Merry Christmas, From David

Last Saturday, I had a prenatal “Coping With Labor” class. It was basically an extensive “how to keep from freaking out when you’re in pain” workshop, and I was kind of feeling alienated. For one thing, Ethan had his final graduation project due in a few days, and couldn’t come to class with me – so I was the only person there without a partner. I hadn’t slept well, and I was trying really hard not to fall asleep throughout, and my voice was way lower than usual (because I was half asleep), and I didn’t think I was looking too hot (because I was half asleep)… basically, I wasn’t feeling too social or too confident. And when you combine an unsociable mood with 8 months of pregnancy, you seriously just don’t feel like talking to people.

When the nurse mentioned that some people like to listen to more “peppy” music than others during labor, my brain immediately started playing “Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap)”. That was stuck in my head until the class concluded, at which point my brain switched over to “Highway to Hell.” Wow, I thought. I’m ready for motherhood. I was starting to think I was a total freak.

On top of all this, I’m usually a very active person, and I try to go out of my way to help people around me. During pregnancy, however, I apparently Animorph into a gigantic slug. I have zero energy, and not enough brain power to finish a sentence. Over the past few months, I have become a vegetable of sorts. I’m here. I live. I just don’t usually feel like I contribute to society. And when I try, I usually end up hurting myself.

Long story short, Saturday morning I was on autopilot – and by about noon, when the prenatal class ended, I was kind of feeling sorry for myself. I stopped off at Arby’s on the way home (the baby was driving, apparently), went in, and ordered more food than I probably had room for. I tried to smile and be friendly and all that, but I was also avoiding talking to anyone unless I absolutely had to. I got my food and went to a back table, where people would be less likely to see me.

That’s when a guy came in, sauntered over to the corner table across my way, and dropped his backpack on a chair. He sat down for a few minutes, looked around him with a smile, and then stood up and walked around the restaurant. He walked in a circle around the tables, glanced at the menu, ordered nothing, then sat down again. A minute later, he got up and walked another lap around the Arby’s. I began to suspect he had some kind of mental disorder, but he was enthusiastic enough that I started smiling.

After taking another lap, he came up to me, pulled a receipt out of his pocket, and wrote something down on it. I wondered if he were Deaf, and needed me to order his food. (But why wouldn’t he just write it down for the cashier? I thought.) He handed me the receipt, and I saw the words, “Corn Chex” neatly written in the corner.

Dude, I thought. You are in the wrong establishment. I must have looked confused, because he took the receipt back. When he returned it, it said, “Corn Chex, 1.49.” “Cost,” he signed – and said, with a thick accent.

I was still confused. The price wasn’t the problem, I thought. I signed, “You bought it already?”

“No,” he signed.

“You can’t buy that here,” I signed back at him. He laughed at me, took back the receipt, and wrote, “Maceys” on it.

At this point, I figured it out. My brother has Autism, and he sometimes brings us scraps of paper with lists of his favorite things: Swedish Fish, M&Ms, names of girls he likes…. I realized this guy was just really excited that Corn Chex were on sale. I looked up at him, and he signed, “My favorite.”

Suddenly it made sense. This wasn’t a question; it was just awkward small talk. “Oh, I see,” I signed. “That is a good price. My favorite is Peanut Butter Crunch.”

He seemed to think that was a fine choice. He introduced himself: his name was David. I gave him my name. He then told me all about his three brothers, which of them were Hearing and which were Deaf, which were “real” brothers and which were step-brothers, in addition to his place in the family (firstborn). He also told me about his ex-girlfriend in Wisconsin, his opinion on Oreos, and how much he liked talking to pregnant women.

By this point, I was actually out of my self-pity shell and enjoying the conversation. There’s something extremely relaxing and low-risk about talking to someone without having to physically verbalize anything. It’s also refreshing to talk with someone who won’t judge you if you change the subject suddenly and almost violently without warning. We discussed quite a few of our favorite foods, and I advised him not to put Arby’s sauce on his Oreos. (He doesn’t; don’t worry. Just milk.)

This whole time, David hadn’t ordered anything. After about ten minutes, a woman approached me and said, “Hey, since you can talk to him – will you ask if I can buy him lunch?” He ordered a number 9 combo, and thanked the woman, who wished him a merry Christmas. By the time his food was ready, his brother had arrived, and the two of them sat down for a few minutes to eat. I eavesdropped while David told an elaborate pantomime about deer hunting. He was a very funny storyteller.

They left after a few minutes, and I finally started eating. By the time I was almost done, David came running back in, got my attention, and asked, “What’s your name? I forgot.”

“My name’s Rachel,” I signed.

“Merry Christmas!” he signed. Then he turned to the manager and said out loud, “Merry Christmas!” while signing it. His speaking voice wasn’t great, so the manager looked at me for a hint.

“Same to you,” I said (and signed). “Merry Christmas!” The manager figured it out and repeated the sentiment. Then David bounced happily out the door, and I finished my meal. I took a pit stop at the restroom, then came out and asked the manager for a water cup.

“That was really nice of you to talk to him,” said the manager as he handed me the cup.

All of the awkward came back, and I didn’t know what to say. “He started it,” I blurted out like a guilty six-year-old, then realizing that didn’t make any sense, I muttered, “Thanks,” and went to fill my water cup. Then I headed out to the car and just sat there for a while, thinking about what the manager had said. Why wouldn’t I have talked to him, I wondered?

Well, if I didn’t know sign. That would’ve made things difficult. So I guess there was that. I was probably the only person in the store who knew ASL. And then it occurred to me that David came and talked to me because I was noticeably pregnant. I was the only in the store who fit that criteria. And that woman wouldn’t have been able to offer to buy him lunch if she hadn’t seen me signing. And then I realized that most people didn’t have any experience carrying on a conversation that had absolutely no rhyme or reason. I might have been the only person in the whole store who had the skill (?) to start a conversation with the price of Corn Chex.

“God,” I said (to God), “Thanks for that. I mean… I’m awkward. But apparently, there are some other awkward people out there and I can still brighten their day.” It made me feel good to know that even when I’m feeling useless and weird, God still knows I want to help. And He can send somebody to help me, too – maybe someone who fits in about as well as I do.

Merry Christmas! ♥

Happy Tuesday!

Lest I should only use this blog for venting and book reviews, I think I should point out a few things that make me happy.

  • It’s sunny today. Not just like, “Oh, look. The sun.” It’s a genuinely sunshiney kind of day. I went for a walk (to the end of the block, which is about as far as my baby belly will allow at this point), sat on a low stone wall and read a book, soakin’ up some rays. It felt great.
  • I’m nearly finished with a manuscript for a full-fledged book! That means I could actually get this thing published or something!
  • Know what I had for lunch today? Thanksgiving. In a tortilla. Stuffing, potatoes, gravy, turkey lunch-meat, and cranberry sauce, all rolled up into a tortilla. Thanksgiving taco.
  • Jurassic World is coming out on my birthday. I’m so excited for these dinosaurs.
  • This baby will be here in a month!
  • I don’t have to give birth to this baby for another month!
  • We have an apartment with ample room for this baby!
  • This picture has been my computer desktop for the past few months or so:
    hamster in a sweater
    Just look at this little guy. He’s adorable! He’s got that little sweater. I feel like the Hamster in a Sweater is probably my spirit animal.
  • Ethan will be done student teaching this week. Also, he got an extension on some of his homework, so he shouldn’t be keeling over dead anytime soon. I’m quite happy about this.
  • Nobody – I repeat, nobody – in our house is deathly ill right now. I am fine. Ethan is fine. Baby is wiggly.
  • There’s Christmas cookies everywhere!
  • Oh, right – Christmas!! ♦

Book Duel: A Christmas Carol and Other Stories

A Christmas Carol

When you’re sick, you have more time to read Dickens! Hooray!

I recently bought the classiest copy of A Christmas Carol I’ve ever seen from a used bookstore. It’s a Readers Digest collection, with two other short stories (and by “short,” I mean they’re still 100 pages apiece), The Chimes and The Cricket on the Hearth. They’re all pretty good, but I’ll give a brief review of each.

A Christmas Carol is a timeless classic for a reason. It’s great. The piece is short enough to stay interested, but still well-crafted enough to get attached to the characters. This says more about my upbringing than my literary taste, but I kept thinking, “Wow, the Muppets really stuck to the text!” Conclusion: this story about finding Christmas spirit is a must-read, followed shortly by the necessity to celebrate the yuletide with the Muppet Christmas Carol.

The Chimes was annoying. I mean, it was good and all – but it was hopelessly depressing for about 3/4 of the story. In the true Dickens Christmas spirit, good triumphs against all odds, but come on, man – I just can’t believe how much pain and hopelessness I had to wade through to get to the end of this. And by the time I got there, I just didn’t care anymore.

The Cricket on the Hearth was much better than The Chimes, but still not as good as the Christmas Carol. The Cricket on the Hearth is a story about a husband discovering that his wife has been keeping secrets, and his arduous decision to forgive her. And, of course, everything ends up happy – by this time, I had come to expect this. But at least this one wasn’t so depressing, and I still cared enough to want things to work out alright.

Well, that was short. But hey – they’re short stories. I would highly recommend A Christmas Carol to just about anyone, but maybe you shouldn’t pick up the other two unless you really like Dickens’s style.

I think this is something like my 30th book this year. I’m kind of proud of myself… and at the same time, if I’m going to hit anywhere near my goal of 50, I’m going to have to read about a book a day from here on out. Maybe I’ll just have to settle for less. Or maybe I’ll have to read a lot of children’s books and poetry this month. ♦

Sickos.

For those of you who missed my posts (I flatter myself), I apologize. I literally dusted off my laptop today and checked my blog for the first time in weeks. Basically, what happened is, everybody died.

Well, maybe not died. But it’s been a rough couple of weeks. My doctor told me last month that pregnant women have very weak immune systems – I’m about as susceptible to the flu as an 80-year-old. That’s not good. (I got a flu shot.)

About 3 weeks ago, while preparing to move to a new apartment, I came down with a cold. Not one of those “sniffly nose” colds, either; it was more of the “feels like somebody shoved a wet octopus up your nose and into your sinuses” variety. Also, I was terrified to take any medication, because every box you buy over the counter tells you to ask a doctor before you breathe if you’re pregnant or nursing. So, while Ethan went student teaching during the day, I stayed in bed and blew my nose. By the time our contract at the new apartment began, we had almost started packing.

SweetBrown

Fortunately, we had paid through the end of November at the old apartment, and we had several weeks for the moving process. In the evenings, we slowly started packing and moving what we could spare. Between my stuffy face and my pregnant brain/body, I wasn’t much help – but between us and a few friends, we managed to get the bed and some necessities over to the new apartment and moved ourselves in, if not everything we owned. A few days later, we managed to get the rest of it all into the new apartment, cleaned the old place, and turned in our key. We were living from boxes, but we were all in one place.

By this point, the octopus had moved from my sinuses into my throat and upper chest, and I had developed a smoker’s cough. Lovely.

I was also spectacularly bored. Those of you who know me are well aware that most of the stupid things I do happen when I’m bored.* Ethan kept telling me I wasn’t allowed to move anything, because I was nearly 8 months pregnant, and we didn’t want me to go into early labor. Or hurt myself. Naturally, I got bored, disregarded his advice, and moved in some of the books. A book doesn’t weigh that much, I reasoned. Of course, a whole box of books does – and I ended up tweaking** a muscle between my ribs.

bad decision

This hurt for a couple of days, especially when combined with the hacking cough I had developed. Adding to my general health complications, an 8-month-old fetus leaves very little room for a bladder. That means that every time my hacking cough started, I went running for the bathroom. Few things hold as little dignity as sitting on the toilet with your pants around your ankles, coughing, peeing, clutching your side, and groaning all at the same time.

After a few days, the rib was starting to heal, and life was starting to get bearable again. My family came down to help us unpack (thanks, guys!) and we made some serious headway on the home front. Then I had a particularly bad coughing fit. After a spectacular cough, I felt something in my wounded side expand like a little balloon, then pop. A whole new wave of pain came, and stayed for the next few days.

At this point, I asked for a priesthood blessing – which brought some relief, especially by mentioning specifically that I would heal, and that the baby would be fine. I should also note that while my body was being shot to pieces, the baby was getting increasingly wiggly. This was good; it meant I wasn’t worried about him.

I slept on my left side for another week, while my right side started to mend, and the cough slowly abated. I made a breakthrough a few days ago, when I realized I could laugh or cough without any significant pain. Hooray!

Then a few days ago, Ethan called me on the way to student teaching. He had pulled over somewhere in Draper to throw up by the side of the road, and he needed me to contact his professor to let her know why he wouldn’t be at the elementary school. Having done this, I crawled back into bed (on my left side) to wait and pray he made it home alright. A long while later, he managed to drive himself home, and spent the next 32 hours bonding with the toilet.

diarrhea since easters

After much dysfunction and misery, I am happy to report that Ethan’s intestines have forgiven him whatever sin he committed, and my chest and sinuses are almost back to normal. I can now lie down on my right side for upwards of 10 minutes at a time, if I get the angle just right. And my head has cleared enough for me to do some writing/editing, if I feel so inclined.

I might not have any work to do for a while, though. My boss called today. He’s been sick all week. ♦


*This is closely followed by the category “Stupid Things I Do For a Cheeseburger.”
**Pulling? Tearing? I did something, and my muscle was not happy about it.

Book Duel: The Kitchen God’s Wife

The-Kitchen-Gods-Wife

I just finished Amy Tan’s The Kitchen God’s Wife. I picked it up at Pioneer Book, remembering how much I had liked The Joy Luck Club in high school, and I was not disappointed. This was quite a good book.

The basic idea of the book is that a Chinese mother and a Chinese-American daughter don’t get along. So when their relative threatens to spill all their secrets before she dies, they have to go tell each other their real life stories, before Aunt Helen tells them all wrong and makes a mess out of it.

The daughter has Multiple Sclerosis, and is afraid to tell her mother. The mother has an entire previous life and marriage in China that she’s kept hidden, ashamed of how abusive her ex-husband was, and the kind of garbage she went through. Most of the book is the mother’s story, telling how she escaped her horrible marriage, and how she slowly came to the realization that she couldn’t endure it any longer.

This book was exactly what I expected: a heartwarming, sometimes heart-wrenching story of women’s lives and strength. I would recommend it to nearly any grown woman. I would hesitate to recommend it to a man, however; it’s all about women. The men are either villains or side-characters, and nearly all of the conflict is emotional. I tried to describe the book to my husband, and he asked what the conflict was. “Well… this woman doesn’t get along with her mother.”

“And?”

“And that’s it so far. But it’s good.” So, men, if you’re looking for a good, solid, driven plot-line, this is not your book. But if you’re looking for character change, yes. It’s great. ♦

The Death of a Spider

I was in the bathtub the other night, when I suddenly realized I had seen a spider in the bathroom earlier that day. A really creepy spider. I cast my eyes around, trying to make sure it wasn’t, say, right behind me, or in the bathwater, or dangling above my head. I was clear.

I don’t consider myself arachnophobic. In fact, I feel much the same way about spiders as I do about sharks: if it’s nowhere near me, I’m just fine. As long as it’s not in any of the movies I’m watching. And I’m not in any water that might potentially have sharks in it. Or any smaller fish…. I might have a small phobia of fish and/or spiders. But it’s not generally a crippling fear – just a jolt and a typical found-a-spider dance.

So as I lay naked and vulnerable in the bathtub, I took comfort when I saw no big, brown house spider anywhere near me. And then something caught my eye, just under the sink, on the handle of the water valve. I saw a long, thin, delicate black leg extend like a ballerina’s and slowly creep forward, followed by another spindly leg. I couldn’t see the body, but the legs were long, and the whole operation just seemed too sneaky for my taste. I yelled for Ethan.

Ethan compassionately came to my rescue, first bringing a shoe, and then realizing that the spider had chosen a very difficult spot to reach. As Ethan pondered the best means of killing the spider, the fiend slowly crept up the pipe and hid underneath the sink. After ratcheting about a bit to get at the thing, Ethan left the bathroom and returned with a cigarette lighter and a can of cooking spray.

With a few well-aimed puffs from his improvised flamethrower, Ethan cleverly toasted the fiend. The smell of hot, burning oil filled the air. The remains of the spider flew up, then floated to the ground, still intact but delicately roasted. The bathroom smelled a little like a Chinese restaurant. Ethan puffed out his chest, proud to announce that until he grew a mustache, he had never before killed a spider with a flamethrower. Clearly, his mustache was enhancing his raw manliness.

Upon further inspection, Ethan found red markings on the spider’s front and back. This was no ordinary spider. This was a black widow – a deadly spider! Ethan’s chest swelled yet again. He had saved his naked, helpless wife from a venomous fate by rushing to the rescue and torching the beast! And all thanks to his new mustache.

He burned the body outside as a warning to the rest of its kind. Then he came back inside to groom his ‘stache. Happy Movember, everyone. ♦

Motivation Has a New Name: Eggo

Last night, I was craving tater tots so much I would have killed a potato to get them…. if I thought I had a clue how to make them. Instead, I went to Wal-Mart late last night and wandered the frozen breakfast foods, debating whether it was a wise decision to buy the 5-pound bag. It was cheaper per ounce, after all. And I was so sure I could eat that many. Maybe at one go.

Instead, I made a responsible, adult decision. I decided to spend the extra 3-pounds-of-tater-tots money on a box of Eggo waffles and some breakfast sausages. Just look at those waffles, said my brain. They need a warm, welcoming home.

This morning, my husband and I woke up at 6 and started getting ready for the day. I poured him some cereal, then realized the Wal-Mart waffle box was in the laundry room freezer. I thought for a moment, considering the options. I could stay inside, warm and snug, or I could brave the cold to get to the laundry room next door.

Some things are worth the cold. I put on some pants and a hoodie, braced myself, and ran out the door.* I shivered my way to the freezer, shivered in front of the freezer, shivered my way back. But I had waffles! Beautiful, golden, toastable waffles! Oh, the joy. They were delicious. ♦

*When I say “run,” I actually mean that I meant to run. And then my body said, “Excuse me, ma’am, but you’ve got a growing baby in here and very little energy. No.” So substitute “run” here with “shuffled slowly while pumping my arms.”