No, thank you

by Jessie K on October 24, 2014

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Yesterday while walking the dog, I came upon a woman in a field. Her husband was up the hill, chain sawing fire wood. She sat down at the fence line and between spits of sunflower seeds and sips of Diet Mountain Dew, proceeded to tell me a story about one of her coworkers at the interstate rest area where she works. The coworker, a guy who had just turned 26, had been making crystal meth in the maintenance shed at the rest area. She said he’d come to work, clock in, then disappear in the shed for hours. She thought this was suspicious, but didn’t concern herself with it.

The discovery of his illicit side business was made after he’d inadvertently caused a chemical explosion during the cook and burnt to death in the most horrific way imaginable: on fire, covered in acid and locked inside the maintenance shed at a public rest area.

She said she got a glimpse of the inside of the shed after the incident, littered with charred Draino bottles and cold medicine containers, smears of blood on the walls.

As she told me this story, she sat in the dirt and grasped the fence. The whine of her husband’s chain saw could be heard 50 yards away. Her husband called to her. She had to go. Before she got up, she told me she couldn’t stop thinking about the fate of the man’s two little girls, both under the age of 5.

There are a lot of reasons for not doing crystal meth, but this one ranks high. Not only is this drug being made by bathroom attendants at public rest areas (I’m going to guess his sanitary standards were not exceedingly high), but two little girls are left without a father. Such a travesty.

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Does anyone else do this?

by Jessie K on October 23, 2014

I rarely use the mailbox at my house anymore because I’m too embarrassed that Netflix envelopes are the only things I seem to put into it. I now drop envelopes into the public mailbox near Tractor Supply on my way home from picking up June from preschool. Not that there’s anything shameful about Netflix, it’s more about the existential shame of having the sort of life requiring almost zero paper correspondence.

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Sanxiety

by Jessie K on October 22, 2014

The root canal I had been dreading for weeks somehow exceeded my capacity for sorrow and anxiety yesterday. (What do you call a mix of sorrow and anxiety? Hysteria? Sanxiety? Aorrow? I’ll go with sanxiety.)

At precisely 9:30 a.m. yesterday morning, my friend Susan arrives at my house to pick me up to take to the endotontist. Into her Passat, I load the Pack and Play, the car seat, a bag of baby toys, a bottle, a diaper bag, my purse and little Katie. I slump into the passenger seat, show Susan my 10 mg Valium as it disappears down my throat.

I’m a pretty calm person, but I have unrealistic, stupid anxiety about root canals. I hate them. I fear them. The sounds. The smells. The instruments. The strange gloved hands in my face. I’ve already had two root canals, and each left me traumatized in this weird, irrational way that is entirely foreign to my being. I shed tears throughout the procedure.

“Oh, you’re going to be feeling fine in about an hour,” Susan, a nurse, tells me. “You’re going to be singing a happy song.”

Great, I think. Anything to get through this.

Susan drops me off at the dental office. We unload all the gear including the baby and bring it into the quiet waiting room. The nurse at the front desk takes one look at all my gear and I can immediately tell this is not going to go over well. Her face says, does this look like a Montessori play room to you? But part of me doesn’t care because it’s my mouth, my procedure, my hell, I’m paying for it, and I don’t have childcare. My husband is gone for a year and this is the type of stuff solo parents occasionally have to do in a pinch. We all have to suck it up. It takes a village, right?  (By the way, I couldn’t ask Susan to watch Katie because Susan already has a newborn of her own). Besides, Katie comes with me to my normal dentist appointments, and it’s never been a problem. The nurses make googley eyes at her, sometimes they even hold her — I don’t ask or expect them to, they’re just lovable like that.  For for the most part, Katie sits strapped into her car seat on the floor, sucks her Pacifier and stares at me. She’s a pretty chill baby.

I can tell it’s a different story at this office. The endodontist comes out — a man — and proceeds to tell me that his staff are not babysitters, they are not allowed to touch the baby, this is a very delicate procedure, there is no room in the operating room for a Pack and Play, he can’t have his other patients distracted, etc., etc., — and he’s absolutely correct in all of these points but the overall effect is that he makes me feel like a terrible person for having the audacity to bring a child with me to a root canal.

I’m already a wreck. I’m already stressed and annoyed. The 10 mg of Valium — the palliative that was supposed to have me dancing an Irish jig on the ceiling by this point — was like chewing a child’s Flinstone vitamin; it didn’t work. At all.

I burst into tears and turned to face the wall. One of the attendants proceeds — I guess in some Becky Crocker-like impulse to try to smooth things over — to make small talk: “How old is your baby? Where did you get your Pack and Play?” I look at her with red eyes and tell her I can’t talk right now. I turn back to the endo and tell him I can’t go through with the appointment. It’s too much. I’m too stressed. I don’t have anyone to watch Katie. All my friends are busy. My husband is gone. The Valium doesn’t work and can someone please hit me in the face with a frying pan.

“No, no, we can still do it!” He says, his eyes and body language telling a different story.

“Hold on,” I say. “I need to make one phone call.”

I rush outside, make a call to the one friend who has always been there for me during Jake’s deployments. Naturally, I’m blubbering like an idiot when she answers. Naturally, she thinks someone has been murdered. But no, it’s just me. I’m at the dentist’s office and I don’t have a babysitter. And my Valium doesn’t work. How you say, First World Problem? My friend is out of town. But she rushes into action anyway — because that’s the kind of person she is — and makes a couple of phone calls.  “Don’t you worry,” she says. “We’ll get someone there!”

I proceed with the root canal. The attendants leave the door open so I can at least listen for Katie babbling in her Pack and Play in the reception area while a hole is drilled into my brain. I don’t really hear much. Maybe the Valium is working. Just a little. My jaw throbs. I have to go to the bathroom. I excuse myself to go to the ladies room. I walk out into the hall with my jaw jacked open and the dental equivalent of one of those disposable paper toilet liners sticking out of my mouth, and I see Trudy, the loveliest woman you would ever hope to see looking at you on your way out of water boarding session, the kind of person who radiates happiness and good cheer, sitting in the lobby area with smiling Katie in her lap.

I die from happiness. I can’t physically express any of this because of the horrifying state of my face, so I extend my thumb in the universal language of Fonzie. “Thank you, Trudy,” my thumb says. I feel infinitesimally better when I return to the torture chair. Yet I still weep like a child through the remainder of the procedure because my jaw kills so bad.

I spend the rest of the afternoon in a daze. That evening, I watch Brave with June and Katie, nursing a stiff rum cocktail. I swear the Valium never worked.

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Tomorrow should be an interesting day

by Jessie K on October 20, 2014

Tomorrow I go in for a root canal. My third. I suffer from what I like to call “acute mouth trauma” so I have been prescribed a single Valium to get me through it. One lousy Valium. A ride to and from the endodontist has been secured. Katie is coming with me. I couldn’t find child care. I’m bringing a Pack and Play. The endodontist doesn’t know about the Pack and Play yet. I’m hoping the sight of it, and the squealing 10 month old trapped inside it, on the floor next to me will incentivize the staff to hurry things along.  That is my plan.

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Saying Goodbye to Motorcycle Mom for Good

by Jessie K on September 2, 2014

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A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Jake and I used to ride motorcycles together. It was something fun we did together, each of us astride our own Kawasaki and Suzuki 500 ccs, racing up and down the twisty back roads of our rural county.

I bought a motorbike first as a hedge against moving from New York City to rural Virginia, figuring that if life in the quiet country bore down on me, I could always jump on my crotch rocket and go for a ride. Many of the roads around here don’t even have yellow lines running down the middle of them. Traffic consists largely of scampering squirrels and rednecks driving jacked up Fords. Jake wasn’t wild about me riding solo so he quickly got a motorbike and a license in that order. We invested in motorcycle jackets, gloves and full-shield helmets. One time, we rode to West Virginia, stopping for an ice cream cone and a lemonade at a disheveled 1950s-style drive-in along the way.

I have fond memories of that time, when it was just Jake and I enjoying ourselves, our new marriage, new house, new lives, and new bikes together.

That was two kids ago. I haven’t been on a bike since finding out I was pregnant with June. Jake has ridden only occasionally since her birth. Once she came along, the bikes remained parked in the shed.

We kept figuring, one of these days we’ll be able to ride. But between Jake’s military deployments, a move, and a second pregnancy, that day never arrived, especially for me, Diaper Wrangler in Chief. The bikes continued to sit in the shed. And here’s something they never tell you when you go buy a motorcycle: If you don’t ride regularly, the bike won’t start. On the rare occasion one of us actually had time to take it for a spin, the bike inevitably would not run. So we pawned off one of the bikes to Jake’s brother, who was going through a divorce and had his own issues to sort through via the open road.

We had one bike left. We knew we had to get rid of it, but we kept putting it off. Even though we never rode it, and it wouldn’t even start when we tried to ride it, jettisoning that bike felt like jettisoning a piece of our former selves, the selves that weren’t so damn responsible, encumbered and safe. The selves that didn’t always worry about sunscreen application, bug bite protection, adequate hydration and shoes that fastened properly.

What to do with the bike became a stark rendering of how boring parenthood can make you – everything you do, every action you take is weighed against how safe and prudent it is. It’s only a matter of time before going to the movies without a sweater will seem like the height of wild rebellion.

You probably know where this is going: We recently sold the bike.

Who were we kidding? We’ll never ride again. That time on the bikes was a mere sliver of our lives, never to be repeated again except for maybe when we’re fat and middle aged and straddling one of those chubby, three wheel motorbikes you see retirees tooling around on together, equipped with His-n-Her headsets.

At least this way our girls will never have to say, “Remember when we had a mom and dad? Remember when they died in that cataclysmic motorcycle accident?” See, this counts as a perk when you’re a parent — you remove the possibility of dying while having fun for the sake of your children.

Parenthood, like life, is a constant process of change and growth.

Some of it is rewarding, like watching your children deeply comprehend that sticking dimes in an electrical socket is really not a good idea. Some of it, like getting rid of the bike because you know you’ll never be young and free again, is a little depressing.

But at the end of the day, even the sad parts are rewarding because when you’re parent, you stop thinking so much about yourself (you don’t have a choice), and that ultimately is a good thing. Boy, do I sound like a parent.

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Ruh-roh

by Jessie K on August 16, 2014

IMG_7660I’ve been spending any spare time lately working on the house.

Most recently, I tried to tackle June and Katie’s upstairs bathroom. I spent weeks…no, a month selecting the right color. It took a long time because their bathroom lacks any windows and gets very little natural light. I didn’t want to go with a light shade which can look dirty and dingy in a windowless room, and I didn’t want to go too dark, which can look black. So I selected a mid-tone– one of the shades in the middle of the color card; a bright, fun blueish green hue, only to get it up on the walls and realize it looks like the EXACT same shade of greenish-blue on their bedroom walls now. The colors look IDENTICAL, even though they’re quite different in person. Windowless rooms are tough.

I was so upset when I realized what I’d done. I have to go through this entire hair pulling process again. Dang it!

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Hi! How ya doin?

by Jessie K on August 15, 2014

IMG_7648Some of you may have noticed I haven’t posted in awhile. I’ve had my hands extra full now that Jake is gone and I confess, I really haven’t had much motivation to express much publicly for a few months now. Isn’t that weird how that happens? One day I blog religiously and fanatically and the next, I’m like, [sound of crickets chirping].

Though one thing happened I feel compelled to share with the wider world. I recently called a plumber to come inspect one of our toilets that has never flushed properly and the man, a nice, knowledgeable guy, got down in his knees and stuck both his hands inside my toilet bowl! He stuck his bare hands all around and inside a dirty toilet bowl! I was like, do you want some bread to sop up what you can’t reach with your hands, buddy? I stood over him while he worked, literally trying not to throw up in my mouth. I know people use that dumb expression frequently but in this case I really was trying to contain the projectile spew from behind my lips.

He got up, wiped his hands on his pants and I watched those hands move in space as if in slow motion, noting every single place they touched that I would go over with an extra strength handi-bleachwipe after he’d left : the edge of the sink, the wall, the doorknob. I was afraid he was going to try to shake my hand, which he did not.

It was one of those vocational hazards where I guess a worker becomes increasingly lax with safety because they’ve been doing it so long, like a rock climbing instructor ceasing to wear a helmet because he assumes he won’t plummet to his death.

On that note, enjoy your lunch?

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Ouch

by Jessie K on July 14, 2014

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“That all are born radiating light but that this light diminished slowly (if one was lucky) or abruptly (if one was not). The most charismatic people — the poets, the mystics, the explorers — were that way because they had somehow managed to keep a bit of this light that was meant to have dimmed. But the shocking thing, the unbearable thing it seemed, was that the natural order was for this light to vanish. It hung on sometimes through the twenties, a glint here in there in the thirties, and then almost always the eyes went dark.”

I don’t know if reading Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation is the best or the worst thing for me to be reading right now…especially now that Jake has been away from our home for a week. It’s about a writer who has dreams of being what she calls an “art monster” — a prolific creator of arty things  — only to become mired by the mundanity of life: marriage, kids, infidelity, stalled ambition, growing older, taking on ridiculous work just to pay the bills. And then she goes nuts, naturally. This sounds completely bougie and pretentious, I am aware. Yet I am enjoying it. The writing is so sparse — it’s the slimmest novel I’ve read for some time — and she’s so dark and wry that I can’t put it down even as I am clobbered from her grab bag of punishing observations.

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Happy Birthday, June!

by Jessie K on July 11, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis little lady turns 4 today.

IMG_7382I wouldn’t want to imagine my life without her.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJake left a week ago (boo hoo!) so we had a little birthday celebration for her before he left town. Here she is with her best bud Josie.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAmong her cache of gifts, my Mom — who was visiting from Montana — presented June with a Dora Singing Sensation Microphone. Our home, our road has been filled with the reverberating sounds of Dora ever since Mom left. Thanks, Mom. No, really, thanks for that. ;)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday we’ll open up some more presents and maybe bake cake. This morning, I treated her to a very special bowl of sugary cereal!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s the only time of year June gets to eat crusty pink wheat pellets (why, oh why, does Jake buy this stuff?). Enjoy it, June….and Happy Birthday! We love you!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy friends got me a Fiddle-Leaf Fig — the trendy plant du jour — for my baby shower seven months ago and I’ve been trying to figure out this tricky plant ever since.

Everything I’ve read about these plants say they’re finicky and fussy. They like a lot of light, but not too much. They don’t like a lot of water. They don’t even like to be moved all that much.  When I asked friends about it, I kept getting all sorts of different advice:

“Oh, they hate direct sunlight. They need filtered sunlight.”

“They love the shade.”

“Water them once a month.”

“Rotate it counterclockwise once a month on the lunar moon.”

Yeah. Okay. Sure.

When I first got it, I put it before a sun drenched window in our upstairs landing. This was over the winter and the plant just didn’t seem very happy. The tips of the leaves took on those unsightly ubiquitous burn spots. But I thought, how could the leaves be burning when it’s getting the filtered direct sunlight it apparently needs?

Then I read that when it gets warm, I should put it outside so it can soak up the humidity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo I placed it on our expansive front porch. For a time, it seemed to thrive. The sun it was getting was bright and direct and unfiltered. The card it came with said the plant likes “bright light,” even though that runs contrary to what friends and some decor blogs have indicated.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe leaves looked strong and healthy. I’m careful to water it only once a week….even on these punishing 95 degree days. But I noticed some of the leaves are still turning brown and crisp! Arrrgh!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo I moved it again to another spot on the porch where the light it receives is more filtered…more of a dappled quality. So far, she seems to be doing okay even as the condition of some of her leaves are not making me happy!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAre there any Fiddle Leaf Fig experts out there? Do you have any advice? I really like the look of the plant and want to do right by it. I hate it when plants don’t do well. It’s a heartbreak!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe nice thing about this plants is that I got a two-fer deal. The pot came with two separate plants that I can transplant at some point in the future, but I don’t want to do that until I know exactly what this fussy fuss pot needs!

 

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