better. Of course, I now have to have the "thanks, but we're going with someone else from here," conversation with the covering vet, but I don't have a relationship with her, so that won't be as hard. 

Ah, the joys of being socially awkward: it's less pixie girl adorkability and more having to psych yourself up for literally three hours before calling the veterinarian whom you think you might have disappointed. I don't know why Hollywood always goes with the former; I bet I look pretty cute when I am sweating all over my phone.   

Yesterday I got to sit in a lab waiting room for four hours, having fasted since the night before, while every hour they drew my blood (and one of the ladies at the lab did NOT do a good job of it, so it hurt rather a lot). We'll see if the results come back You Gestational Diabetic Pig, You (note: I am not saying that any other woman diagnosed with gestational diabetes brought it on herself via piggish behavior; my problem is that I have body dysmorphic disorder, which means [among other things] that I have normal, rational body and health standards for everyone else but the only options for myself are either perfect in every way or a total failure). I spent the four hours reading James Fenimore Cooper, which is at least distracting, since it goes: scenery, scenery, scenery, racism, scenery, scenery, misogyny, scenery. Alternately soothing and eye-roll-inducing, and it made the time pass.

What else I have read lately?

The Undertow, by Jo Baker. Four generations of a British family experience love and war. Beautifully written and engrossing.

No Name, by Wilkie Collins. Not as much fun as Armadale, but a perfectly respectable potboiler (a disinherited young lady goes to any lengths to get her revenge). And what fun to read a trashy Victorian melodrama written by a guy who actually liked women. Just sayin', Dickens.

The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town, by John Grisham. Grisham's follow-up to The Dreams of Ada, which inspired him to research and write a book about a trial that Ada mentions briefly. It's quite interesting, though the debt to The Executioner's Song is a little too apparent, I thought. (I've never read Grisham before, so I could be wrong and that could just be his writing style.) Also crazy depressing.

High Country Fall, by Margaret Marron. Very light mystery. Decently enjoyable but I don't know if I'll bother with any others in the series. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

gotta read some more cheerful books

The books, lately:

Nemesis, by Lindsey Davis. A late entry in her series about ancient Rome, and feels both too grim and too truncated. But they've been tending that way for a while. 

Red, Green, or Murder, by Steven Havill. Havill writes cute little mysteries set in a fictional county in southern New Mexico. They often make me hungry, and this one was no exception - the suspicious death centers around a take-out burrito. (The title is a shout-out to New Mexico's official - as in, voted on by the legislature - state question: "Red or green?" This is what you are asked when ordering food in any proper New Mexican restaurant, referring to the kind of chile you want. If you want both, you order your food "Christmas", which was the most valuable piece of information I gave Berowne before our first trip out there.)

Never Mind, by Edward St. Aubyn. A while back the New Yorker did a piece on St. Aubyn's novels and said they were just the smartest, funniest thing imaginable, so I picked up a set for the Kindle. This was the first in the series the New Yorker was lauding and I really have no idea if I will read the others. I can handle dark humor, yes, but people being nasty to each other, child abuse, and drug addiction all played for grim laughs? Not my thing, regardless of how good a writer is wielding the reins. Yikes.

The Kindly Ones, by Jonathan Littel. Thank GOD this is over. It's an absolutely enormous novel about a Nazi bureaucrat, who Littel decided was not unpleasant enough simply by dint of being a Nazi bureaucrat and so must also be sexually obsessed with his twin sister. I totally respected a lot of what this book was doing, even if it felt like experiencing WWII in real time (I believe that was intentional), but I lost patience with the (very graphic) incest subplot and the far, far too many dream and fantasy and hallucination sequences. Our protagonist gets a head wound at one point and the next forty pages are a hallucination sequence about a dirigible. I skimmed that. I also skimmed the, literally, one hundred pages of him wandering through his sister's empty house masturbating. I'm not even kidding: one hundred pages of that. When you cross a line that Nabokov wouldn't have crossed, something is wrong. This book is, for the most part, a really impressive feat of writing, and (mostly) horrifying in all the right ways. But the flaws were very flawed.

Writing on the Wall: Social Media - The First 2,000 Years, by Tom Standage. Really fascinating and well-written, and I learned a ton. Did you know that telegraph operators formed, essentially, the first chat-rooms in their off hours? I had no idea! 

In life news:

Darcy's lab results were "inconclusive". He'll finish up this round of antibiotics and then get a larger sample taken for a proper biopsy. Other than favoring the paw, he's acting like his normal goofy self, and I'm trying to focus on that. 

A co-worker, who shares an office with me, came in deadly sick three days last week (our boss sent her home one of those days, but she could not be persuaded to stay home the other two). I ate as many oranges as I could, and took my iron pills, but around Friday I started to feel the tickle in my throat, and we are now back in the midst of another full-on Death Cold. I am pissed about this. There is so much for me to do before going on leave, and I have to hoard every second of my accrued time for said leave, but the non-immuno-suppressed twenty-something, who could have gotten over her cold with twenty-four hours of rest, wanted to impress her supervisor, so she came in and coughed germs all over the ancient pregnant lady for two and a half days.

I suppose that's something you only learn with age. Not "keep your germs away from immuno-suppressed people", although that's important too; but the idea of time management based on self-care where needed. When you're terribly sick, taking one day off to get better and then having the strength to play catch-up for the next two is a much better bargain, productivity-wise, than struggling through work for three days while physically miserable and mentally foggy. I should know, given that the rest of this week I'm going to be working at about 60% capacity. But any day I take off now is a day earlier that I have to put the babe in day care and return to work, come July, so I don't have the option of that bargain. My co-worker did, however, and I'm cranky about it.

We did, at least, get a snow day today, so Berowne and I are home and I can just take it easy and drink lots of tea and hope that tomorrow I feel better. I should probably be doing as much work from home today as I can, but pooey on that.