Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Moving, Part Deux

New things I have learned about myself while moving: our family is just plain weird.  I will illustrate this to you in a series of box labels that I have personally written in the past three weeks, McSweeny’s List style.

To Library:
Medical Texts (Don)
Baby Bottles

To Library:
Books (Don,Curriculum)

To Living Room:
Tape Collection
Wedding Albums
Polar Bear/Monkeys

To Living Room:
Sinatra Books
Wedding Albums
Couch Pillow

To Downstairs:
Sweaters (Don)
Winter Shirts (CJPZ)

To Office:
Books (CJPZ)
Ceremonial Sword
Sweaters (CJPZ)

To Office:
Haitian Metal Art
Flight Suit
Sweaters (CJPZ)

Legitimate questions that could be asked based on the preceding packing lists.

Wait…is the office the same thing as the library?  What the hell?
            No, its not.  We will have an office and library.  We will have many leather bound volumes (not really) in multiple places throughout the house.  This is why it has taken me two weeks to pack our books right now, into roughly 40 boxes. So now I get my own office for my ridiculous scribbling (lucky you!) and Don gets a PLS wet dream library with wall mounted bookshelves and a fireplace.  But don’t you go thinking that I got the short end of the stick with this deal – no, no dear reader.  My office has a sun porch off the side just big enough to contain a weird, 1980’s hot tub.

Oh yeah.

Why do you label your books separately than your husbands? What the heck is the “Curriculum?”
            Don and I have a long standing, somewhat humorous joke about our books.  We both have a lot of them, collected over the years, and they are not very good at sharing space.  I believe we had one bookshelf in our current house where Don and Crystal books casually mixed, but it was a forced casualness.  Beyond that level of silliness, Don has one extra-special bookshelf that is just reserved for books from his college major, the Program of Liberal Studies.  The wankers, er, I mean the awesome people lucky enough to have taken this major refer to it as “the Curriculum.”  Their alumni have Symposiums every summer at ND to talk about pressing issues and new research done on old issues and other generally very important and impressive things.

Of course, seeing as all of my friends in college were Anthropology, Peace Studies or Political Science majors we all like to make fun of PLS people a lot, because they think very highly of themselves.  Which, in all honesty, they should, because most of them read a lot of really amazing classical pieces, are incredibly intelligent, can converse with people from any walk of life, and are really interesting.  Except for the wankers.  But there a re wankers in every major, so it’s not really that big of a deal. It’s just that I have more fun making fun of PLS wankers than almost any other kind.  Except for business wankers.  You know who you are….

Um, ceremonialsword….again, what the hell?
Yeah.  I have one. It’s called a Kris or Kalis,and it’s from the Philippines.  My Dad gave it to me.  It’s awesome.

Why are your box contents so completely random?
            Theyaren’t.  They just appear that way to someone who hasn’t been packing for the last three weeks. Or maybe they appear that way to someone who doesn’t have so many random things.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Four and Twnety Blackbirds, Baked in a Pie

I have a weird thing about songbirds.  Specifically, I hate them.  There…I said it.  Phew. 

You’re not shocked, are you?  I can understand.  I am the kind of person who has “a weird thing” about any number of things, and you are understandably not shocked to find out that one of my weird things is about birds.  Well, I am sorry to disappoint you further, because the reason for my “weird thing about birds” is utterly mundane.

They are so. Damn. LOUD.

When my husband was in medical school he lived in a house in Indianapolis that was known amongst our friends as the Viking Beer Hall.  The owner of the house had seemed to go to great lengths to instill a sense of medieval frivolity in the place.  Wood paneling everywhere.  Wall scones shaped like dripping candles.  Tiny windows highly placed along the wall to minimize the risk of crossbow attack from the neighbors.  Rolling and pitched wooden floor that gave one the effect of walking on a Viking longship after a few horns of ale whenever you attempted to cross the living room.  A basement that could give any castle or mead hall’s torture chamber a run for its money.  All in all, an interesting place.

Whenever I would drive down to Indianapolis to visit Don for a weekend, I would have to prepare myself for any number of trails at the VBH.  I frequently brought my own cleaning supplies, and would give the one, tiny bathroom a thorough scrubbing with the most caustic cleaners I could find before attempting to use it.  Usually this would require a mask and me sitting outside with my inhaler for two hours afterwards trying to stop the burning in my lungs because of the lack of any ventilation whatsoever in that tiny hellhole of mildew and whatever else it was in that shower I don’t want to think about it anymore.  Some people just have different threshold levels for cleaning.  OK, it’s fine.  No it was seriously gross, but whatever.

By far the biggest issue I encountered when visiting Don was the colony of sparrows that lived in a giant vine on the wall of the house next door, a mere four feet from his window.  A window that was usually open, because Don is one of those people who likes to sleep with his window open until the threat of frostbite exists.  And then he closes the window but still doesn’t turn the heat on.  It’s sick.  I like to sleep with the window closed, but I never really knew why until the Spring of 2008.  When the birds came back north.  And every sparrow in Indiana came to live in the vine next to his bedroom window.  And they all started singing at 3am.

Suffice it to say I am a very light sleeper.  If our dog is having a restless night I can hear him turning around in his kennel downstairs and it wakes me up.  I have vivid, and anxiety filled memories of the first sparrow chirping every morning and the mental battle that would ensue:

Oh God, they’re starting already.  What the hell time is it?  The sun isn’t even coming up for 3 hours what do they want?!  Maybe it was just that one…damn it.  They’re all up now.  OK maybe I can do it this time.  They are melodious songbirds!  Just close my eyes, breathe evenly, they will lull me to sleep with their sweet trilling…fucking evil ratty brow plague monsters!!  Shut up shut up shut up I will kill you all and pluck you and make your little worthless breasts into a stew!  I will roast you and eat you whole, singing beak and all!  I hate you, you colony of hell spawned vermin!

Eventually, after an hour or so of stewing in my own, unnecessarily hateful juices, I would get up and quietly close the window.  Why the hell didn’t you just close the window in the first place?  Clever question.  I will explain.  When I closed the window, then I have to do one of two things.  I have to turn on the overhead fan or turn on the little fan on the bookshelf.  Because if I close the window and don’t turn on the fan, and the temperature in the room raises one degree, Don will sense the minute temperature increase, and begin thrashing about and shedding sheets and blankets and sweating.  And when he wakes up two hours later he will say he didn’t sleep well because it was too hot, and why were the windows closed?  And I just don’t want to deal with that. 

OK, fine, you are a wuss, so just turn on the fans then.  Good suggestion, my friend.  But which one?  The overhead fan, duh, it will cool the room the fastest and most efficiently.  Oh ok…but hey, do you remember if the light was on when we turned the switch off last night?  Or was the light off and the fan on?  I don’t remember.  So if I turn on that switch, and the light is on, then I have a desperate scramble onto the bed, probably on top of Don, to pull the chain that turns the light off while keeping the fan on, and definitely waking Don up in the process.  OK so the little fan.  OK fine, the little fan.  Which is poised so it blows directly onto the bed, wrapping Don in a lovingly cool vortex of air.  And wrapping me in a hateful frigid vortex of air, where I will lie, awake and shivering, for the next two hours.

I know I know, it’s a desperately first world problem I am facing here, and it doesn’t really matter at all.  I am just saying its complicated, and there are some almost convincing and not crazy reasons why I hate songbirds.  They wake me up.  They make me cold.  They reveal to the outside world my true inner craziness.  And when our daughter Lucy was first born, they became a symbol of parental defeat for me, and my hatred ascended to a new level.

New parents don’t sleep much, everyone knows this.  But when one of the new parents is a medical resident, who doesn’t sleep much anyways, that level of sleep deprivation increases  exponentially for both parents.  I would try and stay up or get up with Lucy more to protect Don’s sleep, because I felt it was more important for him to sleep than for me.  All I had to do all day was keep infant Lucy alive and feed her.  Don had to save people’s lives and make split second decisions that really mattered.  Also I was nursing Lucy, so the chances that she was awake because she was hungry were pretty large, and Don couldn’t really help in that department.  If he got up and gave her a bottle, well I was just going to have to get up to pump soon anyway, so he wouldn’t be helping me sleep really.  So I’ll just get up.  And, lets be honest, I was so wound up and anxious that I could hear every breath she took even in my sleep.  So when she woke up, I was usually awake anyway.  Thinking crazy thoughts about birds.

It was this new level of sleep deprivation that elevated the song birds in our Rochester, MN neighborhood from the level of annoying hell spawn to truly evil servants of the dark lord.  There I was, nursing Lucy at 3am or, having just nursed her, trying to put her back to sleep in her crib or swing or bouncy chair or anywhere really so that I could climb back into my bed and get some sleep.  And the first bird of the morning would sing.  It would sing a song that went something like this.

            I know you wanted to sleep tonight, but that isn’t in the cards for you my dear.  It’s morning now.  A new day has dawned.  It’s time to get up.  No sleeping for you tonight.  It may still be dark outside, but not for long.  The sun will rise and you will not have slept.  You failed!

I know, I know.  That is extra crazy.  But all new parents are a little bit crazy, and ones who already hate birds have a little bonus dose of crazy anyway, so what did you expect?

Every birdsong in the morning was a symbol of defeat to me.  When I heard that first song, my body would literally flood with stress hormones, my stomach would roil, I would tear up and think about how tired I was and how tired I was going to be for, literally, forever, and how I was never going to sleep again.  Ever.  And on top of that I was a terrible mother, because the birds were signaling the end of the night and Lucy hadn’t slept enough yet, or it had taken too long to put her back down, or she had broken out of her swaddle again.  Every time a bird sang I would be filled with negativity.

I would channel all of that gross badness into hating the bird.  Which, really, was probably not a bad place for those feelings to go when I couldn’t logically think them through.  At least they weren’t going towards Don or Lucy.  Much.

Every sparrow I saw got a death gaze.  Every cardinal was an affront.  Every red winged blackbird was the devils own messenger.  Really, the only thing that saved every songbird in my immediate area from being poisoned or trapped and eaten was my father-in-laws persistent love of songbirds.  It is my love and respect for Don’s Dad, a man who once did not use his front door for a year when a family of purple martins built a nest on it, which has kept the songbirds of south eastern Minnesota alive these last three years.  Albeit they rarely use their front door anyway, but it is the principle of the thing!

So the sweet swallows and sparrows and doves get a reprieve….for now.  It is well enough into summer that I have turned on the air conditioning, this eradicating the window open at night procedure in our house….for now. 

All I can say is that the song birds of Indiana better watch out.  I know the eaves of our new house look welcoming, but I warn you.  Come fall, when the air turns crisp and the promise of hearing the Notre Dame band practicing in the evening or catching the scent of fall leaves on the air seduces Don into leaving the windows open again, you better watch out.  Because I have been looking up recipes for roasted Ortolan’s lately, and it may be against the law in France right now, but this is America!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Where The HELL Have You Been?

If you are asking yourself this question, and are really (understandably) tired of reading back through old recipes and stories, then you are in luck.  I am going to tell you.

In just under a month now, Don, Lucy, Boss and I are moving back to Indiana.  South Bend, Indiana to be precise.  This is probably not shocking news considering we have know this for some time and have been talking about it all the time, although we never made an official media announcement.  Because we are not pregnant nor have either of us cured a disease or done some insanely awesome thing, which is the only reason anyone should announce anything.

So for the last month or so, basically since my last post, we have been busy.  Don finished all of his many requirements for graduating from his residency program: research project, several other projects with acronyms that I don't know what they mean, Grand Rounds presentation, etc.  Horay!  We drove to Indiana, bought a house (post on that coming ASAP), and then drove back to Minnesota for possibly the last time.  Don't worry my MN loves...this just means that hopefully from now on we can fly instead of drive!  And now I am...packing <<insert picture of me looking like a deer in the headlights here>>.

Most people find me a reasonably organized person.  I usually have my shit together, papers in proper file folders in the filing cabinet, several copies of important documents tucked into safe places around the house, computers backed up online and on a hard drive, etc.  I like to be prepared for things.  One of the major "discussion topics" D and I have in our marriage is my obsessive level of preparedness.  If we have a conversation in which several possibilities for dates or plans are mentioned, he will check back with me in a few hours to find I have secured a babysitter just in case we go through with one possibility.  I have learned now that is just helps to get things in writing when possible.

As organized and prepared as I like to be, when people start talk about packing and moving, I have a very marked physical reaction.  My palms get sweaty, my eyes widen, and I literally start looking around me for exits.  Because when it comes to packing, it takes me about 2 seconds to get completely overwhelmed with the idea of putting everything I own into boxes and then physically moving them from one place to another.  How can life be that portable?  Where the hell did I get all of this stuff?  Why  do we have so many heavy books?! 

In fact, I will do, and have done, just about anything I can to get out of actually packing myself.  Get drunk the night before moving day in college and pass out on the porch swing in front of my dorm, leaving my roommate and her parents to pack up my stuff and load it in their car?  Check - Junior year of college.  PS I love you Christine, George and Marilyn!!!  And yes, I know that is a completely heinous thing for me to have done, especially considering they were graciously letting me live with them that summer.  So horrible.  All I can say is that I learned something from that experience.  No, nothing about packing.  I learned that you cannot trust the Long Island Iced Teas at the Linebacker in South Bend, Indiana.  There is a two Long Island limit at the Backer.  I suggest you just stick with one.

A couple of years after that I was moving from Tacoma, Washington back to Indiana and had a complete mental shut down when it came time to pack my measly one room of worldly possessions.  Thank God D was there.  He put me in a corner, said "pack everything in this corner into this box and do not leave the corner until everything is packed unless you need more boxes."  Even with those simple instructions he would walk into the room every now and then to find me wandering around, seeing if the piece of driftwood from over the closet door would fit into the box of dresser things, and would have to reorient me.  Several years after that it took my entire family swarming my bedroom the day after D and I got married to pack my things, load them into a truck, and drive them down to Indianapolis where D and I moved into our first little love nest.

My history of moving doesn't include horrific amounts of things.  The most Don and I have ever moved was a two bedroom house, when we moved from Indianapolis up here to Rochester.  And I was lucky and peaced-out of most of that process because we had Joyce with us, and I was taking care of her.  Which is what I told everyone.  Before that, at most I had a room full of things and no more to move.  One room.  And still I would totally shut down and be unable to deal with the situation rationally.  Complete and total panic.

Now, we have a three bedroom house and seven thousand pounds of book and five million toys and a basement full of beer.  So in order to stay sane, I have come up with an excellent plan on how to pack a larger house without going insane or melting down or becoming catatonic.  It involves a series of cliches that I repeat to myself like an extended mantra whenever I think about packing, moving or attempt to actually pack.  It goes something like this:

Start early.  Slow and steady.  Keep calm and carry on.

I am considering asking one of our friends to borrow his awesome British WWII morale boosting poster to be a visual aid for my packing experience, but bringing a large framed picture into the house in order to aid me in removing other large framed pictures from the house seems a little too insane even for me.

I addition to delving into the horrific and exciting adventure of home ownership and thinking about the logistics of packing and moving, Don and I are now entering the last month of his residency, and the last month we have in the foreseeable future with our amazing Rochester friends.  Don't become hysterical, Rochester people reading this post.  We are not there quite yet.  So what we have been doing, when we are not packing and Don is not working (which is actually almost never this month) is sucking the marrow from this Rochester life.  That's right, lets get visceral about it.  Life in Rochester is a big juicy beef bone, and we are going to crack it open and suck out every fatty, nutritious, delicious drop.  And then spread it on some crusty bread and eat it.

Play dates, picnics, trips to the zoo and the park and impromptu pot luck dinners and moving parties and birthdays and walks.  Yes.  That is my answer to any invitation I get in the next thirty days, barring vomiting or fever, of course.  Unless its a really low fever.  Just kidding....?

And now, with that, I am off to suck some marrow from the bones of the Mayo Clinic, getting every doctors appointment out of them while we have their ridiculously excellent insurance coverage.   Maybe I can get Lucy's pediatrician to throw in some anti-anxiety meds for me while I'm at it....or at least a "Hang In There, Baby!" sticker.