La La How The Life Goes On

Archive for August 2011

Every issue of Vanity Fair contains a famous person answering the Proust Questionnaire. One of my favorites was Paul Newman who was extremely evasive while being very funny. For the background of the Q and Proust’s own answers, go here.

For mine look below. Be sure to link to yours in the comments.

What is your current state of mind?
Tired but content, with an undercurrent of harried but grateful.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Happy, healthy kids.Calorie-free french fries. Ongoing, non-marriage-threatening sexual tension with my new neighbor, Ewan McGregor.

What is your greatest fear?
Before kids, spiders. After kids, anything to do with their harm. SVU’s ratings went way down after 2005…

What historical figure do you most identify with?
None. How does one even answer this? Like, I’ve always seen myself as a modern-day Plato…? Or, I see a lot of myself in Menachim Begin?

Which living person do you most admire?
My friend Betsy. My old college classmate Andre. The BabyDaddy.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Pettiness. Take a shot of judgment, add a twist of self-involvement, shake for as long as it takes to say, “Selfishness.” That is the liquid poison that I constantly have to work my 12 steps to avoid.

In others?
Bigotry. Racism. Prejudice. Whatever you want to call it, it’s ugly and evil and toxic to both sender and recipient.

What is it that you most dislike?
Entitlement and Lack of Charity. Like, oh my child must have the BEST teacher or I will torture you with emails and meetings until I get my way. I eat only this and you must have it for me or incur my wrath. Or, I’m sorry I can’t help you, homeless person, but I am in a rush to get to church.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Trips to China.

What do you most value in your friends?
Unconditional love, because please believe I am not easy to truly, truly hang with. I shut people out. I get wrapped up in my own stuff. I don’t call enough or write enough. I’m kind of a shit friend, really. But thank god my friends are better than I am.

What is your favorite journey?
From the kitchen to my bed at the end of the day. Or the distance between the morning caffeine and my brain.

What is your most treasured possession?
My Dad’s old watch. My kids’ early possessions.

What do consider the most overrated virtue?
Politicians having to be “just like me.”. Hello? I don’t want my plumber, transplant surgeon, airline pilot or car mechanic to be just like me. I want them to the best they can be at their profession and to hell with whether they are charming, down to earth or personable–or a snob or elitist or whatever. I used to go incandescent when people would say they liked GW Bush because they felt they could have a beer with him. Really, America? This is your criteria for the leader of your nation? When I had to get a transplant I found the best doctor in the country, socially-retarded though he may be. I don’t need to have a beer with him; I need him to save my life. Likewise, I don’t care that my electrician in DC said the F word like it was part of the air he respired. The man hooked us up with talent and efficiency; he was the best at his craft and that’s all that matters when you don’t want your house to burn down. Anything else is folly. And yet in politics we want the guy just like us. As Groucho Marx said, “Any club that would have me as a member…”

On what occasion do you lie?
Only on days that end in Y.

Which living person do you most despise?
Rupert Murdoch. For Fox News, the most laughable example of “journalism” in the world, and unfortunately a window into America’s id. For ruining the Wall Street Journal, which I now refuse to let the BBDD purchase with our money. If he wants to go hack some murdered girl’s phone to raise the subscription cash, then he’s welcome to it.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
The Jones Girls and Dr. BabyDaddy Jones, because he is the sun around which this family rotates. He is the glue, the center of gravity, the reason we are all mentally sane. Any place without him is of no interest to me. But don’t tell him that, for gods sake, or he’ll start hoping for Michelle Bachmann-style submission unto thy husband.

When and where were you happiest?
That time someone asked me this question and I said, “wouldn’t you like to know?”

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Legs: Longer, thinner and lacking necrotic bone.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Shepherding Bambina through my transplant with only minor psychological damage inflicted.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
We’d have one more member: a 50’s housewife to do all the crap work and bring us martinis.

What is the quality you most like in a man?
Honesty. Except for questions regarding the size of my butt in any outfit.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Loyalty to and respect for other women.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Being stuck in an elevator with Gwyneth Paltrow.

What is your favorite occupation?
I have two. First is being a mom. It’s so magical and utterly relentlessly rewarding. The second is writing fiction.

What is your most marked characteristic?
Gigantic forehead. Loud mouth.

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Keyser Soze.

How would you like to die?
Very very old.

What is your motto?
Press On Regardless.


A kid in my youth group growing up had a pool over which that sign hung: “…so please don’t pee in our pool.” I thought it was hilarious..and I really, really DID attempt to not pee, but I would not want to go on the record with Linda Tripp or Ken Starr stating it as fact, is all I’m sayin’.

That said, my doctor banned me from public swimming pools since my transplant, which has frustrated me no end since my kids do actually deserve the chance to hang out at a pool, and their father does actually have to work during the day. So their pool experiences are limited as a result. Bah. See me complain and murmur about the unfairness and nonsense of it all.

Fast forward to last week when Baby Sister tells me her finger hurts. I consider advising her to stop asking people to pull it, but I refrain. Then I take a look at it: red, shiny, swollen, weird. No cut to be seen, but definitely not right. So I take her to the doctor, expecting to be sent home, branded a Munchausen-by-proxy freak. Hellooooo. Staph infection complete with the red streak down the finger indicating the start of blood poisoning, commonly known as sepsis. Holy Fng Sht. The doctor said we’d have been in trouble if we’d brought her even a day later because it was already on its way to being something much larger and scarier than a finger infection.

Which began the investigation into where she could possibly have contracted this thing. (She was not contagious because she did not have an open wound, btw, for those of you picturing suppurating boils and the like). The likeliest cause is–surprise–her preschool pool. They swim every day, and the MD said if she had even a hangnail or something and was touching the sides of the pool (which they do because they are all just learning to swim) that it could happen.

Which began my freakout about the pool she is in every day. Apparently it’s just not that uncommon for kids to get staph from pools, locker rooms, and anywhere else that’s wet, humid and frequented by people’s noses, mouths and feet. Well, big humble apologies to Dr. Antin for my grumbling, because–holy crap–the LAST thing I need is staph. I was like, can I go in up to my knees? Can I go up to my hips? No and No. Because if I have a minor skin irritation or cut, who the hell knows what can get in it. Nice. Apparently staph is one such thing.

My pool research (and you can thank me later, pool lovers) via the CDC and related links, tells me that the upsurge in childhood “gastroenteritis” ie, diarrhea was usually considered to be a seasonal virus but more and more studies are seeing the causation between increased pool usage and kiddie blowouts. Why, you say? Doesn’t the chlorine disinfect the water?!! It does. If it’s done perfectly. But it does not kill germs on YOU, so if you have staph and touch a surface, that surface has staph. If you don’t wipe your butt properly before swimming, and then sit on the edge of the pool, that edge of the pool has E. Coli. In fact, (and please be sure to stop eating right now if you wish to continue), the average pool in a day contains 3 to 4 POUNDS of fecal matter from adults who do not wipe properly prior to swimming. So think real carefully before you take that gulp of water, friends.

So if I haven’t ruined your summer plans yet, let me also reveal that chlorine does not kill cryptosporidium for SEVEN days. So you can be in a well-maintained pool that still serves as a floating petrie dish for chlorine-resistant diarrhea-causing parasites.

Sadly, after learning all this information, I learned that it’s all in a day’s work for a public pool and that there is no draining and cleaning or anything like that done for any of this stuff (unless of course some kid drops a dumpadoo floater in the middle of a lap lane) because it’s just considered standard. Which is precisely why immune-challenged people are not allowed to swim, and why a kid can go to preschool with a backpack and come home with staphlococcus aureus.**

Y’all have a nice summer now, y’hear?! Don’t drink the water!

**In fairness, there is no definitive proof that the pool was the vector for the staph, but rather a supposition based on the MD’s experience, so don’t go marching on them demanding a week-long cloroxing or anything. Also do not sue me for slander or whatever, pool organization, or I’ll have to do an Oprah and call in Dr. Phil to consult; and no one wants that, right? Suffer the conjecture of one little blog post from a nobody hausfrau–or suffer weeks of a large man bellowing, “How’s that workin’ for ya!?” and “That dog ain’t gon’ hunt!” Do the right thing, for all our sakes.

Bambina has recently become very interested in and enamored of teenagers, as long as they don’t refer to her as a “little sister” or any other diminutive endearment. It’s cute to a point, but her curiosity has now focused specifically on one teenager in particular: me. What did you look like? Did you like school? Did you drive a car? Did you kiss a boy? On and on, each question prompting an answer, but never really the truth.

AnyoneW who is still alive to tell the tale knows that high school is rarely on most people’s bucket lists as “places I’d love to return.”. Or maybe you were that kid. The one who just sailed through adolescence with tons of friends, no insecurities, and a double dose of genuine confidence. I haven’t met that kid yet, upon reflection; but I spent a great deal of the late 80’s convinced that I was the only living girl in Jonesmont without it. Which makes my reminiscences for Bambina semi-fictional, for reasons of her age and my discomfort.

What did I look like? Well, I tell her that I looked ridiculous by today’s standards, but that I really loved High top sneakers, color- coordinated socks and shirts, and enormous hair. She finds this revelation funny. I don’t tell her that I was going for Debbie Gibson cute meshed with Pat Benatar Love Is a Battlefield edge, and failing. I don’t tell her that the winning caption for any of my high school photos would simply read, “Reeks of Effort”. I don’t tell her that I spent unhealthy quantities of time worrying about how I looked, what people (=boys) thought of how I looked, how much I would just totally seriously DIE if my hair got flat in the rain and I had to spend a day feeling ugly. I don’t tell her that more than anything, I want to spare her those obsessive hours, those worries about features she cannot change, people she cannot impress. I want her to love herself in a way that I, and I suspect most high schoolers, did not.

Did I like school? I tell her half the truth: I really really did, big fat nerd that I was. I tell her that i loved most of my teachers and found almost everything I learned interesting. I tell her that my favorite subjects were English and History. She gets this because she likes school too. I don’t tell her that my classes were a welcome reprieve from a social structure I never quite understood or managed to conquer. That academics shielded me somewhat from the insanity I perceived around me. That I embraced the Smart Girl designation because the others (slut, bitch, troubled drinker) scared me or (scholar-athlete, drama and music girl) eluded me due to my rather hilarious lack of talent. I don’t tell her that I pondered serial killing in any math class with poor befuddled Mr. [redacted] who took Calculus, a subject I already feared and loathed due to its complexity, and made it even more confusing. I literally watched the clock every single minute of that class, plotting how I could perhaps cut his brake line or pull a fire alarm to avoid another day in this academic purgatory.

Did I drive a car? I tell her Sometimes. I tell her I was not allowed in cars with boys until sophomore year. I tell her that I was in a serious car accident in which I was not wearing a seat belt. I don’t tell her that the accident caused my dad to re-invoke the parent-must-drive-me-everywhere rule, much to my rage. I don’t tell her that I hated him with a passion I have never felt before or since, for stealing my freedom, clipping my wings, killing my social life as I imagined it. I don’t tell her that, because I ignored my parents’ seatbelt rule, my father could not forgive me, could not trust me, could not trust anyone else with me. I don’t tell her that I now, as a parent, understand him to the point of tears, when he said after I had screamed, “You’re an asshole!! I hate you!” and thrown stuff and then slammed some doors, “you can hate me all you want, as long as you’re alive to hate me.”. I don’t tell her that once you stare down the cold metal barrel of your kid’s potential end you are never the same person again…and hate from a clueless, self-involved 16 year-old becomes the least of your concerns.

Did I kiss a boy? I tell her yes. I consider lying to encourage chastity, but even I can’t pull that lie off. I tell her that she shouldn’t feel like she ever has to kiss a boy (or girl for that matter) if she doesn’t really want to. I tell her that her life will be full of days for kissing, so there’s never a reason to start early just because. I tell her that someof the nicest people I still know are boys I used to, or wanted to, kiss. She finds this revelation “gross and yucky”. I don’t tell her that she will no doubt be physically interested in “kissing” (hey, it’s a family blog) looong before she has the mental and emotional foundation to understand it’s implications. I don’t tell her that sometimes, maybe, a boy you kiss will also hit you. I don’t tell her that her future will depend upon her getting far, far away from that person. I don’t tell her that girls suffering the same adolescent lack of emotional skills will sometimes be nasty or mean or petty just for kicks, or maybe because you are kissing a boy they would prefer to be kissing. I don’t tell her that shit involving boys, how to get them, how to keep them, how to escape them when you are in over your head–if you make the wrong choices–can totally fucking ruin your year. I don’t tell her that I already know I’m capable of putting a bullet in the brain of any boy who physically harms her.

Bambina says I should have told myself at 15 that I was pretty and smart and that boys are yucky. I agree, on 2 out of 3, and then wonder what would I tell my 15 year-old self if I could chat with her as I do Bambina? I think I’d paraphrase an old Chasidic quote and pray she’d understand:

I fear the things that cannot harm me
I long for things that cannot help me.
What I fear is within me,
Within me too is what I seek.

Baby Sister is a certified adrenaline junkie. How do I know, besides the fact that she is crazy? I asked her last week, after (I’m not making this up) she jumped off her bed, crashed into her wall, slid down it, ricocheted off the radiator, cried–and then tried to do it again, “Sweet Girl, why are you always doing such nut ball things?!”.

“Me want fly.”

She wants to fly. And when I explained, gently yet forcefully, that humans cannot fly out with an aircraft she gave me the most disgusted look, like “you are the saddest case of limited thinking I have ever met in my entire 34 months of life.”. Almost in defiance of my no fly zone, she started acting up. I then had to talk her out of sliding down the banister after seeing a rabbit in a Sandra Boynton book doing it. Then I offered the 411 that jumping off the 4th step is probably a bit risky. She very genuinely thinks now that I simply lack imagination..and balls.

All of which is to say that her future flashed before my eyes, and it contained too much funneling, reality-show bug eating, and tramp stamps that read “outlaw” for my comfort. I immediately began planning all the “positive” outlets for her adrenaline addiction, like extreme gymnastics or rock climbing and sky diving so as to save us all from a future as Ninja Warrior groupies. But I think, at this point, I’ll just be grateful if she doesn’t grow up to marry Jesse James or a geriatric David Lee Roth.

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