Giving In (and also: 32!)

Part I: In Which I Give In and Get High

I caught this cold on Thursday, was pretty well laid-up all weekend, and am still fighting the lingering effects: a little cough, a lot of tiredness, and an exceptionally productive Snot Factory.

Yesterday afternoon, I started to catch myself yawning to pop my ears. I blew my nose at one point and heard crackling in my left ear for several minutes afterward. When I woke up this morning, the pressure in my ears was still there.

At that point, I realized that we had probably come to a point where stubbornness was running straight into stupidity. I had been refusing medication — even the doctor-recommended stuff that doesn’t cross the placenta — out of some desire to prove to myself that I could do it For The Baby. I’ve always been the sort of person to have an arsenal of OTC pain killers and allergy meds in her purse, so it’s been quite a shift for me — and it’s felt really good to know that I don’t have to be dependent on pills for every headache.

That said… I began to suspect that I could either take some Benadryl to clear up the congestion now, or I’d end up taking antibiotics for an ear/sinus infection later.

(I’m not at all prone to ear infections, even as a little kid, but then again, I’ve never let a bad head cold go completely untreated before, either.)

Reluctant to give in, I grabbed the children’s Benadryl that Ryan had gotten for me when I first got sick and stuck it in my purse. (I have a very low tolerance for certain medications, and have found that a single kid’s Benadryl — about a fourth of the usual adult dose — is completely adequate for me in almost every situation.) When I got to school I emailed my friend, the school nurse, and asked her advice. She agreed that I ought to treat the  small illness before it got bigger. Then I emailed Ryan, and he said the same thing.

caterpillarSo, at about 10 AM, I took my first non-vitamin pill in about eight months.

You would be astonished at how hard 12.5mg of diphenhydramine HCl can hit your system after an eight-month detox.

Guys, I am SO COMPLETELY STONED RIGHT NOW.

Remember — the recommended dose for an adult is 50mg. I took 12.5mg, and it is a damned good thing I don’t need to operate any heavy machinery anytime soon. Swimmy head, drowsiness, vocabulary loss, unwarranted amusement at unfunny things, general sense of benign benevolence toward the universe, vague sense that it would be pretty groovy to get down with a debate about multiverse theory in science fiction… I spent about five minutes trying to get Elliot’s attention in class before giving up and realizing, fifteen minutes later, that he wasn’t answering me because his name is Elijah… left the room twice only to find myself in the hall with no idea what I intended to do (answer: use the restroom)… the whole dopey nine yards. I haven’t been quite this high since I was about 16 and forgot that I shouldn’t take a full dose of sinus headache medication. Took both pills, and about halfway through a game of Rummy I forgot what numbers were.

I think I probably ought to eat something.

Part II: 32!

As previously mentioned, I’m not exactly in a very coherent state of mind right now… but I can’t forget to mention that yesterday I hit the 32-week mark, which means that little Pablo Ozymandias Baker is due to arrive via Stork Xpress in about eight weeks. If he’s following benchmarks, he’s getting close to weighing about four pounds and is fully stocked with fingernails, toenails, and hair — although, given his genes, he’s likely to be pretty bald when he arrives.

He is squirmy and has developed a trick of doing… something… that sort of tickles my insides. Maybe he’s wiggling his toes and fingers? Feels weird, whatever it is. He’s very active late in the evening, but these past couple of days he’s also wiggled around some in the morning when I get up. And I feel him off and on throughout the day as well.

I’m not going to try to report on how I feel because everything this week has been obscured by the cold and besides, guys, totally high right now.

Cheshire_Cat_KHREC

I have some notion that these Alice in Wonderland guys are supposed to be, like, trippy or something. That, and I’ve always liked the Cheshire Cat, so, uhm, yeah, here he is.

 

Mommy Wars Boot Camp

supermomI reckon I always knew that moms were opinionated about How Things Should Be Done in regards to child-rearing. And I’m from the Internet; I know perfectly well that there is nothing more opinionated than someone standing on a digital soapbox, hidden behind a veil of pseudonymic anonymity. Even still, I guess I was unprepared on some level for what the Mommy Wars were really like — and I daresay, I’m still enough of a greenhorn that I am really only aware of the tip of the iceberg.

Everyone has an opinion. Everyone is doing it the right way. And everyone assumes that you are ready and eager to be proselytized. Women who would froth at the mouth in irritation if a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness knocked at the door salivate at the opportunity to push their own Doctrine of Appropriate Parenting on their friends, relatives, and people they once went to high school with but now only know through a dormant Facebook connection.

No sooner did I go public with news of our pregnancy than it began. Now, my friends generally know that I’m the sort of person who informs myself about the issues and who doesn’t need to be told what to think, so I didn’t get a ton of unsolicited advice from people I personally knew. The thing is, if you read anything about pregnancy and parenting (especially online) you’ll quickly discover that nothing is neutral. Even the most benign-looking mommyblogs are really written in such a way that you walk away feeling chastised (or affirmed!) after reading.

And really — who would have thought that people would care so much about the sort of diaper you strap to your kid’s bum? Who would believe that store-bought baby food would inspire such heated emotions, or that one’s chosen location for labor and delivery could call down condemnation? Vaccinations! Sleeping arrangements! Nursery decorations!

Circumcision, of course, is a big one. The minute it became known that my baby had a penis, I began getting unwanted advice and pressure about what I should do about it. (In this category I will forgive my student, C, who was so amusingly disappointed that it wasn’t a girl that he told me, “Maybe it will fall off! I know it’s a girl!”)

And don’t even get me started on breastfeeding. HOLY MAMMARIES is that a hot topic! Some of the remarks I’ve read on this subject have literally taken my breath away; it seems that nothing pushes more mommy buttons than the source of a baby’s nourishment. I’ve sensed disdain on the other subjects, but when you read about womens’ opinions on breastfeeding, there is — shockingly frequently — hate clearly written on the page. Astonishing. (I think my favorite diatribe so far attacked people who claimed to have satisfactorily survived being fed formula and said that any text that even acknowledged the existence of formula and bottles was engaging in a subliminal campaign to subvert the breastfeeding culture. Did someone page Mel Gibson?)

And on a certain level, I guess I get it. Intelligent, worldly, well-informed people often adopt causes and become very passionate about them. They feel that they are improving, even saving, the world. These women are warriors, evangelists, superheroes fighting against the evils of powdered formula or the nefarious scheme of the epidural-free delivery. (And yes; lest you think I’m just complaining about Granola Moms, the same sort of thing is coming from all sides of pretty much every debate.)

As an intelligent, worldly, well-informed person myself, I have my own opinions about how I want to give birth to and raise this baby. Am I going to share them all here? Nope. (Ladies and gentlemen, what my husband and I decide to do or not do with our son’s foreskin is none of your business.) Are you likely to figure some of them through casual mentions of things like feeding, etc.? Of course. But I’d like to think that I’ll be able to keep from trying to change your mind, or make you feel in some way inferior if your opinions and choices differ from mine. I’d like to think that I will practice what I preach: every baby, every family, is different, and you should do what works for you and yours.

And yet.

I can feel it.

In the past few weeks, in one-on-one conversations and online, I’ve caught myself getting a little hot under the collar over other women’s pregnancy/delivery/childraising decisions. Something stirs inside me and I want to educate them, I want to tell them why they are wrong to think as they do. Worse, I feel a wall coming up between myself and that person — the “How can we even be friends if you believe that?” wall that is all-to0-familar to many of us during political season.

(Maybe that’s the thing I’m trying to get to here… maybe parenting is a never-ending political campaign, and in today’s culture of “I can say anything I want however I’d like because I am ONLINE and that is MY RIGHT,” maybe things have just gotten ugly.)

It’s ridiculous! I’m doing the very thing that I dislike! What in the world?

If I’m being honest with myself, I think that the primary thing I’ve started to feel is defensiveness. I still, ultimately, don’t care whether Friend A has an epidural or Friend B uses bottles or Friend C sews her own cloth diapers and drinks placenta smoothies while doing naked baby pilates in her front yard. Maybe I just don’t want them to disapprove of me. And isn’t that a stupidly normal sort of thing to wish? Ah, the pangs of caring what other people think… so dumb. So self-defeating. Such a waste of time and mental energy!

So I write this, both as a reminder to myself and a preemptive apology to you. I may not understand why you would choose to do such-and-such, and I may even think you are quite wrong. (There are, if I’m truthful, a few parenting issues that I think do have a universally right and wrong answer.) But I will do my level best not to preach, proselytize, patronize, or… er… something that starts with “p” that means condemn. And if I do — I’m sorry. The Mommy Wars… they change a person. 🙂

Sick and Tired

sickI woke up on Thursday morning with a sore, red spot in my throat that I initially thought was just from sleeping with my mouth open or something, but it didn’t get better — and by the end of the day, a hot icky feeling in my eyes told me that I almost certainly had a germ. Friday confirmed my brilliant diagnosis with more sore throat, a stuffy nose, and general ookiness. I went to work without any trouble, but was glad for a relatively easy day of teaching heavy on the video clips.

Then Friday evening hit. My nose turned into a total snot factory, and my throat kept hurting — both bad enough. I’d gag because of the phlegm, which would turn into coughing… and my stomach is so squished up in there that it would trigger my vomit reflex. Had several moments of first trimester flashback there last night.

But my body wasn’t content to leave it at that. I have a screwed-up left shoulder (fused scapula) that gives me trouble from time to time, and last night it decided to try out a new trick: pinched nerve. (Or at least that’s what I’m calling it; I’ve never had any sort of muscle pain like this before.) The pain oozed (“radiated” isn’t quite the right word for this sensation) from the scapula up my neck and down my arm. The only word I really have to describe the pain was “nauseating” — not that it hurt so bad that it made my stomach hurt, but that it literally felt like my shoulder was nauseated. If I moved the shoulder wrong, or turned that direction, toe-curling queasiness just rolled over me.

So here’s the dilemma: Lately, the only comfortable position for me to sleep has been on my left side, relatively flat, usually with a body pillow that I’m hugging and putting between my knees. With a badly congested/drippy nose, I need to be able to switch sides periodically to drain the “top” sinus (sorry if that’s TMI) and take some of the pressure off.

But with The World’s Crankiest Shoulder, not only could I not easily roll over — I couldn’t sleep on my left side at all. Finally I ended up on the sofa, propped up for my congestion, leaning slightly to the right so that the back of the sofa would support me and so that nothing was aggravating the shoulder… and just as it seemed like I might be able to fall asleep, my feet started up with the Harlem Shake: Restless Leg Syndrome Edition. OMG R U SERIOUS.

Ultimately, I caught little 45-80 minute chunks of sleep here and there until about 7 or so in the morning. Every time I woke up, my throat would be on fire because I couldn’t breathe through my nose. And of course, because I was swigging liquids to try to soothe my throat, and because I have a 3.5-pound infant sitting on my bladder, every time I woke up I had to pee. My nursemaids (of the furry variety) were hanging out with me and got all distraught every time I got up, which is how I ended up out in the front yard (with the dog) at about 2:30 in the morning watching the world turn white. Actually, it was turning orange, because of the color of the street lights and ambient city light reflecting on the snow, but yeah. Whatever.

By about seven, my nose had calmed down enough that I decided to go back upstairs and try some time on my neck-roll pillow, in the hopes that my shoulder would unkink itself. Thank goodness, I slept until 9ish, and then dozed off again for another couple of hours — and when I woke up, my shoulder had decided to stop making me sick(er than I already was).

Of course, the virus is still sticking around, so I’m in bed surrounded by a mountain of very-used kleenex, mugs of cider, and glasses of water, with relatively little voice. I’ve sent Ryan after some more kleenex, some hard candy, and saline spray; I’m skeptical about the latter, as I hate spraying things up my nose (and it’s not as if there isn’t enough liquid up there right now!) but everyone keeps saying it’s a good non-medical treatment for that particular symptom.

And yes, I’m still (stubbornly? stupidly? self-righteously?) refusing to take any Tylenol, Benadryl, Robitussin, or Mucinex. I confess that I came pretty close last night — so close that I was reading articles about Benadryl and pregnancy on my iPhone and wondering where some might be squirreled away — but I didn’t. I got through the night free of medication, and really hope that was the worst of it so that I don’t have to give in. (In honesty… if this gets worse, I’m going to have to cave.)

Worst of all, I had to cancel book club! Tonight was my night to host, and I was excited to invite everyone into my house for the first time. It’s going to be really tough to reschedule, too; I have orchestra concerts and childbirth classes next weekend, am out of the town the following weekend, and then we’re coming up against the March book club meeting. Sigh. Oh well — couldn’t be helped. I can’t possibly host, and no one wants to share these germs.

Feeling a little bored at this point, and tired of being in bed; the sheets are wrinkled, which drives me crazy. Maybe I’ll wrap up this post and relocate to the sofa… Get some sunlight (such as there is with the rain/snow we’ve got today) and a change of scenery.

31!

Wow: I don’t need all of my fingers to count how many weeks are left before our due date anymore!

Also… Yikes. I don’t need all of my fingers to count how many weeks are left before our due date anymore.

Before I continue, behold! A not-very-clear photograph of me after a long day at work with my clingy cat who recently feels the need to be surgically attached to me at all times!

31 months with d'Artagnan

31 months pregnant with my two boys: d’Artagnan, and He-Who-Refuses-To-Be-Named

kitty kiss

Kissy kitty!

At 31 weeks’ gestation, the kiddo is now 18″ long (yep, big enough to hang out with Addy and Josefina) and has passed the three pound mark. Allegedly, this makes him the size of a pineapple. He is getting stronger; when he aims just right, his squirming and kicking can now get uncomfortable. Case in point: yesterday evening, when he got bored with pushing on my bladder and decided to jump on my cervix a few times! No bueno! He hasn’t caused me any pain yet, but I was definitely wishing I could grab him and move those little feet somewhere else for a few minutes there.

I feel him moving a lot these days, and have become conscious of him stretching or moving all the way from left to right and top to bottom. Sometimes I’d swear he’s all the way around to my side (especially the right side); sometimes he shoves my belly up as far as it can go toward my chest; and as previously noted, sometimes he heads south. Other times, I find myself entirely unable to imagine his position; I’ll feel what seems like kicking and tickling in all four quadrants of my belly, as if he’s in starfish position doing jazz hands. A couple of times I’ve felt series of bumps, about the size and shape of small peas, up near my ribcage — guessing those might be toes? All I know is that when I push on them, they go away… I do think he’s spending most of his time butt-upward lately, although honestly I’m only guessing that what I feel is bottom versus head. He is, after all, his parents’ child and therefore genetically likely to be a butthead.

So that’s what the baby is doing. Here’s what I do:

  • visit bathrooms
  • blow my nose (or wish I could, when kleenex aren’t available)
  • guzzle ice water
  • rub my belly absentmindedly
  • belch at inopportune moments (e.g., when explaining nuance in Romeo and Juliet to a room full of 15-year-olds)
  • blame stinky freshmen boys and squeaky furniture for other unintended emissions
  • drop and/or knock over things
  • forget my own mailing address
  • make a significant impact on the Tums company’s quarterly profit margin
  • have long stretches of time (multiple days) in which I can only eat about six bites of food at once, and never seem to have any appetite
  • have shorter, but more enjoyable, stretches of time in which I can and will devour EVERYTHING, especially if it is made of chocolate [ed. note: I am not, ordinarily, a chocolate fiend]
  • wish I could take a nap
  • hate everything 🙂

Everyone wants to know if we’ve picked out a name yet, and the answer is still no, although I am beginning to think that we’ve either narrowed it down to two or are about to throw it wide open to a whole new list of possibilities. On the way home today, I began second-guessing my opposition to names that end with -er sounds (I love those names, but not the rhyming thing with our last name). And a few days ago, we were considering Zappa names. I’m beginning to warm up to Dazzling Moonburst Baker; what do you think? We could call him Daz…

Paperwork

This is a blog entry in two parts. The first part is entertaining for general audiences (and comes with Very Excellent MS Paint Illustrations!); the second part is mostly so that I remember later on when I’ve lost the rest of my mind.

Part One

After school yesterday, I went down to the district office to fill out all of my maternity leave paperwork. As previously noted, my country doesn’t mandate paid parental leave — but fortunately, I work full-time for an employer that offers short term disability insurance, and am covered by FMLA as well. Doubly fortunately, Squirmy Kermie will be arriving at such a time that I have a super-long maternity leave due to summer break.

In order for me to get paid for the time that is covered by my short term disability (which I would totally abbreviate, except that would be STD, and we’re not going to discuss what is and is not covered by an STD on this blog) my doctor and I have to file paperwork. Some of this has to wait until I’m actually unable to work (i.e., in labor) but other parts could be filed now.

Let me just tell you: This was the best paperwork ever. (The HR lady helping me told me that one of her favorite parts of her job was walking first-time parents through this paperwork. I was about to die laughing.) Why? Well, see, it’s just standard disability paperwork, not maternity-specific. And so I got to answer nosy and delightful questions like:

  • On what date did this condition begin?
  • Was this an accident?
  • Specify how this illness or injury will prevent you from performing your work duties.
  • Was this work-related? If so, do you plan to file a worker’s compensation claim?

(They asked a variation on that last one four different times. HR Lady said it was particularly funny when both parents are district employees…)

Perhaps the “best” part was that Pregnancy Brain hit me full force while I was trying to answer the basic questions. You could have held a gun to my head or offered me a million dollars, and I still would have been completely incapable of remembering my own address. I wrestled with my brain — even plugging possible addresses into my maps app on my phone in the hopes of finding my own house that way — for the entire appointment. Finally, I came up with the address and filled it in… only to get home and realize that I’d put a 9 in the street number where a 3 belonged.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up (other than to give you the opportunity to join me in laughing at myself) is that one of the questions my doctor will get to answer is, “Is this patient mentally competent to perform his or her work duties?” I got to that question, after laughing with HR Lady about how I don’t even know where I live, and burst out laughing. Go ahead and check NO on that one! Let me go home now!

no brain!

Part Two

So here is how it’s going to work. (Some of this is repeated information, but I want to get everything down so that it’s here for me later on.)

When I can no longer return to work (to the point where my OB will declare this to be the case… not just the point when I can’t remember where I live) my doctor will inform the district. At that point, I take (at least) ten days of my stashed-up sick and personal leave, for which I receive full regular pay. Because only three personal days will roll over to next year, I’ll use my extra days first, and then the sick leave. Technically speaking, my short term disability does not kick in until the baby shows up (regardless of whether he is early or late) OR I’m incapacitated, with the doctor’s paperwork received at the district. That means that, if I’m starting maternity leave early, I either need the doctor’s say-so or I just need to use some more of my sick leave.

After those first two work-weeks, the district stops paying me and short term disability insurance kicks in. It will pay me at 2/3 my usual salary, with nothing taken out — no taxes, no Social Security, nada. As a result, if my math is correct, I won’t actually take a financial hit. I am entitled to six weeks of this (eight weeks if we end up having a c-section) but, unless things happen pretty early, won’t need all of it. (Once June hits, I no longer have to be taking time off.) During this time, I’ll receive weekly paychecks mailed to me — instead of monthly paychecks directly deposited. We need to make sure to be vigilant about getting those checks, to make sure that my address got corrected on the paperwork. (HR Lady says it did, but it doesn’t hurt to be paranoid sometimes.)

Also, during this time, the district will be covering my non-tax monthly deductions (health insurance, professional dues, flex spending account). When I go back to a regular paycheck, they’ll slightly adjust my monthly pay for the next year so that I gradually pay them back. Since this will only be for a month, it won’t be terribly noticeable.

In June I won’t receive a regular monthly paycheck (that was the weekly stuff) but starting in July, I should be back on the district payroll.

I have enough sick leave saved up that I could, technically speaking, not use my short term disability insurance at all. This would give me full pay throughout my leave, but would also exhaust all of my sick days, and I feel like I ought to bank up as many of those as possible for next year with an infant. Since it’s an option and all.

Through FMLA, I’m entitled to a total of twelve weeks off with the guarantee of my job back when I return. Only six of it would be paid via short term disability, though. Plus, taking the full twelve weeks would mean not being here at the beginning of the school year, which is an undesireable thing in terms of setting up classroom management, expectations, etc. Because I’ll be using less than the full amount, the remainder is still at my disposal for the following school year in case something comes up that causes me to miss work (even if it isn’t in a block of time).

I mentioned that we were giving some thought to having me work 2/3 time next year (every other day) and she said that while that obviously affects my take-home pay, it doesn’t make my insurance any more expensive or less comprehensive. We looked at my insurance and think that it will make more financial sense to put Kermie on my plan than on Ryan’s, but he needs to do some research in that area as well. (It makes a CRAZY amount of NO SENSE AT ALL to have Ryan and I on the same plan. Child #1 is about $70 a month; no matter how many kids I have after the first one, the total for children is only about $75 a month. But Ryan? Putting a spouse on my insurance plan adds something like $500 a month to my insurance bill! Thank goodness he is working elsewhere…)

We checked to make sure my maternity substitute was good to go (he wasn’t yet — another of our HR people isn’t so very good about getting things done in a timely manner — so it’s a good thing I asked to check) and I was reminded that while on maternity leave, I have no work responsibilities. No lesson planning, grading, email, etc. — completely off the hook. Right now, I’m wondering whether I’ll be able to walk away that completely… but people seem to manage. 🙂

The doctor has to let the district know that I’m medically cleared to return to work (I think that’s where the mentally competent question came in) at some point as well. If he turns in that paperwork before the end of the school year, it’s not a big deal. I’ve already put in that I am out until August, and that’s all settled.

Ryan, incidentally, is entitled to FMLA as well — but his would be straight-up unpaid leave after his (smaller) stash of personal/sick leave gets used up.

There are so many awesome things about being a pregnant teacher whose baby had the courtesy to be due at the end of the school year! There are two downsides, though… the first is that it makes me sad that I’m going to miss my seniors, and it’s going to be challenging to fulfill all of my end-of-year traditions (but I’m going to make them work SOMEHOW!). The second is that the vast majority of my social circle consists of my amazing coworkers, but over breaks we all scatter to the four winds and keep in pretty poor touch. (Most of them live in a completely different town than I do and have entirely different communities.) I will miss talking to them, and sort of pre-emptively regret that they won’t all be a captive audience for baby visits and whatnot during those first few months. OH WELL. I am NOT complaining about four months of time off with my baby.

Just because it sort of fits with this post, and because I wanted to be able to find it later, here is a map that makes me cranky.

maternity leave worldwide

Review: Redshirts

redshirts

Redshirts by John Scalzi

My rating: 3.75 to 4 out of 5

John Scalzi is one of my favorite science fiction authors, for three reasons:

1. How can you not love someone whose Goodreads bio says, “John Scalzi, having declared his absolute boredom with biographies, disappeared in a puff of glitter and lilac scent”?

2. On top of being a fairly prolific novelist (and a contributor to Stargate Universe), Scalzi maintains a terrifically smart and entertaining blog.

3. On top of being prolific, smart, and entertaining, Scalzi does something rare and exceptional: he writes really great funny science fiction — of which Redshirts is only the most recent offering.

If you are a fan of Star Trek, you probably get the reference in this book’s title. If not, I’ll try to explain. Have you ever noticed — or heard people joking about the appearance that — horror movies casting black actors as the expendable buddy who falls victim to the ax murderer/vengeful ghost/etc. early on in the film? The “black dude dies first” trope (you can substitute “meme” for “trope” if that makes more sense to you) doesn’t actually happen that often in contemporary horror, but it happened often enough that it’s become heavily parodied (see Scary Movie — or don’t, because that’s a terrible movie, but it’s an example). This is an echo of the redshirt phenomenon from classic Star Trek. When the episode included an away mission, they would send the “important characters” (your Kirk, Spock, etc.) who obviously needed to survive — but someone has to fall victim to the malevolent natives, right? Often-nameless crew members in red uniforms (meaning they were part of the security detail) were expendable cannon fodder, dying horrifically to advance the plot, and becoming a catchphrase among geeks everywhere.

Scalzi latches on to this trope for this hilarious and thought-provoking, self-aware parody of the original Star Trek series (self-aware in that it eventually acknowledges the relationship between the novel and the TV show). In Redshirts, the lower-ranking crew members of the Intrepid have begun to realize that, in their words, “everyone on this ship [is] monumentally f***ed up about away missions.” And no wonder; every mission seems to follow the classic ST model. Not only do new recruits get mysteriously mowed down in an almost orchestrated setup for the glorification of a handful of “important” crew members, but random bits of exposition and motivation seem to pop into their heads as if being uploaded. It’s bizarre, ominous, and — as our protagonists quickly discover — often fatal.

A few plucky redshirts band together to try to unravel the mystery in time to avoid gruesome death vis-a-vis whatever inexplicable battle or situation arises next. With the assistance of a yeti-like ship hermit and tongue-in-cheek application of heavy-handed deus ex machina, our protagonists bust through the veil dividing their reality from that being parodied. The results are not only funny and smart, but surprisingly touching as the two worlds collide and improve one another.

If you’ve ever stayed up late over coffee (or your “conversing about hypothetical issues with friends” substance of choice) bouncing crazy ideas about multiple universes and time travel with your equally geeky friends, or if you’re the sort of person who likes to sit in the back of the theater and make snarky comments about implausible plot developments and the abuse of your suspension of disbelief, you will probably get a HUGE kick out of this book. (Being a fan of ST isn’t a requirement, although it will enrich your reading experience as you draw connections between characters and cast members.) This would be an amazing book club selection, for the right book club; I find myself itching to ask other readers about one of the central characters and his power over the craziness aboard the Intrepid. The three “Codas” — short story epilogues that add some rather lovely layers to the story — provide some excellent food for thought and discussion as well.

Redshirts isn’t liable to win the Pulitzer (although it did debut at #15 on the hardcover fiction best-seller list), but it was exactly the sort of book I needed on a cold February night (and yes, it flies — once you get sucked into the tractor beam of this novel, be prepared to lose a few hours). This novel is transportive, grin-provoking, and the literary equivalent of sharing a great inside joke with a clever friend. And if you’d like to give it a try, you can actually read the prologue and the first four chapters for free.

You can also read Wired‘s interview with Scalzi — it’s pretty good, too.

That’s All Well and Good

FYI, this is not actually a post about grammar. Honest. I mean, it starts out that way. But be patient.

jaws

If someone asks you, “How are you?” how do you respond? Do you say, “I’m good”? Or are you the sort of person who flaunts your grammatical superiority by saying, “I’m well”?

This is a linguistic pothole that drives me quietly mad. I understand the logic behind it; it has to do with the implied “feeling” or “doing” at the end of the original query, and that we must use adverbs to modify verbs, and that if we claim to be good that we are making a quality statement about ourselves that is mayhaps a tad egotistical. (Unless you’re a saint. If you’re a saint, you are allowed to say that you are good without worrying too much about coming across as narcissistic.)

Personally, I’m a big believer in coding — that is to say, we speak/write different ways in different situations, so what is grammatically correct in a technical document is not necessarily the way we have to speak when passing a friend in the hallway. When I say, “I’m well,” I cringe inside — I mean, who talks like that? Unfortunately, the answer is that English teachers talk like that, so I also cringe when I say, “I’m good” — fearing that the other person will think less of me for using the colloquialism. (And when I ask how they are, and they pointedly say “well”? Yargh!) Anyway, I’ve taken to avoiding the situation entirely by making the implicit explicit, and saying, “I’m doing well.” Nothing to complain about there.

Except here’s the thing. What if you’re not “good”? What if you’re better than good — what if you’re feeling great? Terrific? Amazing? Did you notice how I included the word feeling in that sentence but then used adjectives instead of adverbs? No one would EVER say, “I’m doing greatly” or “I’m feeling terrifically.” It would just… no. Not okay.

So look down your nose at me or think I have a big head if you must, but if I’m having a great day, I very well may say, “I’m great!” (And frankly, unless I’m being really cautious, I’m liable to say, “I’m good,” too. You’ll just have to deal with it. Grammar nazi. :))

All of this is an extremely circuitous way to bring me to my point.

I’ve gotten to a stage in my pregnancy where people aren’t nervous about assuming that I’m actually pregnant (probably assisted by the fact that I’m wearing fewer bulky layers, so my bump is more obvious). As a result, I’ve been fielding a new batch of congratulations and a great many queries after my general well-being. And, because it is true, I’ve been answering, “I’m great!” a lot. I mean, I currently lack strength, stamina, flexibility, and a predictable digestive system, and I certainly had some yucky early symptoms. Overall, though, I’ve been blessed with a remarkably comfortable pregnancy. Maybe part of that has to do with how much it was wanted; sheer joy mas probably acted as a sort of numbing agent for the little unpleasantries.

So yeah! I’m great!

Except…

Stress-ZebraStripesI’ve never been very conscious of my own stress. Part of my self-image includes emotional strength; it’s so ingrained in me at this point that I don’t think I could cry amongst friends or colleagues if I had to. In fact, throughout this entire pregnancy, I really haven’t cried (I’ve heard that tears are as much a symptom of pregnancy as is heartburn). Well, okay. There may have been a couple of brief breakdowns in the privacy of my own bathroom early on, but I’m not doing the “boo-hooing at the dog food commercial” thing.

I don’t tend to recognize that I’m stressed out until a physical manifestation erupts; since I carry it in my shoulders, I’ll develop shoulder/neck pain, or a headache. Sometimes I’ll get a cold sore. I’ve had problems with anxiety before, even taking medication for a period of time, and know that it slips up on me like a shark in summer blockbuster waters.

And lately, I’ve been hearing that good ole Jaws theme playing in the background. It’s popping out everywhere…. We had a meeting at work to talk about next year’s language arts curriculum, and my Negative Nancy side flew into high gear — with the principal sitting right behind me! I catch myself getting snippy about dumb things. I catch myself getting mopey about nothing at all. My appetite sucks. My inspiration to do anything sucks. I don’t want to read, watch TV, be online, go anywhere, stay at home, eat (anything but chocolate), sleep, or wake up. And sure, pregnancy hormones, blah blah blah — but there’s something else there, something more in my head than in my bloodstream.

It’s not as if there’s anything to be anxious about when expecting one’s first child, is there?

My house isn’t set up for a toddler. Heck, other than having a nursery more or less assembled (sans mattress, but there’s time, right?) my house isn’t set up for an infant. We need to completely change our housecleaning routine — completely. We need to completely change our entire way of living. Are we going to be able to finally turn into grown-ups? What is wrong with us that we haven’t done that yet? When and how are we going to get a second car that will work well with a car seat? What if the baby comes early? I haven’t cleaned out the back seat yet! It’s a landfill back there! And what are we going to name the darned thing? Why can’t anyone tell me, unilaterally, that one of these names is the right — or wrong — choice? Where’s my brass band fanfare to let me know that we’ve found the perfect moniker? Why doesn’t Ryan know the right answer? I have to make some major decisions about what the next year or so of my career look like, really soon. Speaking of which, what’s it going to be like to leave my kids and my classroom to someone else — even someone I know, trust, and like? I’m going to miss the end of some of my beloved seniors’ high school careers! Will my books be safe? What about my alm0st-finished masters degree? What about 18 or 20 or 25 years from now when my darling little boy takes up with some tacky person and decides to take a job and start a family in New Hampshire, or Japan, or on the Mars colony? What if all of my kids head for the hills as soon as they can? I AM GOING TO DIE ALONE.

Stupid worries, but worries nonetheless, as much as I’d like to pretend they aren’t sitting there in my mind weighing me down. And never mind all of the stress I’d be dealing with from work, baby or no baby — this year at my district would be enough to send anyone to the local bar or therapist’s couch.

Last night, for the second time throughout the entire pregnancy, I really wished I could just take a day off. Kermie was squirmy, and suddenly I felt the weight of all this — how I would never really be alone, or fully myself, again — not in the way I was before. And again, it’s stupid, because I want this like you wouldn’t believe. But it was momentarily rather heavy….

Why am I writing about this? Well, for one thing, I’m trying to keep a real journal of these nine months, and I need to not censor out the stuff that isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. I’m not looking for sympathy, pity, or solutions (although none of these are unwelcome) — I just wanted to be honest with myself, and with anyone who reads this, as I keep this account.

The second thing was that I tentatively connected some dots last night, thanks to the lovely Anonyvox. She started out writing about Restless Leg Syndrome, specifically twitchy-compulsive feelings in her feet. I immediately sympathized, because while this is something I’ve dealt with on a small scale in the past, I’ve really had issues with it in the last month or so — and my usual things that work (Nyquil, massive doses of Advil, large glasses of wine, etc.) haven’t been available to me. Then she went on, and started talking about anxiety disorders. I had never known that RLS/twitchy feet were associated with anxiety! Could it be that my feet are so much worse now, not only because I’m pregnant, but because my anxiety levels are higher than my conscious self wants to admit? It got me to thinking, and thinking got me to writing.

Restless-Leg-Syndrome-cartoonSo how am I?

Actually, I’m pretty good.

But I’m also (sshhhh, don’t tell anyone) human. With restless feet.

 

 

Horizontal Stripes

It’s funny how one’s ideas about fashion can change.

Before Bump (BB): Horizontal stripes? Who can wear these things? They make me look as big as a barn!

After Bump (AB): Horizontal stripes? These make me look as big as a barn! Do they have them in any other colors?

* * *

BB: This is a cute t-shirt, but it fits waaay too close to the skin for my comfort. Shows every flaw and ounce of fat on my torso. Maybe I should get the next size up.

AB: This is a cute t-shirt, but it’s a little loose at the bottom… Maybe I could try a smaller size…

* * *

BB: I don’t wear t-shirts or tops made out of t-shirt knit to work.

AB: I don’t own any shirts that aren’t made out of t-shirt knit.

* * *

BB: It’s Friday! I can wear jeans to work!

AB: It’s Friday! I could wear (maternity) jeans to work… but my knit pants that look like dress slacks are so much more comfortable…

* * *

BB: It’s Friday, so I can wear jeans to work, but it’s work, so I’ll make sure to wear a nice top or at least something with a school logo on it to balance out the informality.

AB: It’s Friday. What’s clean and comfortable?

* * *

Speaking of uncomfortable jeans: After spending two days trying to keep my elastic-waist-style maternity pants from falling down (and wondering if I could find some suspenders somewhere), I decided to dig out my pair of full-panel jeans this morning and give them a shot. I’d shelved them earlier in the pregnancy because they wouldn’t stay up… but it appears that the bump has a sartorial purpose after all. Obviously I haven’t even left the house yet, but so far these are staying up much better.