Waiting for spring

A few quick updates from last weekend:

  • I did not puke. Nobody did. I’m hoping that means the bug is all gone. (We Lady Macbethed the house, just in case.)
  • I woke up Thursday looking more like myself than I have in lo these many moons. The big dietary difference was peanut butter. PB is now getting the stink eye. One by one, all the foods I used to love are moving to the no-fly list. My younger self would recoil in horrified confusion at my diet these days. But then my younger self would view everything about present-day me with baffled amusement.
  • After a bumpy start (the first printer didn’t work coming out of the box, so tech support sent me a new one), my new printer is installed and works beautifully. Mostly. I haven’t managed to set up the ink replacement plan, because I can’t get the Best Buy site to talk to the Canon site. But I can print. So I’m better off than I was last weekend.

What else is new?

I’ve been wallowing in musical nostalgia, catching up on what two of my greatest musical loves — John Waite and the Goo Goo Dolls — have been up to since I became a mom and lost track of pop culture. JW appears to have gone heavily blues/country in recent years, and that’s not the head space I’m in now, so I’ve put off listening to his new albums at length. However, after the disappointment that was Magnetic (for me, anyway), I’m in love with several tracks on GGD’s Boxes. We diverged for a while, but it feels like we’re back on the same page — an odd sort of forward-looking nostalgia. GGD was my band back in the day, so it’s like coming home.

Dried chickpeas are a no-go for me, but supposedly I can have canned chickpeas if I rinse them well. So I found a hummus recipe to try. Also a guacamole recipe, because I’m still running low on fat — I’m hoping I can tolerate avocados now. What I don’t like about guac is the garlic, but I can’t have garlic anyway. Maybe I’ll like it without? I have a can of chickpeas, a jar of tahini, a lemon, a lime, and a couple of avocados, so…we’ll see.

Anya’s teacher has recommended that we supplement her school-sponsored speech lessons with outside therapy sessions, so we’re currently searching for a new clinic. Hopefully extra sessions will give her the leg up she needs to get past these last few pronunciation hurdles. It’s one more thing to fit in our days, though. I’m glad the kids weren’t interested in spring activities, considering.

At the shallow end of the pool: Mrs. Meyer’s honeysuckle-scented laundry soap is making me ridiculously happy. Every so often I catch a whiff of something that smells absolutely lovely, and then I realize it’s me. I have unironically held my shirt to my face and inhaled deeply, like someone from a detergent commercial. So even though the bottle’s more than half full, I’ve purchased a backup. When something so simple makes you this happy, you don’t want to run out of it.

Over on the murkier end of the lake: I realized that all of my current writing projects feature my grandmother’s kitchen. I don’t have happy memories of that room, so I’m not sure what it says about me that I keep revisiting it in fiction as opposed to, say, my childhood kitchen, which was the location of so many happy moments. My grandparents are dead and their house bulldozed and gone, yet I can’t seem to let it go.

Speaking of writing, I’m not making much headway on my books. Or any of my personal projects. Perhaps some of the blame lies with the long hours I’ve been working; after dinner, I just want to go to sleep. However, I think the truth of the matter is I’m too busy treading water to muster up creative energy. Somewhere between psychoanalyzing my postmortem relationship with my grandmother and sniffing my laundry…that’s where I’m at these days.

Or it could be that my metaphor’s off. Perhaps it’s winter’s last hurrah: the tail end of my hibernation. Perhaps in a few weeks I’ll wake up and, just like the trees, I’ll find my branches covered in tender green leaves. Maybe we’re just waiting for spring.

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There go my weekend plans

I just broke the cardinal rule of tummy bugs: I consumed food I would miss were I never able to eat it again.

Yep, my daughter barfed last night. A lot. My husband, upon picking up the bucket to empty it, said “Wow — that’s heavy.” (Sorry. TMI?) I sleep right next to her, so I’m now on watch for the next few days. And because I tend not to be able to eat anything I’ve ever vomited, the foods I eat this weekend are on the endangered list. But when you’re on a diet as limited as this elimination diet, what can you do?

Here’s hoping we get to stay friends, strawberry smoothie.

Speaking of the elimination diet, I’m entering the reintroduction phase now, on the advice of my nutritionist.

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You read that right — I finally have a nutritionist. And soon, hopefully, some answers. I sent 4 vials of blood off for testing yesterday, and will go in for a fasting blood test (4 more vials) next week. My wallet is much lighter now.

I’ll have to wait for the test results for answers to my big question (What can I eat?), but she did give me some pointers in the meantime. I figured I’d be chided for the absolute lack of variety in my diet, but she understood that part. Where I’m falling short is (drumroll) I’m not eating enough fat. So I get to do fun things like put oil in my smoothies. Hey, if it means I can stop thinking about food 24/7 and that this headache will finally go away, I will happily goop up my fruit.

In the meantime, I am testing out foods. I tried chickpeas last night. Since I am already in a flare, I can’t say if they set me off or not — but at least they didn’t make me immediately, noticeably worse. I’m thinking I might try some homemade hummus this weekend. Next week: Avocados. I hope I get to reclaim avocados. I miss them so.

sohungry

In other news, the print head on my printer died. Whether I killed it or it died of natural causes is unknown; I’m thinking these things simply have a specified life span to keep you buying new models. (I’ve had it nearly 7 years. That’s ancient in electronics years.) The new printer plus ink cost less than a new print head would have, and the new printer’s ink is less expensive than my current model’s, so I’ll take the hit. But damn, this was an expensive week.

As if I needed anything else to keep me inside this weekend, a) I had a quick freelance project come in and b) it’s freezing out there today. So I will stay home, sip hot beverages, earn a few Benjamins to throw at my newly burdened plastic (I just paid those off, damn it!), and hope I don’t puke.

Cross your fingers for me.

Ode to Super Target

Our local Super Target is closing, and my daughter is deep in mourning.

I get it. I do. There are several Targets we shop regularly, but Super Target has always been my favorite. Not for the same reasons my daughter favors it — she’s in it for the toys, and for the (admittedly superior) Dollar Spot. Coming so close on the heels of Toys R Us going under, this closing has her panicked. Where will the toys come from?

I prefer Super Target because it offers the best one-stop shop — for someone with small kids, that’s the Holy Grail of shopping. Some parts of the store are not as well stocked as regular Targets, true. But for our general needs, Super Target covered my bases well.

Super Target was a weekly outing. An event unto itself. Need clothes, groceries, toiletries, toys? Super Target. Need to get out of the house? Need steps? Need to take the kids somewhere indoors? Just need a treat? Super Target’s got you. It was my kids’ first Target. One of their first words. And the first logo either of them recognized. We loved the store, the employees, all of it.

It’s been a few weeks since we’ve been to Super Target. The weather’s been icky and we’ve been sick and we just haven’t gotten out. But Mom and I shopped there last week. A lot of departments are all but empty. I stood there misting over in what had been the baby clothes section — so many of my kids’ outfits came from there! Yes, I felt ridiculous. But this store has been a constant in my life for the better part of two decades. It’s going to feel strange to shop without going there.

Part of me wants to keep Anya from seeing the store like this. But maybe it would provide her some measure of closure. Just as I needed to see it, one last time. The kids still have Christmas money they’ve not spent; perhaps I will take them to buy one last toy there.

It’s not goodbye forever. There are other Targets. And this is an important lesson for her, for Kai, for me: Nothing lasts forever, but just because something good ends doesn’t mean something good won’t take its place.

We’ll miss it, though. The store and everyone who worked there. It’s in many ways the end of an era.

We’re still talking about it because it still needs to be said

My ex-husband doxxed me, several years after our divorce.

Maybe doxxing isn’t the correct term. He didn’t have to search for my contact information; he knew it. Because he’d been my husband. It was his former address and phone number he gave out on his MySpace page, exhorting his readers to “do with it what you will.” For the sake of simplicity, I’ll call it doxxing.

I wouldn’t have ever known he’d done it, but as time passed after our divorce my anger toward him had softened. I had loved him once, after all. It was only natural that I wonder how he was doing. He’d moved away after our divorce, and we had no friends in common, so I had no idea what became of him.

A few seconds on Google led me to his MySpace. (This was before Facebook was a thing grown-ups used.) And his diatribes against me. Plus my full name, home address and phone number, and a challenge that, thankfully, his readers/friends did not take him up on.

I’d have felt better if someone had called him out on that post. But perhaps they did that privately. He had some pretty classy friends. I was sorry to lose them in the divorce.

I was sorry to lose him, too. At first. The failure of our marriage baffled and broke me. I went over and over everything in my mind. How had it all gone so very wrong?

The sour notes were few and far between in the early days of our relationship. He was sweet and loving and thoughtful, a little shy. Only occasionally an ass, so I brushed off those moments. A year later he proposed, and the mask began to crack. He spent so much of the six months between our engagement and marriage bashing me that I was flabbergasted to hear him say nice things about me during the premarital counseling sessions. I suspected he feared the minister would refuse to marry us if he told the truth.

Why did I still marry him? Well, I was young. Had less self-esteem than a potted plant. Wanted more than anything to be a wife and a mother. And I was really, really great at making excuses for him. Growing up, I had been told that no relationship was perfect. To expect little, forgive much. So I told myself he was stressed out about his new job, the wedding, the move. Things would get better. I could be better.

I tried to be better. But it was never enough.

The summer after we were married, I missed a period. He fumed and fretted until I took a pregnancy test. Then three more. Then had me call my doctor when I failed to start, so sure was he that I was pregnant. He wanted me to have an abortion. He didn’t want to deal with the hassle and expense of a baby.

I wasn’t pregnant, as it turned out. But my eyes had been opened to a side of him I could not unsee.

Ten months into the marriage, I reconnected with an old friend. While we were catching up on each other’s lives, he asked me how married life was. I told him it was an adjustment. Which is apparently what I’d said the last time he’d asked that question, shortly after the wedding. He asked me if I was happy. I finally admitted that I was not.

One final fight, at New Year’s. I ended up at my parents’. And I told them what was going on, after hiding it for the better part of two years. They were horrified. I’d hid well, it seems.

I went home the next day and told him I couldn’t go on like we had been. He said he would attend counseling, but he wasn’t going to help find the counselor, would not pay for counseling, and would not attend counseling sessions led by a member of any religious organization. He also told me he would not change, because “you knew what you were getting into when you married me.”

So I divorced him.

It’s only now, as I look back from outside it all, that I see how wrong the whole relationship was. How he gave me just enough affection to keep me from leaving and told me I was lucky to get it. How great he was at lying to everyone. Including, I imagine, himself.

I think back on the stories he told me of his ex. How he’d harped on how irritating she was, how fat, how stupid. How shocked he was when she left him.

Some time later, I watched a video of a guy gaslighting his girlfriend and saw in him my ex. Still, I’d never have thought he’d go so far as to dox me. I underestimated him.

Until you’ve been doxxed, you don’t realize how frightening it is. I was a young woman living alone, with no family or friends close by. He opened me up to all manner of violations, out of spite and pettiness, years after our split. In his MySpace posts, he talked about how he’d found love again and was so much happier than he’d been with me. Yet he tried to inflict harm on me, simply because he could.

It’s only now that I’ve moved and have a different phone number and name that I even feel brave enough to admit on a public forum what he did to me. Part of me is still nervous, to be honest. When someone who was so close to you violates your trust like that, it’s a little difficult to feel completely safe ever again.

I’ll likely never understand why my ex treated me the way he did. What it says about him as a person. But I would be willing to bet that he hates that Gillette commercial. Or that he gives it lip service but resents it privately. Because he’s the kind of guy who believes everything’s stacked against him. He thinks his failures are the result of external, rather than internal, factors. He sees himself as a victim, not a perpetrator.

Sound familiar?

My son is sitting on my lap as I type this. My sweet, loving boy, who still look at me like the sun rises and sets on my face. I consider it an important function of my job as his mother to make sure he doesn’t grow up to be the kind of guy who would be offended by the Gillette ad. I want him to be the kind of person who stands up against misogynists and bullies, even if those people are his friends. But I sincerely hope his friends don’t pull that crap, either. It’d be great if that sort of behavior were an embarrassing moment in history by the time my son is grown.

Let’s see what we can do about that, hm?

Dark chocolate gingersnap bark

I adapted this recipe from one I found in an ebook from Sue at The View from Great Island; in a holiday season bereft of all my favorite goodies, Sue’s chocolate bark inspiration was most welcome. Amidst much experimentation, I came up with two new favorites: Peppermint bark (recipe to come) and this ginger chocolate bark.

Sue’s version of this recipe uses white chocolate. And it was wonderful. I had divvied the recipe between my daughter’s teacher (who loved it) and my Dirty Santa gift for the office party…only the kids got sick and we weren’t able to make the office party, so I consoled myself by eating the bark myself. In a single sitting. Dirty Santa indeed.

So I’m not saying that the recipe required modification. However, one of my favorite recipes last year was a chocolate gingerbread cookie that I was really looking forward to this year, until this whole gluten-free nonsense knocked those plans into a cocked hat. So I decided to try Sue’s recipe with dark chocolate.

It did not disappoint. My 3-year-old son got into the container while I was taking a shower and ate half the batch. Little stinker.

This batch came out really chunky. I’d planned on making another batch and using fewer cookies in it, but it tastes so good with all that ginger that I’ve decided to let this version ride. This is not a smooth, thin chocolate bark. The texture is closer to that of a no-bake cookie. But the texture and flavor is way better than any no-bake cookie I have ever had. If it’s too much for you, you can always save half the cookies for another batch.

 

Dark chocolate gingersnap bark

7 oz. thin ginger cookies (I use Tate’s Bake Shop Gluten Free Ginger Zinger)
12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips (I like Kroger’s Private Selection brand)
1-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Crush cookies using a food processor; if you do not have a food processor, place the cookies in a bag (the bag they come in works great — just remove the plastic trays first!), seal, and crush with a rolling pin. A few large-ish chunks are fine, but you want it to be mostly crumbs. Set aside.

Place the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and warm for 1 minute on high. Stir well, returning to the microwave in 15-second bursts as needed until the chips are melted and smooth. Stir in the cinnamon. Fold in the cookie crumbs, reserving 2 tablespoons for topping, and mix until well combined.

Pour the mixture on the parchment-lined pan and spread with a spatula or spoon until it is 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick. Sprinkle with the reserved cookie crumbs and press them lightly into the chocolate with the back of a spoon. Place the pan in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes or until the chocolate is firm and no longer glossy. Break into 1- to 2-inch chunks. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

A door closes

It began in January.

We’d gone out of town shopping for the day, and were on our way home. I don’t remember feeling pain, though I often had stomach upset when we ate in restaurants, so I can’t say for certain that I had no pain. I do remember my underwear feeling sticky, but that wasn’t an unusual occurrence; weird things had been going on in my underpants for a couple of years. But what I found in that gas station bathroom was a shock.

“Mom?” I remember saying. “Come look. There’s something in my underpants.”

I’d started my period. Only it didn’t look like any blood I’d ever seen. It looked more like I’d crapped my pants. Nobody had prepared me for that.

I knew about periods, sure. My mom was open and honest from early childhood about such things. And I’d had that sex ed class the year before, where they separate the boys and girls and show each group a movie about what’s going to happen to their bodies during puberty, and some kids had to sit out because their parents didn’t sign the permission slip. (We filled them in on all the gory details afterwards. C’mon, parents — did you think you could send your kids to public school and still keep them in a bubble?) The movie didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know, though.

I didn’t know as much as I thought I did, however. Case in point: When I got home that January night, I marked a P on the 17th of every month in my planner (yeah, I had a planner at 12; I was that sort of kid) because I knew periods came once a month and I’d seen my mom track them on her calendar with a P. How cool it was, I thought, to know what day your period would start on for the rest of your life? The joke was on me, though; not only did I not fulfill the February P, I didn’t have another P for a full calendar year.

That one looked like blood. Lasted for more than just one day, too.

The subsequent 30 years brought with them a series of Ps. Some light (not many), some gory (lots and lots). Most painful. Some excruciatingly so. For most of those 30 years, I planned my life around my Ps. Waiting for them to come. Waiting for them to pass. Trying this medication, that diet. Yoga and Tai Chi and Pilates, meditation and massage and supplements. Anything to alleviate the pain. Wishing for pregnancy, for menopause, for some relief from the relentless monthly suffering that is endometriosis.

It’s January again. Not the 17th, but close enough. And that door just closed for good. According to my period tracking app (I haven’t carried a paper planner in a couple decades), it’s been a full calendar year since my last cycle, and the doctor says that means I am done menstruating. I’ve gone through young womanhood, and just plain womanhood, and come out the other side.

I’m in uncharted territory now.

I call myself a mothercrone. Not that I feel particularly old; I don’t. But neither am I in the same place as I was a few short years ago, when pregnancy and childbirth were still on my radar. However, I’m still mothering littles — nursing one of them — so I can’t go full-on crone quite yet. Also, I’m only 44. The crones eye me warily yet. I’m on some odd bridge between the two states. Residing in a constant state of change.

As for that change. Not much has changed, I suppose. The hot flashes and sleeplessness may be a bit more intense now than they were last January, but not so distressing that I feel the need for medication. I cry easily. I’ve become a crier since giving birth for the first time, but now a passing thought is all it takes to turn on the waterworks. I have love handles that I’m not sure will ever go away. Without monthly hormone fluctuations, my fibrocystic breasts are less lumpy and painful. (Also smaller — I guess I really was mostly cysts.) I no longer develop sausage feet for no discernible reason. Otherwise…I’m just me. Only me doesn’t bleed anymore.

I look back on adolescent me, young woman me, with a lot more sympathy now. I felt like such a screw-up, when really I was just a lost kid. I wish I could tell that girl that it’s okay to be lost. That everyone is lost. That if you only admit that you are lost, someone might come along and help you get found.

In a similar fashion, I look back on adult me, and while her failures and shortcomings sting more, mostly I wish I could just assure her that things will be okay. The things she worried most about never came to pass. I wish I could tell her to pause, breathe, and be.

I wonder what old me will wish she could tell current me. I also wonder when I will feel that I have earned my crone wings. Not today, not tomorrow, and likely not next week, month, year. But I’m on my way. A little lost. A little nervous. But doing my best to pause, breathe, and be.

Homemade peanut butter

Pre-children, I used to make my own peanut butter. I was trying to eat a more natural diet, for different reasons (endometriosis) than I am now. I ate a peanut butter sandwich every day for lunch, so it was important to me that the peanut butter be good. I like my PB a little sweet, a little salty, and smooth as silk. I made several palatable peanut butters, varying the type of peanuts, the amount of salt, the sweetener, and the amount of oil, but nothing that met this description. But what I made was workable, and the satisfaction I derived from eating my homemade peanut butter on my homemade bread more than made up for the disappointment I felt at the output.

Then I had kids and my standards for food were reduced to “quick and easy.” I had been making peanut butter in the blender. There’s nothing quick or easy about that.

But now I have a food processor. I made this peanut butter while sitting across the room working. That’s actually easier than buying peanut butter; I’d have to put on shoes and a coat and leave the house to buy peanut butter.

You can tweak this recipe to suit your tastes. If you can have it, honey blends beautifully with the butter and adds a wonderful flavor. Like a saltier peanut butter? Add some salt. If this version’s too dry for you, add a little peanut oil. Mix, taste, tweak, and repeat until it’s to your liking.

 

Homemade peanut butter

2 cups salted cocktail peanuts
2 teaspoons white sugar, or to taste

Place all ingredients in the food processor and run for 5 minutes or until smooth and creamy.