Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Stalking Around the Christmas Tree

I've never been a real holly jolly kind of gal.  I enjoy being showered with sparkly, expensive loot just as much as the next woman, but I've always found the whole ornament, tree, and mistletoe deal a bit excessive.  Since I unknowingly married Kris Kringle and therefore have no choice but to deck my halls, I have resorted to begging and pleading this holiday season. 

Unfortunately, my husband will not allow me to take a yuletide snow check, so on a dreary Sunday afternoon, he drug me to the only place the Swiss enjoy more than the bank: a ginormous Christmas warehouse filled with robotic polar bears, angels, pink poinsettias, and tree after tree after tree. 


In my defense, my objection to a Christmas tree is only partially because I hate foliage---I was even so kind as to suggest a pleasant, synthetic tree that he could decorate to his enormous heart's desire.  You see, the problem with an authentic, bona fide pine is that it triggers my OCD much in the same way as raw poultry, elevator buttons, and porta potties: it's likely contaminated.

I think most of my reasonable, level-headed readers would agree that trees belong in their natural habitat, just as cheetahs belong in the wild and Britney Spears belongs in the music industry.  Yet somehow, my husband rejected this notion, and lo and behold, we bought a damn shrub.

A quick phone call to my brutally honest mother confirmed my worst fears: she once knew a lady who knew a lady who unknowingly bought a Christmas tree infested with spider eggs.  Once those eggs did the whole incubation bit and hatched right in time for good old December 25th, that house was crawling with more legs than a Victoria's Secret runway. 

I have inspected, reinspected, and sawed off enough branches to ensure that no spiders survived the journey to our upstairs living room, and just for good measure, I checked the trunk for coiled reptiles that could slither or climb their way into Amelia's tiny airway. 

Isn't she a beaut!

Fortunately, Kris Kingle has yet to get around to decorating, and the fact that the tree remains ornament-less is actually to my benefit---I have no chance of knocking down a ceramic candy cane when I stalk around the tree each night, threatening to wake my husband from dreams of sleigh bells and figgy pudding.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Let's Play Catch Up

Welp, I'm back.  After two hectic round trips between America and Switzerland, three incredible weddings, and way too many buckets of KFC, I finally have returned to the land of the cows...and to my neglected blog. You can all stop teetering on the edge of your seats now...

Let's do a quick recap of our time away from each other:

Wedding one- Jenny, one of my oldest and dearest friends from grade school, had a spectacular outdoor/barn/country wedding where cowboy boots were the preferred footwear.

As pictured above, I also brought the Britney Spears' dance out of pre-pregnancy retirement. I feel I did her proud, although the extensive cardio workout did not bode well with champagne and four slices of cake. I don't know how Brit Brit does it.
Next up: Malloy/Peck wedding. This much fun in one night would be a misdemeanor in Switzerland.
© Across the Miles Photography
And the concluding nuptials---the Kerwin/Vogt wedding. Alas, the old gang was finally back together, and we partied like it was 2004.

As all great things must eventually end, we once again said tearful goodbyes and hopped back on a plane to our village.  Besides a goat or two giving birth, it appeared nothing had changed during our extended time away. 
Something else that hasn't changed: Amelia's sleep issues.  Frustrations mounting and ice cream cartons piling up, I have scoured mommy blogs and websites at all hours of the night trying to reach some conclusion as to why my child requires less sleep than a fruit fly.  I have decided that it could be one of two things:  (a) she's a vampire, or (b) like Thomas Edison and many other geniuses, she simply cannot sleep because her mind is so stimulated.

"Sorry, mom, can't sleep! Too busy with these quantum physics!"

 I convinced myself one night that we had the next Alberta Einstein on our hands, but then Amelia farted, laughed, and hit her head, so I went back to the vampire hypothesis.
Well it was great catching up after my bridal sabbatical. I hope everyone's Thanksgiving was as wonderful as ours (powdered mash potatoes, rotisserie chicken, and stove top stuffing---this mama appreciates fine cookin'). 
I promise not to go AWOL again as long as you all promise to stop getting married!   

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

All Joking Aside

You know how when you’re brushing your teeth in front of your bathroom mirror, and for a split second you notice how lovely you look and lean closer for a better look? Then BAM---toothbrush slams against the mirror and jams down the back of your throat.

OCD can be a lot like this common occurrence.  My day will be going along smoothly, beautifully even, and then out of nowhere, I’m sucker punched.

Perhaps one of the most challenging elements of this disorder is its inability to appear rational to those not suffering from it. Typical conversation with one of my OCD sponsors (Callie, Liz, Andrea, mom, Google, Matt, Jess, Walgreen’s pharmacist), “I forgot I had already taken my Flintstone Vitamin this morning so I took another by mistake. Am I looking at any possible overdose complications?”
You think I’m joking.

I was quite proud of the progress I’d been making these past couple weeks (hence the lack of blogging) until I went and did something astronomically stupid:
I got a haircut.

The issue with my hair is not its new style---I quite like it, actually. The problem is that in order to put it in a tidy ponytail, I must use bobby pins to secure the shorter pieces. In my cluttered, claustrophobic brain that I often times despise, bobby pins equal one thing: choking hazard.

In order for my obsessions to complete the OCD cycle, I must answer them with a compulsion (obsessive compulsive disorder).  In this case, I decided to act as a surgeon who counts all of his tools after surgery to ensure none remain in the abdominal cavity.

Every evening, I remove the bobby pins and place them back on their designated sheet of paper. By doing this, I convince my ridiculous mind that none have fallen on the ground or in Amelia's crib.
I know you are wondering why I am sharing this craziness with you---why I can't just keep these nonsensical notions to myself. Some with OCD require privacy; they carry around a sense of shame and guilt. I, being much too vain to carry these with me, would rather make my enemy known. 
I have loved so deeply in my life that hate should be quite unfamiliar to me. Between my friends, husband, Amelia, and Britney Spears, I should only understand adoration, yet my OCD has educated me in contempt. I hate all that it has taken from me and all it has yet to take.
Instead of enjoying a healthy pregnancy and reveling in a new life growing inside of me, I spent every day of those nine months in my own internal hell. Instead of delighting in this new phase of Amelia's life where she's crawling and taking her first steps, I live in terror that she will fracture her skull and end up with a subdural hematoma. I have spent hours googling brain bleeds and even more hours creating a bubble around my daughter to safeguard her from every bump and fall she may encounter. The sane part of me knows I should be letting her explore her newfound world, but my OCD has taken that away from her, too.    
Before finishing this blog post, an internet pop-up ad appeared on my screen. "What would you like to be today?" it asked.
               At peace...I would like to be at peace. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Buzz Kill

My favorite poet Emily Dickinson once famously wrote “I heard a fly buzz when I died.”

I’m guessing she perished in Switzerland.

Irritating Swiss behavior number 419: they don’t do window screens.  Now for all you Westerners out there who are thinking, “boo-freakin- hoo, just turn on the AC,” let me also inform you that the Swiss don’t yet realize it’s 2012. Translation: we should have packed more deodorant. 

The irony of my situation is that I consider camping my own personal form of hell (with exercise coming in at a close second).  I don’t do nature, public showers, bug spray, or lanterns, and I certainly don’t share my living space with winged species. 
I have turned into a woman obsessed.  I spend the better part of my day with a fly swatter in my left hand and a citronella candle in the right.  I scour the house before going to bed to ensure a rogue fly has not attached itself to a wall, which is nearly an impossible task considering the amount of insects we encounter...

After reading and combing through numerous medical journals, I have discovered that a baby's susceptibility to choking is due to the esophagus having a similar circumference to that of a drinking straw.  Now for those of you who suffer from the same rational fears as myself and have also uncovered similar information, I trust you have repeatedly tested this theory.  Unfortunately, my experiments have proven what I feared the most: a fly is a precise fit.

The ingredients for a perfect storm are brewing inside of our non air conditioned home: open screen- less windows, a horse barn directly behind our property, and a mouth-breathing baby.  I have taken this discovery to Kate (who also happens to be suffering from a fly epidemic in her Swiss abode), and she dismissed this concern as OCD. "Tell me one person who has ever choked on a fly," she chided. Apparently Kate doesn't read medical case studies...

Since no one else will take my situation seriously, I asked myself, "What would Laura Ingalls do?" I decided she would purchase $500 worth of night vision camera equipment so she could assess her baby at all times.  My new, amazing baby monitor allows me to zoom and pan around her entire nursery in search of these esophageal-sized flies and react in record time when one is located.

My crisis is, for the moment, averted---I am now the biggest fly on her wall.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Oui Oui Oui All the Way Home

At least everyone cries in the same language---I decided I had this going for me as I sat alone in a deserted gas station parking lot, unsure if the crazy French machine accepted my credit card or wondering if I had just stolen 50 Swiss Francs worth of their overpriced gasoline. With scenes of Brokedown Palace playing through my head and no idea how to navigate home, I went ahead and gave in to an overdue meltdown.  My backseat, eerily absent of baby babble as Amelia slept soundly at her first co-ed sleepover so I could take my sick, lethargic husband to the emergency room, looked like a better place than ever to lay down and the let the Swiss know, in no particular language, how an American girl cries.

The only thing worse than having OCD while your husband sleeps in a germ infested hospital room is having OCD while your husband is quarantined in isolation in a germ infested hospital room.  Since progressively worsening upon his recent return from Egypt, Matt was admitted at four in the morning symptomatic of everything from E Coli to the Plague.
Poor Hubs

Between the half nude gypsy clan in the waiting room and the staff’s inability to understand broken French and sign language for “my husband’s about to hurl,” it finally happened. Since first arriving in this new, confusing, breathtaking world, I felt profoundly and devastatingly homesick.

Taking a seat next to gypsy chick and trying not to stare at her exposed gargantuan nipple, I closed my eyes and thought of all of you, my friends back home, and what you were doing on your side of the pond.  I recalled old inside jokes and wondered about all the new ones of which I’d never be a part.  I thought about all the bachelorette parties and the stories told over margaritas and I could almost hear all your laughter. I recalled our game nights and trips to the casinos and tried for the life of me to figure out where the time had gone. I thought of all the babies being born and the vows being made and the newest Britney Spears' songs I would miss on my ridiculous French radio…and there, right next to a vagabond’s nipple, I silently wept. 

Life eventually returned to its new definition of normal as Matt is back to his usual self. After being hospitalized for two days, he was diagnosed with a severe case of food poisoning and dehydration.  He never quite learned to walk like an Egyptian, though he sure learned to puke like one. 

As for me, I pass the time reading and taking in all the sights with Amelia---the castles, the wine vineyards, the unparalleled Lake Geneva and its Swiss Alps’ backdrop (though secretly, I would trade it all for a day on Lake Decatur with a Salty Dog Cooler of Bud Light and my favorite people in the universe). 

My new, amazing friend Kate eventually made it to the deserted gas station with my rested baby and the assurance my petro was paid in full.  I dried my tears, followed her home, popped Britney’s first album into my European car’s CD player, and sang at the top of my lungs in my infamous Brit Brit voice. I wanted to show them how an American girl laughs. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Swiss 101

If I learned anything from cultural training, it's that my sense of humor may not translate well in French.  Crap.

Mr. "I am European and therefore allergic to Fun" informed us that the Swiss are a fairly serious group of people who dislike noise and even have numerous violations for those who like to make it.  As the back-to-back  loser of Church Mouse (kindergarten/first grade/high school edition), I fear I will soon be on the Swiss' silent radar.  Crap deux.

So there you have it---a walking personality clash born without a library voice.And just when I thought I'd stomached all my broken heart could handle, our trainer went and insulted fried food. "You Americans fry everyzing.  You even fry zee chicken. Why would you fry zee chicken?"  Um, hold the phone Jacque. On behalf of myself and the good Colonel Sanders, why zee hell wouldn't you?!?

So now the three  essential components of my existence (noise, comedy, and KFC) are on the not-to-do list.  If they hate smiling babies, I'm screwed.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Closet Cleanse and All the Things I'll Swiss

I’m usually only nostalgic after tequila.  Yet to my surprise, I found myself weeping while preparing for our non-alcoholic garage sale.  Since the Swiss simpletons don’t appreciate square footage or walk-in closets like the Western world, I had to make a significant reduction in my shoe, clothing, and Britney Spears’ collections.  Our carton of wordly possessions left shore one week ago, and I struggled immensely with what to take, what to store, and what to sell to strangers. 

As I sat in our driveway and watched transients drive away with my belongings, I was overcome with a sense of sadness for all the glamour I am leaving behind---who will look after my smutty beach novels? My never-run-in running shoes?  Am I a light switch away from Amish?

I hate that old cliché “you never know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”  Well I knew I had a badass fedora hat collection, but they took it from me anyways.  My husband is thrilled with this closet cleanse, and assures me I won’t miss any of it once I gaze upon the scenic Swiss Alps and breathe in some of that fresh, mountain air.  I’ll get back to you all on that.  Until then, look for the peasant mourning in the shoe department.

Mother's Day Binge Cringe

In honor of the three cupcakes (two chocolate, one vanilla), four brownies, and two bowls of vanilla ice cream I so enthusiastically consumed on Mother's Day, I felt the need to dig up this old story I wrote after one of my binge eating episodes.  Indulge!


Dish detergent does not deter the determined. Although it appears I can alliterate my problem with a mouthful of D’s, the real mouthful in this situation is the five-layer cake I just devoured. The fact it was laced with Dawn Direct Foam is quite irrelevant----it was, to my knowledge, a bleach-free product.

My lifelong issues with food started, oh let’s say, when my mom took me off her boob. I’ve always taken quite a liking to solid cuisine, so when she released me from her chest with enough baby teeth to take a real bite out of life, I finally discovered my passion. I like to eat. There’s really no poetic or better way to say it.

As I stare at the remaining morsels of the fifth layer of my deceased cake, I have to wonder how I got to this point in my life---surely I wasn’t raised this way. I don’t ever remember my mother encouraging me to bake an entire cake with more layers than a four-year-old sledding in Alaska, and I can’t imagine she ever sat me down and told me that eating the entire dessert in one sitting would make my stomach feel flat and chiseled.

Carbohydrates, oh how I love thee. The cute little meal devil who sits on my shoulder reasons that carbs provide energy. I need energy, right? I need it to live; I can’t make the world a better place without sufficient energy. I even need energy to eat my next meal. Then that stupid, anorexic angel on my other shoulder tells me “No, no, no, Stefanie. You’ll end up in another carb coma like yesterday. You can’t make the world a better place in the fetal position.”

I battle with these two ridiculous apparitions each and every meal. The celestial voice usually ends up in the consolation bracket, and that cute little devil and I wave our Clean Plate Club memberships victoriously in the air. Seldom things in this life provide happiness, I figure. Food is one of them. I can’t let them take my happiness.

Sometimes when I am driving past a gym on my way to McDonald's, I feel a sudden pang of guilt and shame. I think of all the treadmills without me on them, and how elated and renewed I would feel if I could only get myself to open the gym doors. Here lies the problem: I am hungry. I could work-out before I eat, but then I wouldn’t be receiving the full exercisable benefits because I would only be performing at 50 percent. However, if I were to wait and work-out after my Big Mac, then I would only be performing at 50 percent, as well. I do the math in my head and decide that both options would sell myself short. I do the only rational thing I can think of in my current position: I skip the gym and opt for a diet coke with my number one.

So here is where I find myself once again. I keep coming back to this low point in my life. I am standing in front of my five-layer chocolate cake. I have already eaten at least six times the normal serving size, my stomach is extended, and I am in the beginning stages of a sugar-induced migraine---however, cake still remains. I plan on sucking up my pain, taking it like a champ, and finishing the damn thing, but that ridiculous, angelic voice keeps whispering to “step away from the cake.” So I do, a good twenty feet at least, but inevitably I am back.

Plan B: throw away the cake. Easy, right? But unfortunately for me, the garbage has recently been emptied and the cake has a foil covering; it’s still edible inside that pristine garbage can and sterilized foil. I now do what any logical and reasonable individual would do. I remove the cake from the trash and reach for my nearest bottle of dish detergent. In a manic episode, I squirt Dawn Direct Foam all over my beautiful, beautiful creation, throw it back in the trash, and lock myself in my bedroom.

Although this should be the end of my story, let me remind you that dish detergent is used to wash dishes from which we directly eat---which means it is harmless; which means, actually, that it is quite safe if ingested. But I am going to be stronger this time: I lie on my bed, paint my toes, finish a book, watch two episodes of Iron Chef, and call three friends who I figure would make good sponsors. They don’t answer. This is not looking good.

A girl can't stay locked in her bedroom forever. I remember that I haven’t checked to see if I closed the silverware drawer, and I couldn’t possibly sleep knowing that it remained open….

So I’m back at the damn trash can once again, because it turns out the drawer was shut after all, and somehow the cake is levitating back onto the kitchen counter. Damn. Damn damn damn.

The problem with a five-layer cake and dish detergent is that it doesn’t penetrate every layer...

I will spare you the gory details.

There comes a point in life when you must make painful choices in order to better yourself. I felt I took a huge step in the right direction when I passed the cake mix aisle at Kroger and went directly to the shelves with cleaning supplies. Although it was hard to make the change because I like to think of myself as a loyal person, I lifted my arm, and with a slightly shaking hand (it was lunchtime and my blood-sugar was low) I snatched it off the shelf and dropped it in my cart.

Dish detergent…with bleach. I figure worse comes to worse, Poison Control is just a hop, skip, and a 1-800 number away.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The 2011 Cantaloupe Tour

I always found the old adage “step on a crack, break your mother’s back” quite illogical.  My silly classmates would recite this verse while I was left to ponder their intelligence. Since any educated person knows that sidewalk fissures and female vertebrae share no commonalities, I preoccupied myself with much more probable scenarios.  “Touch a public doorknob and catch methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus and die.”

It wasn’t until my tenth year of life that I was clinically diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but I recall the debilitating fear long before my first meeting with the shrink.  I was reading on the couch when an episode of 20/20 featured the Ebola virus in Africa and its transmission via monkeys.  My mind (which is similar to a hamster on a wheel while under the influence of speed), immediately went to my last visit to the Scovill Zoo.  How close did I get to the monkey cage?  Do the zoo owners import their primates from Sudan?  Did any of the monkeys sneeze?

Twenty-years later, the questions may be different (the Ebola virus is so last season), but they are just as merciless and unrelenting.  My husband finds it irritating that I have no medical degree to show for all the hours I’ve invested in the research of diseases, disorders, and contaminates.  We constantly engage in a game of "let's remove WebMD from Steffo's homepage and see how long it takes for her to freak." I usually win. 

I’ve learned over the years to avoid certain OCD “triggers”.  Particular fears and obsessions are worsened by events and circumstances, so I’ve made myself aware of what might “set off” my anxiety.  For example, if salmonella was on the rise, I avoided salmon (cut me some slack, I was nine).  If the country is on an elevated security alert, I avoid airports, train stations, and the White House. What I was not prepared for, however, was the biggest OCD trigger of them all: a positive line on a pregnancy test. 

Pregnancy brought with it a whole new realm of medical conditions and predicaments. I was now susceptible to a range of illnesses that could harm my unborn child, and in due time, I honed in on Listeriosis and studied it nightly.   All of my research led me to believe I could avoid this nasty little food-borne pathogen if I abstained from deli meat, soft cheeses, pate, and raw fish.  Done. 
During my fifth month of the longest pregnancy on record, the news reported a listeria outbreak originating in Colorado, but no source had yet been named.  I followed this story hourly, even waking in the middle of the night to check for updates. On a Tuesday evening, I sat down in front of the television set with a giant bowl of pre-cut cantaloupe and a bottle of Hershey’s syrup and turned to CNN.  Breaking news: listeria source identified!!!


If you knew me following the days of this announcement, I apologize.  After calling every Kroger in town, interrogating the produce managers, and sending my friend Jessica to ask the Kroger “fruit preparer” if they wash their produce before shelving it, I was still convinced I needed blood work and antibiotics.  I called the nurse at my gynecologist’s office, explained my situation, and pleaded for a test.  Not understanding the urgency of my request, she simply told me I was “fine” and that the outbreak was not in Central Illinois.  Since I’m quite a natural at thinking on my feet, I conjured up a little white lie and said I’d been travelling around the country eating cantaloupe---a cantaloupe tour, if you will. 

She told me to call back when I had symptoms. Nurses these days…

I’ve filed away listeria in my bottomless database of OCD obsessions (along with Ebola, melanoma, bird flu, MRSA, and that strange Benjamin Button ailment).  I’m sure it will resurface during my second pregnancy, as all of my fixations eventually do, but for the time being, I have momentary peace.  That’s the thing with this OCD business---you just have to ride out each wave and wait for a brief reprieve.  It ultimately arrives, and then it’s on to the next obsession.  But today is a good day---a peaceful day, so I plan on enjoying a pleasant walk with my daughter as soon as I disinfect her stroller.  I hear influenza’s making one hell of a comeback.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Happy 31st Birthday, Matt!

As it would turn out, Feliz Navidad is neither French nor Happy Birthday.  Trying to outdo last year's birthday cookie (I'm notorious for buying giant cookies with messages scrawled in butter cream icing), I thought it would be witty to wish my husband a happy birthday in the French language.  Unfortunately, the Internet on my cell phone would not work while in line at Mrs. Fields', so after I came to realize that Feliz Navidad would not properly showcase my bilingual abilities, I was left with no choice but to retreat and find a different gift.  My husband, who by far is the most difficult man for which to shop, always returns every gift I purchase because it is either: a) too flashy, or b) ridiculous

To commemorate my current OCD obsession, I thought something along the lines of UVA/UVB protection would be just the ticket.  Who doesn't need a practical pair of Ray Ban aviators?

They'll be back on the shelf by midday tomorrow 
In three short years I have found myself surrounded by the two greatest loves of my life.  If you asked me at 23 what my five-year-plan looked like, I never would have fathomed something this marvelous.

Here's another blast from the past: a story I wrote just months before meeting my future-husband. My, has he changed me ;)

Any Given Sundae

I can’t even commit to an ice cream flavor. My friends point this out as if one must be monogamous with their scoop of cookie dough. I know that holding up the line at Baskin Robbins is borderline infuriating to all those who maintain serious relationships with dairy, but come on folks, there are 31 flavors. I’ve never been one to discriminate.

I usually go with the richest I can find. The only time you will ever hear me admit to love at first sight is when my eyes connect with decadent, creamy chocolate swirled with thick fudge and smooth, mouth-melting caramel. Love, I’m telling you---genuine, unconditional love. My issues with men may appear synonymous with my issues with ice cream, but I dispute both claims. After all, I have never had difficulty committing to Ben and/or Jerry.

So what if I’m 23 and prefer the allure of single-dom? Relationships inevitably turn rocky, and the only rocky road I care to travel is the one melting in my cone. To commit is to sacrifice the rest of the male population; the other 30 flavors.

I’m sorry that I don’t go all cherries jubilee over the idea of marriage, but truth be told, a lifetime with one single, solitary person seems quite frightening and unappealing to me. What happens when it turns bland; when I wake up every day to a mistake I fear I made? What if I don’t want Chunky Monkey for the rest of my life?

My friend Liz has no problem with commitment. She may as well have a framed marriage certificate declaring her union with mint chocolate chip. Their twenty-year bond has only been tested on occasion when she feels the undeniable urge to commit sherbert adultery. Liz, obviously, has never sampled the Baskin Robbins’ buffet. Why experiment, she figures, when she already has a perfectly adequate selection? Needless to say, her boyfriend feels the same.

I’ve done the whole relationship bit---don’t get me wrong. I’ve gone to the movies, held the hands, and even adopted the nauseating pet names like every boyfriend/girlfriend is somehow programmed to do. But when the new turns to the ordinary and the ordinary becomes the old, I find it impossible not to bail. Just as some are programmed to use the word “pookie-bear” on repeat, I am genetically pre-disposed to ordering the flavor of the week. Bubble gum chunks inside of raspberry laced French vanilla? They can really do that? Double-scoop me.

I suppose life would have a pleasant mediocrity if I always stuck with a primary flavor. Like they say, you can’t miss something you’ve never had. I am sure Liz will never realize there’s a whole other world of cookies’n’cream out there just waiting to be devoured, but I know that’s okay with her. Some of us were meant to be “thirty-one flavor” kind of gals---some of us were meant for the latter number.

As the sighs get louder and the boy behind the counter with the ridiculous striped pink hat once again asks for my order, I can’t help but ponder what the real rush seems to be.

I finally go with the Jamoca Almond Fudge, yet quickly decide after two solid licks that this will be a short-term relationship between the two of us. After all, there are too many fish in the sea and just way, way too many cartons in the freezer. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sun, Sun, Go Away

I wonder how long before this blog is added to the carcinogen list.  After my second skin cancer screening of the year (it’s an OCD thing---you name it, I’ve screened it), I’m confronted with an existential crisis: to worship the sun or dress as a beekeeper.  Although my dermatologist, who could moonlight as an extra for the Twilight movies, has reassured me twice that I am currently melanoma-free, she also lectured me on the perils of stepping outdoors.  Doc Shun-the-Sun Cullen presented me with pamphlets and bookmarks preaching about my imminent death if I dared venture past my front door sans SPF 300. 

After noticing my slight tan, she asked how I acquired it.  Well, I sometimes take my daughter for walks or read a book on the deck. GASP. “Any sun exposure is bad for you.”  I know I never fared well in my science classes, but I am somewhat certain the sun has been hanging around for a few years now.  On the fourth day, God created sun.  I doubt He wore sunscreen while he rested on the seventh.

 While I am not advocating roasting in the tropics (although I spent the better part of my college years sleeping in a tanning bed, and I may or may not be guilty of stealing my daughter’s baby oil), I can’t help but question this doctor’s message.  A sunless existence?  Let’s say I do cut back on my sun sessions---I will still likely succumb to another of my favorite carcinogens.  If it’s not bad enough they’re preaching against cell phones, now they’re claiming water bottles cause the Big C, as well.  Crap. I often sit in the sun on my cell phone while drinking a Dasani.  Could someone pass the cigarettes and Agent Orange?

My OCD has turned CDC as I've read the Center for Disease Control’s Known Carcinogen List more times than People Magazine.  They even have an App for that.  I assure you I understand the enormity of cancer and in no way am trying to make light of it. I just find all these warnings enough to make even a sane person, well---me.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Beauty and all the Beasts

I find myself enthralled with Amelia’s book collection.   Although she is much too young to comprehend Goodnight Moon or the Berenstain Bears, I am overcome with a sense of nostalgia as I flip through the once familiar pages.  Last night’s selection, Cinderella, brought back not only childhood memories, but adult ones, as well.  After digging through my old vault of college essays, I happened upon the “anti-Disney” phase of my life.  Instead of lighting the book on fire like my twenty-year-old self would have done, I read it to her a second time. 

If you’ve already read this old feminist rant of mine, I apologize for the redundancy.  If you haven’t, I promise I’m back on Walt's bandwagon.

   Beauty and all the Beasts (2008)
I learned Santa was an obese hoax at the ripe old age of four. I knocked out almost all of my teeth during an aggressive game of Red Rover in kindergarten, and so there went the Tooth Fairy at five. I can’t remember my exact age when the Easter Bunny was let out of the bag, but I’m sure I still had training wheels.

They can open up about the Tooth Fairy (cheap bastard), they apologize for a bunny rabbit, and they can even bring themselves to hit alt, control, delete on old Santee Claus himself, but they never thought to unveil the biggest revelation of all time. After all the years of Disney stories and all the Brother Grimm fairy tales, no one ever thought to mention---Prince Charming doesn’t exist. There. Someone finally said it.

I always felt so relieved at the conclusion of Cinderella when I realized that despite her filthy hair and camaraderie with mice, Prince Charming could still love her regardless of her odor. And Snow White----she cohabitated with seven other men, yet Prince Charming overlooked her promiscuity and loved her unconditionally. I read these stories cover to cover, night after night, transfixed by an unblemished prince who was chivalrous, faithful, and loyal. I pretended I was Sleeping Beauty, poisoned by the infamous apple, and would lie still in bed until his imaginary lips woke me to a world of voluminous hair and ripped biceps.

With every relationship gone bad, and with every Prince-not-so-Charming I would meet, greet, date, and dispose, I found myself asking the age old question that all damsels in distress most certainly ask, “Where the hell is he?”
It took me twenty-two years to realize that Prince Charming was the leading man in all three of my favorite fairy tales. I awoke in a panic at the enormity of my discovery. Prince Charming and Cinderella; Prince Charming and Snow White; Prince Charming and Sleeping Beauty. Same damn guy. It hit me like a ton of bricks---Prince Charming was a womanizer.

You’d think I would be distraught to learn that my ever-elusive Prince was in reality just a man who charmed the ballroom gowns off of vulnerable, often times drug-induced women. You’d think my faith in mankind and in happily-ever-after would be shot to a kingdom far, far away. Yet somehow, I was relieved.  No wonder I couldn’t get it right---even Cinderella was duped. 

They should have told us---yes, thinking back, we should all be warned while still in diapers that like Santa and the Tooth Fairy, a flawless knight dressed in shining armor will never arrive on our doorstep. He’s just a hoax like the rest of them; a childhood myth they should debunk at birth.

We wait our entire lives to meet a soul mate of such epic proportions, only to find he falls short of the bedtime stories. We explore high schools and colleges and planet Earth in search of him, convinced this one remaining mythical creature just may be out there.  

I still skim through the remains of my childhood storybooks, but Prince Charming’s once shiny hair now looks greasy and gelled; his biceps steroid-induced. He’s just a man, I tell myself, and a Grimm one at best.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

So Long, Farewell, Peace Out

A common denominator amongst all the places I've inhabited was a McDonald's within five miles of my front door.  When Matt returned home from Switzerland last month with a grim look on his face and a consolatory box of Swiss chocolates, I knew before he opened his mouth that he had horrendous news. McDonald's was now a twenty minute drive.

I was able to locate the Swiss Golden Arches via online GPS satellite, and although it's no longer as convenient a trip, at least I know their people appreciate the Big Mac.

After accepting a position in Switzerland, Matt has done his best to convince me that their way of life and mine go hand-in-hand.  Fearing I would be Von-Trapped and never return to the motherland, he's presented me with literature, French lessons, pictures, and truffles to win over my American heart.Trying to remain neutral (see, Swiss already), I decided on an open mind. Although I always pictured the Swiss chilling with goats and popping Ricola cough drops to ward off their sore throats after all that yodeling nonsense, it turns out they actually have some pretty decent ideas. I may adapt after all:

1.No mowing or laundry on Sundays---no new concept for me

2. Tarts are the traditional Swiss cuisine---had a poptart just this morning

3. A Hand Hygiene Campaign was introduced in 2006 to promote the use of alcohol based hand rubs---I implemented this same campaign

4. Swiss Bank Accounts---enough said

Now that I've conquered six French phrases, ordered Millie a beret, and picked out a house via an iPad tour, it's finally hit me: I'm leaving the 217.

The rear of our new home. Still getting use to European architecture (I added the trees for effect)
Photo-shopped the beret, but you get the idea

Bidding adieu (one of my six phrases) to those I love and pretend to love is next up on my list as it appears that May will be our departure month.  My initial sadness is quickly fading and I'm starting to experience a twinge of excitement.  At best, it will be the greatest adventure and smartest decision of our lives. At worst, I'll fracture my spine skiing and end up on a goat farm. Either way---still one hell of a ride. And please, pardon my French.

Friday, March 23, 2012

MYOB (Mind Your Own Boobs)

It's safe to say my high carb/high protein/high sodium post-pregnancy diet will not be published and shelved at bookstores anytime soon. After reading the South Beach Diet and adding my own little flavorful twist, I am now a South Beached Whale instead. It's time for plan B.

Since Milan, Italy, will soon be my new neighbor, I figure I owe it to myself and to the fashion capital of the world to finally drop these last twenty pounds. In the name of Versace and all that is size zero, I decided to invest in the HCG diet plan. I won't get into the details of this newest diet fad (or at least not until I have seen the results) but it entails liquid drops under the tongue and a very limited calorie intake. My mother tried it and had incredible success, so I packed my big butt and baby into the car and headed to the nutrition store. Once there, I was greeted by a worker who "oohed and aahed" over Amelia (duh, she's freakin adorable), and I asked where I could find the HCG drops. "Are you breastfeeding?" she asked. Legitimate question, I suppose, because this diet would then be off-limits. No, I told her, I had recently quit. Apparently answering no to this question is the same degree taboo as poisoning small puppies. "She's much too young for you to quit." Although I needn't defend myself to a complete stranger, I felt the need to quickly explain that it was a hard decision to make but it was the best one for me, yada yada yada. She began walking down the aisle toward the HCG drops while announcing, "My whole body is screaming this is wrong!" Well lady, my whole body is screaming "get this woman a push-up bra" but I kept my nose out of your boobs, now didn't I?

As my mother, Amelia, and I approached the counter to purchase what I hoped to be the solution to my elastic waistbands, the lady pipes up again with her titilating information. My mother asked her to stop with the breastfeeding spiel, but the lady speaks over us because she just HAS to get this off her pro-breastfeeding chest. She says three things may happen with my formula-fed baby. One, she MAY end up ok, which she prays she will. Before she gets out her next ridiculous point (which I am sure is to tell me that third only to heart disease and cancer, powdered infant formula is the next leading cause of death), we tell her we are going to walk out of the store because she is out of line. She is still preaching about how I need to be "informed" about breastfeeding (lady, if you knew me, you would also know that I Google no less than 167 articles per topic when it comes to my child and her well-being), and did I know that I could re-lactate if I changed my mind? Yes, I did know that. Did you know that you could re-dye that awful gray hair if you changed yours?

But what you didn't know, you self-righteous, lactating wizard, is that I suffer from severe OCD and without medication, I wash my daughter's bottles until my fingers bleed; I spend an hour every night deciding on temperature-appropriate pajamas in fear she will overheat and thus increase her risk for SIDS. What you didn't know, Dairy Queen, is that the medication I require is not compatible with breastfeeding, or that my daughter was seriously underweight after the first month of breastfeeding because she had a milk allergy unknownst to us. Even after eliminating dairy from my diet and continuing to only let those dressed in Haz-Mat suits hold my my child, I still maintained the breastfeeding because I knew it was best for her and I so badly wanted to give her the healthiest start possible. After three months of struggling, I came to the conclusion that the best possible start for my daughter was a mom who didn't purchase $100 worth of anti-bacterial soap a week. But you didn't know that, now did you?

With my milk-less chest held high, I exited the store and purchased my diet drops elsewhere. Needless to say, the man at the counter never asked for my current lactating status.

So today begins my new diet and the start to a healthier, happier, elastic-waistband-free me. My daughter may be formula-fed and I may have given up on the ta-ta's a little too early, but we're as happy as ever. Indeed, breastfeeding shoud be the first choice for our babies and families---but hey, it just wasn't the right formula for ours.