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Just a simple threadbare gypsy soul, wandering from blessing to blessing on this earth.

September 19, 2013

C-Team Parenting

My kid will be 5 months old next week. She’s adorable in pretty much every way, even though I have to routinely clean weird, mustardy poop out of her cloth diapers with a high pressure sprayer because that stuff is nigh impossible to eradicate. It’s like the pink from Dr. Suess’ The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.  I spray it, and its aerosolized particles cling in a ring to the toilet bowl. I scrub the bowl with a long-handled scrub brush, and it’s stuck in the bristles. I rinse the bristles under the faucet, and now the poo-tation is chilling in the sink, which is way worse than having it in the toilet. (I mean, come on. I wash my face in there!) It’s a never-ending cycle of poo transfer. I don’t even want to think about what must be happening inside my washing machine!

I try not to worry about it too much, though I have no idea why it’s the vivid yellow of turmeric paste, nor what happens inside her little body to make it look like she’s swallowed a handful of sesame seeds whole. My physician friend says her body is just “figuring out her bacteria,” but I also don’t know what that means.

The trend with new motherhood, you see, is not knowing anything.

How to get the kid to sleep? How to make her stay asleep? If I don’t entertain her, will she become a sociopath?  But most of all, what am I supposed to do with her? I have no idea what I’m doing.
The Eyebrows of Judgment

Reaching and surpassing tangible goals is kinda my thang, but since motherhood has made it possible for me to fall short in more ways than I ever dreamed, my self-expectations have reached a new low. Daily Goal = “Keep Child Alive.” This means that my many mommy-fails (such as clipping her pacifier lanyard to flesh instead of clothing, or snipping off delicate fingertips rather than fingernails) don’t count against me. 

Everything in parenting seems to be a gamble, but when my choices make my kid constipated or bleed or cry, I feel pretty dang guilty. Even worse than blood, tears, or popped-forehead veins: my daughter’s Eyebrows of Judgment. I usually get these after doing something selfish, like propping her up so she can watch me peruse the Internet for goat cheese recipes.

Okay, I am officially a C-Team mother.

Reading is the problem. I have too much information to do anything effectively! (Yes, this is how I choose to project my mommy-guilt.) One book says I absolutely must do A, while another book says that A is completely wrong, and pediatricians everywhere recommend B, but B makes me feel bad because it makes my baby cry a lot, so I try C from another book, which works one time and never again, though that doesn’t stop me from repeating it maniacally in frantic hopes of magical surprise effectiveness.

Once, in my exhausted mania and frustration at being unable to “fix” my child’s wild-eyed fight against sleep, I booed in a low voice until my breath expired. No self-respecting book written by experienced doctors will ever suggest, “Why not try booing your child’s unattractive behavior?” But guess what? She closed her eyes and went to sleep. What in the world? Even weirder, this continues to work, so obviously I keep booing her, calmly and gently, to sleep. One hopes she does not grow up with severe lack of self-esteem.

The thing is, we’re all C-Team parents. We’re imperfect and selfish with our time and we get tired of cleaning the questionable fluids that come from literally every orifice of baby’s body. We’re all winging it in the sphere of parenthood. So learn a little lesson from this Type A Perfectionist: just keep trying. Nobody knows anything until they stumble across it accidentally. And press on with the knowledge that when the C-Team is the best anyone can do, well, then that’s the A Team, isn’t it? Win.

February 17, 2013

Kegel Like Bagel

There is no end to the interesting things that pregnant persons experience.

The 29 Week Belly
Now at thirty weeks of pregnancy, my mid-section has swelled to the size and shape of a basketball growing straight out of my abdomen, and maintains a similar firmness. This comes as a surprise to me. I am not sure what I expected, but something along the lines of Santa Claus’ “jiggling bowlful of jelly” fits.  I suppose that previous bouts of abdo-pudge were all I could use to imagine what a pregnant belly might actually resemble, which is certainly not the case.  The belly is fairly solid, neither bouncing nor jiggling, and does not slouch in muffin-top form when strapped into my seat belt or when I sit down. While running, the belly stays where it is supposed to, entering the world a foot ahead of me, making only two things different from my pre-pregnancy jogs:

1) My gait has changed from “Powerful woman conquers the miles” to “Here I come trying not to spill hot liquid,” and

2) Occasionally, a half-moon of flesh appears at my waistband, because my running shirts no longer adequately cover my burgeoning belly.

Oh. And,

3) Sometimes I have to make a detour under the bridge to pee, because that takes up 20% of my time these days.

“Hey honey,” I ask, belly revealing itself in pasty crescents while I hoist 15-pound barbells in a military press, “do I look like white trash?”

“Yup,” he answers, with zero hesitation.

Furthermore, nobody allows me to do so much as push a student desk into a corner, because of my “delicate condition.” I am advised not to go places or make long drives alone lest I suddenly become completely unable to control the workings of my body and spontaneously rupture my uterus, killing my infant. My breasts occasionally leave miniature sequins of colostrum crust inside my brassieres (none of which I’ve needed to replace with larger sizes, darn it all). I’m also getting used to strangers feeling entitled to touching my stomach, which is about as welcome as my random belching of gases that simultaneously taste of chocolate no-bake cookies and bacon, when I haven’t eaten either of those things. Yum.

Yet the most fascinating thing that has occurred during this pregnancy is the constancy with which people inquire whether I am “keeping up with my Kegels.”

To help you remember: Kegel like Bagel
“Umm… what?” I typically reply. “Do you really want to know that?”

“You know,” says Shere, the instructor of our Bradley birth class, “it’s not Kegel like eagle, as everyone seems to think. It’s Kegel like bagel.”  All I can think about is how the poor schmuck’s family members feel now that their surname legacy is tied up in the tightening and releasing of the pelvic floor.

Let’s be honest. I didn’t think Kegeling was necessary. After all, for what other purpose do I use that muscle besides preventing urination on the daily commute? I seem to do that a lot, especially these days, so I thought it was enough. But then, it happened.

I sneezed my typical, violent sneeze, scaring the bejeebers out of my husband, and . . .

“Oh no!” I cried from the kitchen.
“What?” he called.
“I just peed in my pants a little bit when I sneezed!”
“Ha ha ha ha!” he guffawed.

The same day, a friend posted a video on her Facebook page entitled “I’m Pregnant and I Know It,” featuring a very pregnant young woman dancing in a home-made music video, the lyrics of which listed the trials of pregnancy. It was pretty amusing, especially the following line: “I pee my pants when I sneeze, and I’m so afraid to blow it.” Oh how I laughed at that!  So true, I thought! Ha ha!

Then it happened to me again. W. . . T. . . F! 

“It’s not a big deal,” husband said. “I’m sure it’s normal.”

I asked my Birth & Wellness Center midwife about this in a text message, because I was too embarrassed to phone her and admit to it. (I’ll bet the message monitors at Sprint got a kick out of that one.) She agreed with husband, saying, “It is not all that uncommon in pregnancy.”

The problem was that it wasn’t normal for me. What if I sneezed at work, and didn’t have a change of clothes in the immediate vicinity? Would I be reduced to uncomfortably bunching up hand towels a la junior high females carried off by surprise on the crimson tide? Did I need to start carrying around a fresh pack of underpants for the rest of my pregnancy, everywhere I went?

So, I started Kegeling, beginning with the time between street signs and billboards on my morning commute. I joined a pre-natal yoga class during which the instructor tells us to “tighten” ourselves, bringing “the elevator from the basement up to floor one,” then two, then three, and so on, feeling our bodies “lift our babies up,” imagining our babies “are enjoying the ride,” and releasing on cue. I know my eyes are supposed to be closed, but I can’t help looking around. Yes, it’s weird. I’m sitting in a room full of women who are motionless and making only the sounds of deep breathing, yet we are all Kegeling.

With all this Kegel talk, one begins to wonder: Just how many People are Kegeling? Right now? Have you ever seen a person Kegeling? I bet you have, but you didn’t know it.  That’s because people who are Kegeling look like this:

And this:

And yes, even this:

That’s right. Men can Kegel. But I’ve been told they should be careful not to strain, because if they do, they too will wet their pants when their bodies endure physical stress. True story.

January 3, 2013

The Sinister Stick

When I first discovered that I was pregnant, I cried. Sobbed, actually, into my husband’s firm shoulder, as he methodically rubbed my back. We were scrunched into the tiny sink alcove in our one-butt bathroom, me clutching the Sinister Stick with Damning Double Lines, my husband watching his freedom flutter out the door in the beak of a stork. 

The "Tell Our Families Via Text Message" method of avoidance.
Seen here, apt images of our immediate responses to the Sinister Stick.
Comic made using the PhotoComic app for iPhone.
(c) Heidi Tauschek 2012

Nobody thinks pregnancy will be upon her with a single shot, despite the fact that the plight of thousands of teenagers can’t be a hoax. In a loving, stable, and financially secure marriage, there is no shame attached to surprise pregnancy. With a husband like mine, gentle, generous, selfless, and kind, there is no reason to fear. But I was afraid, and the guilt of the Sinister Stick was piling on.

In my age demographic, women fall into two groups: 1) they are either desperately trying to find everlasting love; or, 2) they are desperately trying to conceive. The latter (and sometimes the former, as well) are de-romancing the sex act with timetables, thermometers, ovulation schedules, and shots. They are visiting specialists and enduring multiple invasive tests and treatments. Their hopes of ever becoming biological parents would shatter but for the cryogenic frozenness that keeps everything dead-but-alive, waiting, like Snow White in her glass coffin.  The stress of being unable to bear children weighs heavily on them; they feel responsible for their husband’s lost chances at being a father to a child born of the wife he cherishes. They see babies everywhere but in their own homes, and they start to lose their faith, asking God with broken hearts that omnipresent and unanswerable question, “Why me?” I, having lost myself once to wild-eyed ardor in the wake of a grand romantic gesture by my wonderful husband, knew eleven days later that an actual human was forming in my body. Instant bulls-eye! Or, as my father said when we made the telephone call, “Nice shot. Good work knocking up my daughter.” I didn’t have to try at all, and that makes me feel guilty.

But the guilt brought on by the Sinister Stick doesn’t end there; it multiplies and expands until it covers the entirety of life in a greasy film that is repulsive to touch but cannot be escaped. 

The actual photo announcement at 18 weeks.
"Bump Ahead" idea shamelessly stolen from Pintrest.
(c) Heidi Tauschek 2012
First, it’s, “When can I tell all my friends?” But you’re not ready to appreciate the limelight that comes from being the first or the last in your family to have children, or to tell all your friends that yes, you are finally going to have babies. You’re trying to wrap your own brain around the boggling knowledge that you are going to be a parent. That you have to prepare yourself to raise a real, live being into a person. A good person. A person that neither sucks nor loathes you. 

Not wanting a large audience in the event of any negative outcome before baby is born, you hold off on making the announcement, which leads to: “This pregnancy isn’t just your news to share!”  Yet once the announcement is made, an exponential increase of guilt explodes in your face, and you carry its offal with you wherever you go. Should I talk about my pregnancy with this person who has lost three babies to miscarriage, or to this person who has been trying to conceive for five years?  

The 20-week non-existent Baby Bump.
Pregnancy clearly isn’t much of a choice. It happens, or it doesn’t, and whether it does is largely out of our control. How it does is also out of our control. I don’t have any hideous stories to share. I haven’t been nauseous a single day – never spent the morning with my head in the toilet, or wildly sent my husband on a midnight quest for buffalo burgers and tinned cranberry sauce.  I don’t want to vomit when I smell certain things, and no part of my body is experiencing any discomfort. I can still wear all my own clothes. I am on no more of an emotional rollercoaster than is typical for a Type A woman married to a Type Z man. I don’t fit into the club, and that makes me feel guilty.

Further, others’ expectations of your body and pregnancy experience cause you to be assailed by nonsensical fears. Someone thinks the photo of my partially formed baby looks like an undressed Christmas turkey, and should I be worried? I’m already halfway done; why am I not showing a bump yet? I’ve only gained six pounds in five months; am I starving my baby? I just wolfed down an entire plate of cheese fries; have I condemned my child to a life of unhealthy habits and obesity? My resolve just crumbled and I drank a Coke; is my baby’s sweet face getting eaten away by acid?
3-D ultrasound image of our miracle of life.
S/he was moving too fast to get a clear image of everything but the face.
Photo credit to the fabulous ultrasound techs at SLUCare.

Oh, the Sinister Stick. I’m told that the guilt gets even worse once baby is born. Things like what type of diaper you choose, whether you breast-feed or not, and whether you choose to stay home or go back to work all factor into a whole other set of unmet expectations and guilt. Can’t wait for that! But I suppose that this system of questioning and self-doubt has its uses: it helps you recognize all the ways in which you wholly and completely suck, and forces you to improve them before you inflict yourself on a new life. I’m game for self-improvement. 

Bring it, Stick.

August 17, 2012

Healing Water

All the world’s problems would be solved immediately if we just immersed everyone’s feet in water -- I am convinced.

Sure, this catalyst for betterment comes with a few serious ecological consequences, such as, where do we get enough plastic or pottery or glass for the requisite pedi-pots, and what to do with them when the foot soak is through? Can they be safely recycled? Where will the water come from? Does it have to be clean water?

Probably it ought, for what happens if Leader From Country A has sparkling clean purified water for her footies, whilst Leader From Country P has nasty-rotting-camel-carcass water? Methinks that Leader From Country P would instantly, upon removing and drying his feet, regret having signed all those peace treaties when luxuriating in the soothing sensations of foot bathing.

 Regardless, those peace treaties will have been signed, and I pragmatically suppose that is the desired end: sans war. Or at least, ending war.

Don’t feel too bad for Leader P, though. Remember that others, such as Leader C, probably made some decisions he wouldn’t have ordinarily made, either, like cancelling the trillions of dollars worth of Country A’s debt or recognizing Country N as a sovereign entity. (All right, I’m beginning to wax political in barely-veiled initials, now. Moving on.)

The point is, while I don’t by any means suggest compromising your beliefs, I do recommend making compromises in your actions. Even when it’s difficult.

Scratch that. Especially when it’s difficult.

An acquaintance of mine teaches her breathtakingly beautiful children: “When you’re not being kind, then you’re being selfish.” I don’t think anything has ever made me feel more selfish than the first time I heard this.

When Spouse and I fight, it is almost always because I am being selfish. Not selfish in the “buy me more stuff” sense, for most material possessions don’t matter much to me. I’m selfish in the “what I’m going through is more important than what you’re going through” kind of way. Which is certainly unkind. Also, it’s infinitely worse than wanting more stuff.

However, even my destructive life is testimony to the healing power of water. When I’m overly warm and beginning to grouchify, washing my hands with cool water usually sets me to rights.  When I start to feel self-hatred over my failures or shortcomings, and most commonly of late, the slip and slide of my visage into folds and pouches, a shower revives me.  And, when my husband brings a bowl and a towel and washes my feet to show his love and devotion for me, all my stubbornness drains away.

Just yesterday in fact, after an extremely serious argument with my spouse, I asked him to please stay with his friend for a few days so that we could decide, in one another’s absence, what best way to proceed.  I have no idea what this meant, for I can’t imagine continuing life him-free, but I was upset and unquestionably not the master of my anger. And I said this terrible thing, and it shook him to the core.

My mother, upon hearing of this independently from each of us, advised us both to practice walking in forgiveness, regardless of what had been done.   

Furious at this perceived lack of support (what did I think she’d say, ‘Good riddance’? The man in question is my soul mate for crying out loud!) I proceeded to completely ignore what she’d, said and began to run over the list of wrongs. This list acted like a speculum cranking open the hole in my heart, letting ever more garbage settle darkly inside of me, increasing my rage. I even, like a crazy person, replayed my side of the cold conversation (for which I take full responsibility) out loud, answering with snappier, more intelligent, more hurtful words.

Boy am I glad none of that trash rolled off my tongue during the real chat.

A storm picked up, the Saint Louis Special variety with sudden torrential rain and thunder so loud it rattled the windows. As I watched the fat drops splattering heavily against my kitchen window, the wound inside me just sort of closed up.  Maybe it was that old cliché that you see your emotions in the weather. Maybe I’m the one who made it rain. Or maybe God was just saying to me, “Stop being an idiot and come drink of me so you can wash your sin away.”

I spent most of the afternoon standing right there, obese, hot tears running down my swollen maggot face, slowly melting the ice cube encasing my rotten, stenchy heart.

I began to regret what I’d asked, because the knowledge of this dark chasm of complete separation between us made me feel lonelier than ever before, like half a person, like Dennis Quaid trapped inside Martin Short in Innerspace -- a very tiny, loving, and good person trapped inside a frigid beast who refused to listen to my logic.  

But what now? The damage was already done!  My outlook bleak, I started to think about how I hadn’t been kind because I had been selfish. I had been so selfish that I snatched up my husband’s security and faith in me and shattered it into a thousand pieces, then urinated all over it with my despicability.

My phone sounded the Foxhunt tone, interrupting my self-loathing and signaling a message from my husband.

“Knock knock,” it said.

I paused, unsure if I should respond, struggling against that last little clinging bit of stubbornness. “Who’s there?” I wrote.

“Someone who loves you,” came the instant reply.

Someone who loves me? Someone who loves me? Who could love me? After all I’d done and said I deserved to be abandoned for the pursuit of better things.

Someone who loves you. I read it again, and then again. Like the Grinch, my heart expanded to three times its original size, and then,

Knock knock.

This one was real, on my own front door, so soft and tenuous I wasn’t quite sure I had heard it. I pressed my eye to the peephole, squinting through the rain-blurred fishbowl lens, and saw my husband standing outside, shoulders drooping, staring down at his loafers. He had walked all the way home in the pouring rain, his anger and hurt washing away, walking in forgiveness, to ask me if he could please come in.

I opened the door wide and he stepped inside.

The author would like to hear about your encounters with healing and forgiveness, whether it was a struggle or fairly simple. Please tell your story below!

August 9, 2012

Things I Learned in Greece

1.     Everyone speaks English.
Coming to Greece gave entirely new meaning to that old phrase, “It’s Greek to me.” When you pick up a bottle that says “νερό” on the label, you get a little confused. Some of the letters look like they belong in your native alphabet, but those accents look French. Wait a minute... is that Korean? Hang on... how do I actually pronounce this? Is this really water? By all means, try to learn a few words in Greek. It’s polite, after all. But when in doubt, you can just ask, and that’s nice to know.

2.     The entire Greek sewer system cannot handle anything but bodily waste.
As it was explained to me, the system is archaic. It needs to be replaced, but repeated attempts have proved fruitless. Every time you dig in Greece, you unearth an ancient ruin that has to be reported to the government, turned into an archaeological site, and protected by wooden structures with sheet metal nailed over the top for a roof, but nobody will study it for months.  You can’t touch it. After all, it could be evidence proving the existence of Odysseus.

3.     Tourist maps are not to scale.
Following the map to Corycian Cave, shown in the hills a mere three inches above Delphi (a 4-inch town), took me six miles up through private farmland where the path disappeared, though a faded sign pointed up the next mountain and into the woods. I started to panic. Nobody would hear me scream (save the goats), or be able to find my discarded body. Immediately, I headed back down. Four hours of walking in the searing heat and nothing to show for it save my feet swollen like satiated leeches.

4.     Don’t expect to drive faster than 30 mph.
If you’re in the city, you’ll be stopping for lights, pedestrians, and a million stray animals. On the main roads, you’ll be stopping for buses, herds of goats, and a million stray animals. On the islands, you’ll either be crawling around other vehicles on cliff side single carriageways, making 175-degree switchbacks up and down the mountains, or trying not to hit the stray animals. If you suffer at all from motion sickness, bring your pressure point bands and medicinal capsules!

5.   Ruins are everywhere.
Literally. When you grow up hearing stories about ancient Athens and Sparta, Helen of Troy, and Odysseus, everything seems so removed from current life. When you're in Greece, however, you can't spit without hitting either an archaeological site or some uncovered ruins. In fact, about twelve of them are within a 20 minute walk from central Athens! Just remember to take your walking shoes, because as much as I love them, Crocs and Converse do NOT cut it. Yowch.

6.   Don’t drink the water on the islands.
Don’t run your toothbrush under a tap, order drinks with ice, or open your mouth in the shower. In my group of eleven people, seven of them are mass ingesting electrolyte replenishment tablets (some after bouts of liquid anal explosions). I am tender-tummied enough to have brought a 10-liter “amoeba bag” with chlorine tablets to kill the belly bugs. Not only is my bum squirt free, I have a ready supply of cold water sitting in my mini fridge. Nice.

7.     The food is cheap and sinfully delicious, so eat out!
Don’t waste your shekels on €3 “ham” sandwiches. They’re not what you’ve grown to expect in a sandwich, and besides, I have yet to see a pig in Greece. Go for the real Greek food: gyros, spanakopita, souvlaki, stuffed vine leaves, and seafood. It’s an island nation after all! What’s that, you say? Vegetarian? Then Greek salad is for you. Can’t stand seafood? Then order some battered zucchini chips and spaghetti. Italy is quite close and her influence is strong. Why don't I have a photo? I spent all my time eating!

8.     There are almost no dress codes or behavior rules.
If you want to walk to the beach in your bikini, go ahead. If you can hobble along the rocky coast in your platform heels, do it. Want to show up to a restaurant in your speedo? So be it. Just last night I saw a dozen people in cycling shorts and miner’s headlamps washing their picnic dishes in the sea and singing Lady Gaga songs to a guitar whilst passing bottles of Bacardi and Coca Cola Light.  Okay… that last part was us. Just don’t swim in swimming pools after sundown – there’s a national law against that. 

9.     Island time is not scheduled time, on time, or any other kind of time.
What is on your posted itinerary may or may not be the time at which people arrive for meetings, ferries dock at their final destinations, or breakfast is served. These are just guidelines for planning your day, and scheduled events will probably change times without much notice. Further, nothing will get done in the afternoon. It’s hot, and really dusty, and you just had a huge delicious meal, anyway. That’s when you get to siesta, wash the dust off your feet, go for a swim, and relax! Ahh, vacation…

10.   Get up early.
It's cool (relative to the usual daytime hours), there is generally a breeze off the ocean, the sunrises are gorgeous, and you feel like you have the entire world to yourself. Never in my life have I seen such a beautiful sun, haloed in a clearly outlined golden ring and reflecting eternally off the water. Yes, I had to get up before the cocks began to crow, and yes, I stepped into some unseen goat feces in the dark, but my solitary morning jogs were made absolutely worth it with a final stretch like this.

Thank you, new friends & fellow journeyers to into the unknown, for the wonderful time!

July 24, 2012

Marriage Atrophies

Before I get into this, let me just say that I adore my spouse. He has fabulous hair, an adorable bottom, and about seventeen bajillion wonderful qualities that make him the perfect match for me. And yes, I am including the qualities that challenge and grate me, too (as iron sharpens iron).  But let’s be honest. Marriage atrophies about 50% of one’s skill set.

When excited persons prepare to engage in their nuptials, they often think in such saccharine clichés as:

·      “I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with this amazing person!”
·      “I am so excited to share my space, time, and experience with my best friend!” and,
·      “I swear, by the moon and the stars in the sky, I’ll love you with every beat of my heart.” 

However, the underlying secret, unconscious thinking is more along these lines:

·      “Yes! I will never have to do laundry again!”
·      “Now I can do whatever I want sexually without social stigmatism!”
·      “Thank God I can start eating normally again!” and, for those who previously spent evenings staring into one another’s eyes and arguing over who will hang up the phone first,
·      “Finally, nights will be spent actually sleeping!”

Eventually, even these thoughts morph over time, as slowly as a frog boiling to death in a gradually heating pot, into unmentionable atrocities that you somehow manage to mention all the time.

Once those vows and rings and kisses have been publicly exchanged, the “muscles” you once used to lure and hook your mate seem extraneous. They get filed away into unexercised corners of your being along with Grade 7 insect collections and that time you used the school dictionary to look up the definition of smegma in French.  Somehow, everything you’ve learned and practiced about being a decent individual has shriveled into a useless mass like a chewed up piece of gum with hair stuck in it. The worst part is that you don’t even know this has happened, until you make a snide remark comparing your spouse’s helpfulness for others with brown-nosing. Or when you engage in a sloshy booze fest, sans spouse, at the bumping club for which you were a decade too old, without calling to tell your partner what you’re doing, leaving fear of The Worst in the wake of your inconsiderateness.

Communication skills you rocked in your literary, analytical, and persuasion papers get chucked out the window; the type of gentle discussion and compromise you practice regularly on your co-workers has fled the scene like a meth cooker during a DEA raid, making simple and ridiculous things, like how your spouse turns every article of clothing inside-out upon removal, into the stuff over which you behave about as well as a Reality TV personality. 

The atrophy of skills by marriage doesn’t just negatively affect appropriate styles of communication or the ability to impress your partner by being neat, tidy, responsible and sophisticated at every meeting. Parts of your brain go, too. For instance: the part that remembers how to find things in cupboards and closets; the part that closes the door when coffee and gravity do their work; and yes, even the part that remembers one should urinate in the commode, not in any other plumbing fixtures.

For example, this mini-dialogue has actually happened in my home:

“I just pooted a little bit,” I announced, almost proudly.

“Good push honey,” my husband replied.

Things one must keep on top of, like maintaining an appropriate stock of toilet tissue and eating the chicken before it grays, are not a problem. It’s the exercise in things that a spouse does for his mate that get weaker over time. I, once fiercely independent, have not simply forgotten how to wash, wax, and vacuum the vehicle (an act which I completed almost weekly during my first six years of ownership of Dante, my trusty blue Saturn). The very fact that I haven’t had to do this during the past six years has completely erased the process from my ongoing Take Care of It checklist. 

“We need to wash the car,” my husband might say, eyeballing with grievous displeasure the many coils and splashes of bird excrement that have costumed Dante as the 102nd Dalmation.

“Do what now?” I inquire, not having understood a single word of my native language.

Now, I am faced with going overseas without my spouse for the first time in a very long time. An irrational fear of The Unknown has welled up within me, because my husband, out of love for me, always takes the reins and leaves me to enjoy everything without stress. Once a fearless world traveler, conquering such places as Hanoi, Jakarta, Manila, and Phnom Penh on my own, I am now reduced to a quivering heap of uncertainty as I prepare to tackle Athens alone. Things that never bothered me before (being a white American female traveling alone, not being able to read the script or speak the language, having almost no knowledge of the cultural climate) are looming over me, making mince meat of my perceived independence.

The protection of marriage against unwanted male attention or rip-offs due to assumptions about my gender, or even of having to think about who will accompany me to the next X-Men film, have atrophied my muscles of independence, for sure. But isn’t that part of the beauty of marriage and partnership? That someone cares about you enough to take care of something for you, just to make your life a little bit easier? That you get to bond so closely with one person that you never have to be ashamed of your imperfections and failings, and no longer have to keep up certain appearances? That you always have someone to talk to and be supported by?  Even better, marriage helps you develop new muscles, which being alone often does not: serving others, even when it’s hard. Loving through the difficult times. Selflessness.  Sharing of burdens. These are pretty great muscles too, and they’re infinitely likeable.  But even without them, if marriage comes with my husband, a caliber of man rarely found in this world, I’ll take it. No matter if parts I once used to define “Me Solo” start to wither away.  The real truth of the matter is that those things have to disappear, because I am not “Me Solo” anymore.  I get to be part of the only equation I regularly use in real life: “Me + Him = Us.”

Howell Island Conservation Area
(c) 2012 by Heidi Tauschek

April 2, 2012

A Fine Collop Reduction

During my most awkward period of budding, I was the female version of a 97-pound-weakling. I had sprouted rather earlier than my male counterparts and, measuring in then at the same height as I am currently (some twenty years later), was something of a sixth-grade Amazon sans any discernable fibers of muscle tissue. I managed regardless to convince everyone that I was hard-core by launching creative scenarios in which the illusion of my strength was preserved without actually doing anything. It was easily believable, what with my unfathomable height and all. Until the President’s Challenge.

Oh, the horrors of the President’s Challenge. In 1993, while then-new President Clinton was eating his Big Macs in his baggy gray sweats, I was being forced through the rigors of a prepubescent physical fitness challenge given by The Man himself.  Or, at least, through his Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. Or, at leaster, that’s what my Physical Education instructor said was happening to me.

During this challenge I was humiliated in front of my whole class by my radical lack of any strength whatsoever coupled with the shivering vibrations of my scrawny forearms as they tried, without success, to haul my stringy form up to the level of a chin-up bar . . . even though my instructor was holding up my legs.

But those were the days of flexible adolescence, when bending myself into a circle in any direction was no great achievement. When I wake up in the current era, it takes me a good hour to limber up. Everything snaps and crunches, and bending at a degree tighter than 90 causes me to lose my breath and go crimson. My collops rise out of my waistband like the lid of a flesh colored mushroom, and my buttocks, once so rounded and pert, press together like oversized cookies too close on the baking sheet. Revulsion.

In order to combat the slow demise of my aging body, I decided to self-flagellate myself back to a youthful pinnacle of fitness via P90X and the rigors of Tony Horton.  “C’mon boys and girls,” he calls to me from my Panasonic.  “Make the last three reps hurt!” And I try, joints squeaking and grinding, a Tin Man calling for oil. Alas, instead of death by mortification, I now have a direct view of the stippling of my thighs while downward dogging. Inverted thus, I nearly asphyxiate under the unfortunate gravitational pull dragging my flubber gut into my esophagus. My “soft landings” from plyometric leaps are thunderous, elephantine clishmaclaverings that rattle the light fixtures and cause God-only-knows what complaints from the gentleman residing beneath.

Nevertheless, I persist. I can now wrap my fingers around the bottoms of my feet in a straight leg stretch, and can, with the aid of a chair, do pseudo pull-ups that would make my 6th grade companions less likely to verbally skewer me for my pathetic weakness. Thus far, the regimen has been recipe for a fine collop reduction, though I shan’t yet chance the Princess Leia metal bikini. Till then, I shall do as Tony Horton says, and “Bring It.”
The Collop In Question

March 22, 2012

Battling the Bees

It’s Bee Season again. I am not talking about the sweet-looking, fuzzy, bumble variety drunkenly careening across the sky with oversized bodies and tiny wings that look about as useless as T-rex forearms. I’m not talking about the useful kind that make delicious golden honey and pollinate my plants. What I’m talking about are despicable atrocities of un-bee-coming size: the Carpenter Bees. 

These shiny-bottomed nightmares are, for lack of a better word, freaky! Not only do they stare at me unrepentantly from their monstrous compound eyes… Not only do they hover in mid air about a foot from my face, rubbing their hairy front legs together like a criminal eyeing easy prey… Not only do they slam full speed into whatever of my body parts happens to get in their way hard enough to bruise, they are also easily the size of my thumb from the tip to the second knuckle! Despite the fact that more than one person has told me, independently of others, that I have “carnie man hands,” this is one huge bee-yotch.

Apparently, the ones that swarm around my balcony searching for appropriate locations at which to bore new tunnels with their hideous chomp-chomp-chomping are, in fact, beeyotches, since male bees, like many male humans, just hang out at home and impregnate people. Typically I am pro-female and rail against every variety of attack on women. Not so during Bee Season.

The mysterious disappearance of the American bee notwithstanding, I find it very difficult not to wish the curse of colony collapse disorder upon these backward beasts who wear their skeletons on the outside.  I have spent many an afternoon earning tennis elbow by swatting away these colossal and colossally unnerving fiends with my tennis racket. They make a fantastic thwacking sound and fly in long, graceful arcs that would make an ancient architect scurry for his drawing pad. The connection of racket to bee is quite satisfying. It’s also quite useless, as these insects are extremely resilient and hardly ever even get wounded by my ferocious beatings!  In fact, most of the time they just sort of stall in mid air and turn right around as if nothing has happened, and come back to hover too close and stare at me, rubbing, always rubbing those forelegs, grooming before the feast I am afraid will be made of my face.

It occurs to me that these bees are a metaphor for my addictions, my personal struggles. It seems useless to bat them away, because they always come back, stare me down, and search for tender places to gnaw into, leaving deep, branching, scarring tunnels that could, if left unchecked, cause structural damage and collapse. So I’ve got to. I’ve got to get out that tennis racket, and beat those addictions over their heads, and knock them and knock them away, because if I don’t they’ll take over and breed.  And if I just keep standing out there with that racket, if I just keep taking the swings, every once in a while I’ll hit one with such power that it gets cut right in half over the strings and will fall, lifeless Goliaths, at my feet. And then, I will be free.

Oh, it’s Bee Season all right. But I’m armed and ready.

Photo by Paul Choate, found here.