Thursday, October 30, 2008

My New Neighbor

I like to think I am something of a late bloomer.

I spent my life being told I was twiggy. That I needed some fat on my bones. That I should eat more.

Then suddenly this stomach came to live with me. It lies next to me when I am sleeping and doesn't seem to have any intention of leaving.

Yesterday this stomach was even the topic of conversation at work:

General manager: Olaina, you have such a cute little belly.
Me: It's gigantic.
Manager: It is not.
Me: It's like a little kid's belly. Or a slightly pregnant woman.
GM: No, it's cute. It's there, but it's so little.
Manager: It's a compliment.
GM: Yeah. It's hard to say without sounding funny.
Me: OK. I'll take it as a compliment.

It used to be a compliment that I was too skinny. I had a flat stomach that looked OK when I wore fitted shirts. Now I have a conversation-worthy stomach. The bizarre part, to me, is that just one year ago I still had that waifish look. Of course, I was never hungry then and I was doing yoga at least twice a week, sometimes twice a day. Then I started taking a medicine that made me fantasize about grilled cheese sandwiches when I was lying in bed, trying to sleep.

Maybe that's why this neighborhood is going to pot.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What They Say

I have this terrible habit of not believing What They Say, which right now is to say that I do not believe that I will not have any time to myself if we have a kid.

This, despite the woes of my friends who all tell me they haven't read anything for pleasure in as long as their first child has been alive and who now even go to the restroom with a baby as their witness.

I believe that if I have a kid I will read during nap time, or nap during nap time.

Naivete such as mine must be what keeps this world populated with human beings.

That and the fact that we supposedly forget the pain of childbirth within a while of the event--that and good drugs.

Anne Lamott writes in Grace (Eventually) that she "trusted that other parents would help [her] every step of the way, and that if [she] did not keep secrets when motherhood was going particularly badly, there would be healing and enough understanding and stamina to get by."

I guess that's why I have chosen to be so open about trying to have kids. I know that if I get pregnant and then have another miscarriage I am going to need a tribe to carry my body away from the cliffs.

I also know I won't have a clue what to do if we do have a baby, so it seems like a good idea to warn everybody so that they get ready to help in their own way. I'm counting on the ways including some cooked food and maybe some babysitting or company for me.

Anne Lamott says, "I believed that being a parent would be a more glorious circuit than it's turned out to be--that the transmission would be more reliable. Now I think I imagined it would be more like being a grandparent."

I believe someone will help me when I'm so tired I want to hide the baby in a drawer until I feel like playing with it again.


Justin walked into the restaurant last night and I felt all fluttery inside. He wasn't supposed to be off work for at least one more hour, but there he was in a blue T-shirt and shorts instead of scrubs.

He said he had taken a walk.

Later he told me he had been on the look out for my car the whole way because he was afraid we'd pass each other in the street and he was coming to surprise me.

It's amazing to me that after more than six years of marriage I still get puppy-dog-happy when he walks into the room.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I am so bored that my boredom became the central subject of my therapy visit in San Diego this month.

Ironically, being better and supposedly having come out of a long depressive episode has left me discouraged. My discouragement in large part comes out of my desire to be, rather do, more than I am doing.

What I mean is, now that I am not symptomatic (I have energy, I feel I can do more than just lie down, I want to do something enjoyable; whereas before I lay around and I didn't care because I couldn't muster the strength to move) I believe I should be getting a bunch of stuff done. However, I don't actually have much to do.

I have not been a teacher since January 2006.

I am used to making lots of money, having so much to do that I don't have a spare minute in the day, neglecting household chores because I am too overwhelmed with employment tasks.

Now I have the kind of time I only dreamed of having back then, and I am not enjoying it.

So that's what we talked about--finding a way not to feel so bored, not to be so judgmental, to be in the moment instead of being dissatisfied with the moment.

The psychiatrist came up with this: I can't do much yet. It's like I was a runner and I had a stroke. I wouldn't be able to just jump back into running, I would have to relearn how to walk and then slowly jog--and that's only if I were lucky enough to be able to rehabilitate at that level.

The therapist and I decided I needed something to say to myself to replace my typical, "I should..." since should-ing myself wasn't getting me to go to the gym or look for a real job or do much of anything. We came up with the idea that I needed to approach my days as an experiment. That I need to try things out and see how they feel and whether I want to go on with them or not.

It's like watching a baby learn to stand up and then walk. There are a lot of times that they push off, but then they squat right back down--maybe because they get scared, maybe because their legs are not quite strong enough yet. They try over and over again and their success is in the act of attempting.

People don't yell at a baby for trying to stand; people watch joyfully, "You can do it! Good job! Come on! Keep trying!"

Today I experimented with taking a nap. I had a terrible headache--like my brain was getting squished by my skull, which is almost true because my braces got tightened yesterday. I took some ibuprofen and I let myself go back to bed. I had to experiment with whether it made me feel better to close my eyes. It worked. Now I can go to work and feel like maybe I won't die from it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Yesterday at the restaurant a family of three ate outside. The dad came inside to have a beer, leaving the two-year-old boy and mom at the table and secretly ordering a second which he downed after dinner.

As they left he said, "We made a mess. That's the legacy of a two-year-old. It's like having six drunk people over."

I was left to pick up chips and french fries from the sidewalk, wipe honey mustard off the table, and clean the dad's mess of salsa and chips from his section of the table.

All the while, I was wondering, "Do I want to invite six drunk people over to live with me for at least eighteen years? Would I love them always?"

Yes, on both counts. A scary yes, but yes nonetheless.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I'm going to have a housewife-ish day today.

Justin and I both had last night--a Friday night!--off. He came and picked me up from work (where we shared some nachos and had a beer) and when we got home we marveled.

"It's a Friday night and we both have it off!"

"It feels so normal. What do normal people do on a Friday night?"

We went to a party that one of the other residents was having. We have another party to attend tonight, but for this one I will get there first and Justin will join us after his shift in the Pediatrics ER.

In the meantime, I am going to play housewife and get this place cleaned up. With both of us working it's kind of gone to ruins.... there are papers cluttering the coffee table from interrupted mail reading and new healthcare form filling, the fires left an extra layer of dust on everything, the dishes and laundry need to be done. When we both work our odd hours and odd sleep things fall apart.

Today will be like the 50s--with the man off at work and the wife at home cleaning, except I won't be waiting at the door with a drink for him when he gets home. In this generation of resident-wifehood, I and a few other men and women will be at a party without our partners if they happen to be at work. I'll have a drink waiting for him when he gets to the party.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

In case you need help....

Glamourous? Not so much...

Waitressing is such a dredges of the earth kind of job. The last task of my night is using a kitty litter scooper to clean out the ash tray. Once, during the later shifts when it was cocktailing more than food serving, a man kissed my shoulder and asked me to lick his face (I said no). Parents bring their kids in and let them spill food all around the ground and table and don't pick anything up. One group of parents with two sets of kids let them run around the restaurant taking paper towels and making them pom-poms so that they could pretend they were cheerleaders. The kids told me to do something cool so that they could cheer for me. I got yelled at by a manager for leaving the silverware to the end of my shift to roll up in the paper napkins, but I'd left it because there were only six sets during the shift and we're not supposed to use the dishwasher if we don't have enough to put into it.

I'm still seriously considering substitute teaching--it's also a level of hell, but at least unless a kid spits on me or pukes I don't have to get dirty.

Unfortunately, with my life being the mental health balancing act that it is, I have to wait before I can start looking for a substitute teaching job. Actually, I could probably start applying now--the process takes some time. I would not have to start working right away.

The thing is, I am stopping my anxiety medication--the one that made me so calm I slept a lot--and so I'm supposed to observe myself to see if I get more anxious or agitated.

Substitute teaching induces a certain amount of anxiety and agitation in the average human being. For me, it should wait until I see that I am sailing smoothly without the med.

Right now, I am down to 1/4 of the pill I used to take. If I went off it cold turkey I would have terrible withdrawal headaches--I did it once before without the doctor's guidance, I just ran out and didn't refill the prescription until I had to drive to the pharmacy with my eyes squinting shut against the bright rays of daylight. In a week I should be done with this round.

Financially the prospect of waiting to substitute teach is about as anxiety laden as diving right in, though. The restaurant has cut our shifts to three per week, so my $11 to $100 per night (more typically in the $20-30 range) is titrated. It's too scary to live like this--wondering if I'll make enough money. Justin constantly assures me that we're doing OK, but I know I'm not pulling my weight as much as I could.

I also know I'm not in a position to sell my art the way I used to. For one thing, it costs money to get into shows, for another thing the economy isn't exactly encouraging people to buy photographs or even greeting cards. So, I wait. Wait for life to reveal itself. The art market in San Diego was far more substantial than it is here--at least for local artists I haven't found the art walk venues that San Diego offered.

For a girl who is so bored much of the time, there is a lot to work on, isn't there?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Brain Rot

I think I can feel my brain rotting in my skull.

For a while I couldn't do much that required concentration. My mind wouldn't focus so I was constantly distracted from even the smallest task.

But now that I have been better for a while I am so bored.

I can think again, and I find myself with not much to think about.

I am considering substitute teaching. We could really use the money and it would be a commitment to something that requires thoughtful juggling. Granted, teachers tend to leave simple plans for subs, but it would be more than my current considerations--sorting the laundry, unpacking boxes, dusting the furniture. I just need to figure out the districts that the schools around here are in so that I can apply.

In the meantime, maybe I'll try to find a crossword puzzle to do.

Just kidding. I want to do something productive. Productive. Not repetitive. Productive.

And Back Again...

As predicted the warm weather has returned--along with the October Fires. 2003. 2007. Hopefully today not bad enough to add to the record of Firestorm Years.

I planned to start my running regimen today. Might need to rethink that with the Santa Ana winds blowing.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

"Inclusive" and "down to Earth"

Justin liked the Vision and Mission statement of Christ Episcopal Church, which includes: Respecting the dignity of every human being and Fostering an inclusive community.

I liked that there were quotations about baptism "for your consideration," including Martin Luther from the Large Catechism, "Baptism is valid, even though faith be wanting. For my faith does not make baptism, but receives it."

We both liked the attitude toward the congregants--the almost 2-year-old who was being baptized kept wandering up to the altar and the Pastor said he was welcome. The passing of the peace was recess, with the Pastor one of the last to finish greeting everyone in the congregation with a handshake or hug.

The sermon was about The Gospel reading, Matthew 22:1-14, where the king invites a bunch of people to a wedding banquet but they don't come, and then he invites everyone and someone doesn't don a wedding robe and he is kicked out because he isn't dressed well. The pastor said that the guy who gets kicked out is the guy who is most like the kingdom of heaven--you know, everyone welcome, no matter what you're wearing. He even put it in the context of more text, which I find comforting because it shows the Pastor is considering the full text, not just the reading of the day as excerpted in the book.

Afterward, Justin filled out the informational sheet and turned it in, saying we would return. We even went to the patio to have coffee and meet people. That's where one person said she had been going to this church for two years and liked it because it was really down to Earth and after a while when you got to know people it was like a family, not like a big church where sometimes you get lost. Another man from a young couple said he liked the inclusiveness.

Justin and I walked home along the beach saying we'd had a nice morning. We held hands.

A New Church, Hopefully

"This is what I'm wearing," he said and pointed to nice slacks and my favorite blue shirt. "I figured since it's a new church..."

"Gotta wear good luck clothes?"

"Yeah," he said with resignation.

"I know. I just e-mailed Pastor Brian and told him to pray for good things."

"If they start raving about Palin I'm out of there."

"I know. I can just see the yes on Proposition 8 propaganda."

"There better not be. I might even ask."

I consider this idea and am wary of it, but also know it would cut right to the heart of the matter. Justin and I cannot, under any terms, attend a church of hate or division. So, if a church did not love gay people as God and their neighbor and themselves, we'd be out of there.

So here we go. Pray for Grace and the True message of the Gospel: Love one another.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Seasons Change

One day, it turned to fall.

Just like that.

Tank top and capris switched to long sleeves and jeans.

I still expect warm days--the San Diego Fires both happened in late October--but right now it is blustery windy outside.

If I had papers to grade fall would be more believable, but as a season it does not seem right with really nothing to do in my free time. Justin and I just took an afternoon nap between college football games and when I woke up I felt the familiar guilt of laziness. But I do not have papers to grade. I am free to nap without ruining a paper-grading plan. Yesterday I saw someone with a box full of papers to grade and I felt a pang of nostalgia. I need papers to grade for fall to be complete.

Instead, I have to get ready to go to the restaurant and serve food. Hopefully people will come--bad weather tends to hurt business.

Monday, October 06, 2008


It's an interesting age, 33. One that I will retire in December, but for now I marvel at the things I see at 33.

Friends having babies, getting divorced, buying houses, getting married, experience turbulence in their marriages... there's so much going on at 33.

It's really a fascinating time.

Of course, I'm somewhat stunned. Justin and I are just bubbling along, happily married, hoping for kids, working and waiting on everything as his residency moves through the first of three years.

Meanwhile, I follow the facebook updates of Those With Kids. One expects their first. One expects their third. One goes to Disneyland with a four-year-old for the first time.

In the midst of the Economic Crisis two couples look at purchasing property, moving through Escrow while the burst of the housing bubble moves into banks that can't lend money to people. How they're doing it, I don't know. Justin and I continue to rent our apartment with no expectation that we'll own property anytime soon. Meanwhile, I can't imagine bringing children into such an unstable world (this morning waking up and realizing that the Terrorists did win when they hit the World Trade Center, it just took a few years for the hit to develop its true catastrophic result). I actually told myself, "people had kids in the Depression, I can do it now."

In a display of true hope in times of despair, marriages continue to occur. My brother is engaged, and I get to be one of the beautiful bride's bridesmaids. Their wedding is bringing my family a sense of excitement and something to talk about other than politics. Though, as required in the unwritten rules, we are all well equipped for political discussions at our family gatherings.

And then there are the relationships that test Forever After. Divorced. Moving. Arguing. It's so hard to see this happening, as we hold our breathes through separate conversations. The tension pitches Justin and I toward each other, rapt in our own love, wrapped in the comfort of our relationship. Justin remembers when we had strife, though neither of us remembers what it was about, that he used to be annoyed by every little thing I did. It is those very little things though, that were always there and that he used to love about me; that he loves about me now. He says he just had to realize that and tell himself not to be annoyed. As though annoyance were a choice he made. Is that how it works? Just tell myself not to be annoyed? I think of work and realize that maybe in some ways it is that easy--I practice telling myself that those little things that annoy me about waitressing are fun, endearing, important, something I can turn around, and I feel better about the job than when I tell myself how ridiculous and worthless it is.

I wonder about these relationships that seem to be on shaky ground. Maybe the air will clear naturally.

Here I am at 33. Watching life's milestones happen all around me. Maybe one day we'll have a milestone again. A little one. Not a sad one. Please and thank you, God.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A Golden Weekend

Otherwise known as The Weekend in the non-doctor world, Justin had a Golden Weekend.

I know I am getting spoiled.

I made breakfast for him, we watched college football and got housework done. We played a game of Scrabble. Today we'll visit our families and tonight we'll go to sleep at the same time for the third night in a row.

Today I feel like a visitor is leaving tomorrow from a vacation spent with me.

But, oh, how I cherish these hours! In manner of mindfulness, instead of being blue about tomorrow I am enjoying the Chargers game right now with him next to me, shouting at the TV.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

9:30 p.m. way too late for me to be GOING to work.

9:30 is my bedtime.

I am not equipped for working this late.

I wish I could get out of it.

scheduling a life

Since we moved here I have had a hard time scheduling my days in a manner that allows me to fashion a real life.

Mostly I've been sleeping a lot.

Partly I sleep because our apartment is dark, partly I sleep because I work late, partly I sleep because once I wake up late I can't figure out what else to do but go back to sleep because I feel like I've missed out on most of the day already.

Today I defy this logic.

Today I wake up and live.

I decided that because of my erratic work schedule (I don't go in until 9:30 p.m. today) that setting a life schedule by exact hours is self-defeating. Every time I missed a scheduled event--like a pilates class--I felt defeated and then allowed the rest of the schedule to go in the dumps because I was in the dumps.

Now, I have a schedule by amount of time spent on a task. Therefore, I can sleep for 8 hours no matter what (I need the sleep to stay on track) and when I am finished with that I start with the other tasks, like getting ready, eating, cleaning, writing, etc. Each task is assigned one or two hours and so hopefully I won't fall off the wagon so easily.

So far so good. Even though I didn't sleep well last night, I spent 8 hours trying, so I'm up now. I'm already ready and writing. Yay!

One of the things that is important for someone with a mood disorder to do is have a regimen for the day. It's easier to stay stable if I know what I'm doing with my time. There's less room for thinking about my feelings because I am busy doing and being alive.

I figure if we're thinking about having kids I'd be best off getting regulated soon.

Yay me!

Oh. By the way. The retreat with the doctors was inspiring. Not only was I functional and capable of socializing (a difficult experience for a depressed person), I was happy to attempt it and also cognizant of my approach to people. That sounds weird, but sometimes I can be a little overwhelming. I tried to keep that at bay.

It was also inspiring to see all the women and men who married into the program like I did who are raising families while their spouse works at being a doctor. It made me feel like there might be a support system there for me if I tried to have a family--like at least there would be someone to talk to about it.

So, yes, other people's success inspired Justin and I to take the leap and try to get pregnant. It's definitely not something we're doing because "everybody's doing it," but it is something we feel more capable of because we see that it is possible and because we know our own skills and feelings.

We're scared, but we're also excited and hopeful and mellow about it at once.

That sounds pretty normal, to me.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

We want to do what?

Lake Arrowhead.

Huntington Beach.

San Diego.


It's all good though. I've been happy; the sleep part was probably just a little bit catching up and a little bit giving up caffeine and not giving up meds that have sleepiness as a side-effect.

Yeah. Happy.

My therapist thinks I need to have six months of stability under my belt before we try to have kids, but the very idea of watching every emotion to see if it's a depressive episode and watching the days click by is so counter to everything I have been working on as far as mindfulness goes that I cannot subscribe to her philosophy.

Meanwhile, my psychiatrist says she'll support me whatever we decide to do.

Our pastor is worried about the hormonal changes that pregnancy triggers in women, and how I'll handle the mood changes. He also worries about the financial aspects of it all.

A couple of friends say we'd make great parents.

We say why not and what are we waiting for?

And now, you, my eighth reader, are sitting there with your jaw on the floor.

Yes, after Disneyland, and explaining to two friends for the last time that we decided not to have children because we didn't want to have to take care of anyone, having already raised so many people and been caregivers even in our professions, that we wanted to have time just to care for each other and that we felt like we had the right to be selfish.

But I have never given that explanation without feeling a sense of defensiveness and resignation and intellectual conclusion.

When we think of having children we feel excited. Inexplicably excited and hopeful.

If it seems like this is a rash decision, it's rash as our engagement and our marriage.

Six months after meeting.

One year and four days after meeting.


When we made the decision to spend our lives together, we knew what we were looking for, we knew we were moving quickly, but we knew what felt right. Sure, we were a little scared and also excited, but we also just knew what we were doing was right.

And so it is.

As I have said before, I have spent my whole life wanting children. After the miscarriage and ensuing depression, I managed to talk myself out of it. I told myself it wasn't fair to a child to have to have a depressive mother, but I feel so good now, I feel like I can manage my depression, and because I am so responsible about taking the very meds that make my impending pregnancy risky, I feel like I can be a good parent.

As good a parent as so many people I see who are less purposeful about becoming parents.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't scared of: getting depressed again, having a miscarriage, not being able to get pregnant, being a parent...

I am scared.

But I also know I can manage depression, probably will have another miscarriage, might not be able to get pregnant, might be a parent.

All of those possibilities leave me feeling hopeful and strong.

Justin and I haven't gone into anything with naive expectations or romanticized visions of constant joy. We've faced very difficult situations together and thrived. Having children, or at least trying to, is one of those situations for us.

This time is going to be different. I am not going to hope too much. I am not going to pay too much attention. I am not going to let this experience rule my life. As with so many other things these days, rather than approaching a major project, I will spend my days working on having a good day.

Since January 2006, when I had to stop teaching and my whole life spun around, I have been a captive student of life. I know for sure I am not finished learning, but I know that what I have learned will help me be a good human being.

And I have learned that I am a human being, not a human doing.

If one day I have the privilege of becoming a parent, I can only imagine that the focus on being will help us all.

Off we are on another adventure! Don't anyone hold their breath...