Thursday, March 31, 2005

Christian Smut

While researching my next blog entry (on an anti-abortion trucking company) I came across the funniest site I've seen in a while. Maybe don't visit at work. Check this out: Adult Christianity.

The site features a weather ticker keeping us updated on the current temperatures in heaven and hell, a Cafepress shop selling HandzOff Anti-Masturbatory Cream, and the triple X rated Bible. It's definitely worth a visit.

Covenant Transport

Covenant Transport
400 Birmingham Highway
Chattanooga, Tennessee 37419
Covenant Transport, Inc. is one of the largest truckload carriers in the United States and operates the industry’s largest fleet of team driven tractors.
. . .
In 2002, Covenant revenue exceeded $540 million.

Maybe you've seen these trucks on the interstate. They're memorable because they have a large blue placard on the back that says:
It's not a choice.
It is a child.

According to, "The Group operates through its wholly owned subsidiaries Covenant Transport Inc, Harold Ives Trucking Co, Terminal Truck Broker Inc, Southern Refrigerated Transport Inc, and CVTI Receivables Corp." The company is traded on the NASDAQ under the symbol "CVTI."

I wanted to ask you to write letters to Covenant's major customers letting them know that you're unhappy with their choice of shipping carrier. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any of Covenant's carriers. If you find a list, please share!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Gift of ADHD?

Yes, I'm still a few weeks behind on my Newsweek reading. This one's for Psycho Kitty:
[T]wo new books, "Delivered From Distraction" by Dr. Edward Hallowell and Dr. John Ratey and "The Gift of ADHD" by Lara Honos-Webb, advance the controversial notion that distractibility, poor impulse control and emotional sensitivity have flip sides that are actually strengths—namely creativity, energy and intuition. "A huge proportion of criminals have ADHD," says Hallowell. "So do a lot of successful artists and CEOs. It's how you manage it that determines whether it becomes a gift or a curse."

A positive article, I thought:
Hallowell and Ratey insist that the difficulties can be overcome with a broad treatment program (including medications such as Ritalin) that helps patients learn to capitalize on strengths and compensate for weaknesses. They should know. Not only did they help Grossman turn his life around, they both have ADHD themselves—and both ended up as Harvard psychiatrists.

Bulb syringe

And there shall be much rejoicing in all the land!

Ellie is 17 months old and has learned the "art" of blowing her nose when I hold a tissue up against it. And even when there's no tissue in the vicinity. Soon there shall be no more need for the bulb syringe!

Of course, I won't promise to stop picking the dry, tauntingly visible boogers out of her nose until she can run fast enough to escape me or learns to do it herself, whichever happens second.

See how I'm looking on the bright side of the cold that's kept Ellie home for the past two gorgeous days?

Thursday, March 24, 2005


This morning, Ellie spit up on me at the audiologist's. Let's be clear. She's not a milk-fed newborn anymore. The line between throw up and spit up is quite faint and has more to do with volume and velocity than content.

This afternoon, Ellie and I were on the floor together playing in front of a mirror. She was kissing her reflection. Suddenly, she stopped and leaned in toward me. "Oh, how sweet!" I thought. "She's going to kiss me now."

She "spit" up on my mouth, which was not entirely closed.

Later this afternoon, Ellie and I took my car to the dealership for its overdue "regularly" scheduled maintenance. We had no sooner gotten ourselves settled onto our blanket in the waiting room with a snack then - diarrhea everywhere. This was more like newborn poo than grown-up diarrhea, but it was still no picnic.

And it was everywhere. Her pants and shirt were heavy with it. It was on her hands and feet. All the way up her back. And I hadn't brought an extra outfit.

I wiped her down and put on a fresh diaper on a changing pad on our blanket on the floor. At least I had plenty of wipes. But the dealership people didn't like us there very much. They reminded me a couple of times about the diaper changing station in the bathroom. (Not much good with a squirming toddler, but thanks. Now I feel just a little more uncomfortable than I did already.)

For half an hour Ellie and I sat on the floor, me lightly smeared with poo, Ellie barefoot and barelegged in her diaper and coat, waiting for Paul to come rescue us. Ah, the glamour of parenthood. Do you think this has ever happened to Julia Roberts?

Eh? What? What?

I hate going to the audiologist with Ellie. Actually, I hate going to every medical specialist with Ellie. They're always looking for something to be wrong, and it often is, especially when I'm not expecting it.

We have no reason to believe that there's anything wrong with Ellie's hearing. But hearing problems are common in kids with Down syndrome, so we went to have her hearing tested last July. Then again in January. And again today. Her tympanograms are flat. They're always flat. She has tiny little ear canals and the tympanogram doesn't work on her.

After the tympanogram, we go see the ENT. We have to hold her down on the chair - it takes 3 of us - while the otolaryngologist scrapes her ear canals clear of wax with a tiny metal hook, then looks into her ears with a special microscope. There is much screaming and a little bleeding. It's awful.

After the tympanogram and before the ENT, we try for a behavioral hearing screening. I hate this stupid test. The baby sits on your lap. A strange woman goes into an adjoining room and calls the baby's name. The baby is supposed to ignore the speaker and instead turn her head to a black box on the wall. When the baby looks at the black box, it lights up and reveals a stuffed animal inside. All this time, a nice lady is sitting right in front of you and the baby, waving toys in front of her face to distract baby from the test. Wheeeee!

Ellie actually does OK at that part, especially once I told the audiologist to get the assistant out of the room. (I can direct Ellie's attention forward myself, and then she's less distracted. She's going to choose a real person with real toys over some stupid stuffed animal behind glass every time.)

The next part is what sucks. When the baby is good and frustrated with the test, the audiologist stops calling her name and plays soft tones instead. Baby is supposed to look at the box again. Ellie could care less about the damn box and wants to get down and go home. I don't blame her.

So the behavioral hearing screen failed again this morning. And so even though we have no reason to believe that she has hearing loss (she tests normally on voices, she just gives up before they can test her range with the tones) she gets to have another ABR.

The Auditory Brainstem Response test is what's given to newborns in the hospital. It's non-invasive and 100% accurate. Hooray! Ellie passed her newborn hearing screening! But wait. They only test a limited range at birth. To get a better picture, they need to do it again. OK. But wait - toddlers won't stay still enough for the test. So she needs to be sedated (oh joy, I just love to see my kid stoned). But wait - because of her repaired heart defect, they won't sedate her. Too risky. So she has to go under general anesthesia. No risk there!!

So now I'm boiling away. I tried to schedule the ABR in January, hoping that we'd be able to cancel it after this try at the behavioral hearing screening. For some reason, they didn't schedule the ABR after I called in January. So after the audiology appointment, we go back to the waiting room and wait. And wait. And wait. 20 minutes later the audiologist comes in to tell me that she's scheduled the ABR, on a day 2 months from now, when we're going out of town .

2 months more agony of waiting to find out if my kid has hearing loss. And there's no way we're taking that date - I'm not missing my youngest sister's graduation. (Two master's degrees! Wow!!!) It would have been nice if they could have given us a choice of days. But no. So now I'm waiting - again - for them to call me back to tell me when my kid is going to be put under.

I hate this. I really really hate it. The day to day stuff? Hard enough, but I can deal. The medical stuff on top of it all? Horribly unfair.

Suicidal Lovers

When we first moved into this house, there was a covered porch with a ceiling fan out back. One pleasant early summer day, I turned on the porch's ceiling fan and opened the screen door to the family room. I had the ceiling fan on in the family room, and there was a nice, fresh breeze blowing through the house.

Birds lived in the eaves of the covered porch. A mourning dove flew straight into the ceiling fan, then stagger-flew off into the back yard to die. He left behind his wife and new babies. A few weeks later, they disappeared too.

"Mourning doves mate for life," my father said. "She probably died of a broken heart."

We screened in the porch. Now birds live in the eaves of the car port, where it's nice and safe with no ceiling fans.

This morning I slammed on my brakes and screetched to a halt on Big Bend Rd. to avoid hitting a pair of mourning doves who were apparently waiting patiently for death, there in the middle of the street. I refused to be their vial of poison, their sharp dagger.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

On Writing

I love writing and I've always wanted to be a writer. A fiction writer. I've always felt like I could do it for real, as a career - once I got started. Getting started was the hard part.

I wrote my first stories before I could write. I told the stories to my mom, who wrote them down, and I illustrated them with pictures cut from the J.C. Penney and Sears & Roebuck catalogs.

When I was 7, I wrote and illustrated my first story all on my own. It was a read along book about a little girl who loved reading more than anything else in the world. After her birthday party, she found a small unopened package. It turned out to contain a magic lotion! (Those who know me well will laugh that my lotion obsession was evident even at that age.) The magic lotion allowed the girl to float in the air! How did the girl use such a precious gift? She applied the lotion in her bedroom, floated up to the ceiling, and reclined to spend the rest of the afternoon reading in midair. I taped myself reading the story, and still have the tape although I think I've lost the book. On it, you can hear my pedantic/precocious voice saying, "You may now turn the page" after every 6 words or so.

In college, I took a couple of fiction writing classes. I wrote a lot in college and felt good about what I was writing. Finishing was my big problem then and afterwards.

More recently, I decided to get serious about it and do some real fiction writing. Lately I've been having a little crisis of faith. I don't think that what I've been writing is very good. And that's really what I was afraid of all along, that's why it was so hard to get started. What if I can't do it? What if I'm really really bad? Who am I if I'm not the girl who will, someday, be a writer?

My, What Good Genes You Have!

My father's father always assumed that he would die first. He was completely unprepared when my grandmother died, Thanksgiving week 1987, when she was 80. I don't mean that he was literally unprepared - they had all of their affairs in order - but he was emotionally bereft. He settled in for a temporary life without her, assuming that he'd soon follow in her footsteps.

He didn't. Next month, my grandfather will turn 97. He never wanted to live this long, especially without her, but he's scared of dying. Every day, he talks to my grandmother's picture, every night, he kisses it goodnight before bed.

But that is all that has remained the same since she died. After a couple of years, Grandpa sold their house and moved into an apartment. After several years in the apartment, he moved into an apartment in an assisted living facility. Eventually, he lacked even the independence for that. He refused to move into the full-time nursing care wing - he calls it The Nursery - so he moved in with my parents.

Now he lives 300 miles north of where he lived his entire life. Not that it matters, he might think. All of his friends and most of his family are dead. He has a bedroom and bathroom off the family room of my parents' home, formerly my father's office. He falls and can't be left alone, so he has an aide with him whenever my parents have to leave the house for any reason.

And, finally, his mind is beginning to go. His personality is dramatically changed. He would have hated the person he's become. He doesn't always recognize my mother, who's been married to his son for over 35 years. He loses hearing aides like I lose chapsticks. He once put an almond into his ear instead.

And it's awful for my parents. They're not homebody types. But they're stuck at home all the time now, except for when they're working and have an aide come to stay with my grandfather. The aides are very expensive - $800/week just for while my parents are at work. And my mother hates having them in her house when she's not there. She comes home to find that the aide used a key ingredient from the evening's dinner menu to prepare my grandfather's lunch. Or she'll find a tablecloth that had been hidden in the back of a drawer somewhere suddenly covering a table.

It's all very stressful, the aides and the lack of privacy and the being homebound with an cantankerous old man who doesn't know who you are half the time and runs through the same litany of stories and complaints over and over and over. He can't tell time. He gets up for the day at 2:00 am sometimes. This old Kentucky Colonel was such a powerful, dignified, intelligent, wonderful man. I don't recognize who he's become, and he wouldn't either.

But when my parents left him in a nursing home last summer so that they could take a trip, he was so miserable. He called my father dozens of times a day, leaving the most pitiful messages. It was heartbreaking.

This is so hard on my parents, on their marriage. And it's so hard for him - no one wants end up this way. But he's still healthy as a horse. And there are no easy answers.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

My Mind Began to Wake Up

In the February 28 Newsweek special issue on autism, there was a fascinating sidebar article about a young woman with autism. As a child, her tested IQ was 24. She was totally unresponsive. Her mother said, "Holding Sue was like holding a sack of potatoes, because you got nothing back."

I cannot imagine.

But one day a therapist introduced Sue to a keyboard, and she says, "As I began to type, my mind began to wake up."

Sue is now 26. She graduated from high school with a 3.98 GPA after taking mostly honors and AP classes. She scored a 1370 on the SAT. She's a junior in college and lives semi-independently. She's not "cured," but with the help of her keyboard she has come an amazing distance. And she's very clear that she is painfully aware of how different she still is from most of the people around her.

Sue has a message that she wants to share: "Tell everyone that nonverbal autistic people are intelligent!"

We met a nonverbal, nonwalking 3-1/2 year old at the park today. His mouth was always open and he drooled a lot. From a distance there was no mistaking that this kid was not typically developing. I talked to his dad, who said that the little boy has a pretty unique condition: chromosome 9b deletion and an additional unrelated translocation. The dad's frustration was that his son's condition is so unique that no one knows what to expect. In a classical sense, this kid looks "retarded." (Oh, how I hate that.) But he understands 2 languages and is very "quick," according to his dad.

One of the biggest blessings of having a child with special needs has been my personal growth in being able to talk to other kids with developmental problems and their parents. It's been a very interesting education. It is so hard not to avoid the difficult conversations. It's easier to turn off the empathy because it hurts so much to feel every parent's pain.

But a lot of that, I've learned, is projected. I don't feel sorry for myself for having a child with Down syndrome and I don't need others to feel sorry for me. (I get angry. I get crushingly depressed. But I don't feel self-pity.) So I know that the pain I feel for other parents with children who have problems is me projecting what I think I would feel in their places. And they might not feel that way at all.

"I have two older girls," the dad at the park said to me today. "I'm OK with it."

Sleep Diet

Ellie's on another of her sleep diets. It will be so nice when she can talk to me about how she feels so that I don't have to guess. But periodically she has these times where she just doesn't seem to want or need to sleep. Last night, though we tried every trick in the book, she simply wouldn't go to sleep before midnight. Paul got a work phone call shortly before 5:00 this morning and that woke Ellie up. She stayed up all day, except for a one-hour nap in the morning. The one hour was during church, of course, so we missed the Palm Sunday service to catch some much-needed rest ourselves.

Well, I got some rest. Paul watched Battlestar Gallactica or Futurama or some other Tivo'ed (sorry, Trisha) geek TV and now he's tired and snappish. Go figure.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Mouse

Apparently, I am in serious need of a little excitement in my life right now. The fast food I had for lunch didn't fill the void, and I'm not sure that my afternoon date with the elliptical machine will do the trick either. I've been thinking a lot about travel.

What Disneyland attraction are you?

I am:

The Mark Twain: A leisurely paddle steamboat
navigating the Rivers of America in the 19th
Century! A venerable Disneyland institution,
you date to opening day in 1955 and respresent
stablity, tradition, and a healthy dose of
Americana. You never make your passengers
seasick (in part due to the fact that you role
along your secret underwater track) and always
offer some great panoramic views of a Frontier
mining town, New Orleans, and back woods
glimpses of wildlife and injuns straight out of
a Samuel Clemens tale! Small children and old
folks like you best, but that doesn't mean you
don't know how to get out and enjoy the
nightlife, you play "Steamboat
Willie" in the nightly production of the
Fantasmic! Spectacular. Just one question,
just how is that you are always managing to be
headed "down river"?

brought to you by Quizilla

Hah hah hah! Yeah, that's me, all right.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Peer Pressure

Two years ago, I had a business trip in Honolulu. I had been to Hawaii for work before and had been traveling a lot that year, so while I was looking forward to the trip, I wasn't exactly bouncing off the walls. Then I got my Expedia vacation deals email and saw Hawaii sale! and I thought, "Why not?"

I sold Paul on the plan, did a little online research, then booked the vacation. Ah, the joys of DINK"> life. On a lark, I sent our itinerary to our friends Mypetrock and L and suggested that they come along. I didn't hear back, but I didn't really expect to. Several weeks later, I was gushing about the upcoming vacation and learned that they had decided to come with us and had booked the same package. Perhaps they were planning to surprise us at the airport!

So, finally it was April. I was 16 weeks pregnant and still feeling all kinds of nasty. I had been to Chicago, Columbus, and San Antonio in the past week and a half. I had my meeting in Honolulu, where I picked up a nasty cold. But I was still really excited about the vacation.

When I had a break in my work schedule, I slipped over to the mall for haircut, pedicure, and some maternity khakis. I was ready to go.

As soon as the convention ended, I took a cab to the airport and met Paul's incoming flight from St. Louis. We hopped on the Wiki Wiki Bus to the InterIsland terminal, then on a little plane over to The Big Island. Hawai'i! We landed at a lovely outdoor airport with the least security I've seen anywhere since September 11th. A man in a floral shirt gave us lovely, fresh, floral leis. We picked up our rental car, met up with mypetrock and L, and headed out for our resort.

The Hapuna Beach Prince is the most incredible hotel in which I've ever stayed, and that's really saying something. At the registration desk we were given moist towels and fresh guava juice while our bags were whisked to our room. It was magical.

Mypetrock and L (dude, may I please call you by your real names?!) didn't have such a great vacation.
1) I was sick and whiny and not much fun.
2) I'm a honker. When I blow my nose, neighbors complain.
3) We were unable to get anything but an economy car, so 4 full-size adults spent 5 days driving all over The Big Island, which is aptly named, in a tiny car full of a blizzard of snotty kleenexes.

I want a chance to redeem myself. Paul, Ellie, and I are planning an Alaskan cruise. I've always wanted to do this, so I did enough research to convince myself that these are no longer horrible for the environment, then stopped reading before I could find out if that was just bullshit to make greedy tourists feel better. It's never going to get any less complicated to travel than it is right now. And while we're no longer Double Income No Kids, for the next several months Ellie still flies and cruises for free. No time like the present!

Now I just need to convince mypetrock and L to come along with us so that we can all have a fun trip without me vomiting or blowing my nose on anyone. Petition him, if you want to help me out.

Sliding Doors

I would never want to give up my precious Ellie or my life as it as now.

Still, as I begin the process of thinking about perhaps, maybe, sometime months from now becoming pregnant again, I daydream.

It would be nice to be pregnant for the first time again. All the freedom. All the wonder. All the excitement. All the support. And all the dreams of what was to come.

And then I think it would be nice if I could split myself somehow, so that I could go on living the life that I'm living now, but also have this other life, this new life, this making-a-different-decision life.

It's nice to feel the flexibility, to not feel trapped in one life forever and ever amen. And it is always nice to dream.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


For everyone who has come here looking for "Pimp my ride Chevy S10," I am sorry that you probably did not find what you were looking for. I hope you enjoyed your visit anyway.

It is Brain Surgery (Part II)

Here's what happened. Jessica, then 23, is the middle child. She was preparing for her first semester of Physical Therapy school finals. She was cramming too hard, sleeping too little, and getting incredible headaches.

The headaches got so bad that my dad wanted to drive up to check on her. "No, no," she said. There was a blizzard outside and he would have to drive all the way through Chicago. The trip might take hours, and her apartment was in no state for company anyway. She needed to study more. She'd call home tomorrow after her final.

Jessica was class president and pretty dependable. She didn't show up for her final. Her friends conferred - no one had heard from her. One friend, an amazing, wonderful, take-charge little person called Stephanie, decided to drop by Jessica's apartment to check on her.

Stephanie found Jessica still in her pajamas, wandering around the apartment and making little sense. Jess refused to go to the hospital and kept talking about needing to take her final. Steph managed to get her outside by suggesting that they stop by the doctor's office instead of the hospital. As soon as they were outside, Jess immediately stopped and put snow on her head.

"It's so cold," she said.

Jessica wouldn't tell Stephanie where her doctor's office was. She still wanted to take the final and was trying to give directions to the school. Stephanie drove to the hospital.

There's something you should know about Jessica. She's an amazing liar. When they got to the hospital, Jessica was examined by a resident. Jessica told him that her head hurt because she'd fallen down while rollerblading the week before.

"Look outside! There are 2 feet of snow on the ground. She was not rollerblading last week!" Stephanie said. The doctor ignored this. He believed his patient. "She's not herself. She's incoherent. She's not making any sense," Stephanie said.

"I was like that in medical school," the resident said. "You need to go home and get some good sleep," he told Jessica.

"No," Stephanie said, bless her little heart. "We're not leaving until she's had a CAT scan."

The CAT scan revealed a small mass blocking the base of the third ventricle. Cerebrospinal fluid was unable to drain properly and had been building up in Jessica's head. She was already in and out of consciousness. She blacked out very soon, and if the pressure wasn't relieved in the next couple of hours, she would have suffered permanent brain damage.

The race began. Doctors called my parents, who dropped everything to make that drive through Chicago in a blizzard. My mother just jumped into the car when my father picked her up at work. She didn't even take her purse. Jessica was transferred to a bigger hospital via slow, careful ambulance and the on-call surgery resident who was to do the emergency surgery raced through snow and ice to meet her there.

"As soon as I can put in a shunt to drain the excess fluid and relieve the pressure, she'll wake up and be herself again," the surgeon said.

As she was being transferred to the ambulance, she suddenly opened her eyes and said, "I'm outside. It's cold." That was the last time my parents saw her alert for a while. Hours before, she was sounding like herself, cramming for finals.

The emergency procedure to relieve the pressure in her brain was successful, though due to trauma from the built-up cerebrospinal fluid, Jessica didn't remember anything and had short term memory problems for weeks. Months. She still doesn't remember anything about the day she missed her final, or most of the two weeks in the hospital that followed.

Do you know how they relieve pressure in your head? They drill two holes in your skull and insert a shunt to drain the fluid out. For weeks my sister had tubes coming out of the top of her head. But those little holes were nothing compared to the incision site for the surgery.

The two weeks Jessica was in the hospital - a wonderful, wonderful place, I might add - felt like hell frozen over. It was unusually cold: -20, -30 F. When we didn't stay at the hospital all night, we left after dark and returned long before the sun came up, so it felt like it was always silent, bitterly cold, and perfectly dark outside. I had brought all the wrong clothes, like the worst jeans in the world, so I was physically uncomfortable. Everything felt surreal.

Several days after the onset of the crisis, Jessica survived the main event. Her brilliant surgeon - not a resident this time - managed to resect about 60% of the tumor. She steadily improved, and eventually the shunt came out. We all went home on Christmas Eve.

Jessica's professors were very understanding about the finals and her exhaustion over the next several months of recovery and radiation therapy. She graduated on time 2-1/2 years later with a Doctorate in Physical Therapy. She was married a year ago, to a guy she'd just started dating a few weeks before all hell broke loose. Her annual MRIs are showing no return of the tumor.

I used to believe in medicine the way I believe in math. You solve this equation, then it's done. Now I know that nothing is that easy. Jessica's tumor crisis is over - for now. My daughter's heart is repaired - for now.

Once we have any medical problem, it's never guaranteed to be over forever. These things have a way of popping up again and again when we least expect it. And that's just not fair.

Living through an experience like this should be a once in a lifetime event, don't you think?

It's Not Brain Surgery (Part I)

It was a Thursday night in December of 2000. I was on the couch watching Must See TV and writing thank you notes for wedding gifts, while shooting occasional guilty glances toward the kitchen table, heavily laden with baking supplies. On Saturday, Paul and I were planning host a Christmas open house and we'd invited over 100 people.

The phone rang. I hollered down the hall for Paul to pick it up. It was obviously for him - my friends and family knew better than to call during Will & Grace. Besides, he was already done with his half of the thank you notes.

It was my dad.

"Sarahlynn, I need you to do me a favor. Can you do that?"

"?!!" He sounded weird. And how was I going to agree to something without knowing what it was?

"I need you to pick up Grace after her last final tomorrow and bring her here." OK, that's just crazy. Grace is my youngest sister, and she was then in college about 6 hours east of St. Louis. My parents live in NW Indiana, about 5 hours from Grace's school. This wasn't a "favor," it was ludicrous. No notice! I had a Christmas party to prepare for! I don't even think I could make it back in time!


"You see, I'm at the hospital in Evanston and I'm in no shape to drive down and get her."

Oh. That's why he sounds so funny. He's finally had the heart attack we've been expecting. It was very thoughtful of him to call me himself instead of having mom call. If mom had called, I would have had that moment of pure panic in between when she said that dad had a heart attack and when she said that he was going to be OK. I'm glad he's in a good hospital. Northwestern has got to be a lot better than the local joint.

Dad launched into a long and seemingly unrelated story about my sister Jessica, a first year doctoral student in Physical Therapy. I waited impatiently for him to get to the point about his heart attack.

Slowly it began to dawn on me that there was no heart attack. This was about Jessica. She'd nearly died of a brain tumor. Things were still pretty hairy. She'd regained consciousness but was not herself. Hydrocephalus. Emergency surgery. I was somehow suddenly half in the kitchen, half in the dining room, sitting on the floor, sobbing uncontrollably. Paul had never seen me like this. He didn't know what to do.

I didn't know what to do either. I went to the bedroom and started to pack - we'd need an early start in the morning. I put one pair of underwear and 5 pairs of pajamas into my suitcase. Then I just stood there indecisively, staring at my black suit and sobbing.

I left hysterical voicemails for my boss and editorial assistant. I sent a hysterical email to dozens of people telling them that the Christmas party was cancelled, please pass the news along. I was in shock. An hour before, life was better than it ever had been before. Nothing really bad had ever happened to anyone in my immediate family. We were golden.

Monday, March 14, 2005


You remember that hip pick-up truck I blogged about a few weeks ago? It was freshly repainted after my father was rear-ended while driving just a block away from my parents' house. This time the destruction hit even closer to home.

My dad came home from work the other day to find that the truck had been sideswiped in the driveway. He mentioned this unusual occurence to my mother when he went inside.

"That's nothing," she said. "You should see my car."

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

A Western Wedding, in pictures

Paul's best friend from high school got married last weekend in Dodge City, Kansas. I figure if you're going to get married in Dodge City, you've got to do it right. And they did. The western-themed wedding was so fun, it made up for the 10 hour drive. It did not make up for the long, long night in the hotel with the puking and the diarrhea and the threats to move us to a different room at 2:30 in the morning because our quiet walking was making the floorboards creak occasionally, disturbing the hyper-sensitive hotel guest below us. Seriously, he said he couldn't hear any crying or other noises, just the floorboards creaking. And he complained twice. Anyway, not much could make up for that night, not even peanut butter M&Ms. But the wedding was a blast anyway. Here is is, in pictures:

The reception site was an actual rodeo. We ate in a barn-like room, one wall of which was Plexiglas looking out at the rodeo arena. These were not clean, fancy digs:

Here are Ellie and Paul 3 short hours before the viper-strike flu attacked. Yes, they are standing in front of a display of many different kinds of barbed wire.

The cake:

Here's the 4-year-old who adopted Ellie for the evening, and is probably puking her guts out somewhere right now:

This is right behind the gift table:

Cowboys for bartenders, the buffet in an old wagon, horseshoes for centerpieces, they went the whole nine yards.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Faster Than Weight Watchers!

This was originally going to be called, "Flu Can Be Fun!" and was going to be about our idyllic day yesterday. Ellie had the grace to start having diarrhea over the weekend when daddy was around to take the nasty diapers. Other than the occasional spew or diaper-region explosion, her main symptom seemed to be lethargy and a desire to be cuddled while she rested. "Perfect!" I thought. "I'll call in sick to work, Ellie will be out sick from school, and the two of us will spend all day Monday cuddled up on the couch watching TV."

I was sort of excited about it. I told Paul, "Goodbye! Have a nice day at work!" with a bit of a snicker. My day was going to be awesome.

You can guess what happened next, right? Yes, I got it too. I felt like ass. Quite literally. I called Ellie's doctor's office just to be safe, and they wanted to see her. So sick me bundled up sick Ellie and got us to the doctor. Ellie's doctor took one look at her and decided that she needed to visit Children's Hospital to get rehydrated via IV. Silly me. I thought going to the doctor for a stupid flu was a waste of time, energy, and 20 bucks.

A long and involved afternoon followed, in which sick me got sick Ellie to the hospital, where Paul met us, while she vomited and filled her diaper and I tried to hold it together. After waiting at the ER for about an hour and seeing no one get taken inside, I checked at the front desk and was told that the average weight was 4-1/2 hours. The triage nurse suggested that I owed the doctor one for sending us down on such a busy day. I felt so sorry for the little toddler girl with the ugly scalp lac who'd been waiting over 2 hours already.

I called the doctor's office again. Before I knew it, we were being wisked to a quiet clinic that opens up after 5:00 pm as an extension to the ER. Ellie was the evening's first patient, and we had a quiet, private room while Ellie was hooked up to an IV.

She rested in Paul's arms while I ran to the bathroom or spewed gallons into the room's trash can, causing quite a stink.

I got a call from Ellie's school - a kid from the toddler pod (one-year-olds) had been diagnosed with rotavirus. They decided to admit us for overnight observation and more IV fluids. Bah humbug. Ellie's roommate was a very uncomfortable little boy with bad asthma and pneumonia.

We spent a long, uncomfortable night. OK, Paul spent a long, uncomfortable night; I came home and got several hours of sleep. I was back at the hospital to spell Paul by the time Ellie woke up this morning. She was feeling much better. She wanted to eat. She wanted to get down off my lap and play. Gross! Not on that floor!

Finally, Paul got back, the test results came back negative for rotavirus, and we were allowed to come back home. So here we are. And off I go back to bed.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Do As I Say . . .

The posts I want to make tonight all involve pictures that I haven't yet wrestled from the camera onto the internet(s). So instead, I share with you this anecdote.

The scene: we're in the car on the long, long drive home from Dodge City, Kansas, sharing a one pound bag of peanut butter M&Ms.

Paul: I'm tired of being fat.
Sarahlynn: Me too. We should do something about it.

We finished off that bag of M&Ms before we even got to Missouri.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Violence and Fat

I'm still thinking about men and women and violence, and I want to explore a little more about how weight ties in to how I feel.

I hate the way I look and feel right now. I loved my strong, healthy body when I was married. I have been married for 4 years and have probably gained 10 pounds a year since then. So, yeah. Sometimes I see pictures of myself and think, "That can't be me! I don't look like that!"

There are very few things that I like about being overweight, but there are two advantages.

1) I feel invisible to men. While I was flattered by positive attention before, in a way this is oddly freeing.

2) I am larger, more substantial. I take up more space. I'm not easily pushed around. I feel less. . . fragile. Even though I was in good shape before, I was small. Now I'm not. In an odd way, there's a sort of power in this.

I guess that's my silver lining for the day. I still hate the way I look and feel. I'd like to give the smaller, more vulnerable, more visible me a try again. If only there wasn't so much sweat and hunger in between here and there.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Domestic Violence

There's a woman in a group I belong to who just doesn't get it. When we talk about cuts to First Steps, "Lexus" says that the money has to come from somewhere. When we talk about tsunami relief, she insists that Americans gave more than anyone else in the world, despite all evidence to the contrary. And when we discussed a horrible case of domestic violence that hit way too close to home, she was right out there blaming the victim.
Police said Alexander, 38, shot his wife, Kelli L. Alexander, 35, and April Wheeler, 29. Kelli Alexander was staying with Wheeler and her husband after leaving her husband last month.

This was a horrible, manipulative man. He was rich and powerful, well-connected and controlling. He abused his wife and their children for 10 years. Despite his threats, she took their 3 little children and left him. She had a restraining order against him. She was filing for divorce. He was trying to manipulate everyone into believing that she was the bad guy. He was active at church. He was calling mutual friends and asking them to pray for him. He was telling everyone how he was a changed man and how he was trying to get his life back together. The family were all planning to be at a local Catholic church on Friday evening for a Lenten fish fry.
When Kelli Alexander drove up in the family's Ford Expedition SUV, her husband blocked her way with his GMC Denali, Myer said. Alexander got out and there was some sort of argument before Alexander chased down and killed his wife with a 9mm handgun, then returned and shot April Wheeler, police said. Wheeler was following Kelli Alexander in a minivan, Myer said.

The family friend said the Alexanders' three children "saw it all." The oldest daughter, who is in third grade, "saw her daddy shoot her mommy," the friend said. One of the children told her, "Mommy's dead, Daddy shot her," the friend said, but she's still not sure the children understand their parents won't be coming home from the hospital.

Another member of my Tuesday morning group was a close friend of the Alexander family. Her kids are friends with the newly orphaned kids; the boys play on the same hockey team. We were all sympathizing with her and discussing how this situation has been effecting the kids.

Lexus said, "What does this tell us about ourselves as women, that we put up with this kind of abuse?"

We were all pretty stunned, but several women rallied with solid responses about how Kelli Alexander was trying to leave her husband and how if he really wanted her dead, the system simply couldn't protect her.

Lexus said, "But even from their first date, she should have known that there was something not right with that man."

Well, Lexus, this next entry's for you.

Why Didn't She Just Leave?

Most women don't love getting beat up. Most women don't want to be violently killed by their husbands. When women are in relationships with men who abuse them, why don't they just leave?

1) Abusers are often very smart, very talented, very convincing. They might seem like wonderful men to family and friends. They might seem very honestly apologetic after the fact. And many of us took Psych 101. We know that we respond very well to inconsistent systems of reward and punishment. We love gambling. We prefer stocks to bonds.
Yet in the present case we have a man who, though he beats his wife, is often very charismatic to the rest of the world, and perhaps to his kids. And even if he beats his kids as well, it is known that intermittent affection can be a stronger binding agent than consistent affection. We also have a man who has demonstrated his power over another human being through brutality.

2) Women who are abused by their husbands have often been abused before or grew up in abusive households. They might feel like this sort of situation is normal. They might not feel like they deserve any better. They might not know how to get out.

3) Women make less money than men and are often tied to abusive husbands by fear for their lives or of losing custody of their children. And have you ever seen the way shelters work for battered women and their children? Would you take your children out of their suburban houses and schools and put them into that situation? It's never as easy as it might seem.

4) Women are not believed when they claim that they've been raped or abused. And women are blamed for rape and abuse. Still. Today. After all this time. Men rape. Men batter. Men are to blame.

Many years ago I dated a guy who is probably now a classic wife beater. He was smart and popular. He made me feel like I was the luckiest girl in the world to go out with him. Once we started dating, he'd say bad things to me about my friends. He'd tell my friends that I said bad things about them. He got angry when I'd make plans without him. Gradually, he isolated me from all of my friends, making me feel special and loved all the while. He missed me when we were apart. He loved me so much that he was jealous when I spent time with other friends. He used to tell me how much he loved me. He used to tell me how he had a bad temper. He used to tell me that if he ever got really angry, I should leave the room immediately because he couldn't control his temper and he didn't want to hurt me.

Get it? It was my responsibility to keep from getting myself hurt - by him. Lexus (see above) probably sees the reason in that flawed logic; I don't. I'm smart, I've watched the after school specials, I know better - and I still fell for this guy.

I did leave, I didn't get hurt, and I managed to rebuild many friendships that had been damaged. I was lucky - in part because this guy was still learning his craft. Many women aren't so lucky.