Satellite Radio Part II

My kids have more variety in their Easter Egg colors than do the music programmers of Satellite Radio

The other day, I told you what I like about my new satellite radio. Today, let’s talk about the things I don’t enjoy. And I’ve got some serious gripes here. Satellite radio is responsible for a crisis I’m having these days. It’s hard to put my finger on it. Maybe I need to get better acquainted with modern pop before my kids leave me in the dust in a few years. But if I do, I’ve got to find a way to do it that doesn’t make my ears bleed.  I would have no idea who Taylor Swift was if Kanye West (who I also wouldn’t know about) hadn’t dissed her at an awards ceremony awhile back.  I still haven’t heard a word she’s sung. Or him. (And, yeah, something says I’m not missing anything.) (Update: One Taylor Swift song later, and I was happier having never heard her.)

At first, I thought I’d just started turning into a straightforward old fogey, one of those people who thinks music stopped being good just past age 16 or so. But a quick call to friends on Facebook (the increasingly annoying social network)  produced a list of things I enjoy, most of them released in the last five years or so. SO I realized that the real question is whether or not I do now or have ever listened to enough pop.

My parents were not straightforward radio listeners, and they influenced me heavily. Nor were my friends, who influenced me even more.  I had a ‘pop’ phase in the middle there that has dwindled to a “Beyonce and Lady Gaga phase” here lately. So the pop I listen to on satellite is from the era when I liked the genre. That is to say, the 80’s, with dips into the 70’s and 60’s.  And I fear I’m going to have to surrender and start listening to a couple of hours of the modern pop station to get a sense for what’s big out there before Caroline starts dragging it in from school.

But maybe not. She informed me out of nowhere in the car, “I hate Justin Bieber.”

I asked, “Why?”

She said, “Because Katie said he made this video where a girl gets killed.”

How to respond. I think Katie was misinformed. Or possibly, You misunderstood her. Purely aside from the fact that neither of the Katies in Caroline’s life seem like the types who would even say the word “killed”, let alone associate it with a teen icon, Bieber would have been splashed all over the news for that.  I said, “Justin Bieber is known for being too nice in his videos.”

“Well, I hate him.”

Okay then. I just defended Justin Bieber.

Not that I want Bieber fever in my house, but I Youtubed me up some of the young Canadaian to figure this one out. I Think I got it. There’s a nasty little homophobic parody video called “What What” that starts with a scene from one of the CSI shows where Bieber made a guest appearance. In the scene, Bieber himself gets rather graphically shot.  By the time the scene got from tube, to Youtube to Katie, to Caroline, Bieber was ‘some girl’, the video was created by him, and the whole thing made him loathe-worthy.  Oh well. His songs sucked as much as I figured, and I’m not defending further the honor of someone whose music I cannot endure.

Nor am I going to explain the term ‘teenybopper’ to a kid who just turned eight.

In all reality, though I think that my lack of interaction with pop isn’t the problem here. Caroline loves music. She’ll drag songs to her friends, not the other way around, if I can just expose her  to enough variety. She’s already prone to outbursts of Beatles and Stones. I just need to grab some of the good new music, mix it in with healthy doses of the excellent not-so-old, and make it available to her. (Update: The Black Keys and Mumford and Sons are excellent choices to help with this project.). She needs the best of the new stuff (and can I confess to loving Taio Cruz’ “Dynamite”?) along with the musicians that gave it wings.

And here’s the problem. Satellite radio is missing an entire era of music. Yeah, the Sex Pistols crop up here and there. But besides the absence of the new things I actually enjoy on my XM radio (Update: I found “Spectrum”. In a much better position on that score), there is not, say, a single daft punk channel in over a hundred possibilities (and no, an hour long program does not count, not when I can listen to big band whenever I want, which is actually rather often). And punk, of course, is where the roots of much of my favorite music lie.

In the 1990s, my friend Rachel introduced me to alt rock. And I don’t mean Pearl Jam here.  They were positively mainstream compared to the stuff Rachel enjoyed. From her, I developed my affection for The Stone Roses, The Violent Femmes, Barenaked Ladies, and James. And those are just the ones anybody would have heard of.  She’d been aware of these groups for longer than I had, so I had a whole back catalog to learn about, and I’m sure that I am yet a dabbler compared to her and compared to our mutual friend Jessica.  Rachel taught me about ska (trumpet laden rock) and her knowledge went far deeper than the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

I don’t know how she knew this stuff. We were living in the rural Midwest, in the era before the internet, and they certainly didn’t play it on the radio in our area. It was circulated through ‘zines, word of mouth, and college in those days. Though I went off to college at sixteen, I chose a rural school which offered no real access to new music of any kind. And Rachel was always ahead of my musical curve (still is),even though she stuck around and finished high school before she contemplated anything like post-secondary ed. She didn’t just know groups and songs, either. She knew histories and genres, and which band was most like another.  Rachel could tell me, for instance, that Love Spit Love used to be the Psychedelic Furs, who, she also knew, had so much more to offer the world than “Pretty in Pink”. And besides her deeply embedded knowledge of alternative rock history, she knew the Cincy rock scene from the Psychodots to the Ass Ponys . (We were about an hour out of Cincinnati.) And you just won’t find much of that shit on satellite people.

I was always surprised Rachel didn’t go on to some kind of musical career. The talent was there, no question. She may just enjoy knowing this stuff and being kind of magic. I can dig that. But it’s too bad she isn’t sitting in a Sirius XM chair, because I’d listen if she were putting out programs.

I have other gurus who could outdo XM’s current lineup, though I mean that as an insult to the station masters more than the DJs they own. When I moved to Lexington, I met Jennifer and her husband Steve. They added to my playlist rockers from the 60s and 70s who never stopped touring, many of whom I’d never heard of.  Jennifer and Steve taught me about Richard Thompson and got me out to a couple of his shows.  Jennifer also introduced me to more alt rock and the pop stuff I missed as a kid. Thanks to them, I know who Todd Rundgren is beyond “Bang On the Drum All Day”, a real feat considering that I grew up listening to Sam and Dave with my mother and AC/DC with my father.

Jennifer and Steve played me new stuff, too. One tune from the Finn Brothers’ second album Everyone Is Here, and I was hooked not just on them, but also on Crowded House and the long since defunct Split Enz, all of which were variants of the Finn scene. In fact, Jennifer and Steve opened up the entire field of Aussie/New Zealand rock to me, and at least satellite plays some of that.  Like Rachel, and possibly
even more so, Jennifer and Steve are fountains of rock knowledge that most of the satellite radio DJs can really only dream of becoming.

And their daughter, Kerry, along with several of her friends, hosts an entire podcast full of awesome modern things, including music. (You can find it here: Beaucoup Pop). When my friends can pull rock history out of thin air, the constant stream of minor trivia and song repetition that satellite offers don’t seem so awesome by comparison.

Quite simply, satellite radio doesn’t carry a lot of the music I’ve been listening to for the last twenty years or so.  The three alternative stations kind of miss the mark. (Update: Spectrum does a better job.)  One is an indie pop station, more of an introduction to alt pop that primarily covers the genre’s early big hits. (Yes,I recognize that statement for the oxymoron it is.)  Another is pretty much current college indie. The third is more like extended grunge. There are some of the more obscure groups on here, but not many. Not enough.

And all of the satellite stations,from the popular to the alternative down to the classical, focus on a limited number of artists, playing their extended catalogs, including a few pieces that never became hits, but going through those same groups of songs in a roughly four hour cycle. I’m as sick of Ozzie’s “Iron Man” as ever, thanks to the metal station, and I’m wishing that the indie pop station played a little  KMFDM * to go with “Enjoy the Silence” from time to time.

I LIKE what satellite plays. I like it a lot more than the commercial-filled, censored, sped-up garbage that FM carries. And ten thousand times better than Pandora’s fucked up algorithm. (Which Facebook is trying to imitate with my news feed.) But I can see so much more that these music stations could do. I mean, all my bitching about the quality of their DJs aside, some of these people could rock if given half a chance. Sirius XM has some of the original MTV VJs hosting their programs. Surely those people could at least hold their own against my friends if given half a corporate chance. Instead of relegating Martha Quinn to the 80s on 8 and assuming her knowledge of music begins and ends with the stuff she presented thirty years ago, why not let her showcase and educate listeners about a much wider scope of music. Instead of having DJs repeat the same tidbits daily or just read liner notes, why not turn them loose to find things unexpected? Why not let them really play us some music?

I learn from my satellite radio, and I like that. And the DJs don’t interrupt my listening too often (though “at all” is “too often” when you have only banalities to exchange with me).  But it’s mostly stuff I’m an idiot for not knowing in the first place, and I’d really rather learn about new groups who I’d never have thought about twice on my own.

We’ll be keeping satellite when our trial is up. I like a sufficient number of stations, and I can dance around between enough of them that the repetition isn’t a huge factor in my enjoyment level. Plus, that ‘nationwide’ feature is really nice for us right now with all the travel we’ve been doing. But I was envisioning something that would keep me awake and surprised as I rocked down the road, and I can already see that the reality is much less exciting than that. And I just want to know why it is that, with millions of songs to choose from, a radio company with over a hundred stations can’t seem to give me enough variety to make me feel fulfilled?

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* Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode. Their commercial hit was Juke Joint Jezebel. Back up

Satellite Radio Part I

I’ve learned a lot from my new radio. It’s given me a much stronger grounding in top forty basics, and it’s about a thousand percent better than Pandora. Not to mention, it’s available in my car nearly all the time (except under concrete).

I’ve always been rather notorious for mishearing and misinterpreting lyrics. Scott had a great time convincing me that Golden Earring’s “Radar Love” was not actually “Red Hot Love” when we first started dating. Also that it was by a group called Golden Earring, whose name had passed me by. (And did you know that Golden Earring also did “When the Bullet His the Bone”?  Only it’s called “Twilight Zone”. Huh.) As I’m the music aficionado in our duo, this is rather awkward. I mean, I ought to be the one correcting him. But with extremely rare exceptions he’s right about this stuff. (Thank God I knew it was Jackson Browne and not Elton John who sang “The Load Out/Stay”, or he’d have a perfect record. Though neither one of us knew the first part of the title until satellite came into our lives.)

I did already know (or had figured out on my own) some of the worst musical misunderstandings. I didn’t believe for an instant that Jimi Hendrix needed a moment to kiss that guy; however I don’t listen to much Zeppelin. I never thought there was a bathroom on the right. But then, I first heard “Bad Moon Rising” in the context of some werewolf movie I saw with my Dad. (Heard “Werewolves of London” around the same time, in case it matters).  And I never thought it was Snoopy being told to hang on, because we tooted out “Hang on Sloopy” in sixth grade band and Ms. Pam Grider explained to us in painful detail how people used to misunderstand the title.

Others were sorted out for me in childhood. My Dad just about lost his mind trying to convince my friend Jenny and I that Falco was singing “Rock me Amadeus” not “Rock me Hot Potatoes” the year I was five or so. And I heard “Comma, comma, comma, comma, comma, camellia” until my friend Elizabeth (who was also four years old to my five at the time) explained that it was “karma chameleon”. I forgot what she said for years, because I sang it wrong for ages after that. It took seeing it on a music video to remember what she told me.  So when Sam got into a tremendous fight the other day with Caroline because he thinks Eddie Money’s “Midnight Blue” is “Goodnight Blue”, my heart hearkened back to my youth.

These days, it’s more that I’m often close to right, just close enough to be completely wrong. I listen to a lot of songs without knowing the precise title or who sings it. A lot of the time, this means that I’ll just mistake a portion of the chorus for the title. If you’d asked me, I’d have said Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill was “I’ve Come To Take You Home”, or that the Ramones’ “Blitzkreig Pop” was “Oi, Oh, Let’s Go”.  I always thought Oingo Boingo’s “Dead Man’s Party” was called “I Was Struck By Lightning” or possibly “Leave Your Body at the Door”.  And I had no idea it was an Oingo Boingo tune. In fact, I wondered vaguely what they’d ever done anyway until I got my fancy satellite stations and realized I know some of their songs quite well.  Prior to the advent of satellite, ZZ Top’s  “My Head’s in Mississippi” was surely called  “That Night in Memphis” or maybe “Invisible Seven Eleven”. Because seriously, if you had the chance to name a song after a drug trip, wouldn’t you?  I like my title better for that one, but I doubt the Gentlemen Topp would share my opinion.

Every time I turn on the radio in our new car, it’s an education. That display has cleared up so much for me. Before, if I had been stupid enough to open my mouth, I’d have gotten all kinds of hell for attributing to David Bowie songs that are actually by The Cars or things sung by Erasure to Depeche mode. And vice versa.  I couldn’t have guessed that The Go Gos were responsible for “Our Lips Are Sealed”, and I wouldn’t have known where to start a search, because I thought it was sung in incomprehensible French with a few English words thrown in here and there, with a title something like “Ah-min so ciel”. Something about the sky then. I had a basis for thinking this. It was released in the era of Falco and “99 Red Balloons”.  Falco sang “Rock Me Amadeus” largely in German. And half the time the red balloons were “Luft-ballons” and there
weren’t  “Ninety nine” of them but “neunundneunzig” or so.  (And yes, I did have to look up the German pronunciation and spelling of 99.) Speaking of which, thanks to satellite radio, I heard the German language version of “Der Kommissar” for the first time and realized it’s not by Falco or The Clash. Oops.  A last example and I’ll move on, I swear. I had never heard of Billy Squier before I read his name on the radio display.
I don’t know who I thought sang “The Stroke”, or “My Kind of Lover”, but I’m pretty sure I attributed “Lonely Is The Night” to Jackson Browne because I got it mixed up with “Tender is The Night”, even though the two songs sound nothing alike whatsoever. It’s just that the Jackson Browne is what sticks with me and ‘lonely’ and ‘tender’ both have two syllables.

Speaking of rhythm, when I’m not guess-titling from the chorus, I’ll just move syllables, maybe mess up a word or two, and never make the leap to put them together right, like the French sky the Go Gos never sang about up there. I “Mairzy Doats” things in reverse.  My stubbornly phonetic ear sometimes gets right what others miss. I think most Queen fans would agree that Freddie Mercury actually says “Fried Chicken” at the very end of “One Vision”, even though the liner notes claim he repeats the title. (Or the cassette tape liner notes did, anyway. That one is so well known that the printer may have caved to popular pressure and put in fried chicken by now.) More often, though, I find myself singing my own strange bastardizations of well known songs. When it first came out, I was singing not “Love in an Elevator” but “La vie na nela vayda” to the then new Aerosmith hit. That one sorted itself out before anybody had to gently correct me. I understood most of the rest of the words, and eventually put together “Goooing Dowwn” with the bit about faxing in the mailroom and got the light to turn on about the chorus. Also, I may have heard the title as spoken by a DJ.

But it took a l-o-n-g time.

Thanks to satellite, lyrics I mishear that also appear in the song titles now get instant correction, bonus!  Like that girl in “867-5309”? Yeah, her name’s Jenny, not Janet like I always thought. Also, it’s by somebody called Tommy Tutone who I’d never heard of. I’m sure I thought it was by Chicago or something.  If the mistaken lyric is somewhere else in the song, I’m liable to just keep on singing it my own way until somebody else notices, (you should hear what I do to “La Macarena”) but satellite is saving me from at least some humiliation.

It’s one of my favorite new toys in a long time, and I won’t be giving it up any time soon. It’s not perfect, and I’ve got a rather lengthy critique to offer. (How often do I not?) But I’ll save that for tomorrow. Because tomorrow is another play. Or something like that.

While We’re On The Subject

Speaking of bipolar, as we were in the last post, let me tell you another couple of stories. My sister was bipolar. She’s off limits here, but  I will say that she took Depakote, a seizure medication, to moderate it. Every time she stopped taking the Depakote, she went into seizures.  Because that’s what happens when you suddenly stop taking seizure medications, since your body has stopped making the chemicals that naturally prevent the condition the medication was designed to treat.  And she stopped taking it a lot to use other cures, not all of them prescribed by any physician. Because that’s the hell of it. A lot of bipolar people get so fed up by the medicine game, of stopping one thing and starting another, only to find out that a third thing is what might work out, that they start self-medicating using illegal means.

When we lived in Lexington, I had a bipolar neighbor. I never told her I was bipolar, too. We had a little too much in common to make me comfortable. Possibly this was because our similarities were visible when she was taking enough Depakote to flatten a five hundred pound man while I was taking my little hundred mg of Zoloft . We were both talkers with an innate ability to accidentally dominate a conversation and the subtlety of a pair of bricks. But where I’m a friendly person, somewhat short tempered, but open to most people, my neighbor was a lonely woman who couldn’t read social cues to save herself. She was a nice lady, but she dropped by without invitation, overstayed any reasonable perception of welcome, and talked to us the whole time she was present. She encouraged us to just tell her to ‘go away’, but I could never quite do that. If our positions had been reversed, I wouldn’t have minded being told point blank to leave when I’d stayed somewhere too long.  Especially if it was a choice between that and being without social outlets. But I would have picked up on the cues asking me to leave long before the person doing the asking had jumped up in the car and started reversing down the driveway.  And my lips never could form the words “I think it’s time for you to go now.”

Let me emphasize: I liked this woman. We got along. But I was never as comfortable with her bipolar disorder as I pretended to be, and I felt like a total hypocrite for never telling her that we had this trait in common. Her son was later diagnosed with possible mild Asperger’s as well as probable bipolar, and I can’t help but wonder if she also suffered from Asperger’s.  I never mentioned that  Caroline had Asperger’s, too because, again, my neighbor and I were too much alike and yet so drastically different that I didn’t want the topic to enter into our conversations.  I was absolutely certain of Caroline’s ultimate diagnosis, but we had only just started getting her occupational
therapy.  We had nothing formal stating Asperger’s yet, and I didn’t want to have to talk about it with someone around whom I could not stop talking anyway .

I think the neighbor made me uncomfortable much in the same way I make other people uncomfortable. Only much more so, because it’s hard to make me uncomfortable. Easy to annoy me. Really hard to make me uncomfortable.

And I think I actually disturb others in a slightly different way.  I felt awkward with the neighbor because I never knew when she might turn up or how to keep her moving along when our visit had reached a natural end. But I think people feel strange about me because I’m more intense than they expect. Most people initially perceive me as unremittingly happy. Back when I worked at Dave’s Grocery, my nickname was Perky Powell, because that job was just so damned much fun. Seriously. Every day that I came into work, there was a whole cast of characters there to play with me, and Dave and Sandy never imposed bizarre mandates on the staff.  The “safe” was a box of  lettuce where we stashed the money bag, without any irony or pun that I ever detected. If I could have worked there forever, it would have been a no-brainer.

But I did scare people.

The drunks and addicts didn’t faze me, even the ones capable of violence, and I’d confront them oath for oath, to the distress of my coworkers.  And my tendency to answer the phone “Dave’s Highly Esteemed, Unimpeachable, and Simply Magnificent Grocery” alarmed the shit out of the local postmistress. She thought business protocols
should be observed and didn’t accept logic like, “The plywood-next-to-concrete floors suggest there  won’t be many business meetings in this neck of the woods.” And that willingness to get right up in the faces of tipsy (and sober) belligerents sincerely frightened folks who cared about my safety.

And then, too once a person gets to know me, they find out that I’m not unremittingly happy. Not even close. Rather, I am, like I said before, intense. If I am having a good time, it will seem like I’m having a damned party over in my corner of the world. But if I’m not. Oh, if I’m not. My bad days affect others like so much gunfire. They seem to come without warning (unless you happen to be one of the denizens of my brain, who always know what’s going down), and they can linger for  ages. Especially if I’m not on my meds.  When I’m only moderately dismayed about something, it sounds like I’m deadly serious. If I’m deadly serious, then I sound like I’m rallying the masses as I froth at the mouth. And if I want to rally the masses, then it sounds like I want them to come out shooting.

I’ve seen descriptions of bipolar that suggest people don’t seek treatment because they actually enjoy those intense highs and don’t want to give them up, no matter how bad the lows feel. I personally think that’s bullshit. At the very least, I don’t have that kind of bipolar. I guess some must.  Maybe. But I hate the highs as badly as I hate the lows. They’re anxious highs, more like an adrenaline rush of terror. The way I keep my bipolar in check is by pairing it with my natural tendency to be a control freak. The bursts of excitement and anger are paired, but not inextricably so. If I can feel an approaching high, which is really more like an energy train, and just stomp on it, I can often save myself and my family from a total crash. I have less time if I start heading downward, but I can still sometimes catch the spiral and distract myself out of it. It’s mostly for the downs that I need the drugs. Because the downs are all about that anger.

Some of the anger is just a personality quirk. I have short patience and a tendency towards sarcasm. I used to suffer fools pretty well, but I’ve had a couple of life and job experiences to completely eradicate my willingness to put up with them. Some of it is frustration. Work, kids, not enough time to write, and a job that doesn’t offer me enough academic freedom each adds its own particular weight. But a lot of the anger comes from the bipolar, and once I realized what I was fighting against, I at least understood that, past a certain point, I can’t control the anger, and it’s better to direct the fury at
deserving targets before it goes off.

And bipolar is often genetic.

I don’t think Caroline has it. She probably has mild Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), though she’s never been diagnosed with that because she is, by and large, a pleaser. For that matter, I’ve never been formally diagnosed with ODD.  But Sam, my sweet little boy, has a vicious mean streak that more closely resembles my sister than it does anything about me.  (Yeah. You knew once I said she was off limits we would get back to her.) Sam almost certainly has some kind of bipolar. He’s got socialization problems that suggest Asperger’s. He has no idea what to do with a group of kids his own age, but does reasonably well one on one. And he can hold a solid, thoughtful conversation with nearly any adult, familiar or stranger, as long as the adult is willing to
make a few strange logical leaps when abstract questions are presented. (“Sam,
why did you put that down?” “Because I wub (love) you.”)  Asperger’s can also be pretty genetic, too, and there’s a new study that says people with an older sibling with Asperger’s are more likely to have the syndrome themselves. So given Caroline’s diagnosis, we aren’t too surprised to see the traits in Sam.

But, while I had hoped my kids wouldn’t be bipolar, Sam almost certainly is. His symptoms resemble my sister’s at the same age, though it was years before hers got a name attached to it. He’s got forerunners of bipolar that probably stopped being “fore” and started being “runners” about a year ago. (If his school situation hadn’t fallen apart for reasons not related to him last year, perhaps the problems would have emerged more clearly then. But that’s another post.) And we’re just lucky that there is treatment now for kids his age. Medical treatment. Oh, we’ll be engaging in behavior therapy with him to be sure, but my son needs medication as badly as I do, if not worse.

For one thing, there’s the ODD. When he’s in the wrong mood, you can’t even  compliment the kid without making him oppositional.  And I remember that feeling from my own childhood. I still get it sometimes, though not nearly so ferociously.  I would be arguing with my mother, finally give in and do whatever maternal thing she wanted, and feel completely insulted when she thanked me. My thought process went something like “It’s bad enough that I went and did it, do you have to throw it up in my face now, too?” I didn’t have the need to escalate a bad behavior just to see what else I could do to piss somebody off, though.

In contrast, Sam, the other day, wanted to get his teacher’s attention during snack, so he threw his crackers on the floor.  The teacher said, “Looks like you have a mess to clean up.” So he waited until he had eye contact with her, stomped on the crackers and ground them in with his heel. (She was so cool. She said, “Looks like you really have a mess to clean up,” like he’d just accidentally spilled the milk or something. I like this woman, and we’re lucky to have her for a year. Assuming Sam doesn’t hurt someone so badly that he has to leave.)

When he’s frustrated with his peers, Sam hurts them, pushing, hitting, kicking, and even biting them from time to time. (I’m glad to say we seem to have the biting under control for now. He hasn’t bitten once at the new school. (Yet. Knock wood.*) Partially, it’s that he has no idea how to interact with them.  Above that, he has an auditory processing disorder that we’ve recently gotten diagnosed. He can’t hear competing sounds very well, making loud rooms extremely difficult for him to function in. And most of all, he has zero impulse control, striking out at others before he even has a chance to decide about the possible consequences of his actions.

He’s facing multiple diagnoses, and I can’t wait for him to start medication. (Soon, I think.**) I hope fervently that we’re beginning the process soon enough to give the kid a life. Ninety percent of the time, he’s this sweet little boy with a loud mouth and a love for pleasing. It’s the other ten percent that scares me.  And it’s that other ten percent that could very well kill him if we can’t get it under control. Because if you know about my sister, then you know how her story ended. And I won’t say anything more about that ending here, but I don’t know what I would do if it came for my son.

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*Now he has. Pretty much the same day I posted this, he bit somebody. Back to where I was above

**We started Tenex recently. Click here or here if you want to  read more about how much that’s improved his life here. Back to where I was above

Under the Weather

I’m a southern storm. I come on hot and angry, then I brood, and linger, and eventually lose my temper again. It’s not good.  In fact, it’s horrible. And it’s not something that I have any control over myself. My temper is an outside force that everyone, me included, has to just ride out when it blows up.

I’m about to tell you the big reason I’ve been so stressed out lately, but I should first say that I’ve found a topic that even I’m uncomfortable blogging about.  I really debated  this post. I’m not the sort who keeps herself to herself. Scott’s more the private one in our family, and I tend to be all out there. If I wake up in a bad mood, it goes out on Facebook. If one of the kids does something crazy, I’m online about it in a heartbeat. While I totally agree that my situation is far better than say, that of the people dying of dehydration in water-starved Africa right now, I don’t buy that this denies me the right to bitch. And my problems are totally 21st century modern American problems.

I’m frustrated professionally because I don’t have the time I need to write. We are, of necessity, a two income family. If I had the time to write, I could make the writing my contribution to that income. But I don’t. And we don’t have the kind of buffer for me to be able to build up my income sources. Yet. It’s coming. But my patience is thin. And anyway, that’s not the big problem.

I’m frustrated as a parent. Caroline has Asperger’s, and we just got on the diagnosis train with Sam.  And Sam, at 4, has just had to change preschools. Again. This is the first time it’s because of his increasing volatility, but it’s the fourth preschool he’s been to in the roughly three and a half years we’ve lived here. Although the other three changes had nothing to do with him personally, his constantly shifting educational environment has been very rough on all of us. Then, because this move does have to do with his behaviors, it was difficult to find someplace that would take him. When we tried to place him at a new school,  he was turned away by some people who should have known better. They lied to us about the formality level of one of the interviews. And one of the people, indeed, the person in charge of telling us he couldn’t attend that school, has a child with special needs of his own. So the hypocrisy factor is great, especially since this person had the gall to say we should just send him to public school and get him an aide. Good that this person talked to Scott and not me. Scott was caustic and sarcastic. I would have been much, much worse. (And if you follow me on Facebook, you know where I vented the bulk of my anger.)

The school we turned to next seems geared up to help Sam, and is, in fact, willing to negotiate getting him a public school aide in their private school classroom from the Board of Education. And my problems with public school all start at the Board of Ed level, so it’s good this school will work with them as needed with Scott doing whatever little bit has to be done on our end. Because I can’t. I hate those school board fuckers. I don’t enjoy explaining that this belief has nothing to do with the teachers and principals who fight on the front lines against a tide of bad things and everything to do with an abysmal system that cannot help most students. (And every now and then a sadistic
teacher or local-level admin.) But that’s not the big problem, either.

The big problem I’m having is extremely personal, and possibly not something appropriate for a blog. But  I’m a writer. And I’m not the sort of writer who can compose without an audience. I have to imagine a reader out there interacting with my words. I kept a maternity diary back when I was pregnant with Caroline, and I had to create a hypothetical adult from an as-yet nonexistent person to get anything like enthusiastic for the project. Fortunately, I’m possessed of enough delusions of grandeur that my audience exists even if nobody else knows about them. Even when I was ten years old working on an old Remington Rand manual typewriter, I envisioned an audience. So I created an imaginary kid (who didn’t even have a name – we were calling her Sprout in the womb) and wrote to her.  And then, of course, I got cramped fingers because I couldn’t have short little entries like “Baby bump showing”. No, I had pages-long rambling monologues that I probably can’t ever let the real Caroline read. Turns out, those entries were for my in-head audience after all. Hell, I’ve always been famous in my own mind.

So on the one hand, I could not write this just for myself.  The people in my head don’t get their own essays;  they couldn’t even trick me into a second maternity diary. But on the other hand, it’s a topic that I think is off limits for most.  Which means I would normally be all about writing it up. But I’m heading into taboo ground at a number of levels,  and I’m not sure if it’s wise to project this part of myself onto the internet for everyone to see. Not that questions of wisdom have ever stopped me from doing anything. I’m quite stubborn once I’ve made my mind up to do something. (You never would have guessed that, right?) And I’m pretty determined to do this.

Here’s what’s going on.

I’m bipolar.

My life has been so stressful for the last couple of months because, in addition to everything else that’s happening, I just changed medications. In fact,  I’m now at the part where I have the new drug in my system and things are going to be fine. But they got very bad for awhile there. One of the reasons I’ve been absent is that writing is very hard when the bipolar gets very bad. When I’m that angry and there is absolutely no reason for it (not even a superficial one), all I do is shout at people and brood.

And to change medications, you have to wean off of the old before you can start the new, and you have to be completely off of the old one for a long damned time before you can start the next one. I started the new one last month, and now I’m about two weeks past the month –long stabilization period, which felt like it lasted seventy five years. I deliberately take extremely low dosages, because I have a healthy paranoia about addiction. But I take enough to get the absolute fury under control.  And I have slowly started writing again. I didn’t lose the writing until right at the end of the drug-free period, but when it went out, I couldn’t force it back. I’ve been able to do things sporadically, but nothing that lasted for more than a few pages at a time.

I don’t get all sad-depressed. When my meds aren’t buffering me from the world,  my manic gets angry.  And angry can’t stay seated long enough to type. I’m kind of bitchy all the time anyway. But when I’m not medicated, the anger sits on my chest like a physical weight, and in trying to get it off, I lash out at everyone.  There’s a reason this monster used to be called manic depressive disorder, and personally, I  find that description to be more accurate. The last time I was drug free, I was  pregnant with Sam, and I was just this side of a psychopath before I gave birth. Seriously. Nine months without drugs is very bad. I am lucky, too,  because I can still treat this with low level antidepressants like Zoloft and Wellbutrin. I may have to up the ante soon and ask for something strong to help with the anxiety that is the other side of the anger, but for now, it is enough that I have Bupropion (that’s generic Wellbutrin) built up in my blood stream. I can write again, and that’s my barometer.

Even when I am medicated, it’s a very bad idea to cross me, because I have a temper like a wild animal, and that’s something I don’t presume will ever go away, no matter what drugs I take. I don’t apologize for it, and I don’t feel much guilt towards the non-innocents who get in my way and get
bitten. (Like those asses at the school that rejected Sam.) The fury doesn’t come along and terrify my husband and children when there is medicine involved, and they’re the ones I care about.

Thanks to all the chaos with poor Sam right now,  the low pressure zone around our house won’t be lifting anytime soon, but at least I’m not as much of a factor in that stormy tension as I was this summer. But that’s not to say I won’t be again. Even with medication, bipolar comes in cycles. And it’s not a condition that gets ‘cured’. It’s a chemical imbalance and dare I say it, a mental illness that has to be monitored constantly. There’s a certain amount of stress involved in that process, but not nearly so much as when I’m smelling the ozone, constantly waiting for my lightning to strike.

Pottermania

Well, it’s been awhile folks, and it’s liable to be awhile again. Among other things, my paying gig has raised its paying head. I have five classes at the moment, and I can barely breathe, let alone write. I’m also desperately trying to finish a short story that I was supposed to have sent in for critique by the end of this month, and I think, in all, that it will bemid-August before I get into a good sized post again. However, this one I did just have to share.

When I’ve got an obsession, the kids will usually come along for the ride. For instance,  Lego Star Wars, which used to scare the holy bejeezus out of Caroline, is now her
favorite Wii game.  And my new-car-fixation has totally carried over into everyone checking their pockets and lunchboxes for leaks before entering the vehicle.  Also,
I have lost control of my computer until I can set up a Beatles Cartoons list in my Youtube account and run it from Caroline’s machine for the kids.

So it should come as no surprise that Caroline and Sam have been Lumosing their nightlights at bedtime here lately or that Sam screeched “Alohomora it, MOM” at me when he found out that his graduating to a high backed booster has not yet absolved him of a door fastened with kidlock.   While I can thank the Wii for their knowing these terms, since I shout them at the machine while wielding my nunchuck like a hammer playing the Lego Harry Potter game, it’s the Deathly Hallows
Part 2
that has the phrases in such high use right now.  (Note – There’s a red spell that blows up silver objects in the Wii game. It isn’t technically alohomora. But that’s what
I yell when it isn’t doing what I want. I am surprised Sam didn’t shout “Alohomora
damn you, Mom”, since that would be a lot closer to what I actually bellow.)

Nor should anybody be shocked to know they are running around casting spells on things themselves. Of course, being that these are my kids, they have their own outfits and spells. And by “they”, I mean Sam. Caroline actually sticks to the Rowling script, as she understands it.  Of course, as she understands it, Hermione is somehow the star, with Fang the dog as her loyal companion, and Ron, Harry, Hagrid, and also Tom Riddle as useful sidekicks. She gets it that Tom Riddle is Voldemort, who is a bad guy.
But she wants those damned red leviosa bricks as badly as I do, and
she’s willing to hold hands with dark forces to get them. Also, her interest in Harry Potter extends almost exclusively to the Wii.

Sam’s enchantment with the series is much more sweeping. He understands almost none of it but the whole thing captivates his burgeoning and as-yet-unrefined D&D geek. Hogwarts be damned, he plays his own way with only passing references, like the one when he realized his door was still locked cop-car style, to the actual books. I presume he will have no trouble writing fan fiction in years to come.

For the present, he sticks to doing his own costumes and spells. His first couple of efforts seem paired with his pre-existing princess fascination and Caroline’s recasting of Hermione as the main character. For instance, we have this little number, in which he demonstrates that he has no problems playing a girl, as long as he gets the lead role. He would have done Shakespeare proud.

Now. What SHALL I turn you into?

However, his more recent creations include Star
Wars Crossover pieces like this one. The Broomstick is the Skywalker 2011,
owned by only the most enterprising young wizards. The wand is an 8 ½” long
premium plasticwood with an air core that comes in at around a penny if you
divide out the cost between it and the other 249 of them that came in the box.

Abla-ca-dooobie

Here, he has abandoned the broom, but added a carryall reminiscent of Hermione’s bottomless purse. He’s using it to hold his squishee, a positively medieval looking anger management tool that is really a gel ball that I’ve sewn into an old cloth diaper so he can carry it around his neck for handy mashing. Except when he pops it into my old Lexington Public Library coozie for a double layer of portability. I swear he came up with this on his own as it does not, to my knowledge, crop up in the books or years 1-4 of the Wii game, and I have never tried to explain the films to my kids at all. His wand was
originally an upgrade from the straw: 9 inch hardened dough and salt, with a softer dough core.

Whee! Let's cast some magic!

However, after an accident,

it became two wands which seem to function well  enough given that their owner has his own set of spells to use with them,

including the ones he mentions here, “abla-ca-dabla” and “abla-ca-doobie” (I swear he has no clue what a ‘doobie’ actually is).  In any case, I haven’t noticed any misfiring  of the wands since the accident, but I will be sure to let you know if he comes home from school some day vomiting giant garden slugs. And I will try to write, because it drives me nuts to lose track of it like this. But. I have not the funds to contemplate setting the paying job aside, and I’ll have to compromise until I somehow gain them.

Storms

I had never seen an electrical storm until I moved down South. Growing up in Ohio, we had thunder, rain, and even tornadoes.Nasty tornadoes. I had seen green skies and taken refuge in the bathtub. When I was very small, lightning shot into the window of our farmhouse past my metal high chair to strike the telephone and arc across the room and blast the refrigerator.  But none of those things hold a candle to the weather I’ve experienced down here.

Of course, it helps that I was extremely small when the lightning nearly hit me. I only remember the sound it made on contact with the phone. Mom is the one who remembers what it looked like shooting around the kitchen like while she tried to get to her baby.

Even Florida’s storms can’t have anything on Alabama. Down in Naples, dark clouds come in from the Gulf every afternoon. Sometimes, you can set your clocks not by the tides, but by the afternoon thunder bumpers. The sky blows purple and the rain cascades down. I used to look out the windows with my grandparents and talk fishing with Poppa while it blew over.

But since we’ve moved to Montgomery, I’ve seen lightning strike the ground over and over in a circular pattern in the middle of the day. I’ve watched the sky turn slate gray between the time I left for an appointment and the time I arrived at my destination. I’ve felt the hair on my arms stand up and smelled ozone.  I’ve sat at stoplights wishing there was some way to just get off the road.

Ironic that we’ve been in a season of drought down here.

Today, taking Caroline to therapy, one of those endless storms unleashed. It started with rain while I was loading her into the car. By the time we pulled out of the parking lot, the thunder was grumbling. And by the time we got to the therapy center, I was having that stoplight problem. Lightning struck earth again and again, blinding like an incessantly flashing camera, and every time I rolled to a stop under a power line, I held my breath and willed the light’s cycle to hurry up and go to green.

I dropped Caroline at the hospital’s covered entrance, telling her to hurry into the therapy center and tell them I’d be in once I parked. But by the time I parked, the rain was blowing sideways, rocking the new car with each gust.  I waited in the car for a few minutes, to see if things would settle down. But I couldn’t find my phone to call in and tell the folks indoors that I was in good shape. I knew Caroline would worry. So I finally grabbed my purse and headed in.

I didn’t have an umbrella, but it wouldn’t have mattered. The wind would have collapsed and shredded it. I was drenched before I’d closed the door, and I had to hold my purse in front of me and look at the ground so I could see. Water ran down my forehead and into my eyes, blowing in around my glasses like I didn’t have them on. I was using my spare arm to hold them on my face by the time I reached the door. It was a short walk, but it took me nearly two soaking minutes to get there.

I walked through the sliding glass doors, and four nurses stopped and stared. “Are you going to…?” one of them asked.

“She means, are you trying to visit…?” another continued.

“Therapy center.” I said. “I let my daughter in under the archway, but I had to park and come back.

“Oh, good,” said the first nurse. “I mean … not good…”

“She means they have towels in there,” the second nurse cut in. They would have made a great Abbot and Costello routine. She meant that I would terrify anybody unlucky enough to receive me as a guest or ride up the elevator by my side. But her friend covered nicely, and the promise of towels sounded like heaven.  In fact, the therapists took one look at me raining on their floor and offered me my choice of hospital gowns and scrubs while they dried my clothes. They were terribly concerned for my modesty, and I got to hang out in what I suppose would have been a patient cubicle, complete
with a hospital bed that they invited me to lie down in.

And after an hour alone in a hospital strength dryer, my clothes were still not totally dry. I was that wet. They offered to let me take the scrubs home with me, but I was happy
enough to be damp rather than swimming, and it wasn’t like I was going out to a
day filled with sunshine and bluebirds.
Because Alabama storms don’t typically just blow over the way Florida’s Gulf Coast ones do. In Alabama, the dark clouds stay overhead for hours afterwards, and the weather has to make its ponderous way elsewhere. In other parts of the city, the rain was not so bad. This was an isolated explosion, like so many are in this state. It’s not uncommon for half the city to be wet and the other half to be dry. Or for someone
standing outside to hear the rain approaching up the street and have time to
run and get the mail on the way indoors. Or for the rain-line on the road to mark clearly the point where the clouds began their water delivery.

But the lightning strikes Caroline and I saw while driving knocked out power to at least an entire block. The hospital lights flickered before backup power kicked in, and I can only hope the surgery rooms were better protected against such fluctuation.  Many of the stores in the nearby shopping plaza (I refuse to call Eastchase a mall, since it lacks a roof, which I consider essential to the definition of mall) remained without power when
Caroline and I tried to reward ourselves with a smoothie some thirty minutes after it had stopped actually raining.

I’m beginning to understand why they call this section of the country “tornado alley”, and I hope madly to never find out on a more personal level than this exactly how bad it can get here.

Hyundai

Well, Sam didn’t poop at all yesterday, in spite of some forty five minutes spent sitting obligingly on the pot. I couldn’t bring myself to molest him with that damned enema a fourth night in a row, and so he had to have two tonight before producing a nasty hard mass. I suppose it’s time to bypass the pediatrician  and go find a shit-ologist to see what is up with my baby’s ass.

However, there is one bright spot. In the midst of tonight’s ordeal, Caroline had to fend for herself for quite awhile. At one point, I was sitting on the bathroom floor discussing poop with Sam, and Caroline wandered around the corner holding an old book. I guess we must have family hour in by the commode pretty regularly these days, because she pulled up a stool by the sink and continued reading like it was nothing unusual.

“What’cha got?” I asked her. It was hardbound without pictures or a slipcover.

Rather than closing it, she peered all the way across the top and looked upside down at the spine, then intoned “The Pain and The Great One, by Judy Blume,” in her robot voice.

Seriously? I had to bend around so I could see for myself. She’s about halfway through it.

“That was one of my favorites when I was your age!” I said.

But she didn’t hear me. She was too deeply engrossed in her book.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

That’s just a status update. Here’s the real blog entry.

When my parents were married, Mom used to say “For better or worse, but the truck comes first.” This particular commentary on the state of their union meant that, while he might have been wedded to Mom, Dad’s love affair with his Ford F250 qualified it for mistress status.  I’m beginning to understand his position.

Pretty early on in the blog, I mentioned that we have been car shopping, with plans to buy new. Also, that I’m extremely uncomfortable being middle class enough to think about the long-term cost of a car, as opposed to the short term expense.  That was over two months ago.  Scott and I shop very slowly, even once we have made up our minds.  We had a pretty good idea back in May that we would be buying a Hyundai Sonata, as it offered a reasonable compromise between size and gas savings. And we figured out our color choice pretty fast.  We even knew we wanted a GLS without any added options packages.

Still, it took us until last Friday to actually go buy the thing.

Our car buying style has evolved over the course of the relationship, with nothing running true to type. This is one of the few things we have in common with my parents as a couple. Their car buying abilities were also so unique as to defy any dealer’s comprehension training. Back when they were buying cars together, the dealers tended to assume that the woman would be the soft sell, so they spent a lot of their time showing the man the car’s practical advantages while showing the woman the features.  But in our family, Mom was the hardliner. She knew how much she could afford, couldn’t have cared less about the dealer come-ons, and had no interest in features. So the dealers wasted a lot of time trying to win over a man who they had back at the word “car”. And they spent almost no effort at all on the person with whom they would actually be negotiating.

It never went well for the dealers.

Scott and I aren’t like that. I’ll freely admit that I’m the stereotypical female shopper in an era when dealers are getting trained to avoid sexist thinking. Hyundai had me at “Free XM radio trial”, but the dealer got distracted by my sudden nostalgia for the Mazda that he didn’t even know we would be trading in.  Therefore, he wasn’t quite sure what to do when I had no interest in test drives, didn’t really care a whole lot about fuel economy since it wasn’t a Prius, and wasn’t even much interested in color. Scott, in contrast, did several test drives of the Sonata, of the Honda Civic, and I think of one other. He studied Consumer Reports and Kelly Blue Book, and he determined which car would get us the most for our money.  I rode along for two of the test drives and contributed almost nothing but anxiety to the process.

I was nervous about buying a Hyundai, just as I had been nervous about buying Mazda twelve years ago, and Honda back in 2008, because I’d never owned one before. I’ve  apparently got brand loyalty issues when it comes to cars. I consider myself a Toyota girl, since the two used Toyotas that got me from about age 18 and into grad school were reliable vehicles that only required the occasional timing belts or alternator replacements. (And, from time to time, tires. But even the new ones need those.) This, in spite of the fact that I haven’t owned a Toyota since 1999.  I accidentally convinced Scott I didn’t want the Hyundai for a few days by virtue of my incessant fretting.

But by the time we walked into the dealership last Friday, we had all of that ironed out. We knew everything about the car we were buying, and we knew how not to get ripped off. Kelly and CR confirmed that people were pretty much paying MSRP for these things and that there wasn’t any real discount wiggle room there. We knew we had a trade in, but that we needed to wait to disclose that fact until after the car price was sealed, and we knew its relative value as well. We walked into Capitol Hyundai, found the salesman with whom we had been working and said, “We need to buy an Indigo Blue Sonata GLS without any option packages. We don’t expect to drive it off the lot today, because you haven’t got any in inventory, and we’re ready to fill out the paperwork.”

“Uh, waitaminute.” He said. “Let me see if I can find you one.”

“According to your website, there aren’t any in stock,” Scott said.

“Well, we may have had some come in.”

So Scott and I sat down.

I’ve been under a lot of stress lately, and this whole car buying thing hasn’t even been the half of it. To keep myself somewhat sane and under control, I brought my computer and sat there grading papers. Poor Scott didn’t even have a book.

Half an hour later, the salesman came back over. “We’re still looking for a car for you!” he said, then vanished.

When he surfaced once more, we tried to explain the situation again. “We just need to do the paperwork today,” I assured him. “We seriously don’t have a lot of time to do this, and I don’t want you looking all over the state for the car we want.”

“It’s not that simple,” he told me. “We have to find the car you’re buying so we know how much it costs.”

“Bullshit,” I told him.

He seemed taken aback. They always are when I start swearing.

Scott added, “There’s a Hyundai plant not ten miles from here. You’re telling me that they won’t roll an indigo GLS off the line in the next ten to fourteen days?”

“But we have to have a VIN number to put on the paperwork,” he explained.

“Bullshit,” I repeated.  I could feel my face getting red as anger and impatience bubbled to the surface.

Scott said, “We really don’t have a lot of time for this.”

He made placating noises, and we sat back down to wait some more. We had been in the dealership for an hour by this time. And I should take a moment to note that this portion of problem was not the salesman’s fault. He had some stupid asshat manager who could not understand people willing to walk in and commit to a car they had not personally fondled. Or something. Our guy was the quintessential middleman, running back and forth to us with his manager’s racket.

At one point, Scott got up and strode towards the manager’s office, just about giving the poor salesman apoplexy. He kept saying “But sir… but sir,” as Scott headed across the showroom floor.

“What? Is this TSA? I don’t see ‘no customer zone’ anywhere around here,” Scott said. “He doesn’t want to come talk to us? Well we’d like to talk to him.”

“I’ll get him for you,” the salesman promised, herding Scott back to the leather sofa where I was still grading essays.

He did not get the manager, but I’ve no doubt he tried. Instead, the manager thought we had reached the point of impatience at which we would be malleable, because he sent the salesman back out asking, “Would you be willing to buy one with an added option package…”

“No,” I cut him off. “And you can tell your manager that if he tries that again, we’re heading next door to Honda. If he doesn’t start some paperwork in the next few minutes, we’re gone.” I have walked away from cars I want due to inept sales staff. I was not bluffing.

“He’s got calls out. He’s just waiting for one of them to call him back,” the salesman countered.

“He’s losing a sale,” Scott explained.

Scott was much more rational than I was, but the salesman had no way of knowing that. Scott’s blank looks have an angry edge even when they are completely neutral.  And, having run through the magazines in that first thirty minute stretch, he was far from neutral. Add to that image the sight of me glancing up from my computer every once in awhile to issue a new dictate and froth at the mouth some more, and you can really start to feel for this guy.  The salesman went back to his manager, still unsure whether Scott and I were a couple of bluffing card players or just a pair of tough customers.

The manager finally decided to run a credit check to dick for time. He sent out paperwork, which we completed and before waiting some more.

The next time the salesman walked by, I started a countdown. “You have thirty minutes,” I said, “before we have to leave to go get our daughter.  Don’t make me late.”

Twenty minutes later, things finally started moving. “We found your car,” the salesman said, like he’d just walked out back and we hadn’t been cluttering up his showroom for the better part of two hours.

“You have ten minutes,” I told him.

He tried to counter with, “Well, we had to run the credit check…”

“You assumed we are applying for credit.”

And that just shut him right down. He had not asked if we were applying for credit or if we were letting him fill out that paperwork to amuse ourselves while he wasted our time. In the process of starting the credit check, he had made the mistake of calling me “Mrs. Merriman” and mispronouncing it to boot. Bonus time!  Here are the top three ways to infuriate me. One, refer to me with a first name of “Mrs.”. Two, assume I have the same last name as my spouse. And number three, fuck up the pronunciation of Scott’s last name when you’re doing it. This was the only thing I could hold against the salesman himself, rather than his stupid boss, but he had completed a perfect trifecta. Win, place, and show.  Up until then, he had been carefully nonsexist, guessing correctly that he was really negotiating with Scott only when my commentary devolved to insults and time-calls. But at the credit-point, the only thing he could have done worse was try to make my first name “Scott”.

I had said tersely “Look at the license” and then corrected his pronunciation of Scott’s name twice. But by the time he came back to tell us “we found your car”, we wouldn’t have gotten our financing through Hyundai if they’d had a zero interest loan option. OK, if they’d had that, we probably would have used them. But they didn’t. And, like I said, we were out of time.

For a good two minutes, things moved quickly. We established the price, and the salesman went from taken aback to offended when I pointed out that this was exactly the price we had known we were going to pay walking in. I think he was upset because I had essentially called his boss’s bluff about all the dicking around “finding” a car.

When we had finally signed the offer, which, for the record had no VIN number on it, Scott said, “Now, we’re going to talk about our trade in.”

I said, “You have eight minutes.”

The poor salesman just opened his mouth and stared. Then he and Scott went out to see the Mazda. The manager, thinking our hurry meant something else, tried to lowball the trade-in price. Once again, the salesman found himself up against my mottle-faced “Bullshit,” this time followed by “we’re down to three minutes.” And here’s where he really did something right. Without consulting the idiot in the back room, he promised us full “excellent used” value for the Mazda, when all we had been asking for was “good”.  I’m sure that was a serious risk, since he had, up until then, not been able to say our names (even incorrectly) without a consultation. He swore up and down that we would only have to come back once, to finish the paperwork and collect the car, and he was telling the truth.

I do want to emphasize that, as salespeople go, he was doing his best. Capitol Hyundai just had some real dumb fucks in their back room and some screwed up policies to go with them.

So we came back on Monday and signed a lot of documents and picked up our new car. Our salesman must have warned the paper-signing dude about us, because that was the fastest I have ever signed paperwork for something expensive. Typically, the paperwork is the longest part of the process.

After that, it was time to drive our baby home.

Baby

At first, I was too scared to drive it. I had explained repeatedly at the test drive phase that as long as Scott liked the handling, I was happy. And I had test driven the Sonata (a 2011, if that matters, since they came out with the ‘12s while we batted around our plans). But I was so afraid of dinging it that I only went a mile or so before giving it back to the salesman to park. So Scott got the honor of driving the new machine home and putting it in the garage. Even he was moderately paranoid, because he made me help him with positioning.

I didn’t drive it until this morning, and right up until then, I maintained my distance. It was a new car. Nice color, great radio, but it stank of new car spray to the point that I had to leap out into the grass as we got home from the dealership to avoid hurling on the new seats. I’m allergic to most scents, and they had doubtless perfumed the hell out of the thing before handing us the keys. I remained in terror of dinging it.

 After all, I put the first dent in the last new car we got, a scant few weeks after we purchased it. And I don’t want to do that again. But once I sat down in the driver’s seat, I had to forgive all. I had to forgive it for being an automatic, for smelling like upholstery spray, and for not being a Toyota. Because from the driver’s seat, it is incredibly like my 1987 Toyota Corolla SR5. No popup headlights, but the shade of blue is just about the same, the radio is better, and the handling is sublime.

I have never loved a car this much before, and I can say without (much) embarrassment that I’m already planning her first bath. Do you know when the last time was that I washed a car? Yes, that’s right. Never. But I’m washing this one. And I’m waxing the dash. Or whatever you do to ward off dust. And we’re buying seat covers and floor mats, and there’s no damned way the kids are eating in this thing ever.

Don't you dare call her nose big

The list goes on.  Scott has already snapped at Caroline for trying to carry a breakfast bar out there this morning, and I got on her case for smudging up her window this afternoon. Sam has been thoroughly lectured for touching the paint with what might have been a fingernail, and there is no question of allowing the poor hairy dog in there.

License plate JSTER

The kids are as in love with the radio as I am, and can, in fact, read the XM display from the backseat. God help you if you skip a song Caroline thinks she might like. Tonight, watching me skim past titles (from my steering wheel control), Caroline suddenly shrieked “Go BACK!  That’s Judas Priest! That’s “Night Crawler”. And I LOVE THAT SONG.”

“You’ve never heard that song,” I said.

“Yes, I have.”

To prove her wrong, I went back, whereupon I recognized the tune and realized that yes, in fact, she has heard that song. It has been at least four years, and it was on a yard sale purchase that came without a case, so it was one of those that I never was sure of the name of because I couldn’t quite understand the chorus. But yes, she has heard Night Crawler before. And yes, she can understand it better than I can, because she was singing along for most of the rest of the ride home.

For my part, I was torn between emotions. Delight that I finally don’t have to dig out a CD to hear Judas Priest warred with concerns that she’s old enough to get nightmares from that particular tune. And both of those thoughts were driven down by the realization that I just lost control of the radio I wanted for myself. The feature that sold me on the car has been usurped by the kids, and I’m reduced to being grateful that they have excellent musical taste even as I plan to never scroll past Radio Disney.

I love this new car, and I can’t wait to find out all its new treats.

Hide and Go Shit Redux

Hide and go shit got serious tonight, and I thought we were going to land in the hospital with this one. Hide and go shit is bad, but I think that “hide and don’t go shit” is worse. We’ve had to give Sam enemas for the last three nights in a row to get anything at all out, and tonight, he was pushing brown water around whatever was jammed up in his colon before he finally forced out the adult sized mass that was holding everything up.

Caroline had a playdate this weekend, and her friend’s Mom and I were talking about anal retentive kids. One of her children had to be hospitalized for five days with an impaction. Five days of an adult strength fluid dripping through the veins before that five year old’s body could finally clear things out. My friend described the X-Ray showing his colon as “code brown” because it was so badly distended, and said he had to have several months of special meals producing soft stools before it reduced to its proper size.

I do not want to repeat her experience, but I see us steadily sliding down that path. We sprinkle fiber on Sam’s meals. We give him so many fluids he might explode. Hell, we feed the kid laxatives on a regular basis.  And yet pooping is still a nightmare for him. He sits on the pot waiting for nothing to happen. Or the pain is so bad that he runs off and hides and craps his pants for the umpteenth time.

Or else, and this is by far the worst, he sits on the toilet screaming in pain, like his appendix is bursting. Listening to him wail makes my stomach hurt, makes my ass hurt, makes me want to cry with him. I understand constipation from my own experiences with it, but this is nothing like what I have familiarity with. Tonight, when the screaming started, I told him, “We are going to have to do the snorkel up your butt” our word for the enema “or else go to the hospital.”

He said, “I want to go to the hospital.”

Good lord. Wasn’t expecting that one.

I told him, “Well honey, you’d have to drink something yucky, and the first thing they’d try is the snorkel up your butt, so let’s do that at home, and if it doesn’t work, then we’ll go to the hospital.”

He was not impressed and remained noncompliant. Wouldn’t you?

His pediatrician, who has been fantastic with all of Caroline’s ASD ins and outs has been perfectly useless on this one. She wants me to pour prune juice down his throat and increase the fiber in his diet. Doc, if the kid eats any more fiber, I’m going to have to plant him next season and wait for him to come in for the harvest. If he drinks any more, he’s going to start floating. The issue here is one of control. This is a kid who cannot let go of anything, who is at an age where most kids feel their lives are out of their hands, and who has latched onto this one thing as something he can own. I have watched him lie on the ground rolling around fighting off the effects of five pediatric laxatives. I have seen him go five days without pooping at all then fill the toilet with enough excrement for several adults.

And yet this is the closest we have come to the hospital. He has only missed one day here recently, but the turds that have been, until tonight, getting past his defenses have been mediocre samples at best. Do you know, do you have any idea how maddening it is to engage in endless conversations with your spouse about the contents of the toilet bowl?

Tonight, since Scott was the one to see two nights ago’s deposit, he had the joy of trying to describe it to me. I asked, “Was it hard or soft?”

He said, “I didn’t touch it.”

“OK, but did it look like it was falling apart in the water, or did it seem to be still holding together?”

“Jessie, I don’t know. It looked like POOP.

Yes, but what kind of poop. Because when your kid is telling you he’d rather go to the hospital than have an enema, these things matter. When he’s begging, following the enema, to be allowed to poop on the floor, these things matter. I actually agreed to let him poop on the floor, but when he discovered that I wasn’t going away to let him do it in peace, he climbed up on the potty, choosing privacy over getting the perfect squat. Before he got up there, he had leaked quite a bit of brown water onto the bathroom tile, which was when I started to fear we really were headed for the ER tonight. If he was suffering from something so big he could only get ooze around it, the trouble was immediate.

As soon as he got up on the toilet, he started making airy sounds. Less fart and more deflating tire. I’ve never heard him make those sounds before. Usually, the enemas produce a lot of screaming followed by sudden defecation when he can’t fight his body any longer. He’s left us steaming shit piles in the carpet, in the backyard (and oh GOD I know the neighbors thought we were torturing him, then; I kept waiting for the cops to show up that night), in the tub, and on his bed. But when he started to hiss like we were letting the air out of him, ‘scared’ turned into ‘terrified’ for me.

But he’d stopped screaming.

And whatever he was doing on the toilet, it didn’t smell like roses, so there was some hope.

Scott went in to ask him how things were going, and he said, “Go away, Daddy. I’m still thinking about the poop.” A few minutes after that, he called “I’m done thinking. You can come in now.”

And he had deposited something the size and shape of a corn husk in there. Sorry for the image. I didn’t want it either.

Hopefully, that’s got things moving again for him, but really, we’ll only know when I sit him on the pot again tomorrow. And the night after. And the one after that.

I am not looking forward to this week. Because the best thing I can say about it is that I hope it’s going to be really shitty.

______________________________

Since this post, which was written last year, Sam has gotten a hold of his movements. We haven’t had to play H&GS for a long time (knock wood).  But until he started medication, every single developmental milestone happened like this. It’s not a part of motherhood that I relish. But it certainly made for one of my favorite and most descriptive posts about motherhood

Yoga

I’ve been working on the Crow pose in Yoga class. Crow is one of those Yoga positions like Full Lotus and Tree that, when mastered, seems to convey instant membership in a secret club. For the interested, Full Lotus is the one where you sit cross-legged with the feet stacked on top of the thighs. Tree is the one where you balance on one leg with the opposite foot jammed up in your crotch. And Crow is where you do a scrunched up handstand and try not to break your neck.

My Full Lotus is missing some petals, because the combination of short legs and fat thighs makes it impossible to do better than a three quarters position. And my version is probably banned by the Yoga Governor’s Society (or whoever the hell is in charge of such decisions), because whichever ankle is innermost gets seriously twisted. In fact, I think Full Lotus may be dangerous enough to the knees that the YMCA may actually have warned our teachers off of it, with visions of lawsuits dancing in their corporate heads. This is the only reason I can imagine we’ve never done it in class, even though it’s the one pose everyone imagines when the word “Yoga” is spoken.

Sort of Full Lotus. Ohm. Yeah. I know. The house is a wreck.

The Yoga instructors make a huge deal out of personal safety. They remind us throughout the class not to compete, to go at our own pace, and to stop if anything hurts. Yoga, they say, should feel good. And it does. And I like it. I’m willing to go through a little discomfort if I get my official Yogi card out of it. (Or whatever they’re awarding for membership these days.)  But I’m going to have to lose weight to get my own thighs to quit thwarting me before I can have my lotus and fill it, too.

Similarly, my Tree will be a long time bending in the breeze before it is a real Yoga certified creation. There are degrees of tree. In “Open Tree”, you stick your bent-kneed leg out to the side and let your foot point straight down. In a pose I shall dub “Sapling”, you put your foot on the calf or ankle. In Full Tree, the foot comes above the knee. Never on the knee, because you don’t want to blow out your knee. Now, when the YMCA gurus do it, their heels look stuffed so far up into their thighs that they have got to be getting into the pubic bone. When I do it, I have to stay at ankle or calf height at the gym. At home I can get my heel up high enough. Sort of. But it doesn’t feel right, and my toes are always wiggling around near the knee when I’m pretty sure that if my thighs weren’t quite so luscious, I would have inches between toenail and kneecap.

I am the tree. Get off my knee.

And even when I do get upright with my leg bent, balancing, it’s only so long before I fall over. The Yoga instructors tell us it’s fine to have “windy trees”. We should let ourselves blow in the breeze and just bend with it. Yeah, only, sooner or later, I become a crashing tree. Their point is that rigidity makes it harder to balance, where rooted flexibility is actually quite stable. Yeah. I’ll let you know when and if I get there.

This tree is on its way down.

But Crow is a pose I can see myself managing in the not-too-distant future. Like Tree, this is a balancing pose. But this one is lower to the ground, and it relies more on arm stability and abdominal strength, two areas where I have much more to offer than when my thighs get a vote in the activity.

Ribbit.In Crow, you hunker down with your knees as close as possible to the shoulders, then lean forward into the hands until you slowly pick your feet up slightly off the floor. Leean forward

And then fall flat on your face.

Or not.

Because that’s the thing about Crow. Full Lotus poses a threat to the knees and requires Gumby legs, but there’s never a point of no return. Tree is an invitation to falling over, but if you do, you can always just stick out the up leg and put it down. Crow, though, requires complete trust. To get it, you have to give yourself over to it. And I can do that. I love the slow shift of balance as I lean into my arms, with my shoulders acting as pivots. But as soon as I commit that much weight forward, the only ways down are to shift it back where it started, or to fall forward without any protection.Once more, from the side

So close. My feet did liftoff, but I couldn't stay up long enough for the shot to take.Pretty much as soon as I achieve the pose, I start to overbalance. My G-cups conspire with my thighs against the abs and arms, and I only stay up for a second or two before I flop forward into the inevitable faceplant.

Yes, waiter. I'll have the faceplant.

But, where Full Lotus just makes my inside ankle scream for mercy and Tree makes me feel like I’m standing out on the boulevard fighting the hurricane, I can tell that the problem with Crow has more to do with leaning forward too fast for my abs to counterbalance the legs, and that if I can get my liftoff under control, I’ll be able to manage a longer flight and a more graceful landing. So it’s here that I plan to devote what one instructor calls my “challenge” energy. And if I can get my fat arse up in the air high enough and long enough for Scott to snap a picture, I’ll post that sucker as evidence on the membership exam.

Zumba

I’ve really broadened my range of workout activities since I last blogged about my quest to achieve less-of-me. The Bitch likes this a lot. I still think she’s a bitch. Zumba is still among my favorites, and it’s my topic today. To recap the rest, I’ve dropped Dance Party altogether, and I’ve increased my Yoga and Pilates and added Step and Gravity. (Yes, there really is a class called Gravity. It’s strength training. I’ll get there another day.) My primary purpose here is to explain to a workout buddy why she needs to give Zumba more than a single chance, though, so let me get to the point.

My first Zumba class sucked. I went in because Linda was going and I was desperate to increase my activity and needed a buddy besides poor Scott. (Who always goes along with whatever I’m doing but really shouldn’t have to.) I hated it. For starters, I did not know the steps at all. Other friends had described it to me as being something like belly dance, with which I’m reasonably familiar. After two songs, it became clear that these people were deluded. The only thing Zumba has to do with belly dance is that you sometimes do a belly dance hip-bump as part of a travelling walk-like-an-Egyptian grapevine. There is no sexy rolling of the belly in Zumba, and absolutely nothing is leisurely. Let me repeat that. Nothing. Is. Leisurely. The music is fast, and the instructor doesn’t really break it down all that frequently or effectively. If you come to Zumba unfamiliar with the form, come prepared to do a lot of flailing. In fact, one of the reasons I had come was that I hoped to find, hell the Y circular advertised, a dance class.  I did not want some aerobics course.

When I was in my final year of college, I had to take one credit of PE to get my BA. I took aerobics because I hate exercise and that seemed the least odious option. I liked the instructor, a lively woman who was a dancer when she wasn’t teaching college phys ed. It was from taking that class that I realized much modern group dancing is merely glorified aerobics, and that I really really hate exercise. Not that I hadn’t already figured this second thing out on my own.  I don’t like getting out of breath, and I loathe muscle fatigue.

So it was really easy that first class for me to recognize that Zumba is nothing more than glorified aerobics, and that I hated it. I wanted to dance. I wanted someone to teach me the steps, so that I could keep up with the class, and I wanted to learn how to pull off awesome moves on the floor. Purely aside from this, I had on shoes those first few classes, so every time I felt like vomiting, I had to stop and sit on my ass. It wasn’t just that I was out of shape. It was that if my feet get hot, I get nauseous. And if I don’t cool them down fast, I puke.  Of course, being out of shape didn’t help in that regard, either, but mostly, it was the feet.

So we left the class with Linda’s friend Ethel while I cussed a blue streak and swore it was the worst thing I’d ever done. This wasn’t the bitching and moaning I have learned to engage in.  In that kind of normal workout whining, it’s perfectly OK for everyone in the room to groan simultaneously, and there’s generally some wit (like me) with something inane and demotivating to say. This was the fury of someone who felt deceived. I came back entirely because I’d promised to keep Linda company. I promised her I’d try it once a week for a month, but that was it.

The second class felt as awful as the first, but I didn’t have the deception problem, so I wasn’t so angry about that. By the third class, I’d remembered I have to do everything barefoot, and I wasn’t so unhappy. And by the fourth class, I realized I’d learned a lot more of the moves than I would have expected given my rather negative state of mind. Two weeks after that, I was totally hooked. I had realized I loved Zumba, and that, though it remains glossed-over aerobics, there are dance moves in there, and I am learning them. There’s a lot of fun shimmy-shimmy pop stuff that I enjoy, and yes, it does bear a distant resemblance to belly dance. (Very distant.)

I’m going to have to be careful which teachers I take it with, though. They’ve just added an irritating woman with the drill sergeant problem (none of the other Zumba teachers has felt the need to bellow us forward) who is going to be taking over my favorite class AND teaching the one they’re adding on Sundays.  Denisse, who taught it when I first started attending, has moved on. She’s a military spouse, subject to the whims of the U.S. Air Force.  She left behind her an awesome crew including my favorite, Jina, and that’s whose classes I’ll look to take when I have a choice.

And to tell you the truth, I like my Zumba well enough that I may be tolerant of the dictators in there, but we’ll see about that. I spent a good few minutes contemplating what I would do to the tightly permed hair of the new twit if I could just get her in a headlock. So I’ll maybe have to stick to my favorites for now.