Questions and Comments

I was talking with my dad the other day about the things people say and ask while you’re pregnant. Sometimes you get nice comments, like “You have a cute little baby bump.” Sometimes they’re not so nice, like, “You’re waddling now. But it’s a cute waddle, so it’s okay.” Nope, still not okay.

Possibly one the most annoying topics for me is morning sickness. I have this frustrating trend of not getting over it when the first trimester ends. I’m currently 28 weeks pregnant, and still fighting nausea every waking moment. People seem confused by this. As soon as the second trimester started, some people started asking, “So you’re feeling better now, right?” Right. I’m just running off to the bathroom to make sure it’s still there.

People who hear of the never-ending nausea also like to ask, “Have you taken anything for it?” Thank you kind stranger for your wise question. If not for you, I’d have continued doing nothing about it. It’s hard to believe I’ve been nauseated for 22 weeks and never once thought of addressing the problem.

“Well, have you tried…” Let me stop you there and save us both some time. This is my third pregnancy, and thus far the nausea has been a long-lasting problem. Three pregnancies means so far a combined total of roughly 19 months of morning sickness. Unless you’re going to suggest burning sage, under a super wolf blood moon, while doing the chicken dance at exactly midnight, I’ve probably tried it. “And it’s not working for you?” Yes, they all were miracle cures. I’ve just been fighting a mild case of food poisoning for the past 22 weeks.

Still, I suppose things could be worse. One lady I work with told me people were asking her, “Aren’t you ever gonna have that baby?” for months after she’d given birth.

Another lady cautioned me against telling anyone about possible baby names, because some people will try and talk you out of it. My first thought was to respond, “If you wanna name a kid, you can be pregnant next time.” Unless I’m trying to name my kid ‘Hey You Little Squirt’, back off.

One coworker of mine came up to me and asked if she could ask a personal question. After people asking me my preferences on gender, breastfeeding, epidurals and everything else that could possibly come up, I was a bit worried, but also very curious, to see what she might ask. She asked me what my due date was. I almost laughed. That’s hardly personal at this point. That’s the same question that some random stranger, who I’d never talked to before, and have not talked to since, hollered at me from her front porch as I waked by. I was very tempted to turn and yell back, “I’m not even pregnant!” just to make her think twice about doing that ever again. But that would be lying. So I did not do that. After that experience, though, I thought it was incredibly sweet of my coworker to ask before asking. We need more people like that in the world.

We could use fewer people who need to add their opinions on my plans for mat leave, from across the counter at work, when my entire knowledge of said person is that they take cream in their coffee. If I don’t even know your name, I don’t need your opinion on my personal decisions.

Sometimes I know my reactions are poor because I’m nauseated, tired, achy, cranky, and hormonal. I suppose, “Are you excited?” wasn’t a question that deserved a glare. And maybe other pregnant women feel differently. Maybe some women are enjoying being pregnant and love an opening to gush about it. Not me. I’ve been miserable since about mid-September. I don’t want to gush about pregnancy. I don’t want to play 20 questions. I just want a clear path to the bathroom, a fresh can of ginger ale, and a nap. And maybe for someone to tell me I don’t look as fat as I feel. “You don’t waddle that much after all.” That would be nice.

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New Year’s Resolution 2019

Back in 2014 I had an idea: I planned to pick new year’s resolutions that would form good habits to build my character year by year. That lasted three years.

My first resolution in 2014 was twofold: I would try not to sweat the small stuff, which I planned to manage by getting more organized. More organization should mean less small stuff to sweat over.

My 2015 resolution was to try to trust God more with the big things.

My 2016 resolution was to try to get ahead where I could, so that when I got behind, it wasn’t so far behind. I planned further into the future to try to keep things on track.

Going into 2017, I decided those three resolutions were enough to work on for the moment, so I took a break from resolutions.

2018 was the year I was going to journal more. I received 3 notebooks for Christmas in 2017, so that worked out well. I kept that one.

I haven’t settled on a resolution for 2019. I’ve toyed with several ideas: trying to keep surfaces clear of clutter, clear out closets, watch less TV, get outside more, eat healthier, not get pregnant again after this baby.

Looking at my life right now, I’m thinking I might need to revisit 2014 and 2016. Maybe I could resolve to be more organized, be less stressed over little things, and prepare in advance where possible. That’s a lot to tackle, but I have a baby on the way, a toddler who’s a picky eater, and when my husband is on the midnight shift, half of my bedroom ends up on the living room couch so I can access it while he sleeps. Clearly I can’t work on de-stressing my life in general, on major changes in eating habits, or on keeping surfaces clear.

This is going to be a crazy  year as I figure out how to deal with a new baby when I have a little one underfoot already.  I’m anticipating not sleeping for a few months, and I’m thinking the only way I’ll catch up on dishes for a while will be to eat off of disposable plates. So maybe it’s a good year to stock the freezer with pre-prepared meals and snacks, and to find a good place to keep sanitized spare soothers. Thinking ahead, and controlling the little things. I think that’s a good plan for 2019.

Surprise! It’s… Christmas?

I started reading Ben Hur a week or so ago. I opened the book to find a man on a camel in the desert, who stops, sets up a tent, and waits for two others to arrive. The company arrives, and they exchange life stories (Yes, it was written in the 1800s. How did you guess?) I went into Ben Hur not knowing much about it. I missed most of the movie, and stopped reading the dumbed-down children’s version because it was too dumbed-down to be interesting. I knew there was a chariot race, and I’ve heard that at some point there’s a scene at the cross. I was not expecting an Egyptian, an Indian, and a Greek exchanging tales of cultural existentialism out in the desert.

Bigger surprise, they’re the three wise men, come to seek the Christ, following a star to Bethlehem. Ben Hur starts as a Christmas story. I guess I started it at the appropriate time of year. I’ll admit, with the busyness of Christmas, I haven’t read very far. So far,I’ve seen Mary and Joseph arrive in Bethlehem and find a cave to stay in, the shepherds have seen the angels and have come to worship the Christ, and the three wise men have just arrived and are trying to find the newborn king. I’m on page 57/446. Clearly we move past Christmas pretty quickly if we’re to get to the cross by the end of the book.

It’s an interesting book so far. The men in the desert come from exciting countries far away, but they each find there’s something unfulfilling about their lives, and they seek a different God who can fill the void. The shepherds are content with their simple lives, yet angels appear to them and upend their silent night. Bethlehem and Jerusalem are filled with strangers forced there by a census, or by commerce, or by the need to find answers.

So far, the book is incredibly interesting, and very easy for me to identify with, which is impressive when you remember that it was written over 100 years ago, about a time over 2000 years ago. The characters, though, encounter the same problems we all face today: frustrating government regulations, travel during a busy season, and questions about the point of life.

I’m glad I started this book when I did. Some years I feel like I skim the Christmas story halfheartedly. It’s so familiar that it feels stale. But this book starts with people with real concerns, seeking the baby in the manger, to change something drastically in their life, to bring them meaning and hope.

Christmas is a season for hope. It’s easy to forget that in the midst of shopping lists, travel plans, scheduling multiple Christmas dinners, and trying not to get killed in a mall parking lot. I’m glad I picked up this book, which points to Christmas as a time to ask questions, and to look to God for answers.

I’m excited to see where this book goes. Will we follow the wise men after they find their newborn king? Will we see the shepherds again? How long will the streets of Bethlehem and Jerusalem be packed with people trying to find the right place to fill out those census forms?  When does Ben Hur show up? What is this book about, exactly? I look forward to finding the answers.

Future Me

I was watching a show where two friends, Ted and Marshall, needed to solve a problem. They decided to procrastinate, as it was clearly a problem for “Future Ted and Future Marshall” to solve. I’ve done that. Future Me can deal with this later. Present Me doesn’t feel like it.

I heard (read?) somewhere that people tend to think of Future Themselves as a different person. They way we think about doing something at a later date is the same way we think about leaving the task for another person do it.

You know the saying, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself”? That is very true for Present Me. Future Me is useless. I am not a morning person. I need to have my work uniform set out, my lunch ready in the fridge, the keys in my purse, and my purse by the door. Present Me may be getting tired, but Morning Me will be half-asleep and walk out the door with no lunch and no keys if they’re not set out.

Present Me can make a list and get organized for the coming day. Future Me will forget everything. Present Me can get dinner prep done early. Future Me will look at the clock at 5:15 and realize I should have started a long time ago. Present Me  can bake muffins. Future Me will go to work with no muffins.

Why is this? I don’t know. I only know that Future Me cannot be trusted with important tasks. I guess that’s a good thing to know about myself. There are times when I think about putting something off for Future Me to deal with, but then that odd human quirk kicks in, and I start thinking of Future Me as a different person. A disorganized, half-asleep, unreliable person. No, I will not leave anything for Future Me to do. If I want something done right, Present Me has to do it myself.

 

Sick Days

I am home sick today, which means a day of playing a game called “I should be doing…” I don’t like staying home and resting all day. I should be at work, earning money. That’s the first thing I should be doing.

A day at home means looking at my to-do list and wishing I could use a ‘day off’ to catch up, or even get ahead if possible. But that’s not what I should be doing. I should be drinking fluids, getting rest, and trying not to get the rest of my family sick.

I know what I should be doing. But there’s just so much I would like to be doing, if I’m stuck at home anyway. I see a sink full of dishes and think, “I need those cleaned up. While I’m at it, that cupboard could use a scrub. I haven’t cleaned out the stove top burners in a while. If I’m at home anyway, I should be scrubbing my kitchen.” No! No, me! You should be resting!

So I go sit on the couch with my ginger ale, and put on a show. And see that the TV stand is disorganized. So is the bookshelf. I should really be straightening things up, if I’m home anyway. I should get my living room tidied up, and maybe vacuum around the rabbit cage again, and maybe I should dust the china cabinet while I’m at it. Wait, no! I’m supposed to be resting! Come on, me. Just go lie down.

I could go lie down in bed. But there’s that closet in the bedroom full of unlabeled boxes. One of them might be the Christmas decorations I was looking for the other day. And the rest of them should have labels. There’s a pen and some masking tape right over there…. Stop it!

I should be making myself a relaxing cup of tea with some honey. But the tea cupboard is cluttered, and the pot has some calcium in the bottom, and the honey is in front of some old juice crystals that might need to be thrown out, and the tea cups have some tea stains and could use a scrub with some baking soda, and the baking soda is in the baking cupboard that also has the cookie cutters, and I need to start those Christmas sugar cookie cut outs sometime, and since I’m home all day with no plans, maybe what I should be doing…. No!

How is staying home and doing nothing so hard? It sounds so simple. But I don’t like doing nothing. I’d rather be productive. I’d rather be at work earning money than fretting over finances, and if I have to stay home, I’d rather being doing housework than resting. But I should be trying to get better. I’m just gonna go blow my nose again (for the hundredth time), toss the tissue into the garbage bag that’s getting a little full, and pretend I don’t want to run it out the to dumpster. I definitely should not check the fridge for suspicious contents right now while I have a garbage bag almost ready to go out.

Stay inside, drink lots of fluids, get some rest. And go stir crazy. At least I can do that last part really well!

A Review of 20, 000 Leagues Under The Sea

I recently finished reading 20, 000 Leagues Under the Sea. There will be spoilers in this review. I would recommend reading the book before reading this review. Or, not reading it at all. It’s very dull.

This book was published back in 1870, written by Jules Verne. It was first published in English in its entirety in 1962. I expected an adventure book, about some people in a submarine exploring the mysteries in the depths of the sea, chasing sea monsters, finding new wonders. That happens…sort of. I mean, they go deeper in the sea than anyone has ever seen, and there is a scene with some angry, giant octopuses, or octopodes. I looked up the plural of octopus for this review. I had erroneously believed the correct pluralization to be octopi, which is apparently wrong, and based on the incorrect assumption that octopus is from the Latin, not the Greek.

If you found that paragraph thrilling, you might love this book. It’s basically three-quarters natural science textbook, and one quarter adventure/mystery. The adventures are short and described with the same precision that the main character describes the sea weed, the salt content of each ocean, the speed of every current, the barometric reading at every longitude and latitude, and the angle at which the submarine is diving…. The main character keeps careful track of all of their observations, being a scientist, and keeps careful track of their story. After the horrifying octopus attack, the main character has this to say of his account, “I have read it to Conseil and the Canadian. They found it factually correct, but lacking in emotional impact. But to paint such scenes, one would have to write like the greatest of our poets, Victor Hugo.” I feel like this statement sums up my feelings on the book itself.

The story is about Professor Aronnax, his faithful servant Conseil, and their Canadian friend, Ned Land. They are part of a crew hired to hunt down a supposed sea monster that has damaged several ships. After a long time finding nothing, 47 pages of finding nothing, they find the ‘sea monster’. It turns out to be a submarine, and the three main characters accidentally end up on board, captives of the mysterious Captain Nemo. He allows them freedom on board his submarine, as long as they agree to stay in a certain room when he says so. He says so once.

They travel 20,000 leagues under the sea, around most of the world, including finding Atlantis, and nearly being crushed by ice at the South Pole. They fight some octopodes, and attempt a daring escape. And it’s all told from the perspective of the man who spends most of the book staring out the window looking at the many varieties of fish, and describing them in great detail.

His sidekick, Conseil, shows less emotion than he does. The only time he reacts in any other manner than passive and neutral is when he gets zapped by electric eel. Eel? A ray of some sort? I don’t know. I skimmed so much of the paragraphs and paragraphs of technical classification and scientific blah, blah, blah, that I don’t recall exactly what stung him, and I don’t care enough to look it up. Unlike the proper pluralization of octopus. I’m an English major, not a marine biologist.

Ned Land is fun. He’s a French Canadian harpooner with a temper. He’d get into lots of adventures if Professor Aronnax and Jules Verne would let him. Instead, he spends most of his time complaining about not getting to hunt real game and having to eat fish, and sulking in his room because he’s going stir crazy.

Captain Nemo is the one character of the submarine crew the reader really gets to know. At the end, we still don’t even know his real name. But we do see him do things, unlike most of the crew. The main characters are often left to themselves, and the few crew members we see only speak in their own, made-up, secret submarine language. But the captain, he takes the main characters out to hunt in the forests of the sea, and to see the lost city of Atlantis. All of these scenes take place in complete silence, as they cannot communicate through their diving helmets. Even finding Atlantis is boring.

At the end of the book, the main characters happen to see the captain take his revenge.  Against an unidentified foe. For reasons that aren’t fully explained. And we don’t know if that’s it, or if he’s still out to get someone else. It’s unsatisfactory.

An underwater adventure told by a character who set out to chase a sea monster, but ended up the prisoner of a mysterious man bent on revenge, should have been interesting. But it’s not written in an interesting way. In fact, if the back of the book had not said that the villain “takes his revenge on all society,” I wouldn’t have really called him a villain until page 422 out of 437. Most of the time he’s just mysterious and cold. In short, the perspective character is boring, the long lists of the genus and family and whatnot classifications of the sea creatures were boring, and the main villain is interesting, but we see so little of him that he lends almost nothing to the story.

If you want an adventure book, read something else. If you want a book on marine biology, I’m sure new things have been discovered since 1870. If you want a book about very boring scientists staring out a window and discussing how scientific everything is, with occasional moments of unemotional near-death experiences, this is for you!

An Argument I Can’t Win

There’s an argument I’ve been having with someone for quite a while now. It’s been going on for about seven years. About once a month, it comes up again, and I keep going round in circles, trying to win this unwinnable argument. Why is it unwinnable? Because the other person has no idea I’m still arguing with him.

I had a horrible class in my last year at university. I had a bad feeling when I signed up for the course, but I thought I was being a scaredy-cat, and did it anyway. This course required submitting a portfolio ahead of time, to see if the professor accepted me for Creative Writing II. When I saw the comments, I had a bad feeling about it. But I wanted to take another creative writing course so badly that I again blamed it on being afraid of a challenge.

Taking that course was a mistake. The professor and I did not see eye to eye on anything. The stories he used as examples were dark and disturbing. He hated everything I wrote. I tried to voice my opinions and was mocked relentlessly. By the end of the course I felt so browbeaten that I completely stopped trying. Almost everything I wrote was garbage.

For my final story, I totally sold out, and wrote a very disturbing story. Or, it would have been disturbing if it had any life to it. It was based on a character from a TV show I used to watch. He wasn’t a main character, just showed up a few times, and stuck with me. The TV character was a killer for hire, who prided himself on his work because anyone can just kill someone. It takes a real artist to have the victim have a heart attack at his daughter’s wedding, or choke on a hot dog in front of a stadium full of witnesses. Creepy, right? So, giving up entirely on my writing voice and preferences, I took that character and made him a ‘sympathetic’ villain, who only does suicides. Don’t want your family to know you gave up? Call this guy. Want your spouse to get your life insurance money? Call this guy.

It was a horrible story. And it was horribly written. I had no interest in writing it,and it showed. It was a story about a compassionate serial killer, and yet, somehow, it was boring. I hate that I caved in and wrote that story. I hate that I was so bullied that I traded in my morals and my taste for a story that wasn’t even memorable. I hate that I got an A on that story, and in that class. I have no idea how I got those marks.

Every month or so, for whatever reason, this comes to mind. I remember the time I got laughed at for my interpretation of a story because he cut off my explanation halfway through, and it really needed the second half to make sense. I remember the first few stories where I took creative risks and got crushed. I remember that terrible story that was lifeless and weird, and wish I had stuck to my guns. I remember that professor telling me I’d never accomplish my life goals, and still get angry that he said that. I’m still arguing with him in my head.

I tell him that my interpretations were valid, and list the reasons. I tell him that I had potential that he crushed. I tell him that I did not deserve that A, because by the end of that course, my stories were void of any emotion. I tell him that I’m writing decent stuff now, and that it’s despite of his influence. I tell him that what I like it just as acceptable as what he likes, because different people are allowed to like different things. I tell him I will accomplish my life goals. The thing is, he doesn’t know, or care, that I’m still having this argument.

I play out a scene in my head where I run into him at some kind of school reunion or something, he asks how things are, and I have a triumphant moment where I tell him I’ve overcome his negativity and done well for myself, even though his course almost derailed my will to write.

That’s stupid. For one thing, he doesn’t remember me. Why would he? For another thing, I don’t even remember the man’s name. I remember his favourite candy, and how he likes his sandwiches. He made sure to tell us that. But unless he literally walked up and introduced himself by those two things, I’d be like, “Oh, nice to meet you, Mr. ???” and not even realize I was talking to the professor I’m still arguing with in my head.

I don’t know why I’m still having this argument. I don’t know if it’s because I’m still trying to convince myself he was wrong about me, or if maybe it’s because I feel stupid for taking that course when I should have known better. Every month or so I have this argument with an imaginary version of this professor that I can’t actually contact, an argument that I can’t win because he’s not really here listening to any of this, and every time it comes up I tell myself that I need to move on. I’ve found better sources of teaching. I’ve found my inspiration again. One person’s opinion (especially those of a stranger whose opinions I don’t hold in high regard) should not influence me this much.

That course was a bad call on my part. I learned very little, and it took a long time for me to recover. But I did I learn two things from that course. 1. Don’t sell out to get someone else to like your writing. It’ll cripple your ability to write well. It’ll also kill your self-respect. 2. I need to listen to the little voice that read his comments on my portolio and told me to run as fast as possible in the other direction. I thought I needed another writing course to succeed. I thought I needed a challenge to grow. Really I needed thoughtful criticism that was useful, and I needed space to practice different styles without getting shot down every time I tried something new. I should have listened to that little voice, but I wanted so badly to be good enough to pass that course. Instead, I passed the course, but lost everything that made me good enough to get in.

That was seven years ago. Since then I’ve completed a manuscript that’s in the editing process. I’ve started a fantasy novel that has potential. I’ve started a blog. I’ve won a poetry contest. I’m writing, and it’s not all awful. Some of it is. It’s a learning process. But I’m at my best when I can let go of my endless argument and just focus on the characters and plots in front of me.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fully let go of this argument. It’s not like I seek it out. For whatever reason, there seems to be a snooze button in my head that keeps it popping up every now and again. But maybe I don’t need to win it. Maybe I can someday accept that a clever response or a well-crafted complaint are not as good as just succeeding where I can, learning from my failures, and trying again. There will always be people who just don’t like me. I can’t argue them into liking me. Especially when they’re not even in my life anymore.