Uh oh.

It's November again, isn't it?

Guess I'd better get out the arm restraints and the coffeepot. It's time to write another (terrible) novel.

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Day Four. Thanks, Ma.

Dear Mom,
Remember when you used to chase us around the house with a raw fish on a newspaper for fun? Well, I found myself doing the vegetarian version of that this morning. I aggressively shoved a Chanterelle mushroom in the face of a four year old and made that weird "EEEEEEEEEEEEE" sound you used to make. Something has come full circle, ma.

I had a bit of an epiphany this morning. Babysitting kids is like making pancakes. You shower all this attention on the first one and you try for perfection. And you nearly break down in tears because it's all half-cooked and misshapen and the pan's not really hot enough or oiled enough and you can't believe you've failed so epically at something that you think should come so naturally. But you try again, and again, and you get better as you go. By the middle of the batch, you're really getting into your groove. The heat's just right. You're functioning like a well oiled machine. You're not even thinking about it. One hand is flipping pancakes and the other is pouring juice. You're feet are probably dancing to Paul Simon in the kitchen and your mouth is answering questions about why the sky is blue and your brain is already thinking about what to make for dinner. That's what these past four days have been like: making pancakes.

Mom, do you know what I did this morning? I sighed contentedly when Elton John played on Pandora. Elton John, ma. I think you know this about me, but I really hate Elton John. Billy Joel, too. All those piano-playing soft -rock-music-station artists. You probably know that Black Flag and Fugazi is more my style for cooking music in the kitchen. But, honest to God, I sighed contentedly when Sir Elton came on. I just needed something familiar and cozy hitting my eardrums at that moment because everything else was feeling like I couldn't do it right. Maybe Sir Elton reminded me of you when YOU were in the kitchen making eight metric tons of pancakes for four hungry, annoying kids who were asking you where milk came from and how much adult turtles weigh and why we weren't having eggs and why the sky is blue SIMULTANEOUSLY. My blood pressure dropped down to normal when that song came on and I was able to make those pancakes in the shape of pumpkins without breaking a sweat because of "Tiny Dancer". What the hell? You didn't warn me THAT would happen when I had kids.

This is my problem, mom. I've got this thing for perfectionism. It's a real problem. Seriously. It's been getting in the way of everything, babysitting included.

So, every once in a while, when kids kick my ass, I feel compelled to write you these letters to both thank you for handing down to me that curse and that gift.

I know those middle years were tortuous on us both. I know mental illness is a deep river that runs through our family, and, though I couldn't appreciate it at the time, I was being taught a very valuable lesson back then with all that shit we went through. More than most kids my age, I could appreciate a pretty full range of emotions because of those years. You scared the shit out of me, ma. Kids don't usually run away from home because things are all peachy keen. But, though it's the strangest thing I've ever admitted, I'm grateful for for those years. If nothing else, I've learned massive amounts of empathy and gratitude from those years. That's what all these years in the secluded Pacific Northwest have taught me: gratitude. It's why I had to move here. Nowadays, I work with ease, I live with ease, I love with ease. There was nothing really easy about our lives together back then, was there? So, I've finally gotten what I always needed, just much later in life. And that gratitude has spilled over into (finally) gratitude for you and dad too. Even through the shit (and the shit you continue to struggle with), I am able to see you as humans, humans who did the very best they could with their limited educations and finite patience and vices and family history of depression and whole generations of tragedy and struggle handed down. I can appreciate all that now. Moving out here has backed me up from my microscopic scrutiny of the first part of my life. I can see a much bigger picture now. I can see who you both were before you had me, who you became after you had us, and most importantly, how hard you tried to make everything in our lives as fun-filled and joyous as you could humanly manage. I can see your mania for what it was now and I am cultivating a love for it.

I'm going to guess you've either blocked those years out, or you so deeply agonize over them still, you don't quite know how to talk about them. Well, time and 3,000 miles (and thousands of dollars in therapy) has helped me to understand quite a bit about those years. So, even though they still pain you, they don't pain me as much anymore. My higher self has emerged out here, and she is learning forgiveness every day.

Anywho, thanks for making zaniness a very regular part of my life. It feels more normal to chase a child with Chanterelle mushroom than it does to do shop for appliances and pay for a mortgage. These past few days, I've been learning to let go of every single expectation for how this would go. I'm not perfect, and perfect is frustrating to kids anyway. I hope one day you can shed just a little bit of your prefect self too and feel free to human and fallible. While I am grateful for having learned how to do hospital corners and how to set a table properly and how keep a house clean, I also know how exhausting it can be to keep that routine up.

I'm hoping what these kids take away, just like I did, is all the good times, and leave the not so good times for later on in their lives to sort through. Thanks for everything, mom. Good and bad.

Your Oldest Daughter

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Did You Remember They Had A Dog?

List of things I did today out of love:

1. Wiped a four year old's butt. (Then washed hands)

2. Touched turkey cold cuts with my bare hands and spread mayonnaise on bread. (Then washed hands)

2. Took a four year old, a nine year old, and a rambunctious King Charles Cavalier out for a walk to the candy store. (Then washed hands)

Seriously. The skin on my hands feels like dried corn husks.

The most uncomfortable thing about this whole ordeal (did I say ordeal? I meant "glorious opportunity to experience the joy of parenting"!) is not having all my stuff with me. Stuff like my rubber gloves. The ones I wear when I do the dishes. The ones that help my skin to retain its natural moisture while I scrub pots and pans.

Burdy didn't get much work done today. He usually works from home, but now that our home is 20 miles north, in a house full of two kids and a dog (I can't believe we forgot about the dog), he's set up at the dining room table and the kids don't quite get that he's there to work. They're used to roughhousing with Uncle Stan when he's here. It's hard for them to understand that when he's obscured by that 27" screen, and his brow is furrowed, it means he's looking at the Matrix and coding. And it's wholly unproductive to interrupt Uncle Stan when he's looking at the Matrix and coding.

What's blowing my mind tonight, at the end of Day Two, is how distinct the consequences are when the schedule is not strictly adhered to. Dinner is to be served at six sharp... or plaintive cries from the living room for grapes will ensue. Bathtime is at 7:15, or you run the risk of running into overtime and missing the bedtime deadline... which, in turn, will make for a cranky child in the morning. There really isn't much else in my life that works like this. If I don't finish work for a client, I come in at some other time to make it up. No big deal. If I don't get all the laundry done on Sunday, it doesn't matter. There are always more clothes to wear and I don't mind wearing my dirty jeans for one more day. If we run out of frozen blueberries, well, then we'll just eat frozen strawberries instead.

But holy shit. Try explaining to a four year old that you ran out of blueberries and it ain't no thang... and you might as well say goodbye to the skin on your face, because his wrath will melt it clean off. (Note: we have not run out of blueberries.) Sticking to the schedule is turning out to be harder than I thought. And giving up my free time to be at the beck and call of two children is even harder than that.

I don't have that kind of rigidity and responsibility built into my life right now, so this change feels particularly swift and severe. Sure, I have to show up to work when I say I'm going to show up (more or less) and I need to meet deadlines, but everything else is up to me. If I want to skip lunch, I can. If I want to go to the gym in the middle of the day, I can. If I want to not come home till nine pm, I can.

This whole parenting thing has definitely put a cramp in my hobo lifestyle.

The dog, thank goodness, doesn't seem to care one way or the other about the schedule. He's just rolling with the punches right now. He seems like the type who wouldn't mind wearing his jeans for that fourth day in a row.

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Motherhood: The Beta Version


I have about half an hour left in me tonight before I need to put teabags or cucumbers or whatever it is you put on burning eyeballs and I want to save that half an hour for an episode of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Because mindless TV sounds soooo good right now.

You people? With the kids and the jobs? Both at the same time? HOW ARE YOU DOING THIS?

Burdy and I agreed, while their parents are out of town, to watch Giggles and Little Man for the next four days.

I know, I know. You're probably thinking: but what about the whole worm thing? Aren't you afraid you'll give them your parasites? Well, I've sworn off serving poop sandwiches for dinner, so I think we're all safe.

So, seriously now. I feel like I have whiplash. IN MY BRAIN. Yesterday I was just a single person, living my single person life, doing my single person work... and today... today I was inside a tumbleweed of schedules and snacks and pleads for toys from the toy store and dinner and homework and car seats and late night work hours and coordinating, coordinating, coordinating.

Yesterday I had visions of taking a bath. TAKING A BATH! And going to the gym. At NINE o'clock at night. BECAUSE I COULD. And today? Today I was calling Burdy to make sure he knew that it was half an hour till tooth brushing time and did he start story time yet?

Okay. I'm done with the whiny part. I mean, I knew what I was getting into when I agreed to do this. I love those kids to death. And they love Mr. Burdy and me. I guess I just hadn't really done the math on what it would mean to go from single... to the legal guardian of a nine year old and a four year old overnight. All my gritty, urban styling is going to have to take a back seat for a few days while I pack coloring books in my messenger bag and bend over in my skinny jeans to wipe noses and tie tiny shoelaces.

I guess I'm not entirely unprepared for this. I am the aunty with all the cool stuff in her house. I've got a collection of manual typewriters that still work (always a hit with kids. "Where' the 'print' button?" they always want to know) and stickers and wacky stationary I pick up at estate sales. So, what I may lack in experience, I more than make up for with my obsolete technology and sparkly pipe cleaners. My elementary school art teacher persona kicked in to high gear this afternoon during our urban nature walk. We collected a bunch of goodies from the ground and made sculptures with pipe cleaners and hot glue when we got home.

Little Man insisted on calling the chestnuts "prickly balls". And I insisted that I would tell him when he was much, much older why I thought that was funny.

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I Got Worms!

It's been a week of procrastinating... wasting time, and generally being ineffective. Oh, who am I kidding ? It's been a whole month of that. It's been a whole YEAR of that.

Take, for instance, the directive from my doctor to poop in a to-go container and then mail it to a lab. Do you think I ran right home and did it? Of course not! I let that kit sit on the toilet tank for four whole days before I could get up the nerve to open it.

Wait. I didn't tell you about the poop in the to-go container, did I?

Listen. This is the Internet, right? The place where everyone can feel safe and secure talking about their most private moments, right? The place where no one is subjected to public ridicule because of their parasitic orientation, right? That's what the Internet was designed for, no? So, I'm just gonna drop the facade that I have any dignity left at all, and I'm going to tell you something very unpleasant about myself:

I have parasites.

PARASITES! Microbial beings that have actually entered my body and have latched on to the lining of my intestines and are causing my body great harm! Eating my cheese doodles and drinking my lattes and using my guts for their living room!

Now, I know I've posted quite a bit about my bizarre health maladies these past few years, so I can understand if you're sick of this litany of complaints. (That makes two of us, pardner. And two points for me for the double entendre!) It's not like I have something dramatic and obvious wrong with me like, say, leprosy. THAT would be a good excuse to not to go to work in the morning. No, I have something far more banal. I've got worms.

Roundworms, to be exact. And also protozoa.

Seriously. All this digestive stuff, ALL OF IT, probably has been caused by these mothereffin' worms. All these sensitivities to eggs and wheat and dairy.... all this stuff that has been on the no-eat list for so long... it's probably because of the worms.

My doctor, who is awesome, took me quite seriously when I went to her a few weeks ago and said that I felt like I was five months pregnant after every meal. My stomach would bloat and it would be no trouble at all getting someone to give up their seat on a bus for me. It was getting to be a little ridiculous. So I went to her and asked if she would write me a prescription for an abdominal x-ray because I was beginning to think the whole legend of being able to grow a watermelon inside you because you'd swallowed a seed was true.

Anywho, my doctor, who is awesome, obliged me. She wrote me that prescription (um.... $1,400 for that bad boy, by the way, so I skipped it and decided living with a melon-gut was better than not being able to afford rent). She also suggested, just for shits and giggles (oh, will it ever stop?) that I take a "stool" test.

Um, stool test, I asked? I understood pee test. That was easy. That's self administered and simple: I shamefacedly handed a cup of warm urine to a nurse without making eye contact and it would be like it never happened. But, um, stool test? That's a far cry from a mostly inconspicuous cup of pee. I mean, a pee cup is small. It fits in the palm of your hand. Hell, the pee cup is nearly the color of my hand. For all anyone knows, I am just high-fiving the nurse after using the bathroom. But poop? That's different. There's no getting around handing a live human being your own feces. Plus, who can poop on command? What if I got into the bathroom at the doctor's office and discovered that I just couldn't go? And then what if I was in that doctor's bathroom for an inordinate amount of time and then someone came and knocked on the door to make sure I was still alive, but what if I wasn't alive because the stress of having to poop under duress plus the embarrassment of having everyone in the doctor's office know what I was doing had caused, at that very moment, a blood vessel in my head to RUPTURE, and I fell off the toilet and hit my mouth on the toilet paper dispenser so hard I knocked my front teeth right out of my mouth just as the nurse was breaking down the door and she could never use that bathroom again she was so traumatized and everyone at my funeral would know I was dead and toothless from the effort of trying to poop into a tiny sample jar? WHAT THEN?

While I was imagining all this, my doctor was busy filling out paperwork and digging a small cardboard box out of her desk drawer. Here ya go, she said, cheerily, and handed me the box. I took it from her and saw that it had an address stamped on it. An address. To a lab in another city. In another state. I would be mailing my poop. I could do this in the privacy of my own home. There would be no ruptured blood vessels, no untimely death, no traumatized medical personnel. Hooray!

Hooray? You still have to poop into something, dumbass, I reminded myself. There's still the risk of (gag) contima(gag)tion. Like, getting it on (dry heave) your ha(dry heave)nds and stuff.

I don't just have one parasite. I have TWO. TWO little fuckers living in my body making me all bloaty and cranky.

Here's the lowdown:

There's some controversy about whether these two bugs cause any symptoms at all. Some argue that they are asymptomatic, that lots of people walk around this earth with parasites ALL THE TIME. But some people have things happen when these things get into their systems. Some people, who are, say, chronically stressed out, and who dream at night of apocalyptic world-ending subject matter, and whose adrenal glands have taken a beating the past few years, well, those people don't do so well with small beings living in their guts.

My doctor, who is awesome, drew me a little diagram of what has happened to my once strong and mighty intestinal lining. The cells that line my intestines used to live very close together. But stress (and the critters) have caused them to spread apart and create gaps. And those gaps have allowed food to get directly into my bloodstream. My bloodstream, unhappy at receiving huge chunks of partially digested food, has created antibodies against that food. So, when I eat that food again and again, my blood attacks it like a foreign invader. And it never gets broken down into the tiny nutritional pieces my body needs.

And that, Internet, is why, even without a positive allergic reaction to wheat, even without a positive reading for Celiac disease, I cannot digest gluten without feeling like I've just swallowed a mind-altering, lethargy-inducing tablet the size and shape of a watermelon.

Can I just get an AMEN for finally understanding what the holy hell is going on with my digestion?

Here's the thing about finding out you have parasites: everything in your life becomes suspect. I can't help wonder HOW ON EARTH I could have gotten these things and not noticed. Where are the skin rashes? Where are the entry site wounds?

Of course, there was that time I fell in that hole in the asphalt at the park and gouged my leg from my kneecap to my ankle...

Or all those weird lumps on my leg I thought were spider bites. And there's also all the bodies of water I've been swimming in in the past few years....

Anywho, everything I touch now, I regard with suspicion. Grapes from Chile in my refrigerator? I know I washed you, but I dunno... was it you? What about that one time I ran barefoot around a muddy park late at night that I found out was a HORSE TRACK the next morning? I'm recalling one by one all the brushes with nature I've had recently where parasites might have been involved. And you know how that can go. I mean, you know I dream about the Apocalypse at least once a month, right? SO, it's really no stretch for me to imagine that every single thing in my house, IN MY LIFE, is crawling with infectious microorganisms. I mean, did it come in on the bottom of my shoes? From a public bathroom? From the doors on the bus? From food? If so, which food? Mexican? Thai? Chinese? Greek? That one time I ate at Olive Garden just to see if I really did feel like family? My favorite sushi restaurant? OH GOD. Not the sushi restaurant. Don't make me think about the chef not washing his hands. Noooooo oo oo oo o o.

All I can freakin' think about are those parasites. What they look like. What they're doing in my body. What they've been eating. How they're going to die horrible traumatic deaths in the next 24 hours because I just took a drug that is so potent the side affects include rash, dizziness, headache, vomiting, and fever. Yeah! Take that, worms!

Mostly, though, I've been thinking: HOW THE HELL DID THIS HAPPEN?

Let's review the evidence, shall we? Offender Number One: Blastocystis Hominis.

From Wikipedia: "Blastocystis is a genus of single-celled protozoan....The extent to which human-human, human-animal, and animal-human transmission occurs is still unknown. Fecal-oral (gag) tans(gag) mission is the most accepted (dry heave) pathway."

I. Can't. Even. Think. About. It.

Moving on. Offender Number Two: Strongyloides stercoralis. Also from Wikipedia: "Strongyloidiasis appears to have a high prevalence in some areas of Brazil and Central America".

Let's review the places I've traveled in the past five years:

Costa Rica

A few years before that? Mexico.

A few years before that? Peru, Bolivia, Chile.

I'd say that I put the port back into opportunistic, no? Get it? Nudge nudge, wink wink?

I'm reading "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" right now (which you should buy because a portion of the book sales goes towards a scholarship fund which you will understand the importance of once you read the book. Seriously. Read this book. Donate to the scholarship fund). The book is about the woman whose cancer cells (taken from her body without her consent) have helped scientists the world over develop treatments for many common human diseases. I've always been fascinated by how the body works and how it adapts in all its myriad ways to disease. My body, according to my awesome doctor, has been operating in "Hang In There, Tiger" mode for some time now... just barely making enough hormones and Vitamin D to keep me functioning, but not thriving. Amazing, really, that I am not a trembling mass of goo and bones at this point.

I'm almost... nervous? excited? about killing these things. I feel like a little kid waiting up all night for Santa. Will I see the little buggers come out? I have this idea that I'm going to get up from the toilet tomorrow morning and see something that will tell me that they're out and then I'll flip them the double bird and be like “See ya LATER Strongoloides! Guess you weren't that STRONGoloides after all, were ya? Couldn't stand up to the ol' Ivermectin, huh? Serves you right, you stupid worm! The whole Internet knows you were in there and we're just waiting for you to come out so we can kick your ASS! You thought you could mess with this tough old broad, did ya? Well, you were wrong! I mean, you were right for a while there. Like maybe even for years. Like maybe even a decade...there's really no way of telling.... But NOW who's got the upper hand, huh, Strongoloides? Not so fancy now, are ya? You get on outta here! And don't come back, y'hear?"

And with that I would flush the toilet with a single bash from my fist, ala Fonzerelli, and then swagger on out of the bathroom with my thumbs hooked in my belt loops.

I'm pretty sure it doesn't work that way. But I'm going to hold on to the fantasy that roundworms are capable of feeling shame and remorse and that, if the drugs don't do them in, they'll die of public embarrassment.

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