Kurt got some bad news on the job front yesterday. It was extremely disappointing and puts us back in panic mode. Mild panic. Not full on running around like maniacs panic. But, you know, how-are-we-going-to-pay-the-bills panic. We were very confident about his chances on this one. The CEO TOLD him he wanted to "move forward" after Kurt's FOURTH interview. He said we would hear by the beginning of this week. So "move forward" meant "not hire you" and the beginning of this week meant Friday, I guess. It's as if hiring someone for a really well paying job with benefits for their family isn't something that person might be, you know, waiting to hear about. It's been a long week.
Monty woke up in a terrible mood and stayed that way all day. We're trying to do the whole "no time outs" thing because it's sort of a terrible thing to do to a kid who doesn't understand feelings and isn't fully capable of communicating his needs. "You're mad, therefore we'll abandon you!" So we do a lot of redirecting. We do a lot of looking at the sun coming through the clouds. We do his Frozen puzzle. We listen to music.
Today we went out to the apple orchard (by orchard I mean four trees in a field) to pick apples and clear out some saplings that my father said were encroaching on a few more apple trees. The axe we found in the garage was basically a large hammer. God knows when if it was ever sharp, because it sure isn't anymore. I decided that taking down the saplings would be my job. I needed to swing an axe at some trees pretending that they were the CEO. It was that or run into traffic.
Turns out the saplings aren't so much "encrouching" on the apple trees as apple trees are growing in the forest. It was a forest. I set out to chop down a forest with a dull axe.
Here's what I learned about chopping down trees:
1. It's hard.
2. Like, hard.
3. Check to make sure the axe head is secure to the handle or it might fly off and narrowly miss hitting your toddler who is innocently standing by eating an apple and insisting, "No. Monty can cut da trees!"
4. If you ever come across a handsome lumberjack out in the woods chopping trees while you're on a camping trip with your girlfriends like that chick from the 1970s-era porn, Bad Girls, skip going down on him because I guarantee you he has a cup or so of sweat accumulated in his underwear. It smells like a bucket of chum down there. Just steer clear.
5. Wear gloves.
Three years ago I went in for my yearly Well Woman exam and found out I was 10 and a half weeks pregnant. I was single and unemployed, with health insurance that was set to expire in two months. My ex-boyfriend, Kurt, half of the reason for the unexpected pregnancy, and I were still living together as I hadn't yet found a place of my own, but we had split up a month earlier. I called him. I called my sister. I called my therapist. I called my parents. And then I called Planned Parenthood. I had a little over a week to decide what I wanted to do. I made an appointment for an abortion in one week in case that was what I ended up going with.
It was a rough week. Kurt and I cried and fought. We yelled and made accusations. My sister offered whatever support I needed whether that was a ride to the clinic and care afterward or someone to raise the baby with. My parents were far more measured with their support, mostly offering up reasons why having the baby would be the wrong choice. I had my career to consider. I was just getting going again with an acting career I had put on hold for four years. I was booking work and things were looking hopeful. I was having more success than I had had for many years. A baby would certainly put a giant kink in that trajectory. And how would I afford the labor and the subsequent baby without insurance or a job? What about my mental health? Would I be able to continue my meds while pregnant and nursing?
I was raised pro-choice. I always believed abortion was a woman's decision. I believed a woman shouldn't be forced to put her own goals on hold because she happened to get pregnant. And I always assumed if I got pregnant before I was ready I would have an abortion. I was 33. I didn't want kids. My career was important to me.
And yet. There was this nugget of an idea that kept making its way to the front of my brain. What if you did have this baby? It was a radical idea. Crazy, And yet. The nugget got louder and louder. Seriously. What if you did have this baby? And I started to think about what if. And, of course, I had no idea what if. I didn't know what having a baby would really do to my life. I couldn't possibly know. It could be the worst thing that ever happened to me. On the other hand. What if I had the baby?
Kurt and I took a weekend apart to think (and so I could stop throwing shoes at him), and when we came back together that Sunday, we decided to go with the terrifying unknowable future of the what if. I canceled my appointment with Planned Parenthood.
Seven months later I gave birth to a boy I never thought I'd have. And he is perfect. I mean, for real, the kid is a perfect specimen, I won't bore you with the details of how perfect he is. If you want to know, read the rest of my blog. But I challenge you to talk to a person on this earth who has spent more than 10 seconds with him who won't back me up.
And yet. I suffered major postpartum depression. Six months after Monty was born I found myself laying on my apartment floor barely able to breathe. Our financial situation made it nearly impossible to hire any kind of help. The only respite I got was from friends who would offer a few hours here and there for "date nights". We made too much money to get any kind of assistance but not enough to afford any childcare. I was hardly able to produce milk anymore because of general anxiety and anxiety about losing "the baby weight" in order to be skinny enough to get work in my industry. Monty was the easiest, happiest little guy and yet there were days when I didn't know how I would possibly survive 'til Kurt got home. I was sure I was a failure. I strongly considered hospitalizing myself. I went back on my meds and switched Monty mostly to formula.
Once my meds were stabilized I was able to think a little more clearly. I was better able to distinguish reality from the lies my sick mind was still whispering to me. You're a failure. Okay, maybe, but not today.
I am so glad I didn't have that abortion.
A year and a half after Monty was born I found myself once again unexpectedly pregnant. Six weeks after a slip up and a prompt ingestion of the morning after pill, my chest started to break out for the second time in my life two weeks after I should have gotten my period. This time I was employed (temporarily) and still had no insurance. Before I took the test, Kurt and I talked about the possibilities. If I was pregnant, we decided, we would downgrade to a one-bedroom apartment to save money. We would move back to New York. My family would help. Yes, we would make it work. I stood in the doorway of our bathroom staring at the two little lines on the pregnancy test in my hand. I looked up at Kurt and literally couldn't find the words. He reached out for me and I laid down next to him. We lay there in silence for 15 minutes. And then I burst out laughing and Kurt burst into tears, How had we let this happen again? Did we not know how babies were made? Did we miss that day in Health class? What were people going to say?
I called Planned Parenthood and made an appointment in one week in case that was the way we decided to go.
It didn't take us a week to make the decision. We knew right away. We had already taken risks having Monty and those risks were paying off in spades. He made our lives infinitely better.
And yet. We were barely getting by. I was still mostly unemployed. Turns out the nearly yearlong break my pregnancy demanded of my career made it harder to get back in. We managed to feed Monty well but at the expense of our own down time. We still had no child care help. We never got a break. Our situation wasn't quite dire, but it wouldn't take much to put it there. And people kept telling me every baby is born with a loaf of bread under its arm. But a loaf of bread doesn't pay the rent. And we all know where a loaf of bread landed Jean Val Jean.
And there was my mental health. We considered ourselves lucky that I had made it through my postpartum situation relatively unscathed. We didn't know if we'd be so lucky again. I honestly didn't think I could handle a second baby. What if it was colicky? What if it was sick? What if it was one of those babies that has no personality?
A second child would mean a significant downgrade in our quality of life, such as it was. Unless we came across some kind of financial windfall, we didn't see how having a second child at that point would be fair to us or to Monty or to it. We just didn't have the financial or emotional resources to spare.
So, we kept our appointment with Planned Parenthood. We went in on July 5th, 2014. We got there before the clinic opened. The only protester there was a small guy with a graphic poster, speaking in spanish. But Kurt got called a coward and a murderer on his way out by a woman who had decided that she understood his life better than he did. The three other women in the waiting room were all mothers, too. They seemed fine with their decisions. We all felt fine with our decisions. And yet. We found ourselves defending our choice to each other as though we had anything to defend. We didn't. We were four loving mothers who were making the best decision for themselves and their families. The nurses and doctors who cared for me were extremely compassionate and kind. The doctor told me my last name means "good" in Hungarian. Or Polish. Or some language. And then I woke up in the recovery room and it was over and I felt relief.
I am so glad I had that abortion. It was absolutely the right choice for myself and my family. I have never once regretted it. I have never felt sad or mourned for "the baby that never was." Instead I have loved the baby that is. And all of our lives are infinitely better for it.
I've been thinking a lot about wheat. (It's a fascinating party in my head all the time). Remember the food pyramid we grew up with? I would post an image of it but the new Weebly app has this neat feature where it crashes anytime you try to add a picture to a blog. Anyway, in the 90s the entire bottom level of the pyramid was wheat and grains, in other words, the bulk of our caloric intake was supposed to be that straight carbs. 6-11 servings a day. They were all, "Eat all the cereal, rice, and bread you possibly can! It's great! It turns right into sugar in your system!" And we were all, "Duuuuuuuuuuh okay!" Then, at some point recentlyish they decided fruit and vegetables should be at the bottom of the pyramid and wheat was moved up a scootch to the second tier. So now it's 4-8 servings, which is sort of less then 6-11?
So, I have this small human I'm trying to, you know, keep alive and make smart and stuff, right? At breakfast it's oatmeal or Cheerios and fruit. So, there's one serving. At lunch it's a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or pasta or whatever the hell we happened to have remembered to stock our pantry with. That's got to be at least a serving and a half. Then there's crackers or whatever for a snack. Now we're up to, what, 3 and a half at least? And then dinner? Jesus. Pasta? Rice? Some sort of grain? I already give myself and Kurt kudos for giving him homemade food three meals a day almost everyday (You should see the pile of dirty dishes.) and largely organic and blah blah blah. So, I can't really get on my own case for not being Paleo or Macro or whatever gluten-free, grain free thing the kids are into these days. But it does feel like I'm dumping a bunch of empty calories into him for a couple hours of non-hungeryness. And it is only a couple of hours. Feed the kid oatmeal and an hour later he's asking for a "Peabudder samwich!" And I know we're still within the guidelines, but in five minutes they're going to say no wheat or grains EVER AT ALL EVEN FOR YOU NORMAL-EATING PEOPLE! And then I'm the asshole feeding my kid quinoabread.
Fucking wheat, man. And don't even get me started on sugar...
I want to write about the day we just had, but I've had more than a half a bottle of wine and I'm watching Lost, which, you guys, I'm not even going to discuss because it is my 5th time watching it from the beginning and that's ABSOLUTELY the mark of a fucking lunatic especially since I know that Sayid ends up with Shannon which is literally the worst thing that ever happened on television, not to mention the entire fucking last episode which was like having amazing foreplay for hours and then finding out he has micro-penisitis, which, I realize is like, "why wouldn't you know how big the guy's dick is after hours of foreplay?" but I just need that metaphor to work for this purpose, okay, so let's just move on.
Anyway, we went to a graveyard down the road with a grave for the person the road we live on was named for. And Monty had an epic meltdown on the way and then I was like, "Look at this grave of a BABY! It died in 1817. Probably from a cold. You know the thing you just ran around through for two days? And you're crying because we won't carry you 100 feet down the road because we just want you to walk like a regular human. Jesus Christ, kid. Get a fucking grip."
I didn't say any of those things. Put the phone down.
I was concerned one of my recent blog posts was going to upset my father and it turns out I was right, though not for the reason I thought I'd be. He did not express upset in my confession about my psychological scars from "The Fight". And, of course I recognize that his not expressing upset doesn't mean he didn't experience upset, he just didn't share that upset with me if it did, indeed, upset him. What he did take issue was my characterization of his neighbors as being Right Wing nut jobs who hate gays and women.
And for this, I am truly sorry.
In truth, I don't know my parents' neighbors, so how could I possibly know their stance on gays and women? To be fair, my father only told me about one particular neighbor who is a Right Wing nut job and I extrapolated and, perhaps, exaggerated a bit for dramatic effect.
Some years ago, my father gave me a book called Inventing The Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir. In it there is some talk about using personal history as narrative and of a device often used by memoirists in which some facts or memories are embellished or heightened to serve whatever story they might be telling.
I confess I used this device when I pluralized "neighbor" to "neighbors" and added the stuff about gays and women.
I would like to now amend my unfair, uninformed characterization of my parents' neighbors. Now that I have spent a little more time up here I think I have a slightly better idea of the politics of the general population. So here is my edited version of the offending statement:
My parents are selling this place. It's too far from the city, and some of the neighbors have lawn signs calling to repeal The Safe Act which is a law put into effect this year that calls for tighter restrictions on gun and bullet sales, and there's a big lawn sign right at the beginning of town which states "Impeach the liar Obama. Trump 2016!", and there was this guy at a nearby restaurant telling everyone at his table (and all the others) that "Trump really has what it takes to turn this country around" and that he ran circles around the other GOP candidates in the debate and they couldn't respond to his points because they (his points) were spot on and "how do you debate the truth?", and there was the pickup truck I drove behind today on the way to Albany with this decal on its back window:
And, of course there are exceptions. There always are. Like Jews in Utah. Or Black people in Maine. Or... my parents. And while this is an incredibly beautiful part of the country and there are breathtaking views around every turn, and flocks of wild turkeys running around everywhere, and deer in the backyard, it makes sense that my parents would want to live in place where the majority of the people around them believe in the same principals they do. I get that. I really do.
But, when the apocalypse does come, having a natural water source on your property is going to matter a whole lot more than having like-minded neighbors. And, having repealed The Safe Act, my parents' neighbors will be coming for the water, automatic assault riffles ablazin'!
I spent an hour on an blog entry on Wednesday night and it disappeared to god knows where. It was a good piece and I was so frustrated I punished my blog by not returning to it til now. That'll show it.
I was very out of sorts in Brooklyn. Last year at just about this time I had an epic fight with my parents that was life and relationship-changing. I suppose I didn't want to be in the house on the anniversary of "The Fight." There are enough ghosts in that house. I don't need to hang around with the one where my parents tell me I'm a failure. We headed to the Upstate house a day early, which will be our primary base until one or the other of us obtains gainful employment, and since I'm an actor, that burden basically rests on Kurt's shoulders. Even though the Upstate house was were I got married to a man I didn't love, twelve years ago (Twelve years exactly, actually. We got married on August 30th.) this house holds fewer memories. I can even look directly at the spot on which I said, "I do" and not feel a thing. Plus Kurt and Monty and I are alone up here (most of the time), so it's significantly quieter than Brooklyn.
I feel compelled here to clarify my feelings toward my parents' Brooklyn house and, for that matter, toward my parents. I dislike neither. In fact, I love both my parents and the house. It just sometimes feels like... a lot. It's a small house and they have two dogs including a Greyhound, and when it's me and Kurt and Monty and my parents and my sister and the dogs it's... a lot. One of the results of "The Fight" is that I've become more introspective, more guarded, and slightly less trustful. It's unfortunate, but true. I am aware that this is going to pain my father to read, but there it is. I don't know if I'll ever truly recover from it. And, in a strange way, I'm okay with that. Also, I should say, for the record, that when we are with my family, caring for Monty is significantly easier as there are three extra adults to make sure his head doesn't fall off. It allows for time to write. Or nap.
So, to sum up, I love my parents and am grateful for their warmth, love, generosity, and hospitality. I love my childhood home. But on the heels of the most stressful year of my life and moving across the country in a car with a toddler, I needed some peace.
The Upstate house is pretty far from they city (about 2 1/2 hours), which makes it not practical for commuting. But it is so peaceful and idyllic. Yesterday my step-mother took Kurt on a walk around the property. He came back and said, "When I was standing in that meadow I felt like I was in a painting."
"Excuse me. Meadow?" I said.
"Yeah, the meadow on the other side of the trees," he said.
"There's a meadow?"
There's a meadow. I had never walked the property in the 14 years that my parents have owned this house. I assumed the property ended at the tree line at the back of the backyard. So, Kurt took Monty and I up to the meadow and beyond. There's a fucking meadow, guys. A few of them. And a creek. With water. Do you understand?
I was honestly trying to figure out how we could make farming work. Suddenly I was thinking about bringing professionals in to clear some of the forest to make a path for fucking cows and sheep and goats. And I was telling Kurt that we would have to get one of those movable chicken coops. And I was sure I was going to become a dairy farmer and make artisan butter that I'd sell at the Union Square Farmer's Market. And occasionally someone would say, "You look familiar." And I'd say, "I'm not Lena Dunham!" And we would laugh and then I'd tell them about the lavender butter and how good it is on blueberry scones.
And here's the thing: My parents are selling this place. It's too far from the city, and all the neighbors are virulent Right-Wingers (The kind that hate gays. And women.), and they don't come up here often enough to justify having to pay the property taxes which have increased since all the small dairy farms are dying off because they don't get the subsidies that giant, mega, factory farms get. Some prospective buyers came to look at it today, but when the dude stepped out his Chrysler, wearing purple leather loafers with no socks, my fears of having the house bought out from under us vanished. For today, anyway.
When the apocalypse comes and water becomes a serious issue, they're going to regret having sold this place. Mark my words. Well, they'll probably be long gone by then. But Monty will be like, "What the fuck were they thinking?!" And I'll be like, "What, dear? Hand me that bottle of sleeping pills, a plastic bag, and some duct tape. There's $500 stowed away in the back of the armoire. It's all I have left. I love you."
And now comes the irony. My good friend has opened a daycare in Hamilton Heights and has hired me for a reduced hourly wage in exchange for daycare for Monty. And he wants me there full time. But I can't take the job because I can't commute to the city every day. So, I'm literally being handed a job and I can't take it. Amazing. And no, I can't stay in Brooklyn full time (Please refer to aforementioned Fight.). So, that's a conundrum.
Monty continues to be the best human ever. I know that sounds hyperbolic, but it's just facts. He says "Thank you" when appropriate. He greets everyone with a cheery, "Hiya!" He RARELY tantrums, and by rarely I mean I can't remember the last time he did. He now says, "I love you." and it seems to come from a genuine place of love. I don't know how he knew how to label that feeling. I suppose after the millionth time I grabbed him and hugged him and told him I loved him he realized that one went with other. We took him to a diner tonight and my sister put "Jailhouse Rock" on the jukebox and Monty stood on his seat and air drummed. At the end of the song he yelled, "Rock! And! Roll!!" I mean, come the fuck on.
In other, less personal news, I was trying to come up with something to say in the wake of the several recent shootings. I am profoundly distressed by the state of the gun control debate in this country. I am furious that when I think about sending Monty off to school I now have to worry that some maniac with a gun will take some convoluted frustration out on Monty's class and I'll never see him again. I'm furious that ANYONE has to worry about that. We are completely out of control. Someone tweeted recently that the gun debate in this country ended with Sandy Hook. When it becomes acceptable to kill children, we have lost the fight.
Also, I'm reading an interview with Maya Schenwar who is a prison reform advocate and while I already knew the prison system is a complete failure, some of the shit she talks about makes you want to commit hari kari .
George Carlin said he wasn't interested in making things better or working to change the world because we had already fucked it up so profoundly that there's no going back so we might as well just ride it out while we're here. When you think about the fact that as a species we could have set up life any way we wanted and we designed what we designed it is the most nonsensical thing ever. We somehow decided that life should be a series of responsibilities all meant to pay someone else to make it possible for us to continue meeting our responsibilities.
We can't keep going like this, right?
P.S. I'm aware that I sound more discouraged than normal right now. But I'm actually feeling pretty hopeful and happy. No need to worry. I'm on my meds and looking for a new therapist. Everything is great!