Category Archives: everyday

Has it really (almost) been a year?

In (almost) a year, so much has happened.  In no particular order:  we lost our other cat to old age a few months ago, and M’s dad/RR’s Pop Pop a couple of weeks ago.  I quit drinking alcohol back in December, and my wife and I go to the gym nearly every morning during the week.  RR is almost seven.  I released a full-length solo record in March.  Christmas came and went and now we’re “people who have birds,” because RR asked Santa for parakeets.  The dogs killed a groundhog together on Easter morning, moments before nearly a dozen folks joined us for a RR’s Easter egg  hunt.  I smoked some pot, but didn’t like it.  I’m decreasing the dosage of my anti-depressants.  We go hiking a lot (but not as much as we’d like) and now own a 16′ canoe.  We’re finally selling/giving away so many baby/toddler things we’ve held onto for seven years.  I’m playing bass guitar in a southern rock/roots/blues band and it’s equal parts hilarious and awesome.  My job keeps shifting and changing in ways that are challenging and rewarding… most of the time.

I feel like I could write individual posts about everything up there, but can’t sort out where to start.  Any ideas?

Things on the horizon:  a road trip in an RV to Wyoming this summer for M’s dad’s memorial.  My 40th birthday is in October and we’re going to Disney World (but haven’t told RR yet.)  RR might try to learn how to ride a bike this summer… might.  A “tea party” seventh birthday party.  Many shows playing bass.  Less shows playing solo or my own material.  Writing here more often.

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Notes on suicidal thoughts

“Well, how far did you get in the planning process?” said Bob, over the phone.

I’m sitting in the recliner in my living room.  I’m coughing and heaving in between sobs.

“Oh, not very far, really.” I finally said, regaining my composure, and sort of laughing maniacally.

He seemed surprised.  I don’t know about which part, though.  The fact that it was the first real time I had contemplated taking my own life, or the fact that as much of a logistical planner I am, I hadn’t started a Google Excel Spreadsheet to track and share the process.

I mean, really.  Growing up gay (and really, a little trans) in the Southside Bible Belt of Virginia, a daughter of divorced parents, one who died when I was 11, with an alcoholic (and suicidal) sister who started her own shenanigans when I was eight… Call me a late depression bloomer, I guess.

I do tend, though, to walk through life more than a little Pollyannaish.  I pray.  I am always thinking of the best case scenario.  When things go awry, there is a Greater Good.  A Reason.  Even with a Cold Dark Heart, I can talk myself out of the depths.  I can look around and be grateful for my wife.  Our daughter.  My job, the roof over my head, the hot coffee in my cup.

My particular thought, though, had nothing to do with sadness.  Or being ungrateful or oh-woe-is-me or hopeless.  It was about control.

I could rationalize suicide because it was, that morning, the one thing I could control.  My life.  My breath, my steps, my words, my hands.  Done with being on the other end of the “bad news” phone calls and emails, it made sense.  It sounded nice.  It sounded freeing.  It sounded less like a bad idea, and more like a good one.

In a series of months, years… I have been walking through life waiting for the bad news.  It always comes.  It’s never late or apologetic.  It comes when I’m having a great day or when I’m having a shitty day.  It doesn’t care.

It seemed like a good idea.

Put an end to the bad news.  To the cancer.  To the strokes and broken hearts and disappointments.  To the emails, voicemails, phone calls, obligations, demands.  To the noise.

Nothing snapped me out of it.  It came in like a wave and washed over me and left me just as I was before, but covered in a bit of sand and a little dizzy.  It hasn’t happened since, and after looking it in the face and talking about it, I’ve scared it off.

I’m taking more anti-depressants.  They’re helping, but sometimes make me feel a little bit flat.  Like the sober person among the drunkards.  Like watching the jolly conversations, and participating, but still feeling a little empty.  Like my mouth is a phantom limb.

And bad news is coming, though.  It’s always coming.  When I see Moses limp when he hops off of the couch.  Or Steve’s scar when I hug him.

For me, depression is not sadness.  It’s anger, maybe, but not sadness.  I’m not throwing a pity party for one.  It’s a catalyst to find my resilience again.  My emotional endurance.  My patience.  It is all certainly a work in progress, that’s for sure.

1 year, 4 months, 1 day

So it’s been a while.  Sorry about that.

If you’ve been reading my wife’s blog, then you’re probably up to speed on most things.  If you haven’t, then SHAME ON YOU.  She’s amazing and hilarious, so stop patting me on the back for writing again and go there now.

What have you missed in 1 year, 4 months, and 1 day?  Not much.  And everything.

RR is 5 and almost 1/2.  She draws a lot – her amazon.com wishlist has 100 packages of Crayola markers on it, and that’s all.

I’m playing music again.  And performing it, even.  To the public.  I’m recording a full-length album with some amazing local musicians.  Starting this past March or so, I’ve been staying out at least two nights a week until 11pm, playing music and making friends.  Rewarding AND exhausting and amazing and mostly exhausting.

My father-in-law has terminal brain cancer.

I’ve gained some weight.  The part I’m the least happy about is the fact that I have to buy some new clothes.  I’m not all that unhappy about my appearance, just unhappy to spend money on pants.  PANTS!  #beer #cancer #stress

I cut my hair short last August.

I got promoted at work, which means I work a LOT (and blog a lot LESS) and one day they will maybe pay me more for doing it, too!

Our animals are getting OLD!  Two cats, aged 14 and 12.  Moses the dog is turning 9 in March and has had two major surgeries since we’ve last talked: an ACL replacement and some cancer removed from his…. uhh, butt.

Everything and nothing.  I’m not only back on anti-depressants, but on a higher dose than when my mom died.  *sad trombone*

I’m coping with the endless waves of potential change and grief and coming to terms that this is just fucking life.  Right?  It’s just life.  Love, loss, repeat.  Bob (he says “hi!”) explains about the numb feet forward walking.  Just keep moving.

I read an article last night about a cyclist who received some advice once about “not needing to ride fast, just needing to not stop” in regards to long-distance cycling.  I had my first suicidal thought a few months ago, told my wife, got some help, and this could be my new mantra.  This (life) is not a race, in which I am eager to get to the finish line (death).

I’m making time for friends.  Learning how to stay out late on a weeknight (and live to work efficiently the next day!).  Singing, writing, sharing every chance I get.  Saying “thank you” and “I’m sorry.”  Gazing at my wife.  Laughing with RR.  Listening and watching.  Being so grateful… for said wife, RR, friends.

I’m here, with my numb feet.  Shuffle shuffle.  Sorry for the radio silence.  I’ll include y’all from here on out – promise.

Mornings

Sometime here over the last few weeks, RR has embraced a new morning routine where she comes out of her room, stands by my side of the bed while I’m sleeping, and pokes me over and over and over until I wake up.  (Previously to this new routine, she would wake up and play quietly in her room, and then knock on her door and wait for one of us to tell her she could come out.  For real.)

I then, sleepily, drag her under the covers where we spoon and cuddle for MAYBE five more minutes (woah is me, with my delicious morning cuddles).  If I’m lucky.  Usually, she lies there quietly, but one morning she counted, in a whisper, up to the number 39, and then sang “Let It Go” to herself.  And, subsequently, me.

Sometimes, she takes her fingers and pries one of my eyes open, asking me to wake-up.  She then asks me to “Check your cwock, mama” to see what time it is.

Our household takes an hour, start-to-finish, to get out of the house.  This includes showering, dressing, eating breakfast, packing lunches, feeding the dog, stepping OVER the dog, chasing the cats inside from the back yard, gathering and assembling RR’s camp bag, our gym bag to take to work (Mondays), my meditation clothes bag (Tuesdays), and finding a pair of RR’s shoes that don’t reek of urine (a consequence of improper wiping).

During the summer months, we can get away with walking out of the house at 8:30am.  During the school year, this is more like 8:15am, if we’re damn lucky.

We are spoiled, yes.  The crazy benefit of living where we live.  We can’t get married, y’all, but hell yes for free time and not having to routinely wake up at 5am, a la Washington, DC.  (Not to mention, we’re the Happiest City in America).  We’re also fortunate that RR has never been obsessed with early wake-ups.  Seriously.  SERIOUSLY.

ANYWAY!  This is all to say that, hey, when she wakes up and crawls in the bed at 6:15am… well, that’s a lot of time to kill.

Enter… DUN DUN DUNNNN, the television.  Our brief social experiment with morning television (on week days especially) turns RR into a raging, uncooperative, crankass.  Ten minutes or an hour.  Frozen (AGAIN) or Curious George or this Wild Kratt show (I know more about wild animals now than I ever needed to), it doesn’t matter.  CRANKASS!

This morning, I dashed her television-watching dreams in exchange for playing Anna and Elsa with her (I got to be Anna… usually I’m Kristoff).  It resulted in a few disappointed tears, but nothing insurmountable.  And in exchange, we got this polite and fucking delightful four year old, who helped make breakfast (she cracked the eggs and stirred them in the pan), directed what she wanted for lunch (I had to sacrifice one PBJ triangle to the cause), and sat politely at the breakfast table, saying please and thank you.

I told my wife that she hadn’t watched TV this morning.  Her response, “Oh!  That’s why she’s being so nice and cooperative!!”

I don’t know the moral of the story other than I should go to bed earlier so that I can be a less lazy parent in the morning?  I mean, really.  Sometimes Mama just wants to sit quietly with her coffee, am I right?

We’re also considering getting her one of those clocks that tells her when she can wake-up and start her day?  Anyone have one of those?

As inconvenient as she is with her wake-ups, I can’t really complain when I get to cuddle her every morning.  At least she’s not throwing water on me or something.

Does morning television turn anyone else’s kid into a raging crazy-pants?

Four

WHAT?!  FOUR?!

Yep, four.

Four is happening tomorrow.  We are waking up, having pancakes (shhh, don’t tell), buying RR a teddy bear (what she asked for…. besides cake), and heading to the amusement park to have dinner with Elmo (as ya do).

I cannot believe that we created such a beautiful human.  She is sensitive, smart, empathetic, talented, creative, and extraordinarily silly.  Every night, when I pet her head and sing her a song before she goes to sleep, I’m in utter disbelief that my wife and I are so lucky to be raising this wonderful child.

FOUR!

Duncan Update, 3.1

(TLDR?  The dog failed dog training.  Has prescriptions for his anxiety.  Has moved into the house with M’s parents as of last night.)

Oh, right.  I totally forgot to tell you how Duncan got kicked out of the Feisty Fido class.  KICKED OUT.

He and I went last week to class together.  Although he was kind of stressed out in the car (not unusual), when we got there he was BATSHIT CRAZY.  Panting, pulling, lunging, barking, tornado-on-a-string.  Me?  To quote Death Cab for Cutie, I held “a smile like someone would hold a crying child.”

Awkward.

OK – a diagram, to help picture the scene.  Deal?

donx1

So we start the class off in Yellow Starred little room.  The other three dogs (and their owners) are quietly hanging out in their own little rooms.  While class is kind of starting, the trainer is in the big room talking to us all in our little rooms with our bad dogs and I’m slowly peeking out of my door because Duncan is jumping up and shouting and barking his brain off at anyone’s voice or even a jingle of another dog collar.

Reenactment picture below.

donx.fw

Then, they ask me to close the top part of my half door – a) in the hopes that he would calm down, and b) to make it so that everyone else could hear.  Two minutes later, we get moved to the Shun Room (aka the waiting area).  Then moved to the tiny gated room WITHIN the Shun Room in the hopes that he would Shut Up.

Eventually, I got my own trainer lady to myself.  Duncan stopped barking, but by then was so keyed up and panting, he was too far gone to do anything.

Long story short (too late), I took his crazy ass home, he stopped panting frantically around 10pm (we left class at 8:30pm), and M’s mom took their advice which was to take him to a special vet in town who specializes in especially asshole dogs.  Pharmaceuticals.  Something.  Anything was needed to get his brain to stop freaking out before we could address the feisty part.  FUN!

How Duncan Came To Now Live In His New Home was a suggestion by Awesome Behavior Vet, who discouraged us from taking him anywhere but his new permanent location, training classes included.  Get him settled, give him drugs, and some simple home training.  So last night, we ALL got home from the vet appt, had some fried chicken, and packed up the little yellow man and sent him on his way to the farmhouse. (Isn’t that what you tell children when a dog is put down?  They moved to a farmhouse?  That’s terrible.)

This morning, the house was back to how it was before this shenanigans started in December.  Five months of upheaval.

Would it surprise you that it also coincided with successfully bribing RR with pieces of chocolate to get her to put on panties and sit on the potty two times before 8am?  TWO FUCKING TIMES.  That’s two times more success than we’ve had since… oh, January?  Crazy talk.

THEEEE end.

Of Dogs and Grief

First off, I’m so excited to read that some of you have asshole dogs.  I mean, I wouldn’t wish an asshole dog upon anyone, but if you have one, well, we can all sleep well at night knowing that our asshole dogs are most certainly not a reflection on their owners or caretakers.  I guess some of them just get the asshole gene!  Come to think of it, I know some asshole people, too…

Anyway!  Step one in the Dog Training Class is having Duncan associate a clicker noise with a treat.  Unlike obedience training, this asshole doesn’t have to do anything to get the treat.  Just hear the clicker, I guess.  So for the last week, I’ve been LITERALLY sticking my fingers in… uh, processed meats, freeze-dried chicken liver, and most recently, wet cat food, in an effort to keep his asshole attention when I click the clicker.  OF COURSE the wet cat food is his favorite.  I should have just started with that shit…

I tried little tiny treats, but a) he’s not interested after, like, three of them, and b) he tries to eat my damn fingers (and he has sharp teeth).  So I did this thing where I caked something delicious into a Kong opening, but then he all assholed out and kept trying to take it.  Then I caked something on the edge of a teaspoon (SHARP TEETH), but then he kept trapping the spoon part in his sharp mouth.  The winning method (ta da!) was using the handle end of the teaspoon and dipping it in cat food for him to lick off.  Click > lick.  Click > lick.

This is only week one, so I assume I’m laying some kind of positive Pavlov reinforcement.  Hopefully.

So that was your dog training update this week.  I go to class tomorrow night with him, where he gets to be in the same building (but separate rooms, THANK GOD) from three other asshole dogs.

In other TOTALLY UNRELATED news, I made a Facebook group (Invite only?  Closed?) for parents of small children (like, under 12 or so) who have lost one/both of their parents.  I think we’re up to 13 members?  I’m hopeful that we’ll develop a kind of small, nurturing, supportive community where people can have discussions, ask for advice, or just openly grieve.

I know that sometimes I feel like the Grief Window is closed.  And that if I am seen grieving that I am assumed to be weak, or “not over it” (never will be), or wallowing in my sorrow, or doing whatever in a way that is hampering my ability to “move on” and “remember the good times.”  Or some shit.  When sometimes, you just wanna fucking grieve.

If you’re interested in joining (the only qualifier being that you have a small child, and you yourself have lost a parent), send me your email address to butchandpregnant@gmail.com and I will email you an invitation.

Resiliency (aka Carsickness!)

RR has thrown up exactly three times in her whole life.

Once, she was really little – maybe a few months old?  The second time about a year ago after overindulging in grape tomatoes.  The THIRD time was this past Saturday, on a gravel pull-off on the side of a winding road that was leading us to The Maple Festival.

To her credit, the road looked like this:

winding.fw

And really.  Could you blame her?

She’s not a carsick kid.  In the car, she usually only chats about needing snacks, or something that’s fallen down where she can’t reach it, or for you to turn the radio volume up, but she’s content to look out the window and just ride along.

Somewhere on one of those turns (you’re getting carsick looking at it, aren’t you?), she complained that her tummy hurt.  Well, first she said it was hungry, so she had an apple and some apricots.  She may have been confusing hungry, though, with nauseous.  Fun with feelings!

Finally, she started crying.  That… cry.  That… “something is WRONG MAMA!” cry.  M’s dad pulled over at the nearest gravel patch.  I unbuckled her, M hopped out of the car to fetch her out, and as soon as the door closed… well, you can imagine.

RR cried afterwards, mostly because she was sad that she was now WET.  M’s coat, M’s hair, RR’s hair, RR’s … everything was covered.  We were all relatively calm, and opened the back of the car to clean everyone off with baby wipes and towels.  I gave M my jacket and we put RR’s spare pink jacket on her with no shirt on underneath.  M’s dad had some old rags in the back.  We calmly got everyone cleaned up.

She quickly fell asleep in the car and napped until we parked next to the All Things Maple Festivaly, only a few miles later.

She woke up with a start and a smile.  The color returned to her face, and she told us that she felt better.  Only about ten minutes later, she was sipping on a Capri-Sun, munching on some popcorn, taking a bite out of my BBQ sandwich, and playing balance beam with another little girl nearby.

RRFriend

The face of resiliency looks like this:

2014-03-08 13.55.10

I’ll also add that my wife should get major resiliency points, too, for spending the afternoon with bits of digested apple in her hair.  Oh, and the washing machine gets two points deducted for having to take two loads to get everyone’s clothes clean.

Reclaimed Time

One of these days, we’re gonna sit around wondering what to do with all of the time on our hands.  It’s not today or tomorrow, but it might be one of these days.

One case in point:  RR has been going to a music class from 9:15am-10am every Saturday since she was six months old.

Here.  Do you need a reminder of what she looked like at six months old?

DSC_0026

You’re welcome.

Anyhow, there were a few breaks for holidays here and there, but this class has been a constant presence on our lives.  The CD’s fill five out of six slots in the car’s CD changer.  The songs are woven into our existence.  We have made genuine friendships with other parents as well as the guy who teaches the class.  We begrudgingly adapted to the 9:15am start time change from 9:30am, and subsequently spent the next year RUSHING out of the house every Saturday morning, wondering how fifteen fucking minutes could matter so much in our on-timeness.

The past six months, however, have been trying.  Mostly because RR is a ball of energy, and the class, although sprinkled with dancing and moving around, is a lot of sitting in a circle.  And, well, that’s not RR’s bag.  So we didn’t re-enroll for the next session, and starting in a few weeks, we’ll reclaim out Saturday mornings for the first time in three years.  Three years!

That said, she’ll (hopefully) store up all that energy for the afternoon gymnastics class, of which will become the sole scheduled activity for RR.

And eventually, M’s parents will move out, take the dog with them, and we’ll not only reclaim our time, but our space as well.  In the meantime, our cabin getaway is this weekend.  And then M’s mom leaves next week for six weeks (!), which is one less person in the house for six weeks.  And one day, we’ll laugh and say something like “Do you remember that time when your parents lived with us, and we had five cats, two dogs, and one three year old running around?!  That was a hoot!”

Or something.

Food and Religion

Wow, am I glad January is almost over.

About two weeks in, I realized this was the Worst Month Ever to Whole30.  But I committed.  So here I am on Day 26, with a plan to indulge in something non-Whole30 Friday night (Tacos with SHELLS?) or Saturday morning (pancakes?).  I haven’t decided, and no one else but me cares, really.

Another reason for the Whole30 this year was this looming appointment I have with my gynecologist, who is best known for her Conversations About My Weight every time I see her.  Even after I dropped 50 pounds, she’d “like to see me weigh less.”  So, of course, after the holidays when I added ten more pounds to the number that she saw in October.  Well, up a creek, as they say.  I haven’t weighed myself since I started on Jan 2, but my appointment with her is on Thursday, so we’ll see what kind of progress has been made.  Gah.  Stress.

Ooh, on another front, I’ve been going to church.  I KNOW!  Let’s see.  I’ve visited the Presbyterians, the Lutherans, and most recently this weekend, the Episcopalians.  I was leaning Lutheran until I hung with the Episcopalians on Sunday, so I’m going to go there for a few weeks and see how I like it.  Super Plus Bonus points for having an amazing choir, a robust presence of children, and getting communion from a lesbian priest.

They were a bit over the top, though, those crazy Episcopalians.  So many people in the procession.  So many robes and shiny crosses and chalices and shiny shiny big, loud, kneeling church!  The Lutherans were more low-key, both in size and in practice, BUT I didn’t connect with the pastor as well as I did with Lesbian Priest.  The Episcopal kneeling was kind of challenging – kneeling while balancing ones-self while holding the program and reading the prayers.  That’s a lot of multitasking on a Sunday morning.  I thought it would be more like the Catholics, but it kind of wasn’t?  I totally needed the program to know what on earth was going on.

The Presbyterians had a nice choir and a lovely pastor, but there was really no “down time.”  It was all pray, preach, sing, over and over.  I like a little quiet reflective time in my church.  Plus, when they did pray, it was kind of slow and droning.  C’mon people – it’s church!  Perk up!

I’ll keep you posted.  Fun religious times!