Category Archives: Parental Duties

Where Have I Been? Nowhere, Just Here.


Broken Ankle Update:

No invasive surgery required. Instead, they did a “closed reduction,” meaning they knocked the child out with general and manipulated the bones into place (note: you must be very strong to be an orthopedic surgeon) and put him in a long cast. The “long cast” goes above the knee so that he can’t move the tibia at all. It sucks in terms of mobility since he can’t bend his knee. That cast stays on for three weeks, then a short cast for four weeks, then a boot, then physical therapy.

Vacation Update:

See above. No vacation.

Art Update:

I have decided to pitch an adult coloring book to a publisher, so I’m working like crazy on that and forcing out all insecure thoughts. If I can’t get published that way, I will self-publish. I think I am onto something here, and it’s an exciting prospect.

Sewing Update:

Still sewing, but nothing too interesting right now. I need a good camera so I can actually take professional looking photos of my work instead of crappy photos on my phone or iPad.

EDS Update:

Christ on a cracker, it sucks.

1. Massage has stopped helping. I’ve been trying to avoid voicing this reality, since it means I no longer have anything for managing pain. That’s a really unpleasant place to find oneself. But, for $95 a week I should be feeling relief for at least a few days afterward, and I’m not. Sometimes I feel worse. I have to figure out how to man up and tell my therapist this, since I like her a lot and it’s not her fault but I do have to stop throwing money away.

2. About two weeks ago my left thumb chose to lose about 30% of my pinch and grasp ability. I can’t lift anything of weight (like a plate of dinner) with either hand if the weight is mostly to go to my thumb. I feel like I have silly paddle hands as I try to work around this, and it’s painful. I can’t have my CMC joints fused unless I am ready to quit my job and possibly lose the dexterity I need to sew and draw. Which is sort of the same as saying I have to give up oxygen. So I’m stuck.

3. My shoulders are worse again, and I cannot under any circumstances sleep on my right side. I wake up around 2:00 am every morning because I am in pain, and it can take up to two hours to get back to sleep. Sometimes I can be sitting at the table talking to someone and a third of my brain is occupied with how much it hurts to just deal with the weight of my shoulders hanging off my neck.

4. My back is verily fucked up and hurts all the time. I have two degenerated discs in the lower back (L4 and L5) and what I probably really need is to get a chiropractic adjustment. But, that is problematic for EDS, and so I have mostly given up on it at this point. My last stab at that was my PCP putting my upper rib back in place and it popped right the hell back out within hours, so that was a wash.

5. 80% of the time, or more, I can deal with my level of daily pain. Sometimes, though, it just seems like it is far more than a person should be asked to deal with, and I have a day or days of feeling really angry and frustrated and sad about being in pain every single damn day. Which is why it’s hard to give up massage. This weekend is one of those points where I’ve had it with my body and my discomfort and there’s going to be a pity party. Which is not a party I can even enjoy.

Overall Update:

Ugh, except for art, which is good.

Summer is Broken


Last Thursday night, three years to the damn day that the child broke his ankle the first time, we got a phone call, set down our wine glasses, collected insurance cards and crutches, and drove quickly to the gym, where the child had attempted a “webster” from a 12 foot high platform, missed his rotation and landed squarely on his ankle. The two teenage girls in charge of the gym that night (srsly, amirite?) were pretty freaked out about the sound it made (POP) and the immediate distortion of his anatomy (ankles don’t typically have weird knobs on the side the size of baseballs) and that it was purple.

As is so very, very typical for healthcare here in our corner of the world (but we don’t have tornadoes or hurricanes or much earthquakes), we arrived at the ER at 8:00 pm, and at 1:00 am someone confirmed that his ankle was broken. But we knew that. The answer(s) to questions like “how bad” were less clear. The ER physician was certain that we would be seen the next day by an orthopedic surgeon. I recount the exchange and subsequent exchanges here:

Doctor 1 Doctor 2

We got up very early to corral child and head to the appointment, which was with a doctor whose name is Dr. Doctor and I cannot take that shit seriously AT ALL and each time I hear or say it my brain finishes it with, “Can’t you see I’m burning, burning?” Dr. Doctor (can’t you see I’m burning….) himself is like, way over 6′ tall and has the standard kind of odd manner of a surgeon. The upshot, though, is that the child requires surgery to pin the ankle back together. This has been scheduled for Friday afternoon. The child and I returned home and once I had him parked in front of the XBox I set to work cancelling our upcoming vacation.

With great sadness I requested a refund for the sunset, Georgia O’Keefe landscape trail ride at The Ghost Ranch. I contacted the trip insurance company and requested a claim packet for the vacation rental fee. I corresponded with the charming owners of the vacation rental about our shift from paying for our own vacation to helping fund one for the orthopedic surgeon.I cancelled the lovely pet-sitter I had finally found to care for the remaining population here at Casa de Pets Die In the Summer.  I did a lot of dramatic sighing. I even called a left a message for my mother-in-law, since the man to whom I am married has not yet even called his parents about their only grandchild’s lower extremity.

I’ve also realized that I do not know the answers to some questions. Will they take the hardware back out when the ankle is healed? Um…I don’t think so? But….Huh. Can he have a spinal instead of  general anesthesia? Are you thinking that we will meet the anesthesiologist more than five minutes before they wheel him back to the OR? Because that’s not going to happen. The doctor sent us for a CT scan and the chatty tech (who initially thought the child was a girl, leading me to giggle to him later, “Are they saying to themselves how sorry they feel for that poor girl with the mustache?”) said, “Oh, my. He broke it good–don’t do anything halfway! You taught him well, mom!”

I am not sure if I was being insulted or not. My hair is a perfect shade of citron so maybe.

Meanwhile, the much-anticipated and frequently re-started summer break has finally ground itself to a halt and all hope is lost. Now we are on house arrest, waiting hand and foot on a child who can’t put any weight on his right leg, and who isn’t so much a reader. Buy stock in GameStop, kids.

Like The Star Wars Trash Compactor


I am having a hard time with having lost Boris (our small Mexican dog with the big Eastern European name) and doubting my choice to let him go. Not in any rational sense; on paper, logically, I know I did the right thing. But in my heart, I feel sorry and sad. I hope he understands; but maybe not–I’d love a world where animals had the same treatment as people, but would I love that because no one would get euthanized for having run out of quality time, or because people wouldn’t have to suffer for so long, either?

I just know that I really, really miss that little guy, and I am responsible for his absence.


The trip to Chicago was really emotionally hard, and the key piece of that was understanding that I can’t depend on my spouse to advocate effectively for me when he is in his place of origin. On one level, I get it–he reverts to his kid role, he’s overwhelmed, they are extremely difficult. On the other hand, I’m angry and disappointed. I really am on my own, and since that is true, I will never go back with him to visit them unless something is really wrong on a deathbed sort of level. I can’t put myself through that. If they come here, as they have threatened, I will go out of town. I’ve given a lot to them over the years, and they’ve taken a lot more than they’ve given back, and their son can’t set good boundaries with them. So, I will have to set boundaries to take care of myself.


Long after I am gone, I am sure medical science and genetics will evolve to determine how mental illness–or at least the propensity for it–is passed down. Borderline personality disorder runs in my family, and while I am sure the process is somewhat akin to alchemy more than straight genetics, it means that right now there are two Borderlines running about– each from a different generation. That’s just my mom’s side, too–there’s also depression, anxiety, alcoholism, sociopaths, suicide, self injury and drug problems coming from both sides. The question maybe is how do any of us make it out alive? When you know that someone is ill, and you’ve proven to yourself that you cannot help them, you have to detach and protect yourself. Sure, their behavior isn’t personal, it’s pathology, and yes, they are in tremendous pain, but that doesn’t mean you should allow them to hurt you. The moat is in place, the drawbridge is up. All signs say, “Go away.”

You’ve reached the boundary, you’ll need to turn back.


One of my tenants called me today, in tears. One of the roommates’ mother had committed suicide last night. Walked out of the room from an argument with her kids and killed herself. The tenant who called me kept saying she was sorry for burdening me and I told her she wasn’t, I care about her, it’s a horrible thing. I reminded her to take care of herself so that she can keep on being a good friend to her roommate. I told her that her grief is valid, and doesn’t need to be measured against the roommate’s. Gosh, there’s enough grief to go around, really–you won’t run out, or take someone else’s, go ahead and grieve. I suggested that she not judge anyone for how they act right now; grief does strange things to a person, and suicide is like knowing an asteroid is coming to vaporize you–maybe then it might seem rational to ask about how much the house is worth or what should be done with the cars–those are solvable problems, whereas the asteroid is just this terrible thing hovering above your head. Maybe it’s not possible to look right at it; at least not at first. I told her we’d cover the rent if it was late, not to worry.

I revisited, for a moment, Ray and Ruby and John. But then I let them go back to their places. You never get over it, I told my tenant, but you learn to live with it. It takes a long, long time.


The theme is who do I have to take care of, and how much? I have to take care of myself. I have to take care of my child. For ten minutes on the phone I can take care of my tenant. I do not have to take care of people whose mental illness could cause them to harm me. I do not have to take care of people who have no space in their lives for me. I do not have to take care of people who aren’t doing their work.

The shrink said that when we’re about to refine something, or pass to another level of understanding, just before we get there it feels like the walls are closing in, and the problem is everywhere. All around me demands are being made for my attention and energy. People want me to put them ahead of myself. So each time I say no, I’m moving forward. No, you cannot come to my house and ring my doorbell a million times and pound on the door. No, I won’t go on a trip where I will be lonely and ignored and pushed beyond my limits. No, I will not act as a buffer for you to avoid your family.

She also suggested that I probably need a really good cry. This is also true, but a far more elusive beast.



My second grandchild was born a week ago yesterday, and her mother’s labor and birth could not have been better. My daughter, who was born in sorrow and trauma delivered in control and joy and it helps to heal the wound in me from when she was born. At that time, no one I knew talked of PTSD as a result of a traumatic birth experience. I recall my dad speaking scathingly, furiously, of “that one feminist that thinks EVEN BIRTH is rape.” Part of what happens in many birth processes when attended by male physicians (and women who subscribe to patriarchal notions and underlying hatred and disgust with the female body) is a violation and does result in long-lasting trauma. For a long time I would imagine going to the address listed on my daughter’s birth certificate for the doctor who delivered her, knocking on the door and then killing him.

Some of that was healed with the birth of my third child, where I was in control and was attended by a loving partner and a midwife who did not subscribe to the traditional violence of episiotomy and domination and instead supported the process. I breastfed that child until he was three and a half and that greatly healed the damage done to me and my daughter when she was born. It was further healed by seeing her go through the birth process with total agency and belief in herself, her body and her partner. She is strong, despite a weak beginning, and her daughters are strong because of her.

The unfortunate ripple was that the baby developed a high bilirubin count and was suddenly whisked to the NICU at about a day old, and that really triggered memories of my experience with my daughter. I wasn’t allowed to hold her for the first two weeks of her life. I experienced every single possible roadblock to nursing her and was finally manipulated into giving it up when she came home from the hospital. Her father walked out on us within days of her coming home. I didn’t bond with her until she was a year and a half old, and was tortured that entire year and a half that I was a bad person and flawed mother, a judgement I passed on myself that greatly harmed our relationship for years.

My daughter’s experience was not mine. She received support and accommodation from the NICU, her partner, the physicians and her family. It was hard for me to remember that she was not having my experience and that I did not need to react to her experience through mine, but to also be able to empathize that yes, I knew exactly what it was like to see your baby with IVs and tubes and monitors and to feel helpless and afraid.

As The Shrink reminded me today, with PTSD, events that take one back to the trauma are triggering, and set you up for further destabilization. So some of my other feelings this week make more sense, given that I was triggered by the events around the grandbaby and also, the shooting in California stirring up my PTSD from the murder of my best friend and her daughter by her husband. The next step, hopefully, will be to catch on *before* I react. Because sometimes I don’t know why I am lashing out or angry or even what it is that I want–and that’s the place that the PTSD takes me. I am very sensitive, empathic, and sometimes unable to distance myself enough from things outside of my control. So we will be working on that.

Meanwhile, the baby came home today and with any luck, this will have been a tiny ripple instead of a tsunami. Fingers crossed.

Being Away


The man and I took a much needed break last week, leaving Friday for Santa Fe and returning Monday. We rarely do this, and especially rarely when the getaway requires taking time off work, hiring someone to stay with the child (and the dogs, and the cat, and the gecko) and ignoring all that might have been done at home in favor of going somewhere else. We also cancelled something we had agreed to do because as it turned out, it was stressing us both out and we weren’t looking forward to it. It was as if prior to going away for a long weekend, we felt the need to also solve all pressing problems prior to leaving.

The Universe, in her wisdom, tested this approach with all her might. On Thursday, as I drifted joyfully about the house, choosing outfits and packing for the trip, I heard the dogs at the food bowls. Nothing unusual there, it’s just part of the background, their tags jangling against the bowls. Then, though, it turned into something else entirely, punctuated by the screaming of the very small dog and snarling from the large dog. The small dog is a Chihuahua named Boris (large Eastern European name for small Mexican dog), and he is at least 11 years old. The large dog is a mid-size Pit Bull named Trixie (for the girl sleuth, Trixie Belden), and she is the dog of my heart and about 5 years old.

I don’t know what happened exactly because I raced out of the room as soon as the screaming started and screamed myself at the big dog, who stopped (the small dog continuing to shriek like a smoke alarm that can’t be turned off). She stopped, she looked me in the eye, and then she swung around and piled right back into Boris, driving him into the wall, him still screaming as she had again gotten him by the neck. I did exactly what one is not supposed to do and dove into the middle of it, hitting Trixie in the face and screeching at her to stop. She dropped to her belly, hackles still up, and I grabbed Boris (who considered biting me, as he was scared and hurt) up off the ground and the child dragged Trixie to her crate.

So, problem number one: Canine Death Match. Gone was the joy of packing and in its place dread, fear and loathing.

Upon examination Boris appeared okay, but his neck was soggy and sore (we later found one small puncture wound, but that was all). We developed a plan to separate the dogs in our absence and revised the time we expected to leave, since Death Match precluded packing. We were very lucky that we weren’t taking one dog to be cremated and the other to be euthanized, and that fact shook us up.

The next morning we arose, again determined to have this weekend out of town. We promised ourselves we’d leave by 9:00 am. The child appeared and announced he felt like throwing up, which he proceeded to do. I felt robbed. I felt I was being cheated out of something I had almost gotten to grasp. This is not an uncommon ailment of this  child, and it responds to stress, and it is always over pretty quickly. Sometimes mere hours after I’ve called him in sick to school, he is eating soup from a can and claiming to be starving. But then there’s the idea that I’d be a bad mother if I didn’t sit at home and watch him watch TV.

We arranged to have my mother check on him, and then the sitter would be there in the afternoon.

We went away. We felt a bit like we were escaping, we almost didn’t get out of there but at the last minute, we did.

It was entirely, completely, worth it. We returned to a child who hugged me at the door and waited an hour before telling me he wished I’d not come back with all my rules and demands. The dogs seemed to have buried the hatchet for the time being and were back to coexisting.

Sometimes, the harder it is to get away, the more you need to do it. If only to find that your absence won’t really devastate anyone, and the world will remain pretty much the way it was when you checked out.


Resolutions and Parenting


I am not a mommy blogger, but I have children. Hell, I have a grandchild and another on the way. So, occasionally, I might write about that.

During our holiday break I found that I was unhappy with the pattern of battling with my child for control. I, the shouting, arm-waving mother, wanted off that ride. I have no chance of directly changing how my child feels about things, but I can change how I react. I told him, “I have resolved not to get mad anymore. Instead, I’m just going to do what I need to do to solve my problem. I’ll not argue with you or negotiate anymore.”

Certain scenarios have therefore changed. If, when it’s time to turn off the XBox, or the TV, or what have you, he refuses, I walk over and turn it off. I have found it does not destroy anything meaningful if he loses his progress in a game or misses the end of some noxious Disney sitcom because he refused the first (and only, hopefully) request to do so.

If he refuses to help with household chores because he is surfing the internet on his laptop, I go online and block his IP address from our router.

If he doesn’t fold and put away his laundry and instead hides it all mashed in a basket, then I take the laundry away.

If he tracks in stickers after being specifically asked not to, they will be redeposited on his bath mat.

Have I created an angelic child? Not yet. But I am amazed at how much less stress I am feeling now that I am preventing my own engagement in the argument. I feel like I can be more loving and present when I am not saturated in my anger and resentment over the constant battle. I can remember why I like him, and I can take back the power that should have been mine all along.

Of course, it’s only January.