Sunday, 5 May 2019

Actually

“Actually, I want to sleep in my bed,” says the 3 year old, after I’ve set up the “foldo” on the floor of her bedroom with pillow and blanket to exacting specifications regarding angle and location. 

“Actually, I don’t want my blanket on me,” she says, after re-settling her onto her bed, with pillow and blanket, and following specific instructions on blanket flatness and distance below chin.

“Actually, I do want my blanket on me,” she declares, after several minutes of fussing with said blanket to try to make herself into a taco. 

“Actually, I want to sleep on the foldo.”

Trying not to yell, I inform her that as long as she stays in her room and has a nap, I do not particularly care where or how she chooses to place her body, but that I am done participating and will be leaving now before I feel the urge to break something. 

"Actually, I no longer feel thirsty, thanks."

***

“Actually, I’m not sure we made the right choices. I think we should go back and cancel the whole thing,” he says. 

We are currently driving home after spending 4 hours in IKEA spanning the 2 year’s old nap time ordering a kitchen that took weeks of planning, while living in and cooking out of a trailer in the yard. 

I am grateful to be driving. I keep the pedal pressed to the floor. 

***

“Actually, I don’t want oatmeal. I want rice crispies,” she says, as I present her with the bowl of oatmeal I just prepared at her request.

“Actually, I wanted the milk on the side,” she says, three milliseconds after I pour the milk into the bowl to commence the snap-crackling. 

How convenient, I think. Now I won’t forget to make myself breakfast, I just get to eat two small bowls of rejected food and I’ll be good to go. 
Day 1: Hey mom, this is awesome! You can just lick salt directly off the ground!
Day 2: Actually....[intestinal mutiny]

***

“Actually, I think the electricity bill must be so high because you are always washing clothes, and doing the dishes. We should try washing the dishes by hand for a month and seeing how that changes the bill,” he says. “And also, just don’t do so much laundry.” 

I try, and fail, not to have an aneurism.
***

I break down and spend $100 on a replacement electronic control board for the dishwasher. 

Dishwasher, on 1st run: "Sweet! I'm all set now, thanks!"

Dishwasher, on 2nd run: "Actually, no. I'm going to give you the same problem as before, but thanks for trying!"

Sunday, 3 February 2019

How to overshare

I’ve recently had a massive revelation in my world, and in my normal spirit of oversharing and taking forever to get to the point, am going to tell you ALL ABOUT IT. (The hyperlinks embedded near the end will bring you to relevant articles, if you are inclined to read even more!)

For about as long as I can remember, I have disliked certain aspects of my personality. I wondered why I failed at seemingly simple things, like NOT constantly losing my shoes. I embarrassed myself in social situations (could I be any more awkward?!). Maybe if I just tried harder. Maybe if I just tried *one* more new way of organizing myself, or *one* more new mindfulness technique, I would reach a state of zen and all would be well. 

----

This is a common discussion in our house:

Jess: “Can we talk about x,y,z later? I’m really frazzled.” 

Adam: “You’re *always* frazzled.”

----

This is true. I am always frazzled. But I just thought that if I just could force myself to try a little bit harder, I would get my shit together and wouldn’t be frazzled. But it never happened. 

My shit refuses to get together. 


I don't actually know why I have this photo. 

These feelings have, not surprisingly, seriously impacted my self-confidence. Maybe that's surprising? By standard metrics, my life is wonderful. I have a PhD. I have a great job. I have a great husband and 2 great kids and a great house and I live in a great town. I have wonderful friends and my body is mostly functional and healthy. 

I spend a lot of time laughing and smiling – even when I’m expressing something not-good. “I feel like my life is totally out of control! HAHAHAHA!”

----

You may be thinking “oh, you are just over-reacting. Other people may exude together-ness, but they aren’t really.” Allow me to demonstrate to you some of my failings:

The scattered teacher
Almost all of my teacher evaluations said I was enthusiastic and approachable, and other good stuff. But also, at least ½ of them said my lectures were all over the map and hard to follow. I needed to come to class more organized and prepared. I needed to present things in a more logical, linear and less spider-webby fashion. (Note: I tried. I tried so hard.)

The lost jacket
One Christmas, my mom bought me a new snowboarding jacket that I coveted. It was beautiful and cozy and I was so happy. But then I almost immediately lost it. How could I lose an entire jacket? I looked everywhere. I didn't dare ask my mom if she had seen it, because this would be the zillionth time I had lost something, and I didn’t want to admit I had been so careless as to lose such a precious thing. So I took the money I’d had saved in my bank account and bought a new, identical one. 

A few days later, I was wearing the new jacket in the kitchen after coming home from school when my mom opened the door to, naturally, the coat closet and lo and behold, there was the original one. It never occurred to me that someone might have picked up my jacket and put it in a logical place on my behalf. 

The benefit of having 2 identical jackets = twinsies snowboarding with my friends!

The out-of-place talker
When I was a professor at UMass Boston, I attended an event one day that consisted of experts from around the city coming together to brainstorm practical solutions to environmental injustice in the city. Climate change was disproportionately impacting low-income neighborhoods, and my colleagues hosted this meeting to address the problem. I sat at a table with about ten people who actually knew about this. I know this because we all introduced ourselves before we started the brainstorming activity. I told everyone upfront that I knew I didn’t know enough to contribute and was just here to listen and learn. 

This was really true: I know about the science of climate change itself, but knew almost nothing about other neighborhoods of my new city that weren’t on the Red Line, and certainly very little about practical infrastructure-based methods to combat these impacts. Yet, I literally could not stop myself from randomly interjecting things, even when I immediately regretted what I said because I sounded like an idiot. 

I have a long list of examples in my head of times when I have inappropriately interjected something in a professional context and then felt so ashamed when my colleagues looked at me like I had just started doing cartwheels in the back of the room.

The inability to find words
Multiple times a day, I struggle to remember words. I often have to reverse-google them: “what is the thing called that a boat ties up to?” Oh, that’s right, a pier. I often find myself getting really irritated when Adam or the kids ask me a question because it takes so much mental effort to remember the right word to answer them. (For some reason, this irritation doesn’t happen at work, just at home). For about a decade, until yesterday, I thought this was a sign of early dementia or a brain tumor or something. I didn’t want to ask my doctor or anyone else about it for fear of confirming this frightening suspicion.

The agitation of changing plans
I also thought perhaps I was mildly autistic, as I sometimes get more upset than I logically know is reasonable when plans change or things don’t go as I had anticipated. I often have to run through plans in my head multiple times before I do something simple, to help me be able to do it. For example, if the kids fall asleep in the car, I’ll plan out exactly how I’m going to get the kids out of the car and where I’m going to put them inside to continue sleeping. If Adam helps, but does things differently than I had planned out (parking in the “wrong” place, for example), I have been known to freak out.

I often spend a very large amount of time looking for my shoes...

The inability to complete things (at home)
I have my shit together at work, more or less. Sometimes I forget meetings, but I don’t miss deadlines and I do a good job. (Unfortunately, if there are no deadlines, things generally do not get done until my guilt overtakes my ability to procrastinate). But at home it’s worse. I am forever starting projects and not finishing them. I start a worm bin and then forget about them and they get all desiccated (sorry, worms). Instead I get a spinning composter but only add stuff to it. Adam points out that perhaps I should pull out the finished compost and use it in the garden. I freak out and yell at him for badgering me about this, because I know this and I already feel mildly guilty; but it just seems like too much work to figure out how and then to do it, so I don't. 

When we work on a project around the house together, Adam says at least once “Can you please just finish what you were doing before you start something else?” or “Why can’t you ever put stuff away?” or “Why are you pulling weeds? I thought you were putting that tool back in the shed and then coming back inside.” Well, it’s because I get distracted and suddenly I have to do the next thing rather than finishing the first. Partly it’s because if I don’t do the second thing when I think of it, I’ll forget. Partly it's because the first thing got boring.

The complete overwhelm of minor tasks
I also often can’t do seemingly simple things. “Just login to your bank account and pay this bill that came in the mail.” Doing this requires (1) finding my laptop, (2) not getting distracted by email or one of the 17 tabs I have open while navigating to the website, (3) remembering my password (but usually trying until I get locked out and have to reset it), (4) and remembering what I am doing once I get to the website. This is all hard and exhausting for me, and can take an hour. It takes Adam 5 minutes because none of these things are problems for him.

The forgetful friend:
Countless times, I have been in a conversation and asked a question, like “what do you do for work?” that I had learned a few minutes before because the person had just told me. Typically, the person looks at me with obvious concern, probably wondering if I suffer from dementia. This usually happens at parties, conferences, or other loud and busy situations. Unfortunately, it also happens with good friends, and I feel horribly embarrassed that it probably seems that I just don’t care enough to pay attention and remember what is going on with them. Sometimes, I avoid reaching out to friends to get together because I’m so embarrassed that I can’t remember what we talked about the last time we’d seen one another. 

One thing I like about myself: I can be creative and artistic when I have the time.

I could go on about my failings, but I’ll stop there. I’m guessing you won’t be surprised to hear that I suffer from sometimes-intense self-doubt, depression and anxiety. 

So, what to do about this? 

I’ve been in therapy on and off for much of my life. Each of the times I went to therapy, it was focused on trying to work through and combat these symptoms. But there was always some external stress that these problems could be attributed to – divorce of my parents, peer pressure, teenage angst, sexual assault, becoming a mother. If I could *just* work through my feelings about these problems, I’d be all fixed up. Each time that doesn’t help, I try various antidepressants on and off. This helps a little, but never completely. 

AND THEN. 

I am scrolling through Twitter, which is what I do while I sit next to my daughter as she drifts to sleep. I stumble into this thread. It’s as if the author is reading my mind. 

I read the linked article

Holy shit. 

I so very obviously have ADHD. 

I burst into tears. I text the article to my mom. She reads it and writes back: “Well, OMG…get to a psychiatrist immediately!!!”

Maybe I am not just broken. Or, I guess I *am* broken, but in a way that makes sense and has an explanation. It’s not a character flaw I can fix by just working and trying harder. I keep failing, over and over, to be the way I’m "supposed" to be, because my brain works differently.  

Suddenly, so much frustration and guilt and sadness and shame is lifted from my heart and placed in a neatly labelled box in my head. 

I am so relieved.

Each of the above, plus a bunch of other aspects of my life (working on 14 different things at once, or alternatively getting into hyperfocus mode when I’m working on something I enjoy or have a deadline [writing, data analysis, etc.], being pretty darn effective in emergency situations) can be linked to different aspects of ADHD:

The lost jacket: people with ADHD lose things
The out-of-place talker: impulsivity
The inability to find words: retrieval problems
The agitation of changing plans: interference in compensatory systems (see #9)
The inability to complete tasks at home: shocker: also an ADHD symptom!
The complete overwhelm of minor tasks: distractibility makes stuff hard
The forgetful friend: poor working memory

This post could be a bad idea. Maybe it would be better to just keep this personal medical information to myself. 

But, the incredible relief of having figured out exactly why I am the way I am, combined with my impulsive behavior means – HERE YOU GO WORLD! 


Saturday, 17 November 2018

Parenting and marriage are not inherently compatible

I’m single-parenting tonight, and trying to avoid election coverage (scarred from 2016? yes), so thought I might dust the cobwebs off of this old blog and write about something near and dear to my heart: kids + marriage = tailspin?! 

Important to note: my kids are the most important and best things that have ever happened to me, and I regularly kill spiders with my bare hands to protect them. If needed, I would kill crocodiles or carry them across hot coals; the below should not be interpreted as my having any regrets whatsoever at having them.

Now. Oh my god. No one warned me. I mean, there is perhaps no adequate way of warning people what it will be like to have kids – I’m sure it’s different for everyone (if the vast differences between my two kids are any indication). 

However.

An apparently universal problem that women in my general generation seem to have (based on my discussions, with a sample size of around 25ish) is that having a kid is FUCKING HARD ON A MARRIAGE. Nearly everyone I know with kids either did get, or considered getting, divorced the first year after their kid was born. Not one of these women regretted having a kid, but they suddenly wondered: who the freaking hell did I marry? 

My brain: "I can do this, right? Please children do not try to leap out. OMG this is NOT STRESSFUL. I am having SO MUCH FUN. Just keep thinking it."

I say that this appears to be somewhat specific to my generation only because older women I’ve spoken to did not have the same universal “Oh fuck, TOTALLY” reaction as have the younger women, when discussing the sudden feeling that we had been hoodwinked. We got married to someone who loved us for our independence and drive, but then apparently expected us to immediately throw those things out the window once the kids came along and it became abundantly obvious that children require a LOT of attention. 

Sorry, older generation, but I partially blame you. You spent our childhoods encouraging us girls to do anything – we could be doctors, lawyers, astronauts! We could become the CEO of an important company, or sail around the world by ourselves! We could climb Everest and spelunk into caves in the deep jungle. 

But you forgot to tell us that these things are not effortlessly compatible with having children. And likewise, that without having a wife at home with the kids, it would make our partner’s lives difficult to pursue his own ambitions. And wow is it just a great way to ferment bitterness (I’m not sure I’ll ever get over my hubby thinking it is “fair” that he has gotten to go on several boys’ surf trips post-kids while I have “gotten” to go on work trips). 

My particular older-generation relatives have been AMAZINGLY supportive post-kids (to make up for their lack of appropriate warnings that led both my husband and I to run head-long into careers that make it really hard to have kids and not totally freak out from stress?). Our parents have taken weeks and weeks out of their lives to come to our house (in some cases across the country and/or ocean!) to help while one of us was away, and have come with me on work trips to care for the kids. This has allowed us to pursue our not-very-kid-compatible careers. This is wonderful, but not everyone has this kind of support network (which requires both available time and MONEY). 

While telling us girls that we could do anything, y’all also forgot to teach the boys that in order for girls to be able to do anything and everything, they have to STEP IT UP in the parenting department. This doesn’t mean changing a diaper now and then, or wearing your baby on a monthly walk, and then sitting back and receiving praise for being SO involved. Nor does it mean playing with the kids while your wife does the housework. No, this means DOING ALL THE THINGS required to keep the household running while mom is doing non-kid-compatible things like working, going surfing, or getting a massage (maybe take a play out of the Aka tribe’s book?). 

While as a kid the idea of being a pharmacist or an optometrist was not as exciting as my goal to become a marine scientist, those jobs are – as I’ve learned from speaking to ladies in these jobs with grown kids – rather compatible with kids. It’s apparently fine to take time off and/or go back to work part-time without falling behind your colleagues and becoming non-competitive for jobs! What?! Plus, hours are flexible, allowing you to hang out with your kids in the morning when they are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and then maybe start work at nap time and let someone else hang out with them for the witching hour. Gosh, that sounds refreshing. 

Maybe I still wouldn’t have chosen that path, had I known, but hot damn I would have liked to have made more informed decisions about my life trajectory. 
An example of a non-kid-compatible activity that is our preferred way to spend time together: floating down a possibly freshwater-croc infested hot-spring river in the Northern Territory.

So, what do we do?

Here are my suggestions:

1.   Hang in there through the post-baby relationship nose-dive. You guys got married because you liked each other. You probably still do, it’s just really hard and different. But it gets easier as the kids get older and less demanding. I found that the 1stbirthday was a massive turning point for us. 2.    Get help. I hear great things about family therapy to help with #1. I’ve benefited from personal counseling as well, because I’m inherently neurotic and hard to live with, thus making the above harder. J
3.    Know you aren’t alone. Your marriage/parenting struggles are (unfortunately) really common and do not necessarily spell doom.
4.    Talk about it with your partner. It’s shocking to me how many times I’ve made assumptions that were contradicted when I finally clearly articulated how I felt. Example: I felt like I was expected to quit my job and become a stay at home mom, but my husband literally laughed and told me he agreed I would suck at that.
5.    Talk about it with your mom friends. I fucking love complaining. It makes it easier to deal with problems.
6.    Teach your boys to step up. Talk about these issues, and brainstorm ways to make them better. Teach them how to do housework (ahem, note to self).
7.    Let your partner parent. It’s tempting to have one person (usually mom) become the default parent and for them to make the decisions. But it’s not fair. I have had to literally just leave the house to prevent myself from meddling when I think my husband isn’t “doing it right,” but hot damn ladies, if we want our partners to step it up, we have to LET THEM.

This post was finished while on the train to my brother and his fiancĂ©’s baby shower. I admit I am worried for them – they are living in different places right now, and he’s in grad school. These things are already really stressful. But, my brother was also one of the first people I left my first infant with alone – he is amazing and I know he will be a fantastic dad. So, this post is also one gift from me for their baby shower, so they can’t say I didn’t warn them!

Thursday, 13 September 2018

It's the little things...like text messages

Our country is a dumpster fire, and it's been hard not to get swept up in constant anger, embarrassment and fear. But it helps to remind myself that most people are good, and that I know a lot of really amazing, good people who care and who make the world a better place. Today I've decided to share just a small sliver of these folks with you, via text messages. 

When I retired an old phone years ago, I decided to scroll through and write down some of my favorite texts I had received on that phone (from 2007-2010). These are shared here, totally out of context, but in hopes that they might give you a little smile as well. The photos have nothing to do with anything, but I think they are funny. Thanks to all my friends and family who make my life brighter.

“Hey! at saloon and they played red neck woman. r u coming to our bbq?”

“Hay 6 amigos aqui. F also on way.” 
Marine biologists eaten by kelp off Pt Loma


“Save the date…Aug. 25!”

“Mick fanning is world champion”

“Ladies who hike. Depart 3:00 from coast. Do it for jesus.”

“Keep Tahoe Oligotrophic!”

“You plan. I follow. Shoe situation is go. See you round 5 ish!”

“Neighbors, we got needs, plz call if’n can.”

“Yes we can…Bitches.”

“I am done! Woo hooo xoxo”

“It’s a girl! No pink items please!”

“P’s heart looks good! YAY!!!”

“I’m out! But I had a blast!”

“Happy birthday darling! Have a wonderful one!”

“Rock it Jess! Ill see u at 5!”

“Just want to say how much I love you!!!”

“Hey y’all! I passed my state board exam!”

“That it incredibly cool and exciting!!! Now we can have our real “doctor to doctor” chats! (this is a real phrase in my business!) xxoxo”

“Yes, one needs LOTS of reading material to not go insane…”

“Spoon!! (god I am funny)”
Australians are hilarious

“Knoon!!! Fove! I think the health care system could use an overhaul. Don’t you? A new idea?! Should I email our pres with the suggestion?”

“Ah, the famous “c” and “d” words!! Glad someone is looking out for us and protecting us!! Xxo”

“I must have totally misread the schedule because I’m sitting on the only train of the morning! Thanks for taking me early!”

“ladies. coast retirement is no more. en route to brazil, I am unwritten. live your life with arms wide open. ;) love to all.”

“I’m in labor!! P should be arriving today :)”

“4:57 am this morning! She’s so beautiful!! 7 lb 2oz, 20 inches long!”

“Had bebe at 2am, a girl. AJB. 7lb 15oz, 55cm long”

“Oh I love typos!! They are the most fin. Hee hee that was a mistake but I am leaving it. Give the girls huge hugs!!”

“Hey :) Just a heads up that it will just be me at the airport. M booked his flight to sac by accident”

“Death to the turkeys”

“Well at least it’s just turkeys, not Indians…”

“Today I am so thankful to be surrounded by amazing, smart, empathetic, loyal women like you who make my life complete!”

“C and I are engaged :-) Happened yesterday on a hike in big bear”
Photobooth weirdness + kids = joy

“Get behind a real team. Like the 9ers! Love D and A”

“Yea but the 9ers have 5 superbowls. Exactly how many do the Chargers have? I think it’s a number less than 1”

“Wow. I was at SFO at 830PST. I think we should CC each other on every itinerary email from now on! Ridiculous!! :)”

“Going shredding right out front sometime around 5ish.”

“Save me a piece! Love you!”

“Haha wow taking over ucsd one window at a time!”

“Bbq and evening surf north side Scripps at 4-5.”

“Got it all! The best part was when he looked at the order and said “Whoa…” in awe”

Now go send someone a quick message and spread some smiles to crowd out the darkness...and then give someone a hug, too, for good measure. :)

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

The Best Mac-N-Cheese Ever™

Well hello, there! I just excavated this website out of layers of cobwebs, because I have something very, very important to share with you: the best Mac-N-Cheese recipe, ever. 

Yes, the rumors are true: while I am an amazing scientist, world-class surfer, and perfect mom, I am also an AMAZING cook. My favorite time to cook is at the end of a long day at work, preferably one kicked off by getting up at 4:45 am to hit to gym to maintain (since it’s impossible to improve!) my incredible physique. My favorite people to cook for? My kids, of course! They LOVE my cooking, always. No matter what fantastic new and exciting dish I create, they devour it with delight and thank me for nourishing them with such loving skill. 

[The photo I would have placed here would have demonstrated how amazing I am as a cook/mom/everything, but I didn't want to make anyone super jealous]

Now, dear readers, my gift to you is to share at least some of this radical life-success with you, by letting you in on my Mac-N-Cheese making secrets. Get ready to revolutionize your cooking game by following these 15 easy steps!

1.     Assemble your ingredients and supplies 

Ingredients:                                                                         Supplies:
Mac-N-Cheese box (preferably the orange kind).              Pot
Water                                                                                  Cup
Pat of butter                                                                        Butter knife & spoon
Glug of milk                                                                         Strainer


2.    Pour around 4 cups of water into the pot, and set it to boil.
3.    Open the Mac-N-Cheese box, and remove the Cheese packet.
4.    When the water is boiling, add the pasta to the boiling water (I almost typed “Mac” instead of pasta, but wouldn’t want you to throw your computer in to boil, so I called it “pasta”. Here, “pasta” refers to the “Mac” in “Mac-N-Cheese”, in case that nuance was too confusing).
5.    Now, here’s the important part: empty the packet of Cheese into the cup.
6.    Pour a glug of milk into the cup.
7.    Stir with the butter knife to combine into a nice, thick paste, about the consistency of yogurt. If you added too much milk, that sucks. If you didn’t add enough, glug in a little more and stir.
8.    Wipe the excess reconstituted super amazing Cheese-sauce off the side of the butter knife back into the cup.
Revolutionary step #1
9.    Second important/revolutionary part: Use the butter knife to cut a pat of butter off of your stick or out of your butter-like-substance container, if that’s your bag. Place the knife+butter on the counter near the sink.
Amazing piece of advice #2
10.  Check the pasta for done-ness by fishing out a piece with the spoon, running it under cold water, and tasting it. It’s done when it has absolutely no texture left, whatsoever. Kids are allergic to texture.
11.  When the pasta is sufficiently done, run cold water into your sink so you don’t melt your pipes, and then drain the pasta into a colander adjacent to the stream of water. Don’t rinse the pot or the pasta with the water.
12.  Next, possibly the best advice of this entire blog post: tip the pat of butter off of the waiting butter knife into the empty, but still hot pot. Swirl it around so it melts and coats the bottom of the pot.
Supremely important advice #3
13.  Shake around the pasta in the colander so it’s not too soggy, and then pour it back into the butter-coated pot. 
14.  Place the pot back on the stove now, or some other heat-proof surface where the hot pot won’t fuck up your counter. 
15.  Use the butter knife to scrape the prepared Cheese sauce onto your Mac (the pasta! not your computer!), and then use the same knife or your pasta-doneness spoon to stir it all together until each pasta piece is evenly coated in delicious orange goo.
Do not forget to serve the Mac-N-Cheese in identical dishes, to avoid the fairness fight that is otherwise sure to ensue

The technique I have selflessly shared with you tonight will create beautiful, rich Mac-N-Cheese comprised of well-cooked pasta that is properly favored with reconstituted supple cheese sauce without burnt, dried out pasta, dry clumps of cheese-flavored powder, and naked bits of pasta that invariably result from following the instructions on the Mac-N-Cheese package.  


I hope you enjoy basking in the adoration of your offspring after you present to them the Best Mac-N-Cheese Ever™. I humbly accept your undying gratitude.