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Archive for January, 2007

Damn.

Rest in peace, Molly. We sure will miss you.

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Still burned out

I wish I could write nicely organized, interesting weblog posts.

But I can’t. Or won’t. Same difference in this case.

If you’ve been following me around the internet, you know that I’ve been having bouts of depression. Not kill-myself-and-my-family depression, just this lingering malaise that makes it hard to do all but what’s absolutely necessary to get through the day. I have happy moments, I laugh (especially at the toddler, who’s a total nut), I even sometimes get work done. But the cloud is always there, even when the sun comes out.

I’ve thought long and hard about seeking outside help. My problem with it isn’t that I’m worried I’ll get put on medication against my will, or that I’ll find out something uncomfortable about myself, or anything like that. I simply don’t know what a therapist or counselor can tell me that I haven’t already figured out myself.

I’m pretty aware of what the problems are – or, rather, what’s causing such stress. I trace some of it back to the inordinate amount of stress I had over being pregnant (ah, memories. I especially liked it when everyone I ever met had to threaten to take away my internet if I didn’t quit looking up dire pregnancy outcomes) and trying to come down from that particular tree, and a lot of it has to do with getting pregnant, married, and becoming a parent in the space of 9 months.

A big chunk of it has to do with my dissertation and the lonliness and uncertainty of that kind of endeavor. Some of it has to do with cultural differences between M. and me that are only now starting to make themselves felt (ironically, they’re rising to the surface as M. starts relaxing more around me and allowing himself to be himself – warts and all. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but who knew that being raised by his Korean mother [he attributes a lot to her Koreanness] would have such lasting effects?).

And, frankly, some of it has to do with the unavoidable stresses of partnering and parenting with a physically disabled person (again, I wouldn’t have it any other way – well, except to the extent that M. says he wishes he were able-bodied – but it means that more of the childcare and more of the household physical labor goes to me than in many families where both parents are able-bodied. It means sometimes having to tend to the needs of two people who can’t do entirely for themselves, which translates into feeling like no one tends to my needs. It’s not necessarily true, but it sometimes feels that way).

And, of course, I’m socially isolated. I mean, I’m fortunate to be near my family, and that really makes all the difference in the world. But, on the other hand, I’m living at a distance from my graduate school, professors, etc. – so there’s comparatively little feedback and positive reinforcement from that end (not that you get a lot at this point in the PhD program, anyway). And I don’t have much in the way of friends around here (we only moved here about a year ago, and I’m not an especially outgoing person on a good day…), so there’s that.

So, I know where the stress comes from. And I even know what I could be doing to change some things. I could change the internal dialogue that tells me to feel guilty if I’m a) not working on my dissertation; b) not interacting with the toddler at all times; c) feeling frustrated and tired about taking care of other people’s needs, etc. I could also change the one that likes to beat me up for being stupid and lazy. There’s more, but you get the idea.

I could take up meditation. Even the simple kind – you know, sit in a chair, concentrate on your breathing, that kind of thing. I could try and take things one day at a time – or even try to just live mindfully hour by hour.

I know all these things – so I’m not sure what a counselor has to tell me that I don’t already know. I do know that I don’t really have a lot of time or money to spend in counseling. And that I’d probably have an annoying tendency to second-guess the counselor, which could prove counterproductive.

I dunno. I know I don’t want to go on like this, but I’m not sure I’m ready to make big changes. Or little ones. Although, as one of M.’s school readings for today said, maintaining the status quo is a decision in and of itself. Hmmm.

I’m not really looking for sympathy or advice (although I can always use a virtual hug…), so don’t feel like you need to comment. It’s just something I wanted to write about, because it’s where I’m at right now.

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No, really

This constitutes excitement in our little household.

Jack, a music-loving puppet who entertains his pals at a rocking clubhouse, gets a visit from “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart on the Feb. 2 episode that also features the debut of a video collaboration between the Flaming Lips’ Steven Drozd and former “Blues Clues” host Steve Burns).

Stewart “is a huge fan of the show,” says Adam Rudman of Highland Park’s Spiffy Pictures, which created “Jack’s.” “He watches the show with his kids every day.” Indeed, Stewart flew to Chicago a few months ago and spent an entire day at Spiffy’s studio filming his “Groundhog Day” episode.

“He was so great, we expected to be quoting lines from his show, but he was quoting lines from ours,” Rudman says.

I knew he was a fan. There’s also this (which also talks about the Return of Steve), this (which proves I’m not alone), and this (which could theoretically provide the basic case for a paper – or at least a lecture – on corporate media synergy in action).

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He’s apparently doing a special episode of “Jack’s Big Music Show” next Friday at noon. Not only that, but it also (if I’m not mistaken) marks the return of Steve Burns (“Blue’s Clues”) to children’s television, if only for one music video. If you have both a toddler AND Noggin, mark your calendar!!!

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The State of the Union

My dad was kvetching over lunch about how the Democrats weren’t even allowing Dubya to participate in some of their pet programs – that it’s basically a case of damned-if-he-does-damned-if-he-doesn’t that wasn’t fair to the President.

While I’ve just about had it up to here [which would be a point roughly corresponding to the tops of my ears] with politics of every kind, it seems to me that what the Democrats are objecting to isn’t so much the usurping of pet projects by an otherwise well-intentioned President, but a kind of jumping-on-the-bandwagon for what seem to be largely political purposes (well, that and because what he’s proposing – at least in the case of health insurance – falls more in the category of “Band-Aid” than “solution).

The NYT has a neat little application on their website today that tells you the history of certain words that Bush has used in previous addresses to Congress. A telling one is that for “(Health) Insurance”:

Because, you know, damned if it only seems to pop up in any meaningful way when elections are either imminent (2004) or went very, very badly (2007) . Is it really any surprise that the Democrats have a hard time believing all his lofty goals for improved health care?*

*National health insurance is a big thing of mine. I’ve experienced it in three different countries (Japan, Australia, Canada), and it’s worked like clockwork every time. Of course there are abuses – you’re not going to find a solution that doesn’t have potential abuses built into the system. But it’s fair and it symbolizes our commitment to helping people who need it, not just people who can pay for it. Hmph.

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Gary Kamiya has a thoughtful essay on Barack Obama and the race question up on Salon.com that I wanted to pass around as well.

M’s often talked about not having time for the established Nikkei (Japanese-American) community, because he refuses to be defined by their political agendas. In his particular case, it may or may not make a difference that people tend to see his disability first (unless he’s already sitting down) and his race second, and he’s experienced at least two kinds of discrimination in his life. And, at least in his case, the discrimination he faces as a disabled person, while arguably less intentional, is far more entrenched and institutionalized. I’m talking about the things that the able-bodied simply take for granted: next time you go shopping in some quaint neighborhood, count the number of shops that have steps leading up to their doors. Try and figure out if a three-wheeled scooter (or a wheelchair – powered or otherwise) would have any chance in hell of getting around all the pretty knick-knack tables and shelves. Make sure to keep an eye out for three-pronged outlets, especially if your neighborhood is at all hilly – those little hills are murder on a scooter battery.

The American with Disabilities Act has made a difference, but it’s really not enough. I know I like to go ballistic on all those people who look at us funny, or worse, when we pull into handicapped parking – as if a family as “young” (that is, not “old”) as ours could ever have need for a handicapped space. But the fact is that people seem to think that all those empty parking spaces are really just an unnecessary luxury. The disabled don’t get out anyway, so why don’t I just borrow one for a little while? And, in the meantime, someone like Michael can’t find parking near where he needs to be, has to go find it elsewhere, and has to do his best to find a path to where he’s going that involves neither long distances (battery-killer) or mostly decorative stairs.

Hm. I didn’t intend to rant like that. I’m a little anxious about the parking situation at M’s campus, since there was only one handicapped space available (of about 10) when he arrived at his building, and he said there were several cars that were parked illegally.

I think I’m also having flashbacks to the last time I had to push a dead scooter up a hill with husband seated and toddler in tow. Basically, it goes: me in back pushing, M. steering scooter, and MM up in front being pushed in her stroller by M. It’s always like one of those GRE analytical problems:

You’re visiting the National Zoo in DC and choose to park at the top of the hill with your disabled husband and turns-on-a-dime toddler. You strap the toddler, kicking and screaming, into the stroller because the alternative – letting her walk – will mean that you cannot progress three feet without having to sit down on the ground and pick up whatever crap has come off the bottom of someone else’s shoes. The little low-battery light on the scooter starts flashing somewhere near the concession stand at the bottom of the hill, and you now have to figure out a way to transport the husband, toddler, scooter, and stroller to the car. There’s a parking lot at the bottom of the hill, but it’s filling up and your husband insists that “there’s probably enough charge to make it back.” When you discover, halfway up the hill and nowhere near any parking lots, that there isn’t, in fact, enough charge left, do you:

  1. Jettison the husband and scooter, but keep the toddler and expensive stroller
  2. Jettison the husband, scooter, toddler, and stroller and make a run for it
  3. Jettison the stroller, put the bucking toddler on her father’s lap, and push the scooter up the hill
  4. Take the toddler and stroller to the upper-level parking lot, get the car, drive it down to the lower parking lot, and meet up with the husband and scooter, who have hopefully been able to use the force of gravity to suck the remaining life out of the battery and get to the lower parking lot
  5. Abandon all pretense at grace and dignity, growl at the husband to steer the stroller, get behind the scooter, and push all 300+ lbs. of them up the hill

For the record, I only seriously considered 4 and 5. The stroller was too expensive to even consider 3, and 1 and 2 really only sounded good when I was in the middle of pushing the scooter up the hill.

Anyway, go, read Kamiya’s essay. It’s good.

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All I can say is, Uncommon Misconception says it so much more eloquently than I ever could.

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