Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Minor Irritations

1. Public toilets with handles too high up to flush with your foot.
2. Toilet seats that are lower than expected and the added downwards momentum causes you to almost fall into the bowl.
3. Husbands that listen ahead on the book on tape that the two of you have spent 20 hours listening to together.
4. Nose bleeds (pregnancy related.)
5. Being "jellyfished" (A term from the second Bridget Jones novel in which a person verbally stings you out of the blue. You usually don't realize that you've been jellyfished until it is too late to retaliate. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I'm assuming that it is discussed there as well.)
6. Running out of peanut butter.
7. Those stupid stupid holiday Old Navy commercials.
8. Getting up to pee five times a night (also pregnancy related.)
9. Waiters that refill your water glass without asking, and ruin the perfect blend of lemon, water and ice that you had going.
10. Trying to decorate your Christmas tree without constantly poking your hand with needles.

Monday, November 29, 2004

One More Thing

I also felt the baby hiccup for the first time. Very cool.

Family Differences

Jason and I went to Chicago for Thanksgiving and had a delightful time. I really love spending time with his side of the family. They are all so...normal. On the way home, I asked him, "What is it about your extended family that's so different than mine?" He said, "They are happy." Bingo. He pinned his finger on it. I grew up thinking that I was from the All-American Family Clan. As I got older, something started not sitting well at family gatherings and visits. Then I went through a few years of counseling, medication and deep probing into my family history. I came to realize that when alcoholism and depression sink their teeth into a family system, they really sink their teeth into a couple generations of family systems. I guess the Bible is right about the sins of the father being visited on the son.

It's just weird being with a family who say what they mean and mean what they say. I grew so adept at "reading between the lines" my whole life, it still throws me for a loop. Like, for instance, Jason's family had a big family reunion this summer in Colorado. Jason and I were pretty much the only ones that didn't come (although I drew a huge cartoon family portrait for the event, which kinda redeemed us.) I was just so morning sick, and I couldn't have gone horseback riding or whitewater rafting anyway. We just stayed home. At Thanksgiving, his grandma said, "We wish you could have come to the reunion. You were the only ones not there, and we missed you." So immediately, my brain jumps into Read Between The Lines mode. What did Grandma mean? Is she trying to make me feel guilty? Are we awful grandchildren? Were people talking about us?

Then I realized that she was simply saying, "We missed you." That was it. Hmmmmm. Guess I still have some more inner work to do.

We went bowling on Thanksgiving Day, which I thought was cool. Jason was anxious because of the weight of the bowling ball, but I assured him I was fine. He was still skeptical and made me get one of the lightest balls, which, as any bowler knows, suck. Jason is already slipping into a protective parent state. He's always been that way about our animals, and usually decides they need to go to the vet before I do. I'm sure there will be many many trips to the pediatrician.

He might have been right this time, though. I have had a really great pregnancy so far. (In fact, Jason said, "You're going to be one of those women who likes being pregnant all the time, aren't you?" Probably, but with my history, we'll see about that.) The only downside has been morning sickness, but I have gained minimal extra pounds, had no backaches, slept well and kept my energy level up. But over the holiday, my legs started to hurt. I started propping them up whenever I could, and I don't think bowling helped. (They are okay now.)

I have also started feeling very vulnerable. On the way to Chicago, I had some Braxton Hicks. We got stuck in many traffic jams buried in snow all through Illinois. Several times, I felt panicked. What if I went into preterm labor? What if we are stuck in the snow? What if an ambulance can't get me to the hospital? I have also started really thinking about pushing this baby out. Out a very small hole. What if I'm not strong enough or her head is too big? It's not pain that I fear, it's the unknown. (I've decided that I am definitely getting an enema beforehand, though. I can at least prevent myself from pooping during labor. Sorry for the graphic imagery.)

Hmmmm. A bit of a long post. Oh well. Suck it up.

Monday, November 22, 2004


Someone asked me to elaborate on my 190,000 mile car. It's a 1991 Honda EX and it's the best car ever (knock on wood.) It was our family car, then my dad sold it to me for $1 after college. My sister, who owns a 1996 model Honda, still envies mine. She says that after 1991, they threw out the mold because they realized that they had built TOO good a car, and nobody would ever need to buy another one.

If it were a person, it would be like a retiree. Still active and dependable, yet a little creaky and cranky from time to time. I'm not looking forward to it's elderly, senile years. The guys at my car repair shop (who I also give thanks for) keep telling me that they think I might make it to 300,000 miles.

My fear is that Jason will start driving it more after the baby is born (alas, my car is a two-door) and will decide that we need to sell it and get a new car. Or a freaking truck. (Jason is of the "bigger and better" mentality, so I'm sure that it's only a matter of time before the Great War over my Honda begins.)

Someone also asked about my El Boogie Playlist. It includes: Jimmy Eat World, ABBA, Green Day, Everclear, Everything But The Girl, Arrested Development, Weezer, Barenaked Ladies, Radiohead, Edie Brickell (but only with the New Bohemians), The Allman Brothers, Johnny Cash, Liz Phair, Blur, Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond, Louis Prima, The Police, The Offspring and Colin Hay.

I also have my own personal one hit wonders...meaning artists who only have one song that I like. Examples: "Obsession Tango" by Shakira, "Don't Stop" by Michael Jackson, "Panama" by Van Halen, "September" by Earth, Wind and Fire, "Weapon of Choice" by Fatboy Slim, "Beyond the Sea" by Bobby Darin, "The Weight" by The Band, "Crazy in Love" by Beyonce and one of my all time favorites, "Wannabe" by The Spice Girls.

Hope that answers some questions.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


So there's a new addition to the "Ellen Is Not Bright" book. I bought a little nightstand for the baby's room from Target. Last night, I got it in my head that I, Ellen, should put it together myself and not have to rely on my handy husband, as is the case 90% of the time. I got my little Phillips screwdriver, read the directions, reread the directions, tossed aside the directions and put the thing together. I noticed that it was not incredibly sturdy, but I figured what do you expect from a Target nightstand?

This morning, Jason picked it up to move it and the entire thing fell apart. Apparently, I skipped a major step, which was tightening the "case screws" that I just figured were simply weird magic screws that I had never seen before. I have too much faith in my own ignorance, I think. I usually assume that if something doesn't seem quite right, it's only because of my lack of knowledge and/or skill. It'll probably work out okay, I figure. The nightstand knows itself better than I.

Also, I built it while "Blazing Saddles" was on the television in the background, so now whenever I look at my baby's nightstand, all I can think of is, "Excuse me while I whip this out..."

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

A Thanksgiving "Things I Am Thankful For" List

1. Hot cocoa, mint-flavored.
2. The color pink.
3. My OBGYN, who always walks me to the front desk at the end of an appointment, pats my back and tells me that he likes me. He also gives out his home phone number.
3. iTunes and it's boost to my self-esteem. (Recently, a co-worker came around looking to see who owned the playlist, "El Boogie", on our shared network. I raised my hand and he said, "That's my favorite playlist!" I felt very proud indeed.)
4. My baby.
5. My husband, who helped in the creation of the aforementioned baby.
6. "Sex in the City" on WTBS, Tuesday nights. (a.k.a. "The Toned-Down Version")
7. Gala apples, cut in perfect slices with my apple wedger.
8. Greta Van Susteran, who makes gossip seem like real news.
9. Lime flavored lip gloss from Target.
10. Corndogs.
11. Forgiveness.
12. Having a shower thrown for me by my friends.
13. My friends.
14. Fuzzy cat tummies.
15. Charlie Brown Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas television specials.
16. My handheld computer solitaire game.
17. A husband who is neater and cleaner than I am, but who has learned to just accept it.
18. In-laws that don't suck.
19. Anti-depressants and epidurals.
20. The little short cartoons before the Pixar movies.
21. Wet wipes and ketchup packets in the glove compartment.
22. Taking communion, accidentally spilling the grape juice down my shirt and knowing that Jesus is probably having a little chuckle at me trying to nonchalantly cover the stain up with my church bulletin.
23. The brillancy of "Everybody Loves Raymond."
24. A car that still runs pretty well with 190,000 miles on it.
25. No more morning sickness.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Childbirth Class

Well, we conquered "Prepared Childbirth" yesterday. It was actually pretty good. Learning all the stages of labor, preparing the husbands for their wives' cursing, seeing the tube they are going to insert into my spine. I enjoyed everything except for the breathing exercises. We laid on the floor and breathed "Hee Hee Hee Hoo." I wasn't embarrassed or anything, but I guess I'm a realist. I told Jason, "Does she actually believe that people remember this stuff in the throws of labor?" I think that I'd probably just do whatever I had to--throw chairs, squat on the floor, sing "Baby Got Back" at the top of my lungs. I also don't like people telling me how long my breaths have to be. I've never liked that. One of the reasons why I quit yoga. I will let out my air when I darn well please.

I've been thinking about Amie's comment from my last post. She's right...I know that I'll look back on this pregnancy and wonder why I got so upset at such silly stuff. When I looked around our childbirth class, everyone looked fairly similiar to me. Happy, with a little fear in their eyes, jumping up every hour to go pee. I even met a girl due 2 days after me (who got preggers through IVF) and we were very much the same size. I think that I'm going to do okay at this childbirth thing, and motherhood too.

I just get so focused on the most trivial issues. I've never dealt with jealousy and second-guessing myself as much as I have these past six months. Is my baby kicking enough? (YES) Am I just a wussy for wanting an epidural? (NO) Is Jason using a "tone" with me? (PROBABLY NOT BUT HE'D BETTER APOLOGIZE ANYWAY)

My dear, giving friend Shelley (thank you again!!!!) came over today with a huge tub of baby clothes and toys to loan to me. She pulled out each little baby outfit fondly, patted it tenderly and knew where every one of them had come from. Now, I remember her first baby year (as does she) and it was very difficult. But it was nice to see that the bad memories were fading and the good ones were staying. That's probably how pregancy will be also.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Weak Spots

I think that Satan and his minions use electronic machines to try to undo me. I'm actually serious. I've thought this for years now. Big problems, crises, catastrophes--I actually do pretty well, considering, in those circumstances. One Thanksgiving, my father almost chopped his finger off with a carving knife. The entire household, especially my mother, were running around frantically. I was searching through the turkey to make sure there wasn't a large chunk of finger in it. My father finally held his bloody hand up in the air and yelled, "STOP! Ellen is going to take me to the hospital." So I calmly drove him to the hospital. I still sometimes wonder if I should have been a nurse.

However, the little irritations and roadblocks will eventually wear me down to tears. This week was a prime example. My computer crashed more times than I can count. I've been in a spiraling approval war with our parent company through email because of a little tiny worm on a logo (literally a worm, like as in earthworm, not computer virus.) It took me two full days to print out one document because my design program was refusing to speak to my operating system. Then the printer problems started. It jammed so many times today, I finally just sat on the floor in front of it, pleading with it for cooperation. There were font problems and frozen screens. This evening put me over the Tears Edge. I came home and tried to download some pictures from our digital camera and... nothing. I felt so hopeless. I just gave up and cried.

This afternoon, after my fifth computer crash, I wailed, "Why? Why why why?!" and buried my face in my hands. My boss thought about it and said, "You know...you have a lot of machine problems, don't you?" "Well, duh." I said. "I mean you have more than a normal person." It's really true. The copier jams if I even walk by. The Help Desk knows my voice. But it's not just at my present job. It's always been this way, at every job. Every machine.

I think Satan discovered one of my weak spots early on, and knows the days to sock it to me. He tries to wear me down, little by little, paper jam by paper jam. Until everything, not just the machines, feels like it is out to get me.

For instance, I'd been feeling okay about "not looking pregnant." But today, after my awful week, I found myself at a coworker's Going Away party with three other pregnant women, all due within a month as me. They are all really showing, even the girl due two weeks behind me, and I'm just not. I have a few outfits that might make a stranger stop and try to decide if I was with child or not. But I guess I wasn't wearing "pregnant pants" today, because a coworker was admiring one of the other pregnant tummies and then pointed at me and said, "And then you've got Ellen, who doesn't look pregnant at all." Then at Walmart this evening, an old family friend blinked in disbelief when I said I was 27 weeks. On another week, I would've blown it off, but not today. I'd been worn down too far.

I'm praying that next week is better.


Well, I guess that they just found Scott Peterson guilty. I gave him the benefit of the doubt for awhile, but then I went online and read the transcripts from his phone calls with Amber Frey. That was the only circumstantial evidence that I needed. No innocent man would call his mistress on the night of his missing wife and child's candlelight vigil, pretending to be in Paris. I just really feel sorry for both families. Who would want to deal with their son murdering their daughter-in-law?

Tomorrow we have Prepared Childbirth class all day. Someone asked me, "What do you learn in those classes anyway? Lamaze?" I said, "I don't know. I guess childbirth preparation." The thing is, I'm not really nervous at all about it. The baby will come out one way or another. I would like an epidural, and wouldn't even mind being induced, frankly. But if it doesn't happen for some reason, either the baby comes too fast for drugs, or I end up in a c-section (which may be the case, due to my placenta currently hanging out down south), I'm okay with that also. Healthy Baby is my goal, not neccesarily a certain kind of birth experience. The only thing that I am actually anxious about, with this whole baby thing, is the exhaustion that I am sure to face from lack of sleep after the baby arrives. I am expecting it, and expecting to cry a lot, and walk around pathetically in breastmilk-stained pajamas for a couple of weeks. But honestly, I'm not looking forward to it. I know that the first month or two of motherhood is not pretty.

It's been interesting to discover the stuff that I am actually pretty flexible about. I always pictured myself as a stay-at-home mom. Eventually, I still think that is what I will be. But when I got pregnant, I found that I was okay with the idea of working. Which has horrified some people in my life, but that's okay. I'm going to work 32 hours a week, and we've found a really great daycare provider. (It's a certified lady who watches four children under the age of two, in her home.) Deep down, I still would rather be at home with my child, but this isn't a perfect world, and being at home has many challenges as well. So, much to my husband's relief, I am planning on working.

I had a coworker (no children, recently married) recently tell me, "Oh, you'll see. You are going to feel differently once you have that baby in your arms. There's no way you'll want to come back to work." Since my days of therapy, it greatly irritates me when someone tells me how to feel. Greatly. First of all, this has been a difficult decision for me and I resent her callousness, as if I have been approaching motherhood hillynilly. Second of all, I know very well that the rose-colored picture of sitting on the floor (immaculately cleaned, of course) playing educational games with your smiling, cherub-faced child all day long is...well, a delusion. Thirdly, I am a person to whom post-partum depression is a very real threat. I wonder if isolation at home with a newborn is actually in the best interest of my daughter or me.

So that's where I am.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Workplace Ruminations

Our office building has two really gross, but addictive, machines.

The first is an old movie theater popcorn maker from like 1965, that has not been cleaned in twenty years. I'm totally serious. This one guy, Leon, who has worked here for about twenty years, bought the stupid thing when the town drive-in went out of business in the early 80's. Leon refuses to clean it because he said that the popcorn will taste weird without the old butter funk. But it's really good popcorn. They fire it up every couple of days.

The other machine is a coke machine from the 1970's that dispenses soda pop into a little plastic cup for 35 cents. It is so old and cheesy but the Cokes are SO good. They are the absolute perfect mix of syrup and carbonation. Plus, the ice comes out in cute little nuggets. But this is how gross and addictive it is--we have a gnat problem in the building. One day, a co-worker got a Coke from the machine. When the cup popped down, swarm of gnats flew out of the machine. We were all totally grossed out... BUT WE STILL DRINK THEM.

Office Survivor seems to have blown over. Everyone is making eye contact again. I'm sure that it will probably happen again at some point. But this girl has learned her lesson. If I get a secret, I am vaulting it and throwing away the Schnapps.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Office Survivor

Ugh. Yesterday afternoon, I got caught in the middle of some office politics. I stupidly repeated some office gossip, and the person who told it to me found out. She's not happy with me at all. Although, in all honesty, I was not trash-talking anyone. I was repeating the particulars of an event that had secretedly occured, which frankly, I was appalled at and am sort of glad that is now out in the open.

Sometimes, it hits me how much office life is like "Survivor." The person that I shared the gossip with is sort of my "alliance" here at work. He and I sat in the same small space for about two years, and so he knew every piece of gossip I knew and vice versa. (Except my pregnancy first trimester. Didn't have a clue. Worried that I had cancer because of my sickliness.) I don't know if anyone else has an "alliance" at work, but you end up taking it for granted after awhile. You just assume that people realize that whatever info they tell you will make it over to your alliance person eventually.

And after this whole stupid event occured, I wondered, as I often do while watching "Survivor," how much easier it would be if everyone was just locked in a room and forced to show their hands. "Larry, here's the deal. You're a swell guy, but Misty, Shawn and I are all voting you off of Mootapenquay Island tonight. Have fun!" After I heard the event had "gone down" in my department, I wanted to throw everyone in a room and say, "Larry, here's the deal. Uma is a conniving, manipulative traitor. Have fun!"

But my co-worker had sworn me to secrecy, so I really screwed up. Of course, I have been beating myself up for the whole thing. I had a rotten evening. Spending an evening stewing in your own guilty juices is not pleasant. My husband got very frustrated with me. He said, as he has said on many other occasions, "Ellen, you care too much about what other people think. Don't take everything so seriously. Blow it off."

I often find myself wishing that I were more this way. More like a guy. My friends have always said, "Ellen, you are such a man." But that's only because I am clueless about clothing, sit around watching "Groundhog's Day" in my underwear and hate fingernail polish. For the emotional stuff, I'm all girl.

I'm trying to learn the art of shutting the vault, throwing away the Schnapps and blowing things off.

Monday, November 08, 2004

The Weekend News

Thank you again for all your comforting comments about Atticus. It took me a few days, but I'm not crying anymore. I'm actually smiling, because you know, that cat had a great life. Very few animals have owners who will pick the boogies out of their nose and hold a kitty treat between their fingers for their mentally-slow cat to lick.

We had a pretty good weekend. Aside from the nasty fight that Jason and I had on Saturday night, brought on by pregnancy hormones and general male-jerkiness, it was fairly enjoyable. We bought a crib. And somehow managed to fit it in the car, which was quite a feat. Jason set it up, and I put the sheets and bumper on it. Since then, I've been spending a good deal of time standing in the doorway staring at it. It's going to actually have a baby in it in three months. Somehow I can't seem to picture the kicking, wiggling alien in my stomach asleep in that bed.

I went to church on Sunday. Yes. I actually went to church. I'm coming off of a few years of general church disgruntlement. It was nice, though. We sang "I'll Fly Away." I wish more worship songs/hymns were more like that song. It seems real to me. When I listen to the words, they are not forced. You don't have to sing the lyrics 27 times to force yourself into some praise music-induced gooey state. They are real the first time and they are joyful. Kind of like "Amazing Grace."

And "Simpsons" was finally on. Woo. Hoo. The days of my October famine, caused by the World Series are over.

Again... Woo. Hoo.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Thank you

I want to thank all of you for your kind, comforting words yesterday. They meant a lot to me. I printed them out to put in Atticus's scrapbook (Yes, I am a sap. All of my animals have their own scrapbooks.)

I am feeling much better today. Yesterday was just a sad day for me. Thankfully, I work with a bunch of animal lovers, so I didn't feel stupid about crying all day long. I wore my nose raw from wiping it all day. People were very understanding. My sister sent me flowers at work, and I wasn't expecting them. I picked them up at the front desk, where an applicant was applying, and promptly burst into tears. She looked a little frightened.

God is very merciful to me. He knows what I can handle. I know that a very long, drawn-out illness would have been so difficult for Atticus, and myself as well. He had the exact kind of passing that I would have wanted. Plus, I was busy yesterday until late in the evening, surrounded by kind people. It kept me from sitting on my couch and crying for hours on end.

One thing about loss that is so hard is the empty space. Walking into the cat room and no Atticus in his usual spot. The puffs of his cat hair still on the couch. Realizing that I don't need as many litter boxes.

The truth is that deep down I would have gladly wiped his little stinky kitty butt every day for the next ten years, if I'd had to. But that wasn't to be. It's okay. I keep picturing him running around heaven without a limp, snorting in that Atticus way of his. When my first cat, Nouwen, died tragically about fours years ago, I wondered aloud to my sister, "Why did God have to take him?" She said, "Maybe God needed him up there more than we needed him down here, for some reason."

So maybe there was an Atticus-shaped hole in heaven that needed to be filled.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


Atticus died last night.

Jason found him laying by his water bowl (his favorite spot) this morning. He just fell asleep and didn't wake up. He looked very peaceful. Jason wrapped him up in an old Holly Hobbie sheet. Ironically, we had had him for almost exactly four years, because we got him a few weeks before the last presidential election, when we were newly married.

Sometimes I think God prepares me for stuff without me knowing. Atticus always been a hopeless cause with his grooming, but for the past few days, I've been holding him on my lap at night and brushing him. I got all of his knots out of his fur. I washed his ears and his face last night really well. He actually looked better than he had in months.

There is always a plan for everything, and I know God had one here. He has always had health problems (and mental problems), and the vet had told me years ago that he probably wouldn't live past five years. But I am still so sad. I really loved him. He was one of the oddest, most pathetic creatures--but he was wonderful.

I will miss him.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


My cat, Atticus, is sick. I feel guilty, although the vet reassured me that it's probably not my fault at all. Last Friday, I gave him a little bit of roast beef from my sandwich. An hour later, he started throwing up. (But I also gave my other two cats a bite, and they are fine.) I took him to the vet on Saturday morning, which put him in misery. He is an incredibly docile Persian cat, so I never even put him in a cat carrier. While at the vet, I just carry him in my arms and he buries his head in my chest. This time, though, he was really miserable and howled. The vet gave him a shot to help his tummy, then medicine to take every day. He reassured me that some animals just have very sensitive stomachs.

But he's still pathetic, and I just discovered pee and a little bit of kitty throw-up on the floor. It's obvious that it probably was not the roast beef. But that's not really why I was feeling guilty anyway. See, Atticus is my "special needs" animal. I'm sure I've written about him before, so sorry if this is redundant. When he was born, even though he was technically a "show cat," he was the runt, so he was out of the running from the start. Then his mother bit his tail instead of his umbilical cord, so he has a bent tail. When he was two weeks old, he was bitten on the shoulder by a brown recluse spider. His breeder managed to save his life, but he has a permanent bent arm, and therefore a pronounced limp. The breeder knew that there were no show days ahead of him, so she found some sappy woman to take pity on him and adopt him. Me.

Since then, he has developed a heart murmur, constant runny eyes, a fear of pooping in the litter box and the inability to properly groom himself. He is the sweetest, weirdest cat in the world, but sometimes when I am cleaning up his poo (always an inch from the litter box), I wish I didn't have to deal with him anymore. And the days when I have to give him a bath because of his recurrent poo problem on his back end, I wonder how much longer a cat with a heart murmur will live.

So now, when he's sick, and still pukey, and vaguely lethargic, I feel really guilty for thinking those things. I know that everyone thinks stuff like that when they get frustrated, and my thinking it does not mean that I am writing some cosmic death certificate. I don't really want him to die. But, ugh. Guilt.


I voted.

And in the words of Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that.

I went to a Halloween Party on Saturday night at my newly-married sister's house. I went as Elwen the Elf again, and my daughter went as a firefighter. (I pinned a little firehat on my stomach. I'll get Jason to post a picture.) The night before, I got all Martha Stewart and went to Walmart for ingredients to make a bunch of appetizers. I don't know why I do this. They never turn out well. I spent Friday night and Saturday afternoon making Pumpkin Tarts, bean dip, olive cheese puffs and Texas Caviar. I hit only one out of four. The bean dip was okay, but the tarts and puffs were...not good. Very not good. My always honest husband simply said, "Don't make those puffs ever again." Dadgummit. Oh well, I tried.

I am really crap of a housewife. My cooking is subpar (although I really try.) My cleaning skills are poor (although I've gotten better.) I am a laundry slacker. I don't know how to mow the lawn. My husband does the bills. I'm not entirely sure what I'm good for. I keep waiting. Even that deaf, dumb, blind kid sure played a mean pinball, so there's probably something out there for me.