My Pop Culture Birth Plan


I missed the memo about my pop culture birth plan.

So, I had a baby a few days ago.  And before I launch into some of the crazy details of how he came into the world, I want to first say that he is perfect and I am fine, and what follows is told through a hormonal haze.  I further disclaim that I am on drugs.  A lot of drugs.

To begin at the beginning…my due date came and went and so the time came to contemplate a chemical eviction of this little guy.  My first labor had been induced and it worked out reasonably well for all concerned.  I didn’t relish having all the medicines and interventions, but I had been assured by some very earnest people in lab coats that a second induction would almost certainly be faster and easier than the first.  However, as my labor progressed, this is the image that repeatedly came to mind…

CarolKaneLiar

Actually, the early part of labor was relatively smooth. And I have Tom Hanks to thank for it.  As the contractions got stronger and closer together, I summoned the images of “Castaway”…you know, the amazing scenes close to the end when he’s made that raft and is paddling for dear life, then holding on to crest those enormous breakers…As the contractions swept over me, I said to myself, “Paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle, paddle!!!”  Inexplicably, this helped a lot.

holdon
Hold On!

After a while though,  the paddling image wasn’t cutting it. I got an epidural placed and it was amazing.  So amazing that when I later heard the sound of water cascading onto the floor, I had no awareness that this prodigious gush had come from my body.  When the nurse came in to check things out and get me cleaned up, I also had no awareness that my abdominal muscles were no longer functional, and thus I tried to pick up my entire upper body using only my neck muscles.  This turned out to be a very bad idea.

TLC-Waterfalls
Seriously, don’t go chasing waterfalls. Especially while you’re in labor.

I wrenched the muscles in my neck an upper back really badly. Turns out, when those muscles are spasming, it makes it really hard to get into an effective position to push out a baby who is nearly 9 pounds.  And sunny side up.  And jammed in your pelvis at a pretty obstinate angle.  The kid would not come down.  He would not come down, but my blood pressure kept going up, and my liver enzymes were getting all wonky.  So that’s when we made the call.  I wish I could say I was all cool and stoic, like this…

rocky

But at this point, I was truly hysterical and begging for whatever help or relief I could get.  The epidural had been turned off, so I was feeling all the pain and pressure of the contractions.  And this may be hard to believe, the muscle spasms in my upper back were on par if not worse than the contractions, so I was in this horrible no mans’ land of agony in which the one thing I could do to end the pain of the contractions was the thing my body couldn’t do because of the pain in my back.  It was really starting to suck.

Everything that happened next, happened really fast.  Thank God.  With the high blood pressure and  liver enzyme wonkiness, people started to get a lot more serious, and I had some dim awareness that folks were scared that I was about to go all Lady Sybil on them.  Mercifully, I was in the hands of doctors and nurses who worked quickly and cautiously, and it was all over before I really knew what was going on.

Unfortunately, the one salient memory I have from surgery was the fact that I was barfing right at the moment that my son emerged from my body.  I wish I had been more able to focus on him, but instead, I was having a little moment with a very compassionate person in scrubs who was basically doing a Garth for me…

spew
If you’re going to spew, spew in this.

So, there you go.  There’s the part about the magnesium drip and the spinal headache, but really, that’s where this birth story starts to sound like an Abbott and Costello routine.  I was grateful to have all these pop culture resources to draw upon throughout the experience…friends come and go, but movie and TV characters stick with you through the hard times.  And in the end, I was was justly rewarded…

meandsully
And now I have a few weeks to kick back and take care of a newborn and catch up on my TV and movie watching.  Just in time for the return of SMASH.  Good timing and memo received.

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Movie Theater Justice


I missed the memo about movie theater justice.

I’m not usually a big fan of action/adventure/super hero movies, but I’m kind of jonesing to see the new Avengers movie.  I’m hearing great things about it and I’m thinking my husband and I may bestow upon this film the highest possible honor…hiring a babysitter so we can go see it together.  Seriously, it looks that good.

As I look forward to seeing The Avengers (and now that the statute of limitations has run) I want to tell one of my favorite stories about my husband, as it’s about a time when he avenged me at the movies.   A few years ago, we were at the theater enjoying a matinée of the Zach Braff  and Natalie Portman classic, Garden State.  As you might guess, this movie drew a rowdy crowd.

Caution: This quirky romance may inspire fist-a-cuffs.

As we were watching the movie, the guy in the row in front of us kept burping.  And we’re not talking little “oh pardon me” type burps.  This guy was burping like he was trying to win a contest.  Being the shrinking violet I am, I leaned forward and said, “Dude.”  And my husband said, “Man, grow up.”

In California, this passes for a very complete conversation.

The gassy theater goer did not acknowledge us, but apparently got the message, as he quit the burping and we all settled in for another hour or so of idiosyncratic sap.  But as the movie ended, the burper headed to the exit, turned around and threw his soda cup at the back of my head.  I wasn’t hurt, but clearly such an affront could not stand. Quick as a flash, my strapping husband was out of his seat and charging up the aisle.  By the time I made my way there, blows were exchanged.  The coup de grace came when my husband grabbed the guy’s face and drove it into his knee, and likely broke the guy’s nose.

Don’t mess with my husband. He knows Kung Fu, or at least he did when he was a teenager. See, that’s him in the middle. I think that means he just won, and I’m pretty sure he swept the leg and showed no mercy.

Understandably, at this point the burper pretty much punked out surrendered and wisely fled to the men’s room.  Having had enough fun for one day, we got the hell out of there before somebody did something crazy, like filing a police report.

If you know me or my husband, you’ll appreciate how nutty this was.  I think we’re both reasonably assertive, but mostly nice and accommodating people. My husband is a big guy and does have a lot of martial arts training. (And he’s yelling at me that it wasn’t Kung Fu, but rather Tae Kwon Do…whatevs…all I know is that he spent all a lot of his youth in white jammies practicing how to beat people up really bad, but I digress.)  As a consequence,  he can usually speak softly since he is the proverbial big stick. (If you want to make a filthy inference from that, I’m sure he’ll be quite pleased.)  We don’t go around picking fights, but I don’t think anyone would have stood for that soda cup throwing crap.

It was shocking, and I’ll admit a bit thrilling, to see my husband spring into action to defend me. I’m no damsel in distress, but it sure is nice to have a strong, decisive guy in your corner when the chips are down.  As I’ve said before, my husband is a nice guy, but he can be a total badass when he has to be. And I love that about him.  Wife avenged and memo received.

Dance Space and Going With the Flow


I missed the memo about dance space and going with the flow.

This is my dance space, this is your dance space.

The other day, in a preemptive strike against the caloric onslaught of Thanksgiving, I went to Zumba class.  Ya’ll know I love me some Zumba, but this particular class was not as enjoyable as it usually is.  It was super crowded, so space was at a premium.  Under these circumstances, people tend to adjust how much room they consume, and people with even minimal social awareness tend to be extra mindful of how close they are to other people.

But in this particular class, there was a young man who I took to be about 17 years old.  He was one of these tragically spaztastic kids who can’t stop doing random karate moves.   I was vaguely sympathetic to his plight, as when I was his age, I was once told I would have been good-looking if I would just stand still.

So as class began, I took a spot in the back of the crowded studio, well away from the highly energetic youngster.  As class got going, he was just bubbling over with energy and doing every move extra big.  A little inconsiderate under the crowded circumstances, but his enthusiasm is forgivable.  But he also dropped out formation a lot, to fiddle with his shoes, to get water, to wrangle a better view of the instructor, etc.  This I found kinda rude, because then he would work his way back into his original spot, and as he did he intruded into the space of everyone around him.

Having my dance space invaded by an overzealous adolescent is one of my many tragic, First World problems, but whenever something bugs me, I try to root around and figure out why it bugs me.  In this instance, there’s of course the personal space factor.  Everyone needs their bubble, and I think I need my bubble to be a little bigger than most people. I’m not great in crowded situations and if you are a close talker, then I’m sorry, you and I probably can’t be friends.

Seriously, don’t be this guy…

But the other thing that I think factored in to my annoyance is that by moving around the studio and nearly tripping his fellow Zumba-ers this kid was interrupting the flow of the class and I really, really value “flow”.  By “flow” I mean that feeling of connection that sometimes comes when you’re completely present in an experience.  It comes in lots of forms, in work, in play, in calm, and in crisis.  For me, this feeling of connection is precious and fleeting, as my mind is typically unquiet and busy, so happy, focused attention is not my forte. I experience “flow” in dance-y sort of situations, so I look forward to Zumba class almost as much as I look forward to Christmas.  I need these little moments to help me find something that resembles inner peace.

Ever see the movie “Phenomenon“?  It’s a little schmaltzy, but it’s one of my favorites.  There’s a scene that kinda illustrates what I mean by “flow”….George (as played by John Travolta) is struggling to harness his new-found energy and abilities, and he finds an outlet in his garden.  As he’s frenetically hoeing  (that sounds dirty, but it’s not, well, there’s dirt involved, but, you know what I mean…) he happens to look up and see the trees swaying in the breeze.  He has a little moment where he slows himself down and sways in time with the branches.  He feels connected to everything around him, and that moment gives him a lot of clarity. Here, watch:

I’m uncharitably hoping that the young man who invaded my dance space  was just home on a break from his Kung Fu college and will not be at future Zumba classes.   But if not, I’ll just try to keep my distance and go with the flow.  Memo received.

Being Quiet


I missed the memo about being quiet.

I’ve got a son in pre-school, which means I get about a gazillion colds a year.  And with almost every minor sniffle, comes a bout of laryngitis.  For the first five minutes or so, it’s kinda cute.  I get that deep, raspy voice that comes with lots of whiskey and cigarettes and we all know how sexy that is.  But then the rasp segues to a horrible croak, then fades to a pitiful squeak, and then…nothing.  If I have any hope of recovery, I can only whisper.

The beginning stage of laryngitis would be really hot if it weren't for all the snot and coughing.

Anyone who has ever heard me attempt to sing knows that my laryngitis is no great tragedy.  But struggling to be heard and not being able to talk always makes me a little disenfranchised from my own life.  It’s hard not being able to chime in effortlessly in a conversation.  If my husband and I are more than a couple of feet apart and if he is not looking directly at me, I have to throw something at him to get his attention.  And my son is special challenge…I can say with all honesty that I don’t yell at him much, at least not in anger.  (I am, however, perfecting that scary-mad-talking-quietly-through-your-teeth-thing that all moms seem to have in their discipline arsenal.)  But I do need my voice to manage my son’s safety and behavior.  In the last few days, he responds to my whispers and croaks with, “Whadyousay?”  It’s getting tiresome for both of us.

As I try to rest my voice, it’s been interesting how I’ve prioritized what I need to say.  A nice side effect of my laryngitis is that I have no vocal energy for petty criticisms.  It literally hurts to speak in a harsh tone, so I don’t.  This brings new significance to the old adage, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Another thing about being quiet is that it’s only a peaceful experience when it’s self-imposed.  There are religious orders who take vows of silence, and I suppose for them, being quiet is a form of meditation.  But when silence is forced upon you, it’s a whole different ball game.  In my humble estimation, “shut up” is one of the most hurtful and dismissive thing you can ever say to anyone.   In my case, I’ve been forced to shut up because of a minor medical condition and I’ve suffered just a bit inconvenience, but it’s troubling to see how people who are speaking out as part of the various protest movements going on around the country are being silenced by rough treatment by police.  Talk is cheap, but it’s clearly not free.  Apparently the price of protest at UC Davis is a dose of pepper spray in the face.

I really can't get my head around these images. I mean seriously. WTF?

If I have one, I suppose my point is this:  Our ability to speak is a gift, and last I checked, the freedom to speak is also a right.  I’ll probably lose my voice a bunch more times before this rodeo is over, but I’ll be damned if anyone is going to take it away, know what I mean?    Whispering loudly and memo received.

The Trigger Effect


I missed the memo about The Trigger Effect.

Yesterday, there was a widespread power outage that affected a big chunk of the southwest.  Mercifully, it seems like the lights are now back on, but whenever I hear about a blackout, I get a little shiver thinking about The Trigger Effect.  Like Scorchers, The Trigger Effect is a really good movie that you’ve probably never seen.  (And you probably never will…it’s not on Netflix, WTF?)

The Trigger Effect tells the story of the fairly quick descent into chaos that ensues once the lights go out and stay out.  While there are some sensational plot twists that ramp up the tension, there are also banal crises which lead to all sorts of desperate times and desperate measures.  Like when one of our protagonists, as played by Kyle MacLachlan, is just trying to get the pediatric panacea which is liquid amoxicillin (aka, “the pink stuff”) for his baby daughter, who is miserable with an ear ache.  But because the power’s out, the pharmacist can’t access the prescription in the computer or conduct any transactions.  But our protagonist can see that the pink stuff is right there, it’s on the shelf!  Why can’t the pharmacist just give it to him for Pete’s sake?  For the love of God, his baby is sick!

And it just gets crazier from there.  No phones.  No computers.  No ATMs.  No functional gas pumps.  Looting, violence and mayhem.  And a very frazzled but MILF-y Elisabeth Shue….

Of course, the The Trigger Effect represents a crazy worst case scenario of what might happen during an extended power outage.  For fun, it throws in some wacky coincidences of strangers whose lives intersect in ways that initially seem unpleasant, but insignificant, but later turn out to be a big deal.  As movies go, it really is entertaining.  If you come across it in a bargain bin somewhere, snatch it up.

Interestingly, the term “the trigger effect” seems to have roots in geology, where it has this definition:

When rock is subjected to increasing stresses there comes a time when it is on the point of failure. In some circumstances it may remain at that point for a considerable time. Any small external influence, such as a seismic wave, may then be sufficient to precipitate the failure. This is known as the trigger effect.

I’m not sure if the filmmaker had this definition in mind when choosing the title, but it’s interesting to ponder whether we, as crazy modern people, might be walking around at “the point of failure” all the time.  What are the “seismic waves” that might turn a little crack into a chasm? 

Happily, my friends in San Diego report that after recovering from the initial irritation of being without power, they were totally OK.  Forced to unplug, they enjoyed candle light and star light.  Instead of watching TV or fooling around on a computer, they talked to the precious people they happen to live with.  They still wanted the power to come on before all the food in the fridge spoiled, but as evenings go, it apparently wasn’t too bad. 

Maybe it’s a weird sort of irony that having the convenience of electricity is the very thing that whips us into a frenzy of busy-ness that sometimes has us at our breaking points.  Taking it a way, just for a little while, might bring us back from the brink just a bit.  In any event, everything looks better by candle light, don’t you think? 

Memo received.

Disasters


I missed the memo about disasters.

So, what a week, right?  Between the earthquakes in Colorado and Virgina and Hurricane Irene, it’s been pretty much non-stop disaster action.  Even for folks like me who weren’t in line of fire, it was pretty exciting stuff.

I’ve lived in California for over ten years now and in that time, I’ve felt an earthquake or two.  Nothing like Northridge, but enough shake a picture off the wall.  Being 17 stories up when a quake strikes is a little weird, that’s for sure.  And though the recent quake in Virginia resulted in mercifully little damage, you won’t hear me mocking the folks who were fairly overcome with anxiety.  Even if the building doesn’t come down around your ears, when a building shakes, it is deeply disorienting and pretty terrifying.  I may live in California the rest of my of life and I don’t think I’ll ever be “used” to earthquakes. 

Before moving to California, I spent my formative years in Navy towns, and living on the coast in both Texas and Virginia, I’ve seen hurricane or two in my day.  Hurricanes are pretty messed up, but theoretically, you have plenty of time to get out of their way.  (That’s what made the loss of life from Katrina so freakin’ shameful; if the preparation and response machine had been firing on all cylinders, no way so many people would have died.) 

My most memorable hurricane experience was Hurricane Allen, which struck the gulf coast of Texas in 1980.  We lived on the Navy Base in Corpus Christi and when the Navy says there’s an evacuation order, it’s pretty much non-negotiable.  We were herded into the base’s movie theatre, and it was all fun and games until the power went out.  And there we stayed.  With no electricity.  For three days.  I remember eating a lot of warm dill pickles and drinking a lot of canned pineapple juice, and to this day, neither is particularly appealing.  Once power was restored to the chow hall, they bussed us refugees over for a hot meal. When I took that first bite of warm buttered toast, it was like manna from heaven.  Usually, a hurricane won’t kill you, but it can strip you of your civilization pretty quickly and completely.  And you really don’t realize how cozy life usually is, until it isn’t. 

The one natural disaster that I haven’t experienced and hope I never do is a tornado.  With an earthquake, you get no warning.  With a hurricane, you get days to prepare.  But with a tornado, you get maybe a couple of minutes. Psychologically, that’s rough.  You see the sky turn yellow and gray, maybe you hear a siren, or emergency announcement on the radio or TV and you have to make some decisions.  Fast.   If you panic or dilly-dally, you could die.  I don’t know how I’d cope with that kind of pressure. 

So now that the worst seems to be over, at least for now, I’m reflecting on the lessons that emerge from all these natural disasters…

1.  A roomful of Ph.Ds in meteorology and geology could talk ’til they were blue in the face and yet there would still be people who would be unpersuaded that the coincidence of earthquakes and a major hurricane in the same week is nothing more than coincidence.  Seriously, if God is behind this, then God is really, really bored these days. 

2.  The gallows humor that springs forth in the wake of natural disasters is pretty awesome, as coping mechanisms go.  Under this kind of stress, I suppose we have to crack up or crack up, know what I mean?

3.  “Better safe than sorry” is as annoying as it is true.  I’m guessing many a New Yorker is feeling pretty put out by the suspension of subway service, but I shudder to think what would have happened if Irene had gotten really bitchy and folks got trapped in the subway.  I’m no engineer, but to me, flash flood + subway tunnels = the most nightmarish scenario, ever. 

And, hey, wasn’t it  just a couple of months ago that there were a ridiculously unfair number of tornadoes that devastated communities in Missouri and Alabama?  I don’t think it would be at all unreasonable if we asked Mother Nature to just chill the F out for a while so we can all catch our breath and buy more batteries. 

Flashlight at the ready and memo received.

Smartphones and Dumb People


I missed the memo about smartphones and dumb people.

We've come a long way, baby?

Well, I did it. After resisting for a couple of years, I finally got a smartphone.  I’m slightly techno-phobic so new gadgetry tends to scare me more than entice me. But more and more, I was starting to suspect that I was missing out on this whole world of convenience and connectedness that people with smartphones seemed to be enjoying.  So I got my smartphone, and it was embarrassingly easy to use.  Seriously, my 3-year-old had it figured out in minutes.

I totally get how nifty it is to have internet access in your pocket and all the apps are just ingenious and everything, but I’m not sure I like the side effects of smartphones.  Maybe it was the novelty of it, but the first night I had my new phone, I was answering work e-mails at the dinner table . The idea that I had such easy access to my e-mail made me think for a minute that I actually had to read and respond to them immediately.  But then I remembered that I am neither a workaholic nor an asshole, so I’ve since banished the phone during meals and other sacred family times.

The blessing and curse of smartphones is that they allow for a lot accessibility and spontaneity.  I remember an era that when you called someone, it was always on a phone that was firmly affixed to a wall in their house and if they weren’t home or they were talking to someone else, dem was da berries.  Now, you can call, text, Skype, e-mail, IM, or find them on Twitter or Facebook, or whatever the social media site de jour might be.  Modern people are imminently accessible and consequently we don’t get a moment’s peace, I think.   I find I love movie theatres and airplanes more and more these days because they’re the only places that I feel free from the cell phone tether.

And spontaenity….I suppose it’s a good thing that smartphones allow us to make plans on the fly.  We can coordinate with friends, last-minute, look up restaurants, buy tickets, get directions, etc., etc. But I kinda like planning and certainty, so “playing it by ear” is not my forte.  I like making plans and having all the details and logistics sorted out well in advance, but then again I do need to lighten up.

The thing I think is really funny and just a little tragic about smartphones, or mobile phones more generally, is that even though they’re supposed to ensure that we stay connected, they do seem to alienate people from each other, at least in some instances. Did you hear about this study in which it was determined that lots of people use their phones to actively avoid other people?  I know I’ve done it.  Even though I like talking to strangers, sometimes, if I’m feeling awkward or shy, I’ll just get out my phone and do something useless so I don’t have to engage with the people around me.

On the whole, I have to admit that the advent of smartphone technology is pretty amazing and I am glad I have one now. But I just don’t want to my smartphone to make me dumb….


I’m not sure who this guy is, but I found this video on the interwebs, and to him, I say, PREACH!  and memo received.